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From Tweets to Scientific Papers, Federal Agencies Under Trump Ban Public Release of Information

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EPA Also Freezes Federal Grants

Employees at several federal agencies are being told they are no longer allowed to post public information to the public. Bans on communications outside their departments are being instituted at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and even the the National Park Service are being reported.

“The US Department of Agriculture has banned scientists and other employees in its main research division from publicly sharing everything from the summaries of scientific papers to USDA-branded tweets as it starts to adjust to life under the Trump administration,” BuzzFeed News reports. 

In a department-wide email Sharon Drumm, chief of staff for the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) told employees “news releases, photos, fact sheets, news feeds, and social media content,” is banned from being released to the public.

It is unclear if Drumm would require a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request to obtain the simplest of information going forward, or even if that would be honored.

The USDA is far from alone.

“Multiple federal agencies have told their employees to cease communications with members of Congress and the press,” The Huffington Post reports. “Officials at sub-agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services, for example, have been told not to send ‘any correspondence to public officials’ according to a memo shared with HuffPost.”

It’s unclear if these information bans are coming from the White House, or are in response to a White House attack on the National Park Service, which was berated by the Trump administration after it retweeted an image comparing the crowd sizes of Donald Trump’s inauguration to that of President Barack Obama’s.

The Huffington Post notes that “there also appears to be a lockdown on external communication at the Environmental Protection Agency. As HuffPost reported Monday, a memo went out within the agency following a briefing for communication directors.”

The memo said there would be no press releases, social media posts or blog messages until further notice. It also asked for a list of external speaking engagements for staff and any planned webinars. It warned that listservs would be reviewed and that staff should “only send out critical messages, as messages can be shared broadly and end up in the press.”

The EPA has also frozen its grants, sources told HuffPost on Monday. ProPublica later confirmed that freeze, as well as a stop on federal contracts, in an interview with transition sources.

According to CNN, this was the tweet the NPS retweeted, which drew that anger of the White House:

That retweet has since been deleted. This was posted next:

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer Tuesday at 1:52 PM EST was asked about the “gag” during the press briefing and responded he had no information to share but would look into it:

 

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BREAKING NEWS

‘No Basis’: Federal Judge Denies Lindsey Graham’s ‘Unpersuasive’ Attempt to Evade Grand Jury Subpoena

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For the second time this week a federal judge has denied U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham‘s attempt to evade a grand jury subpoena requiring him to testify in the investigation of Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, calling his legal argument “unpersuasive.”

U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May Friday afternoon responded to Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis’ request to order the GOP Senator from South Carolina to appear before the Special Purpose Grand Jury (SPGJ).

“Senator Graham’s arguments are entirely unpersuasive,” Judge May writes, as Politico’s Kyle Cheney notes, “and they do not even demonstrate a ‘substantial case on the merits.’ As an initial matter, Senator Graham takes issue with the Court’s recognition that his sole request-to quash the subpoena in its entirety–was built largely (if not entirely) on the premise that Senator Graham will only be questioned about the phone calls, which Senator Graham characterizes as legitimate legislative factfinding exercises and thus completely protected by the Speech or Debate Clause.”

READ MORE: ‘Direct Personal Knowledge’: Federal Judge Denies Lindsey Graham’s Request to Quash Subpoena Ordering Him to Testify

“Instead, Senator Graham maintains that he believes that the ‘other topics’ will simply be used as a ‘backdoor’ for questioning him about the phone calls,” the judge adds. “The problem for Senator Graham is that the record thoroughly contradicts his suggestion that the District Attorney and grand jury simply wish to use questions on other topics as a ‘backdoor’ to asking him about the legislative fact- finding on the phone calls.”

Judge May found Sen. Graham had “no basis” to claim he should not be ordered to testify, and ordered him to testify on August 23.

“The Court finds no basis for concluding that its holdings as to these issues are likely to be reversed on the merits,” Judge May wrote. “Holding otherwise would allow any sitting senator to shield all manner of potential criminal conduct occurring during a phone call merely by asserting the purpose of the call was legislative fact-finding-no matter whether the call subsequently took a different turn.”

Graham still has other avenues to use to try to evade the lawful subpoena.

READ MORE: ‘Should Expect to Be Indicted’: Giuliani Now Target of Georgia DA Investigation Into Efforts to Overturn Election – Report

As Politico’s Kyle Cheney, who broke this development notes, “the question of a stay rests with the appeals court, which received Graham’s case yesterday.”

Judge May appears to strongly agree with DA Willis’ assessment. The judge writes, “the public interest is well-served when a lawful investigation aimed at uncovering the facts and circumstances of alleged attempts to disrupt or influence Georgia’s elections is allowed to proceed without unnecessary encumbrances.”

In her motion Friday morning Willis wrote, “Senator Graham insists that he seeks to delay his appearance before the Special Purpose Grand Jury not just for his own sake, but also for the sake of the separation of powers, federalism, and ‘for the People.’”

“The Special Purpose Grand Jury, however, is the People,” Willis eloquently explained, “a collection of citizens called together to perform their civic duty on behalf of their neighbors and families. They have sacrificed their time, effort, energy, and attention for months in order to investigate matters that affect themselves, their community, and the nation as a whole. The District Attorney asks that this Court deny Senator Graham’s motion in order that he, for a single day, can assist them in that great task without further delay. The People have requested Senator Graham’s testimony and stand ready to receive it. All that is left is for the Senator to meet them.”

