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Trump Touts Progress on Rolling Back Federal Regulations

With the ceremonial flourish of oversized golden scissors slicing a giant piece of red tape, U.S. President Donald Trump symbolically cut through decades of regulations on Thursday. 

“So, this is what we have now,” the former reality television program host said, gesturing toward a 190-centimeter-high pile of what was said to be 185,000 sheets of paper. “This is where we were in 1960,” he added, referencing a smaller stack representing an estimated 20,000 pages of federal regulations.

“When we’re finished, which won’t be in too long a period of time, we will be less than where we were in 1960, and we will have a great regulatory climate,” the president added at the event in the White House Roosevelt Room.

Trump decried that an “ever-growing maze of regulations, rules and restrictions has cost our country trillions and trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, countless American factories, and devastated many industries.”

The event took place just after the Federal Communications Commission, in a 3-2 vote, repealed a rule of the previous Obama administration calling for  “net neutrality,” the principle that all internet providers treat all web traffic equally. 

Lawsuits filed

The deregulatory zeal has generated a backlash. 

The state of California has filed seven lawsuits challenging part of the administration’s deregulatory efforts dealing with the environment, education and public health. 

The administration’s “rule rollbacks risk the health and well-being of Americans and are, in many cases, illegal,” according to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. 

In his remarks Thursday, Trump touted his executive order, signed days after he took office in January, mandating that two federal regulations must be eliminated for every new regulation put on the books. 

His administration, Trump said, has exceeded that mandate by “a lot.” 

The president, who as a real estate developer long railed against government regulation, claimed that for every new rule adopted, his administration has killed 22 — far in excess of the 2-for-1 pledge. 

For the first time in “decades, the government achieved regulatory savings,” Trump said, boasting that “we blew our target out of the water.” 

The administration, over its first 11 months, according to the president, has “canceled or delayed more than 1,500 planned regulatory actions — more than any previous president by far.” 

He called for his Cabinet secretaries, agency heads and federal workers to “cut even more regulations in 2018.”

“And that should just about do it,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll have any left to cut.”

$570M in savings seen

The cost savings, according to administration officials, will total $570 million per year. But they say there are benefits that go beyond money. 

“When the government is interfering less in people’s lives, they have greater opportunity to pursue their goals,” Neomi Rao, the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Office of Management and Budget, told reporters following the president’s ribbon-cutting event. 

Asked whether she could verify that this is, as Trump has declared, the largest deregulatory effort in American history, Rao hedged to echo such a sweeping statement, saying, “I don’t think there’s been anything like this since [Ronald] Reagan, at least.” Reagan was president from 1981 to 1989.

The president’s former strategist, Stephen Bannon, has said a primary goal of the Trump administration, through deregulation, is achieving “deconstruction of the administrative state.” 

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Kremlin: Putin, Trump Discuss North Korea in Phone Call

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the crisis over North Korea’s nuclear program with U.S. counterpart Donald Trump in a phone call Thursday, the Kremlin said.

The two heads of state discussed “the situation in several crisis zones, with a focus on solving the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula,” the Kremlin said in a statement, without elaborating.

Washington this week said it was ready to talk to North Korea — which has launched several intercontinental ballistic missiles in recent months — “without preconditions.”

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that while the Trump administration was still determined to force Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear arsenal, it was willing to “have the first meeting without preconditions.”

Putin, in his annual press conference Thursday with hundreds of journalists in Moscow, welcomed the United States’ “awareness of reality” in the crisis.

However, he called on all sides to “stop aggravating the situation” and said Moscow did not recognize North Korea’s status as a nuclear power.

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Report: US House Speaker Ryan Eyeing Exit From Congress

Paul Ryan may be in his final term as speaker of the US House of Representatives and could leave Congress by the end of 2018, Politico reported Thursday, in a report that could set off a scramble for a successor.

The news outlet cited several people who know Ryan, including fellow lawmakers, congressional aides, conservative intellectuals and party lobbyists, saying they did not expect him to remain in Congress beyond 2018.

Asked directly after a Thursday press conference whether he would be stepping down soon, Ryan said, “I’m not … no.”

A spokeswoman for Ryan’s office, AshLee Strong, called the report “pure speculation.”

“As the speaker himself said today, he’s not going anywhere any time soon,” she added.

