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Trump EPA Official Blocked Warning About Carcinogenic Pollution In Illinois: IG Report

Trump EPA Official Blocked Warning About Carcinogenic Pollution In Illinois: IG Report
Trump EPA Official Blocked Warning About Carcinogenic Pollution In Illinois: IG Report

A former top Environmental Protection Agency official appointed by former President Donald Trump withheld warnings to an Illinois community about a toxic gas linked to several cancers that was being emitted by local plants, the EPA’s Office of Inspector General revealed in a news report.

Bill Wehrum was the assistant administrator of the EPA’s Office for Air and Radiation in 2018 when EPA officials in Illinois became concerned about elevated levels of ethylene oxide at the Sterigenics sterilizing plant in Willowbrook.

The federal government has linked the gas to lymphoma, leukemia, and stomach and breast cancers. The local administrator “wanted to immediately release” air monitoring results to the public by posting them on the agency’s website to “avoid another public health emergency like the Flint, Michigan, drinking water crisis,” according to the IG report, which was released Thursday.

But Wehrum, who had been an attorney for gas, oil and coal companies, ordered officials to “not release monitoring results to the public,” said the investigative report, which was requested by Congress.

When one local EPA official apparently ignored Wehrum’s directive and posted the air quality results online, the website was shut down by another official apparently loyal to Wehrum.

“The fact that senior Trump administration EPA officials impeded the release of information to communities regarding the health risks of ethylene oxide exposure is about as contradictory to the agency’s mission of protecting the public as you can get,” Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who chairs the Senate committee overseeing the EPA, said in a statement.

Wehrum could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Wehrum resigned in 2019 amid an ethics investigation. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce had launched a probe just two months earlier into allegations that he and a top deputy used their EPA posts to aid utilities they had previously represented at a law firm.

While at EPA, Wehrum met with a former client, the Utility Air Regulatory Group, an umbrella organization funded by several companies that opposed stricter limits on pollution from coal-fired plants, investigators found.

He also worked on an EPA directive that direct affected DTE Energy, a top utility company his former firm had represented in a case against the agency, according to The Washington Post

Sterigenics shut down in 2019.

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Biden Urges G-7 Leaders To Call Out, Compete With China

Biden Urges G-7 Leaders To Call Out, Compete With China
Biden Urges G-7 Leaders To Call Out, Compete With China

CARBIS BAY, England (AP) — Leaders of the world’s largest economies unveiled an infrastructure plan Saturday for the developing world to compete with China’s global initiatives, but they were searching for a consensus on how to forcefully to call out Beijing over human rights abuses.

Citing China for its forced labor practices is part of President Joe Biden’s campaign to persuade fellow democratic leaders to present a more unified front to compete economically with Beijing. But while they agreed to work toward competing against China, there was less unity on how adversarial a public position the group should take.

Canada, the United Kingdom and France largely endorsed Biden’s position, while Germany, Italy and the European Union showed more hesitancy during Saturday’s first session of the Group of Seven summit, according to two senior Biden administration officials. The officials who briefed reporters were not authorized to publicly discuss the private meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The communique that summarizes the meeting’s commitments was being written and the contents would not be clear until it was released when the summit ended Sunday. White House officials said late Saturday that they believed that China, in some form, could be called out for “nonmarket policies and human rights abuses.”

In his first summit as president, Biden made a point of carving out one-on-one-time with the leaders, bouncing from French president Emmanuel Macron to German chancellor Angela Merkel to Italian prime minister Mario Draghi, a day after meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as if to personally try to ward off memories of the chaos that his predecessor would often bring to these gatherings.

Macron told Biden that collaboration was needed on a range of issues and told the American president that “it’s great to have a U.S. president part of the club and very willing to cooperate.” Relations between the allies had become strained during the four years of Donald Trump’s presidency and his “America first” foreign policy.

Merkel, for her part, downplayed differences on China and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline which would transport natural gas from Russia to Germany, bypassing Ukraine.

“The atmosphere is very cooperative, it is characterized by mutual interest,” Merkel said. “There are very good, constructive and very vivid discussions in the sense that one wants to work together.”

White House officials have said Biden wants the leaders of the G-7 nations — the U.S., Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Italy — to speak in a single voice against forced labor practices targeting China’s Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities. Biden hopes the denunciation will be part of a joint statement to be released Sunday when the summit ends, but some European allies are reluctant to split so forcefully with Beijing.

