Roll Call Reporter Says F.C.C. Security Pinned Him to a Wall

A reporter said he was pinned against a wall by two security officials in a public hallway at the Federal Communications Commission in Washington on Thursday after he tried to ask a question of a commissioner.

The reporter, John M. Donnelly of CQ Roll Call, said the officials’ behavior did not end there. They then waited for him outside a restroom, one of them followed him to the lobby and, under the implied threat of force, ejected him from the building, Mr. Donnelly said on Friday.

The commission said in a statement that it had apologized to Mr. Donnelly more than once and had told him it was on a heightened security alert on Thursday “based on several threats.” The commission did not respond to an email seeking elaboration about the nature of the threats or how Mr. Donnelly was perceived as a danger.

Mr. Donnelly, who customarily covers defense and national security issues, said he was at a public hearing hoping to speak to one of the commissioners for a story he was reporting.

The F.C.C. held a hearing on Thursday about net neutrality rules and when it ended, the commissioners fielded questions from reporters in an impromptu news conference. Mr. Donnelly said he wanted to discuss a different topic privately. As he waited in a hallway for one of the commissioners, he spotted Commissioner Michael P. O’Rielly.

“Commissioner, I have a question,” Mr. Donnelly said he began to say, but that was as far as he got before two security officials in plain clothes turned their backs on him, stood together and in a vise move pressed him into a wall for about 10 seconds as the commissioner walked by.

Mr. Donnelly said he is 165 pounds and 5 feet 10 inches tall. By his estimate, each of the security officials weighed at least 20 pounds more and were about the same height or slightly taller. Mr. Donnelly, 56, said he was not hurt but was incredulous about what happened.

“I tried to ask a question of a public official in a taxpayer-funded public building, and I did so politely, and I was treated as if I had thrown food at a commissioner,” he said. “There was absolutely nothing in my countenance that could be perceived as a threat. I think they interpreted that I was going to ask a question, and they were determined to stop it.”

He was holding a recorder, pen and pad and was wearing a press pass, he said.

Mr. Donnelly said he asked the men: “Really? You’ve got to block me like that?” He said one of the security officials, whom he identified as Frederick W. Bucher, asked why he didn’t ask his question at the news conference.

The identity of the other man was unclear. Mr. Bucher works for the Security Administration of the F.C.C., according to public records. A request to the commission for an interview with him went unanswered.

Mr. Donnelly said the article he was developing was unrelated to the hearing, and he wanted to ask his question out of earshot of other reporters at the news conference. It is common practice in Washington and other government settings for reporters to ask questions or attempt one-on-one interviews outside a press gaggle to protect an exclusive story.

He said the officials were “up in my face” and made clear verbally and in their body language that they wanted him out of the building. When Mr. Donnelly left and sat in a wooden chair in the lobby, Mr. Bucher approached. After some back and forth about why Mr. Donnelly was still there, the reporter said he was told he would have to leave.

In an exchange on Twitter, Mr. O’Rielly, the commissioner, wrote that he did not recognize Mr. Donnelly. “John, I saw security put themselves between you, me and my staff,” he wrote. He said he “didn’t see anyone put a hand” on Mr. Donnelly but that he didn’t doubt his account. Mr. O’Rielly apologized and added, without elaboration, that he was also “freezing and starving.”

“I appreciate the apology,” Mr. Donnelly replied. “But ‘put themselves’ there makes it sound dainty. They pinned me.”

Mr. O’Rielly, who was appointed to the commission by President Obama in 2013, did not respond to an email and a tweet seeking comment. The F.C.C. did not respond to questions about what, if any, changes might be made by security officials after the episode.

Two Democratic senators, Tom Udall of New Mexico and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, sent a letter on Friday to the commission demanding a full explanation of what happened and seeking assurances that security staff would not restrain or threaten journalists in the future. They called it “a new low point in a disturbing trend” under the Trump administration.

Kathy Kiely, the press freedom fellow at the National Press Club Journalism Institute in Washington, said in a statement on Friday that the encounter reflected the current political climate.

