News Releases

“Populist” Trump Rolling Back Minimal Wall Street Reform

Wall Street RegulationsThe New York Times reports: “President Trump on Friday moved to chisel away at the Obama administration’s legacy on financial regulation, announcing steps to revisit the rules enacted after the 2008 financial crisis and to back away from a measure intended to protect consumers from bad investment advice. After a White House meeting with executives from Wall Street, Mr. Trump signed a directive aimed at the Dodd-Frank Act, crafted by the Obama administration and passed by Congress in response to the 2008 meltdown.”

WILLIAM K. BLACK, blackw [at] umkc.edu, @williamkblack
Black is an associate professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. A former bank regulator who led investigations of the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, he is the author of the book The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One.

In his recent interview with The Real News, “Trump Set to Rollback Financial Regulation Passed After the 2008 Crisis,” Black states: “This supposed populist who ran against big banks, against Goldman Sachs, has of course, appointed all these top people in finance. That’s who he’s listening to, not small business people. And so he said that Dodd-Frank has been disastrous, which is hilarious — you know, bank profits are high, their capital levels are much higher, it’s just ridiculous — and said, we’re really going to do a number on that. And Mnuchin has said that he’s going to go after the Volcker Rule.

“But, of course, this is an area where the new Democrats have neutered themselves because, if you recall, Hillary Clinton, supported by Paul Krugman [of the New York Times], said: No, no, no. Don’t bring back Glass-Steagall.

“Well, think how much shorter Dodd-Frank could have been if it had done intelligent things like the following: ‘The act repealing Glass-Steagall is hereby repealed. The interpretive rules as of 1965 are hereby reinstated 180 days after the effective date of this statute.’ That removes about 350 pages of statutes and about 2,000 pages of Volcker regulations and interpretations. And, ‘The Commodities Future Modernization Act is repealed’ — that would have saved, again, 120 pages of statute perhaps and 600 pages of regulation.

“So, because Obama and the new Democrats lacked the courage to actually unwind the Clinton Era and Bush Era deregulation; and because they never created an understanding in the populace of what caused the crisis, which was these three epidemics of elite fraud, you could almost never hear the word fraud even uttered by the President or Hillary Clinton, right? — there was nothing to push back against.”

Also see other recent interviews with Black: “Republicans Plan to “De-Supervise” the Consumer Financial Protection Board” and “Private Sector Will Make a Killing Off of Infrastructure Bank.”

Trump said during the presidential campaign: “The hedge fund guys are getting away with murder. They’re making a tremendous amount of money. They have to pay taxes. I want to lower the rates for the middle class. The middle class is the one, they’re getting absolutely destroyed. This country doesn’t have — won’t have a middle class very soon.” See Forture magazine.

Trump Calls for Major Escalation in Syria

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The New York Times reported: “The White House is drafting a presidential directive that calls on Defense Secretary James M. Mattis to devise plans to more aggressively strike the Islamic State, which could include American artillery on the ground in Syria and Army attack helicopters to support an assault on the group’s capital, Raqqa, officials said.”

REESE ERLICH, ReeseErlich2 [at] hotmail.com

Erlich is a Peabody award-winning foreign correspondent. He is the author of “Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect,” distributed by Random House. His book tour next week will take him to New York City, Raleigh and Atlanta.

He said today: “The Trump administration is planning a major escalation in Syria, contradicting his supporters’ hopes for less overseas fighting. During the campaign Trump tried to convince voters that he opposed the Iraq War and would never let such a disaster take place on his watch. Yet the new administration has now asked the Defense Department to consider sending artillery and attack helicopters to fight in Syria. Supposedly aimed at fighting ISIS, in fact, such moves would seriously escalate the number of U.S. combat troops and increase the likelihood of conflict with Russia and Iran. While Trump proclaims a friendship with Vladimir Putin, escalating the number of U.S. troops in Syria will put him in direct conflict with Russia and Iran.

“More American soldiers and Syrian civilians’ lives are in danger. Under Obama, the U.S. spent $12 million per day just on the Syria War. How many billions more will be wasted by Trump?”

9/11 Survivor on the Muslim Ban

kerrikellyYesterday 9/11 survivor Kerri Kelly spoke out from the 9/11 Ground Zero Memorial about how the Trump administration is exploiting tragedies like her family’s – the loss of her stepfather Lt. Joe Leavey, a firefighter who died in Tower 2. Kelly explained why she rejects efforts to have Trump’s Muslim-ban policies promoted in her stepfather’s name. 

