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By Dartunorro Clark
Sen. Kamala Harris said Friday that she plans to make a decision “soon” about whether she will seek the presidency in 2020.
“I believe our country wants and needs some leadership that provides a vision of the country in which everyone could see themselves,” Harris said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” when asked why she wants to be president.
However, the California Democrat has sidestepped questions about when she would officially toss her hat in the ring. Her Senate colleague, Elizabeth Warren, announced her candidacy earlier this month in what is expected to be a crowded field of Democratic candidates.
Harris was on the program to promote her memoir, “The Truths We Hold,” which was published this week. In the book, Harris addresses the liberal critiques of her record as a prosecutor as she nears a decision on whether to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.
Harris slammed the president during the interview over his role in the partial government shutdown, which is nearing the end of its third week. Trump is demanding billions to build his long-promised border wall, which Democrats have rejected, leading to the budget impasse that has resulted in the shutdown.
“The president is holding the American people hostage over this vanity project,” Harris said. “This is a crisis if his own making.”
The senator said that the president, who has floated the idea of declaring a national emergency as a way of bypassing Congress to build the wall, is using “political manipulation” in the fight over the wall and putting national security at risk.
“(Trump) is choking the very people who are responsible for making sure we have public safety on a day-to-day basis,” she said, referring to the thousands of unpaid workers at the Transportation Security Administration and the FBI.
“It’s actually harmful on daily basis to real people,” she added.
Harris called on other lawmakers and the American people to speak out and put pressure on the administration to accept legislation that would reopen the government.
“People have to speak up. There is power in that,” she said. “There is power in elected members of the United States Congress speaking up in the interest of their constituency and the American public.”
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Buttigieg says if he’s president ‘so be it’ if Trump prosecuted after leaving office
Pete Buttigieg said in an interview with “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd that if elected president, he would have no problem with President Donald Trump being prosecuted after he has left office.
In an interview to air Sunday, Buttigieg said he wants to focus “on how we can make people’s lives better” if elected president, but justice could be served at the same time.
“If in parallel there are investigations going on into criminal behavior by people who were formerly at some of the highest levels in our government, so be it,” said Buttigieg, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.
Watch more of Chuck Todd’s interview with Pete Buttigieg on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday morning.
Former special counsel Robert Mueller’s spring report on Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election detailed numerous occasions in which Trump might have allegedly obstructed justice. Democrats in the House have been weighing whether or not to pursue impeachment proceedings in earnest as a result.
Buttigieg said in the interview that Trump hasn’t respected the role of the Department of Justice as an independent law enforcement agency.
“He’s treated it like it ought to be his own personal law firm,” he said.
Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., said prosecuting Trump wouldn’t be a litmus test for his choice of attorney general should he win the election.
“Prosecution decisions shouldn’t be made by politicians in that sense,” he said.
“What I will say is any attorney general that I would appoint is somebody who will faithfully apply the concept that no one is above the law,” he added. “That everybody ought to be held accountable.”
“Justice is blind,” he said. “And I will appoint an attorney general and, for that matter, justices and judges who uphold that principle.”
Buttigieg said during an MSNBC town hall June 3 that he would vote to impeach the president if he were in Congress and the matter was up for a vote. Trump, he said at the time, “deserves to be impeached.”
Trump’s order to slash number of science advisory boards blasted by critics as ‘nonsensical’
President Donald Trump signed an executive order late Friday to cut the number of government advisory committees by a third across all federal agencies, a move that the White House said is long overdue and necessary to ensure good stewardship of taxpayers’ money.
But critics said it is the Trump administration’s latest effort to undermine science-based and fact-supported decision-making.
“This is another example of how disconnected the Trump administration is from the needs of the American people and how to protect them from harm,” said Mustafa Ali, who resigned in 2017 as the senior adviser for environmental justice at the Environmental Protection Agency.
Experts on the advisory committees, which were formalized under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) in 1972, give the executive branch input on issues ranging from high-level nuclear waste disposal, the depletion of atmospheric ozone, AIDS, drug addiction, school improvement and housing.
The administration has for two years been “shrinking and restricting the role of federal science advisory committees,” said Gretchen Goldman, the research director with the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a statement. “Now they’re removing the possibility of even making decisions based on robust science advice. It’s no longer death by a thousand cuts. It’s taking a knife to the jugular.”
But White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere told NBC News over email that the cuts were long overdue.
“A government-wide review of FACA committees has not been done since 1993, and the President believes it is time to once more review and eliminate ones that are not relevant and providing valuable services so that we are good stewards of the taxpayers’ money,” Deere wrote.
The government-wide review referred to is the last time such a big cut was made.
President Bill Clinton signed an executive order in February 1993 that terminated “not less than one-third of the advisory committees” created under the Federal Advisory Committee Act that were not required by statute.
The number of scientific advisory committees grew slightly under the George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies, but science advocates’ concern is that the Trump administration continues to distance the federal government from the fact-based decision-making that these committees are intended to uphold.
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The Union of Concerned Scientists found in a study last year that between 2016 and 2017 the number of science advisory committees across all agencies decreased by 20 percent and their membership decreased by 14 percent.
Goldman said that Trump’s ordered cut will greatly exacerbate this trend.
“They’re escalating by saying they will get rid of a third of them arbitrarily,” Goldman said over the phone. “This is really nonsensical because there is not any reason to do that. It’s not costing the government much money because they’re not compensating people for their time or expertise, just mostly paying their travel expenses.”
A Congressional Research Study review of Federal Advisory Committees in October 2016 found that there were roughly 1,000 committees organized under the Federal Advisory Committee Act between 2011 and 2015. Their membership during those years ranged from 69,750 to 72,220, and the budget for all committees remained at or below $416.4 million.
More than half that budget goes toward federal support staff for the committees, the report said.
Stan Meiburg, who worked at the Environmental Protection Agency for 39 years before retiring in 2017, worked with and served on such committees under both Republican and Democratic administrations while he was a federal employee.
Advisory committee members are largely unpaid and often find creative ways for the federal government to save money, said Meiburg, a former EPA deputy regional administrator and current member of the Environmental Protection Network.
“It’s very unwise,” he said of the executive order, “and when you think of ways that money could be spent that works effectively for taxpayers, these committees carry small margins and produce tremendous returns.”
Unlike the Clinton administration’s executive order, Trump’s decree also opens the door to shutting down committees created by congressional statute. The order requires agencies to create “a detailed plan” for committees’ continued existence if they are “required by statute,” and to draft, “as appropriate, recommended legislation for submission to Congress” for panels that are to be changed or terminated.
This could set up a fight between the White House and Democrats, as Congress has used FACA advisory committees to provide greater oversight of the executive branch.
“The committees are reflective of a congressional interest in ensuring a broad number of perspectives are brought to bear on public policy,” Meiburg said. “That interest is still going to be there, and I think you’ll see a great amount of resistance from Congress.”
The order specifically exempts some committees, however, including those that advise on the safety of consumer products.
The required cuts don’t apply to advisory panels “whose primary purpose is to provide scientific expertise to support agencies making decisions related to the safety or efficacy of products to be marketed to American consumers” or those groups “whose approval is necessary to fund an extramural research procurement contract, grant, or cooperative agreement,” the order says.
Advocates said the exemptions make it clear that Trump’s order isn’t about cost savings or helping American citizens, but about supporting corporations.
“That show they specifically are not wanting to cut the committees that deal with or affect private industry,” Goldman said. “The ones that are left then are where science might prove to be inconvenient.”
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