But the report appeared to heighten the conjecture about the Wisconsin lawmaker’s future.

Ryan, 47, made no secret about his hesitation in taking the top congressional job in 2015, after his predecessor John Boehner abruptly announced he was retiring when he faced a revolt from right-wing conservatives.

He also spoke out critically against Donald Trump during the presidential race.

But Ryan has developed a better-than-expected relationship with Trump, and has worked with him on several landmark issues including health care and the current big legislative push, tax reform.

The White House made it clear Trump wants Ryan to stay.

“The president did speak to the speaker not too long ago, and made sure that the speaker knew very clearly, in no uncertain terms, that if the news was true he was very unhappy about it,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

It is not known whether Ryan would run for his congressional seat in next November’s mid-term elections. But should he announce his departure well ahead of time, it would dramatically diminish his deal-making leverage and his ability to raise money for the party.

“Ryan’s preference has become clear: He would like to serve through Election Day 2018 and retire ahead of the next Congress,” Politico reported.

Some Republicans in Congress were already anticipating a leadership battle.

“Brace yourselves for the mother of all barn cleanings,” tweeted House conservative Thomas Massie, who has been a thorn in the Republican leadership’s side.

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Stopgap Bill Unveiled to Fund US Government Until January 19

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday introduced a bill to fund the government until January 19 while Congress works on longer-term legislation, the panel said in a statement.

The bill unveiled by Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New Jersey Republican, would fully fund defense programs for all of fiscal 2018 and includes money for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the statement said.

Congress must pass a funding bill by December 23 to prevent a partial government shutdown.

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US Immigration Activists Make Push for DACA on National Mall

Undocumented immigrants, DACA recipients and immigrant rights advocates on Wednesday officially opened Dream Act Central, a tent space on Washington’s National Mall that will serve as headquarters for a final push this year to urge Congress to pass legislation replacing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

More than 900 immigrant youths and their families are scheduled to stop at the temporary headquarters in the next two weeks to share their stories and visit lawmakers in Congress. 

In front of the tent, a large-screen television has been erected facing Capitol Hill, showing stories of young undocumented immigrants, known informally as Dreamers. The term is based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act — the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act — that would have provided residence and employment protections for young immigrants similar to those in DACA.

“I’m going to be here every day,” Nestor Ruiz told VOA. 

Ruiz immigrated to the United States along with his mother and siblings when he was 5. “This is my home. I don’t know anywhere else,” he said. 

Protection for young immigrants

Ruiz is a beneficiary of DACA, an administrative program begun during the administration of former President Barack Obama. The program protected certain undocumented immigrant youths from deportation and granted them work permits for renewable two-year periods. In September, President Donald Trump ended DACA. Permits will start to phase out in March 2018. Ruiz’s DACA permit is valid until June 2019.

“We have a huge screen behind our Congress. Basically, the goal is to get immigrant youth across the country who can’t make it to D.C. to be able to share their story, to share a picture of why they need a clean DREAM Act now,” he said. 

Organizers from United We Dream, the advocacy group behind Dream Act Central and the television display, said, “Anytime [House Speaker] Paul Ryan looks out the window, he’ll see the faces of immigrant youth who would be deported unless Congress passes the DREAM Act this year.”

The 22-foot-by-13-foot screen, dubbed the “DreamActTron,” will display 24-hour-a-day video and pictures of hundreds of DACA recipients. It will stay on for the next two weeks. The goal, advocates say, is to get DACA replacement legislation linked to the spending bill that is scheduled for a vote on December 22.

Some Democrats have remained firm in linking the spending legislation to a measure that would allow nearly 800,000 DACA immigrants to continue to work and study in the United States.

Speaking Wednesday at Dream Act Central, Democratic Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois said he wished he could “tell you that we’re totally confident we can get it done I can’t say that. I don’t want to mislead you.

“I’ll tell you this: You can count on me to give a total commitment to use every minute of every day to move us to the moment where the DREAM Act becomes the law of the land.”

‘We are here to stay’

Greisa Martinez, a DACA recipient and United We Dream advocacy director, said that with Dream Act Central, immigrant youth are declaring, “We are here, and we are here to stay.”

Martinez is one of the 1 million young immigrants who would qualify for protection under a new DREAM Act. “I’m unafraid, and I’m here to stay. … I’ve been fighting for this for the past 10 years,” she said. 

