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Morning Reads: Pruitt Emails To Be Released But Vote Still On; Trump Vows to Prosecute Leakers

A roundup of stories we're reading at BillMoyers.com HQ...

Morning Reads: Pruitt Emails To Be [...]

A chart of EPA head-designee Scott Pruitt’s connections to the fossil fuels industry and conservative super PACS as well as campaign contributions to him was displayed during his confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill In Washington, DC, January 18, 2017. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

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The Pruitt emails –> An Oklahoma state judge yesterday ordered the state’s attorney general Scott Pruitt — Donald Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency — to release thousands of emails he was withholding. The suit was filed by the watchdog Center for Media and Democracy; the group said in a statement that Pruitt “went to great lengths to avoid the questions many Americans have about his true motivations,” and the emails will further detail Pruitt’s deep ties to the fossil fuel industry. Pruitt must release the emails by Tuesday, Politico’s Alex Guillén reports.

That might be too late. Senate Republicans are pushing for a vote on Pruitt later today. In a show of resistance, Democrats again stayed up late into the night to speak out against the nomination. In an hour-long speech, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) denounced Pruitt as a polluters’ “fantasy EPA nominee.” One Republican, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, is likely to vote against Pruitt, but two Democrats, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, are likely to vote for him, giving the self-described “leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda” control of that very agency.

EPA employees, past and present, are pushing back. Nearly 800 former staffers have signed a letter opposing Pruitt, and current EPA employees are now calling their senators, urging them to vote against the nominee. “Many of the scientists, environmental lawyers and policy experts who work in EPA offices around the country say the calls are a last resort for workers who fear a nominee selected to run an agency he has made a career out of fighting — by a president who has vowed to ‘get rid of’ it,” Coral Davenport writes for The New York Times. “It’s going to be a blood bath when Pruitt gets in there,” Bush-era EPA administrator Christine Todd Whitman told The Times. Trump reportedly has lined up a series of executive orders to eviscerate the agency once Pruitt is confirmed.

Trump vows to go after leakers –> Trump, at his wild and sprawling press conference yesterday, promised to crack down on leaks. It’s not unusual for a president to go after leakers — Obama often did — but it is unusual for a president to announce that he is pushing the Justice Department to do so. Charlie Savage and Eric Lichtblau write for The New York Times that it’s specific agencies that usually recommend investigations, not the president: “Typically, if an agency believes that classified material from its own records was improperly disclosed, it will make a referral to the Justice Department, which decides whether to open an investigation.”

Meanwhile, Nicholas Kusnetz reports for InsideClimate News that the Union of Concerned Scientists, a science advocacy group, has launched a website to help federal employees get info out to the press.

No-show scaredy cats –> Members of Congress head home to their districts this weekend, but Alex Thompson reports for Vice that many are avoiding their constituents, fearing an angry outcry like the one House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz was treated to during last weekend’s visit home to Utah: “For the first two months of the new Congress, the 292 Republicans have scheduled just 88 in-person town hall events — and 35 of those sessions are for Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, according to a tabulation conducted by Legistorm. In the first two months of the previous Congress in 2015, by contrast, Republicans held 222 in-person town hall events.”

The new labor nominee –> Donald Trump picked a law professor, R. Alexander Acosta, to step in after fast food king Andrew Puzder withdrew his name from consideration. Acosta’s most relevant experience was a stint on the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that decides labor disputes, under George W. Bush.

But a scandal from his time filling another role during the Bush presidency could come back to haunt him, Adam Serwer writes for The Atlantic. While Acosta was heading the civil rights division of Bush’s Justice Department, “his subordinates skirted the law, seeking to purge liberal attorneys from the division and replace them with conservatives,” Serwer writes. “Acosta told investigators he was unaware of what was occurring.”

Endangered Species Act endangered –> “A Senate hearing to ‘modernize the Endangered Species Act’ unfolded Wednesday just as supporters of the law had feared, with round after round of criticism from Republican lawmakers who said the federal effort to keep species from going extinct encroaches on states’ rights, is unfair to landowners and stymies efforts by mining companies to extract resources and create jobs,” Darryl Fears reports for The Washingotn Post. These views, Fears writes, line up with those of the Trump administration, and the law, as well as the animals it protects, could be in trouble.

States overrule cities –> Many states run by Republican legislatures are annoyed with progressive action in their cities, and some Southern cities in particular have “a target on their back,” Allie Yee writes for Facing South. “Already, 11 states, including five in the South, have introduced statewide policies requiring people to use bathrooms in accordance with the sex on their birth certificates,” Yee writes. “… In South Carolina, lawmakers are considering a bill that would preempt localities from acting to improve job standards and benefits. If passed, that law would add to a slew of state preemption laws nationally that target local policies like minimum wage increases and paid sick leave requirements.”

The latest internet wierdo running the government –> “A senior official on President Trump’s embattled National Security Council warned in previously unreported comments that it is ‘inevitable’ an Islamic terrorist group will carry out a successful nuclear attack against the United States, and that in its aftermath, the world ‘will regress hundreds of years politically,'” Peter Maas reports for The Intercept.

“… The detail and apparent extremism of Anton’s comments appear to go even further than much of what has already emerged from the Trump White House. The comments provide what seems to be the darkest of contexts for understanding the Trump administration’s desire for radical crackdowns on immigration and Muslims in general: a fervent conviction that a civilizational apocalypse caused by Muslims is coming soon.”

Michael Anton laid out his world view in thousands of comments on a men’s fashion forum.

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Michael Winship.

 


 

We produce this news digest every weekday. You can sign up to receive these updates as an email newsletter each morning.