“Incidents like these, occurring under a president who has openly threatened a free press, take on a greater and more ominous significance,” Ms. Kiely said. “And they do not seem to be isolated.”

Last week, a reporter in West Virginia was charged with a misdemeanor count of willful disruption of governmental processes after he persistently called out questions to Tom Price, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, in a hallway at the State Capitol in Charleston, W.Va.

But Mr. Donnelly, who is the chairman the National Press Club’s team on press freedom and is president of the Military Reporters and Editors Association, said he did not want to put what happened into a political context. “The important thing is not me,” he said, “but what is the culture of the F.C.C. that says this is O.K.?”

[New York Times]

DOJ Retaliating Against Immigration Lawyers Who Fought Trump’s Travel Ban

The Department of Justice is instructing lawyers to stop representing immigrants in need of legal assistance for President Donald Trump’s travel ban and for ICE deportations.

According to an investigative report from The Nation, four weeks ago the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) in Seattle received a “cease and desist” letter from the DOJ demanding they drop their clients and close down programs or face disciplinary action. The DOJ is accusing the NWIRP of requiring clients pay them and then dropping the cases after receiving the money.

The NWIRP disputes the DOJ’s accusations.

Viewers of TV crime shows are familiar with the police recitation, “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed for you by the court.” Any immigrant facing deportation is not entitled to such an attorney because they haven’t technically been charged with a crime. This results in crowded immigration courts in which few defendants have attorneys.

Non-profit groups work to ensure those in the hearings have access to attorneys through volunteers at big law firms. At the same time, there are thousands of dishonest attorneys who do take money from immigrants promising to help defend them before walking off with their money. NWIRP isn’t one of those, according to The Nation, yet under Attorney General Jeff Sessions the DOJ intends to pursue a disciplinary review of them and other non-profits.

They’re not entitled to an attorney or provided with one but can accept the work of an attorney that will agree to help if the case ends up being a long one. If it’s short they’re not allowed to have any help in filling out legally binding documents. Any attorney that tries to help will be sanctioned.

NWIRP, however, has worked with immigration officials to ensure they can run programs to help people fill out forms or assist with legal proceedings with advice and explanation.

The organization has been on the frontline of fighting Trump’s travel ban with volunteer lawyers at Seattle’s SeaTac airport. There are many other groups who did the same.

Sending the cease and desist letter frightened employees volunteering for the cases and concerned the firm that they might become a target by the DOJ for other projects. If the pro-bono lawyers stop providing the service it’ll result in silencing the bar and diminishing the work of the groups providing people with important services around the U.S.

Lawyers sprang into action when airports began restricting access to citizens on planes arriving in the U.S. from countries on Trump’s ban list. Their stories dominated the news cycle and it’s assumed that Trump took offense to defying the order. Other institutions like the FBI, Justice Department, and courts all seem to be under attack, according to The Nation.

[Raw Story]

Trump Cancels Visit to Ancient Masada Site after Israel Refuses Helicopter Landing

President Donald Trump has canceled a planned visit and speech at the ancient mountain fortress of Masada in Israel after authorities told him that he could not land his helicopter on top of the UNESCO-listed site.

Instead, Trump will now deliver a speech at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It comes after an Israeli Air Force (IAF) regulation that prevents helicopters landing at the summit of the Masada site, according to Israel’s Channel 2 broadcaster.

Unlike former presidents who have made the trip, such as George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Trump declined to land the helicopter at a base of the historic site and then take the cable car up, preferring to cancel the visit altogether.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declined to comment, referring any matters involving Trump’s schedule to the U.S. government. The Israeli Foreign Ministry also declined to comment on Trump’s schedule.

The reason for the regulation is that helicopters on approach create dust, making landing at the desert site 1,300 feet above sea level precarious. On a previous 1997 landing by the IAF in the middle of Masada, the wind created by the helicopter caused damage to the ruins, according to the Jerusalem Post.

