Today in OpenGov: Obstructions
In today's edition, President Trump's team preemptively counters obstruction of justice charges, some members of Congress consider the return of earmarks, a town in Delaware thinks about giving corporations the right to vote, and more.
- A Trump lawyer claimed that the President cannot obstruct justice, not everyone agrees. In a conversation with Mike Allen, John Dowd, a lawyer for President Donald Trump, outlined "a new and highly controversial defense/theory in the Russia probe: A president cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice." (Axios)
- During Clinton impeachment proceedings, Sessions argued that Presidents can obstruct. Annalisa Merelli looked to the impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton and discovered that, at the time, then-Senator and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions argued, "even presidents can commit obstruction of justice, and they should pay for it when they do…in 1999." (Government Executive)
- Meanwhile, Mueller probe may be expanding. "Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election is entering a new phase, with a newly cooperating star witness and hints that he may be pursuing a more serious case against President Donald Trump." (Bloomberg)
- White House staff increasingly paranoid as Russia probe advances. Darren Samuelsohn reports "paranoia is enveloping the White House and President Donald Trump’s network of former aides and associates as Robert Mueller’s Russia probe heats up. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn agreed to cooperate with investigators as part of the plea deal he reached last week, adding to the worry already inside Trump’s circle surrounding the secret deal struck earlier this summer by former campaign aide George Papadopoulos, whose cooperation was kept quiet for months before being unsealed in late October." (POLITICO)
- Construction company with ties to South Korean and Saudi Arabian governments will build Trump-branded property in Indonesia. "A construction company owned in part by the governments of Saudi Arabia and South Korea plans to build a Trump-branded luxury resort development in Indonesia despite a vow from Donald Trump that his family business would not make any deals with foreign government entities while he serves as president." (McClatchy DC) This is just the latest in a long string of unresolved global conflicts of interest for the President and his family.
- Former Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown sentenced to 5 years in jail for using fake charity as personal slush fund. "Corrine Brown, a former longtime United States representative from Florida, was sentenced to five years in prison on Monday for operating a fraudulent charity that she used for more than $300,000 in personal expenses, including tickets for N.F.L. games and a Beyoncé concert." (New York Times)
- As Congress struggles to move major legislation, some consider reviving earmarks. "For a Republican majority that controls both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, there may be no better time to reconnect the old earmark pipeline that funnels money from spending bills straight to projects in lawmakers’ districts, giving voters a taste of what Congress can do for them." (Roll Call)
- Time to finalize "release to one, release to all FOIA policy. Tyler Arnold of the Cause of Action Institute argues that President Trump has a great " opportunity to show his administration’s commitment to transparency: finalizing the 'Release to One, Release to all' rule for the Freedom of Information Act." (The Hill) We agree. Recently, we joined with Cause of Action on a Petition urging the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Justice to finalize the policy in question. We have not yet received a response.
- Despite claims of fraudulent comments, requests by lawmakers, FCC won't delay vote to repeal net neutrality rules. "The Federal Communications Commission will move forward with a controversial vote to deregulate the internet despite lawmakers urging the agency hold off amid claims that millions of public comments regarding the policy change came from online bots, an agency spokesperson confirmed." (NextGov)
states and cities
Forest Preserves of Cook County interactive map.
- Indiana Medicaid Data Challenge labeled a success. "Officials are still unpacking ideas from student and professional teams across the region, but they’re calling the inaugural 2017 Indiana Medicaid Data Challenge a success for convening new talent to analyze historic amounts of health-care information. During the mid-October event, participants in the challenge searched for untried solutions to wellness needs ranging from access to mental health services to the cost and causes of emergency room visits." (Government Technology)
- Rehobeth, Delaware considers giving corporations a vote in local elections, sparking controversy. "Delaware is one of only three states in the country that empowers its cities and towns to give nonresident property owners the opportunity to vote in local races, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. State law mandates that once a Delaware municipality extends that privilege, it can't be undone. But a recent proposal by Rehoboth leaders to extend voting rights to owners of limited liability companies has riled some year-round residents and open government advocates. Their main objections: encroaching corporate influence on local politics and the potential for voter fraud by secretive shell companies." (Delaware Online)
- Interactive map eases access to Cook County, Illinois' Forest Preserves. "The Forest Preserves of Cook County in partnership with Smart Chicago has developed the Forest Preserves of Cook County interactive map. The Cook County Forest Preserves Map shows location and information about trails, points of interest, activities, and groves." (Smart Chicago Collaborative)
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