China had become one of the more compelling sublots of the wealthy nations’ summit, their first since 2019. Last year’s gathering was canceled because of COVID-19, and recovery from the pandemic is dominating this year’s discussions, with leaders expected to commit to sharing at least 1 billion vaccine shots with struggling countries.

The allies also took the first steps in presenting an infrastructure proposal called “Build Back Better for the World,” a name echoing Biden’s campaign slogan. The plan calls for spending hundreds of billions of dollars in collaboration with the private sector while adhering to climate standards and labor practices.

It’s designed to compete with China’s trillion-dollar “Belt and Road Initiative,” which has launched a network of projects and maritime lanes that snake around large portions of the world, primarily Asia and Africa. Critics say China’s projects often create massive debt and expose nations to undue influence by Beijing.

Britain also wants the world’s democracies to become less reliant on the Asian economic giant. The U.K. government said Saturday’s discussions would tackle “how we can shape the global system to deliver for our people in support of our values,” including by diversifying supply chains that currently heavily depend on China.

Not every European power has viewed China in as harsh a light as Biden, who has painted the rivalry with China as the defining competition for the 21st century. But there are some signs that Europe is willing to impose greater scrutiny.

Before Biden took office in January, the European Commission announced it had come to terms with Beijing on a deal meant to provide Europe and China with greater access to each other’s markets. The Biden administration had hoped to have consultations on the pact.

But the deal has been put on hold, and the European Union in March announced sanctions targeting four Chinese officials involved with human rights abuses in Xinjiang. Beijing responded with penalties on several members of the European Parliament and other Europeans critical of the Chinese Communist Party.

Biden administration officials see an opportunity to take concrete action to speak out against China’s reliance on forced labor as an “affront to human dignity.”

While calling out China in the G-7 communique would not create any immediate penalties for Beijing, one senior administration official said the action would send a message that the leaders were serious about defending human rights and working together to eradicate the use of forced labor.

An estimated 1 million people or more — most of them Uyghurs — have been confined in reeducation camps in China’s western Xinjiang region in recent years, according to researchers. Chinese authorities have been accused of imposing forced labor, systematic forced birth control, torture and separating children from incarcerated parents.

Beijing rejects allegations that it is committing crimes.

Johnson, the summit host, also welcomed the leaders from “guest nations” South Korea, Australia and South Africa, as well as the head of the United Nations, to the summit to “intensify cooperation between the world’s democratic and technologically advanced nations.”

The leaders planned to attend a barbecue Saturday night, complete with toasted marshmallows, hot buttered rum and a performance by a sea shanty troupe.

India was also invited but its delegation is not attending in person because of the severe coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Biden ends the trip Wednesday by meeting in Geneva with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. The White House announced Saturday that they will not hold a joint news conference afterward, which removes the opportunity for comparisons to the availability that followed Trump and Putin’s 2018 Helsinki summit, in which Trump sided with Moscow over his own intelligence agencies. Only Biden will address the news media after the meeting.

Putin, in an interview with NBC News, said the U.S.-Russia relationship had “deteriorated to its lowest point in recent years.”

He added that while Trump was a “talented” and “colorful” person, Biden was a “career man” in politics, which has “some advantages, some disadvantages, but there will not be any impulse-based movements” by the U.S. president.

Lemire reported from Plymouth, England. Associated Press writers Danica Kirka and Sylvia Hui in Falmouth, England, contributed to this report.

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Biden Shutters Trump-Era Office For Crimes Allegedly Committed By Immigrants

Biden Shutters Trump-Era Office For Crimes Allegedly Committed By Immigrants
Biden Shutters Trump-Era Office For Crimes Allegedly Committed By Immigrants

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The Biden administration said Friday it has dismantled a Trump-era government office to help victims of crimes committed by immigrants, a move that symbolizes President Joe Biden’s rejection of former President Donald Trump’s repeated efforts to link immigrants to crime.

Trump created the Victim Of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, known by its acronym VOICE, by executive order during his first week in office in January 2017.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it was replacing VOICE with a “more comprehensive and inclusive victim support system.”

VOICE will be replaced by The Victims Engagement and Services Line, which will combine longstanding existing services, such as methods for people to report abuse and mistreatment in immigration detention centers and a notification system for lawyers and others with a vested interest in immigration cases.