Masada, a UNESCO World Heritage site that the cultural agency calls a creation of “majestic beauty,” is built upon a mountain overlooking the shores of the Dead Sea in southern Israel’s Judean desert, some 60 miles southeast of Jerusalem. It is one of the country’s archaeological wonders.

King Herod is believed to have built the fortress, but its defining story is that its Jewish rebel defenders who—under threat from a Roman siege—killed themselves rather than be captured alive by the invading forces some time between 73 and 74 AD.

News of the president’s cancellation stirred reactions among observers of the American-Israeli relationship and officials inside the country. “Well Masada was too hot, so we found a great spot instead for POTUS,” Eitan Weiss, deputy spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry tweeted, appearing to mock the reason for the cancellation. “@IsraelMuseum. The Dead Sea Scrolls make an important setting.”

[Newsweek]

 

Russian Bank Directly Linked to Putin Helped Finance a Trump Hotel

A partner of President Trump’s financed Trump International Hotel and Tower in Toronto using hundreds of millions of dollars received from the Russian bank Vnesheconombank, or VEB, The Wall Street Journal reports. At the time of the deal, Russian President Vladimir Putin sat on VEB’s supervisory board; Russian experts say the bank is a “vehicle for the Russian government to fund politically important projects,” The Wall Street Journal writes.

Trump’s partner, Russian-Canadian developer Alexander Shnaider, helped finance the hotel after selling his company’s share in a Ukrainian steelmaker for $850 million. The unknown buyer, financed by VEB, was reportedly “an entity acting for the Russian government.”

After Mr. Shnaider and his partner sold their stake in the steelmaker, Mr. Shnaider injected more money into the Trump Toronto project, which was financially troubled. Mr. Shnaider’s lawyer, Symon Zucker, said in an April interview that about $15 million from the asset sale went into the Trump Toronto project. A day later, he wrote in an email: “I am not able to confirm that any funds” from the deal “went into the Toronto project.”

A spokesman for the Trump Organization, the family’s real-estate firm, said Mr. Trump had no involvement in any financial dealings with VEB and that the Trump company “merely licensed its brand and manages the hotel and residences.” VEB didn’t respond to requests for comment. [The Wall Street Journal]

In February, Trump claimed: “To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with [has dealings with Russia].” Trump also directed his lawyers to review his tax returns and release a letter showing limited income from Russian sources over the past decade.

[The Week]

Donald Trump Says He Has Absolute Right to Share Intelligence with Russia

President Donald Trump pushed back on an explosive story in The Washington Post that he shared classified information with members of the Russian government during a meeting last week, arguing on Twitter that he had an “absolute right” to do so and engaged in the discussion for “humanitarian reasons.”

Trump did not characterize the information as classified but as “facts pertaining to terrorism and airline safety.” The White House called the Post story “false.”

“As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism,” Trump wrote in a two-part tweet.

According to The Washington Post, the nature of the information was related to an Islamic State terrorist threat and gathered by a United States intelligence partner. The report says that Trump disclosed the information to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak last Wednesday, even though Russia is not a partner in the intelligence-sharing arrangement from which the information originated.

As president, Trump has the legal power to declassify information, but officials worry these reported disclosures to the Russians could jeopardize that intelligence-sharing operation.

A senior U.S. official has confirmed two key details of the Post story to ABC News, namely that the White House was concerned enough after the meeting with the Russians that calls were placed to the CIA and NSA to relay information that the president had shared, and that notes on the meeting were edited in order to remove information that was deemed to be sensitive.

The official clarified these points by suggesting that the calls to intelligence agencies were intended to avoid any misunderstanding about what the president had shared, and that the redactions like what had taken place with the notes were routine occurrences.

The White House fervently denied allegations that the president gave away classified intelligence information to Russian officials in statements that were made Monday.

“The story that came out tonight as reported is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries including threats to civil aviation,” said national security adviser H.R. McMaster. “At no time, at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known.”

“I was in the room. It didn’t happen,” added McMaster.

