News Digest – October 9, 2017

In the news this week: our members of Congress respond to the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Cardin and Cummings go after Trump administration for use of private emails, and more calls for investigations into the frequent use of private flights by Trump cabinet members.

Vegas shooting

  • In response to the Las Vegas massacre that left 58 people dead and hundreds injured, Senator Van Hollen has introduced legislation to close a loophole on devices that transform semi-automatic weapons into rapid-fire automatic weapons.
  • Rep. Ruppersberger (MD-02) supports legislation to ban the sale and possession of bump-stock equipment and other devices that essentially turn a semiautomatic weapon into an automatic one.  “We have to come together, Republicans and Democrats, to really analyze how we deal with these mass shootings.”  He suggested the establishment of a committee on gun violence could provide Republicans political cover from a gun lobby he said was “extremely strong.”  “You and I and all of my constituents, they want their families to be able to go to movies, to go to churches, to go to elementary school–my gosh–and festivals without worrying about these things happening and they are happening.”
  • Statements from Maryland legislators about Las Vegas attack.

Trump administration’s use of private email

 

  • Rep. Cummings (MD-07) asked the FBI to review Kushner and Ivanka Trump emails.  Cummings is requesting an immediate briefing from Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner on the transfer of their personal email accounts to the Trump Organization, which took place after reports that the couple used private email accounts after President Trump’s inauguration.  “If these reports are accurate, they raise serious questions about your actions,” Cummings wrote in the letter.

 

State Department communications

Senator Cardin is among a bipartisan group of lawmakers accusing the State Department of violating federal law by failing to consult with Congress or give the required notice before certain announcements.

Trump administration’s private flights on taxpayers’ dime

  • Rep. Cummings (MD-07), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a letter to Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday requesting information about her use of private, non-commercial or military flights since she joined the Trump administration, including flights with Tom Price.
  • The heads of two more federal departments have been flying in luxury at taxpayer expense, and both have announced they have no plans to pay back the money used to ferry them around.  EPA chief Scott Pruitt and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke are the latest to fly “Billionaire Air” while working for the public. Their luxury travel has triggered investigations by each agency’s inspector general, the internal government watchdog. Both officials are trying to excuse their travel by claiming that the trips were approved by ethics lawyers.
  • Energy Secretary Rick Perry is the latest member of Donald Trump’s Cabinet who has been caught flying on a private charter plane at taxpayer expense. Perry reportedly took a chartered jet to fly to Ohio, only a day before Tom Price resigned as health secretary for doing the same

Watchdog report show that IRS scrutiny was not politically motivated

  • Report confirms that the agency did not target groups for political reasons.  IRS had subjected progressive groups’ applications for tax-exempt status to heightened scrutiny in addition to conservative groups.
  • “Republicans claimed from the beginning that the Obama White House directed the IRS to target conservative groups for political reasons, but there was never any evidence to support their claims,” Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD-07), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said in a statement.

Gerrymandering

Hurricane Response

  • Rep. Cummings (MD-07) had a telephone briefing with FEMA, which Cummings said: “raised serious questions.”  Cummings called for public hearings in Congress.
  • Rep. Cummings (MD-07) Op-Ed: Will Trump make the same promise Bush made after Katrina?

Legislation

  • Rep. Cummings (MD-07) is calling on Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to schedule a floor vote on a postal reform bill meant to improve the Postal Service’s financial situation. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed the bill in March. Cummings, the committee’s ranking member, wants action after USPS said it would default on another payment to its federal retirement and retiree health care funds.

Equifax

  • Former Equifax CEO met with the House Oversight Committee. Rep. Cummings (MD-07) urged Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina to investigate Equifax’s handing of the incident, especially why it waited so long to tell the public.  “Equifax conceded that the FBI never instructed or directed the company to withhold from the public information about the breach,” the letter said. Rep. Cummings is also seeking all communication between Equifax and a government agency that warned companies in March about a glitch in software that needed to be fixed.

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