KERRI KELLY, kerrikelly875 [at] gmail.com, @kkellyyoga

Kelly said today: “The policies of this administration are immoral and unsafe and have nothing to do with 9/11 and everything to do with their own gain.They are an affront to who we were on that day and to who we are as Americans.

“Joe and his men believed in sacrificing themselves for the greater good.They did not discriminate between who gets to be saved and who doesn’t.They ran into that building for all of us.”

See: Facebook live video from the Ground Zero memorial. See also: Kelly’s TED Talk.

Half a Million Join Impeachment Petition

Eleven days after the inauguration of President Trump, more than half a million people have joined the campaign and petition at ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org, calling on the U.S. Congress to initiate an impeachment investigation into President Trump’s violations of the U.S. Constitution — citing the Foreign Emoluments Clause and Domestic Emoluments Clause, as well as violations of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act).

RON FEIN, Press [at] FreeSpeechForPeople.org, @Ronfein
Fein is legal director of Free Speech for People. He said today: “On inauguration day, we issued the call for Congress to investigate whether President Trump should be impeached for violating the Constitution by holding onto his business interests. In just eleven days, over half a million people joined the campaign, and the movement grows with every new revelation. Donald Trump is profiting from the presidency at public expense, and people are suffering as a result.”

JOHN BONIFAZ, Press [at] FreeSpeechForPeople.org, @JohnBonifaz
Bonifaz is co-founder and president of Free Speech For People. He said: “The American people are rising. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country are now standing up to demand that Congress initiate an impeachment investigation against President Trump. Every day, the President is defying the rule of law and the Constitution. In the defense of our democracy, we must start the impeachment process now.

“President Trump’s personal and business holdings in the United States and abroad present unprecedented conflicts of interest and place him in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause provides: ‘[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.’ The purpose of this provision is to prevent foreign influence or corruption. “Emoluments” from foreign governments include ‘any conferral of a benefit or advantage, whether through money, objects, titles, offices, or economically valuable waivers or relaxations of otherwise applicable requirements,’ even including ‘ordinary, fair market value transactions that result in any economic profit or benefit to the federal officeholder.’

“Furthermore, the Constitution’s Domestic Emoluments Clause provides: ‘The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.’ This provision, which is not waivable by Congress, is also designed to prevent corruption.

“There is sufficient basis to investigate other potentially impeachable violations as well. For example, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act of 2012 (STOCK Act) is one of the few federal ethics statutes that specifically includes the President. Among other provisions, it prohibits the President from (1) using nonpublic information for private profit, and from (2) intentionally influencing an employment decision or practice of a private entity solely on the basis of partisan political affiliation.”

Yemen Starvation — From Air War Worse Than Aleppo

@GarethPorter notes on Twitter: US is complicit in horrifying starvation from an air war much worse than Aleppo. But still no media outrage.

GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50 [at] gmail.com, @GarethPorter
Porter is an investigative journalist and author of Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

He said today: “The U.S. media covered the Russian-Syrian airstrikes in Aleppo as worse than any air campaign in an urban area in modern post-World War II history, highlighting the suffering of civilians and especially of children  Now it has been revealed that millions of Yemenis are suffering starvation, because of the almost complete disruption of Yemeni society from Saudi-led coalition airstrikes. Children are suffering the most horrible starvation.

“The United States is complicit in this crime, because it has refused to end its refueling of Saudi-coalition planes and continued supply of bombs. Yet the U.S. media have not yet gone beyond a carefully-worded description of the food crisis and starvation conditions in Yemen and reference to the war. This represents the ultimate moral failure and hypocrisy of the corporate news media.”

Sessions Questions Yates on Executing Unlawful Actions

Jeff SessionsCNN reports: “Video of Sally Yates‘ Deputy Attorney General confirmation hearing in 2015 shows Sen. Jeff Sessions — Trump’s pick for the country’s top legal position — grilling her about her responsibility to the then-President, Barack Obama, should he require her to execute ‘unlawful’ views.

‘You have to watch out because people will be asking you to do things and you need to say no. You think the Attorney General has the responsibility to say no to the President if he asks for something that’s improper?’ the Alabama senator asks her… ‘If the views the President wants to execute are unlawful, should the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General say no?'”