“This story is false. The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced,” Dina Powell, the deputy national security adviser for strategy, said in a statement.

Neither McMaster or Powell specifically addressed the allegation that the president revealed classified information or the possibility that he may have jeopardized an intelligence-sharing operation.

Earlier in the day, McMaster ran into a group of reporters in the White House seeking comment on the story.

“This is the last place in the world I wanted to be,” said McMaster, who left without answering questions.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who met with Lavrov at the State Department before the foreign minister’s visit to the White House last week, released a statement on the situation.

“During President Trump’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, a broad range of subjects were discussed, among which were common efforts and threats regarding counterterrorism,” said Tillerson. “During that exchange, the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”

A spokesperson for the Russian Embassy in Washington would not comment on the matter and would not discuss the Russians’ interactions with Trump.

On Capitol Hill, as news of the disclosure spread, senators on both sides of the aisle indicated their displeasure with the report.

“If it’s accurate, it would be troubling,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, described the dispatch as “really shocking,” and Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, called it “disturbing.”

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton‘s handling of classified information and use of a private email server while secretary of state were key points of criticism by Trump and the GOP during last year’s campaign.

Shortly after the nature of Trump’s meeting with the Russians was revealed Monday, past statements by Trump and a number of Republicans as well as social media posts relating to Clinton’s security practices resurfaced.

“Crooked Hillary Clinton and her team ‘were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.’ Not fit!” wrote Trump on Twitter last July.

“It’s simple: Individuals who are ‘extremely careless’ w/ classified info should be denied further access to it,” tweeted Speaker of the House Paul Ryan about Clinton the same month, with a link to a press release titled “Speaker Ryan Presses for Action on Clinton Recklessness With Classified Information.”

“Why should we trust Clinton with our nation’s cybersecurity when she so recklessly jeopardized classified information?” asked then–Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, now the White House chief of staff, on Twitter last September.

The Democratic National Committee released a scathing statement in which it said Trump’s actions “could end with him in handcuffs” if he were not the president.

“Russia no longer has to spy on us to get information — they just ask President Trump, and he spills the beans with highly classified information that jeopardizes our national security and hurts our relationships with allies,” said the DNC.

[ABC News]

Reality

Donald Trump again threw his defenders under the bus by completely undercutting their spin and simply coming out and admiting to his highly questionable decision making. It really is amazing, for example:

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster told the press, “What I’m saying is really the premise of that article is false.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried to look past what Trump actually released to the Russians and pointed out, “He did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”

Fox News tried to smear the reporting at The Washington Post by telling their viewers they were wrong that time before and therefore they must be wrong now!

…A few hours later…

Trump: “Yeah I shared classified intel with the Russians and I have the absolute right to do so!!!”

 

Flynn, Paid by Turkey, Delayed ISIS Attack Plan That Turkey Opposed

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pushed to delay a plan to retake Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) stronghold Raqqa that Turkey opposed, according to a new report.

McClatchy reports that former President Barack Obama and his national security adviser, Susan Rice, informed then President-elect Trump of a Pentagon plan to retake the city of Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold, with the help of Syrian Kurdish forces. Obama’s team informed Trump because while the plan would be approved under Obama, it would likely be executed after Trump took office.

Flynn told Rice to delay approving the mission. His explanation for the delay was not recorded, according to McClatchy, but the decision to delay approval lined up with Turkey’s interests in the region. Turkey has been a staunch opponent of the United States partnering with Kurdish forces in the region.

The recommendation to delay the mission approval took place during the Trump team’s transition period, ahead of Trump’s inauguration.

Flynn was under investigation for lobbying for Turkey during the presidential campaign without declaring it. He admitted earlier this year he lobbied on behalf of the Turkish government — and received payment of more than $500,000.

The report follows the revelation that Trump knew about Flynn being under investigation weeks before his inauguration, but appointed him at national security adviser anyway.

Flynn resigned from his post after it was revealed he discussed U.S. sanctions with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office and misled top administration officials, including Vice President Pence, about the nature of the talks.

