ACSBlog

  • May 25, 2017

    *This piece originally appeared on StateAG.org’s Tierney Blog.

    by Faisal Sheikh

    It is an indictment of the current age that we must pause and applaud a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation around an incredibly important and seemingly uncontroversial issue. But such are the times.

    This did not take place in the halls of Congress, of course, but rather among a group 34 state attorneys general, led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman, a Republican. On May 22, the group sent letters to members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees declaring their bipartisan opposition to the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate all federal funding to the Legal Services Corporation (LSC). The corporation is a grant-making organization created by Congress for the purpose of distributing federal appropriations to nonprofit organizations that provide civil legal assistance. This group of state AGs joins the American Bar Associationstate judgesover 150 law firms and many other concerned groups in opposing this assault on civil legal services for low-income Americans. This includes the elderly and low-income military veterans and military families.

    It is only fitting that a bipartisan coalition of public officials rallies around this organization. LSC’s conception began under President Lyndon Johnson’s “war on poverty” and culminated in the enactment of a bipartisan bill signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1974 that created the grant-funding organization. According to the LSC website, in describing the need for the organization, President Nixon wrote:

    Here each day the old, the unemployed, the underprivileged, and the largely forgotten people of our Nation may seek help. Perhaps it is an eviction, a marital conflict, repossession of a car, or misunderstanding over a welfare check—each problem may have a legal solution. These are small claims in the Nation’s eye, but they loom large in the hearts and lives of poor Americans.

  • May 25, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece is part of the ACSblog Symposium: 2017 ACS National Convention. The symposium will consider topics featured at the three day convention, scheduled for June 8-10, 2017. Learn more about the Convention here

    by Jamille Fields, Policy Analyst, Government Relations at Planned Parenthood Federation of America

    We are not long past President Trump’s first 100 days and the start of this new Congress. Despite this short timeframe, there have been several legal and policy proposals that threaten reproductive rights and women’s health care access more broadly. Here are six ways in which reproductive rights have been threatened since the start of this year alone:

    1.     Attempting to Block Access to Planned Parenthood

    The American Health Care Act (AHCA) not only attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which greatly advances women’s health care, but also includes a politically motivated provision that would block low-income women and men enrolled in the Medicaid program from using their coverage to receive services at Planned Parenthood. This provision is the only non-health insurance related provision in the bill and the intent is clear--restrict low-income individuals’ access to the provider of their choice and block people’s access to safe and legal abortion. If the bill becomes law, it will harm the 2.5 million people who annually visit Planned Parenthood health centers to access birth control, cancer screenings, STI counseling, HIV treatment and other preventive health care services. Unlike most other parts of the bill, this provision would take effect immediately.

  • May 25, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on the Take Care blog.  

    by Joshua Matz, Associate at  Robbins, Russell, Englert, Orseck, Untereiner & Sauber LLP

    Yesterday we learned that the Trump Organization has deemed it “impractical” to identify all payments that its hotels receive from foreign governments. Instead of asking guests a few simple questions, the Trump Organization will rely on estimates and assumptions about payments from foreign powers at its properties. It will use those figures—in unclear ways—to calculate total profits from foreign governments. And from time to time, it will write a check for this amount to the U.S. Treasury. 

    If the Trump Organization thinks that will solve Trump’s breach of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, it is mistaken. This plan responds to only a fraction of Trump’s emoluments and presents (those given by foreign powers to Trump through hotel rentals). And it is inadequate as a safeguard against emolument violations even in that limited context. The Constitution requires that Trump actually stop receiving foreign presents and emoluments, not that he forge an appearance of avoiding some of them. 

    The scope and danger of Trump’s constitutional violations are, by now, well known. Yet even with advance warning and the best lawyers his money can buy, Trump has never fielded a good defense to claims that he is violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause. In fairness to his lawyers, that is because there is not a good defense to be had: he is violating the Clause in nearly every conceivable way (short of accepting an office in Vladimir Putin’s government).

  • May 24, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Dan Froomkin and Caroline Fredrickson

    Robert Mueller's appointment as a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department's investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election does not in any way preclude muscular congressional oversight into the matter.

    Nor does it give congressional witnesses carte blanche to duck questions they do not feel like answering in public.

    Within hours of the announcement about Mueller, Republican members of Congress started using his leadership of the investigation as an excuse to stand down.

    “You’ve got a special counsel who has prosecutorial powers now, and I think we in Congress have to be very careful not to interfere," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters on Thursday. "Public access to this is probably going to be very limited now. It’s going to really limit what the public will know about this.”

    And one of several congressional witnesses-in-waiting cited Mueller as an excuse not to answer even basic questions from his ostensible congressional overseers. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who played a highly controversial role in Comey's firing, briefed Senate and House members last week -- in a closed session, despite the lack of any discussion of classified material.

    “Basically any question of any substance, it was, ‘I can’t comment because it may be the subject of an investigation by Mueller,’ ” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told the New York Times.

    Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Teaxs) said in a statement that "the most frequent answer I heard to questions from members of either party was 'I cannot answer that question.' He declined to answer any question concerning his personal conduct, motivation, or the circumstances of the firing of FBI Director James Comey, indicating that even this could be within the scope of the Mueller investigation."

  • May 24, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece is part of the ACSblog Symposium: 2017 ACS National Convention. The symposium will consider topics featured at the three day convention, scheduled for June 8-10, 2017. Learn more about the Convention here

    by Dennis Herrera, San Francisco City Attorney

    When Ronald Reagan used his 1983 State of the Union Address to foreshadow a sweeping proposal to devolve vast powers from the federal government back to states and localities, he described his New Federalism initiative as an effort “to restore to states and local governments their roles as dynamic laboratories of change in a creative society.”

    Liberal critics at the time regarded the New Federalism as a thin veiling for a full-scale federal retreat from progressive social policy — which, of course, it was. In subsequent years, as successive Congresses grappled with mounting budget deficits and as the federal bench grew increasingly conservative, Reagan’s efforts to return power to local governments would indeed take hold among his presidency’s most enduring legacies.

    Today, progressive state and local governments should embrace the principles behind New Federalism as a way to push back against a federal administration that threatens constitutional protections and many of the values these localities hold. In the few months that President Donald Trump has been in office, state and local governments have successfully thwarted his attempts to carry out some of his most misguided initiatives.

    When President Trump issued an executive order that sought to strip federal funding from sanctuary jurisdictions, San Francisco and other local governments acted swiftly to fight back. My office filed the first lawsuit in the nation to challenge the Executive Order, and the County of Santa Clara and other local jurisdictions soon followed us. In April, Federal Judge William Orrick issued a nationwide preliminary injunction that temporarily halted enforcement of the president’s executive order, recognizing the Executive Order likely violates the Separation of Powers, the Spending Clause, the Tenth Amendment, and other constitutional provisions.