Today in OpenGov: Out of Sessions


In today's edition, President Trump gets Attorney General Jeff Sessions' resignation, House Democrats prepare for their new oversight duties, Durham, NC wants the best government forms, and more. 


President Trump.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigns, Trump loyalist and Mueller skeptic tapped as his temporary replacement… "President Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Wednesday, replacing him with a loyalist who has echoed the president’s complaints about the special counsel investigation into Russia’s election interference and will now take charge of the inquiry. Mr. Sessions delivered his resignation letter to the White House at the request of the president, who tapped Matthew G. Whitaker, Mr. Sessions’s chief of staff, as acting attorney general, raising questions about the future of the inquiry led by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III." (New York Times)
  • …The move sparked speculation that President Trump may move to shut down Robert Mueller's investigation. Here's what newly empowered House Democrats might do to protect him. "House Democrats, with their new majority, will have an expansive new toolkit once they take control of the chamber on Jan. 3 to protect special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation — even if acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker decides to shut it down…Democrats’ first step would be to preserve evidence Mueller has collected over roughly the last year and a half so that the Trump administration doesn’t confiscate files and hide them. With their new majority, Democrats could bypass Trump’s Justice Department, which has the authority to enforce or toss out congressional subpoenas, by subpoenaing Mueller himself to learn what he knows." (Roll Call)
  • Our take? President Trump's rhetoric and threats toward the Department of Justice have been unacceptable throughout his tenure. His actions today represent a transparent claim of impunity for himself, and an urgent threat to the rule of law for all Americans.
  • Following contentious press conference, Trump administration suspends CNN reporter Jim Acosta's White House credentials. "President Trump took the exceedingly rare step of suspending the White House credentials of Jim Acosta, the chief White House correspondent for CNN, on Wednesday after an intense verbal clash at a news conference earlier in the day…Mr. Acosta, who was in the front row just feet from the president, refused several times to sit down or to return a microphone to a White House intern who sought to retrieve it." (New York Times)
  • Document fight between Congressional Republicans and Obama administration likely to have big impact as Congressional Democrats move to investigate Trump administration. "A series of court rulings favoring Republicans in their fight with the Obama administration over access to documents — rulings that the Trump administration unsuccessfully tried to get tossed out this year — could come back to haunt them as Democrats take control of the House of Representatives. House Republicans spent years wrangling in court with former attorney general Eric Holder over a subpoena for Justice Department documents about a botched gun sting program known as Operation Fast and Furious. The Republicans scored key wins, with the judge rejecting the Obama administration’s argument that this was the sort of political dispute that shouldn’t be in court, and finding that the White House couldn’t make sweeping privilege claims to keep broad categories of documents out of Congress’s hands." (BuzzFeed)

washington watch

Former Rep. Steve Stockman. Image credit: Gage Skidmore.
  • Former Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing charitable donations. "A former United States representative from Texas was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison and ordered to pay about $1 million in restitution after being convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars meant for charity and using it to pay for personal expenses and his political campaigns." (New York Times)
  • Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), likely the next House Oversight Committee chairman, discusses what promises to be a busy 2019 for his panel. "While on Twitter today, President Trump referred to the likelihood that House Democrats will investigate his administration now that their victory in the House has given them the power to do so. He says that would be a waste of taxpayer money, and he threatened to investigate them. If there are investigations of this administration, Congressman Elijah Cummings may oversee some of them. He is the ranking member right now of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which means he would likely be the chairman when Democrats take over in January." (NPR)
  • The 2018 midterms were the most expensive ever. Money mattered in some races more than others. "The 2018 midterm elections were easily the most expensive ever – but at best, all that money bought both Republicans and Democrats a mixed result…Most of the time, the candidates with the most money won. But in some high profile cases, especially in the Senate, they didn't." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • Three judge panel unanimously strikes down Maryland Congressional map as partisan gerrymander. "The judges considered two First Amendment-based theories: all three joined in one of the theories, and two in the other. This will go on direct appeal to the Supreme Court, in a case with an opinion written by a well respected conservative judge (Niemeyer) and involving a finding of gerrymandering against Democrats. This will likely get taken up with the North Carolina case which involves a Republican gerrymander." (Election Law Blog)
  • With divided government, K Street turns its hiring eyes towards Democrats. "House Democrats’ return to power after eight years in the minority has reordered Washington’s lobbying scene, fueling demand for hires who have relationships with Democrats and rattling companies that are afraid they’ll get caught up in investigations led by the incoming majority…Washington offices of major corporations now are grappling with how to work a Democratic House full of newly elected members, many of whom ran on promises to resist special interests and who are generally younger and more diverse than the denizens of K Street." (POLITICO)

states and cities

Durham, NC. Image via Government Technology.
  • Durham, NC wants its forms to be the best in the country. "Durham, N.C., wants to have the best forms of any local government in the country. To understand the significance of this, one must first be aware that there’s a prevailing sentiment among most folks in government that the forms constituents must often complete for services — for everything from access to public information to applications for business permits — have become convoluted as a result of bureaucracy. In all levels of government, experts point to forms that are unnecessarily long and difficult, both for those who must fill them out as well as for those who are later tasked with processing them. As a result, there are an increasing number of government and government-adjacent stakeholders working to redesign forms with users in mind. Durham’s goal is to be among the best of them, and the city is working to accomplish this with a mix of human-centered design and behavioral science expertise." (Government Technology)
  • How did all the billionaire-backed ballot measures fare on election day? "Voters decided more than 150 state ballot measures across the country Tuesday, and out-of-state billionaires’ bets on some of the highest profile initiatives mostly paid off. At least 25 remote tycoons made sizable contributions to the $1.12 billion raised nationwide for state ballot measure campaigns. Combined, those billionaires gave more than $70 million to campaigns in 19 states, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis published Oct. 18. At least another $7.2 million came from billionaires to campaigns in their home states. Voters agreed with at least 14 out of 22 ballot measure campaigns backed by billionaires from other states, with one Utah measure to create an independent redistricting commission still too close to call." (Center for Public Integrity)
  • The FBI raided a Los Angeles, CA city councilmember's offices yesterday. "FBI agents reportedly searched the City Hall offices of Los Angeles City Councilman Jose Huizar Wednesday, The Los Angeles Times reported. More than 15 people wearing FBI jackets went in and out of Huizar's office, one city employee told the Times. An FBI photographer was also observed entering the office and people reportedly carried boxes out of the office when they left." (The Hill)


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