Sessions testifies, knows little, says less – amid reports Trump is under investigation for possible obstruction
Attorney General Jeff Sessions said during his Senate confirmation hearing that he “did not have communications with the Russians.” He later was forced to admit that he had in fact met Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., on two occasions during the 2016 campaign.
The Hill reports that there may have been a third time Sessions and Kislyak met. Sessions’ take on an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington:
“I did not remember that, but I understand he was there. So I don’t doubt that he was.”
During testimony this week before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sessions conduct was “dismissive, incoherent, evasive and shameful,’’ according to The New Yorker.
As dust settled, the Washington Post reported that special prosecutor Robert Mueller is investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice. This development marked a major turning point in the probe.
DC, Maryland sue over payments to Trump hotel
The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit alleging that government payments to President Donald Trump’s businesses violate the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. Specifically, payments from foreign and domestic governments through his hotel and entertainment empire draw business away from Maryland and D.C. venues. Read more here.
Working conditions for Ivanka’s clothing line workers draw fire and ire
The Guardian has spoken to numerous employees at one of Ivanka Trump’s factory in Subang, Indonesia, where workers are paid one of the lowest minimum wages in Asia and endure “impossibly high production targets and sporadically compensated overtime.” Read their tragic stories here.
Separately, Ivanka hit the road with her father this week to promote his infrastructure agenda, and, in a recent interview said she never imagined people “would be so vicious.”
Did she miss all those “lock her up chants”? Or forget that Daddy said John McCain is “not a war hero…. I like people who weren’t captured”? Has she seen her father mock a disabled reporter and a Gold Star family or insult lots of women?
ECOT Goes to Court to Challenge State School Board Vote Ordering ECOT to Pay $60 Million for Phantom Students
On Monday, the state school board voted to order the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) to repay $60 million to the state based on an attendance review by the Ohio Department of Education which determined that the school was paid for 9,000 more students last school year than the school could document. ECOT fired back in court alleging the school board vote violated the sunshine law. If ECOT wins, the vote will be null and void – but the school board could it all over next month. Whoever wins this round doesn’t matter. The Ohio Supreme Court is expected to be the final arbiter.
For more information and a shout out to special ECOT protester Theodore E. Bear, look here.
You can read the hearing examiner’s report here.
Kasich and Portman Backpedal on Medicaid Expansion; UHCAN and Rep. Alicia Reece Hold Forum on How to #ProtectOurCare
Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sen. Portman both came out in support of a phaseout of federal funding for Medicaid Expansion. While portraying themselves as moderates, both are aligning themselves with conservative Sen. Mitch McConnell and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan who want to defund Medicaid and leave the working poor without health care. Kasich and Portman just want to postpone the maximum pain until each completes his next re-election.
Curious about what’s in the Senate version of the bill? It must be awful because don’t want us to know what’s in it. Fortune has details.
In Cincinnati, State Rep. Alicia Reece, along with the AARP, the Urban League and UHCAN Ohio hosted a town hall meeting on health care reform. Providers from the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital shared their concerns about the dangerous consequences of cuts to Medicaid to patients, families, and the health care system and as individual physicians.
Watch the event here.
New Abortion Bill Inspires Protest from “Handmaids,’’ Sponsors Admit They Got Zero Advice from Docs – Just Anti-Choice Group
Women in Ohio dressed in white bonnets and red robes depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale walked into a Statehouse hearing to protest the latest abortion restriction bill. The women remained silent with their heads down — as they do in the show about a near-future where women fertile “handmaids” who are forced to have babies for infertile couples.
The 20 “handmaids” sat in on a hearing for Senate Bill 145, which would “criminalize and create civil action for dismemberment abortion.” If passed, it would be the 19th abortion restriction since Kasich took office.
“The handmaids are forced to give birth and, in so many cases, because of all the restrictions on abortion access, women in Ohio and across the country are being forced to give birth,” Jaime Miracle, deputy director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio told cleveland.com.
ProgressOhio’s Executive Director Sandy Theis, who was filming the event, told The Cleveland Scene, “I feel strongly that my daughter shouldn’t have to fight the fights that my mother and I did. Why do they keep worrying about abortions? What are they doing about things like the infant mortality rate and terrible performing charter schools?”
ProgressOhio streamed the event live here.
6-Week Abortion Ban Comes Back – And Inspires Calls of Grandstanding
The so-called Heartbeat Bill made its fourth legislative debut this past week. The first time the bill was introduced, it passed the Ohio House but stalled in the Senate. The second attempt went nowhere. Last year, the Ohio House and Senate passed the bill, but Gov. John Kasich vetoed it. He did, however, sign into law a 20-week abortion ban.
And here we are again, just six months later. The bill’s primary sponsor, Republican State Rep. Christina Hagan, doesn’t appear to care about the constitutionality of the bill.