Martinez is from Hidalgo, Mexico, and moved to the U.S. with her family at an early age. She grew up in Dallas, Texas. 

Dream Act Central, she said, is an idea that comes from the “hearts of people” who want to make sure that lawmakers and their staffs can’t miss the fact “that we are holding space, and that we’re not going anywhere.” 

But Republican lawmakers are not in a hurry.

“There is no emergency. The president has given us until March to address it,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said Sunday on ABC’s This Week program. “I don’t think Democrats would be very smart to say they want to shut down the government over a nonemergency that we can address anytime between now and March.”

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Jones Victory in Alabama Could Signal Democratic Wave in 2018

The political landscape in the United States looks a bit different in the wake of Tuesday’s Senate election victory by Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama.

In an outcome few could have imagined several weeks ago, Jones defeated controversial Republican candidate Roy Moore, who had the backing of President Donald Trump. In the wake of Jones’ victory, Democrats are more confident about success in next year’s congressional midterm elections, and Republicans are looking for a way to rebound.

Late Tuesday, Jones paid tribute to the voters and staffers who supported him in his longshot victory over Moore. “This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency and making sure everyone in this state, regardless of which ZIP code you live in, is going to get a fair shake in life!” he told supporters.

Republicans split on Moore

Moore was unable to overcome allegations of sexual misconduct stemming back decades involving several women who were teenagers at the time while Moore was in his 30s.

Moore stopped short of conceding the race, however, saying, “We have been painted in an unfavorable and unfaithful light. We have been put in a hole, if you will, and it reminds me of a [Bible] passage in Psalms 40, ‘I waited patiently for the Lord.’ That is what we have got to do.”

Moore had the full backing of the president in the final days of the campaign after Trump initially held back his endorsement in the wake of the allegations against Moore.

Trump: I wanted the seat

The president responded Wednesday to questions at the White House about the Alabama race and said that he had hoped for a different result.

“I wish we would have gotten the seat. A lot of Republicans feel differently. They are very happy with the way it turned out,” he said. “But as the leader of the party, I would have liked to have the seat. I want to endorse the people who are running.”

Jones won in large part because of a strong Democratic turnout, especially by African-Americans. Moore was hurt by a depressed Republican turnout and a write-in campaign that drained away votes.

Democrats also saw similarities between the Jones victory and Democratic wins last month in gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey, which could portend a successful midterm congressional campaign in 2018.

“So you put all that together — the base being energized, millennials overwhelmingly Democratic, suburbs swinging back to the Democrats — and it means that things are looking good for us,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York told reporters at the Capitol.

‘A wave building’?

Jones’ victory in a heavily Republican state like Alabama is sure to send political shockwaves around the country as both parties look ahead to next year’s elections.

And some Republicans are growing increasingly concerned that Trump’s weak national approval rating fueled Democratic energy in the recent elections. In one new survey from Quinnipiac University, Trump’s approval rating bumped up slightly to 37 percent. Another new poll from Monmouth University, however, had the president down at 32 percent, a drop of eight points from its last survey in September.

In addition to Alabama, the recent Democratic statewide wins in Virginia and New Jersey have energized Democrats, according to several analysts.

“If I were running Republican campaigns for Senate, for the House, for governor, for state legislature, I would be really, really worried because there appears to be a wave building and it has a giant ‘D’ on it — ‘D’ for ‘Democrat,’ ” University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said via Skype.

Governing becomes harder

Experts see the Democratic victory in Alabama not only as a rejection of Moore as a flawed candidate but also as a setback for Trump.

He defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton in Alabama by a margin of 62 to 34 percent in the 2016 election. However, exit polls from Tuesday’s race found that Alabama voters were deadlocked on Trump’s job performance, with 48 percent approving and the same percentage disapproving.

Jones will now serve out the remaining two years of the term of Jeff Sessions, who left the Senate to serve as Trump’s attorney general. Republicans will now have to push through their agenda with one Senate seat fewer in a body that is already sharply divided.

“We see that Republicans, once Jones is seated, will now have a 51- instead of a 52-seat majority in the Senate, and we have seen time and again, over the course of the year, that they have trouble governing with just 52 seats. Those challenges won’t get easier when they lose one of those senators,” said analyst Molly Reynolds at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

As if to counter the Democrats’ good news on Wednesday, House and Senate Republican leaders said they had now agreed on a final version of a tax reform bill, a key campaign promise made by the president.

