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Democratic Socialism Rising in the Age of Trump

A week ago, Maine Democrat Zak Ringelstein wasn’t quite ready to consider himself a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, even if he appreciated the organization’s values and endorsement in his bid to become a U.S. senator.

Three days later, he told The Associated Press it was time to join up. He’s now the only major-party Senate candidate in the nation to be a dues-paying democratic socialist.

Ringelstein’s leap is the latest evidence of a nationwide surge in the strength and popularity of an organization that, until recently, operated on the fringes of the liberal movement’s farthest left flank. As Donald Trump’s presidency stretches into its second year, democratic socialism has become a significant force in Democratic politics. Its rise comes as Democrats debate whether moving too far left will turn off voters.

“I stand with the democratic socialists, and I have decided to become a dues-paying member,” Ringelstein told AP. “It’s time to do what’s right, even if it’s not easy.”

There are 42 people running for offices at the federal, state and local levels this year with the formal endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America, the organization says. They span 20 states, including Florida, Hawaii, Kansas and Michigan.

The most ambitious Democrats in Washington have been reluctant to embrace the label, even as they embrace the policies defining modern-day democratic socialism: Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition and the abolition of the federal department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Congress’ only self-identified democratic socialist, campaigned Friday with the movement’s newest star, New York City congressional candidate Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old former bartender who defeated one of the most powerful House Democrats last month.

Her victory fed a flame that was already beginning to burn brighter. The DSA’s paid membership has hovered around 6,000 in the years before Trump’s election, said Allie Cohn, a member of the group’s national political team.

Last week, its paid membership hit 45,000 nationwide.

There is little distinction made between the terms “democratic socialism” and “socialism” in the group’s literature. While Ringelstein and other DSA-backed candidates promote a “big-tent” philosophy, the group’s constitution describes its members as socialists who “reject an economic order based on private profit” and “share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships.”

Members during public meetings often refer to each other “comrades,” wear clothing featuring socialist symbols like the rose and promote authors such as Karl Marx.

The common association with the failed Soviet Union has made it difficult for sympathetic liberals to explain their connection.

“I don’t like the term socialist, because people do associate that with bad things in history,” said Kansas congressional candidate James Thompson, who is endorsed by the DSA and campaigned alongside Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, but is not a dues-paying democratic socialist. “There’s definitely a lot of their policies that closely align with mine.”

Thompson, an Army veteran turned civil rights attorney, is running again after narrowly losing a special election last year to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Even in deep-red Kansas, he embraces policies like “Medicare for all” and is openly critical of capitalism.

In Hawaii, 29-year-old state Rep. Kaniela Ing isn’t shy about promoting his status as a democratic socialist in his bid for Congress. He said he was encouraged to run for higher office by the same activist who recruited Ocasio-Cortez.

“We figured just lean in hard,” Ing told the AP of the democratic socialist label. He acknowledged some baby boomers may be scared away, but said the policies democratic socialists promote — like free health care and economic equality — aren’t extreme.

Republicans, meanwhile, are encouraged by the rise of democratic socialism — for a far different reason. They have seized on what they view as a leftward lurch by Democrats they predict will alienate voters this fall and in the 2020 presidential race.

The Republican National Committee eagerly notes that Sanders’ plan to provide free government-sponsored health care for all Americans had no co-sponsors in 2013. Today, more than one-third of Senate Democrats and two-thirds of House Democrats have signed onto the proposal, which by one estimate could cost taxpayers as much as $32 trillion.

The co-sponsors include some 2020 presidential prospects, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Those senators aren’t calling themselves democratic socialists but also not disassociating themselves from the movement’s priorities.

Most support the push to abolish ICE, which enforces immigration laws and led the Trump administration’s recent push to separate immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Of the group, only Booker hasn’t called for ICE to be abolished, replaced or rebuilt. Yet Booker’s office notes that he’s among the few senators backing a plan to guarantee government-backed jobs to unemployed adults in high-unemployment communities across America.

“Embracing socialist policies like government-run health care, a guaranteed jobs program and open borders will only make Democrats more out of touch,” RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel said.

