Posted on February 15, 2019 in Countdown

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State of Emergency

Today, President Trump declared a state of national emergency along the U.S. border with Mexico. He did so pursuant to the National Emergencies Act, which delegates to the executive broad unitary power that would otherwise rest in both Congress and the Executive. There’s just one major problem: there is no emergency, and Trump knows it. Otherwise, why would he go to his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, just hours after declaring one? Never mind the fact that illegal entry into the U.S. is actually declining. Repeat: No emergency, therefore, even for Trump, this is an extraordinary abuse of power designed to sidestep Congress on a policy issue. The dangerous declaration will inspire a round of litigation that will likely mirror that of the Muslim Ban: the president will lose early, but will depend on the Supreme Court, which includes two of his own appointees, to validate his unconstitutional temper tantrum. While national emergencies have been declared previously, this is the only one that explicitly seeks to circumvent the legislative process. The real emergency is the state of the American democracy.

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Anti-Semites call for non-anti-Semite to step down over non-anti-Semitism

Did you hear about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s shocking tweet? You may want to sit down first. Ok, ready? Get this: She implied that the pro-Israel lobby in the form of AIPAC, like every other special interest group operating successfully in our political system, uses… (wait for it…) money to influence politics (GASP!).  Oh, you can’t spot the controversy either? No kidding. Apparently, we’re supposed to pretend members of Congress haven’t been saying this for years, or that AIPAC staffers haven’t openly bragged about their influence in Congress, or that the New York Times’ leading Columnist, Tom Friedman, didn’t once say that the Israel lobby “bought and paid for” a standing ovation for Benjamin Netanyahu in Congress, and with no backlash. But if you’re wondering why the hysterical backlash to Congresswoman Omar, it’s really just an effort to smear, bully, and silence a Black, Muslim, Arab American, woman, refugee member of Congress who is part of a new progressive wave of members demanding accountability and transparency in government, including our Israel policy.  Still, the wording of the tweet in question was not the congresswoman’s finest moment and she apologized for it. But you know what’s cute? Donald Trump said her apology wasn’t good enough and demanded her resignation. You know why that’s cute? Because Donald Trump once engaged in that ACTUAL anti-Semitic trope, telling the Republican Jewish Coalition: “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money… you don’t want to give me money, but that’s ok, you want to control your own politicians.” We wonder when the apology for that will come, and how good it will be for those howling for the congresswoman’s punishment.

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The Show Must Go On

Oversight hearings were once a staid affair. But when you combine a provocative White House and a reactive Congress, “bring your popcorn.” In the first of what we can expect to be many acrimonious testimonies of Trump cabinet officials during the 116th Congress, last week the Acting Attorney General (italics added for emphasis) laid waste to the decorum once afforded a body so esteemed as the House Judiciary Committee. The subject was oversight of the Department of Justice, which many of those involved, including some committee members, seemed to overlook. Instead, the audience was dealt an apparent audition for a B-rated mafia flick from the Acting AG. In turn, multiple committee members, struck incredulous with such impudent behavior from the nation’s top law enforcement officer, blinked. If you missed the pilot episode, don’t worry, you can watch a recap on Saturday Night Live, or you can tune in for a second take: even though the Acting AG is now out of a job at Justice, he might get a callback from the committee.

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Fool me thrice…

Everything you need to know about our current Venezuela policy can be understood by looking at who Trump has put in charge to lead it. Elliot “lying to Congress and denying mass killings” Abrams is a well-known actor  for those who worry about the U.S.’s role in destabilizing Central America over the last few decades. After pleading guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress in relation to his significant involvement in the Iran-Contra affair, Abrams was pardoned by President George Bush. Given Abrams track record, not only should he not be leading U.S. policy anywhere, but we should be very worried about what appointing him means for the Trump Administration’s possible objectives for Venezuela policy.  

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Remembering the Honorable John Dingell, “Dean” of the House

We are deeply saddened with the passing of Congressman John Dingell, the longest-serving member in the history of the House of Representatives. A tireless advocate for his constituents, Congressman John Dingell was unwavering on key issues, which earned him much admiration from the Arab Americans he represented in his district and nationally. In the face of anti-Arab bigotry targeting his Dearborn community, the highest concentration of Arab Americans in the country, Mr. Dingell was relentless in defending our rights—even from colleagues when it was necessary. In light of the current issues facing our country, his legacy is all the more striking, including his support for major reforms to the electoral process, immigration, and healthcare. Congressman Dingell spoke out for core American values until his final momentsHe will be fondly remembered and sorely missed.

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You can’t make this up

Here’s a tricky one: What do university-age BDS supporters, the #MeToo movement, a hospital recall race in tiny Tulare, CA and the 2016 presidential election have in common? All have been attacked via dark-web intelligence gathering and public-facing smear tactics of private intelligence firms staffed by former Israeli intelligence offers. A stunning piece in the New Yorker this week details the emergence, evolution, and spread of Israeli private intelligence firms’ operations in the United States. Using the disturbing promotional language, “reality is a matter of perception,” these groups not only do so-called “oppositional research,” but they, in fact, fabricate personas, organizations, causes, websites, and entire campaigns to meet their clients’ needs. They work to change public perception through deliberate deception, staging incidents, creating endless avatars and ‘online presences’ to spread falsifying ‘evidence’ in the only court people seem to care about these days: public opinion. This report is deeply disturbing, and though ongoing investigations being conducted by former FBI Director Robert Mueller have stymied (for now) at least one of the companies, the article closes with the grave warning: what we’ve seen so far is only “the tip of the iceberg.”

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