This is a breaking news and developing story. 

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COMMENTARY

FDR, JFK, and LBJ: White House (Finally) Takes (Cautious) Victory Lap on Biden’s (Huge) Successes

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The White House is coming off a year of approval rating declines, thanks in large part to Republican obstruction and attacks, but President Joe Biden, Democrats, and the nation now have a lot to celebrate.

“We now have a presidency where the president has delivered the largest economic recovery plan since Roosevelt, the largest infrastructure plan since Eisenhower, the most judges confirmed since Kennedy, the second largest health care bill since Johnson and the largest climate change bill in history,” White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, not known for bragging, told Politico’s Ryan Lizza. “The first time we’ve done gun control since President Clinton was here, the first time ever an African American woman has been put on the U.S. Supreme Court.”

“I think it’s a record to take to the American people,” Klain added.

Lizza and Eugene Daniels of Politico’s Playbook note, “At the start of the summer, this conversation would have been vastly different. Now, gas prices have dropped, and the last CPI report hints that inflation may finally be trending down after hitting a peak. Election forecasters are writing pieces at least entertaining the idea that Democrats might not suffer the long-predicted midterm wipeout. And there’s that burst of legislative victories that were squeezed out of Congress in July and August that had Biden, a lover of alliteration, calling this period ‘a season of substance.’”

The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly observes, “Klain’s references to historical figures chimes with Biden’s own interests. The president has regularly consulted historians, among them Doris Kearns Goodwin, Michael Beschloss and Eddie Glaude Jr, while Jon Meacham, a biographer of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson and George HW Bush, has been a close adviser in shaping Biden’s effort to restore ‘the soul of the nation’ after the presidency of Donald Trump.”

Pengelly adds: “Democrats control Congress by narrow margins. Opposition parties commonly do well in the first elections of a presidential term, and Republicans remain favoured to take control of one or both chambers. But legislative successes, most recently the passage of a major domestic and climate crisis spending plan, the Inflation Reduction Act, have given Democrats hope.”

With just 80 days to Election Day – less, if you include early voting – FiveThirtyEight put the likelihood of Democrats retaining their Senate majority at 63 in 100 chances, but give Republicans 78 in 100 chances of taking over the House.

You can hear Chief of Staff Ron Klain on Politico’s podcast here.

 

Image: Official White House Photo by Erin Scott via Flickr and a CC license

 

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News

Trump Is Privately Admitting Dr. Oz Will ‘F–king Lose’: Report

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Donald Trump has a long list more than 200 hand-picked candidates he’s endorsed, and he’s very proud of his record – for the most part.

Dr. Oz is going to “fucking lose” his race for a U.S. Senate seat “unless something drastically changes, Trump has said privately of his chosen man in the Keystone State, according to two sources who’ve discussed the midterm election with the ex-president,” Rolling Stone reports.

The magazine adds, “the former president is coming to the same conclusion that numerous party consultants and conservative bigwigs arrived at earlier this summer: Oz is very likely doomed.”

Trump seems to be taking this projected loss personally, given the Pennsylvania GOP nominee, like himself, has wide name-recognition thanks to his TV show.

READ MORE: Dr. Oz Trounced in Newsmax Interview as Host Demands Explanation for ‘Wegner’s’ and ‘Crudité’ Ad

“In recent weeks, some Trump allies have repeatedly flagged polling for the former president showing Dr. Oz down, at times by wide or double-digit margins, to his Democratic opponent. Trump has sometimes responded by asking advisers how it’s possible that someone who was that popular on TV for so long is doing so poorly in the polls. When Trump has inquired if the polling has been ‘phony’ or skewed, multiple people close to him have assured him that — as one of the sources describes to Rolling Stone — ‘this is not a matter of the polls being ‘rigged,’ there are major problems with this campaign and, more specifically, this candidate.'”

Indeed, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who suffered a stroke just days before winning the Democratic primary for that Senate seat, is beating Oz in polls by double digits. One recent GOP insider poll showed Fetterman beating Oz by 18 points. The latest Fox News poll shows Fetterman beating Oz by 11 points.

The Fetterman team is displaying massive political savvy with its mocking memes of the celebrity TV doctor, mostly around his “crudité” video from April. They’ve resurfaced it, making a mockery of the man they already claim doesn’t actually live in Pennsylvania, but is a carpetbagger from New Jersey.

READ MORE: ‘Grifter’ Dr. Oz Mocked for Video Blaming Biden for $6 Salsa as New Disclosure Puts His Wealth at Up to $400 Million

Oz calling Redner’s, a local grocery store chain, “Wegner’s” in the video while complaining about the high cost of vegetables to make “crudité” has not helped the celebrity physician known for selling “diet scams” and “false and baseless medical claims,” and the Fetterman team has milked it for all it’s worth – even creating a parody account for the non-existent supermarket.

37% of respondents in that Fox News poll added they are “extremely” concerned that Mehmet Oz (Dr. Oz) “may not be familiar enough with the state of Pennsylvania to carry out the job of senator effectively.” Just 13% of respondents said they were “extremely” concerned that John Fetterman “may not be healthy enough to carry out the job of senator effectively.”

 

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