Despite Ocasio-Cortez’s recent success, most DSA-endorsed candidates have struggled.

Gayle McLaughlin finished eighth in last month’s Democratic primary to become California’s lieutenant governor, earning just 4 percent of the vote. All three endorsed candidates for Maryland’s Montgomery County Council lost last month as well. And Ryan Fenwick was blown out by 58 points in his run to become mayor of Louisville, Kentucky.

Ringelstein, a 32-year-old political neophyte, is expected to struggle in his campaign to unseat Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. He is refusing to accept donations from lobbyists or corporate political action committees, which has made fundraising a grind. At the end of June, King’s campaign reported $2.4 million cash on hand while Ringelstein had just $23,000.

He has tapped into the party’s national progressive movement and the southern Maine chapter of the DSA for the kind of grassroots support that fueled Ocasio-Cortez’s victory. As he has done almost every month this year, Ringelstein attended the group’s monthly meeting at Portland’s city hall last Monday.

More than 60 people packed into the room. The group’s chairman, 25-year-old union organizer Meg Reilly, wore a T-shirt featuring three roses.

She cheered the “comrades” softball team’s recent season before moving to an agenda that touched on climate change legislation, a book share program “to further your socialist education,” and an exchange program that lets community members swap favors such as jewelry repair, pet sitting or cooking.

Near the end of the two-hour gathering, Ringelstein thanked the group for “standing shoulder to shoulder with us throughout this entire campaign.”

“We could win a U.S. Senate seat!” he said. “I want to say that over and over. We could win a U.S. Senate seat! So, let’s do this.”

 

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Democratic Socialism Rising in the Age of Trump

A week ago, Maine Democrat Zak Ringelstein wasn’t quite ready to consider himself a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, even if he appreciated the organization’s values and endorsement in his bid to become a U.S. senator.

Three days later, he told The Associated Press it was time to join up. He’s now the only major-party Senate candidate in the nation to be a dues-paying democratic socialist.

Ringelstein’s leap is the latest evidence of a nationwide surge in the strength and popularity of an organization that, until recently, operated on the fringes of the liberal movement’s farthest left flank. As Donald Trump’s presidency stretches into its second year, democratic socialism has become a significant force in Democratic politics. Its rise comes as Democrats debate whether moving too far left will turn off voters.

“I stand with the democratic socialists, and I have decided to become a dues-paying member,” Ringelstein told AP. “It’s time to do what’s right, even if it’s not easy.”

There are 42 people running for offices at the federal, state and local levels this year with the formal endorsement of the Democratic Socialists of America, the organization says. They span 20 states, including Florida, Hawaii, Kansas and Michigan.

The most ambitious Democrats in Washington have been reluctant to embrace the label, even as they embrace the policies defining modern-day democratic socialism: Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition and the abolition of the federal department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Congress’ only self-identified democratic socialist, campaigned Friday with the movement’s newest star, New York City congressional candidate Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old former bartender who defeated one of the most powerful House Democrats last month.

Her victory fed a flame that was already beginning to burn brighter. The DSA’s paid membership has hovered around 6,000 in the years before Trump’s election, said Allie Cohn, a member of the group’s national political team.

Last week, its paid membership hit 45,000 nationwide.

There is little distinction made between the terms “democratic socialism” and “socialism” in the group’s literature. While Ringelstein and other DSA-backed candidates promote a “big-tent” philosophy, the group’s constitution describes its members as socialists who “reject an economic order based on private profit” and “share a vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships.”

Members during public meetings often refer to each other “comrades,” wear clothing featuring socialist symbols like the rose and promote authors such as Karl Marx.

The common association with the failed Soviet Union has made it difficult for sympathetic liberals to explain their connection.

“I don’t like the term socialist, because people do associate that with bad things in history,” said Kansas congressional candidate James Thompson, who is endorsed by the DSA and campaigned alongside Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, but is not a dues-paying democratic socialist. “There’s definitely a lot of their policies that closely align with mine.”