Republicans hope to iron out final differences in House and Senate versions of the tax cut bill, have it passed by both chambers and signed into law by the president in the next few weeks.

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Men due to Leave Gitmo Under Obama Seem Stuck Under Trump

Abdellatif Nasser got what he thought was the best news possible in the summer of 2016: One of his lawyers called him at the Guantanamo Bay detention center and told him that the U.S. decided he no longer posed a threat and could go home to Morocco.

The prisoner allowed himself to get excited, to think about Moroccan food, imagining he would be home in no time. “I’ve been here 14 years,” he said at the time. “A few months more is nothing.”

But his optimism turned out to be misplaced. A diplomatic agreement that would have allowed him to go free was not returned by Morocco until Dec. 28, eight days too late to meet a deadline to be among the last prisoners to leave under President Barack Obama.

Now, he is one of five prisoners who the U.S. cleared to go but whose freedom is in doubt under President Donald Trump.

“We had hoped until the last moment that he might still be released,” said Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, the lawyer who told him about his pending release and shared her notes from the conversation. “When it didn’t happen we were crushed. That eight-day foible has turned into a potential lifetime of detention.”

The Trump administration has not released any prisoners and not added any to the list of cleared men who can go home, or to a third country, for resettlement. There were 197 transferred out under his predecessor and more than 500 under President George W. Bush.

Obama sought to close the detention center but was thwarted by Congress because of objections over transferring any of the remaining detainees to facilities in the U.S.

“It is entirely unprecedented for an administration to take the position that there will be no transfers out of Guantanamo without regard to the facts, without regard to individual circumstances,” said Pardiss Kebriaei, a detainee attorney with the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights.

The administration has not announced its policy toward the detention center. But Trump said on Twitter before he took office that there should be no further releases from “Gitmo,” as it’s often called. “These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield,” he said.

Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson, a Pentagon spokesman for issues related to Guantanamo, said detainee case files will still be reviewed on a periodic basis but the government “is still considering whether or not to transfer detainees.”

A National Security Council spokeswoman, Tara Rigler, noted that the president has said the detention center will “remain an available option in the war on terrorism.” She said he will make any decisions related to detainees “on a case-by-case basis and in the best interest of the United States,” but she declined to go into further detail.

The possibility that former Guantanamo prisoners would resume hostile activities has long been a concern that has played into the debate over releases. The office of the Director of National Intelligence said this summer in its most recent report on the subject that about 17 percent of the 728 detainees who have been released are “confirmed” and 12 percent are “suspected” of re-engaging in such activities.

But the vast majority of those re-engagements occurred with former prisoners who did not go through the security review that was set up under Obama. A task force that included agencies such as the Defense Department and CIA analyzed who was held at Guantanamo and determined who could be released and who should continue in detention. The previous administration also created a Periodic Review Board that considered not just the potential threat, but also such factors as detainees’ behavior in custody and their prospects for meaningful work on the outside. The recidivism rate for those released after those measures were adopted dropped to 4 percent confirmed and 8 percent suspected.

The 41 remaining prisoners include the five approved for transfer and 10 who have been charged by military commission. That leaves 26 in indefinite confinement who could potentially be reviewed and added to the cleared list. Several may still be prosecuted and are unlikely to be set free, but lawyers for the rest are considering filing new legal challenges, arguing that a policy of no releases would mean their confinement can no longer legally be justified as a temporary wartime measure.

In addition to Nasser, the prisoners who have been cleared for release come from Algeria, Yemen and Tunisia. Another was born in the United Arab Emirates but has been identified in Pentagon documents as an ethnic Rohingya who is stateless.

A review board cleared the Algerian, Sufiyan Barhoumi, and he was expected to go just before Obama left office, but then Defense Secretary Ash Carter did not sign off on the transfer and he had to stay behind despite a last-minute legal appeal filed in a federal court in Washington on behalf of him and Nasser. The other three have been approved for release by the task force since at least 2010. It’s not publicly known why the U.S. has not been able to resettle them. A lawyer appointed to represent the one born in the U.A.E. says the man has never agreed to a meeting.

“The daily reality of what it means to them is really settling in,” said Sullivan-Bennis, who met with Nasser and other detainees at the base last week to discuss legal strategies as the men near their 16th year confined at the U.S. base on the southeastern coast of Cuba.

