Header Image: Chicago Tribune

Oh snap.

Former acting Attorney General Sally Q. Yates is testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, Monday May 8. In her testimony, she says that she warned White House counsel that former National Security Adviser had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and that he, Flynn, was susceptible to blackmail. This comes the same day that President Obama revealed that he warned then-President-Elect Donald Trump against putting Flynn in the position. In 2014, Flynn was removed from his senior position at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Flynn resigned weeks after his appointment after it came to light that he had lied to the vice president about his contact with Kislyak, where he had discussed U.S. sanctions with Russia. Those sanctions were from the former administration of President Obama as a result of the tampering Russia had undergone in the 2016 election.

Yates, who was fired by President Trump for refusing to enforce his (later to be ruled unconstitutional) travel ban, visited WH counsel Donald McGahn on Jan. 26 to inform him that the Justice Department had discovered that Flynn had lied about the sanctions. Flynn had lied to VP Pence, who vouched for Flynn publicly. Allegedly, it was Pence, after finding out that he had inadvertently lied to the American public, that gunned for Flynn’s replacement.

The knowledge that Flynn had lied, and that Russians had proof of that lying, put him at risk for blackmail, according to Yates. She did not advise any actions, instead just provided the information. The Trump administration waited 18 days after Yates visited to have Flynn resign.

It was not until four days after a Washington Post article came out exposing the visit that the administration took action and fired Flynn.

The testimony today illustrated that the Russia-Trump narrative has not, despite laying low, blown over. Trump has refused to condemn Vladimir Putin for his actions, instead offering him several different instances of praise.

The former director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, Jr., who was testifying at the same time, said that Russia had been “emboldened” by the success of their influence campaign, the facts of which have still stand even four months later that the Russians interfered to hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign. This testimony comes just days after Emmanuel Macron, newly-elected President of France, accused Russia of leaking documents before the election to aid his far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen.

The testimony depicts a chaotic and turbulent White House, one where distrust is dissolving traditional processes and vetting. During the hearing, Clapper said the vetting process is typically “far, far more invasive and far, far more thorough.”

It’s been a recurring theme in the new administration. To appoint Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the GOP had to filibuster and block President Obama’s choice for an entire year and then enact the “nuclear” option to ram Gorsuch’s nomination through. Trump’s pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, did not have a proper ethics hearing, which would have outlined how she would avoid conflicts of interest. The first version of the ACA repeal and replace had to be pulled hours before voting because it did not have enough support, and the second version, voted on by the House this past week, did not go through the traditional testing and forecasting (particularly by the Congressional Budget Office) that is usually required.

The list goes on and on, but the point is the same. The Trump administration, and the GOP in government, is not making ethics a priority. They are skirting around traditions and rules to jam their agenda through—which makes that agenda both sloppily and potentially dangerous. It’s a scary and dangerous time in the world, and the fact that the leaders in our government are doing nothing to abet that is alarming, to say the least.

And at the worst, it’s life-threatening.

LGBTQ, Politics


According to reporting done by the New York Times, the Trump administration is drawing up paperwork to rescind former President Obama’s order that transgender students can use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was in opposition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions over the issue of leaving the choice up to the states. However, the Department of Education ruled in 2014 that protecting transgender students falls under Title IX, a federal law that prevents discrimination on the basis of sex.

DeVos, despite her family’s prominent donations to anti-gay organizations, apparently opposed the order. However, President Donald Trump sided with Sessions, who has a history of opposing the expansion of LGBTQ rights, and wanted DeVos to drop her objections.

Apparently there is pressure to move the paperwork along so as to avoid confusion with upcoming cases. The issue comes right before the case of Gavin Grimm, a Virginia boy who is transgender, will be brought to the Supreme Court. Grimm sued his school county when they refused to let him use the boys’ restroom and instead offered him a separate one converted from a janitor’s closet. The Obama White House rejected accommodation like that as unconstitutional and discriminatory.

According to insider Republicans, DeVos was uncomfortable with the idea of revoking protections for transgender students. This is in direct opposition to what Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a White House news conference that DeVos was “100 percent” on board. And apparently privately, according to several sources, DeVos is quietly pro-gay-rights.

This directive needs the joint support of the Education and Justice Department, meaning that Sessions needed DeVos on board to move forward.

According to the website, OnTheIssues.org, Sessions has a history of voting against LGBTQ rights expansion. In 2006, he voted yes on a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, limiting the definition for marriage to between one man and one woman. In 2000 and 2002, he voted against adding sexual orientation to the definition of hate crimes. He was rated 20% by the ACLU, indicating an anti-civil rights voting record, and 0% by the HRC, indicating an anti-gay-rights stance.

On the campaign, Trump was tentatively pro-LGBTQ rights. He said that the issue of same-sex marriage was settled when it was legalized and that he would not go back on that. He famously invited Caitlyn Jenner, transgender former Olympic athlete, to Trump Tower and that she could use whichever bathroom she wanted. In April of 2016, Trump spoke against North Carolina’s bathroom ban, saying that people should use “the bathroom they feel is appropriate.” However, when the Obama administration issued guidance that all transgender students should use the bathrooms corresponding to their gender identities, Trump said that it should be left up to the states.

Vice President Pence, when he was the governor of Indiana, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which protected business owners who discriminated against LGBTQ people on the basis of religion. Pence was also critical of Obama’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” saying without it, the military would be a “backdrop for social experimentation.”

Even if Trump himself doesn’t personally hold any opposition to the expansion of LGBTQ rights, by dropping down the impetus to the states to decide what protections to offer transgender students is deeply troubling. These are children who are just trying to go to school. When transgender students are barred from using the bathrooms that correspond to their gender identities, suicide rates increase and health issues arise—dehydration, kidney infections and urinary tract infections. The health problems alone can lead to missed days of school and increased levels of stress.

That Trump himself doesn’t bear any ill will against the queer community does not translate to protection of LGBTQ rights. He totes himself as “the least anti-Semitic person you’ll ever meet” and “the least racist person you’ll ever meet” but if you’re not taking active steps towards the protections of these marginalized groups, you are in effect leaving them to be crushed under administrative oppression and discrimination.