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.

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

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

Description

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

Episode Date
CD224: Social Media Censorship
01:24:36

Everyone who uses Facebook, Google, and Twitter has probably noticed the disappearance of posts and the appearance of labels, especially during the 2020 election season. In this episode, hear the highlights from six recent House and Senate hearings where executives from the social media giants and experts on social media testified about the recent changes. The incoming 117th Congress is promising to make new laws that will affect our social media experiences; these conversations are where the new laws are being conceived. 


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Recommended Episodes

CD196: The Mueller Report

CD186: National Endowment for Democracy


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Sound Clip Sources


Hearing: Breaking the News: Censorship, Suppression and the 2020 Election, Senate Judiciary Committee, November 17, 2020

Witnesses:

  • Jack Dorsey, Twitter, Inc.
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, Inc.
Transcript:

[30:50] Jack Dorsey: We were called here today because of an enforcement decision we made against New York Post, based on a policy we created in 2018. To prevent Twitter from being used to spread hacked materials. This resulted in us blocking people from sharing a New York Post article, publicly or privately. We made a quick interpretation, using no other evidence that the materials in the article were obtained through hacking, and according to our policy, we blocked them from being spread. Upon further consideration, we admitted this action was wrong and corrected it within 24 hours. We informed the New York Post of our air and policy update and how to unlock their account by deleting the original violating tweet, which freed them to tweet the exact same content and news article again. They chose not to, instead insisting we reverse our enforcement action. We do not have a practice around retro actively overturning prior enforcement's, since then it demonstrated that we needed one and so we created one we believe is fair and appropriate.

[35:13] Mark Zuckerberg: At Facebook, we took our responsibility to protect the integrity of this election very seriously. In 2016, we began to face new kinds of threats and after years of preparation, we were ready to defend against them. We built sophisticated systems to protect against election interference, that combined artificial intelligence, significant human review, and partnerships with the intelligence community, law enforcement and other tech platforms. We've taken down more than 100 networks of bad actors, we're trying to coordinate and interfere globally, we established a network of independent fact checkers that covers more than 60 languages. We made political advertising more transparent on Facebook than anywhere else, and including TV, radio and email. And we introduced new policies to combat voter suppression and misinformation. Still, the pandemic created new challenges, how to handle misinformation about COVID and voting by mail, how to prepare people for the reality, the results would take time, and how to handle if someone prematurely declared victory or refused to accept the result. So in September, we updated our policies again to reflect these realities of voting in 2020. And make sure that we were taking precautions given these unique circumstances. We worked with local election officials to remove false claims about polling conditions that might lead to voter suppression. We partnered with Reuters and the national election pool to provide reliable information about results. We attach voting information to posts by candidates on both sides and additional contexts to posts trying to de legitimize the outcome. We lock down new political ads and the week before the election to prevent misleading claims from spreading when they couldn't be rebutted. We strengthened our enforcement against militias and conspiracy networks like QAnon to prevent them from using our platforms to organize violence or civil unrest altogether. I believe this was the largest election integrity effort by any private company in recent times.

[40:50] Jack Dorsey: We have transparency around our policies, we do not have transparency around how we operate content moderation, the rationale behind it, the reasoning. And as we look forward, we have more and more of our decisions of our operations moving to algorithms, which are, have a difficult time explaining why they make decisions, bringing transparency around those decisions. And that is why we believe that we should have more choice in how these algorithms are applied to our content, whether we use them at all so we can turn them on or off and have clarity around the outcomes that they're projecting and how they affect our experience.

[45:39] Mark Zuckerberg: We work with a number of independent organizations that are accredited by the Poynter Institute. And they include Reuters, the Associated Press. AJans France presse, United States, USA Today, factcheck.org, Science Feedback, PolitiFact, Check Your Fact, Leadstories and the Dispatch in the United States.

[48:54] Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Do both of you support change to 230? Reform of Section 230? Mark Zuckerberg: Senator I do. Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Mr. Dorsey? Jack Dorsey: Yes. Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC): Thank you.

[54:10] Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): How many times is Steve Bannon allowed to call for the murder of government officials before Facebook suspends his account? Mark Zuckerberg: Senator, as you say, the content in question did violate our policies and we took it down. Having a content violation does not automatically mean your account gets taken down. And the number of strikes varies depending on the amount and type of offense. So if people are posting terrorist content or child exploitation content, then the first time they do it, then we will take down their account. For other things. It's multiple, I'd be happy to follow up afterwards. We try not to disclose these... Sorry, I didn't hear that. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT): Will you commit to taking down that account? Steve Bannon? Mark Zuckerberg: Senator, no, that's not what our policies would suggest that we should do in this case.

[1:07:05] Jack Dorsey: What we saw and what the market told us was that people would not put up with abuse, harassment and misleading information that would cause offline harm, and they would leave our service because of it. So our intention is to create clear policy, clear enforcement that enables people to feel that they can express themselves on our service, and ultimately trust it. Sen. John Cornyn (TX): So it was a business decision. Jack Dorsey: It was a business decision.

[2:56:34] Mark Zuckerberg: We do coordinate on and share signals on security related topics. So for example, if there is signal around a terrorist attack or around child exploitation imagery or around a foreign government, creating an influence operation, that is an area where the companies do share signals about what they see. But I think it's important to be very clear that that is distinct from the content moderation policies that we or the other companies have, where once we share intelligence or signals between the companies, each company makes its own assessment of the right way to address and deal with that information.

[3:59:10] Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): I don't know what it what are both of you prepared to do regarding Donald Trump's use of your platforms after he stops being president it? Will he still be deemed newsworthy? And will he still get to use your platform to spread this misinformation? Mark Zuckerberg: Senator, let me clarify my last answer. We are also having academic study, the effective of all of our election measures and they'll be publishing those results publicly. In terms of President Trump and moving forward. There are a small number of policies where we have exceptions for politicians under the principle that people should be able to hear what their elected officials are saying and candidates for office. But by and large, the vast majority of our policies have no newsworthiness or political exception. So if the President or anyone else is spreading hate speech, or inciting violence, or posting content, that delegitimizes the election or valid forms of voting, those will receive the same treatment is anyone else saying those things, and that will continue to be the case Sen. Mazie Hirono (HI): Remains to be seen. Jack Dorsey: So we do have a policy around public interest, where for global leaders, we do make exceptions in terms of whether if a tweet violates our terms of service, we leave it up behind an interstitial, and people are not allowed to share that more broadly. So a lot of the sharing is disabled with the exception of quoting it so that you can add your own conversation on top of it. So if an account suddenly becomes, is not a world leader anymore, that particular policy goes away.

[4:29:35] Sen. Marsha Blackburn (TN): Do you believe it's Facebook's duty to comply with state sponsored censorship so it can keep operating doing business and selling ads in that country? Mark Zuckerberg: Senator in general, we try to comply with the laws in every country where we operate and do business.


Hearing: BIG TECH AND SECTION 230 IMMUNITY, Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, October 28, 2020

Witnesses:

  • Jack Dorsey, Twitter, Inc.
  • Sundar Pichai, Alphabet Inc.
  • Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, Inc.
Transcript:

[10:10] Sen. Roger Wicker (MS): In policing, conservative sites, then its own YouTube platform or the same types of offensive and outrageous claims.

[45:50] Jack Dorsey: The goal of our labeling is to provide more context to connect the dots so that people can have more information so they can make decisions for themselves.

[46:20] Sen. Roger Wicker (MS): I have a tweet here from Mr. Ajit Pai. Mr. Ajit Pai is the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. And he recounts some four tweets by the Iranian dictator, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which Twitter did not place a public label on. They all four of them glorify violence. The first tweet says this and I quote each time 'the Zionist regime is a deadly cancerous growth and a detriment to the region, it will undoubtedly be uprooted and destroyed.' That's the first tweet. The second tweet 'The only remedy until the removal of the Zionist regime is firm armed resistance,' again, left up without comment by Twitter. The third 'the struggle to free Palestine is jihad in the way of God.' I quote that in part for the sake of time, and number four, 'we will support and assist any nation or any group anywhere who opposes and fights the Zionist regime.' I would simply point out that these tweets are still up, Mr. Dorsey. And how is it that they are acceptable to be to be there? Alan, I'll ask unanimous consent to enter this tweet from Ajit Pai in the record at this point that'll be done. Without objection. How Mr. Dorsey, is that acceptable based on your policies at Twitter? Jack Dorsey: We believe it's important for everyone to hear from global leaders and we have policies around world leaders. We want to make sure that we are respecting their right to speak and to publish what they need. But if there's a violation of our terms of service, we want to label it and... Sen. Roger Wicker (MS): They're still up, did they violate your terms of service? Mr. Dorsey? Jack Dorsey: We did not find those two violate our terms of service because we consider them saber rattling, which is, is part of the speech of world leaders in concert with other countries. Speech against our own people, or a country's own citizens we believe is different and can cause more immediate harm.

[59:20] Jack Dorsey: We don't have a policy against misinformation. We have a policy against misinformation in three categories, which are manipulated media, public health, specifically COVID and civic integrity, election interference and voter suppression.

[1:39:05] Sen. Brian Schatz (HI): What we are seeing today is an attempt to bully the CEOs of private companies into carrying out a hit job on a presidential candidate, by making sure that they push out foreign and domestic misinformation meant to influence the election. To our witnesses today, you and other tech leaders need to stand up to this immoral behavior. The truth is that because some of my colleagues accuse you, your companies and your employees of being biased or liberal, you have institutionally bent over backwards and over compensated, you've hired republican operatives, hosted private dinners with Republican leaders, and in contravention of your Terms of Service, given special dispensation to right wing voices, and even throttled progressive journalism. Simply put, the republicans have been successful in this play.

[1:47:15] Jack Dorsey: This one is a tough one to actually bring transparency to. Explainability in AI is a field of research but is far out. And I think a better opportunity is giving people more choice around the algorithms they use, including to turn off the algorithms completely which is what we're attempting to do.

[2:15:00] Sen. Jerry Moran (KS): Whatever the numbers are you indicate that they are significant. It's a enormous amount of money and an enormous amount of employee time, contract labor time in dealing with modification of content. These efforts are expensive. And I would highlight for my colleagues on the committee that they will not be any less expensive, perhaps less than scale, but not less in cost for startups and small businesses. And as we develop our policies in regard to this topic, I want to make certain that entrepreneurship, startup businesses and small business are considered in what it would cost in their efforts to meet the kind of standards to operate in a sphere.

[2:20:40] Sen. Ed Markey (MA): The issue is not that the companies before us today are taking too many posts down. The issue is that they're leaving too many dangerous posts up. In fact, they're amplifying harmful content so that it spreads like wildfire and torches our democracy.

[3:04:00] Sen. Mike Lee (UT): Between the censorship of conservative and liberal points of view, and it's an enormous disparity. Now you have the right, I want to be very clear about this, you have every single right to set your own terms of service and to interpret them and to make decisions about violations. But given the disparate impact of who gets censored on your platforms, it seems that you're either one not enforcing your Terms of Service equally, or alternatively, to that you're writing your standards to target conservative viewpoints.

[3:15:30] Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): Okay for both Mr. Zuckerberg and Dorsey who censored New York Post stories, or throttled them back, did either one of you have any evidence that the New York Post story is part of Russian disinformation? Or that those emails aren't authentic? Did anybody have any information whatsoever? They're not authentic more than they are Russian disinformation? Mr. Dorsey? Jack Dorsey: We don't. Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): So why would you censor it? Why did you prevent that from being disseminated on your platform that is supposed to be for the free expression of ideas, and particularly true ideas... Jack Dorsey: we believe to fell afoul of our hacking materials policy, we judged... Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): They weren't hacked. Jack Dorsey: We we judge them moment that it looked like it was hacked material. Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): You were wrong. Jack Dorsey: And we updated our policy and our enforcement within 24 hours. Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): Mr. Zuckerberg? Mark Zuckerberg: Senator, as I testified before, we relied heavily on the FBI, his intelligence and alert status both through their public testimony and private briefings. Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): Did the FBI contact you, sir, than your co star? It was false. Mark Zuckerberg: Senator not about that story specifically. Sen. Ron Johnson (MA): Why did you throttle it back. Mark Zuckerberg: They alerted us to be on heightened alert around a risk of hack and leak operations around a release and probe of information. And to be clear on this, we didn't censor the content. We flagged it for fact checkers to review. And pending that review, we temporarily constrained its distribution to make sure that it didn't spread wildly while it was being reviewed. But it's not up to us either to determine whether it's Russian interference, nor whether it's true. We rely on the fact checkers to do that.

[3:29:30] Sen. Rick Scott (FL): That's becoming obvious that your that your companies are unfairly targeting conservatives. That's clearly the perception today, Facebook is actively targeting as by conservative groups ahead of the election, either removing the ads completely or adding their own disclosure if they claim that didn't pass their fact check system.

[3:32:40] Sen. Rick Scott (FL): You can't just pick and choose which viewpoints are allowed on your platform an expect to keep immunity granted by Section 230.


News Clip: Adam Schiff on CNN, CNN, Twitter, October 16, 2020

Hearing: MISINFORMATION, CONSPIRACY THEORIES, AND `INFODEMICS': STOPPING THE SPREAD ONLINE, Committee on the Judiciary: Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, October 15, 2020

Watch on Youtube

Hearing Transcript

Witnesses:

  • Dr. Joan Donovan: Research Director at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School
  • Nina Jankowicz: Disinformation Fellow at the Wilson Center
  • Cindy Otis: Vice President of the Althea Group
  • Melanie Smith: Head of Analysis, Graphika Inc
Transcript:

41:30 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): And I should acknowledge that we're pretty careful. We understand that we shouldn't be in the business of fighting misinformation that's probably inconsistent with the First Amendment. So what do we do? We ask that it be outsourced to people that we otherwise are pretty critical of like Mark Zuckerberg, and Jack Dorsey, we say you do it, which strikes me as a pretty lame way to address what may or may not be a problem.

42:00 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): Miss Jankowicz said that misinformation is dismantling democracy. I'm skeptical of that. And that will be my question. What evidence is that is out there that this is dismantling democracy, I don't mean that millions of people see QAnon I actually want to see the evidence that people are seeing this information, and are in a meaningful way, in a material way, dismantling our democracy through violence or through political organizations, because if we're going to go down that path, I need something more than eyeballs. So I need some evidence for how this is dismantling our democracy. And secondly, if you persuade me that we're dismantling our democracy, how do we get in the business of figuring out who should define what misinformation or disinformation is? Nina Jankowicz: To address your first question related to evidence of the dismantling of democracy. There's two news stories that I think point to this from the last couple of weeks alone. The first is related to the kidnapping plot against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. And the social media platforms played a huge role in allowing that group to organize. It allowed, that group to, it ceded the information that led them to organize and frankly, as a woman online who has been getting harassed a lot lately, lately, with sexualized and gender disinformation, I am very acutely aware of how those threats that are online can transfer on to real world violence. And that make no mistake is meant to keep women and minorities from not only participating in the democratic process by exercising our votes, but also keeping us from public life. So that's one big example. But there was another example just recently from a channel for in the UK documentary that looked at how the Trump campaign used Cambridge Analytica data to selectively target black voters with voter suppression ads during the 2016 election. Again, this is it's affecting people's participation. It's not just about fake news, stories on the internet. In fact, a lot of the best disinformation is grounded in a kernel of truth. And in my written testimony, I go through a couple of other examples of how online action has led to real world action. And this isn't something that is just staying on the internet, it is increasingly in real life. Rep. Jim Himes (CT): I don't have a lot of time. Do you think that both examples that you offered up Gov the plot to kidnap governor, the governor of Michigan, and your other example passed the but for test? I mean, this country probably got into the Spanish American War over 130 years ago because of the good works of William Randolph Hearst. So how do we, we've had misinformation and yellow journalism and terrible media and voter suppression forever. And I understand that these media platforms have scale that William Randolph Hearst didn't have. But are you sure that both of those examples pass the buck for they wouldn't have happened without the social media misinformation? Nina Jankowicz: I believe they do, because they allow the organization of these groups without any oversight, and they allow the targeting the targeting of these messages to the groups and people that are going to find the most vulnerable and are most likely to take action against them. And that's what our foreign adversaries do. And increasingly, it's what people within our own country are using to organize violence against the democratic participation of many of our fellow citizens. Rep. Jim Himes (CT): Okay, well, I'm out of time I would love to continue this conversation and pursue what you mean by groups being formed quote, without oversight, that's language I'd like to better understand but I'm out of time, but I would like to continue this conversation into, well, if this is the problem that you say it is, what do we actually do about it?


Hearing: ONLINE PLATFORMS AND MARKET POWER, PART 2: INNOVATION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP, Committee on the Judiciary: Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, July 16, 2020

Watch on Youtube

Witnesses:

  • Adam Cohen: Director of Economic Policy at Google
  • Matt Perault: Head of Global Policy Development at Facebook
  • Nate Sutton: Associate General Counsel for Competition at Amazon
  • Kyle Andeer: Vice President for Corporate Law at Apple
  • Timothy Wu: Julius Silver Professor of Law at Columbia Law School
  • Dr. Fiona Scott Morton: Theodore Nierenberg Professor of Economics at Yale School of Management
  • Stacy Mitchell: Co-Director at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  • Maureen Ohlhausen: Partner at Baker Botts LLP
  • Carl Szabo: Vice President and Gneral Counsel at NetChoice
  • Morgan Reed: Executive Director at the App Association
Transcript:

[55:15] Adam Cohen: Congresswoman we use a combination of automated tools, we can recognize copyrighted material that creators upload and instantaneously discover it and keep it from being seen on our platforms.

[1:16:00] Rep. David Cicilline (RI): Do you use consumer data to favor Amazon products? Because before you answer that, analysts estimate that between 80 and 90% of sales go to the Amazon buy box. So you collect all this data about the most popular products where they're selling. And you're saying you don't use that in any way to change an algorithm to support the sale of Amazon branded products? Nate Sutton: Our algorithms such as the buy box is aimed to predict what customers want to buy, apply the same criteria whether you're a third party seller, or Amazon to that because we want customers to make the right purchase, regardless of whether it's a seller or Amazon. Rep. David Cicilline (RI): But the best purchase to you as an Amazon product. Nate Sutton: No, that's not true. Rep. David Cicilline (RI): So you're telling us you're under oath, Amazon does not use any of that data collected with respect to what is selling, where it's on what products to inform the decisions you make, or to change algorithms to direct people to Amazon products and prioritize Amazon and D prioritize competitors. Nate Sutton: The algorithms are optimized to predict what customers want to buy regardless of the seller. We provide this same criteria and with respect to popularity, that's public data on each product page. We provide the ranking of each product.

[3:22:50] Dr. Fiona Scott Morton: As is detailed in the report that I submitted as my testimony, there are a number of characteristics of platforms that tend to drive them toward concentrated markets, very large economies of scale, consumers exacerbate this with their behavioral biases, we don't scroll down to the second page, we don't. We accept default, we follow the framing the platform gives us and instead of searching independently, and what that does is it makes it very hard for small companies to grow and for new ones to get traction against the dominant platform. And without the threat of entry from entrepreneurs and growth from existing competitors, the dominant platform doesn't have to compete as hard. If it's not competing as hard, then there are several harms that follow from that. One is higher prices for advertisers, many of these platforms are advertising supported, then there's higher prices to consumers who may think that they're getting a good deal by paying a price of zero. But the competitive price might well be negative, the consumers might well be able to be paid for using these platforms in a competitive market. Other harms include low quality in the form of less privacy, more advertising and more exploitative content that consumers can't avoid. Because, as Tim just said, there isn't anywhere else to go. And lastly, without competitive pressure, innovation is lessened. And in particular, it's channeled in the direction the dominant firm prefers, rather than being creatively spread across directions chosen by entrance. And this is what we learned both from at&t and IBM and Microsoft, is that when the dominant firm ceases to control innovation, there's a flowering and it's very creative and market driven. So the solution to this problem of insufficient competition is complimentary steps forward in both antitrust and regulation. Antitrust must recalibrate the balance it strikes between the risk of over enforcement and under enforcement. The evidence now shows we've been under enforcing for years and consumers have been harmed.

