What We're Reading

Morning Reads: Trump Plan to Revive Secret CIA Prisons? Voter Fraud Hypocrisy

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

Morning Reads: Trump Plan to Revive Secret CIA Prisons?

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA. A Navy guard assigned to Joint Task Force Guantanamo patrols Camp Delta. (JTF Guantanamo photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

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



Black sites –> A draft executive order leaked to The New York Times and The Washington Post indicates that Donald Trump would keep the Guantanamo Bay prison open and revive the CIA’s network of secret prisons, also known as black sites, where prisoners were regularly tortured and “disappeared.” But Alex Eammons reports for The Intercept, “In fact, restarting the torture program would be illegal under a 2015 law Congress passed that restricts interrogation techniques to those listed in the Army Field Manual.” Both sponsors of that law — Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein — issued statements yesterday saying the US cannot slide back into torture programs implemented in the years after 9/11. Defense Secretary James Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo were reportedly “blindsided” by the Trump order, according to Politico, and White House press secretary Sean Spicer disowned it.

The border wall begins –> “On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed a pair of executive orders that constitute the biggest change to federal immigration policy in a single day in recent memory,” Dara Lind reports for Vox. “Trump signed an order that directs the Department of Homeland Security to begin construction on a wall between the US and Mexico — while cracking down on people who cross the border now, many of whom are children and families seeking asylum from Central America. A second order, also signed Wednesday, began to loosen restrictions on whom immigration agents can apprehend and deport within the United States — allowing immigration agents to adopt a broader definition of ‘criminal’ to deport more people faster.”

Meanwhile, Mexico continues to remind the US that contrary to Trump’s claims, it will not be paying for the wall, although Trump continues to insist that it will. The BBC reports that in a televised address yesterday, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto told his country, “I’ve said time and again; Mexico won’t pay for any wall. I regret and condemn the decision of the United States to continue construction of a wall that, for years, has divided us instead of uniting us.”

The Democrats weigh strategies –> Jennifer Bendery and Sam Stein write at The Huffington Post: “Democrats are concluding that the best path back to power is not necessarily through steady opposition but through picking specific, fruitful fights.” In keeping with that, liberal stalwarts Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown voted to confirm Ben Carson as head of the federal housing agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The problem, Bendery and Stein write, is that this goes against the sentiments of much of the party’s base, which doesn’t want to give Trump any ground.

But: At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich suggests these fights will come later. Historically, Cabinet nominees are rarely blocked: “From 1977 to 2013, the last six incoming presidents — Jimmy Carter through Barack Obama — made 109 appointments to Cabinet-level positions. Just six failed: Five nominees withdrew, and one was voted down by the Senate. The Senate confirmed 103 during the same span, 93 of whom were unanimously approved or not seriously contested.”

A mixed bag –> At Grist, Nathaniel Johnson writes that a leaked list of Trump’s infrastructure priorities has some bad ideas — like expanding fossil fuel infrastructure — but also some good ones: “There are plans for high-speed rail in Texas, a streetcar line in Detroit, and wind turbines in Wyoming as well as some important repairs to crumbling bridges and tunnels. It’s positively un-Trumpian.” The real question is whether Trump can win the money from Congress to make these FDR-style public works projects or — more likely — contract them to private companies, as Republicans did during the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, a story told here by Naomi Klein.

“Voter fraud” –> “President Trump intends to move forward with a major investigation of voter fraud that he says cost him the popular vote, White House officials said Wednesday, despite bipartisan condemnation of his allegations and the conclusion of Mr. Trump’s own lawyers that the election was ‘not tainted,'” Peter Baker and Michael Shear report for The New York Times. “… In two Twitter posts early Wednesday morning, the president vowed to open an inquiry to reveal people who are registered to vote in multiple states or who remain on voting rolls long after they have died.”

However, that phenomenon — being registered in two states — is not uncommon. It can occur when people move and fail to cancel their registration in the state they’ve left. In fact, two of Trump’s key appointees, Steve Bannon and Steve Mnuchin, are registered to vote in two states, New York magazine and CNN report. So is the president’s daughter, Tiffany.

Stand down on EPA? –> “Following reports that the Trump administration had ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to take down its website on climate change, the administration reversed its order and will let the site remain active for now,” InsideEPA reported, via TalkingPointsMemo. A gag order on the USDA’s research arm was also lifted, according to The Hill.

But the EPA is still on a short leash, per Andy Revkin at ProPublica: “On Tuesday, the new administration’s efforts to take hold of the EPA continued, this time with a memo from EPA headquarters requiring all regional offices to submit a list of ‘all external meetings or presentations by employees planned through Feb. 17.’ The memo demanded the offices provide a short description of each event and a note explaining ‘whether it is controversial and why.'”

Demoted –> Brook Seipel at The Hill: “The United States was downgraded from ‘full democracy’ to ‘flawed democracy’ in the 2016 Democracy Index, which cites declining trust in the government as the cause of its new rating. The report is the Economist Intelligence Unit’s ninth annual Democracy Index, which looks at the state of governments across the world. In 2016, the number of ‘full democracies’ dropped from 20 to 19. The United States’ downgrade puts it at 21 in the international rankings, below Japan and tied with Italy.” (Note that this ranking is for 2016, before Trump took office.)

Scientists fight back –> Loren Grush at The Verge writes that scientists are planning a march on Washington to push back against political attacks on climate science, and have formed a group to support scientists who run for office. Meanwhile, a number of alternative Park Service Twitter accounts have been set up, some of which claim to be operated by rogue agency employees, The Washington Post reports. Here’s a list of a few alt-Park Service accounts.

Morning Reads was compiled by John Light and edited by Michael Winship. See a story that you think should be included in Morning Reads? Tell us in the comments!



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