The new office will add a service for potential recipients of visas designated for victims of human trafficking or violent crimes in the United States.

“Providing assistance to society’s most vulnerable is a core American value. All people, regardless of their immigration status, should be able to access victim services without fear,” said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Stephen Miller, a key architect of Trump’s immigration policies, called the decision to close VOICE a “moral stain on the conscience of our nation.”

He likened the new office to the Drug Enforcement Administration opening “a call center to help drug dealers get lawyers and amnesty for their crimes.”

The Department of Homeland Security “is a law enforcement agency, not a legal help center for criminals and lawbreakers,” Miller said.

Jon Feere, an ICE official during the Trump administration, said he referred a man to VOICE whose sister was killed by an intoxicated driver and that the office helped families understand the status of immigration cases.

The change of tone regarding immigration has been striking between the two administrations.

While studies suggest immigrants are less likely to commit crime than native-born, Trump relentlessly sought to establish a link. He launched his 2016 presidential campaign by portraying Mexicans in the country illegally as violent criminals and frequently highlighted the MS-13 gang, which was started by Salvadoran immigrants.

To advance his immigration agenda, Trump invited “angel families” — people whose loved ones had been victims of crimes by immigrants — to campaign rallies and high-profile speeches.

Trump’s office for victims of violent crimes appears to have had little impact.

Its most recent quarterly report posted online for the last three months of 2018 said it fielded 781 calls during the three-month period — and that just 256 of the calls pertained to services it offered. About half were requests on the status of immigration cases, and many of the rest were referrals for assistance, such as social services to help cope with impacts of domestic violence or assault.

The office was used as a platform by the Trump administration to promote a link between immigrants and crime.

“I’ve had to hold the hand of too many mothers who lost a child to a DUI or somebody else who’s been raped by an illegal alien or someone with a nexus to immigration,” Barbara Gonzalez, the then-director of VOICE, told reporters in October 2019. “It is a problem we cannot ignore as a country.

In April, the Biden administration ordered U.S. officials to avoid using terms like “illegal alien” and instead use the phrase “undocumented noncitizen.”

Vice President Kamala Harris drew strong criticism from some of the administration’s pro-immigration allies for telling would-be migrants during a visit to Guatemala on Monday, “Do not come … Do not come,” and that they would be denied entry at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Associated Press writer Julie Watson contributed to this report.

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Progressives Ponder Their Least-Worst Option In NYC Mayoral Race

Progressives Ponder Their Least-Worst Option In NYC Mayoral Race
Progressives Ponder Their Least-Worst Option In NYC Mayoral Race

The New York City mayor’s race has been a nightmare for left-leaning voters. 

The campaigns of city Comptroller Scott Stringer and former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales ― respectively, the most seasoned and most ideologically pure progressive candidates ― have lost steam in varied but embarrassing ways, depriving the left of two its favored contenders.

Of course, no one can predict how ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to list their top five picks, will complicate the outcome. 

There’s still a chance that either former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia ― a moderate tolerated by the left ― or Maya Wiley, a former counselor to Mayor Bill de Blasio ― a progressive behind whom the left is coalescing at the last minute ― will prevail in the June 22 Democratic primary.

The most likely scenario, though, remains a showdown between the two moderate lightning rods who have dominated the polls for months ― former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. 

Officially, progressive organizations eager not to prematurely give up on a Wiley upset have written off side-by-side assessments of Adams and Yang as a false choice ― or worse, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Instead, groups like Our City PAC are instructing progressive voters to omit both men from their ranked-choice ballot.

Progressives are asking which brand of rope they want to be hanged with.
Sean McElwee, Data for Progress

“Neither Yang nor Adams should get any support from anyone who shares our values,” said Gabe Tobias, a former campaign staffer for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who is running Our City PAC. “Both of them present really clear dangers to what we want to achieve in the city.”

But given the criticism that Wiley elicited from civil rights advocates during her tenure atop the New York Police Department’s Civilian Complaint Review Board, even her victory would be bittersweet for progressive stalwarts and socialists. 

“The potential for real, transformational change is very limited, no matter who wins,” said Matt Thomas, a Sunnyside, Queens, resident active in the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.