[3:22:50] Stacy Mitchell: I hope the committee will consider several policy tools as part of this investigation. In particular, we very much endorse the approach that Congress took with regard to the railroads, that if you operate essential infrastructure, you can't also compete with the businesses that rely on that infrastructure.

[3:45:00] Morgan Reed: Here on the table, I have a copy of Omni page Pro. This was a software you bought, if you needed to scan documents. If you wanted to turn it into a processor and you could look at it in a word processor. I've also got this great review from PC World, they loved it back in 2005. But the important fact here in this review is that it says the street price of this software in 2005 was $450. Now, right here, I've got an app from a company called Readdle, that is nearly the same product level has a bunch of features that this one doesn't, it's $6. Basically now consumers pay less than 1% of what they used to pay for some of the same capability. And what's even better about that, even though I love the product from Readdle, there are dozens of competitors in the app space. So when you look at it from that perspective, consumers are getting a huge win. How have platforms made this radical drop in price possible? Simply put, they've provided three things a trusted space, reduced overhead, and given my developers nearly instant access to a global marketplace with billions of customers, before the platforms to get your software onto a retail store shelf. companies had to spend years and thousands of dollars to get to the point where a distributor would handle their product, then you'd agree agree to a cut of sales revenue, write a check for upfront marketing, agree to refund the distributor the cost of any unsold boxes and then spend 10s of thousands of dollars to buy an end cap. Digging a little bit on this, I don't know how many of you know or aware that the products you see on your store shelf or in the Sunday flyer aren't there because the manager thought it was a cool product. Those products are displayed at the end of an aisle or end cap because the software developer or consumer goods company literally pays for the shelf space. In fact, for many retailers the sale of floor the sale of floor space and flyers makes a huge chunk of their profitability for their store. And none of this takes into consideration printing boxes, manuals, CDs, dealing with credit cards if you go direct translation services, customs authorities if you want to sell abroad in the 1990s it cost a million dollars to start up a software company. Now it's $100,000 in sweat equity. And thanks to these changes, the average cost for consumer software has dropped from $50 to three. For developers. Our cost to market has dropped enormously and the size of our market has expanded globally.

[3:48:55] Stacy Mitchell: I've spent a lot of time interviewing and talking with independent retailers, manufacturers of all sizes. Many of them are very much afraid of speaking out publicly because they fear retaliation. But what we consistently hear is that Amazon is the biggest threat to their businesses. We just did a survey of about 550 independent retailers nationally, Amazon ranked number one in terms of being what they said was the biggest threat to their business above, rising healthcare costs, access to capital, government, red tape, anything else you can name. Among those who are actually selling on the platform, only 7% reported that it was actually helping their bottom line. Amazon has a kind of godlike view of a growing share of our commerce and it uses the data that it gathers to advantage its own business and its own business interests in lots of ways. A lot of this, as I said, comes from the kind of leverage its ability to sort of leverage the interplay between these different business lines to maximize its advantage, whether it's promoting its own product because that's lucrative or whether it's using the manufacturer of a product to actually squeeze a seller or vendor into giving it bigger discounts.

[3:53:15] Rep. Kelly Armstrong (ND): When we recognize, I come from very rural area, the closest, what you would consider a big box store is Minneapolis or Denver. So and so when we're talking about competition, all of this I also think we've got to remember, at no point in time from my house in Dickinson, North Dakota have I had more access to more diverse and cheap consumer products. I mean, things that often would require a plane ticket or a nine hour car ride to buy can now be brought to our house. So I think when we're talking about consumers, we need to remember that side of it, too.


Hearing: EMERGING TRENDS IN ONLINE FOREIGN INFLUENCE OPERATIONS: SOCIAL MEDIA, COVID–19, AND ELECTION SECURITY, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, June 18, 2020

Watch on Youtube

Hearing transcript

Witnesses:

  • Nathaniel Gleicher: Head of Security Policy at Facebook
  • Nick Pickles: Director of Global Public Policy Strategy and Development at Twitter
  • Richard Salgado: Director for Law Enforcement and Information Security at Google
Transcript:

[19:16] Nathaniel Gleicher: Facebook has made significant investments to help protect the integrity of elections. We now have more than 35,000 people working on safety and security across the company, with nearly 40 teams focused specifically on elections and election integrity. We're also partnering with federal and state governments, other tech companies, researchers and civil society groups to share information and stop malicious actors. Over the past three years, we've worked to protect more than 200 elections around the world. We've learned lessons from each of these, and we're applying these lessons to protect the 2020 election in November.

[21:58] Nathaniel Gleicher: We've also been proactively hunting for bad actors trying to interfere with the important discussions about injustice and inequality happening around our nation. As part of this effort, we've removed isolated accounts seeking to impersonate activists, and two networks of accounts tied to organize hate groups that we've previously banned from our platforms.

[26:05] Nick Pickles: Firstly, Twitter shouldn't determine the truthfulness of tweets. And secondly, Twitter should provide context to help people make up their own minds in cases where the substance of a tweet is disputed.

[26:15] Nick Pickles: We prioritize interventions regarding misinformation based on the highest potential for harm. And the currently focused on three main areas of content, synthetic & manipulated media, elections and civic integrity and COVID-19.

[26:30] Nick Pickles: Where content does not break our rules and warrant removal. In these three areas, we may label tweets to help people come to their own views by providing additional context. These labels may link to a curated set of tweets posted by people on Twitter. This include factual statements, counterpoint opinions and perspectives, and ongoing public conversation around the issue. To date, we've applied these labels to thousands of tweets around the world across these three policy areas.

[31:10] Richard Salgado: In search, ranking algorithms are an important tool in our fight against disinformation. Ranking elevates information that our algorithms determine is the most authoritative, above information that may be less reliable. Similarly, our work on YouTube focuses on identifying and removing content that violates our policies and elevating authoritative content when users search for breaking news. At the same time, we find and limit the spread of borderline content that comes close but just stops short of violating our policies.

[53:28] Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): Mr. Gliecher, you may or may not know that Facebook is headquartered in my congressional district. I've had many conversations with Sheryl Sandberg. And I'm still puzzled by the fact that Facebook does not consider itself a media platform. Are you still espousing that kind of position? Nathaniel Gleicher: Congresswoman, we're first and foremost a technology company. We may be a technology company, but it's your technology company is being used as a media platform. Do you not recognize that? Congresswoman, we're a place for ideas across the spectrum. We know that there are people who use our platforms to engage and in fact that is the goal of the platform's to encourage and enable people to discuss the key issues of the day and to talk to family and friends.

[54:30] Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): How long or or maybe I should ask this when there was a video of Speaker Pelosi that had been tampered with - slowed down to make her look like she was drunk. YouTube took it down almost immediately. What did Facebook do and what went into your thinking to keep it up? Nathaniel Gleicher: Congresswoman for a piece of content like that, we work with a network of third party fact checkers, more than 60 3rd party fact checkers around the world. If one of them determines that a piece of content like that is false, and we will down rank it, and we will put an interstitial on it so that anyone who would look at it would first see a label over it saying that there's additional information and that it's false. That's what we did in this context. When we down rank, something like that, we see the shares of that video, radically drop. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): But you won't take it down when you know it's false. Nathaniel Gleicher: Congresswoman, you're highlighting a really difficult balance. And we've talked about this amongst ourselves quite a bit. And what I would say is, if we simply take a piece of content like this down, it doesn't go away. It will exist elsewhere on the internet. People who weren't looking for it will still find it. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): But it you know, there will always be bad actors in the world. That doesn't mean that you don't do your level best to show the greatest deal of credibility. I mean, if YouTube took it down, I don't understand how you couldn't have taken down but I'll leave that where it lays.

[1:40:10] Nathaniel Gleicher: Congressman, the collaboration within industry and with government is much, much better than it was in 2016. I think we have found the FBI, for example, to be forward leaning and ready to share information with us when they see it. We share information with them whenever we see indications of foreign interference targeting our election. The best case study for this was the 2018 midterms, where you saw industry, government and civil society all come together, sharing information to tackle these threats. We had a case on literally the eve of the vote, where the FBI gave us a tip about a network of accounts where they identified subtle links to Russian actors. Were able to investigate those and take action on them within a matter of hours.

[1:43:10] Rep. Jim Himes (CT): I tend to be kind of a First Amendment absolutist. I really don't want Facebook telling me what's true and what's not true mainly because most statements are some combination of both.

[1:44:20] Nathaniel Gleicher: Certainly people are drawn to clickbait. They're drawn to explosive content. I mean, it is the nature of clickbait, to make people want to click on it, but what we found is that if you separate it out from the particular content, people don't want a platform or experience, just clickbait, they will click it, if they see it, they don't want it prioritized, they don't want their time to be drawn into that and all emotional frailty. And so we are trying to build an environment where that isn't the focus, where they have the conversations they want to have, but I agree with you. A core piece of this challenge is people seek out that type of content wherever it is. I should note that as we're thinking about how we prioritize this, one of the key factors is who your friends are the pages and accounts that you follow and the assets that you engage with. That's the most important factor in sort of what you see. And so people have direct control over that because they are choosing the people they want to engage.


Hearing: ONLINE PLATFORMS AND MARKET POWER, PART 1: THE FREE AND DIVERSE PRESS, Committee on the Judiciary: Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law, June 11, 2020

Watch on Youtube

Witnesses:

  • David Chavern: President of the News Media Alliance
  • Gene Kimmelman: President of Public Knowledge
  • Sally Hubbard: Director of Enforcement Strategy at the Open Markets Institute
  • Matthew Schrurers: Vice President of Law and Policy at the Computer and Communications Industry Association
  • David Pitofsky: General Counsel at News Corp
  • Kevin Riley: Editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Transcript:

[55:30] David Chavern: Platforms and news organizations mutual reliance would not be a problem, if not for the fact that the concentration among the platforms means a small number of companies now exercise an extreme level of control over the news. And in fact, a couple of dominant firms act as regulators of the news industry. Only these regulators are not constrained by legislative or democratic oversight. The result has been to siphon revenue away from news publishers. This trend is clear if you compare the growth in Google's total advertising revenue to the decline in the news industry's ad revenue. In 2000, Google's US revenue was 2.1 billion, while the newspaper industry accounted for 48 billion in advertising revenue. In 2017, in contrast, Google's US revenue had increased over 25 times to 52.4 billion, the newspaper industry's ad revenue had fallen 65% to 16.4 billion.

[56:26] David Chavern: The effect of this revenue decline in publishers has been terrible, and they've been forced to cut back on their investments in journalism. That is a reason why newsroom employment has fallen nearly a quarter over the last decade. One question might be asked is if the platforms are unbalanced, having such a negative impact on the news media, then why don't publishers do something about it? The answer is they cannot, at least under the existing antitrust laws, news publishers face a collective action problem. No publisher on its own can stand up to the tech giants. The risk of demotion or exclusion from the platform is simply too great. And the antitrust laws prevent news organizations from acting collectively. So the result is that publishers are forced to accept whatever terms or restrictions are imposed on them.

[1:06:20] Sally Hubbard: Facebook has repeatedly acquired rivals, including Instagram and WhatsApp. And Google's acquisition cemented its market power throughout the ad ecosystem as it bought up the digital ad market spoke by spoke, including applied semantics AdMob and Double Click. Together Facebook and Google have bought 150 companies in just the last six years. Google alone has bought nearly 250 companies.

[1:14:17] David Pitofsky: Unfortunately, in the news business, free riding by dominant online platforms, which aggregate and then reserve our content has led to the lion's share of online advertising dollars generated off the back of news going to the platforms. Many in Silicon Valley dismissed the press as old media failing to evolve in the face of online competition. But this is wrong. We're not losing business to an innovator who has found a better or more efficient way to report and investigate the news. We're losing business because the dominant platforms deploy our news content, to target our audiences to then turn around and sell that audience to the same advertisers we're trying to serve.

[1:15:04] David Pitofsky: The erosion of advertising revenue undercuts our ability to invest in high quality journalism. Meanwhile, the platforms have little if any commitment to accuracy or reliability. For them, a news article is valuable if viral, not if verified.

[1:16:12] David Pitofsky: News publishers have no good options to respond to these challenges. Any publisher that tried to withhold its content from a platform as part of a negotiating strategy would starve itself of reader traffic. In contrast, losing one publisher would not harm the platform's at all since they would have ample alternative sources for news content.

[1:36:56] Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA): So Miss Hubbard, let me start with you. You were an Assistant Attorney General for New York State's antitrust division. You've also worked as a journalist, which online platforms would you say are most impacting the public's access to trustworthy sources of journalism? And why? Sally Hubbard: Thank you for the question. Congresswoman, I think in terms of disinformation, the platforms that are having the most impact are Facebook and YouTube. And that's because of their business models, which are to prioritize engagement, engaging content because of the human nature that you know survival instinct, we tend to tune into things that make us fearful or angry. And so by prioritizing engagement, these platforms are actually prioritizing disinformation as well. It serves their profit motives to keep people on the platforms as long as possible to show them ads and collect their data. And because they don't have any competition, they're free to pursue these destructive business models without having any competitive constraint. They've also lacked regulation. Normally, corporations are not permitted to just pursue profits without regard to the consequences.

[1:38:10] Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA): The Federal Trade Commission has repeatedly declined to interfere, as Facebook and Google have acquired would be competitors. Since 2007, Google has acquired Applied Semantics, Double Click and AdMob. And since 2011, Facebook has acquired Instagram and WhatsApp. What do these acquisitions mean for consumers of news and information? I think sometimes antitrust is seen and regulation is seen as something that's out there. But this has very direct impact for consumers. Can you explain what that means as these companies have acquired more and more? Sally Hubbard: Sure, so in my view, those, of all of the acquisitions that you just mentioned, were illegal under the Clayton Act, which prohibits mergers that may lessen competition. Looking back, it's clear that all of those mergers did lessen competition. And when you lessen competition, the harms to consumers are not just high prices, which was which are harder to see when in the digital age. But its loss of innovation is loss of choice, and loss of control. So when we approve anti competitive mergers, consumers are harmed.

[1:55:48] Rep. Matt Gaetz (FL): Section 230, as I understand it, and I'm happy to be corrected by others, would say that if a technology platform is a neutral public platform, that they enjoy certain liability protections that newspapers don't enjoy, that Newscorp doesn't enjoy with its assets. And so does it make the anti competitive posture of technology platforms more pronounced, that they have access to this special liability protection that the people you represent don't have access to? David Chavern: Oh, absolutely. There's a huge disparity. Frankly, when our contents delivered through these platforms, we get the liability and they get the money. So that's a good deal from that end. We are responsible for what we publish, we publishers can and do get sued. On the other hand, the platforms are allowed to deliver and monetize this content with complete lack of responsibility.


Hearing: Election Interference: Ensuring Law Enforcement is Equipped to Target Those Seeking to Do Harm, Senate Judiciary Committee, June 12, 2018

Watch on C-SPAN

Witnesses:

  • Adam Hickey - Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the National Security Division at the Department of Justice
  • Matthew Masterson - National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security
  • Kenneth Wainstein - Partner at Davis Polk & Wardwell, LLP
  • Prof. Ryan Goodman - New York University School of Law
  • Nina Jankowicz - Global Fellow at the Wilson Center
Transcript:

[9:00] Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA): We know that Russia orchestrated a sustained and coordinated attack that interfered in our last presidential election. And we also know that there’s a serious threat of more attacks in our future elections, including this November. As the United States Intelligence Community unanimously concluded, the Russian government’s interference in our election—and I quote—“blended covert intelligence operations, such as cyber activity, with overt efforts by the Russian government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social-media users or trolls.” Over the course of the past year and a half, we’ve come to better understand how pernicious these attacks were. Particularly unsettling is that we were so unaware. We were unaware that Russia was sowing division through mass propaganda, cyber warfare, and working with malicious actors to tip scales of the election. Thirteen Russian nationals and three organizations, including the Russian-backed Internet Research Agency, have now been indicted for their role in Russia’s vast conspiracy to defraud the United States.


Hearing: Facebook, Google and Twitter Executives on Russian Disinformation, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, October 31, 2017

Watch on Youtube

Witnesses:

  • Colin Stretch - Facebook Vice President and General Counsel
  • Sean Edgett - Twitter Acting General Counsel
  • Richard Salgado - Google Law Enforcement & Information Security Director
  • Clint Watts - Foreign Policy Research Institute, National Security Program Senior Fellow
  • Michael Smith -New America, International Security Fellow
Transcript:

[2:33:07] Clint Watts: Lastly, I admire those social-media companies that have begun working to fact-check news articles in the wake of last year’s elections. These efforts should continue but will be completely inadequate. Stopping false information—the artillery barrage landing on social-media users comes only when those outlets distributing bogus stories are silenced. Silence the guns, and the barrage will end. I propose the equivalent of nutrition labels for information outlets, a rating icon for news-producing outlets displayed next to their news links and social-media feeds and search engines. The icon provides users an assessment of the news outlet’s ratio of fact versus fiction and opinion versus reporting. The rating system would be opt-in. It would not infringe on freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Should not be part of the U.S. government, should sit separate from the social-media companies but be utilized by them. Users wanting to consume information from outlets with a poor rating wouldn’t be prohibited. If they are misled about the truth, they have only themselves to blame.


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

Nov 30, 2020
Thank You Alaska
01:21:35

The Election is still not over but we did get some more results. In this bonus "thank you" episode, get updated on the election news before we thank the CD producers who are making this podcast possible.


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

Nov 23, 2020
CD223: Election 2020: The Empire Returns
01:18:19

The election is... Actually not quite over but we have to record this episode sometime. In this episode, a breakdown of the notable winners and losers. Did we fire them all? Or... Any of them? 


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Recommended Episodes

CD129: The Impeachment of John Koskinen


Articles/Documents


Additional Resources


Sound Clip Sources


Video: 2020 Presidential Debates: Biden says Obamacare will have a public option, 'Bidencare', Politico, October 22, 2020

Facebook Live Video: Republican congressional candidate caught on video making series of racist and Islamophobic remarks, Independent, June 18, 2020

Facebook Live Video: House Republican leaders condemn GOP candidate who made racist videos, Politico, June 17, 2020

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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)

Nov 15, 2020
CD222: 116th Congress Performance Review
01:21:33

In the last episode before the 2020 election, let's take a comprehensive look at what went on in the 116th Congress, a divided Congress during which the House of Representatives was controlled for the first time since Congressional Dish began by the Democratic Party. It was a chaotic two years, with a series of unprecedented events. Did our Congress serve us well in these crazy times?


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Recommended Episodes

CD221: Kicking the Funding Can

CD216: Dingleberries Against Police Brutality

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

CD212: The COVID-19 Response Laws

CD211: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

CD209: USMCA with Lori Wallach

CD208: The Brink of the Iran War

CD207: State of Corporatism

CD206: Impeachment: The Evidence

CD192: Democracy Upgrade Stalled

CD188: Welcome to the 116th Congress

CD167: Combating Russia (NDAA 2018) LIVE

CD131: Bombing Libya

CD068: Ukraine Aid Bill

CD067: What Do We Want In Ukraine?


Articles/Documents


Additional Resources


Images

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Tweet: Chris Murphy, Twitter

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Tweet: Joe Biden, Twitter

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Tweet: Joe Biden


Sound Clip Sources


News Clip: Mark Meadows: We're not going to control the pandemic, CNN, October 25, 2020


News Clip: Woodward tapes show Trump knew the dangers of COVID-19 but downplayed it, CBS News, September 9, 2020


Hearing: Leaked conversation between Joe Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, May 20, 2020

Transcript:

13:00 VP Joe Biden: Hey, Mr. President. Joe Biden. How are you? Petro Poroshenko: Very well indeed, as is usual when I hear your voice. What we’re doing now, I think within the last three weeks, we have demonstrated a real, real great progress in the reforms. We voted in the Parliament 100% tariffs, despite the fact that the IMF expected only 75%. We are launching real reform of the state owned enterprises. We are launching reform for the prices for medicine, removing all the obstacles. VP Joe Biden: I agree, I agree.