Nasser’s journey to the prison was a long one.

Now 53, he was a member of a non-violent but illegal Moroccan Sufi Islam group in the 1980s, according to his Pentagon file. In 1996, he was recruited to fight in Chechyna but ended up in Afghanistan, where he trained at an al-Qaida camp. He was captured after fighting U.S. forces there and sent to Guantanamo in May 2002.

An unidentified military official appointed to represent him before the review board said he studied math, computer science and English at Guantanamo, creating a 2,000-word Arabic-English dictionary. The official told the board that Nasser “deeply regrets his actions of the past” and expressed confidence he would reintegrate in society. The board approved him by consensus in July 2016.

When Nasser learned he wasn’t going home, he initially stopped taking calls from his lawyers and they feared he might try to kill himself, Sullivan-Bennis said. More recently, she said, he has tried not to lose hope.

Another of his reprieve attorneys, Clive Stafford-Smith, said after visiting the prisoner at Guantanamo last week that Nasser is worried some in his large extended family won’t recognize him if he does go home.

“He holds it in,” the lawyer said. “You can see tears welling up in his eyes but he tries to put up a positive front.”

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WH Denies Trump’s Tweet Against Democratic Senator Was Sexist

U.S. President Donald Trump is facing a backlash after posting an insulting tweet about a Democratic senator from New York. Kirsten Gillibrand said Tuesday that the president is trying to silence her calls for his resignation following renewed allegations by women who claim that Trump harassed them sexually in the past. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports the White House has denied the allegations.

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Democrat Jones Wins Alabama Senate Election

Democrat Doug Jones won the special election to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat representing the southern state of Alabama, delivering what many see as a stunning setback to the Republican Party and a stinging rebuke to President Donald Trump, who urgently endorsed embattled Republican candidate Roy Moore despite a chorus of sexual misconduct allegations.

After a contentious campaign, voters backed Jones over Moore by a margin of 49.9 percent to 48.4 percent.

The result means that in January when Jones is sworn in, the Republican majority in the 100-seat Senate will shrink to 51-49 and make it tougher for President Trump to enact his agenda.

“We have shown not just around the state of Alabama, but we have shown the country the way, that we can be unified,” Jones told cheering supporters in a victory speech Tuesday night. He said the Senate has a lot of work to do on important issues facing the country, including health care, jobs and the economy.

Moore, at his own rally, did not concede the election to Jones.

“It’s not over. It’s going to take some time,” he said.

His campaign pointed to Alabama laws concerning recounts, including a provision that calls for an automatic recount of votes if the margin of victory is less than one-half of one percent.

​Speaking to CNN, Alabama’s Secretary of State John Merrill said he would find it “highly unlikely” that Jones will not be declared the winner when the vote tally is certified in the coming week. He said there are “not a whole lot of mistakes that are made” during the initial vote-counting process.

Moore had the backing of Trump, but faced opposition from other Republican leaders. He has been accused of sexual misconduct in the 1970s when his female accusers were teenagers and he was in his 30s.

Moore has consistently denied the allegations, but he initially admitted dating young women when he was an attorney general, before denying ever knowing any of his accusers.

Some Republicans, including Alabama’s other senator, Richard Shelby, opted to use write-in votes rather than support Moore. The number of total write-ins was about the same as the margin of victory for Jones.

Trump used Twitter to congratulate Jones while looking ahead to the next election for the Senate seat in 2020.

“The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time,” Trump wrote.

Jones is the first Democrat from Alabama to win a Senate seat since 1992 and will serve out the roughly three years remaining in the term Jeff Sessions won in 2014 before stepping down to serve as Trump’s attorney general.

Capri Cafaro, executive in residence at American University’s School of Public Affairs, told VOA that with the demographics of Alabama it is more likely than not that whoever challenges Jones in the 2020 race will win.

She said overall with Jones in the Senate she thinks there will be a slowdown in the Republicans’ legislative agenda, but with a major push already ongoing on tax reform in Congress, Republicans will do their best to finish that work before breaking for a holiday recess at the end of this month.

“Certainly now that the majority has shrunk by one seat and now they only have a one-seat margin, it will be more likely than not the Republicans will try to expedite the process,” she said.

