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Day 30: The Government Shutdown Continues

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Having approached the one month mark, the government shutdown of 2019 is the longest in US history. With no resolution in sight, affected Americans are demanding action as they stand on the verge of losing their homes.

This weekend, Trump made a statement offering Democrats a proposal to end the government shutdown. Calling it a “common-sense compromise”, Trump has offered the following:

  • Three years of legislative relief for 700,000 DACA recipients, giving them protection from deportation, access to work permits, and social security numbers
  • An extension of Temporary Protected Status for three years to immigrants whose protections are approaching expiration
  • $800 million in humanitarian assistance
  • $805 million for drug detection technology
  • 2,750 border agents and law enforcement professionals
  • 75 new immigration judge teams to reduce the backlog of court cases

Imploring both parties to embrace his plan, Trump says its an opportunity for “real bipartisan immigration reform.” However, Democrats are unwilling to accept the deal which uses DACA as a bargaining chip. Speaking out against the proposal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “unacceptable.” and stated negotiations would take place only when the government reopened.

People Aren’t Bargaining Chips

In her statement, Speaker Pelosi said, “Democrats support smart, effective border security solutions” but, initial reports make it clear Trump’s proposal is an amalgamation of several previously rejected initiatives. Responding further to the President’s address, Pelosi remarked:

Unfortunately, initial reports make it clear that his proposal is a compilation of several previously rejected initiatives, each of which is unacceptable and in total, do not represent a good faith effort to restore certainty to people’s lives. It is unlikely that any one of these provisions alone would pass the House, and taken together, they are a non-started. For one thing, this proposal does not include the permanent solution for the Dreamers and TPS recipients that our country needs and supports.”

While Democrats are averse to negotiations that include DACA as a bargaining chip, in the past they offered a correction in return for border wall funding. Putting $25 billion on the table for border security, Democrats plan included a 10-14 year path to citizenship for the 1.8 million Dreamers. Their plan could have included a wall, as Senator Chuck Schumer privately promised up to $20 billion for a citizenship path for eligible immigrants. Still, both parties are pressured to resolve their differences and come to an agreement to reopen the government by Americans affected by the shutdown.

2500 Stores Unable to Accept EBT/SNAP

While the government is shut down, benefits for the 39 million recipients have been available without lapse. However, that could soon change. Roughly 2,500 retailers nationwide will be unable to accept any form of SNAP EBT benefits despite the funds early dispersion. Awarded through a debit-style card, stores will be unable to accept the payment method because they missed the deadline for license renewal before the shutdown. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Over 99 percent of SNAP retailers are able to accept benefits as usual. There is a small percentage of stores that failed to complete a required re-authorization process that was due on December 21.”

In addition to concern surrounding food benefits, rental assistance programs are also at a standstill. HUD’s official website states the agency is closed until further notice, leaving recipients to panic over whether they can pay their rent. Without HUD assistance, landlords have begun to send notice to tenants that they are responsible for the full financial burden of their housing costs.

Experts speculate the number of Americans impacted by the housing assistance lapse to be nearly 70,000 but that number increases every day. With landlords in a panic, organizations that administer HUD funding are attempting to calm them down so they don’t escalate to eviction proceedings. If politicians cannot come to a resolution, potentially millions of low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children face rent hikes, eviction, and homelessness.

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Ilhan Omar Calls Out AIPAC to Mixed Criticism

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Ilhan Omar

Representatives who were silent as Charlottesville Nazi’s were called “fine people” are having no difficulty raising their voices to condemn Ilhan Omar as an anti-Semite. I wonder why.

Speaking out about the influence of money from Israel on congressional support, Minnesota’s Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar criticized human rights violations toward Palestinians. She has been a vocal opponent of Israeli settlement building in the West Bank, territories which were originally allotted to the Arab state in 1947. However, comments made at a bookstore are what sparked the current wave of outrage that conservative pundits are using to push Islamophobia under the guise of defending Israeli-American relations.

Dangerous Ideologies

February 27th, Omar said, “I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is OK for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country.” This drew comparisons to an anti-Semitic trope that implies that Jewish citizens of any country will forever be more loyal to Israel than where they reside. These recent remarks, conservatives and centrist democrats have resorted to taking her tweets, which point out the problematic role of lobbyists, out of context to present a narrative that Ilhan is an anti-Semite. While Ilhan Omar has acknowledged that her language was offensive to some, she affirms that “whether it be AIPAC, the NRA, or the fossil fuel industry,” her views regarding their controversial contributions remain unchanged.

Those who openly refused to take on the President for his problematic language have jumped at the opportunity to condemn Ilhan Omar for her comments. However, they weren’t all on the same page when it came to a resolution that would effect their speech as well. Thursday, the House passed a resolution condemning both anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination, but 23 Republicans voted against the change.

Progress

Democrats and Independents voted in favor of condemning anti-Muslim bigotry for the first time in our nation’s history. While many were reluctant to defend the young Representative, four Presidential hopefuls stood by Omar amid the harsh criticism for her opinions on the Israeli government. Senator Bernie Sanders stated that backlash from Omar’s comments were “aimed at stopping a discussion about American’s foreign policy toward Israel.” He added that what he feared was happening was “an effort to target Congresswoman Omar as a way of stifling that debate.” Senator Kamala Harris chimed in with her own concerns and shared a brief statement:

We all have a responsibility to speak out against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and all forms of hatred and bigotry, especially as we see a spike in hate crimes in America.”