14:45 VP Joe Biden: Hey, Mr. President. Joe Biden. How are you? Petro Poroshenko: Very well indeed, as is usual when I hear your voice. VP Joe Biden: You are doing very well. Congratulations on getting the new Prosecutor General. I know that there’s a lot more that has to be done but I really think that’s good and I understand your working with the Rada in the coming days on a number of additional laws to secure the IMF, but congratulations on installing the new prosecutor general. It’s going to be critical for him to work quickly to repair the damage Shokin did, and I’m a man of my word, and now that the new prosecutor general is in place we’re ready to move forward in signing that new one billion dollar loan guarantee. I don’t know how you want to go about that? I’m not going to be able to get to Kiev anytime soon, I mean, in the next month or so, and I don’t know whether you could either sign it with our ambassador…

26:20 VP Joe Biden: Hey, Mr. President. Petro Poroshenko: Very good to hear you. VP Joe Biden: Good to hear you. By the way, you know I’ve talked about this a lot before. I guess Monday is the second anniversary. Remember, I’m counting on you to be the founding father of the modern Ukraine. Petro Poroshenko: Thank you, Joe. And I… I just want to be a little bit proactive. So we have no doubt that we should… implement the reforms but we should implement the reforms in a way that the people trust because if people do not trust the reforms, the reforms will be impossible to implement.


Hearing: Coronavirus Preparedness and Response, House Oversight and Government Reform, March 12, 2020

Watch on Youtube

Witnesses:

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

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.


News Clip: Trump praises Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó at the State of the Union | 2020 State of the Union, White House, PBS NewsHour, February 4, 2020


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

Watch on Youtube

Witness

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.

55:10 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.

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.

1:14:10 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 right white house meeting reflected President Trump's desires and requirements.

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.

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 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.


Hearing: [Impeachment Inquiry, House Hearings

Ambassador Kurt Volker and National Security Aide Tim Morrison](https://www.c-span.org/video/?466377-1/impeachment-hearing-kurt-volker-tim-morrison), House Judiciary Committee, C-SPAN Coverage, November 19, 2019

Watch on Youtube

Witnesses:

Transcript:

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, the 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 Mary 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 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.


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

Witnesses:

  • William Taylor
  • George Kent
Transcript:

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.


Video: Mitch McConnell praises Trump for 'changing the federal courts forever', The Week, November 4, 2019


Press Video: Pelosi praises 'cleaner government' provisions in H.R. 1 , The Washington Post, March 7, 2019


2019 State of the Union Address, White House, U.S. Senate, February 5, 2019

Watch

Transcript:

1:05:28 President Donald Trump - Two weeks ago, the United States officially recognized the legitimate government of Venezuela, and its new interim President, Juan Guaido. We stand with the Venezuelan people in their noble quest for freedom -- and we condemn the brutality of the Maduro regime, whose socialist policies have turned that nation from being the wealthiest in South America into a state of abject poverty and despair. Here, in the United States, we are alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country. America was founded on liberty and independence --- not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.


News Clip: Rep. Jordan: We have to fund Trump’s border wall now, Fox Business Network, December 18, 2018


News Clip: Trump says he would be ‘proud’ to shut down the government over border wall funding, Jennifer Haberkorn, Los Angeles Times, December 11, 2018


Remarks by Secretary of State: Remarks on the Way Forward for the United States Regarding Syria, U.S. Department of State, January 17, 2018.

Discussion: Foreign Affairs Issue Launch with Former Vice President Joe Biden; Council on Foreign Affairs; January 23, 2018.

Speakers:

  • Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Joe Biden, former Vice President of the United States
Transcript:

00:24:15 Haass: In the piece, the two of you say that there’s no truth that the United States—unlike what Putin seems to believe or say, that the U.S. is seeking regime change in Russia. So the question I have is, should we be? And if not, if we shouldn’t be seeking regime change, what should we be seeking in the way of political change inside Russia? What’s an appropriate agenda for the United States vis-à-vis Russia, internally? 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.


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

Oct 31, 2020
Thank You Hidden Difference Makers
01:13:41

Congress has been doing a whole lot of nothing for us since the last episode so this bonus "thank you" episode is all about the producers. Thank you for keeping the show alive! 


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Music Presented in This Episode

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Oct 19, 2020
CD221: Kicking the Funding Can
01:11:39

Surprise, surprise! Congress failed to fund the government on time again. In this episode, discover the hidden secrets in the bill that temporarily funds the government and the politics behind the dingleberries that hitched a ride into law.

Executive Producer: Brooks Rogers


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VP Debate preview. A genuine sex scandal! Trump COVID timeline! Deciphering congress with Jen Briney Politics Politics Politics

CD213: CARES Act - The Trillions for COVID-19 Law, Listen on Spotify

CD168: Nuclear Desperation, Listen on Spotify


Bills


H.R. 8337: Continuing Appropriations Act, 2021 and Other Extensions Act

Passed House: September 22, 359-17-1

Passed Senate: September 30, 84-10

Text

Outline

Division A: Continuing Appropriations Act

Extends government funding from 2020 at the same levels until December 11, 2021

Section 125: Gives permission to the Secretary of the Navy to spend over $1.6 billion to enter into a contract for who Columbia class submarines

Section 140: Amends the CARES Act to extend the expiration date of Section 3610, which allows any government agency to to change their contracts to allow the government to pay for up to 40 Horus per week of paid leave that contractors pay for their employees. This only applies to contractors who can’t work because their facilities are closed and can’t do their work remotely. The expiration is shifted from September 30 to December 11.

Section 159: Extends the authority from the CARES Act, which expired on September 30, for the Library of Congress to reimburse the Little Scholars Child Development Center and Tiny Findings Development Center for salaries for employees who can’t work due to COVID-19 closures in the capitol. It also extends the authority for the government to pay the salaries of contractors that work on the capitol until the end of the public emergency. The authorities are extended until the end of the public emergency declared by the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Section 170: Adds $728 billion to the $550 billion appropriated in the 2020 funding law for loan guarantees for mortgage backed securities

Section 173: Extends the borrowing limit for the Commodity Credit Corporation to reimburse it for net realized losses as of September 17, 2020.

Division B: Surface Transportation Program Extension

Section 1104: Allows Federal funds to be used to cover operating losses for food and beverage service on Amtrak

Division D : Other Matters

Section 4102: Authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish fees ranging between $1,500 and $2,500 for applications for employment based immigration.

Section 4303: Permanently reauthorizes antitrust provisions that encourages corporations to cooperate in antirust civil cases by limiting the fines that can be imposed upon cooperating companies.

Section 4601: Expands eligibility for food stamps for children who usually get meals provided at school to include children in hybrid model schools and day cares.

Section 4602: Extends the states’ authority to apply for waivers for school meal requirements in order to provide meals in a COVID-safe way until September 30, 2021

Section 4603: Gives the states the ability to extend certification periods for households receiving food assistance to December 31, 2021, and to adjust interview requirements through June 30, 2021, if they want to, without getting permission from the Secretary of Agriculture

Section 4604: Prohibits the Secretary of Agriculture from using funding, facilities, or authorities of the Commodity Credit Corporation to provide payments to refiners or importers of fossil fuels unless the payments are for biofuels and prohibits the Commodity Credit Corporation from exchanging fossil fuel products for agricultural products until the end of March 2021.


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Hearing: Continuing Resolution to Fund the Government, U.S. House of Representatives, House Appropriations Committee, September 22, 2020
Transcript:

9:00 Steny Hoyer: Briefly want to say to the Appropriations Committee, congratulations for doing your work. I know there was controversy, everybody didn't support it. But we passed 10 of the 12 appropriation bills almost two months ago. Clearly sufficient time to reach agreement and pass the appropriation bills, not a CR. CR is a recognition of failure. Failure of to get our work done in a timely fashion. And I regret that I take some credit for passing 10 bills last year, in June, and 10 bills this year in July. I pushed the Appropriations Committee pretty hard. Staff worked hard, members worked hard. And we got our bills done.The Senate has not introduced - has not marked up - a single bill in committee. There's no bill out of committee, there's no bills on the floor, which means that the Senate has essentially abandoned the appropriations process. Madam Speaker, that's not the way the Congress the United States ought to work.

11:00 Steny Hoyer: From now, until hopefully before December 11, that's a Friday - we're scheduled to break for Christmas and the holidays - I'm hopeful that everyone will put their heads together to get the appropriation process done. And we'll probably do it in an omnibus, not single appropriation bills, which is not a good way to do it either. When I joined the Appropriations Committee, and we passed one bill at a time, the Senate passed one bill at a time, and we came to conference and sat down together, the members of the Defense Committee, the members of the Treasury, postal committee and labor health committees, we came together individually, and we worked out agreements between the two bodies. That is the way it ought to work. It's not working that way. And a world of alternatives, this is the best we have. So we need to take 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)

Oct 12, 2020
Thank You Green Room
01:26:40

The Green Room is live! In this bonus thank you episode, learn how producers can access a private podcast feed only for Congressional Dish insiders before getting updates on government funding, non-existent COVID relief, and the Supreme Court nomination.

Note: This episode was recorded four hours before President Trump revealed his COVID-19 diagnosis. 


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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)

Oct 05, 2020
CD220: Postal Service Sabotage
02:06:11

The mail has been slow this summer, no doubt about it, but did the Trump administration slow the mail down on purpose in order to interfere with mail-in voting? In this episode, listen to highlights of recent emergency Congressional hearings in order to learn what's really going on at USPS. The sabotage is real, but the situation is different from what you probably think. Special guest: Alexis Claypool Glaser 


Please Support Congressional Dish – Quick Links

Please make checks payable to Congressional Dish

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Recommended Episodes

CD153: Save the Post Office! Listen on Spotify

CD186: National Endowment for Democracy, Listen on Spotify


Bills


H.R. 6307 - Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act

Read Bill Text

Signed into law on December 20, 2006

Votes: Passed the House by voice vote. Passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent.

Four people have their names on the law: 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats



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Source: United States Postal Service: A Sustainable Path Forward Report from the Task Force on the United States Postal System

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Source: @realDonaldTrump, Twitter

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Source: @realDonaldTrump, Twitter


Sound Clip Sources


News: Bill Maher’s New Rules segment, Twitter, August 28, 2020

Hearing: Protecting the Timely Delivery of Mail, Medicine, and Mail-In Ballots, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, August 24, 2020

Watch on YouTube

Witnesses:

  • Louis DeJoy: Postmaster General
  • Robert Duncan: Chairman of the United States Postal Service Board of Governors
Transcript:

1:34:35 Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Mr. DeJoy, as a megadonor for the Trump campaign, you were picked along with Michael Cohen and Elliot Broiding, two man who have already pled guilty to felonies, to be the three deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. Did you pay back several of your top executives for contributing to Trump's campaign by bonusing, or rewarding them? Louis DeJoy: That's an outrageous claim, sir, and I resent it. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) I'm just asking a question. Louis DeJoy:* The answer is no. **Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) So you did not bonus or reward any of your executives. Louis DeJoy: No. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Anyone that you solicited for contribution to the Trump campaign? Louis DeJoy: No, sir. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Not in whole or in part? Louis DeJoy: Actually, during the Trump campaign. I wasn't even working at my company anymore. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Well, we want to make sure that... campaign contributions are illegal. So all your campaign are legal. Louis DeJoy: I'm fully aware of legal campaign contributions. And I resent the assertion? So what are you accusing me of? Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Well, I'm asking a question. Do your mail delays fit Trump's campaign goal of hurting the post office, as stated in his tweets? Are your mail delays implicit campaign contributions? Louis DeJoy: I'm not going to answer these types of questions. I'm here to represent the Postal Service, it has nothing to do with... All my actions have to do with improvements in postal service. Am I the only one in this room that understands that we have a $10 billion a year loss. Right. Am I the only one in this room that has looked at the OIG reports that have stacked up? Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Will you give this committee your communications with Mark Meadows, with Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, with the President. Louis DeJoy: Go ahead and do that. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN) Mr. DeJoy, is your backup plan to be pardoned like Roger Stone? You have two seconds to answer the question. Louis DeJoy: I have no comment on that.

1:36:50 Rep. Greg Stube (FL): I as a veteran who served in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom to compare postal workers to our military service members in Iraq or Afghanistan, quite frankly, to me is offensive. Last time I checked Postal Service drivers weren't getting their vehicles blown up by IEDs are being shot out as they drove around and delivered mail. So to try to compare our military service members who sacrifice on the battlefields across this world to our postal service members, that is frankly offensive as a person that had served.

1:54:45 Louis DeJoy: It was the summertime, mail volume was down significantly, so it was not...we're getting ready for the peak season and an election is three months away. It was a good time to start to try and roll this out that we are getting the request was just run your trucks on time, put a plan to run your trucks on time.

1:56:05 Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA): Do you not tell the Board of Governors this month, in August, that in fact you have had contact with a Trump campaign to ask them to stop their attacks on the Postal Service and voting by mail? Louis DeJoy: I have put words around to different people that this is not helpful to... Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA): You did have contact with the Trump campaign, for a good purpose? Louis DeJoy: I'm trying to think...when you say the Trump campaign, I've not spoken to Trump campaign leadership in that regard. I've spoken to people that have filled that out that are friends of mine that are associated with the campaign. Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA): One of them was Steve Mnuchin. Louis DeJoy: Steve Mnuchin is Secretary of Treasury. Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA): I know. Louis DeJoy: Yeah, I never spoke to Steve about telling the President to not do something.

2:19:20 Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD): What do you make of the former Chairman of the Board of Governors, Mr. Fineman calling Treasury Secretary Mnuchin involvement's in the selection process 'absolutely unprecedented.' Louis DeJoy: Stephen Mnuchin had nothing to do with my selection. Okay. I was called by Russell... Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD): Did you talk to Secretary Mnuchin about taking the job? There was report that you had lunch together to discuss it? Louis DeJoy: Totally inaccurate and outrageous. Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD): You've never talked to him about it, before taking job you never talked to him about taking the job? Louis DeJoy: I talked to him about the job after I received the offer. I did not accept the offer immediately. Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD): Okay, but you never spoke to him before about his soliciting your interest in the job or... Louis DeJoy: He did not solicit any interest. I kept my interest, which as you identified, he did not know that I had an interest. I had a perfectly good life prior to this, but I was interested in helping and I was called by Russell Reynolds out of the blue.

2:53:00 Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): Thank you, Mr. DeJoy for being here. I want to see if we can find some common ground to resolve some of the differences. Can you begin by sharing with the American people in this committee, the unofficial motto of the postal service? Louis DeJoy: No rain or snow, sleet nor hail will make our delivery? Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): Yes. It's about service. Correct, not about profit. Do you know how many veterans served in the postal service? About? Louis DeJoy: 100,000? Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): Correct. Do you know what percentage of veterans about rely on the postal service for their prescription medicine? Louis DeJoy: I don't know. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): It's a high number. It's about 80% of veterans. So I guess my beginning I want to ask you this, you know, our defense department. We don't tell them you have to go sell weapons to make revenue to serve the American people. We don't say that about our health service, or the National Institute of Health. Why should we have a different standard for the postal service? Why do you have to go and make a profit instead of just serving the American people, sir, it's interesting and good question. And it's not that we need to make a profit. It's to be self sustaining, which means at least cover your costs. But why it's such a small. I'm not a legislator, I'm the Postmaster General Do you know? I mean, do you know the history? Do you remember the time in the Postal Service history where that wasn't a requirement? Louis DeJoy: I do in the 70s. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): Actually, it was from 1840 to 1970. We funded the Postal Service, we didn't require them to make a profit because we thought people should in rural America and other places and our veterans should serve and one of the reasons people serve in the Postal Service who've served in our military is they view it as public service.

2:54:50 Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): Your perspective is that these mail sorting machines aren't required, because packages need to be delivered and open up floor space. It's your testimony that you didn't direct it, correct? Who directed it? Louis DeJoy: I didn't, have not done and investigation. It came probably through our operations. It's been a long term and you don't know who directed it. You don't know who implemented it. Louis DeJoy: Well, there's hundreds of them around the country in different places. It was an initiative within the organization that preceded me.

2:56:15 Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): So if it costs less than a billion dollars, regardless of whether it's efficient or not, what is the harm in just putting those machines back until Election Day, just for the peace of mind for the confidence of the American people? Louis DeJoy: Well, first of all, sir, we've heard all statistics about the mail and the votes and so forth. Right. And we don't need the machines to process it. But you make a statement about for a billion dollars, if we just gave you a billion dollars, you're not going to give us a billion dollars. We're going to make a request. You have no way of getting us a billion dollars. We haven't been funded in 10 years. You can't pass any legislation that helps the Postal Service. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): If I can just finish this point. We give you the money. Do you see my point? Louis DeJoy: It's a hypothetical, I'm not willing to...you haven't given us any money, you haven't given us any legislation and you're sitting here accusing me with regard to the machines as the committee. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): But what is the harm? I think most Americans are trying to understand what is the harm in putting these machines even if the machines in your perspective don't do anything, what is the harm to do until Election Day. Louis DeJoy: In Washington, it makes plenty of sense, to me it makes none. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): You haven't explained why and then final question. Louis DeJoy: Because they're not needed that's why. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): But if it will restore people's faith in a democracy and avoid a polarized electorate, I would think it... Louis DeJoy: Okay, get me the billion and I'll put the machines in. Rep. Ro Khanna (CA): Okay, well, that's a commitment. We'll find a way to get you the money.

3:17:20 Rep. Glen Grothman (WI): You right now have I'm told about $14 billion in the bank. Do you anticipate the election causing that to be rundown at all? Or do you anticipate it going up, would have any dent on it? Louis DeJoy: I don't think it will have too much of an impact in either way. Rep. Glen Grothman (WI): Okay, so if you had 14 billion in the bank, now, you're still going to have 14 billion on as you know, on December first. Louis DeJoy: That it this point we lose, we will probably lose 10 or $11 billion this year. So depending on how package volume stays, we could have less cash. And if I may, having $14 billion, we also have, I have $12 billion worth of liabilities that need to be paid at some time over the next six months. We have $135 billion of liabilities, we wanting a 633,000 person organization that does not get funding even though the federal government ends in September, they have an expectation of getting funding. We don't have an expectation of getting funding so we have to drive cost out and increase revenue. And that's the big difference that we have than any other agency. So for $14 billion, while it sounds like a lot of money, it's not a lot of money for what we do.

3:22:10 Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): I want to take this opportunity to enter into the record Madam Chair, on August 18 2020 emailed from USPS Director of Maintenance Operations Kevin Couch. Madam Chair. The email reads "please message out to your respective maintenance managers tonight they are not to reconnect, reinstall machines that have been previously just been disconnected without approval from headquarters maintenance no matter what direction they are getting from their plant manager." Mr. DeJoy, yes or no. And you've indicated in this committee hearing that it's not your job to decide about whether sorting machines are on or offline. But at the same time you told Mr. Khanna that you won't bring them online because they're not needed. So yes or no, have any plant managers requested mail sorting machines be reconnected? Louis DeJoy: First of all, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): Yes or no. Louis DeJoy: I disagree with the premise. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): I'm not asking you anything other than, reclaiming my time Madam Chair. Yes or no? Madam Chair Reclaiming her time, yes or no answer. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): Yes or No. Have any plant managers across the country in the USPS requested mail sorting machines be reconnected. Louis DeJoy: How would I know that? Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): You're in charge? You don't know whether there are there are plant managers that have requested. Louis DeJoy: No I don't know that. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): But let me let me just assure you that there are plant managers that was reported in the in the press in both Washington. There are plant managers in Texas and Washington. And I have articles that I can show you that have asked to have sorting machines reconnected and brought back online. And they've been too scared to come forward to say so. So you've you've indicated that it's local leadership in this hearing, I heard you say it's not your job to decide whether the sorting machines are brought online or not. Someone needs to mute Madam Chair. Madam Chair, please, please mute. Madam Chair People that are listening, please mute. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (FL): I probably I need probably about additional 30 seconds from the interruptions added back onto my time, please. You have said in this hearing, it's both not your job to make decisions about sorting machines, and at the same time, you've said that you're not going to bring them back online because they're not needed. It can't be both.