Cafaro added that the controversies surrounding Moore, including his history of statements regarding the LGBT, Muslim and Jewish communities, as well as the recent rise in visibility and consequences surrounding high-profile sexual assault cases in the United States, made a difference in Tuesday’s result.

Jones, who said he was “overwhelmed” by the victory, did not specifically reference Moore in his victory speech, but did allude to some of the same themes.

“This entire race has been about dignity and respect. This campaign has been about the rule of law. This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency and making sure everyone in this state regardless of which zip code you live in is going to get a fair shake in life,” he said.

Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican who has announced he will not be running for re-election in his state of Arizona, posted on Twitter last week a picture of a campaign donation he was making to Jones. He followed that Tuesday night with a post that said, “Decency wins.”

Democratic Senator Cory Booker campaigned alongside Jones and said Alabama “gave the whole country a needed renewal of hope and the first ray of light of a rising sun and a coming new day.”

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Survey: Majority in US Believe Government Corruption Has Risen Under Trump

A new survey shows that nearly six in 10 Americans believe the level of government corruption has risen in the year since U.S. President Donald Trump was elected and that the White House is now a more corrupt institution than Congress.

Berlin-based Transparency International says its survey of 1,000 Americans in October and November revealed that 44 percent believe that Trump and White House officials are corrupt, up from 36 percent recorded in a similar survey in early 2016 at the start of former U.S. president Barack Obama’s last year in office.

The Trump White House responded Tuesday by saying it has acted to end corruption and increase transparency in government.

The anti-corruption group says nearly seven of 10 of those it surveyed believe the U.S. government is failing to fight corruption, up from half in 2016. The group defines corruption as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.

“I think the survey shows that Americans are disappointed that the government has not delivered on its promises to clean up government. Around the world we’ve seen that when elected officials fail to deliver on their anti-corruption promises, it has a corrosive effect on public trust in government,” said Zoe Reiter, Transparency International’s representative. “We are having a cultural moment in history in America that our elected officials really need to wake up to.” 

Responding for the White House, Principal Deputy White House Spokesman Raj Shah said, “Actually, we’ve done quite a bit to end corruption and increase transparency in government. We’ve elevated the status of the ethics office, issued guidance to staff to be more cooperative with congressional resolutions, and we’ve said we want government agencies to be as transparent as possible. We have worked hard to work back the backlog of FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] requests to make information about the government more available. What people say they believe in this [TI] survey has more to do with the media barrage of negative coverage than with actual corruption.”

Global perspective

In the survey, Transparency International asked people how well their government is doing at fighting corruption.

In 2016, people in the United States had slightly more faith in their government’s efforts than the global average.

“In 2017, citizens’ responses to this question are now much worse and similar to what people in Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Uganda told us. In terms of perceptions of the level of corruption in the Office of the President, the global average is that less than a third of people say their executive is highly corrupt,” said Transparency International researcher Coralie Pring.

“In 2016, the U.S. was already over this mark [36 percent]. However, the figure is now even worse at 44 percent — comparable to what people in Pakistan, Armenia and El Salvador told us,” Pring told VOA.

Survey numbers

The survey says 38 percent of Americans believe members of Congress are corrupt and 33 percent believe government officials are. Congress fared the worst in last year’s survey.

The poll says 32 percent think business executives are corrupt, 23 percent believe local government officials are corrupt and 22 percent believe religious leaders are corrupt. Judges and magistrates fare the best, with 16 percent of Americans believing they are corrupt.

The survey shows that close to a third of African-Americans believe police are corrupt, compared to a fifth of those polled overall. Slightly more than half say they feared retaliation for reporting what they believe to be wrongdoing, up from slightly less than a third in 2016.

Transparency International says its survey shows “people are now more critical of government efforts to fight corruption. From just over half in 2016, nearly seven in 10 people in the United States now say that the government is doing a bad job at combating corruption within its own institutions. This is despite widespread commitments to clean up government.”

Those surveyed said that while public protests and speaking out can be effective in fighting corruption, the best way is to vote out of office politicians they believe to be corrupt.

The anti-corruption group says that while Trump was elected on a vow to make government work better “for those who feel their interests have been neglected by political elites,” the opposite has happened.

“Rather than feeling better about progress in the fight against corruption over the past year,” the group said, “a clear majority of people in America now say that things have become worse.”

VOA’s Ken Bredemeier and Peter Heinlein contributed to this report.

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