SUE UDRY, [in D.C]  sue.udry [at] defendingdissent.org, @defenddissent
Udry is executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee/Defending Dissent Foundation.

Udry said today: “When Trump issued an executive order that is clearly designed to stoke fear and hatred toward Muslims under the guise of “national security,” tens of thousands of people expressed their outrage at airports and in the streets. Unsurprisingly, when a voice of protest came from inside the Department of Justice, Trump immediately moved to purge that voice. Sally Yates was confirmed to her post as Deputy Attorney General in 2015 only after she had affirmed to the Senate Judiciary Committee that she would act independently from the President and vowed to uphold the Constitution. That same committee will vote today on Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions, whose fingerprints are all over this executive order. They should remember that they too swore to uphold the Constitution when they took office and vote no.”

Trump Targets Sanctuary Cities — Public Banks a Solution?

Sanctuary CitiesThe Los Angeles Times reports: “President Trump is preparing to take executive action that would target funding for so-called sanctuary cities, part of a series of moves he is considering announcing this week on immigration and national security. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a close ally of the new administration, telegraphed the sanctuary cities announcement during a speech Wednesday to the conservative Heritage Foundation. He called it a ‘common sense’ action that would ‘drive the left crazy.'”

MATT STANNARD, matt [at] commonomicsusa.org
Policy Director for Commonomics USA and lead researcher for the organization’s Public Banking Works project, Stannard is co-author, with Marc Armstrong, of “Public Banks Can Help Cities Honor Their Commitment to Give Sanctuary to Immigrants.”

Stannard and Armstrong said today: “Cities, counties, and states can build a firewall against the incoming administration’s threats, and create long-term fiscal stability in the chaotic years ahead, by opening public banks. By lending at low interest and paying that interest directly back to treasuries, public banks provide governments with both a source of financing and a regular source of revenue. A city-owned public bank could turn a profit for the city in its first year by using the bank to fund its infrastructure with public credit. Not only would the city avoid the costs of the municipal bond market and the risks of Wall Street losing its savings in a bad debt swap or other chicanery, but investment could target the services, economic sectors, or infrastructure upgrades the city needs most.

Even if public banks didn’t offset losses of federal funding dollar-for-dollar, they would help sanctuary cities build additional value-generating and budget-saving projects resulting in long-term immunity from federal fiscal blackmail.”

Trump Blocking Refuge for People from Countries U.S. is Bombing

angry trump

Analyst Mikey Kay notes on Twitter:

25 Jan: Trump to block Visas to anyone from:
1. Iraq
2. Libya
3. Somalia
4. Syria
5. Yemen
6. Iran
7. Sudan
U.S. currently bombing top 5 states.

ARUN KUNDNANI, arun[at]kundnani.org, @ArunKundnani
Kundnani is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror and a lecturer at New York University.

He said today: “The United States has exported violence to the Middle East for decades and yet refuses to offer sanctuary to those forced to flee the consequences of that violence. A greater hypocrisy is hard to imagine.”

Kundnani recently wrote “Recharging the Batteries of Whiteness: Trump’s New Racial Identity Politics.”

IMAM ABDUL MALIK MUJAHID, via Gregg Cockrell, greggcockrell[at]yahoo.com
Imam Mujahid is the President of Sound Vision Foundation. He is speaking with Imams all over the country today. He said this morning: “President Donald Trump’s order banning most refugees unfairly singles out Muslims.”

Regarding the reported exception for minorities who are in danger of religious persecution, he said: “We are pleased that persecuted minorities are welcomed. However, discriminating against Muslims who are victims of the war-terror cycle is un-American.

“I wonder how many Anne Franks will be denied entry into the U.S. because of the exclusion of Muslims. It reminds me of 1939, when the United States turned away hundreds of Jews who came here seeking shelter on the ship the MM St. Louis. That refusal led to the deaths of 254 people by the Nazis, (with) nearly a third of the passengers sent back to Europe.

“Everyone entering the U.S. must be equally scrutinized by law enforcement.”

Pence Assembling “Dream Team of Christian Right”

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FREDERICK CLARKSON, frederick.clarkson[at]gmail.com
Clarkson is Senior Fellow for Religious Liberty at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank in Somerville, MA. He is the author of the report, When Exemption is the Rule: The Religious Freedom Strategy of the Christian Right, and most recentlythe article, A Dystrumpian Vision for LGBTQ People, which will appear in the Winter issue of The Public Eye magazine.