3:40:50 Louis DeJoy: Across the country, our employee availability is down three, 3 to 4% on average across the country, but the issue is in some of the hot spots in the country areas like Philadelphia, Detroit is probably 20, the averages cover that and that could be down 20% and that's given us this, contributing to the delivery problem that we're having.

3:49:50 Louis DeJoy: I had nothing to do with the with the collection boxes, the sorting machines, the postal post office hours or limiting overtime, the change I made was asked the team to run the trucks transportation on time and mitigate extra trips based on a review of an OIG audit that was absolutely astonishing in the amount of money we were spending and the number of late trips and extra trips we were running. It was a plan that was rolled out with operations in is very, very important aspect of the network. It's a very people ask why do trucks matter? Why did on time trucks matter? They do matter. It's a fundamental premise of how the whole mail network is put together. If the if the trucks don't run on time, the mail carriers can't leave on time they're out there at night. They have to come back and get more mail collection processes or late, plant processes distorted. I see several billion dollars in potential savings in getting the system to connect properly. And that's why we ran out and put a plan together to really get this fundamental basic principle. Run your trucks on time. I find it really... I would not I would not know how to reverse that. Now, what am I to say? Don't run the trucks on time. Is that the answer that we're looking to get me to say here today?

3:58:50 Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): Mr. Duncan, you've also been active in President Trump's campaign. And as a director of American Crossroads superpac. Is that correct? Robert Duncan: I'm the director of American Crossroads Super PAC. Yes. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): And you've contributed over $1.9 million to President Trump's campaign. Robert Duncan: That's not correct. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): Not you personally but the PAC. Robert Duncan: I don't know the answer to that. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): Well, the records show that.

4:02:20 Louis DeJoy: Before I went into... In the Postal Service, you file your forms the day you arrive at work, I filed my forms. I was going to a meeting on Amazon, I owned stock someplace in a call at Morgan Stanley, and I was...that they told me I had to either recuse myself from reviewing a number of contracts or sell the stock. I called our broker to sell the stock. We actually had calls. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): Mr. DeJoy, I'm gonna have to Louis DeJoy: but I did not buy options. I actually bought call calls that Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): It's on your statement. Louis DeJoy: I bought covered calls back and at a loss. That's what I did to get completely out of stock. I had to unwind covered calls. Rep. Jackie Speier (CA): You still have those calls, do you not? Louis DeJoy: No, I had to pay more money for the calls than I sold them for. I think you should get an understanding of what a covered call is before you accuse me of any improprieties.

4:49:00 Louis DeJoy: We got to this specific change. The production schedules within the plants were not aligned with the transportation schedules going between the plants. About 10% of the mail was not aligned. The production plants were getting done late and the trucks were leaving. And this was not a mandate that every truck leaves on time, we still have a significant amount of trucks that run delayed and a significant amount of extra trips. Judgments were made at each individual plant that provided for transitional issues and doing it. We will get this back. We're working very hard and it will be a successful endeavor for the United States Postal Service.

4:52:20 Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY): Mr. DeJoy when, when your announcement in your new position as Postmaster General was announced, you know, there was some folks that were flagging concerns that you would be the first Postmaster General in two decades without previous experience or service directly in the USPS. But to be fair, and as you mentioned, you do have extensive career experience in supply chain logistics, correct? Louis DeJoy: I do. And in fact, you serve the CEO of your own supply chain company new breed logistics for 30 years, correct? Louis DeJoy: I did. And that was up until about 2014 when you merged new breed logistics with another company XPO logistics were you also served as CEO for a year and then served on its board of directors until about 2018 when you submitted your resignation. Correct? Louis DeJoy: Yeah.

5:10:40 Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): On June 24th 2020, you bought between 50,000 and 100,000, in what you refer to as, quote covered calls in the Amazon Corporation. But let's be very clear, Mr. DeJoy, no matter what financial maneuvering you performed to try to hide it. The fact is that you have financial interest in Amazon. So Mr. DeJoy, yes or no? Are you aware that Amazon uses the US Postal Service for 40% of its shipping? Louis DeJoy: I disagree with the premise that I bought stock and... Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): Do you know that 40% of its shipping? Louis DeJoy: I know there's a lot of shipping with us. Yes. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): Okay. And I understand it. Your Amazon covered calls expires in about October of this year. So you'll have to make a decision regarding this financial interest and may potentially have sensitive information about Amazon's business with the US Postal Service which may influence that decision. This appears to be a classic example of conflict of interest, insider trading. Yes or no, will you commit right now. divest any and all financial interest in Amazon to avoid illegal insider trading. Louis DeJoy: Ma'am that was a lot of time on an issue that doesn't matter. I don't own any Amazon stock. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): You have financial interest. You can call it whatever you want. Louis DeJoy: I don't own anything with Amazon. You can continue to... Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI): Until you do that. Your financial interest in Amazon will continue to be problematic and illegal and a conflict of interest.

5:16:25 Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Did you actually read and independently analyze the major overhaul plans before you ordered them to take effect? Louis DeJoy: Again, I will repeat that I did not order a major overhaul plans, the items you identify were not directed by me. I did. And we don't need much analysis to get to run your trucks to a schedule. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Reclaiming my time. Mr. DeJoy, could you please tell me who did order these changes if he U.S. Postmaster General did not because these changes have resulted in and you have set yourself in this hearing. Louis DeJoy: The Postal Service has been around for 250 years. There were plans there were many, many executives, almost 30,000 executives within the organization, and there are plans that existed prior to my arrival that were implemented. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Mr. DeJoy If you did not order these actions to be taken. Please tell the committee the name of who did. Louis DeJoy: I do not know. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Mr. Joy Did you analyze these plans before they went into effect? US Postmaster General supervise whoever did apparently... Louis DeJoy: As I've stated numerous times the plans were in effect and being implemented before I arrived. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Mr. DeJoy, do you take responsibility for these changes? Louis DeJoy: I take responsibility from the day I sat in a seat for any service deterioration that has occurred. You're asking about operational changes that go on throughout the whole organization around the around the country. Rep. Katie Porter (CA): I'm reclaiming my time sir. Mr. DeJoy, will you commit to reversing these changes. Louis DeJoy: No.

5:19:25 Rep. Katie Porter (CA): Do you own any financial interest, whether options or stocks covered calls, bought or sold? Do you own today any financial interest in Amazon? Louis DeJoy: I do not.

5:20:55 Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): You've accepted the responsibility for the delays. But we're still not clear what exactly what changes took place and what were yours. Under Miss Lawrence's questioning. You said you stopped the pilot program. When you stopped everything else. Let me ask you, what in your mind, were you stopping besides the pilot program? Louis DeJoy: I stopped the removal of collection boxes around the country. I stopped the process of reducing hours at postal retail centers and I stopped the removal of the flat and mail sortation boxes, machines. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): So, your argument for doing that is that you saw... that it wasn't working or? Louis DeJoy: No they... I met with with with the speaker and Senator Schumer and we just collectively thought about the heightened discussion that was going on around the nation. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): And respectfully, Sir, why that and not the overtime issues and not the sorting machines? Why did you pick those and not the others which seem to have pretty dramatic impacts? Given the fact that things didn't go well, wouldn't you want to look back coming from the private sector and say, gee, maybe that is impacting us negatively. Was there some other reason you're thinking, well, no, I'm not going to change those. Louis DeJoy: Not changed their truck schedule and the... Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): The overtime, the sorting machine over time. Louis DeJoy: I've spent $700 million and, we have spent 700. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): You recognize that there are many including in my district, post office locations which are cutting back on overtime. They're following somebody's order in and you won't mention who that is. So back to accountability, you got to admit your own it right. Louis DeJoy: How do you know that they're cutting back on overtime? Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Imagine or let me put it another way. Are you certain that they're not cutting back on overtime? Louis DeJoy: The direction was given to stop cutting back on overtime in postal retail centers. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): When was that done? Louis DeJoy: I haven't done an audit yet. But I would believe they're pretty compliant. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Wait, when was that order given? Was that part of the order you just talked about? Louis DeJoy: I don't know what you're asking. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Are you saying when you stopped everything else, it included the overtime issue as well. Louis DeJoy: There was no directive to reduce overtime anywhere within the organization. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): And are you certain that no one was cutting back on overtime. Louis DeJoy: No, I'm not certain that's part of the problem at the Postal Service, sir. That's what I'm trying to get my hands around there was a lot of... And that's why I did the reorganization. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Respectfully, you can imagine, though, that... Louis DeJoy: There's a lot of judgment made in local areas that is not a normal... Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): You're being selective on what you're taking credit for and not and a cynical person could say, you're just trying to avoid going before the regulatory body, because these aren't changes. But when your own, as you say, you're Republican, when your own party says, did you stop these changes? You said yes. And in your documents, you talk about the fact that there were changes. You can't have it both ways. There were changes. You seem to have a line there that you don't want to have, because it means you have to go before the regulatory board and you don't want to do that. Louis DeJoy: It sounds like... Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): It sounds like what happened. Louis DeJoy: It sounds like a weak theory to me.

5:24:50 Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): Have you communicated with anyone in the administration? Since you were considered for this spot about how to operate? USPS? Louis DeJoy: No. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): No one has communicated with you who works in any way with the Trump administration. And you haven't communicated in any way with anyone who works in the Trump administration or the Trump campaign about how to operate post office. Louis DeJoy: The only time I communicated with someone in the Trump administration was Secretary Mnuchin, when we were negotiating, negotiating the terms of the $10 billion note and my discussion in general, it was early on in my arrival in generalities were that I think that we have some opportunities here, looking to try and grow revenue, improve service and get some cost out. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): And what was the direction the other way? Louis DeJoy: There was no direction. My Postal Service's mind to run there was no direction. Rep. Mike Quigley (IL): My time has expired.


Hearing: Examining the Finances and Operations of the United States Postal Service During COVID-19 and Upcoming Elections, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, August 21, 2020

Watch on C-SPAN

Watch on YouTube

Witnesses:

  • Louis DeJoy: Postmaster General
Transcript:

12:30 Louis DeJoy: Our business model established by the Congress requires us to pay our bills through our own efforts. I view it as my personal obligation to put the organization in a position to fulfill that mandate. With action from the Congress and our regulator, and significant effort by the Postal Service, we can achieve this goal. This year, the Postal Service will likely be ported loss of more than $9 billion. Without change, our losses will only increase in the years to come. It is vital that Congress enact reform legislation that addresses our unaffordable retirement payments. Most importantly, Congress must allow the postal service to integrate our retiree health benefits program with Medicare.

18:45 Louis DeJoy: We deliver to 433 million pieces of mail a day. So 150 million ballots 160 million ballots over a course of a week is a very, very small amount adequate capacity plus mail volume is down as you said 13-14% this year.

20:45 Louis DeJoy: Today there is about 140,000 collection boxes out in the United States. Over the last 10 years, about 30... averages about 3500. So 35,000 of them have been removed and it's a data driven method I have I haven't reviewed it but every year they look at utilization of post boxes, they look at where they place new post boxes, they look at where communities grow. So 35,000 over 10 years. Since my arrival, we moved 700 post collection boxes, of which I had no idea that that was a process. When we found out, when I found out about it, we socialized it here by some of the leadership team and looked at the excitement it was creating, so I decided to stop it, and we'll pick it up after the election.

33:58* Rep. Scott Peters (CA): Are you limiting overtime or is that being suspended right now and people will work overtime if necessary to move the mail out efficiently every single day. Louis DeJoy: Senator, we've never eliminated overtime. Rep. Scott Peters (CA): It's been curtailed significantly is what I understand. Louis DeJoy: It's not been curtailed by me or the leadership team here. Rep. Scott Peters (CA): It's been curtailed significantly. It's gone down. It's been limited. Will you commit to... Louis DeJoy: Since I've been here we've spent $700 million on overtime. Overtime runs 13% rate before I got here and it runs at a 13% rate now.

35:00 Rep. Scott Peters (CA): Will you be bringing back any mail sorting machines that have been removed since you become Postmaster General, will any of those come back? Louis DeJoy: There is no intention to do that. They're not needed, sir. Rep. Scott Peters (CA): So you will not bring back any processors. Louis DeJoy: They're not needed, sir.

35:30 Rep. Scott Peters (CA): Did you discuss those changes or their potential impact on the November election with the president or anyone at the White House and remind you you're under oath? Louis DeJoy: I have never spoken to the President about the Postal Service other than to congratulate me when I accepted the position. Rep. Scott Peters (CA): Did you speak or discuss any of these changes with Secretary Mnuchin? Louis DeJoy: During the during the discussion in negotiating the note, I told him I'm working on a plan. But I never discussed the changes that I may, to set up, working on a plan for to the to improve service and gain cost efficiencies. But no grave detail other than that, that was about it.

38:08 Rep. Scott Peters (CA): You have your word that you're not going to mandate that states send out any ballots using either the more expensive first class mail, and will you continue the processes and procedures to allow election mail to move as expeditiously as possible and treated like first class? Louis DeJoy: Yes, sir. We we will deploy processes and procedures that advance any election mail in some cases ahead of first class mail.

1:01:15 Louis DeJoy: Like take the Alaska bypass plan discussion that's an item on a table, that's an unfunded mandate. It costs us like $500 million a year. And what I asked for was all the unfunded mandates, right? That's a way for us to get healthy. Pay something for the unfunded mandates. If we just throw 25 billion at us this year, and we don't do anything, we'll be back in two years. If then maybe we should change the legislation and not make us be self sustaining.

1:55:50 Louis DeJoy: They're inside the plants. There's a production schedule for mail that would meet, that's set up to meet a dispatch schedule for trucks that gets tied to a destination center for, let's just say keep it simple go right to the delivery units where carriers go out in the morning and carriers then could come back at night. This whole thing is in a lined schedule in theory on paper, and there's lots of imbalances that we were finding as we went through this process, but the big thing to try and get everything aligned around is that transportation schedule. And now we have taken that up and all that mail that was going left well that was on that truck was also late mail. Right now we have advanced the mail we just some of the mail that coming off the processing lines. We found these imbalances and we did not as great a job as we shouldn't recovering for it, but we will. I'm seeing improvements right now. Once that comes together now we'll be moving around the country at 97% on time and I'm very, very excited and committed to trying to do that. And that, again, enables us to balance the front end and the back end, the delivery end of the system and saves us all that money that you saw in the in the audit report and it's it's in billions, not millions.

1:58:45 Louis DeJoy: This this is very doable, FedEx and UPS do it.


Hearing: Congressional Progressive Caucus to Hold Ad-Hoc Hearing on Attacks on the U.S. Postal Service, Congressional Progressive Caucus, August 20, 2020

Watch on Facebook Live

Witnesses:

  • David Williams: Former Inspector General of the USPS and former Vice Chairman of the USPS Board of Governors
  • Mark Dimondstein: President of the American Postal Workers Union
  • Tammy Patrick: Senior Advisor at the Democracy Fund Voice
Transcript:

17:00 David Williams: I recently resigned as the vice chairman of the postal Board of Governors when it became clear to me that the administration was politicizing the postal service with the Treasury Secretary as the lead figure for the White House in that effort. by statute, the Treasury was made responsible for providing the postal service with the line of credit. The Treasury was using our responsibility to make demands that I believe would turn the Postal Service into a political tool in its long history, as an apolitical public infrastructure.

17:45 David Williams: Clearly the President was determined that the postal service should inflict harm on Amazon delivery by sharply raising parcel shipping prices on everyone by 400% or more.

18:30 David Williams: The President eventually admitted that he was withholding COVID-19 relief funds from the Postal Service so that it could not reliably enable voting in his upcoming elections.

18:40 David Williams: The Treasury Secretary also insisted that all republican appointees on the board of governors and the Postal Regulatory Commission come to his office and kiss the ring and receive his blessing before confirmation. This continued context with him away from the full board continued issuing orders and expressing his approval and disappointment in their performance.

19:00 David Williams: The Secretary was keenly interested in labor agreements, postal pricing increases, and especially volume discounts being given to Postal Service's largest customers Amazon and UPS and FedEx. The Postal Service replied to the early demands from the Secretary, explaining the two provisions he was asking for were illegal, but the concerns were ignored.

19:30 David Williams: Ironically, the actual fiscal concern was not whether the Postal Service could zero out its $15 billion line of credit. The Postal Service keeps a huge cash on hand account. They could always pay off all our most of that loan. The real concern was that the Treasury had borrowed and spent our $300 billion pension and retiree health Fund. The interest rate set by Treasury for itself was so low that the funds were dying. As the funds been invested in a retirement fund, the liability would be fully covered by now.

20:30 David Williams: Additionally, post offices should be allowed into related business lines and become a single neighborhood point of access for government services that cannot be put online. Postal carriers going to every door can provide personalized services to challenged and elderly Americans that would enable citizens to live in their own homes independently. Post offices and carriers can also support and resupply the new army of workers that are officeless, are working at home, while providing work opportunities to those living in rural areas.

21:45 David Williams: I recently resigned as the Vice Chairman of the Postal Board of Governors when it became clear to me that the administration was politicizing the postal service with the Treasury Secretary as the lead figure for the White House in that effort. By statute, the Treasury was made responsible for providing the postal service with the line of credit. The Treasury was using our responsibility to make demands that I believe would turn the Postal Service into a political tool in its long history, as an apolitical public infrastructure.

23:30 Mark Dimondstein: But our ability to reliably continue to serve the people and serve the country is under threat in several ways. First and most urgently is the effect of the pandemic on a Postal Service's finances. The sharp economic contraction that began in March also affected the mail. Letter mail is contracted over 30%. And even with a surge in package volumes, the postal service projects because that won't list the postal service projects it will suffer $50 billion of lost revenue over the next 10 years directly due to COVID and will likely face a cash shortfall as soon as March of next year. Simply put, because the United States Postal Service normally runs its operations with zero tax dollars, that pandemic related lost revenue places the continuity of a central Postal Service is at serious risk and that's why we've worked so hard along with so many others to secure a minimum of 25 billion in emergency COVID relief and it's backing the bipartisan unanimous request to the postal Board of Governors.

24:30 Mark Dimondstein: June 2018. The White House Office of Management budget report openly called for the privatization of the Postal Service. White House task force that followed later that year did suggest slowing down the mail cutting delivery services restricting union rights for workers and drastically raising packages.

39:30 David Williams: After my arrival I had asked and others expressed interest in gaining assurance that the postal service would be able to respond to normal levels and enhanced levels of voting by mail. And actually, if an entire state wanted to vote primarily by mail, we received a formal ???, that the confidence level could not be higher that the Postal Service could perform this task and deliver this volume of of mail transactions. They were in the process and nearly completed, briefing each of the states and the voting, the Secretary of State, explaining to them how the flow would work. If they needed a postmark, helping them understand how to get a postmark on their letters. We were told the capacity was always good, but it was especially good now because during the COVID crisis, the degree of advertising mail and other mail had fallen. And so this would give us plenty of capacity. And they said their experience was great. They'd been handling overseas military mail, a more complicated process for years, and that had gone well. Several states were already voting by mail that had gone well. And they felt they were had forever provided absentee voting process. And so we felt we felt very good about it at that time, and that was quite recent.

41:15 David Williams: The board interviewed several firms that managed and handled talent. We selected Russell Reynolds, and they began developing a number of candidates. We heard their names and rather late in the process I heard for the first time. Mr. DeJoy's name. It came through one of the governors and he had somehow, Mr. DeJoy come to his attention. They had lunch together and he wanted to move his name forward. It wasn't clear how the governor had met Mr. DeJoy to me and I don't think anyone was clear on it from the presentations. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI): And who was the member of the board of governors who proposed Mr. DeJoy's name? David Williams: Governor John Barger, he was leading the search, his committee was leading the search.

