Posted on September 28, 2018 in Countdown

Click here to subscribe to Countdown, AAI's weekly take on news from Washington, around the country, and abroad.


Kavanaugh Hearing

If you’re like us, or our friends, or any of the people we follow on Twitter, you were glued to your TV for the past two days watching the Kavanaugh Hearings. After serious sexual assault allegations were brought against Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, pressure mounted on the Republicans to investigate those allegations before proceeding with his nomination. The result was inviting the accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, to testify about her allegations against Kavanaugh, and it was incredibly compelling and emotional testimony that gripped the nation. As the country watched, women called into C-SPAN, sharing their own sexual assault experiences. Kavanaugh’s testimony was even more dramatic, (arguably belligerent), but there was no sympathetic consensus on his performance. Following both testimonies, Republicans (who have a Senate majority) were poised to ram the nomination through amid Democratic protests demanding an FBI investigation. After two women directly confronted Republican Jeff Flake on an elevator following his announced intent to vote Kavanaugh out of committee, Senator Flake seems to have worked out a compromise with a one-week delay on the floor vote to allow for the FBI to conduct a limited inquiry. However, it’s not up to Flake or any of the Democrats he made a verbal agreement with, the vote is now in the hands of Mitch McConnell. We, like you, are waiting to see if this FBI investigation materializes.


Our America: Harness Power, Change Policy

Rooms were packed in Dearborn, MI and Atlanta, GA this past weekend as advocates gathered to learn, share, and strategize at our 2018 National Leadership Summit, “Our America: Harness Power, Change Policy.” This election year convening took its cues from the Advocacy Road Map: A Local Action Toolkit, focusing in Dearborn on surveillance and bigotry targeting immigrants & refugees, and in Atlanta on hate crime, free speech, and democracy, including voting rights, gerrymandering and the 2020 census. Attendees in Detroit and Atlanta respectively learned about surveillance and free speech from the ACLU’s Hina Shamsi and Faiz Shakir, and in Atlanta they heard from civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis about the importance of engaging with officials to make a difference, and worked together to build power to resolve community-specific issues like 287(g) agreements between ICE & local law enforcement. With 2020 in mind, a policy platform and collective action plan began to emerge, giving those in the room a shared understanding and mission moving forward. Folks left the meetings armed with knowledge (and full bellies--Knafeh & BBQ are always good choices), and ready to act. Stay tuned for our action plan announcement, and in the meantime you can commit to joining our efforts here.


We Must Improve Hate Crime Data Reporting and Collection

We all know that our national hate crime data are neither accurate nor representative—in other words, bad. Some folks attribute the issue of bad data to underreporting on the part of victims to law enforcement. But that is only part of the story. Another significant cause of bad hate crime data is the failure of law enforcement to respond to hate crimes, to report hate crimes, collect hate crime data, and forward that data to the FBI. The result is a severe undercount in our federal statistics: when comparing the FBI’s annual hate crime report to a national survey conducted by the Department of Justice, federal statistics capture about one percent of violent hate crimes that likely occur in the United States each year. This discrepancy alone is staggering, but when we put a face to that 99 percent or unreported hate crimes, it is shattering. As an op-ed published in the Washington Post this week from our Executive Director highlighted, the 2017 killing of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, was not reported as a hate crime in the state’s annual crime statistics, all but guaranteeing the incident will not be reflected in the FBI’s report. As our recently published hate crime report found, the 2016 murder of Khalid Jabara was also not reported in hate crime statistics. Omissions like these are inexcusable. But solutions do exist. Read our op-ed.


Does Anyone Tell the Truth Around Here?

Remember a few long months ago when Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said the Trump Administration did not create a policy of separating families at the border? Well, a memo and other communications recently obtained from the federal government suggest Nielsen’s claims were dishonest. Our friends at Open the Government and Project on Government Oversight shared the obtained materials with the Intercept. As the Intercept reported this week, the materials indicate that Secretary Nielsen decided between three proposed options to carry out Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ “zero tolerance” immigration policy. Secretary Nielsen signed off on “Option 3,” the most severe, which would “pursue prosecution of all amenable adults who cross [the] border illegally, including those presenting with a family unit.” As made evident throughout the memo, those involved in the deliberations understood the consequences of such an approach, i.e. family separation.  Since we are Countdown and we tell the truth, this evidence suggests Secretary Nielsen did not tell the truth. Ok, it appears she lied.


Kookiness at the UNGA

The UN General Assembly should, in theory, be our planet’s most consequential gathering of leaders. In practice, however, it’s been little more than a platform of grandstanding and, by extension, a source of great entertainment. The most amusing moment came when Donald Trump took center stage to brag about his own greatness, causing laughter to break out in the world body, which is incredibly ironic for a man who once specifically said that what America needs was a “a President who isn't a laughing stock to the entire World.” Israel’s Netanyahu tried to give Trump a run for his money, but he showed up to the podium with the same old props & Iran-focused war-mongering, which is less funny the 10th time around. Oh, as for the substance of the fear-mongering, US intelligence officials described Netanyahu's claims about the supposedly newly discovered nuclear facilities as "misleading," noting the warehouse Bibi alluded to was "full of file cabinets and paper, not aluminum tubes for centrifuges." Oops! But it’s a post-truth world, so no one cares.