Thompson, an Army veteran turned civil rights attorney, is running again after narrowly losing a special election last year to fill the seat vacated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Even in deep-red Kansas, he embraces policies like “Medicare for all” and is openly critical of capitalism.

In Hawaii, 29-year-old state Rep. Kaniela Ing isn’t shy about promoting his status as a democratic socialist in his bid for Congress. He said he was encouraged to run for higher office by the same activist who recruited Ocasio-Cortez.

“We figured just lean in hard,” Ing told the AP of the democratic socialist label. He acknowledged some baby boomers may be scared away, but said the policies democratic socialists promote — like free health care and economic equality — aren’t extreme.

Republicans, meanwhile, are encouraged by the rise of democratic socialism — for a far different reason. They have seized on what they view as a leftward lurch by Democrats they predict will alienate voters this fall and in the 2020 presidential race.

The Republican National Committee eagerly notes that Sanders’ plan to provide free government-sponsored health care for all Americans had no co-sponsors in 2013. Today, more than one-third of Senate Democrats and two-thirds of House Democrats have signed onto the proposal, which by one estimate could cost taxpayers as much as $32 trillion.

The co-sponsors include some 2020 presidential prospects, such as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Those senators aren’t calling themselves democratic socialists but also not disassociating themselves from the movement’s priorities.

Most support the push to abolish ICE, which enforces immigration laws and led the Trump administration’s recent push to separate immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Of the group, only Booker hasn’t called for ICE to be abolished, replaced or rebuilt. Yet Booker’s office notes that he’s among the few senators backing a plan to guarantee government-backed jobs to unemployed adults in high-unemployment communities across America.

“Embracing socialist policies like government-run health care, a guaranteed jobs program and open borders will only make Democrats more out of touch,” RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel said.

Despite Ocasio-Cortez’s recent success, most DSA-endorsed candidates have struggled.

Gayle McLaughlin finished eighth in last month’s Democratic primary to become California’s lieutenant governor, earning just 4 percent of the vote. All three endorsed candidates for Maryland’s Montgomery County Council lost last month as well. And Ryan Fenwick was blown out by 58 points in his run to become mayor of Louisville, Kentucky.

Ringelstein, a 32-year-old political neophyte, is expected to struggle in his campaign to unseat Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. He is refusing to accept donations from lobbyists or corporate political action committees, which has made fundraising a grind. At the end of June, King’s campaign reported $2.4 million cash on hand while Ringelstein had just $23,000.

He has tapped into the party’s national progressive movement and the southern Maine chapter of the DSA for the kind of grassroots support that fueled Ocasio-Cortez’s victory. As he has done almost every month this year, Ringelstein attended the group’s monthly meeting at Portland’s city hall last Monday.

More than 60 people packed into the room. The group’s chairman, 25-year-old union organizer Meg Reilly, wore a T-shirt featuring three roses.

She cheered the “comrades” softball team’s recent season before moving to an agenda that touched on climate change legislation, a book share program “to further your socialist education,” and an exchange program that lets community members swap favors such as jewelry repair, pet sitting or cooking.

Near the end of the two-hour gathering, Ringelstein thanked the group for “standing shoulder to shoulder with us throughout this entire campaign.”

“We could win a U.S. Senate seat!” he said. “I want to say that over and over. We could win a U.S. Senate seat! So, let’s do this.”

 

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Trump Claims ex-Lawyer’s Phone-taping Is ‘Perhaps Illegal’

President Donald Trump said Saturday that his personal lawyer’s taping of their private phone conversations is “totally unheard of & perhaps illegal.”

Trump was responding to the revelation that former attorney Michael Cohen, weeks before the 2016 election, secretly recorded their discussion of a potential payment for a former Playboy model’s account of having an affair with Trump. He tweeted: “The good news is that your favorite President did nothing wrong!”

The recording was part of a large collection of documents and electronic records seized by federal authorities from the longtime Trump fixer earlier this year.

Cohen had made a practice of recording telephone conversations, unbeknownst to those he was speaking with. New York state law allows for recordings of conversations with only the consent of one party; other jurisdictions require all parties to agree to a recording. It was not immediately clear where Trump and Cohen were located at the time of the call.