The Canton Repository encouraged Hagan and fellow lawmakers:
“…simultaneously to address other issues facing Ohio’s children, with legislation that stands both a good chance of passage and of surviving any legal challenges. They could start with overhauling a failing charter school system, which is a national laughingstock, or the funding formula for public schools that hasn’t been fully rectified despite numerous court decisions that began decades ago.”
Or how about they address our abysmal infant mortality rate? Or the opioid crisis that is affecting so many young children and leaving them without parent? That sounds pro-life to us.
GOP-Ruled State Senate Proposes More Budget Cuts, Refuses to Sunset Tax Cuts that Failed to Deliver Promised Jobs
Ohio Senate Republicans cut $1 billion from the state’s proposed two-year budget, gutting funding for Medicaid and prisons. The GOP also cut at least three percent from many state agencies’ budgets.
Republicans passed $1.1 billion in annual business income-tax cuts in 2013 and 2015 amid promises that the tax breaks would create jobs and improve Ohio’s economy. Fast forward to 2017 and state revenue is coming in hundreds of millions of dollars short of projections and Ohio’s economic growth has lagged the national economy for 59 months running. But many lawmakers are defending the tax breaks, saying – with zero proof – they allow business owners to invest more in their companies.
Incidentally, 49 percent of state lawmakers potentially saved money on business income tax breaks that the legislature approved but only 14 percent of Ohio taxpayers overall claimed those tax breaks.
Ohio Senate Democrats are in the minority but pitched a plan to patch the $1 billion state budget hole by eliminating the small business tax break. Such a move would generate $2.2 billion over the next two years, according to analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission.
Democrats said the money would cover the expected revenue shortfall without making cuts and leave another $1 billion to spend on education, health care, local governments, libraries and Ohio’s opioid addiction and overdose crisis.
Many Republicans quietly concede the Democrats’ idea is a good one – but they won’t do it because bragging about tax cuts are good re-election fodder.
Public Sector Unions Protest Possible Cuts to Their Pensions
Facing increases in health-care costs, retirees from government service will be making less in retirement benefits than they did 30 years ago, according to Lois Carson, Vice President of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees. Hundreds of union members marched from the Statehouse to the pension fund headquarters in protest of proposed changes to the plan.
Carson told The Dispatch, “I will probably be moving in with my kids to survive. I’m very scared about it.”
Religious Left Takes Centers Stage in Fight for a More Moral America
Faith leaders aligned with the left are finding themselves more politically engaged since the presidential election, bringing Bibles and spiritual counsel to elected officials while making moral arguments for legislation that helps the poor.
Moral Monday’s movement leader Rev. William Barber visited Ohio recently to rally faith leaders and delivered Bibles with highlighted verses on the need to care for the sick to U.S. Sen. Portman’s office. The Senator’s staff declined to come meet with Barber and other faith leaders who had gathered from across the state.
Locally, faith leaders and members of the Central Ohio Worker Center rallied to show support for immigrants doing routine checks with immigration officials. Though it was just a check-in, Bijou Sene, of Senegal, fears deportation. Sene suffered genital mutilation and is terrified the same will happen to her teenage daughter if they are returned to Senegal.
Sene thanked supporters and was visibly moved at the outpouring of community support.
When Senate GOP Tried to Ban Hallway Interviews, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown Showed Why Talk is Cheap, Speech is Priceless
U.S. Senate Republicans issued new rules on media access: Reporters will no longer be allowed to film or record audio of interviews in the Senate side hallways of the Capitol without special permission.
The Hill reported that television reporters will need “permission from senators, the Senate Rules Committee, the Senate Sergeant at Arms or the Senate Radio and TV Gallery, depending on location, before conducting an on-camera interview with a senator anywhere in the Capitol or in the Senate office buildings.”
Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown lambasted these new rules, in a press conference from the hallway of his Senate office.
“If senators can’t answer tough questions about their healthcare bill, they should change the bill, not restrict reporters,” Brown told the press.
Protect Your Mother
FirstEnergy’s Latest Effort to Bilk Ratepayers Hits Unusual Snag; Activists Urge Ohio to Keep Wayne Wild
FirstEnergy hit a snag in its proposed bailout for Ohio’s two nuclear power plants that would lead to rate increases for its customers.
One legislative committee considering the idea suspended testimony last month amid protests against the plan while another committee held its fourth hearing this week without taking a vote.
FirstEnergy says subsidies are needed to save the Davis-Besse and Perry plants along Lake Erie. According to the Associated Press, these plants are “vital tax generators for rural towns near them, providing millions of dollars for school districts and local governments.”
In other environmental news, nearly 100 students and activists with the Keep the Wayne Wild group marched to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to highlight the need to keep fracking out of our public parks. Watch our coverage here.
Progressive Action Calendar Alerts
Monday, June 19: Town Hall w/ Rep. Strahorn in Miami Valley
Tuesday, June 20: Conversation Ohio Town Hall Meeting in Pike Co.
Thursday, June 22: Money Out, Voters event in CLE
Saturday, June 24: Cleveland Pride 2017