Author Archive for Erin Chan-Adams

Trump and Russia: FBI Director Confirms Investigation into Possible Ties

March 20th was a big day. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director James Comey revealed two bombshells during a special hearing before the House Intelligence Committee. First, he confirmed that there is no evidence to corroborate Trump’s claims that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump during the election. Second, Comey announced that the FBI is investigating whether members of President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. The investigation continues on despite Trump’s insistence that the Russia story is “fake news”. The revelation is certainly unusual given the FBI discloses its investigations only in rare circumstances when it is in the public interest.

What does the FBI Investigate?

The FBI is tasked with many things, including but not limited to terrorism, public corruption, cyber crimes, and counterintelligence. Since 1917, the FBI is responsible for “identifying and neutralizing ongoing national security threats from foreign intelligence services.” They are designed to identify security breaches, spies and compromised officials. In general, counterintelligence investigations are among the FBI’s most difficult and time-consuming cases.  They rarely lead to criminal charges.

What has the FBI Found?

In short, we don’t know. Comey made sure not to reveal anything because of the ongoing investigation. According to Comey, he doesn’t want to undermine an ongoing investigation. He did, however, confirm that an investigation of Trump’s possible ties to Russia is underway, and whether Trump helped undermine the Presidential election. According to Comey, the FBI has been conducting a counterintelligence investigation into Trump associates and Russia since late July 2016.

Trump and RussiaTrump’s Possible Russian Ties

To date, there are five identified people affiliated with the Trump administration that has ties to Russia. The people that got the most media attention for Russian ties are attorney general Jeff Sessions and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn went so far as to have had an undisclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador back in December. As a result, Flynn resigned from his post.

Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and current senior adviser, also had a meeting at Trump Tower with Flynn and the Russian ambassador during campaign season. The extent and frequency of any of Trump’s inner circle to Russia remains unclear.

It’s certainly alarming that so many people close to the President have ties to Russia. Remembering what Trump has repeatedly said throughout his campaign, we know that he admires Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump’s actions show us that he respects Putin more than his predecessor President Obama. Why?

Some believe Russia is blackmailing President Trump. They theorize that Trump borrowed money from Russia to keep his personal businesses afloat in the early 90s after a string of bankruptcies, which could explain why Trump refused to release his tax returns. They further believe Russia has some sort of incriminating information about Trump.

What Would Happen if Trump has Ties to Russia?

If Trump is in fact working with the Russian government to compromise our own, two things will happen. First, he will be impeached. Second, he will be tried criminally for treason.

Impeachment is an accusation of wrongdoing committed by the sitting President. The House of Representatives can vote to impeach, or kick a President out of office, and the Senate tries the case. A simple majority of the House of Representatives (at least 218 votes) is required to impeach, followed by two-thirds majority vote in the Senate (at least 67 votes).

Under Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, any person who levies war against the United States or adheres to its enemies by giving them aid and comfort has committed treason. From the looks of things, there seems to be plenty of circumstantial evidence suggesting Trump and Russia are in cahoots. News outlets are now reporting there’s more than just circumstantial evidence proving a Trump and Russian connection.

Stay tuned.

Wiretapping: FBI Says Trump’s Claims are Unsubstantiated

When President Trump was elected to office, he visited with President Obama. The meeting went well enough with numerous photos of the two shaking hands, smiling and seemingly enjoying each other’s company. We can assume that cordial relationship is no longer.

President Trump tweeted an accusation against President Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower prior to the election. When pressed about his source, Trump claimed he read in a January 20th New York Times article about President Obama’s wiretapping.

Trump’s Source

Although the New York Times article Trump cites as proof of Obama’s order to wiretap Trump Tower did contain the word “wiretap,” nowhere does it mention that the Obama administration ordered wiretapping. Instead, the article discussed an FBI investigation of possible links between unnamed Russian officials and Trump associates. Ironically, Trump has time and time again taken issue with the New York Times’ reporting, calling them “failing news.”

Why We Should All Be Worried About Trump’s Accusation

Trump’s assertion is alarming for several reasons. First, why is Trump relying on new media outlets, especially ones that he claims are “failing,” for intelligence reports? The president has various intelligence agencies at his disposal with tools that are more comprehensive than any news outlet. And why is he glued to the TV when he should be running the country?