43:30 David Williams: Actually, it predates the latest $10 billion expansion, goes back to our routine original $15 billion line of credit. Secretary Mnuchin indicated that he wanted to have some say in how the Postal Service ran as sort of being in charge of providing that that account. I don't think that had been done before. It was normally if Congress assigned you that responsibility, you perform the responsibility. He indicated he would like to impose this through the use of terms and conditions on the $15 billion line of credit. We then received shortly after he announced this verbally, we then received the draft terms of agreement. They were very interesting and I hadn't seen anything like it before. He wanted to approve price changes. labor agreements. And perhaps most disturbingly, the very sensitive negotiated service agreements with our largest customers, Amazon, UPS, FedEx and some others. He also was urging that we adopt a pricing methodology called fully allocated cost methodology. That was something that the United Parcel Service had been advocating for a very long time. I think all of us felt that perhaps UPS that influenced him in advocating for that, and it would be really in a ruinous to the postal service to adopt. No one would adopt it, certainly not not UPS themselves, FedEx or Amazon. It would prevent competition in the market where the Postal Service has been gaining market share.

45:45 David Williams: Also General Counsel sent a letter saying that the transfer of our duties and decision making authority to him was illegal. The Treasury went forward not withstanding that. My position was that when they arrived, we should simply refuse that another department cannot impose its will on another department and the federal government. In addition to that, we're an independent entity, and so it was especially egregious.

46:15 Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA): Let me ask you about Postmaster General DeJoy's independence to run an agency when he has significant financial conflicts of interest. He holds at least $30 million in stock and a postal service contractor FBO, and he owns stock and Postal Service competitors, Amazon and ups. So he stands to make enormous profit. If use of the Postal Service goes down and privatization increases, and he is now responsible for slowing mail delivery right now. Can you provide insight into how that happened and whether a normal background check was was instituted in this situation. David Williams: When it became clear that he was a serious candidate and then obvious that he was the person about to be selected, we did discuss conducting a background investigation of him. None was conducted as of the time I left and I believe that was the night before his selection or two nights before selection.

50:45 Raskin: Do you know why he was selected? David Williams: I don't.

51:30 David Williams: It looked like there were concerns about whether his company was building correctly and performing fully. Those are often wrong, but I think they they sometimes are correct. That contract file needs to be examined, we need to go through whether the Postal Service demanded that he returned any money or any concerns they had with a performance, that's a very normal kind of examination. And I don't mean to say there were there were valid problems, but this would suggest that an examination should be done.

57:00 Rep. David Cicilline (RI): With respect to your resignation, you resigned because it was your determination that what the Postal Service was being asked to do, as a condition of a line of credit, which we included in the CARES Act, those conditions were included, those were developed by Mr. Mnuchin in an effort to control the Postal Service, is that right? David Williams: Yes, I was concerned that the Board of Governors was running an independent organization and instead it had become politicized and the decision making was largely transferred to the Secretary of Treasury.

57:45 Rep. David Cicilline (RI): You were the Inspector General and you were the Vice Chair of the Board of Governors. Have you ever seen or heard in the history of the post office this effort by the President or the executive branch to intrude and take over the operation of the US Postal Service? David Williams: No, sir. I've never seen anything like that.

59:30 Mark Dimondstein: Overtime was running between 15 and 20%. Some of that just the ebbs and flows of mail. Some of its that were generally short staffed and they need to hire. And some of it's the pandemic. We've had almost 3,000 people who have tested positive for COVID. We've had 40,000 people quarantined since March, when that happens. And of course, we've had all the childcare challenges with schools closing. So leave usages up and the overtime is partly used to make up for that and to just arbitrarily come in and say 15 to 20% of the hours of work. However, they're going to work at higher overtime, some combination of the two, but eliminate 15 to 20% of the hours of work, but the work is still there simply means that the work won't get done, backing up, and we've had evidence, we have pictures of parcels sitting there for over a week, they were just never sorted. And that's the mail that belongs to people this country.

1:07:15 David Williams: I was a appointee for both Republican and Democratic administrations. Rep. Mark Takano (CA): Which administrations, if you don't mind. David Williams: Bush, Clinton, as you said, the current president, and then then I also continued service during several other administrations.

1:08:30 Rep. Mark Takano (CA): So President Trump did appoint you to the Board of Governors, is that correct? David Williams: He did.

1:09:30 David Williams: The removal of the 25 billion happened at the 11th hour after everyone was on board. Secretary Mnuchin removed it personally at the very 11th hour. Rep. Mark Takano (CA): So let's be clear. The Board of Governors appointed by the president requested $25 billion to get through a pandemic, a decline in revenues. That was what was the Board of Governors best estimate of what you would need. Is that correct? David Williams: Yes, sir.

1:18:00 Tammy Patrick: Do we know that the majority of voters who vote by mail return their ballots by dropping them in an official Dropbox for the elections office?

1:22:45 Tammy Patrick: Let's go out at two different rates, first class and marketing mail and marketing mail used to be called standard and the delivery timeframes didn't used to be that far apart. It used to be first class mail was one to three days, standard mail or marketing mail was more like three to five days. So that was really a question of one or two days difference. But because ballots were going out with the logo, they were getting the first class service for a discounted rate, which I will say many election officials felt was their right under the National Voter Registration Act, which talks about discounted rates for election materials that are used for voter registration. And any ballot that gets returned undeliverable, as addressed gets used to update the voter rolls. So we do know that that the states that traditionally use that marketing mail rate are the western states that have high volumes of vote by mail. And they have just as recently as this last week for the primaries that have happened in Washington, Arizona. Millions of ballots went out at marketing mail rates, they did not see a decrease in delivery. They did not see delays. The local Postal Services are telling election officials whether it's the secretaries of state or county recorders or registrar's or auditors, that they will get that mail through on time. So I'm not as worried about that part of it. The part I'm concerned about is the message that it gets to the voter. And whether or not the voter is going to still believe local officials all across the country have told me in the last week, the number one thing they're doing is answering the phone with concerns from voters who have put in an application to get a ballot by mail, and now are worried that they shouldn't have done that.

1:27:15 David Williams: There are a couple of very odd aspects to this pullback. One is you don't save money by breaking down machines and putting them away and storing them you spend money. So that was a very odd action normally the reason to keep those machines and plants in place or in the event of a Katrina or a 9-11, or the election or the COVID crisis, removing those is thinning out the Postal Service's ability to redirect mail in the event of an act of an incident like that. The blue boxes were maybe the most interesting of all, though, those were not part of ongoing claims. To my knowledge. As a matter of fact, Secretary Mnuchin wanted that done. His study of the Postal Service asked that it be done. I asked the Postal Service about it and they said it wouldn't save anything and there would be no reason to remove those.

1:29:15 David Williams: The service scores are probably the best objective measure and those are significantly off. Where even though there's less mail, it's moving more slowly. Much more slowly. That's strange and disturbing.

1:33:30 Rep. Ted Lieu (CA) I also want to follow up on your comment today about Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. Is the Postal Service under the Treasury Department. David Williams: I know that, I certainly know that the terms and conditions that originally came over moved all the important decision making from the board to him. I don't know the present case. I don't know presently if that was successful or unsuccessful.

1:35:00 Rep. Andy Levin (MI): Did you participate in any interviews of other candidates for Postmaster General at this time round? David Williams: I did. Rep. Andy Levin (MI): How many candidates were interviewed, do you know? David Williams: I'm gonna have to estimate but I believe it was in the low teens. Rep. Andy Levin (MI): Were any of the other candidates qualified for the job as far as you could tell, did they all need to be assisted in their answers? The way you describe it where a member of the Board of Governors like helped them complete their answers as with Mr. DeJoy. David Williams: There was nothing like that. There were good candidates. Rep. Andy Levin (MI): And so Mr. DeJoy was really the only candidate who stood out to you as someone who was not qualified or capable, or in any event, he stood out. David Williams: I would say that, I would say that's correct.


News Conference: US Postal Service and Mail-in Voting, U.S. Capitol, August 18, 2020

News Conference: Trump opposes election aid for states and Postal Service bailout, threatening Nov. 3 vote, White House, The Washington Post, August 12, 2020

Virtual Summit: Secretary Mnuchin on Coronavirus Pandemic and Reopening Economy, The Hill, May 21, 2020

Hearing: Postal Service Reform, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Feb 7, 2017

Watch on C-SPAN

Witnesses:

  • Megan J. Brennan: Postmaster General
  • Robert Taub: Chairman of the Postal Regulatory Commission
  • Lori Rectanus: Direction or Physical Infrastructure issues at the US Gov’t Accountability Office
  • Arthur Sackler: Manager at the Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service
  • Fredric Rolando: President of the National Association of Letter Carriers
Transcript:

1:50:35 Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD): Taking all these requirements and trends together, the Postal Service reported a net loss of $5.3 billion for fiscal year 2016, which represents a 10th consecutive year of net losses. We have repeatedly discussed the deteriorating financial condition at the Postal Service in this committee, but the situation is now worsened by unprecedented lack of any Senate-confirmed members on the Postal Service’s Board of Governors. Because many key management decisions are reserved by statute to the Senate-confirmed board members, there are many actions, such as establishing rates, class, and fees for products, that the Postal Service simply cannot take now.

45:30 Fredric Rolando: Over the past decade, postal employees have worked diligently to restructure operations, cut costs, and sharply increase productivity, in response to technological change and the Great Recession. Despite the loss of more than 200,000 jobs, we’ve managed to preserve our networks and to maintain our capacity to serve the nation. But only Congress can address our biggest financial challenge: the unique and unsustainable burden to pre-fund future retiree health benefits decades in advance. No other enterprise in the country faces such a burden, which was imposed by legislation in 2006. The expense of this mandate has accounted for nearly 90% of the Postal Service’s reported losses since 2007. Without a change in the law, the mandate will cost $6 billion this year alone.


Hearing: Postal Service Reform, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, September 26, 2013

Witnesses:

  • John Hegarty: National President of the National Postal Mail Handlers Union
  • Dean Baker: Co-Director Center for Economic & Policy Research
Transcript:

33:40 Sen. Tom Carper: Much as the auto industry is right sized itself over the last half dozen or so years, what the Postal Service is attempting to do is to right size the enterprise, and we're trying to not be an impediment. But actually to help you do that. If you go back a dozen or so years ago, your workforce i think is Postmaster General said is about 800,000 people today, it's just under 500,000. If you go back about a half dozen years ago, my recollection is the number of postal processing plants in our country was about 600. We're now down to roughly three, three and a quarter.

46:40 Sen. Tom Coburn: If you look at the private sector. The benefits per employee, average $10,589. At the state and local government level, it's $16,857. At the federal level, it's $41,791. And that's a significant fact we need to bear in mind as we ask the postal service to be competitive.

1:59:30 John Hegarty: 300 processing plants have been eliminated in the past five years, and the employee compliment has been reduced by more than 300,000. Postal employees have already contributed to and sacrificed for the financial turnaround of the Postal Service. My members have had their wages frozen for the past two years, and employee contributions have increased for both health insurance and retirement. About 20% of postal employees including more than 5000 members of my union are working in non career part time jobs at reduced pay rates. And thousands of employees have been involuntarily excessed or transferred to other work locations often hundreds of miles away and have had to uproot their homes and their families because of the closings and consolidations of the postal network. Last week, the Postmaster General testified that the Postal Service has reduced cost by $16 billion during the past few years. As a labor intensive service industry, it should be clear that most of those savings have come from postal employees.

2:20:50 Dean Baker: Just think it is striking I had occasion to be in on one of the mediation hearings back in 2011. I looked at the Postal Service's projection at that time, they're projecting revenue falling to just 63 billion as of 2013. And continuing to decline over the rest of the decade. So it'd be about 59 billion by the end of the decade, we're now looking at revenue of 66 billion. So in fact, there's been really a quite remarkable turnaround. We're looking at a system that does look as though it's quite viable, apart from these retiree obligations. So it's not as though we have an ailing system on its last legs. It looks very much as though we have a system that in principle is viable. That's suffering very much from I would say at least, an excessive burden in requiring it to pre fund at a very rapid rate.


Hearing: Financial State of U.S. Postal Service, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, August 6, 2009

Speaker:

  • John Potter - Postmaster General
  • David Williams - Inspector General the US Postal Service
Transcript:

46:10 David Williams: The Postal accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 requires the postal service to make 10 annual payments of $5 billion each in addition to the $20 billion already set aside for pre funding its retiree health benefits, the size of the $5 billion payments has little foundation and the current payment method is damaging to the financial viability of the Postal Service even in profitable times. The payment amounts were not actuarially based instead, the required payments were built to ensure that the Postal Act did not affect the federal budget deficit. This seems inexplicable since the Postal Service is not part of the federal budget, does not receive an appropriation for operations and makes its money from the sale of postal services. The payment amounts are fixed through 2016 and do not reflect the funds earnings. Estimates of the Postal Service liability as a result of changing economic circumstances, declining staff size or developments in health Care and pharmaceutical industries. The payments do not take into account the Postal Service's ability to pay and are too challenging even in normal times.

1:04:45 John Potter: We hit our maximum number of career employees in late 1999. We had 803,000 career employees. We have been addressing the diversion of mail to electronics and have been managing our workforce very aggressively. Today we have 630,000 career employees. So we've managed to reduce that working with unions and within the contracts reduced by over 170,000 people, the number of employees we have.

1:10:10 John Potter: And when I look around the world and see what other posts are, if you're in Australia and you want to update your driver's license, renew it, you go to the post office. If you're in Italy and you go into a bank, more than likely going to the post office, if you're in Japan and you want to buy insurance, more than likely you're going to the post office. And if you're in France and you have a cell phone issue, more than likely, again, you're going to the post office.


Hearing: Postal Service Reform, Senate Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services, May 13, 2002

Speaker:

  • John Potter - Postmaster General
Transcript:

11:00 John Potter: Today, we're experiencing extraordinary declines in mail volume, and resulting losses and revenues. Our projected volume declined for this year, we'll be more than 6 billion pieces of mail below last year. That's the largest volume decline ever experienced in a single year. Despite this decline, we are working to reduce our net loss below our earlier projections. To achieve this, we will reduce the number of career employees through attrition by 20,000 people this year. In addition, we will cut over 60 million work hours compared to last year and we are postponing program expenditures and delaying capital investments. The net effect of these actions will reduce current planned expenses by $2 billion. Those savings combined with a $1 billion dollar infusion of revenue from the early implementation of the rate case means our projected net loss for the year will be in the range of $1.5 billion, instead of what easily could have been a loss of $4.5 billion.

16:05 John Potter: Essentially, the Postal Service could become profit driven, generate returns to finance capital projects, instead of increasing our debt load, introduced flexible pricing based on market demand, and develop better relationships with our employees. These and other long term changes to transform the postal service can only come with legislative reforms.

1:30:00 John Potter: Today we have the same number of people in the postal service as we had in 1991. But since 1991, the number of possible deliveries we have, the number of households and businesses that we've served, has gone up 15.4 million. So every day, six days a week, we're at 15.4 million additional doors than we were in 1991. And we have some 33 billion more pieces of mail.

1:50:35 John Potter: There is a process today to pay down our debt, but there's some $12 billion that we may have by the end of this fiscal year. It's built into the rate process. It's prior year loss recovery. Today, there is no vehicle to consider the health benefit liabilities, or the retirement obligations as part of the rate setting process. So, the vehicles that are available to us today are basically to cut our costs.


Hearing: Main Street Lending Program, CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT COMMISSION, April 5, 2002

Speaker:

  • John Potter - Postmaster General
Transcript:

13:30 John Potter: For some people, the preferred model is privatization. But this group, the notion of equitable service is not relevant. The simple straightforward answer goes back to what our stakeholders, the people, we reached out to told us. Overwhelmingly, they told us, there was no support for privatizing the nation's mail service. A privatized model would focus on profit. The results might be delivery standards and prices dictated by where a person lives, or where a business is located. Metropolitan areas where volume is greater, would receive better or cheaper service than a rural community. The privilege might stand to benefit from privatization, but not everyday people. It might be fine for a lawyer in Los Angeles, but not for the sales clerk in Omaha. Let me be very clear on this point. Do not, do not intend to recommend that the Postal Service be privatized. I do not believe that the American people want a privatized mail delivery system in this country today. People speak of digital divide, we don't need a delivery divide.

16:15 John Potter: Commercial government enterprise. This is our recommended model, the one we believe would put the postal service on a more businesslike footing, while keeping it dedicated to its mission of universal service. But it's also a model that is markedly different from what we have today. For example, instead of breaking even, our financial goal would be to generate reasonable returns. Earnings would finance capital projects, instead of having to resort to increasing our debt load. Retained earnings would carry us through tough economic times, instead of always resorting to rate increases. In addition, this model will allow us to leverage our vast retail and delivery assets to develop new revenue streams. Our 38,000 retail offices, and our national door to door delivery networks could be made available to private enterprise as a joint profit making venture. As a commercialized government enterprise, we could introduce flexible pricing. Prices for postal products would still be subject to regulatory review. But we would have the flexibility to adjust prices based on market demand. Next, as a labor intensive organization, with 75% of our operating expenses going to labor, this business model will allow us to explore a more progressive way to make collective bargaining work for all parties. Finally, this model will give us the needed flexibility to increase access and convenience to our customers. We will be able to add more locations with long arounds management without the flexibility to close a number of non performing retail outlets and we will be able to invest in new facilities and services. And enter into alliances and ventures with related private sector companies after due diligence was completed. Essentially, this commercialized Postal Service will give us the management tools that are available to private corporations to improve service to our customers manage costs more efficiently, and leverage our assets to generate new revenue opportunities.


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

Sep 07, 2020
Thank You Indentured Firefighters
01:17:48

In the middle of a historically intense week, Jen records this bonus “thank you” episode to thank Congressional Dish producers and rant about the state of the country. Topics include fires, murders, riots, strikes, COVID, and a surprisingly intense hurricane. It’s a very 2020 episode.


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

Aug 28, 2020
CD219: Oversights of CARES
01:46:30

COVID still rages, CARES Act provisions have expired, and Congress is on another vacation. In this episode, by piecing together information discovered in six CARES Act oversight hearings, find out what problems weren’t solved by the CARES Act, what happened to the CARES Act money, and get an idea of what is possible in the next COVID relief bill... If there is one.


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Hearing: Main Street Lending Program, CONGRESSIONAL OVERSIGHT COMMISSION, August 7, 2020

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Witnesess:

  • Eric Rosengren - President and Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
  • Gwen Mills - Secretary Treasurer of Unite Here
  • Lauren Anderson - Senior Vice President & Associate General Counsel of the Bank Policy Institute
Transcript:

03:20 Bharat Ramamurti: Four months ago, Congress gave the Treasury Department half a trillion dollars to stabilize the economy. The Treasury quickly pledged 75 billion of those dollars to the Federal Reserve's Main Street lending program for small and mid sized companies. After taking three months to set up the program, the Fed has now been operating it for about a month. In that time, it has supported only 18 loans for a total of $104 million. That is 0.017% of the $600 billion lending capacity that the Fed touted for the program in April.

10:20 Eric Rosengren: Main Street program is designed to facilitate lending to small and medium sized businesses and nonprofits that have suffered disruptions and provides credit support for entities that have temporary cash flow problems due to the pandemic, and that given the uncertain outlook may have difficulty obtaining credit. It can provide a bridge as loans have no interest or principal payments in the first year and no principal payments until year three.

11:15 Eric Rosengren: Mainstreet relies on lenders to underwrite loans and keep skin in the game by banks retaining 5% of the loan.

16:07 Eric Rosengren: This facility is very different than some of the other traditional kinds of facilities that central banks operate during a time of crisis. So most of our facilities operate through markets, market securities, you can purchase them very easily through the market. They clear usually in a couple days depending on the security. So it's relatively easy to quickly purchase a large number of securities and hold those securities over time. This facility is a facility we didn't have during the financial crisis, and really tries to get to a different segment of the population, which is those businesses that are bigger than the PPP program was designed for and smaller than what the corporate facilities are designed for.

22:05 Bharat Ramamurti: This program has been a failure, and the basic reason for that is that the Fed can only offer loans. The data show that companies, even distressed companies aren't looking for loans.