Cohen’s recording adds to questions about whether Trump tried to quash damaging stories before the election. Trump’s campaign had said it knew nothing about any payment to ex-centerfold Karen McDougal. It could also further entangle the president in a criminal investigation that for months has targeted Cohen.

The erstwhile Trump loyalist has hired a new attorney, Clinton White House veteran Lanny Davis, and disassociated himself from the president as both remain under investigation. Cohen has not been charged with a crime.

Current Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said the payment was never made and the brief recording shows Trump did nothing wrong.

“The transaction that Michael is talking about on the tape never took place, but what’s important is: If it did take place, the president said it has to be done correctly and it has to be done by check” to keep a proper record of it, Giuliani said.

Davis said “any attempt at spin cannot change what is on the tape.”

“When the recording is heard, it will not hurt Mr. Cohen,” Davis said in a statement.

The recording was first reported Friday by The New York Times.

The FBI raided Cohen’s office, home and hotel room in April, searching in part for information about payments to McDougal and porn actress Stormy Daniels, who received a $130,000 payment from Cohen before the election to keep quiet about a sexual relationship she says she had with Trump. The FBI investigation is separate from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of election interference in 2016 and potential obstruction of justice by those in the president’s orbit.

Referring to that raid, Trump called it “inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer’s office (early in the morning).” In past comments Trump has also referred to the court-ordered seizure as a “break-in,” though Cohen has been more sanguine, saying the FBI agents were courteous and respectful.

A self-described fixer for Trump for more than a decade, Cohen said last year he would “take a bullet” for Trump. But he told ABC News in an interview broadcast this month that he now puts “family and country first” and won’t let anyone paint him as “a villain of this story.” On Twitter, he scrubbed mentions and photos of Trump from a profile that previously identified him as “Personal attorney to President Donald J. Trump.”

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Facebook Suspends Another Analytics Firm

Facebook says it has suspended working with Boston-based analytics firm Crimson Hexagon until it can determine how the firm collects and shares Facebook and Instagram user data.

Facebook announced the suspension Friday.

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report the suspension and said that one of Crimson Hexagon’s clients is a Russian nonprofit with ties to the Kremlin.

Facebook said that Crimson Hexagon is cooperating with the investigation and there is no evidence that Crimson Hexagon obtained Facebook or Instagram information inappropriately.

“We don’t allow developers to build surveillance tools using information from Facebook or Instagram,” Facebook said in a statement Friday. “We take these allegations seriously and have suspended these apps while we investigate.”

Chris Bingham, Crimson Hexagon’s, chief technology officer, said in a blog Friday his company “only collects publicly available social media data that anyone can access.”

He added, “Government entities that leverage the Crimson Hexagon platform do so for the same reasons as many of our other nongovernment customers: a broad-based and aggregate understanding of the public’s perception, preferences and sentiment about matters of concern to them.”

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Cambridge Analytica inappropriately obtained user data from millions of Facebook users.

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US Senators Drop Efforts to Cripple China’s ZTE

U.S. Republican lawmakers have dropped their efforts to reimpose a crippling ban on exports to the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE. 

The move Friday gives a victory to U.S. President Donald Trump who has championed for ZTE to stay in business. 

Republican senators Friday dropped legislation that would block ZTE from buying component parts from the United States. Senators had included the legislation in a defense spending bill passed last month, but a House version of the defense bill did not include the same provision.

Lawmakers say senators decided to leave the provision out of the final compromise bill, which is expected to come to a vote in the House and Senate in the coming days.

Lawmakers from both parties have been critical of President Trump over his decision to lift a ban on U.S. companies selling to ZTE.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer blasted Friday’s developments.

“By stripping the Senate’s tough ZTE sanctions provision from the defense bill, President Trump and the congressional Republicans who acted at his behest  have once again made President Xi and the Chinese Government the big winners,” he said in a statement.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio called dropping the provision “bad news” in a tweet Friday.ZTE is accused of selling sensitive technologies to Iran and North Korea, despite a U.S. trade embargo.