Blood on the House Floor

As one of the first Muslims elected to Congress, she has been marked as a target by conservatives looking to eject her from politics altogether. One racist act, of particular note, resulted in a resignation and left one person injured.

In West Virginia, a physical fight broke out within Charleston’s Capitol building that spilled into the chamber of the House of Delegates. The fight began with an image connecting Ilhan to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Speaking out to condemn the poster, Mike Pushkin, who is Jewish, commented that “In 1933 in Berlin, they might have had a similar poster about somebody like me.” Asking Republican Congressmen to stand with him in condemnation, Pushkin told the Washington Post “not a single Republican elected official in this building could join me in saying it’s wrong.” Pushkin said he was met with Republicans who spoke about the First Amendment instead.

Despite the criticism that Omar is facing, little has been said directly to Republicans who are abusing this controversy as an opportunity to air their prejudices. The division in our current government has made it apparent that there is immeasurable room for growth when it comes to addressing the right-wing administration of Netanyahu, liberty for Palestinians, and denouncing hate speech across Semitic and Islamic lines. As the first term of Trump’s administration comes to a close and with Congressional elections approaching, we must continue to work toward a future that sets us on a path of progression.

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Paul Manafort Sentenced to 47 months in Prison

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Paul Manafort

Former Trump presidential campaign chairman and political consultant Paul Manafort has recently been sentenced for financial fraud. This conviction is the first of two cases levied against him.

As a result of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, Paul Manafort has been sentenced to nearly four years in prison. His sentence is a far cry from the 19- to – 24 year prison term that was expected. According to the New York Times, Judge T.S. Ellis III of Alexandria, VA., gave Manafort such a light punishment because the guidelines were deemed too harsh.

Manafort plead for mercy before receiving his judgment. Members of Mueller’s prosecution team did not seek a specific sentence in the case. Still, Manafort received the harshest judgment out of the six former Trump employees to be prosecuted by Mueller.

Judge Ellis’ sentence has received much criticism from legal experts. While lighter sentencing is common in white-collar cases, the drop from 19 years to less than four has disappointed many onlookers of this high-profile case.

Defense attorney’s presumably swayed Judge Ellis into a lighter sentencing due to Manafort’s age. He is nearly 70 years old and has significant health issues. On top of time in prison, Manafort is expected to pay $25 million in restitution along with a $50,000 fine. Judge Ellis is crediting Manafort for nine months of time served, which means the convict could be out in roughly 3 years.

Other Trump advisers who have been sentenced include:

  • Michael Cohen – Sentenced to 3 years in prison
  • George Papadopolous – Sentenced to 14 days in prison
  • Alex van der Zwaan – Sentenced to 30 days in prison
  • Richard Pinedo – Sentenced to 6 months in prison

Trump advisers who have pleaded guilty or have been charged include:

  • Michael T. Flynn – Pleaded Guilty
  • Rick Gates – Pleaded Guilty
  • Roger Stone – Charged
  • Konstantin V. Kilimnik – Charged
  • Twelve Russian Intelligence Officers – Charged
  • Thirteen Russian Nationals – Charged

As a result of Mueller’s investigation, five additional parties faced charges due to inquiries that branched off from the initial probe.

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Cohen Airs Out Trump in Congress Testimony

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Michael Cohen Trump Testimony

Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee on Capitol Hiil and bared the truth of Trump’s misdeeds, singing songs of the atrocities of Trump’s Administration.

The former personal lawyer for President Donald Trump admitted much to Congress during his testimony, quickly earning him personal attacks from disappointed fellow Republicans. Among his admissions, Cohen called Trump “a racist, a conman, and a cheat,” which many of us had known long before he hit the Oval Office. Although bits of his testimony were considered “not fake news, but old news”, Cohen did share some startling information.

Multiple Investigations

Donald Trump and Michael Cohen are under investigation by the Southern District of New York. Cohen’s revelation prevented him from answering certain questions as the investigation in New York is ongoing. Cohen was asked multiple times about records he refused to provide to Congress, which he says were obtained during the raid of his home last fall. When asked if he had continued contact with Donald Trump, Cohen said yes, but withheld details. Two months after the FBI raided Michael Cohen’s home, he spoke with Donald Trump, who he admits communicates in code.

Convicted Russian Mobsters on Payroll

In addition to revealing he purposefully wrote NDA’s to prevent people from coming forward with claims of wrongdoing, Cohen revealed a business relationship between Trump and Felix Sater. Sater is a convicted Russian mobster who was a real estate developer and former manager of the Bayrock Group, LLC. Sater listed himself as a Senior Advisor to Trump on business cards and held contracts with the President where he was paid through Michael Cohen. Bank records, which Cohen alleges were in boxes that were in his raided home and office, indicate payments to Sater’s company, AROC.

This brought a represetative to ask Cohen if he believed the Trump presidency ever stopped being about money. Cohen said yes, but it only stopped when he became president. Now, Cohen says Trump’s goal is autocracy. During his testimony, Cohen said, “he’s sending the message that this is his county; he’s becoming an autocrat.” Autocracy is the system of government with one person with absolute power, where while not officially, Putin has been operating Russia as such.

The testimony yet in progress, Cohen is still being grilled about his complicity in a corrupt campaign and administration.

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