24:17 Bharat Ramamurti: By law, the Fed can only support loans and more loans are not the answer here for most companies. And this is a giant hole in our economic response to the crisis. Congress helps small businesses through the PPP, Congress help large companies that are big enough to issue bonds by empowering the Fed to purchase corporate bonds and reduce the cost of borrowing. But the only thing that the government has offered all these companies in between is the Main Street program and it's just not working. And these mid sized companies employ 45 million people and represent a third of private sector GDP. So look, I don't think continuing to tweak this program is going to work. I think Congress needs to act to provide direct support to mid sized firms and for that money to come with real strings attached to the money that benefits working people. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

45:45 Bharat Ramamurti: The first version of the Mainstreet program required companies to say in writing that they needed the loan quote, due to the exigent circumstances presented by the covid 19 pandemic. Advocates for the oil and gas industry pushed to eliminate that requirement, presumably because many oil and gas firms were struggling before COVID and couldn't satisfy the requirement. And again in the final version, the Fed eliminated that requirement. President Rosengren again, out of the more than 2000 public comments that the Fed received, are you aware of a single one outside the oil and gas industry that requested that the Fed remove this important requirement? Eric Rosengren: In the discussions I've been involved in, we do not discuss specific industries, we discuss how we can provide a broad based financing scheme. Bharat Ramamurti: Okay. Again, I appreciate that. But again, I reviewed the public comments and there wasn't a single one that requested this change, only the oil and gas lobby had requested.

47:25 Bharat Ramamurti: It's not supposed to be changing the rules of these programs so that the President's favorite companies can get access to billions of dollars in public money. In fact, it is illegal for the Fed to structure these lending programs to help specific companies avoid bankruptcy. I urge this commission to further investigate this issue, including by requesting all communications on this topic between the Fed and the Energy Secretary, the Treasury Secretary and any representatives of the oil and gas industry.

1:13:40 Gwen Mills: My name is Gwen Mills. I'm Secretary Treasurer of the hospitality union, Unite Here. Well, I will focus on our members experiences. The recommendations I make are supported by the AFLCIO representing 55 National unions and 12 million workers. Our 300,000 members work primarily in hotel, casino, food service and airline catering industries, all sectors that are heavily dependent upon travel and tourism, before the cares act became law 90% of our members were laid off. Today, 85% remain unemployed.

1:14:40 Gwen Mills: At the heart is the question of requiring employers to maintain employment as a condition of federal assistance. The Main Street lending program requires only commercially reasonable efforts to maintain employees in spite of clear congressional intent. Treasury and the Federal Reserve said they will not enforce even that.

1:15:03 Gwen Mills: We've seen how powerful lobbyists transform the paycheck protection and payroll support programs into subsidies for real estate investors. We've identified 200 outlets where we have members that received PPP loans, and they haven't protected paychecks or healthcare. One company, Omni hotels, received 34 PPP loans worth at least $53 million. Meanwhile, Omni hotels in Boston, Providence and New Haven were shut down in March and is unclear when they will reopen. In Providence, the company then cut off medical benefits in violation of their union agreement. There are many similar stories, what they reveal is how a powerful industry turned to program designed to keep workers on payroll into one that could keep hotel owners current on their mortgages.

1:16:45 Gwen Mills: Lobbyists claim if the Fed doesn't rescue CMBS borrowers hotels will default and workers won't have jobs to come back to. But that is not our experience. And this isn't the first time hotel owners got themselves in trouble using these inflexible loans. After the financial crisis, there were scores of defaults across the country. But defaults and foreclosures didn't lead to closed hotels. Hotel workers who were used to seeing absentee owners come and go understand that jobs are driven by occupancy and only ending the pandemic can fix that.

1:18:05 Gwen Mills: Program designers at the Fed take the CARES Act mandate to heart. What if credit terms were loosened, so long as, and here's the important part, so long as there were airtight requirements, not incentives, not recommendations, but requirements that recipients keep workers on payroll, and is what the PPP could have done if it hadn't been hijacked by the real estate industry.

1:26:10 Bharat Ramamurti: In your experience and the experience of your members, does providing financial support to businesses help workers without express and enforceable requirements, that businesses actually use that aid to support workers. Gwen Mills: No. Time and again, in many different programs, without enforceable requirements, support to businesses doesn't help workers. Bharat Ramamurti: So of the $500 billion that Congress gave to the Treasury, in the CARES Act in March, there's currently more than $200 billion sitting unused and uncommitted. If you were to use that money to develop a program that would be most helpful to your members, what would you do with it? Gwen Mills: The two things that matter are healthcare and wages. So we would fund Cobra payments so that we could continue health care and then give direct support to workers. Bharat Ramamurti: And thank you. And one final question about this. Did the Treasury Department ever reach out to your union as it was designing this lending program that was ostensibly about helping workers? Gwen Mills: No.

1:28:45 Gwen Mills: Our great concern about the Main Street lending program is that the hotel industry is seeking changes so that they can use the program to pay their CMBS mortgages.

1:30:30 Rep. Donna Shalala (FL): The main street lending program, banks employ their own underwriting standards to loan applications. Does that mean that banks are making loans under the program that they would have made any way absent the Fed program? And if so, is the mainstream lending program providing any benefit to borrowers at all? Lauren Anderson: Thank you for your question. In terms of the loans that are being made, I think they're quite specific in terms of the circumstances because you're absolutely right, a borrower who can meet a bank's basic underwriting standards is typically finding out that there is a product that is more suited to them, given their credit needs, so for example, maybe a term loan really is not what they need, and they really need something more like a flexible working capital facility. So our banks are actually, many times finding better solutions for these borrowers when they inquire about the program.

1:44:15 Rep. French Hill (AR): Owners of CMBS securities are mostly pension funds and people's retirement accounts. And so they're all benefited by trying to get capital into the industry and get people hired back and reopened.

1:48:40 Bharat Ramamurti: I think just to sum up quickly, I think we've actually seen a remarkable consensus emerge at this hearing, which is that the main street program as is currently designed is failing. And the representative of the banking industry told us that we aren't seeing meaningful demand for loans right now from their clients. The representative of small and mid sized businesses told us that the program wouldn't help his members as is currently designed, and Miss Mills representing hundreds of thousands of workers told us that the main street program hasn't helped a single worker and isn't likely to. I don't question the hard work of President Rosengren and the Fed staff, but more loans are not going to solve this crisis. Struggling small and mid sized companies can't take on more debt right now. So the only tool in the Feds belt is the wrong one. This program was given $75 billion and months to succeed. It didn't and it can't. It's time to stop tinkering around the edges with adjustments to loan eligibility and loan terms when the fundamental problem is with the nature of the loans themselves. It's time for Congress to step back in so that we can actually save small and mid sized businesses and when it does needs to tie the assistance to meaningful enforceable protections for workers and not just hand money to executives and trust them to take care of workers interests. Thank you Mr. Chair.

1:50:45 Gwen Mills: The extension of the the wages that the congressman mentioned has been appreciated, although it is now ending. That is problematic. But there has not been an extension of healthcare, so and even in a case where we have some healthcare negotiated companies like the fountain blue gun, are not abiding by that.


Interview: Trump: Coronavirus is "under control", Axios, HBO, August 4, 2020

Hearing: Oversight of the Small Business Administration and Department of Treasury Pandemic Programs, House Committee on Small Business, July 17, 2020

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Witnesess:

  • Steven Mnuchin - Treasury Secretary
Transcript:

41:25 Steven Mnuchin: I think this time we need to have a revenue test and make sure that money is going to businesses that have significant revenue declines.

1:07:35 Steven Mnuchin: If there were financial conditions that states had coming into this, it's not the federal government's role to bail them out of that. Now we have through Main Street, excuse me through the Fed facilities, we have provided lending facilities to the states and municipalities. But the issue of taxing authority... The federal government has taxing authority and the states have taxing authority. So where there are lost revenues, I think there is a fairness issue of how those get allocated across the country.


Hearing: Protecting Homeowners During the Pandemic: Oversight of Mortgage Servicers’ Implementation of the CARES Act, House Committee on Financial Services: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, July 16, 2020

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Witnesess:

  • Marcia Griffin - Founder and President of Homefree-USA
  • Donnell Williams - President, National Association of Real Estate Brokers
  • Alys Cohen - Staff Attorney, National Consumer Law Center
Transcript:

25:55 Marcia Griffin: Tons of counselors assist homeowners who are improperly denied a forbearance. We have. We have seen a troubling concentration of this issue with veteran loans. We're also seeing homeowners who may have recently completed a loan application they've also been denied a borrowers who have just missed a payment in March or February, they've also been denied.

26:35 Marcia Griffin: There is a frustratingly large number of homeowners who are unemployed but are still being told that lump sum payments are due at the end of the forbearance.

43:45 Donnell Williams: You also need to have data collection. Services need to supply this information, this data to the CFPB and to Congress. I just had a borrower in Irvington, New Jersey, another one in Orange Township, New Jersey, tell me that their servicemen, like Congressman Green, say that they only gave them three months and that the whole balance will be due in 90 days. Marcia Griffin: Well, let me stop you, do you think we should have penalties for some servicers who violate the law that we have in the Heroes Act and would require a lump sum payments like that? Donnell Williams: I do believe so. Because they're roadblocking, they're stopping, clogging it up so that we can have progress.

51:30 Alys Cohen: Well, in terms of the complaints that you're hearing, we do have some good protections in the cares Act and the federal regulators really need to step up their game and do much greater oversight of the servicers. In terms of the CFPB, they appear to spend most of their time relaxing regulations for servicers and providing advice for homeowners. So homeowners need our protection.

1:04:35 Alys Cohen: What we've saw in the last crisis and what we continue to see is that as you said, Mr. Lynch, servicers on private mortgages are beholden to the guidelines from the investors. And so what we'd like to see is a safe harbor for mortgage servicers from investor liability, so that they can provide loan modifications along the lines that the GSCs and FHA and the other government agencies can provide.


Hearing: Promoting Economic Recovery: Examining Capital Markets and Worker Protections in the COVID-19 Era, House Committee on Financial Services, Subcommittee on Investor Protection, Entrepreneurship and Capital Markets, July 14, 2020

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Witnesess:

  • Dr. William Spriggs - Chief Economist at the AFL-CIO and Professor of Economics at Howard University
  • Neil Bradley - Executive Vice President and Chief of Policy Officer at the US Chamber of Commerce
Transcript:

38:45 Dr. William Spriggs: Workers do not have the sense that they have sick leave or the assurance that their employers will support them if they are sick. We see a very frightening share of women who show up to work and report that they have symptoms because they fear losing their job.

40:10 Dr. William Spriggs: It is vital for Congress to monitor money given to corporations under COVID, to make sure that workers are safe, that they will not face retaliation if they complain about safety, that they have sick leave so that they can report illness and stay home and not infect other workers. This is vital for the economy. It's vital to be prudent about the money that we are sending to these companies. We're not going to win this economic war until we win the war against the disease.

46:40 Rep. Brad Sherman (CA): I do want to comment about the importance of sick leave. We should be providing sick leave so people can stay home if they're sick, kids are sick. That's critical to getting this disease under control. We cannot limit that requirement only to those employers who feel generous. We can't limit it to only to those employers who are between 50 employees and 500 employees, as presently as now. And while we should require it of those who get money pursuant to these facilities, it auto glide all employers even those that are not borrowing from the federal government.

54:55 Neil Bradley: With respect to individuals, the $600 was implemented because of the need for speed. We know as a general principle, you should not pay more for someone to not work and you pay them to work that creates distortions in the labor market. President Obama's head of the Council of Economic Advisers is former NSC director has joined on a bipartisan basis with officials from the Bush administration suggesting a much better approach, one we endorse it the US Chamber to target unemployment benefits much more closely to what an individual earned when they were working. It shouldn't be true that you earn more but you also shouldn't earn substantially less.

2:11:25 Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: As an investor when you invest in a riskier venture, would it be fair to say that an investor investing in that risky venture would be compensated with a higher return of risk? Because of the risk associated with that financial instrument correctly? Dr. Camille Bussett: Generally, that is that is correct. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: And now, is that same kind of compensation true for workers, in that are workers that are risking their lives, in meatpacking grocery stores, are there are they being paid? What is their compensation look like? Or do you see hazard pay, which is supposed to be a form of compensation for risk, a norm in your view. Dr. Camille Bussett: So low wage workers particularly they said work in the US industries that you mentioned and thank you for the question. Congress, woman Ocasio-Cortez are consistently paid very low wages for these kinds of essential jobs that put meat, poultry and vegetables on our table. That has not changed during the pandemic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: And so in your assessment, hazard pay is not the norm. Dr. Camille Bussett: Hazard pay is not the norm. There have been some corporations which have added some hazard pay and then have since the economy has started to reopen, and various states have rescinded that. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: So, really compensation for risk. It's not that all people in our economy are compensated for risk just that a certain narrow class is compensated for risk of capital but not necessarily risk of life.


Hearing: Oversight of the Treasury Department's and Federal Reserve's Pandemic Response, House Committee on Financial Services, June 30, 2020

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Witnesess:

  • Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary
  • Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
Transcript:

21:20 Steven Mnuchin: The cares act also granted Treasury the authority to provide 454 billion to support Federal Reserve lending facilities under Section 13-3. Since March 17, using funds available, I have approved a number of Federal Reserve programs. The commercial paper program, primary dealer program, the money market mutual program, the primary market corporate credit facility, the secondary facility, the main street facility, municipal facility and the PPP lending facility. We've committed approximately 200 billion and to support these the announcements of these programs have helped unlock markets and promote much needed access to liquidity. We have over 250 billion remaining to create or expand programs as needed.

25:40 Jerome Powell: After lowering the federal funds rate to essentially zero. Our actions so far fall into four categories, stabilizing Treasury and agency MBS markets, money market and liquidity, liquidity and funding measures, direct efforts to support the flow of credit in the economy and targeted regulatory measures to support those efforts.

26:10 Jerome Powell: Without access to credit, families could be forced to cut back on necessities or even lose their homes. Businesses could be forced to downsize or close resulting in further losses of jobs and incomes and worsening the downturn.

37:35 Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY): Secretary Mnuchin, I'd like to ask you about a very troubling oversight issue. As you know, I'm the Chair now of the Oversight Committee and I take these matters very seriously, and I hope that you do too. In the CARES Act, we created the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, or PRAC, which is a committee of independent inspectors general that is charged with overseeing all of the money spent in the CARES Act, and identifying waste, fraud and abuse. Last month, the General Counsel's Office in Treasury issued a legal opinion that questioned PRAC's authority to oversee trillions of dollars of CARES Act spending. To put it bluntly, this legal analysis is so bad that it borders on bad faith. The opinion claimed that no evidence that Congress did not intend for the PRAC to have oversight authority over anything and the first half of the CARES Act, including the PPP program, and any of the fed's lending facilities are the 150 billion in funding for state and local governments. So I would say Secretary Mnuchin, that this interpretation is wrong, that it is just plain wrong. Senator Gary Peters and I proposed and authored this section of the law, the PRAC Act, and I was heavily involved in negotiating those provisions in the CARES Act. And I'm telling you that Congress's intent was for the PRAC to oversee all of the spending in the CARES Act, not just one half of the CARES Act, but all of it. That was our intent. And that was what the bill said explicitly. The interpretation from your general counsel's office is already causing problems, because it's hindering the practability to monitor how the states are spending their cares act money. So now Secretary Mnuchin, I would say that we have worked very productively together and in good faith negotiations on the Beneficial Ownership bill and, and other bills before Congress. So I hope that you'll take my concerns about this erroneous legal opinion seriously. And so this is what I would like to ask today. I'd like you to commit to interpreting this section of the CARES Act as Congress intended, with the PRAC's oversight authorities applying to all of the cares act spending. I think this is a small step, but a very important one that you can take to show that you're serious about the oversight of the trillions of dollars in the CARES Act. Steven Mnuchin: Well, thank you. And I appreciate your comments. And I assure you, we are very much committed to working with the Oversight Committees on transparency. Now, as it relates to this, I can assure you it was not in bad faith. I'm happy to have our office follow up with you. It has to do with a technical issue of recipients reporting as it relates to the issue of monitoring state spending, I'm more than happy to put the PRAC in touch with our Inspector General, who has primary oversight and make sure that whatever information specifically the PRAC wants on the states that we accommodate. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY): Well, I would say that that's not what I'm asking. What I'm asking is will you commit to interpreting the PRAC's oversight authorities as applying to all of the Cares Act spending? That was our intent, I wrote that section of the law, that was what Congress wanted. There's no problem with the interpretation it's very clear and explicit, will you commit to allowing the oversight that was in the bill. Steven Mnuchin: I appreciate you wrote that portion. I would also say I appreciate I had very direct discussions with people in the Senate about various different oversight. That's why we agreed to a new Oversight Committee. With full transparency, we agreed to provide information that was not required under 13-3. So we have full transparency. And again, I'm happy to follow up with you on the specific concerns as to which different entities should receive what information. I think it's important that there is not bureaucratic overlap. But again, let me emphasize if the PRAC needs certain information, we will try to do what we can to accommodate it. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY): Well, I'm very disappointed with that answer, and I guess we'll have to pursue a legislative solution. It was very clear the intent of Congress is that PRAC would have oversight of all of the cares spending. I yield back.

56:55 Rep. Brad Sherman (CA): Chairman Powell, back on March 12, I sent you a letter urging that you prohibit stock buybacks by the banks you have done so. Thank you very much.

58:00 Rep. Brad Sherman (CA): One issue, Chairman Powell, for the main street lending program that is particularly relevant to commercial real estate, is that if they get a loan from you, they violate the loan covenants that they have in their existing mortgage. I look forward to working with you on that. One possible solution is the bill that I submitted. And we've had hearings on in this committee, the Business Borrowers Protection Act. Certainly getting a loan on a program that we've offered authorized because of the COVID crisis should not trigger the and make it a pre-existing mortgage immediately due and payable.

1:03:30 Jerome Powell: We are not looking for additional authority under 13-3. Our authority is of course to lend to solvent institutions and in programs of broad applicability and any company in any sector that meets those tests can can borrow one of our facilities.

1:04:10 Rep. Bill Posey (FL): Some of our businesses, including again the hotels, are warning that their inability to make payments is threatening the servicing of commercial backed securities. And I just wonder if you can bring us up to date on the status of the CMBS market? Steven Mnuchin: Well, as I just mentioned, one of the problems of the CMBS market is that there are very strict contractual obligations. And that's why one of the things I do think we need to look at in the next CARES Act is additional funding for these industries that are the hardest hit.

1:07:00 Steven Mnuchin: We have had inquiries about the issue of garnishment. And we agree from a policy standpoint that there should have been no garnishment. Unfortunately, that's something we need to address in the next CARES Act if we do additional direct payments, because there are certain state laws that were not overridden in the existing CARES Act. My understanding that's a state issue and not a federal issue. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (MO): But think about, think about the cruelty of the policy. Wouldn't you want to? Steven Mnuchin: As I said, I agree with you on the level. Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (MO): Couldn't you all issue a blanket... Steven Mnuchin: We've asked our legal department to unfortunately we can't and that's one of the things we would want to fix in the next CARES Act. So we agree with you from the policy standpoint.

1:09:00 Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (MO): Now under the main street lending program, you reduced the minimum loan threshold from 1 million to 250,000. And then by expanding the program to nonprofits with more than 50 employees, however many small businesses may not need 250,000. Mr. Chairman, has the Fed considered eliminating the minimum loan threshold all together? Jerome Powell: We have not considered eliminating it yet. Of course, we're just now getting rolling with loans, as you know, so we can once we get up and running, look at lowering it again, but you get into a very different kind of lending when you're down, lower. These are really personal loans rather than business loans. They're generally guaranteed by the business operator, and we could look at that but that would be something we'd look at once we get up and running.

1:11:40 Jerome Powell: The objective of everything we're doing everything. Every single thing we're doing is to take the 25 million people whose working lives have been disrupted and create a situation in which they have the best chance to go back to their old job or to get a new job. That includes all the facilities that we're doing. That's the overriding goal of what we're doing.