In April, the U.S. Commerce Department barred ZTE from importing American components for its telecommunications products for the next seven years, practically putting the company out of business. 

However, Trump later announced a deal with ZTE in which the Chinese company would pay a $1 billion fine for its trade violations, as well as replace its entire management and board by the middle of July.

The Commerce Department announced last week that it has formally lifted the ban on ZTE after the Chinese company complied with all terms of the settlement. 

Most of the world first heard of the dispute over ZTE in May after one of Trump’s tweets.

 

 

 

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US Senators Drop Efforts to Cripple China’s ZTE

U.S. Republican lawmakers have dropped their efforts to reimpose a crippling ban on exports to the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE. 

The move Friday gives a victory to U.S. President Donald Trump who has championed for ZTE to stay in business. 

Republican senators Friday dropped legislation that would block ZTE from buying component parts from the United States. Senators had included the legislation in a defense spending bill passed last month, but a House version of the defense bill did not include the same provision.

Lawmakers say senators decided to leave the provision out of the final compromise bill, which is expected to come to a vote in the House and Senate in the coming days.

Lawmakers from both parties have been critical of President Trump over his decision to lift a ban on U.S. companies selling to ZTE.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer blasted Friday’s developments.

“By stripping the Senate’s tough ZTE sanctions provision from the defense bill, President Trump and the congressional Republicans who acted at his behest  have once again made President Xi and the Chinese Government the big winners,” he said in a statement.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio called dropping the provision “bad news” in a tweet Friday.ZTE is accused of selling sensitive technologies to Iran and North Korea, despite a U.S. trade embargo.

In April, the U.S. Commerce Department barred ZTE from importing American components for its telecommunications products for the next seven years, practically putting the company out of business. 

However, Trump later announced a deal with ZTE in which the Chinese company would pay a $1 billion fine for its trade violations, as well as replace its entire management and board by the middle of July.

The Commerce Department announced last week that it has formally lifted the ban on ZTE after the Chinese company complied with all terms of the settlement. 

Most of the world first heard of the dispute over ZTE in May after one of Trump’s tweets.

 

 

 

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Democrats Want to Compel Interpreter to Testify About Helsinki Summit

U.S. Democratic lawmakers are trying to compel a government interpreter to testify about what was discussed during President Donald Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, but legal analysts say that is not likely to happen — unless the president allows it.

Trump and Putin met privately for more than two hours at Monday’s Helsinki summit. Only interpreters were present for the meeting, and details of what was discussed remain unknown to anyone else.

Democrats want to compel the U.S. government interpreter, Marina Gross, to testify before lawmakers, while Republicans are blocking the move.

The call for Gross to testify raises questions concerning legality, executive privilege and the ethical code for interpreters who pride themselves on their discretion and confidentiality.

“There is no precedent for issuing a subpoena for the translator,” scholar William Pomeranz told VOA.

Pomeranz, deputy director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said he did not expect the translator to be questioned by Congress, “especially because the intent of the [Trump-Putin] meeting was to be an off-the-record conversation.”

Subpoena request

Democrats say that they are concerned about what Trump may have said to Putin and that the circumstances of the summit are exceptional. They cite the fact that the Trump’s administration is already being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller over Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, and say the circumstances justify subpoenaing Trump’s interpreter.

The White House has been engulfed in controversy since the Helsinki summit, when Trump cast doubt on U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Trump has since walked back his comments, saying he does believe U.S. intelligence conclusions.

Pomeranz said the summit “is still clouded in mystery in terms of what were the concrete results.”

He said, “President Putin has suggested there were certain agreements that emerged from the summit. Yet, the State Department and President Trump have not articulated them.”

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff of California, formally requested Thursday that the committee issue a subpoena for Gross to testify, but he was overruled by Republicans who hold the majority in the House.

Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey also raised concerns about whether Trump could have used the summit to pursue his worldwide business interests.

“Given this history, the American people deserve to know if Trump used his position or this meeting with Putin to continue to pursue his own financial interests,” he wrote in a letter requesting that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hear public testimony from Gross.

