• National emergencyTrump declares national emergency

    President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency, bypassing Congress to build a wall along the southern U.S. border, and setting up a legal challenge that could help determine the limits of U.S. presidential power.

  • National emergencyCan Congress or the courts reverse Trump’s national emergency?

    By Chris Edelson

    President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to pay for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, after Congress, in its new spending bill, denied him the full money to build it. Presidents generally claim emergency power two ways: through inherent or implied authority under the U.S. Constitution or under statutory authority granted by Congress. The U.S. Constitution says nothing specific about presidential emergency power: Presidents can only claim such authority is implied or inherent. The emergency powers the Constitution does describe are actually assigned to Congress. Congress has delegated some emergency powers to the president through statutes, including the National Emergencies Act. But Congress retains the power to reject a president’s declaration of a national emergency. Now the question is: Will Congress use the power available to it, or will it play the role of passive spectator?

  • Climate & securityLawmakers tell Pentagon to redo climate change report

    Earlier this month, the Pentagon, in compliance with a congressional mandate, released a landmark report which identified the 79 American military installations most vulnerable to the “effects of a changing climate.” Several Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee welcomed the report – but at the same time harshly criticized it for failing to include details requested by Congress, among them the estimates by each of the armed services of the cost of protecting or replacing the ten most vulnerable military bases.

  • ExtremismRep. Rashida Tlaib criticized for Mid East office map which does not show Israel

    The office decorations of newly elected U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan) include a wall map of the Middle East which does not show the State of Israel. The map, published by the Palestinian Authority, is used in Palestinian schools, and shows the area now the Palestinian territories as one political uinit called “Palestine.” Tlaib also came in for criticism for a Twitter post in which she appears to accuse member sof Congress who oppose the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement of dual loyalty.

  • TerrorismBipartisan bill targeting Hamas, Hezbollah for using human shields passes senate unanimously

    The United States Senate has unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that would enact sanctions on those who use civilians as human shields as a tactic of war, including terror groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, and ISIS. The bill, called the Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act, was co-sponsored by 50 other senators.

  • Election securitySecure Election Act will not be ready before midterms

    Senator James Lankford (R-OK) said Tuesday the Secure Elections Act, bipartisan legislation designed “to protect elections from cyberattacks,” won’t be ready before November. Last month’s Senate committee mark-up was abruptly postponed by Senate Rules and Administration Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) over a lack of Republican support and objections by some secretaries of state and the White House.

  • The Russia connectionTwitter, Facebook face senators again

    The Senate Intelligence Committee is set to hear from two top social media executives today (Wednesday) on what they have been doing to combat the spread of propaganda and disinformation online and how they are prepared to help secure the integrity of upcoming elections. The committee will hear from Twitter Co-Founder and CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg – but one chair, reserved for Google cofounder Larry Page, may remain empty. The committee extended the invitation to Google CEO Sundar Pichai as well as Larry Page, who is CEO of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, but the company wanted to send senior vice president Kent Walker instead. The committee made it clear it is not interested in hearing from Walker.

  • Election securityNew bill to help protect security of U.S. elections

    On Friday, four members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) introduced the Secure Elections Act, which would provide local communities and state governments with the resources needed to strengthen election systems against cyberattacks. “Hostile foreign actors have attempted and will continue to attempt to undermine the fundamentals of our democracy by attacking our electoral process,” said Representative Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), one of the bill’s sponsors. “It is our responsibility to take every precaution necessary to safeguard our elections and ensure no vote count is ever interfered with.

  • The Russia connectionBipartisan bill introduces “crushing” measures against “Kremlin aggression”

    An influential bipartisan group of U.S. senators has introduced a package of measures designed to “defend American security from Kremlin aggression,” including new financial sanctions and a “strong statement of support” for NATO. The bill introduced on 2 August represents at least the fourth piece of legislation circulating in Congress to punish Russia for its alleged interference in U.S. elections, its aggression in Ukraine and Syria, and other “malign” activities. “The current sanctions regime has failed to deter Russia from meddling in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections,” Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said in a statement introducing the bill. “Our goal is to change the status quo and impose crushing sanctions and other measures against [President Vladimir] Putin’s Russia until he ceases and desists meddling in the U.S. electoral process, halts cyberattacks on U.S. infrastructure, removes Russia from Ukraine, and ceases efforts to create chaos in Syria,” Graham said.

  • The Russia connectionSenate committees to hold hearings on Russia, recommend additional punitive measures

    Two Senate committees – the Foreign Relations Committee and the Banking Committee – announced they will hold a series of hearings on Russia. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) tasked Senators Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, with holding hearings on the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), and asked them to recommend to the Senate additional measures that could respond to or deter what he called “Russian malign behavior.”

  • Foreign-influence operationsNew cosponsors for the bipartisan DETER Act

    More lawmakers have joined Senators Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) in sponsoring the DETER Act. DETER uses the threat of powerful sanctions to dissuade hostile foreign powers from meddling in U.S. elections by ensuring that they know well in advance that the costs will outweigh the benefits. “We must make sure Putin understands that we will not overlook his hostilities, and he will face punishing consequences if he tries to interfere in our elections again,” Rubio said. “Vladimir Putin would like nothing more than to continue sowing discord and meddling in Western democracies without consequence. Passing this legislation would help improve Americans’ faith in their system of government and send an unmistakable signal to the Kremlin that it’s not worth trying it again,” said Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

  • Immigration & businessPrivate prison companies are influencing immigration policy

    Groundbreaking study finds increased support for punitive immigration legislation in districts with privately owned or managed ICE detention facilities. Researchers explain that in recent years, as overall crime rates have dropped nationwide, more and more private prison companies have turned to a new money-making scheme: Partnering with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, to detain immigrants in facilities across the country. The researchers also ask: As the scope of private imprisonment grows, is the industry’s influence on politics growing as well?

  • The Russia connection“A clear preference for President-elect Trump”: Senate Intel Committee on Russia’s 2016 influence campaign

    On Tuesday, the GOP-led Senate Intelligence Committee, after sixteen months of investigation, has released the second unclassified installment of its report on the Russian election activities in 2016. The report was unanimously approved by all members of the committee. The three main takeaways: First, the January 2017 ICA [the Intelligence Community Assessment of Russia active-measures campaign to compromise the 2016 presidential election] “is a sound intelligence product”; second, “Russian efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election represent the most recent expression of Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order, but these activities demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operation”; third, “We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election. Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

  • Public healthBipartisan bill offers new “pull” incentives for priority antibiotics

    Last week lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bipartisan bill to encourage the development of new antibiotics, a move one expert called the most important antibiotic legislation in a generation. Currently, only a few large drug companies are involved in antibiotic research and development, because the cost of developing the drugs is so high and profit margins are so slim. Most new developments are modifications of existing drugs, and it’s been three decades since the last new class of antibiotics was discovered.

  • EncryptionThe ENCRYPT Act protects encryption from U.S. state prying

    By David Ruiz

    It’s not just the DOJ and the FBI that want to compromise your right to private communications and secure devices—some state lawmakers want to weaken encryption, too. In recent years, a couple of state legislatures introduced bills to restrict or outright ban encryption on smartphones and other devices. Fortunately, several Congress members recently introduced their own bill to stop this dangerous trend before it goes any further.