[The Hill]

Trump Told Comey to Consider Jailing Reporters Publishing Leaks

President Trump reportedly told now-ousted FBI Director James Comey to consider jailing reporters who publish leaked classified information, according to The New York Times.

One of Comey’s associates told the newspaper that the conversation occurred shortly after a joint meeting on Feb. 14 that included Vice President Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Following a terrorism threat briefing, Trump reportedly told everyone to leave the room except for the FBI director.

The source told The Times that Trump then began discussing the leaks to the news media and asked Comey to consider jailing reporters for publishing classified information.

According to the report, Trump also asked Comey to end the federal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Following the meeting, Comey wrote in a memo that Trump told him, Flynn “is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

[The Hill]

President Trump Meets With Turkish President Amid Tensions

President Donald Trump is welcoming Turkey’s president to the White House for their first face-to-face meeting Tuesday, even as Turkish officials fumed over a U.S. decision to arm the Syrian Kurds.

Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan are expected to address the Syrian civil war, the refugee crisis and the fight against the Islamic State group.

Shortly after Erdogan arrived in Washington, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told his party members that U.S. cooperation with Syrian Kurds “is not something acceptable” for Turkey.

Turkey is determined to “root out terror,” Yildirim said, if “necessary guarantees for Turkey’s sensitivities and issues pertaining to Turkey’s security are still not given.”

The Trump administration has ramped up efforts to respond to the crisis in Syria, taking unprecedented action against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government over its use of chemical weapons against civilians.

But with Iran and Russia working to bolster Assad’s government, the Trump administration is turning to regional allies, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt for help as it crafts its Syria policy.

Complicating that effort, however, was an announcement by the Trump administration that it plans to arm Kurdish Syrian fighters in the fight against the Islamic State group. Turkey has been pressuring the U.S. to drop support for the Kurdish militants in Syria for years and doesn’t want them spearheading the Raqqa effort.

Turkey considers a Turkish Kurdish group, known as the PKK, a terrorist group because of its ties to the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party inside Turkey. The United States, the European Union and Turkey agree the PKK is a terrorist organization.

Trump’s deal-making skills will be put to the test as he works to assure Erdogan that the decision to arm Kurdish fighters in Syria will not result in weapons falling into the wrong hands.

Erdogan arrived Monday in Washington, the Turkish flag hanging prominently outside the Blair House, a historic presidential guesthouse across the street from the White House.

The meeting is considered high stakes for the nascent Trump administration as it looks to engage regional allies in delicate security matters while enforcing international standards for human rights.

Trump’s willingness to partner with authoritarian rulers and overlook their shortcomings on democracy and human rights has alarmed U.S. lawmakers of both parties. That puts added pressure on him to get results.

Trump has gone out of his way to foster a good relationship with Erdogan. After a national referendum last month that strengthened Erdogan’s presidential powers, European leaders and rights advocates criticized Turkey for moving closer toward autocratic rule. Trump congratulated Erdogan.

But Erdogan may not be amenable to accepting the U.S. military support for the Kurds in a quid pro quo. Last month, the Turkish military bombed Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, in one case with American forces only about six miles (10 kilometers) away. His government has insisted it may attack Syrian Kurdish fighters again. The U.S., whose forces are sometimes embedded with the Kurds, has much to fear.

Washington is concerned by rising anti-Americanism in Turkey that Erdogan’s government has tolerated since the July coup attempt. The U.S. also has pressed unsuccessfully for the release of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor, and other detained U.S. citizens.

[TIME]

Reality

Trump has a property in Turkey, Trump Towers Istanbul, so we can’t be sure if this visit is to benefit the country or his own pocketbook.

Under Trump, Inconvenient Data is Being Sidelined

The Trump administration has removed or tucked away a wide variety of information that until recently was provided to the public, limiting access, for instance, to disclosures about workplace violations, energy efficiency, and animal welfare abuses.