Executive privilege

Conservatives in the House are arguing that executive privilege shields a president’s interpreter from reporting to Congress, and many if not most legal scholars seem to agree.

While Congress has an oversight role over the executive branch, conservative lawmakers say that presidents should be able to meet with world leaders and speak candidly without interference from lawmakers.

They also warn that subpoenaing Gross would create a dangerous precedent that could hurt the state of U.S. diplomacy as well as future presidents of either party.

Legal scholars who expressed opinions said it’s likely that only Trump could permit Gross to tell anyone about what she heard. The White House has not said whether Trump has asked her to do that.

Interpreters’ code of ethics

The move by Democrats to compel Gross to testify also raised questions about the right of interpreters to adhere to their code of ethics, which bounds them to strict secrecy.

Interpreters say they view their ethics code of confidentiality similar to the lawyer-client privilege or the duty of priests not to disclose what penitents tell them during confession.

Interpreters also say that it can sometimes be difficult to recall the big picture of a conversation they have listened to after relying on short-term memory to interpret.

Pomeranz said the role of the translator is “focused simply on making the statements, not necessarily of the content of the discussions.”

“To be a simultaneous translator is a very difficult job and it doesn’t necessary mean you are in the position to remember the specific details of the conversation,” he said.

Gross is an employee of the State Department and has served as an interpreter to high-level U.S. government officials before. She was the interpreter for Laura Bush at the Russian resort of Sochi in 2008 and interpreted for former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow in 2017.

VOA’s Sarah Williams and Pete Cobus contributed.to this report.

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Democrats Want to Compel Interpreter to Testify About Helsinki Summit

U.S. Democratic lawmakers are trying to compel a government interpreter to testify about what was discussed during President Donald Trump’s one-on-one meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, but legal analysts say that is not likely to happen — unless the president allows it.

Trump and Putin met privately for more than two hours at Monday’s Helsinki summit. Only interpreters were present for the meeting, and details of what was discussed remain unknown to anyone else.

Democrats want to compel the U.S. government interpreter, Marina Gross, to testify before lawmakers, while Republicans are blocking the move.

The call for Gross to testify raises questions concerning legality, executive privilege and the ethical code for interpreters who pride themselves on their discretion and confidentiality.

“There is no precedent for issuing a subpoena for the translator,” scholar William Pomeranz told VOA.

Pomeranz, deputy director of the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, said he did not expect the translator to be questioned by Congress, “especially because the intent of the [Trump-Putin] meeting was to be an off-the-record conversation.”

Subpoena request

Democrats say that they are concerned about what Trump may have said to Putin and that the circumstances of the summit are exceptional. They cite the fact that the Trump’s administration is already being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller over Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, and say the circumstances justify subpoenaing Trump’s interpreter.

The White House has been engulfed in controversy since the Helsinki summit, when Trump cast doubt on U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Trump has since walked back his comments, saying he does believe U.S. intelligence conclusions.

Pomeranz said the summit “is still clouded in mystery in terms of what were the concrete results.”

He said, “President Putin has suggested there were certain agreements that emerged from the summit. Yet, the State Department and President Trump have not articulated them.”

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff of California, formally requested Thursday that the committee issue a subpoena for Gross to testify, but he was overruled by Republicans who hold the majority in the House.

Democratic Representative Bill Pascrell Jr. of New Jersey also raised concerns about whether Trump could have used the summit to pursue his worldwide business interests.

“Given this history, the American people deserve to know if Trump used his position or this meeting with Putin to continue to pursue his own financial interests,” he wrote in a letter requesting that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hear public testimony from Gross.

Executive privilege

Conservatives in the House are arguing that executive privilege shields a president’s interpreter from reporting to Congress, and many if not most legal scholars seem to agree.

While Congress has an oversight role over the executive branch, conservative lawmakers say that presidents should be able to meet with world leaders and speak candidly without interference from lawmakers.

They also warn that subpoenaing Gross would create a dangerous precedent that could hurt the state of U.S. diplomacy as well as future presidents of either party.