Privately, many progressive New York City voters have accepted the likelihood that either Yang, a former test prep entrepreneur who has never voted in a city election, or Adams, a former NYPD captain who was a registered Republican in the late 1990s, is going to be the next mayor.

With no guidance from progressive institutions like the Working Families Party, these voters are now deliberating over whether Yang or Adams is less objectionable, and thus which one is the lesser evil to rank fourth or fifth on their ballots, rather than omit altogether.

“Progressives are asking which brand of rope they want to be hanged with,” said Sean McElwee, a Harlem resident and co-founder of the think tank Data for Progress, who has not decided whom he prefers between Yang and Adams.

Progressives are suspicious of Yang's ties to venture capitalist and political consultant Bradley Tusk.

Progressives are suspicious of Yang’s ties to venture capitalist and political consultant Bradley Tusk.

The Beast You Know Vs. A Fresh Start

Asked about what makes Yang more progressive than Adams, Yang’s campaign emphasized his plans to provide $2,000 in cash relief to the 500,000 poorest New Yorkers, create a “people’s bank” for unbanked New Yorkers, and decriminalize sex work. They also highlighted Yang’s support for a state-level, single-payer health care bill over which he would have no direct say as mayor. 

Sasha Ahuja, a social worker and former head of the city’s equal employment commission, told HuffPost that she took the job as co-manager of Yang’s campaign precisely because she was disappointed in de Blasio’s failure to live up to his progressive potential as mayor.

“In this moment, New York really needs a champion, really needs a big thinker who is going to move big ideas forward and is not going to say, ‘Oh, I can’t, because of such-and-such,’” Ahuja said.

Both Yang and Adams are cozy with real estate developers and have benefited from the support of super PACs funded by a handful of conservative-leaning, super-rich individuals eager to elect a business-friendly mayor. 

And both men are relatively supportive of traditional policing. They decry calls to reduce police funding, want more cops in subways stations, and want to reconstitute the NYPD’s controversial plainclothes anti-crime unit.

But there are subtle differences. While Adams declined to state how many affordable housing units a year he would commit to creating as mayor, Yang has promised to create 30,000 new units annually.

Eric’s not an unknown entity to us. He’s been a friend to working people.
Kyle Bragg, president, SEIU 32BJ

On the other hand, unlike Yang, Adams supports a modest, temporary increase in income taxes for city residents earning more than $5 million a year, and has come out in support of repealing NYPD officers’ “qualified immunity” from civil lawsuits. A survivor of police brutality and a voice against racism within police ranks during his 22 years on the force, Adams has said he wants to make it easier to sue individual cops for misconduct, while making sure “we do not go after officers who are carrying out lawful actions.”

Adams also has his own version of “cash assistance”: He wants to match 60% of the federal earned income tax credit for families making $50,000 a year or less.  

“Eric Adams is one of the most progressive candidates in the race,” Adams campaign spokeswoman Madia Coleman said in a statement. “Eric has been fighting for civil rights, racial justice, and police reform for decades — issues which many candidates seem to have just been introduced to.”

More often though, the debate about the two candidates is less about policy than about their personal affect, background, and respective political coalitions.

As Yang is fond of noting, Adams has been the subject of corruption investigations by federal, state and local governments. And while none resulted in an indictment, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that he has used his career in elected office since 2006 ― first as a state senator, and now as borough president ― to fatten the profits of donors and friends, before recycling their money back into his campaign or an adjacent nonprofit not subject to campaign contribution limits.

And unlike Yang, who claims to have voted for Cynthia Nixon over New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the 2018 Democratic primary, Adams has fought in the trenches against the city’s nascent progressive community. In 2018, he backed then-state Sen. Jesse Hamilton, a member of the rogue Independent Democratic Conference that helped keep the state Senate in Republican hands, against his successful challenger, current central Brooklyn state Sen. Zellnor Myrie. 

“He’s the epitome of establishment politics,” said state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D), a progressive supporting Yang. “I don’t think anything would change under Adams.”

Some progressives see Adams' ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, as a selling point. Others see it as a sign that he would h

Some progressives see Adams’ ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio, right, as a selling point. Others see it as a sign that he would have more of de Blasio’s flaws than Yang would.

A ‘Blue-Collar Mayor’ With Ties To Big Money

Even assuming that Adams is more of an old-school horse trader, to some progressives, the prospect of a classic, machine politician is less frightening than the unknowns posed by a Yang mayoralty. 