Some of the information relates to enforcement actions taken by federal agencies against companies and other employers. By lessening access, the administration is sheltering them from the kind of “naming and shaming” that federal officials previously used to influence company behavior, according to digital experts, activists and former Obama administration officials.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for instance, has dramatically scaled back on publicizing its fines against firms. And the Agriculture Department has taken off-line animal welfare enforcement records, including abuses in dog breeding operations and horse farms that alter the gait of racehorses through the controversial practice of “soring” their legs.

In other cases, the administration appears to be dimming the prior spotlight on the background and conduct of top officials. The administration no longer publishes online the ethics waivers granted to appointees who would otherwise be barred from joining the government because of recent lobbying activities. Nor is the White House releasing logs of its visitors, making it difficult for the public to keep track of who is stopping by to see the president’s inner circle.

The administration has also removed websites and other material supporting Obama-era policies that the White House no longer embraces. Gone, for instance, is a White House Web page that directed prospective donors to private groups that aid refugees fleeing Syria and other embattled nations.

Officials also removed websites run by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department that provided scientific information about climate change, eliminating access. for instance, to documents evaluating the danger that the desert ecology in the Southwest could face from future warming. (On Friday, protesting against the disappearance of the EPA website, the city of Chicago posted the site online as it had existed under the Obama administration.)

And within a week of President Trump’s inauguration, the White House retired the two-year-old Federal Supplier Greenhouse Gas Management Scorecard, which ranks firms with major federal contracts on their energy efficiency and policies to curb carbon output.

“The President has made a commitment that his Administration will absolutely follow the law and disclose any information it is required to disclose,” said White House spokeswoman Kelly Love in an email Sunday.

The White House takes its ethics and conflict of interest rules seriously,” Love added, “and requires all employees to work closely with ethics counsel to ensure compliance. Per the President’s Executive Order, violators will be held accountable by the Department of Justice.”

But Norman Eisen, who served as President Barack Obama’s special counsel for ethics and government reform, said the changes have undermined the public’s ability to hold the federal government accountable.

“The Trump administration seems determined to utilize a larger version of Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility to cover the entire administration,” said Eisen, now a fellow with the Brookings Institution’s governance studies program.

Across the vast breadth of the government, agencies have traditionally provided the public with massive data sets, which can be of great value to companies, researchers and advocacy groups, among others. Three months ago, there were 195,245 public data sets available on www.data.gov, according to Nathan Cortez, the associate dean of research at Southern Methodist University’s Dedman School of Law, who studies the handling of public data. This week it stood at just under 156,000.

Data experts say the decrease, at least in part, may reflect the consolidation of data sets or the culling of outdated ones, rather than a strategic move to keep information from the public. But the reduction was clearly a conscious decision.

Cortez said the Obama administration increased the amount of government data offered to the public, although the information was at times incomplete or inaccurate and sometimes used as a “regulatory cudgel.” Under Trump, the government is taking transparency “in the opposite direction.”

In some cases, federal Web pages are being routinely maintained. In other cases, information that was once easily accessible to the public has moved to locations that are harder to find, access and interpret. Yet other data has entirely vanished.

The Education Department, for instance, continues to update weekly how many universities and colleges are being investigated for how they handle claims of sexual assault and harassment under the federal statute, Title IX, which prohibits gender discrimination.

Under Obama, OSHA regularly sent out news releases to publicize the fines levied against companies, aiming to discourage others from engaging in similar behavior. President George W. Bush’s administration had a similar policy, issuing dozens of news releases each month.

Business groups have criticized the practice as scapegoating.

“The issue of shaming through news releases has been a real issue with my members,” said Randy Johnson, senior vice president for labor, immigration and employee benefits at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in an interview, adding, “It’s about trying to drive customers away, so that will put pressure on companies to settle” with the Labor Department rather than fight the alleged violations in court.

Since Trump took office, OSHA has issued more than 200 citations of $40,000 or more, according to the agency’s former deputy assistant secretary Jordan Barab, which was the threshold for issuing a news release under Obama.