25:55 Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO): As you know, it's hard for me to let a hearing go without talking about CECL, so we're gonna try it one more time. In March of this year, the Federal Reserve and the FDIC and LCC issued an interim rule to delay for two years the estimated impact on regulatory capital CECL, followed by a three year phase in. In addition, the CARES Act included an option delay in CECL implementation until end 2020, or the end of the pandemic, which 25% of typical entities actually opted for. Part of the Treasury is also conducting study - What's the impact of CECL I hope? We were directed to do that. And most recently, my colleagues and I sent a bipartisan letter F stock urging for delay in CECL implementation for all entities until 2022. So that every entity, both banks and non banks, which were not included through the cares act on the same footing and Treasury can conduct this study with the input of a real life scenario that we have ongoing today. Given the actions by Congress and the potential regulators should we delay CECL as I and my colleagues have called for and should the Treasury examine the real life scenario we've gone through when conducting their study? Mr. Mnuchin? Steven Mnuchin: I think that should be seriously considered. And yes, we are working on the study. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO): The President issued an executive order with regards to each agency going through and looking at all the rules, regulations, that were either waive declined, change, whatever, if they don't work now, should we continue them down the road when we get out of this mess. And so I assume everybody is doing that. And this would, this particular accounting principle would seem to fall in that area of we need to be looking at this as something down the road we need to get rid of in it's entirety, Mr. Chairman Powell, would you like to comment on this as well? Jerome Powell: I would agree. Okay. Thank you. Appreciate that. Because I think there's a time and place for rules, regulations or time in place that if nonfunctioning, we need to get rid of them and start over.

1:22:30 Rep. Bill Huizenga (MI): But what we do know is from looking at history, is we need to get the economy moving again. Now the question is, is how, whether it's getting kids back to school, as some have suggested, because if you can't get kids into school, that's not going to then free up those parents to be available to work. Anecdotally in my area, I know that manufacturers and service companies are having a very difficult time getting enough workers to come in to complete a full contingent, a line workers for example, or to get a full shift filled. There's various reasons some have debated about the $600 additional per week kicker as being a bit of a disincentive. But nonetheless, we know that we have to address those folks who really truly are not able to get a job and how do we distinguish from those that are just deciding not to take that job? One of the things that I have proposed is something called the Patriot bonus patriot bonus would be a 50% tax credit to any company that would give a per hour bump to their employees or a weekly bonus to their employees or even a one time bonus to their employees to incentivize them to come off of that unemployment insurance system and get back engaged in the workforce. And I think it's critical that we that we do that.

1:25:50 Rep. Bill Huizenga (MI): What do you want to tell them and the rest of Joe and Jane 401k that have their small investments in the markets that are there, frankly, to help them as they approach retirement? What assurances can we give them about the economy? Steven Mnuchin: Well, I want to tell them and all the other people that we are going to work with Congress to make sure we can do whatever we can do to get everybody back to work, who lost their job to COVID. And I'm also extremely optimistic about the research that is being done on vaccines and virals. And us combating this terrible disease. Thank you.

1:45:25 Steven Mnuchin: In many of these cases, these companies don't need more debt. They need support. So one of the things we will want to look at in the next CARES Act, as I said, is additional support for these hardest hit industries. As the Chair has said, there's a difference between lending and spending.

1:58:40 Rep. Ed Perlmutter (CO): And we also know that at the end of July, the pandemic unemployment insurance payments cease, as it's currently written. We know that a number of the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures begin to cease. And the eight weeks provided under the PPP, certainly for those initial takers of the loans start to run out. So I see a brick wall at the end of July.


Hearing: Accountability in Crisis: GAO's Recommendations to Improve the Federal Coronavirus Response, House Committee on Oversight and Reform: Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, June 26, 2020

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Witnesess:

  • Gene Dodaro - Comptroller General at the Government Accountability Office
Transcript:

56:40 Rep. Maxine Waters (CA): Tell me, how did it happen, that these hotels and these restaurants, were able to identify each of their installations under 500 people that they could get paid, get a loan for all of them. How did that happen? Gene Dodaro: My understanding of that is that that was a change that was made in the legislation at the last minute to allow them to be able to do that. That was part of the original legislation. My understanding...If I'm wrong, I'll provide a correction of the answer for the record, but that allowed that industry that applied if they had 500 people or less employees per location. Rep. Maxine Waters (CA): Did the SBA sign off on that? Gene Dodaro: Pardon me? Rep. Maxine Waters (CA): Did SBA sign off on that? Gene Dodaro: I don't know their involvement in the legislation. I'm sure the administration did if the President signed the bill. Rep. Maxine Waters (CA): Do you think that basically undermined what the PPP was supposed to be about?Gene Dodaro: Well, I wouldn't second guess the Congress and what it did and what, in the legislation that it passed. So, I mean, I was assuming it was part of congressional intent if it's in the legislation.

1:00:30 Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO): With the issue with regards to the stimulus checks going to people who shouldn't get them. You made a comment while ago about the social security's death master file. And it's something that you recommended, apparently for a number of years that we Congress have never done. In fact, the Trump administration has proposed in every single budget to give Treasury access to this, and we Congress have not done that. Is that roughly correct? Gene Dodaro: That's correct. And I know Treasury I've talked to Secretary Mnuchin about this and they... Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO): So this problem could have been eliminated, and alleviated if we Congress had done our job and allowed this to happen in previous years. Gene Dodaro: That's a reasonable hypothesis. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO): Okay. Thank you very much for that.

1:27:45 Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Gene Dodaro: Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): GAO also reported the Treasury and IRS sent nearly $1.4 billion in payments to 1.1 million dissidents, that is Americans who'd already died. And I'd also heard from some honest constituents who called up and said, we got this check for my wife or my husband who's no longer with us. IRS apparently was aware this was happening back in March, but didn't begin to correct it until months later. What's up with that? That's just shocking. How'd that happen? Gene Dodaro: Well, IRS is original determination was that the law required them to send a check to everybody who filed the return in 2018 or 19. And so they figured it would include those people. So they did it with foresight, that that's what they were supposed to do. Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Wow. Okay. Just let me pause you there, because that seems to contradict common sense. In other words, because we said that it should go to everyone who filed taxes, they thought you'd go to people who had died right who had filed taxes. All right. What is the law? Because some people were saying, should we cash this check? Why would the government sending it to us? Gene Dodaro: Right. Yeah, no, no, I agree. Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Well, what is the correct legal interpretation? Gene Dodaro: We believe Treasury's interpretation after that was that the intent was to help people who are affected by the situation which wouldn't include people who were deceased. So they stopped it at that point in time after IRS had made the first three payments. So we believe the correct interpretation now is they should not have been sent and our recommendation is to try to get as much of the money back as possible. Rep. Jaime Raskin (MD): Ok. And they've changed that policy of sending checks to people who have died? Gene Dodaro: That's correct.


Video: Ticked Off Vic: A Message to the Government | VicDiBitetto.net, Vic Dibitetto, April 16, 2020

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Aug 16, 2020
Thank You John Lewis
01:38:32

In this bonus "thank you" episode, Jen shares a goodbye letter from Rep. John Lewis, updates the list of the COVID infected in Congress, and reads lots of excellent, information rich comments from the Congressional Dish producers.


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Aug 14, 2020
CD218: Minerals are the New Oil
01:36:07

Rare earth minerals are essential ingredients for many of the technologies that are important today and will be key in the future. In this episode, we learn about a new global economy being created around rare minerals and how the United States can catch up to the commanding lead that China has established in dominating the mineral dependent industries.

Executive Producer: Coffee Infused Nerd 

Executive Producer: David Dear


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Bill Outline


S. 1317: American Mineral Security Act

Text as of July 27, 2020

TITLE I - American Mineral Security

Sec. 102: Policy We will analyze supply and demand of minerals to avoid supply shortages, mitigate price volatility, and prepare for demand growth We will map and develop domestic resources of minerals
Speed up the permitting process for mineral mining and new mineral manufacturing facilities Invest in workforce training for mineral exploration and development Transfer technology and information in international cooperation agreements Recycle critical minerals Develop alternatives to critical minerals

Sec. 104: Resource Assessment Within 4 years of the date the bill is signed into law, a “comprehensive national assessment of each critical mineral” must be completed which identifies known quantities of each mineral using public and private information and an assessment of undiscovered mineral resources in the U.S. The information will be given to the public electronically

Sec. 105: Permitting Orders reports to be done on expediting permitting

Sec. 107: Recycling, Efficiency, and Alternatives The Secretary of Energy would be required to conduct a research and development program to promote production, use, and recycling of critical minerals and to develop alternatives to critical minerals that are not found in abundance in the United States.

Sec. 109: Education and Workforce The Secretary of Labor will be given almost two years to complete an assessment of the Untied States workforce capable of operating a critical minerals management industry Creates a grant program where the Secretary of Labor will give “institutions of higher eduction” money for up to 10 years to create critical minerals management programs, and to help pay for student enrolled in those programs.

Sec. 110: National Geological and Geophysical Data Preservation Program Authorizes, but does not appropriate, $5 million per year from 2020-2019 for the program created in 2005 that catalogs geologic and engineering data, maps, logs, and samples. This program was authorized at $30 million from 2006-2010.

Sec. 112: Authorization of Appropriations Authorizes, but does not appropriate, $50 million for fiscal years 2020-2019.

TITLE II: Rare Earth Element Advanced Coal Technologies

Sec. 201: Program for Extraction and Recovery of Rare Earth Elements and Minerals from Coal and Coal Byproducts Requires the Secretary of Energy to create a program for developing “advanced separation technologies” for the extraction and recovery of rare earth elements and minerals from coal. Authorizes, but does not appropriate, $23 million per year for 2020-2027.


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Speech: Communist China and the Free World’s Future, Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary Of State, Yorba Linda, California, The Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, U.S. Department of State, July 23, 2020
Transcript:

14:00 Mike Pompeo: The Department of Justice and other agencies have vigorously pursued punishment for these crimes….And so our Department of Defense has ramped up its efforts, freedom of navigation operations out and throughout the East and South China Seas, and in the Taiwan Strait as well. And we’ve created a Space Force to help deter China from aggression on that final frontier. And so too, frankly, we’ve built out a new set of policies at the State Department dealing with China, pushing President Trump’s goals for fairness and reciprocity, to rewrite the imbalances that have grown over decades.

18:35 Mike Pompeo: It’s true, there are differences. Unlike the Soviet Union, China is deeply integrated into the global economy. But Beijing is more dependent on us than we are on them.

21:30 Mike Pompeo: The challenge of China demands exertion, energy from democracies – those in Europe, those in Africa, those in South America, and especially those in the Indo-Pacific region. And if we don’t act now, ultimately the CCP will erode our freedoms and subvert the rules-based order that our societies have worked so hard to build.

22:20 Mike Pompeo: So we can’t face this challenge alone. The United Nations, NATO, the G7 countries, the G20, our combined economic, diplomatic, and military power is surely enough to meet this challenge if we direct it clearly and with great courage. Maybe it’s time for a new grouping of like-minded nations, a new alliance of democracies. We have the tools. I know we can do it. Now we need the will.


Speech: Attorney General Barr’s Remarks on China Policy at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, U.S. Department of Justice, July 16, 2020

Read Transcript

Transcript:

13:50: The People’s Republic of China is now engaged in an economic blitzkrieg—an aggressive, orchestrated, whole-of-government (indeed, whole-of-society) campaign to seize the commanding heights of the global economy and to surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent technological superpower.

14:15: A centerpiece of this effort is the Communist Party’s “Made in China 2025” initiative, a plan for PRC domination of high-tech industries like robotics, advanced information technology, aviation, and electric vehicles, and many other technologies . Backed by hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, this initiative poses a real threat to U.S. technological leadership.

15:20 “Made in China 2025” is the latest iteration of the PRC’s state-led, mercantilist economic model. For American companies in the global marketplace, free and fair competition with China has long been a fantasy. To tilt the playing field to its advantage, China’s communist government has perfected a wide array of predatory and often unlawful tactics: currency manipulation, tariffs, quotas, state-led strategic investment and acquisitions, theft and forced transfer of intellectual property, state subsidies, dumping, cyberattacks, and industrial espionage.

16:30: The PRC also seeks to dominate key trade routes and infrastructure in Eurasia, Africa, and the Pacific. In the South China Sea, for example, through which about one-third of the world’s maritime trade passes, the PRC has asserted expansive and historically dubious claims to nearly the entire waterway, flouted the rulings of international courts, built artificial islands and placed military outposts on them, and harassed its neighbors’ ships and fishing boats.

17:00: Another ambitious project to spread its power and influence is the PRC’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure initiative. Although billed as “foreign aid,” in fact these investments appear designed to serve the PRC’s strategic interests and domestic economic needs. For example, the PRC has been criticized for loading poor countries up with debt, refusing to renegotiate terms, and then taking control of the infrastructure itself, as it did with the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota in 2017. This is little more than a form of modern-day colonialism.

19:20: The PRC’s drive for technological supremacy is complemented by its plan to monopolize rare earth materials, which play a vital role in industries such as consumer electronics, electric vehicles, medical devices, and military hardware. According to the Congressional Research Service, from the 1960s to the 1980s, the United States led the world in rare earth production.[6] “Since then, production has shifted almost entirely to China,” in large part due to lower labor costs and lighter environmental regulation. The United States is now dangerously dependent on the PRC for these materials. Overall, China is America’s top supplier, accounting for about 80 percent of our imports. The risks of dependence are real. In 2010, for example, Beijing cut exports of rare earth materials to Japan after an incident involving disputed islands in the East China Sea. The PRC could do the same to us.

41:00: In a globalized world, American corporations and universities alike may view themselves as global citizens, rather than American institutions. But they should remember that what allowed them to succeed in the first place was the American free enterprise system, the rule of law, and the security afforded by America’s economic, technological, and military strength. Globalization does not always point in the direction of greater freedom. A world marching to the beat of Communist China’s drums will not be a hospitable one for institutions that depend on free markets, free trade, or the free exchange of ideas.
There was a time American companies understood that. They saw themselves as American and proudly defended American values.


Hearing: U.S.-China Relations and its Impact on National Security and Intelligence in a Post-COVID World, U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, July 1, 2020

Read Transcript

Witnesess:

  • Dr. Tanvi Madan – Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, The Brookings Institution
  • Dr. Evan Medeiros – Penner Family Chair in Asian Studies and Cling Family Distinguished Fellow, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University
  • Mr. Orville Schell – Arthur Ross Director, Center on US-China Relations, Asia Society
  • Ms. Meredith Sumpter – Head of Research Strategy and Operations, Eurasia Group
Transcript:

21:15 Mr. Orville Schell: We were accustomed for many, many decades. And I've written this along. piece that's in the in the record, I think is my testimony. But engagement was the kind of center of how we related to China. And what were the presumptions of that? Well, the presumption was that this began in 1972, with Kissinger and Nixon going to China, that if we simply engage China across the board, that slowly, we would have a greater likelihood of more convergence rather than divergence that we would slowly morph out of the Cold War. And what is so extraordinary about the policy of engagement and I'm not one of the people who believes it was an erroneous policy. I do, however, believe it is a failed policy. But it was not erroneous, precisely because for eight presidential administrations United States government sought, and I think this is the height of leadership, to slowly bend the metal of China, to help China in to assist China, to morph out of its Maoist revolutionary period into something that was more soluble and convergent with the world as it existed outside, of the marketplace, international order, etc, etc. And I think if you look at all of these different administrations and go through them one by one, as I've done in the piece that's in your record, it is so striking to see how one president, Republican and Democrat came in after another, usually with a rather jaundiced view of China. Ultimately, they embraced the notion that we should try to engage China. So what happened? Well, I think just to cut to the chase here, what happened was that we have a regime in China now that's very different in its set of presumptions than that pathway that was laid out by Deng Xiaoping in 1978-79 of reform and opening. Without reform, without the presumption that China will both reform economically and politically to some degree, engagement has no basis. Because if you're not converging, then you're diverging. And if China actually is not trying to slowly evolve out of its own old Leninist, Maoist mold, sort of form of government, then it is in a sense, deciding that that is what it is and that is what its model is and that is what it's going to be projecting around the world.

55:45 Ms. Meredith Sumpter: Beijing decision makers believe that their state directed economic system is the foundation of the livelihood of their political system. In other words, we have been spending our energies trying to force China to change and China is not willing to change an economic model that it believes underpins its political longevity.

56:15 Ms. Meredith Sumpter: There are limits to how much we can force China to not be China. And China is working to try to create space for its own unique model within what has been up until just now with this competition, a largely Western based market consensus of how economic systems should work.

56:40 Rep. Jim Himes (CT): Do we care if they have a more state directed model? I mean, what we care about is that like, This room is full of stuff that has Chinese inputs in it. What we really care about is do they send us stuff that is of high quality and cheap. Do we really care? You know, I mean, the Swedes have a much more state directed model than we do. So do we really care? Ms. Meredith Sumpter: We care so long as we don't see China's model as impairing our own ability to viably compete fairly. And so this gets to that level playing field. And ultimately, this is not about the political ideology driven Cold War of the past. But it's really a competition over which economic model will deliver greater prosperity and more opportunity to more people in the years ahead. So in the short term, there's all this focus on China's incredible rise and the success of its economic model. And it's not trying to export that model per se. It wants to create space for its model to coexist in this market led global economic system.


Hearing: China’s Maritime Ambitions, U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee: Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, June 30, 2020

Watch on YouTube

Witnesses:

  • Gregory Poling - Senior Fellow for Southeast Asia, Director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Dr. Oriana Sklylar Mastro: Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and Assistant Professor of Security Studies at Georgetown University
  • Dr. Andrew Erickson: Professor of Strategy, China Maritime Studies Institute at the Naval War College and Visiting Scholar at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University
Transcript:

21:45 Gregory Poling: Chinese interest and Chinese claims have expanded considerably over the decades. Prior to the 1990s, the South China Sea featured a dispute over islands. And then Beijing decided to declare straight baselines and internal waters around the paracels and more worryingly historic rights throughout the entirety of the South China Sea, claiming in some form all waters, all airspace, all seabed, in contravention of international law. Over the last decade, Beijing has become far more aggressive in pursuing that illegal claim. At the end of 2013, China embarked on a unprecedented campaign of artificial island building and military nation, which today allows China to deploy a 24/7 presence of naval Coast Guard and paramilitary forces throughout every inch of the nine dash line, slowly pushing its neighbors away from their legal rights, out of the waters guaranteed to them by international law.

26:00 Gregory Poling: The United States must have rotational forces deployed along the so called first island chain that rings China. And there is no place south of Japan that that can happen other than the Philippines, Admiral Davidson has recognized this. The United States might not be able to do that under Duterte, but we must prevent further erosion of the Alliance and we must prepare a plan for a post 2022, post-Duterte Philippines that will allow us to reengage.

37:00 Dr. Andrew Erickson: Here's where China's overwhelming and still rapidly growing numbers are posing very significant challenges for our efforts to keep the peace and stability in the region. In the naval dimension for example, while many advocate a US Navy of 355 plus ships, both manned and unmanned, China already has its own fully manned Navy of 360 warships according to data recently released by the Office of Naval Intelligence.

48:30 Dr. Oriana Sklylar Mastro: So the number of Chinese nationals overseas, for example, is a relatively new phenomenon. I wrote a paper about it maybe about eight years ago and you have 10s of thousands of Chinese companies operating now in the Indian Ocean region that weren't there before. That we have seen an uptick because of One Belt, One Road as well. And also China used to not be so reliant on oil and energy from outside and now they are one of the top importers and they rely on the Malacca straits for that.

1:00:00 Dr. Andrew Erickson: We see concretely already a naval base in Djibouti. And as you rightly pointed out, there are a series of other ports, where sometimes it's unclear what the ultimate purpose is. But clearly there's extensive Chinese involvement and ample potential for upgrading.