It even reminds these liberals of de Blasio, an ethically challenged mayor whose clumsy brand of progressivism is getting a second look as primary day approaches. De Blasio, who has not endorsed anyone in the race, is reportedly campaigning for Adams behind the scenes.

“De Blasio’s the best damn mayor we’ve ever had and if he likes Adams, I take that seriously,” said McElwee, before noting that he is still unsure whether Adams is more palatable than Yang.

Major labor unions representing hundreds of thousands of workers are a pillar of Adams’ “establishment” support, indicating that while real estate developers and other wealthy interests would have a seat at Adams’ table, workers would too. It’s part of why Adams is so insistent that he would be a “blue-collar mayor.” (Yang is endorsed by two smaller unions, compared with more than a dozen backing Adams.)

“Eric was a blue-collar worker,” said Kyle Bragg, president of SEIU 32BJ, which has endorsed Adams and represents 85,000 janitors, security guards and other property workers in New York City. “Anyone trying to say a police officer is not a blue-collar worker, well, then I don’t know. They’re as blue-collar as anyone else.”

Notwithstanding Adams’ relationships with real-estate tycoons, Adams has had 32BJ’s back during difficult contract fights, according to Bragg.

“Eric’s not an unknown entity to us,” he said. “He’s been a friend to working people.”

Just because you have the progressive label doesn’t mean you’re doing everything you can to stand by worker rights.
New York Assemblyman Ron Kim (D)

Whether they are in a union or not, city residents without a college degree prefer Adams by a significant margin. Adams has the support of 29.7% of registered Democrats without a college degree, compared with Yang’s 16.7%, according to an Emerson College/WPIX poll released on June 6.

To Duncan Bryer, a former policy adviser to democratic socialist state Sen. Julia Salazar (D), progressives’ conflation of Adams with Yang reflects a betrayal of their professed commitment to champion working-class voters.

“While both candidates are receiving support from objectionable interests, Adams’s base is working class New Yorkers and low income communities,” Bryer said. “On crime — where Adams and progressives are most at odds — perhaps some introspection is in order on the part of progressives in how they think about crime, how New Yorkers who live in neighborhoods with the highest crime rates feel, and basing their political judgements and policy solutions on that.”

Bryer is one of many progressives concerned about Yang’s ties to Bradley Tusk, a venture capitalist, political consultant and former consigliere to then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Tusk, a centrist power broker, has blurred the lines between business and politics by, for example, lobbying against government regulations for Uber and benefiting personally as an Uber equity holder.

While Tusk is not officially affiliated with the campaign and Yang has insisted on his independence, Yang’s co-campaign managers — Ahuja and Chris Coffey — as well as many other top staffers hail from Tusk’s firm. Tusk’s comment to a New York Times columnist that Yang is an “empty vessel” only added to fears that Yang is a Trojan horse for the same “special interests” he rails against on the stump ― especially the disruptive machinations of Big Tech. 

New York Assemblyman Ron Kim (D), one of Albany's more outspoken progressives, believes that Yang is receptive to left-leanin

New York Assemblyman Ron Kim (D), one of Albany’s more outspoken progressives, believes that Yang is receptive to left-leaning arguments.

An ‘Empty Vessel’ Or An Open Mind?

Yang’s boosters have implicitly tried to co-opt the characterization of him as a blank slate, arguing that Yang possesses a unique openness to new ideas, including progressive ones. 

If Yang is indeed an “empty vessel,” they suggest, progressives should seize the chance to fill that vessel on their terms.

Kim believes that he already has had success in this regard. He secured Yang’s support for a pledge to back hundreds of older Asian American home health aides locked in a legal fight with a nonprofit health care provider over wages for 24-hour shifts that the workers say were stolen from them.

By contrast, many of his colleagues in city and state politics with more progressive reputations than Yang have fallen short in that fight, Kim noted.

“Just because you have the progressive label doesn’t mean you’re doing everything you can to stand by worker rights,” Kim said. “Whereas Andrew, because of his independence and his detachment from any established order, he can make the right call that this is wrong.”

Ahuja envisions Yang combining some of liberal mayors’ compassion with more efficient management of the city government ― a prerequisite, Ahuja and others maintain, for more lasting, transformative change than de Blasio was able to achieve.