But OSHA has issued only two stand-alone press statements on fines of at least $40,000, along with one on a judicial ruling. The releases include an incident where two men died in a collapsed trench in Boston where the agency found the company did not provide safety training or proper safeguards and when a worker in an auto insulation manufacturer in suburban Toledo had his right hand amputated by a machine.

A record of OSHA’s enforcement actions is still available online, but accessing it requires navigating the Labor Department’s extensive website to access raw data that largely lacks context and can be opaque.

Howard Mavity, a labor and employment lawyer at Fisher & Phillips who represents management, said in an interview that Obama officials’ practice of “regulation by shame . . . angered some employers, as well as me.” But putting a near-total stop to the news releases, he said, “was too far the other way.”

“Those news releases served a valuable role, to constantly alert and catch employers’ attention,” Mavity said.

Other documents are simply absent. Just days after taking office, Trump instituted a policy under which appointees are barred from working on any issue on which they have lobbied in the past two years, but the government can still waive this restriction. The administration has not made public which waivers, if any, it has granted.

The waivers detail contacts that could have precluded the person from serving and in some cases outline what contacts that person can have with former clients.

Michael Catanzaro represented clients including American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers and Devon Energy as a partner at the CGCN Group before becoming special assistant to the president for domestic energy and environmental policy in February. Since joining the White House, Catanzaro has played a key role in drafting executive orders that could affect his former clients, including orders on climate and offshore drilling. The administration has not explained what steps, if any, he took to avoid a conflict of interest with those clients.

Catanzaro declined to comment.

Robert Glicksman, a George Washington University environmental law professor, was making the final edits on a law review article when he noticed that a government website he was relying on had vanished. Gone was the ecological assessment issued by the Bureau of Land Management for the Chihuahuan Desert, while another one was archived and a third was moved to an entirely different site.

“It’s one of the most important tools for BLM in understanding the current and likely impact of climate change on the public lands,” Glicksman said, adding that each document ran hundreds of pages and included technical and scientific information. “All that research is essentially off the boards, for now.”

The BLM did not respond to a request for comment.

In some cases, experts say, shelving disclosure requirements can hamper innovation in the private sector. Two years ago, the White House launched the greenhouse gas score card for federal contractors, listing whether they had disclosed their carbon output, have a goal to cut it and could face business risks from climate change. The site was archived within a week of Trump taking office.

Jason Pearson, executive director of the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council, said that action removed a powerful incentive for private companies to improve their environmental practices.

“That transparency about positive action can be one of the most important motivators for the broader community to take action,” he said.

[Washington Post]

Trump Revealed Highly Classified Information to Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador

The Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump divulged highly classified information during his meeting with Russian officials last week.

Officials told the Post that the information was incredibly sensitive and that its exposure endangers the relationship with an ally, which had not approved sharing the information with Russia. This ally, officials told the Post, “has access to the inner workings of the Islamic State.”

BuzzFeed, The New York Times and Reuters later confirmed the Post’s report.

In the wake of the reports, White House officials pushed back, saying Trump didn’t discuss intelligence sources or methods of collection.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that during Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov “the nature of specific threats were discussed, but they did not discuss sources, methods or military operations.”

National security advisor H.R. McMaster echoed those remarks, saying “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.”

Dina Powell, deputy national security advisor for strategy, called the reports false, saying “The president only discussed the common threats that both countries faced.”

Officials told the Post that Trump’s disclosure could obstruct intelligence operations by the United States and its allies.

While Trump’s release of highly classified information could seriously damage the U.S. relationship with the ally that collected the information, the president, as the Post noted, has the broad authority to declassify information.

The CIA declined to comment to the Post. The NSA did not respond to the Post’s requests for comment.

A former intelligence official told CNBC that if Trump’s reveal was unintentional, it is a demonstration of “shocking disregard or lack of understanding of classified material.” The official added that if Trump’s disclosure was intentional, it would mark a significant shift in the U.S. approach to intelligence alliances.

[CNBC]

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