He said today, “While Donald Trump has been making news with his gaffes and tweets, Mike Pence has been quietly assembling a dream team of Christian Right figures for senior administration posts. He is doing exactly what he was expected to do as head of the presidential transition team.

“The Christian Right is now not only one of the most powerful political movements in the country, but a leading force in the federal government as well.

“Pence has placed his religious identity front and center of his politics and in his approach to government. He has often declared that he is ‘a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.’ In the 1990s he served as a board member of the Indiana Family Institute, a political affiliate of Focus on the Family, founded by Christian Right leader James Dobson.The way that this has translated into public policy, both when he served as governor and in his new role with the Trump campaign and administration in formation, can be seen in his highlighting the three main contemporary themes of the Christian Right, ‘life, marriage, and religious freedom.’

“Donald Trump, via his son Donald Jr., reportedly called an aide to his first choice for veep, Governor John Kasich of Ohio, and told him that a president Trump would put Kasich in charge of both foreign and domestic policy, while the president himself would be in charge of ‘making America great again.’ Pence hasn’t said whether he got the same deal, but his role as chair of the transition team suggests that he is already among the most powerful vice presidents in American history.”

Trump Withdrawing From TPP: What’s Next?

CNN reports: “President Donald Trump on Monday will start to unravel the behemoth trade deal he inherited from his predecessor, as he signed an executive action to withdraw from the negotiating process of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“That executive action sends signals to Democrats and leaders in foreign capitals around the world that Trump’s rhetoric on trade during the campaign is turning into action. Trump vowed during the campaign to withdraw the US from the Pacific trade deal, commonly known as TPP, which he argued was harmful to American workers and manufacturing.”

LORI WALLACH, via Matt Groch, mgroch [at] citizen.org
Wallach is director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

She said today: “Formally withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will bury the moldering corpse of a deal that couldn’t gain majority support in Congress, but the question is going forward will President Trump’s new trade policies create American jobs and reduce our damaging trade deficit while raising wages and protecting the environment and public health not just here but also in trade partner nations?

“If President Trump intends to replace our failed trade policy, a first step must be to end negotiations now underway for more deals based on the damaging NAFTA/TPP model so its notable that today’s announcement did not end talks to establish the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the Trade in Services Agreement and the U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty – all of which would replicate and expand the TPP/NAFTA model Trump says he is ending.

 “President Trump also repeatedly has said he would launch NAFTA renegotiations immediately and withdraw from NAFTA if he cannot make it ‘a lot better’ for working people. NAFTA renegotiation could be an opportunity to create a new trade model that benefits more people, but if done wrong, it could increase job offshoring, push down wages and expand the protections that NAFTA provides to the corporate interests that shaped the original deal. Even with the Fast Track authority Trump inherits, to pass a NAFTA replacement he must ensure its terms enjoy support from most congressional Democrats and a subset of Republicans. Most congressional Republicans and many people Trump has named to senior positions passionately support the very agreements Trump opposes. Most congressional Democrats have opposed deals like TPP and NAFTA and for decades promoted alternatives that expand trade without undermining American jobs and wages, access to affordable medicine, food safety or environmental protections.

“NAFTA is packed with incentives for job offshoring and protections for the corporate interests that helped to shape it, so to make NAFTA better for people and the planet will require it to be replaced, not tweaked. To remedy —  not worsen — NAFTA’s damage, both the old negotiating process and the contents must be replaced. To put the needs of working people, their communities, the environment and public health over the demands of the special interests that have dominated U.S. trade policymaking, the 500 official U.S. trade advisers representing corporate interests who called the shots on past agreements must be benched.

“If corporate elites are allowed to dictate how NAFTA is renegotiated, the deal could become even more damaging to working people and the environment in the three countries. Absent high labor and environmental standards, requirements for more North American content in products could increase U.S. job offshoring. The corporate interests that have rigged past trade deals say NAFTA renegotiation is how they will revive the special protections they achieved in the TPP, for instance limits on competition from generic drugs so pharmaceutical firms can keep medicine prices high.”  (See Citizens Trade Campaign’s Jan. 13 letter to Trump and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s Jan. 3 letter to Trump on what must be in a NAFTA replacement for it to provide broad benefits.)

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