“It’s hard to navigate a big, complex bureaucracy, but also have a champion at the very top who’s going to say, ‘We’re going to get it done,’” Ahuja said. “The freedom and the liberty that Andrew has to govern and do the right thing for everyday people ― that is a breath of fresh air.”

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YouTube Suspends GOP Sen. Ron Johnson For COVID-19 ‘Misinformation’

YouTube Suspends GOP Sen. Ron Johnson For COVID-19 ‘Misinformation’
YouTube Suspends GOP Sen. Ron Johnson For COVID-19 ‘Misinformation’

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Sen. Ron Johnson was suspended Friday from uploading videos to YouTube for one week, after the company said he violated its COVID-19 “medical misinformation policies.”

The Wisconsin Republican’s removal stems from statements he made during a June 3 Milwaukee Press Club event, which were posted to YouTube. He criticized the Trump and Biden administrations for “not only ignoring but working against robust research (on) the use of cheap, generic drugs to be repurposed for early treatment of COVID,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

A YouTube spokesperson said: “We removed the video in accordance with our COVID-19 medical misinformation policies, which don’t allow content that encourages people to use Hydroxychloroquine or Ivermectin to treat or prevent the virus.”

The company’s policy says it doesn’t allow content that spreads medical misinformation contradicting local health authorities or the World Health Organization’s information about COVID-19.

Johnson blasted the website.

“YouTube’s ongoing COVID censorship proves they have accumulated too much unaccountable power,” he said in a statement. “Big Tech and mainstream media believe they are smarter than medical doctors who have devoted their lives to science and use their skills to save lives. They have decided there is only one medical viewpoint allowed and it is the viewpoint dictated by government agencies.”

Video of Johnson’s full speech was still on the Milwaukee Press Club’s YouTube channel as of Friday afternoon.

Corri Hess, Milwaukee Press Club President tweeted: “This on the record event with journalists will remain on the Press Club’s YouTube site.

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus

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Watergate’s John Dean: New Donald Trump Scandal Is ‘Nixon On Stilts And Steroids’

Watergate’s John Dean: New Donald Trump Scandal Is ‘Nixon On Stilts And Steroids’
Watergate’s John Dean: New Donald Trump Scandal Is ‘Nixon On Stilts And Steroids’

The Trump Justice Department’s secret seizure of the smartphone data of Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee is “Nixon on stilts and steroids,” so-called Watergate “master manipulator” John Dean said Friday.

Dean, who served as White House counsel to Richard Nixon before flipping on the then-president over the Watergate scandal, told CNN’s Erin Burnett that the actions of the Trump DOJ went far beyond what his former boss ever did.

He said comparisons with Nixon were wide of the mark.

“Nixon didn’t have that kind of Department of Justice,” said Dean.

He then recalled how the Nixon administration responded to the leak of the classified Pentagon Papers detailing U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

I got a call from the Oval Office the day after he learned that, and could the Department of Justice bring a criminal action for this? Called over, found out the short answer was they could, but they won’t. So Nixon couldn’t use the department as he wanted to.

Burnett asked Dean if the Trump DOJ’s actions went “beyond what Nixon did.”

“It is beyond Nixon, yes,” Dean responded. “It’s Nixon on stilts and steroids.”

Watch the interview here:

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Seized House Records Show Just How Far Trump Admin Would Go

Seized House Records Show Just How Far Trump Admin Would Go
Seized House Records Show Just How Far Trump Admin Would Go

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Donald Trump has made no secret of his long list of political enemies. It just wasn’t clear until now how far he would go to try to punish them.

Two House Democrats disclosed this week that their smartphone data was secretly obtained by the Trump Justice Department as part of an effort to uncover the source of leaks related to the investigation of Russian-related election interference.

It was a stunning revelation that one branch of government was using its power to gather private information on another, a move that carried echoes of President Richard Nixon during Watergate.

On Friday, the Justice Department’s internal watchdog announced that it was investigating the records seizure. And Democratic leaders in Congress are demanding that former top Justice officials testify before a Senate committee to explain why the iPhone records of Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both Democrats, and their family members were secretly subpoenaed in 2018. The records of at least 12 people were eventually shared by Apple.

The dispute showed that the rancorous partisan fights that coursed through the Trump presidency continue to play out in new and potentially damaging ways even as the Biden administration has worked to put those turbulent four years in the past.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates said the conduct of Trump’s Justice Department was a shocking misuse of authority.