Legal scholars who expressed opinions said it’s likely that only Trump could permit Gross to tell anyone about what she heard. The White House has not said whether Trump has asked her to do that.

Interpreters’ code of ethics

The move by Democrats to compel Gross to testify also raised questions about the right of interpreters to adhere to their code of ethics, which bounds them to strict secrecy.

Interpreters say they view their ethics code of confidentiality similar to the lawyer-client privilege or the duty of priests not to disclose what penitents tell them during confession.

Interpreters also say that it can sometimes be difficult to recall the big picture of a conversation they have listened to after relying on short-term memory to interpret.

Pomeranz said the role of the translator is “focused simply on making the statements, not necessarily of the content of the discussions.”

“To be a simultaneous translator is a very difficult job and it doesn’t necessary mean you are in the position to remember the specific details of the conversation,” he said.

Gross is an employee of the State Department and has served as an interpreter to high-level U.S. government officials before. She was the interpreter for Laura Bush at the Russian resort of Sochi in 2008 and interpreted for former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Moscow in 2017.

VOA’s Sarah Williams and Pete Cobus contributed.to this report.

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California High Court Rejects Proposed Measure to Divide State

In November, Californians will not have to decide whether the state should be partitioned.

The state Supreme Court ruled this week that a measure on partitioning the nation’s most populous state into three could not be put on the ballot for the November midterm elections.

In June, state election officials announced the proposed ballot measure had received enough signatures to appear on the ballot. Yet, the state’s highest judicial body ruled that splitting California would amount to a change in its Constitution, requiring the approval of the state legislature before voters go to the polls.

“Significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity,” the court said. The ruling also said, “We conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election.”

The measure was backed by California-based venture capitalist Tim Draper. He has long attempted to force a vote on similar measures to divvy up his home state.

“Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education and lower taxes,” Draper told the Los Angeles Times last year, after submitting his most recent proposal. “States will be more accountable to us and can cooperate and compete for citizens.”

A California environmental group, the Planning and Conservation League (PCL), opposed the measure.

“California’s Constitution rightfully ensures that voters have a voice in public policy through direct democracy,” Howard Penn, the PCL’s executive director, said in a statement. “If those constitutional safeguards mean anything, they should prevent a billionaire from circumventing the constitutionally required process for making such sweeping changes to our government.”

The high court gave Draper 30 days to respond to the ruling.

If such a measure to divide the state were to pass someday, it would most likely require approval from the U.S. Congress. No U.S. state has been divided since West Virginia broke off from Virginia in 1863, during the Civil War.

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California High Court Rejects Proposed Measure to Divide State

In November, Californians will not have to decide whether the state should be partitioned.

The state Supreme Court ruled this week that a measure on partitioning the nation’s most populous state into three could not be put on the ballot for the November midterm elections.

In June, state election officials announced the proposed ballot measure had received enough signatures to appear on the ballot. Yet, the state’s highest judicial body ruled that splitting California would amount to a change in its Constitution, requiring the approval of the state legislature before voters go to the polls.

“Significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity,” the court said. The ruling also said, “We conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election.”

The measure was backed by California-based venture capitalist Tim Draper. He has long attempted to force a vote on similar measures to divvy up his home state.

“Three states will get us better infrastructure, better education and lower taxes,” Draper told the Los Angeles Times last year, after submitting his most recent proposal. “States will be more accountable to us and can cooperate and compete for citizens.”

A California environmental group, the Planning and Conservation League (PCL), opposed the measure.

“California’s Constitution rightfully ensures that voters have a voice in public policy through direct democracy,” Howard Penn, the PCL’s executive director, said in a statement. “If those constitutional safeguards mean anything, they should prevent a billionaire from circumventing the constitutionally required process for making such sweeping changes to our government.”

The high court gave Draper 30 days to respond to the ruling.

If such a measure to divide the state were to pass someday, it would most likely require approval from the U.S. Congress. No U.S. state has been divided since West Virginia broke off from Virginia in 1863, during the Civil War.

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