1:03:00 Dr. Andrew Erickson: China's Coast Guard really, in many ways is almost like a second Navy. It's by far the largest in the world in terms of numbers of ships, and while many of them are capable of far ranging operations, the vast majority of China's more than 1,000 coast guard ships are deployed generally near to China. Unlike Coast Guard, such as the US Coast Guard, China's Coast Guard has a very important sovereignty advancement mission. And China's coast guard by recent organizational changes is now formally part of one of China's armed forces, as I mentioned before.

1:08:45 Connolly: And meanwhile China is the title of this hearing is maritime ambitions. It's not just in the South China Sea. The fact that the Chinese built and now are operating the Hambantota port facility, which could easily become a military base because of the indebtedness of the Sri Lankan government and its inability to finance and serve the debt on that finance, has given China a strategic location, through which passes, I'm told, about 30% of all the word shipping, and it's a real nice reminder to India, that now China has that strategic location.


Hearing: Impact of COVID-19 on Mineral Supply Chains, U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, June 24, 2020

Witnesses:

  • Nedal T. Nassar, Section Chief, National Minerals Information Center, Geological Survey, Department of the Interior;
  • Joe Bryan, Atlantic Council Global Energy Center, Hyattsville, Maryland; Mark Caffarey, Umicore USA, Raleigh, North Carolina;
  • Thomas J. Duesterberg, Hudson Institute, Aspen, Colorado;
  • Simon Moores, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, London, United Kingdom.
Transcript:

22:00 Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK): Border closures in Africa have impacted the export of cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and platinum from South Africa. Mines in Argentina, Peru and Brazil have temporarily shut down restricting supplies of lithium, copper and iron.

25:00 Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK): The World Bank released a report last month estimating that demand for lithium, graphite and cobalt will increase 500% by 2050 to meet clean energy demand.

37:00 Nedal T. Nassar: Mineral commodities are the foundation of modern society. Smartphones would have more dropped calls and shorter battery lives without tantalum capacitors and cobalt based cathodes and their lithium ion batteries. Bridges, buildings and pipelines would not be as strong without vanadium and other alloying elements and their Steel's medical MRI machines would use more energy and produce lower quality images without helium cooled niobium based superconducting magnets.

38:45 Nedal T. Nassar: Tantalum and cobalt in smartphones for example, are now predominantly mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and refined in China.

39:00 Nedal T. Nassar: Concurrently, developed countries such as the United States have become increasingly import reliant for their mineral commodity needs, thereby increasing their exposure to foreign supply disruptions.

39:30 Nedal T. Nassar: Many high supply risk commodities are recovered as byproducts. The supply of byproducts has the additional challenge of potentially being unresponsive to demand signals, given their relatively minimal contribution to produce those revenues.

40:00 Nedal T. Nassar: Once a mineral supply chain is identified as high risk, the next step is to determine the best way to reduce that risk. Various strategies can be pursued including diversification of supply, identification and potential expansion of domestic mineral resources, increasing recycling, developing substitutes, maintaining strategic inventories and bolstering trade relations.

43:00 Joe Bryan: From communications gear that keeps our troops connected on the battlefield, to unmanned aerial and subsurface platforms to tactical ground vehicles, transitioning away from lead acid, lithium ion batteries are everywhere. That is not surprising. Energy storage can not only increased capability, but by reducing fuel use can also help take convoys off the road and our troops out of harm's way.

44:15 Joe Bryan: COVID-19 severely impacted the supply of cobalt, a key mineral in the production of lithium ion batteries.

44:30 Joe Bryan: But the lithium ion market also represents an opportunity. Tesla's Nevada Gigafactory is one example. The state of Ohio recently landed a $2.3 billion investment from General Motors and Korea's LG Chem to build a battery plant in Lordstown, Ohio. That facility will bring more than 1000 jobs to the Mahoning Valley.

45:00 Joe Bryan: Now we can't change geology and create resources where they don't exist. But we can change direction and compete for supply chains jobs in minerals extraction, processing, anode and cathode production and cell production.

45:15 Joe Bryan: The scale of global investment in the lithium ion supply chain is massive and investment patterns will have geopolitical impacts. Right now, commercial relationships are being forged and trade alliances hammered out. Decisions made over the next few years will define the global transportation industry for decades to come and plant the seeds of future political alliances. Maintaining our global influence and diplomatic leverage depends on us, not just getting in the race, but setting the pace. From establishing priorities for research and development, to setting conditions for attracting investment to most importantly, hitting the accelerator on transportation electrification. There are things we can do. But to date, our actions have matched neither the scale of the opportunity, the efforts of our competitors, nor the risk we accept, should we remain on the sidelines.

46:30 Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK): Thank you, Mr. Bryan, appreciate you pointing out the importance of mineral security for our military. Some of us think that our American Mineral Security Initiative would be a good fit within the NDAA that will be coming before us for floor action in these next few days. So thank you for that reminder.

55:45 Thomas J. Duesterberg: Let me now turn to the auto industry. Other witnesses have noted the importance of lithium ion batteries in the control of China over the major mineral resources that go into those batteries. This is incredibly important to the future of the auto industry. China has clearly targeted this industry. It has control of the resources, has a goal of producing for its own domestic market, which is the largest market in the world, 80% of electric vehicles domestically by 2025.

56:30 Thomas J. Duesterberg: China is a major producer of manganese and magnesium minerals which are associated - controls of over 80% of those magnesium resources - which is incredibly important to the future of light vehicles. Substituting alloys with magnesium products is one key to reducing the weight of all kinds of transportation vehicles and construction equipment.

57:30 Thomas J. Duesterberg: Other witnesses have also mentioned rare earths, and other important minerals for which we are dependent on China, such as just tantalum to a certain extent cadmium, these are all important to the $500 billion semiconductor industry, where the United States holds a technological lead and produces over 45% of the chips that it produces here in the United States.

59:00 Thomas J. Duesterberg: I will finally note that the solar power industry also depends on rare earths like cadmium and tellurium. And the leading producer in the United States for solar as a thin film technology that depends greatly on these minerals and gives it an cost advantage over the related products that are being subsidized heavily by China.

39:30 Simon Moores: China is building the equivalent of one battery mega factory a week. United States one every four months.

40:00 Simon Moores: Since 2017, China's battery manufacturing pipeline has increased from nine to 107, which 53 are now active and in production. Meanwhile, the United States has gone from three to nine battery plants, of which still only three are active, the same number as just under three years ago.

1:02:30 Simon Moores: Lithium ion batteries are a core platform technology for the 21st century, they allow energy to be stored on a widespread basis in electric vehicles and energy storage systems. And they sparked the demand for the critical raw materials and candidates. A new global lithium ion economy is being created. Yet any ambitions for the United States to be a leader in this lithium ion economy continues to only creep forward and be outstripped by China and Europe.

1:03:00 Simon Moores: The rise of these battery mega factories will require demand for raw materials to increase significantly. By 2029, so 10 years from now, demand for nickel double, cobalt growth three times, graphite and manganese by four times, lithium by more than six times.

1:03:30 Simon Moores: The United States progress is far too slow on building out a domestic lithium ion economy. For the opportunities that remain are vast and the pioneers have emerged. Tesla has continued to lead the industry and build on its Nevada Gigafactory by announcing supersize battery plants in Germany and China and is expected to announce a fourth in Texas which will give you the United States as first ever 100% own MMA lithium ion battery cells. Ohio has recognized the scaling opportunity and attracted $2.3 billion from General Motors and LG Chem, a joint venture. You can also turn to Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee for electric vehicle and battery cell investment success. Yet, these developments are more of a standalone achievement in a coherent US plan.

1:04:20 Simon Moores: ...Imported raw materials and chemicals are the two main components that make a lithium ion battery - the cathodes and the anodes. America is some of the best cathode know how in the business, yet only three capital plants producing under one percent of global output, while China produces over two thirds of global supply from over 100 cathode [inaudible.]

1:04:45 Simon Moores: For graphite anodes, the United States has zero manufacturing plants while China has 48 plants and controls 84% total global anode supply.

1:05:00 Simon Moores: Developing this midstream of the supply chain will create a domestic ecosystem engine, more battery plants to be built, more electric vehicles to be made, more energy storage systems to be installed, animal spark with the betterment domestic mining and chemical processing. However, be under no illusions that the United States needs to build this 21st century industry from scratch. FDR's New deal for example, built core infrastructure that the United States still relies on today. Nearly 100 years later in similar economic and industrial circumstances your country has to do this all over again. Yet, instead of dams, you need to build battery mega factories in their tenant. Instead of highways and bridges and tunnels you need to build the supply chains to enable these mega factories to operate securely and consistent. These include cathode and anode plants and the lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel and manganese sources to feed them. This has to be done at a speed scale and quality that will make most US corporations feel uncomfortable. Even more, the supply chain needs to be underpinned by bigger sized battery recycling facilities to match the scale of these operations and close the loop. One can also look to the creation of a battery creation - widespread US semiconductor industry back in the 1980s believe that the United States built in semiconductors and computing power has sustained your country's dominance in this space for over five decades. Those who invest in battery capacity and supply chains today will hold the sway of industrial power for generations to come.

1:06:30 Rep. Joe Manchin (WV): Yet here in United States, we have the General Mining Law of 1872, which frankly is nothing short of an embarrassment to our country. In 1872, Ulysses S. Grant was elected president and Susan B. Anthony was served an arrest warrant for voting. Tells you how antiquated our laws are for the hardrock mining, if we're serious about reducing our import reliance for critical minerals, our mining goals need to be updated. We need to improve the regulatory scheme for mines and low ratio at high grade areas and the claim patent system and help the mining industry put themselves in a better light in the public by establishing a royalty to share the profits with the American people.

1:09:15 Rep. Joe Manchin (WV): What portion of the supply chain either upstream or downstream needs the most attention in terms of our national security? Nedal T. Nassar: Thank you, Ranking Member Manchin. So it really the the answer depends on the commodity. So different commodities will have different bottlenecks in their supply chains. In some cases, there's a highly concentrated production on the mining stage. In other cases, it might be further downstream. So for example, for niobium, an element that's produced in only a handful of mines worldwide. And so there are very few mines that are producing it and a single mine might be producing somewhere on the order of two thirds of the world's supply. On the other hand, there might be commodities where it's really not about mining, and it's the there's enough concentrate being produced, but we're simply not recovering it further downstream, such as many of the byproducts. So, earlier, one of the other witnesses mentioned tellurium. There's a lot of tellurium in some of the concentrate that we're mining with copper. Once it gets to the our copper electrolytic refineries, it's simply not recovered for economic reasons. So there there are different stages for different commodities. And that's why I mentioned in my testimony that we do need to look at these supply chains individually to figure out what really is the bottleneck and what strategy would be most effective at reducing that bone.

1:17:45 Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK): I recall a hearing here in the Energy Committee and one of our witnesses made the comment when it came to recycling that the first place we should look to mine is within our own economy not in the earth but what we have already produced and and basically, remind, repurpose, reuse that so thank you for that comment.

1:19:20 Thomas J. Duesterberg: As Senator Manchin alluded to, we need to revise our mining laws to speed up the permitting process. And perhaps put some time limit on the impact environmental reviews and mining permitting for critical materials.

1:41:30 Joe Bryan: At the same time, from a national security perspective, we may not have minerals but we in some segment segments of the supply chain, but we do have allies and people we can work with and we need to really reach out to those folks like Australia is a perfect example. How are we working with Australia to diversify our supply chain to support our own needs and also perhaps to hedge against China?

2:01:00 Joe Bryan: As a point of reference, note the scale of the Europeans investment, just one of the tranches of funding that came out of the EU. Last December, they put three and a half billion dollars into supply chain investments. Three and a half billion dollars. That's one tranche. I think the European Investment Bank has said that something like 100 billion dollars has been channeled to the battery supply chain. So the scale of their effort is, we sort of pale in comparison to that, notwithstanding your efforts, Madam Chairman, the other thing I would say is post-COVID, it's interesting, I think Europeans have seen support for electrification and the supply chain in their stimulus packages. I know Germany and France have both targeted those industries as part of their stimulus. And I think the reason for that is, we obviously, countries are going to want to recover what they have lost, but they also are seeing this as an inflection point for them to decide where they want to be in the future. And so I think they've taken advantage of that opportunity and have have sort of doubled down on it. And I think we're in the same position as we assess where we are and where we're going. But the scale of their commitment has been, I'll say impressive.

2:11:00 Joe Bryan: Our weakness is throughout the supply chain. So if we have a stockpile of minerals, but they're not processed and usable, then I'm not sure how much good it does. If we have to ship the stockpiled minerals to China for processing, that's probably not the most ideal scenario. So I think we have to look again holistically at the supply chain, look at what we need, and figure out how we position ourselves to attract the kind of massive massive economy changing, transforming levels of investment that are happening globally to the United States.


Hearing: Minerals and Clean Energy Technologies, U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, September 17, 2019

Witnesses:

Transcript:

40:45 Daniel Simmons: Material intensity and potential global demand is illustrated by a recent report, by a recent analysis by the head of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum in the UK, using the most current technologies, for the UK to meet their 2050 electric car targets, it would require just under two times the current annual world cobalt production, nearly the entire world production of neodymium, three quarters of the world's lithium production and at least half of the world's copper production. And to put that in perspective, the UK the population of the UK is only 66 million currently, while the population in the United States is 327 million.

41:40 Daniel Simmons: Cobalt makes up 20% of the weight of the cathode of lithium ion electric vehicle batteries. Today, cobalt is considered one of the the highest material supply risks for electric vehicles in the short and medium term. Cobalt is mined as a secondary material from mixed nickel and copper ore. With the majority of the global supply mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as Senator Manchin mentioned.

52:15 Robert Kang: We need to collect far more of the spent batteries for recycling. The US currently collects less than 5%, while Europe collects approximately 40% or more. Secondly, we need to expand the United States capacity to process batteries. Today, we shipped most of our collected lithium ion batteries for recycling to China, South Korea and Europe. Increasing us processing capacity will allow us businesses to control the flow of these metals earlier in the supply chain. Lastly, we should encourage refining capabilities here in the US. A market for recycled metals will support investments to strengthen the entire lithium ion battery industry in the US.

1:17:45 Robert Kang: I've heard estimates that anywhere from about 20-30% of the world's mineral needs can be met by recycling. Sen. Angus King (ME): Well, that's not insignificant. That's a big number. Robert Kang: And actually it's reclaiming value from our waste stream. Sen. Angus King (ME): Right. Robert Kang: One way to think about this is if you could change your perspective, I believe one of the next new minds of the future, our urban cities, our homes, we have these, this material locked away in our drawers and inboxes that we don't look at too often. So if we can promote collection, if we can take these kind of, spent batteries away from, or bring them back to this industry, I think we can claim a significant amount of minerals.

1:19:00 Robert Kang: We are well aware of foreign entities now that are coming into the US and setting up recycling facilities here because they see these minerals and it's widely known that the US is one of the largest producers of spent lithium ion batteries. Sen. Angus King (ME): They're mining under our very noses. Robert Kang: Yes, sir. Sen. Angus King (ME): In a domestic resource. Robert Kang: Yes, sir. Sen. Angus King (ME): Ridiculous. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (AK): Who is it? Robert Kang: Well, I do know that there is a Korean company that is coming in. There is a Canadian company that's setting up facilities here, as well as we are aware of conversations and research by Chinese firms recyclers who are coming into this market.

1:42:30 Sen. Martin Heinrich (NM): My constituents, is the incredible legacy of uncleaned up mines across the west. There are thousands of them. A few years ago during the gold King mine spill, irrigators had to close off their ditches not water their crops, not water their livestock. There were municipal and tribal impacts as huge amounts of released heavy metals came downstream because of the uncleaned up legacy of 150 years of abandoned mines all across the Mountain West. So I think if we're going to, you know, create a path forward, one of the things we need to do is really think about reforming the 1872 mining act if we're going to create the the environment where some of these other things can move forward in a first world country.


Hearing: Mineral Security and Related Legislation, U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, May 14, 2020

Witnesses:

Transcript:

36:00 David Solan: Critical minerals are used in many products important to the US economy and national security, and they are particularly important to the most innovative clean energy technologies. For example, some of the minerals DOE considers the most critical in terms of supply risk include gallium for LEDs, the rare earths dysprosium in neodymium for permanent magnets and wind turbines and electric vehicles, and cobalt and lithium for electric vehicle and grid batteries. The US is dependent on foreign sources of many critical minerals. And we also currently lack the domestic capability for downstream processing and materials as well as the manufacturing of some products made from them.

41:10 Jonathan Evans: Lithium Nevada Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary of Lithium Americas. It is headquartered in Reno, Nevada and is developing a project called Factor Pass, which is the largest known lithium resource in the United States. Factor Pass will profoundly improve the supply of lithium chemicals by producing 25% of today's global lithium demand when in full production. Currently, the US produces just 1% of lithium minerals and 7% of lithium chemicals.

49:15 John Warner: Chinese companies are buying up energy materials supply sources around the globe in order to ensure that battery manufacturers based in China have access to reasonably stable supplies of low cost materials.

1:04:30 Paul Ziemkiewicz: Some price support, if not, market support is needed in the early stages, because the first thing that Chinese will do and they've done it before, is drop the price on the market because it has its monopoly. And that'll drive anyone out of business. Mountain Pass was our only active mine right now in United States sends all of its oxide product to China for refining. Sen. Joe Manchin (WV): Is that because environmental laws in America we were making it very difficult for us to do that process. Paul Ziemkiewicz: I think, and I'm not an economist, but I think it's just because they have the supply chain.

1:16:15 Joe Balash: At the Department of the Interior, we're seeing a graying of our own staff in terms of the the expertise for mining in general and that is something that we see nationwide.

1:17:45 John Warner: There's very few universities today that actually do focus on a program to develop battery engineers, which is one of the most unique engineering fields because it does compromise and come compose of all of the engineering facets from thermodynamics to electronics and software to the chemistry of it.

1:21:20 Jonathan Evans: There are ways to do this. And I think it will be done very, very safely. If you look at traditional sources at least at lithium, but also known cobalt and others, I think projects can do good and do well. Even under the current environmental laws that we have or what's being promulgated in the future, it's possible I think to live in both worlds.

1:22:50 Jonathan Evans: You go next across the border to Canada or Australia, they still have strict environmental standards as well, but they accomplish what Senator Murkowski said. It's seven to 10 years to get approvals here in the United States. There's lots of mineral resources in those countries, it's usually about two years, because there's very strict process, agencies work together and they have, they have to get back and close the process out where things can drag. Sen. Angus King (ME): One of the things we did in Maine that was helpful, might be useful is one stop shopping. In other words, you don't have to go serially to five agencies, you have one lead agency and everybody else works through that process and that we found that to be very effective.

1:25:15 Paul Ziemkiewicz: The Japanese had a territorial dispute on some islands between Japan and China. And it was few years ago, 2010 maybe, the Chinese simply restricted the ability for the Japanese to get their rare earth supply. And the Japanese caved within something like three or four months. Sen. Angus King (ME): Because of the Japanese manufacturer of these high tech devices that needed that supply? Paul Ziemkiewicz: That's correct Senator.


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Jul 31, 2020
Thank You COVID Travelers
01:33:11

In this bonus thank you episode, Jen is feeling like it's March all over again and discusses options for continuing life and travel during the never ending COVID crisis before thanking the Congressional Dish producers. She also recalls getting arrested in front of the White House, a vastly different experience in the Obama years compared to what the brave protestors are experiencing during the reign of Trump.


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Jul 26, 2020
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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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.


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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

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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.


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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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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

Watch on CSPAN

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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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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Music Presented in This Episode

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


Recommended Podcast Episodes

“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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Music Presented in This Episode

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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CD158: Rapid DNA Act


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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

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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.


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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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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.


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)

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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Articles/Documents


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Cover Art

Design by Only Child Imaginations


Music Presented in This Episode

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

Apr 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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Design by Only Child Imaginations


Music Presented in This Episode

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

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

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


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American Hospital Association's Rural Report Podcast Series


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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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Music Presented in This Episode

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

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

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


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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

Watch on Youtube

Speakers:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Watch on Youtube

Witnesses:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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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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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CD96: Fast Tracking Fast Track (Trade Promotion Authority

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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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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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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


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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,