Today in OpenGov: A pork free diet


In today’s edition, Washington considers bringing pork back into its diet, President Trump opens up on immigration, the USDA looks into a controversial data change, controversial surveillance legislation gets a vote, and much more.


A screenshot from President Trump’s meeting with Congressional leaders to discuss DACA. Via C-SPAN.
  • President Trump, Congressional leaders discussed immigration reform in front of cameras for nearly an hour. “Tuesday’s meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House was scheduled to be closed to reporters, but opened up on short notice. It quickly became perhaps the most extended open discussion between the president and congressional leaders since President Barack Obama’s Blair House summit on health care eight years ago.” During the conversation, which centered on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Trump stressed that he would sign any fix to the program presented to him by Congress as long as it included border security measures. (USA Today) You can watch video of the meeting via C-SPAN.
  • During the meeting on DACA, Trump suggested bringing back earmarks. “President Donald Trump, who came to Washington vowing to “drain the swamp,” mused Tuesday about lifting the ban on congressional earmarks, the practice of larding legislation with pork-barrel payoffs.” (Bloomberg) Our take? If earmarks were to return to Congress they should be completely transparent. It would also be vital for the public to know if President Trump stood to benefit, which would require full disclosure of his interests, something he has not been willing to do to this point.
  • The White House is planning to destroy voter data collected by the, now defunct, “voter fraud” commission. “The White House intends to destroy voter data collected by the election fraud commission President Donald Trump recently shut down, the Justice Department said in a court filing Tuesday night. White House Director of Information Technology Charles Herndon said in a declaration submitted to a federal court in Washington that officials plan to erase the information, rather than transfer it to the Department of Homeland Security or the National Archives and Records Administration.” (POLITICO)
  • A policy change at the Department of Interior will subject grants to review by political appointees. “The Interior Department has adopted a new screening process for the discretionary grants it makes to outside groups, instructing staff to ensure those awards “promote the priorities” of the Trump administration. The Dec. 28 directive, obtained by The Washington Post, represents the latest attempt by Trump political appointees to put their mark on government spending.” (Washington Post)
  • President Trump’s personal lawyer is suing BuzzFeed over the so-called Steele Dossier. Rebecca Morin explains, “Michael Cohen, longtime attorney for President Donald Trump, filed two defamation lawsuits Tuesday evening against research firm Fusion GPS and BuzzFeed…Fusion GPS commissioned the so-called Steele dossier, a controversial compilation of alleged ties between Trump and Russia. Compiled by Christopher Steele, a former British spy, the dossier has since been a focus of congressional probes investigating whether Russia interfered with the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign.” (POLITICO)
  • Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) publicly released text of Fusion GPS co-founder’s Judiciary Committee testimony. In a statement on her website, Feinstein explained that “after speaking with majority and minority committee staff for 10 hours, Glenn Simpson requested the transcript of his interview be released publicly. The American people deserve the opportunity to see what he said and judge for themselves…” (Dianne Feinstein) Our take? The American public should have open access to the testimony & research generated by the US Senate’s investigation of Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. We were glad to see Senator Feinstein’s disclosure.

know your rights

This week, the House will vote on a long term extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). We joined more than 40 organizations from across the political spectrum in urging members of Congress to support the USA RIGHTS amendment being offered on the bill.

The amendment would enact meaningful reforms to Section 702 of FISA, which has historically been used by the government to unconstitutionally collect Americans’ communications without a warrant or individualized approval from a judge. Concerns regarding this collection are compounded by the government’s routine searches of Section 702 data for the information of U.S. citizens and residents despite the fact that Section 702 explicitly prohibits the targeting of such persons.

Without the addition of the USA RIGHTS amendment the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act should not pass through the House.

We urge you to read through the full letter here and consider urging your member of Congress to vote YES on the USA RIGHTS Amendment and NO on on the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act if the USA RIGHTS amendment does not pass.

washington watch

North Carolina’s disputed congressional map. Image credit Stephen Wolf. Via Daily Kos.
  • A federal court struck down North Carolina’s congressional map over partisan gerrymandering. “A federal court on Tuesday found North Carolina’s congressional map to be an unconstitutional ‘partisan’ gerrymander devised by the state’s Republican lawmakers — and ordered the state to submit a new map by the end of the month…The ruling comes as the Supreme Court is considering how partisan gerrymanders are considered by courts — in cases out of Wisconsin and Maryland — and it is expected that North Carolina lawmakers will ask to put the ruling on hold until the Wisconsin case, which was heard by the justices in October 2017, is resolved.” (BuzzFeed)
  • As the midterms draw closer two outside groups supporting the House GOP announce record fundraising. “Two prominent outside groups aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) combined to raise $66 million in 2017, record hauls that Republicans will need as they seek to maintain a majority in the House amid stiff political headwinds. The Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF), which raised less than $500,000 in the last off-year, pulled in $26 million in 2017 and has $15 million in cash-on-hand. An affiliated group, the American Action Network (AAN), brought in another $40 million.” (The Hill)
  • The USDA considers adding a licensing fee to a valuable open data set, raising alarm amongst data users. Tajha Chappellet-Lanier explains that “since 2003 the U.S. Department of Agriculture has regularly acquired and maintained aerial imagery of the entire continental U.S., making this geospatial treasure trove available to the public, for free, as open data.” The data has been targeted at the farm industry, but is used by others including startups and researchers. Now Mapbox, one of those start ups, “is sounding the alarm on a proposal circulating around USDA that would move NAIP to a licensed data model from 2019 onward.” (FedScoop)

one sentence or less

  • Lucan Ahmad Way and Adam Casey looked at Russia’s long history of meddling in foreign elections. (The Washington Post)
  • New York and San Francisco, high profile participants in the Vision Zero movement, see record low traffic deaths. (Governing)
  • Students at the University of Notre Dame are partnering with the South Bend, Indiana city government to transform raw data into useful information. (Notre Dame News)
  • This new app wants to help Americans sell their health data. (Fast Company)


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