“Attorneys general’s only loyalty should be to the rule of law — never to politics,” he said.

The disclosure that the records had been seized raised a number of troubling questions. Who else may have been targeted? What was the legal justification to target members of Congress? Why did Apple, a company that prides itself on user privacy, hand over the records? And what end was the Trump Justice Department pursuing?

The revelations also are forcing the Biden Justice Department and Attorney General Merrick Garland to wade back into a fight with their predecessors.

“The question here is just how did Trump use his political power to go after his enemies — how did he use the government for his political benefit,” said Kathleen Clark, legal ethics scholar at Washington University in St. Louis.

The effort to obtain the data came as Trump was publicly and privately fuming over investigations by Congress and then-special counsel Robert Mueller into his 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia.

Trump inveighed against leaks throughout his time in office, accusing a “deep state” of working to undermine him by sharing unflattering information. He repeatedly called on his Justice Department and attorneys general to “go after the leakers,” including singling out former FBI Director James Comey and Schiff, now chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Schiff and Swalwell were two of the most visible Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, then led by Republicans, during the Russia inquiry. Both California lawmakers made frequent appearances on cable news shows. Trump watched those channels closely and seethed over the coverage.

There’s no indication that the Justice Department used the records to prosecute anyone. After some of the leaked information was declassified and made public during the later years of the Trump administration, there was concern among some of the prosecutors that even if they could bring a leak case, trying it would be difficult and a conviction would be unlikely, one person told The Associated Press. That person, a committee official and a third person with knowledge of the data seizures were granted anonymity to discuss them.

Federal agents questioned at least one former committee staff member in 2020, the person said, and ultimately, prosecutors weren’t able to substantiate a case.

For decades, the Justice Department had worked to maintain strict barriers with the White House to avoid being used as a political tool to address a president’s personal grievance.

For some, the Trump administration’s effort is more disturbing than Nixon’s actions during Watergate that forced his resignation. Nixon’s were done in secret out of the White House, while the Trump administration moves to take the congressmen’s records were approved by top Justice Department officials and worked on by prosecutors, who obtained secret subpoenas from a federal judge and then gag orders to keep them quiet.

“The fate of Richard Nixon had a restraining effect on political corruption in America,” said Timothy Naftali, a Nixon scholar and former director of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. “It didn’t last forever, but the Republican Party wanted to cleanse itself of Nixon’s bad apples and bad actors.”

The Republican Party is far too aligned with Trump to do that now, but it doesn’t mean Biden should let it go, Naftali said.

“The reason to do this is not revenge,” Naftali said. “It’s to send a signal to future American lawyers they will be held accountable.”

While the Justice Department routinely conducts investigations of leaked information, including classified intelligence, opening such an investigation into members of Congress is extraordinarily rare.

A less rare but still uncommon tool is to secretly seize reporters’ phone records, something the Trump Justice Department also did. Following an outcry from press freedom organizations, Garland announced last week that it would cease the practice of going after journalists’ sourcing information.

The subpoenas were issued in 2018, when Jeff Sessions was attorney general, though he had recused himself in the Russia investigation, putting his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, in charge of Russia-related matters. The investigation later picked up momentum again under Attorney General William Barr.

Apple informed the committee last month that the records had been shared and that the investigation had been closed, but did not give extensive detail. Also seized were the records of aides, former aides and family members, one of them a minor, according to the committee official.

The Justice Department obtained metadata — probably records of calls, texts and locations — but not other content from the devices, like photos, messages or emails, according to one of the people. Another said that Apple complied with the subpoena, providing the information to the Justice Department, and did not immediately notify the members of Congress or the committee about the disclosure.

And the people whose records were seized were unable to challenge the Justice Department because the subpoenas went to Apple directly. The gag order was renewed three times before it lapsed and the company informed its customers May 5 what had happened.

Apple said in a statement that it couldn’t even challenge the warrants because it had so little information available and “it would have been virtually impossible for Apple to understand the intent of the desired information without digging through users’ accounts.”

Patrick Toomey, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said the seizure of congressional records was part of a series of Trump-era investigations that “raise profound civil liberties concerns and involve spying powers that have no place in our democracy.”

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Mary Clare Jalonick, Nomaan Merchant and Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.

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