It is also worrisome because we have to question his reading comprehension. If he interpreted an article discussing possible FBI investigation of Trump aides to mean that Obama himself ordered wiretapping, there is a clear disconnect between what he read, what it really means and what he interpreted.

Trump’s interpretation calls into question his understanding of Presidential Powers. Is it possible that Trump believes the F.B.I. serves at the instruction of the President and he therefore believed Obama ordered government surveillance of him and his aides? As the acting President of the United States, one would hope he knows what he can and cannot do.

Finally, does Trump really believe Obama wiretapped Trump Tower? If so, we have to question his mental sanity. He’s acting paranoid, not at all like a President.

wiretapping

The Proof is in the Pudding, and there is No Pudding

The New York Times denied ever writing any article that had the effect of claiming the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower. Numerous news outlets and government leaders have also questioned Trump as he points to absolutely no evidence to support his claims.

On Monday, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey revealed that neither the FBI nor the Justice Department have found any information to corroborate Trump’s outlandish claims.

The “fake news” has been coming from President Trump all along.

A Lie is a Lie, but What Happens Next?

This isn’t the first lie Trump has been caught in, and it probably won’t be the last. But will he face any consequences for his lie?

The truth of the matter is that his lie could have serious consequences for former President Obama. Trump supporters believe whatever Trump says. What if one of them tried to harm Obama as retribution? Would that make Trump’s lie criminal?

The First Amendment of the Constitution affords people the right to free speech without government censorship. Nevertheless, constitutional law has its limits. Free speech does not give one the right to incite actions that could harm others. The classic example is falsely shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. The mayhem that could ensue may harm numerous people as people stampede toward the exit.

What about falsely accusing his predecessor of wiretapping him, causing one of his supporters to stage an attack? Probably not. The only way “incitement” would be found is if the speech is substantially likely of causing some illegal activity and the speech is directed to causing it. Hypothetically if President Trump encouraged or asked his supporters to harm his predecessor, he could be prosecuted for incitement. But he didn’t.

There doesn’t seem to be any recourse for Trump’s incessant lying. Perhaps Congress may discuss impeachment, but that seems unlikely. Here’s to hoping he’s impeached on some other grounds and soon.

Trumpcare: Who Will Suffer Under the New Plan?

For the past several years, the GOP has vocalized their opposition to Obamacare. Now that they have control of Congress and the Executive branches, they’re finally doing something about it.

The American Health Care Act, coined “Trumpcare,” is the Republicans’ response to the “failed” Obamacare.

Why Repeal Obamacare?

According to the GOP, Obamacare is collapsing, and it must be repealed in order to protect Americans. They point to health insurance premiums that were created by the law that increased markedly this year. Why? Insurers didn’t anticipate so many medical claims would be filed by their consumers. If you believe the GOP’s argument, Obamacare is unsustainable and will eventually leave millions without health care. According to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan, it is an “act of mercy” introducing a new health care bill.

But the proposed Trumpcare would actually leave millions more uninsured. Under Obamacare, most people are still able to get health plans for less than $100 due to subsidies provided under the plan, which taxes the wealthy in order to provide health insurance plans to the masses. Trumpcare no longer will tax the wealthy to help subsidize health care for those who struggle to pay for health insurance.

Who Will Suffer Under Trumpcare?Trumpcare

Trumpcare will leave millions of people without health insurance. It will potentially leave 14 million Americans uninsured under the new health care bill than under Obamacare in 2018, rising to 24 million by 2026.

There are also specific groups of people who will be most negatively impacted by Trumpcare.

Low-income Elderly

According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”), the American Health Care Act would be devastating to older Americans who obtain their insurance from the individual market. While the proposed bill will lower overall premiums in the individual market by 10 percent by 2026 as compared to Obamacare, the premium amounts depend on age and income. Specifically, a younger and presumably healthy person could pay less in premiums than an elderly person with many ailments.

The CBO gave this example: a person with an annual income of $26,500 that is 21 years would pay on average $1,700 in premiums for insurance on Obamacare, but on Trumpcare, that same person would pay $1,450. Sounds great, right?

But if that person is 64 years old with the same annual income of $26,500, he would still pay $1,700 in premiums under Obamacare, but pay a whopping $14,600 in premiums under Trumpcare. That’s more than half of his income toward medical premiums. For most, that is prohibitively expensive.

Women on Medicaid

The amount of women on Medicaid who seeks contraceptive care will lose that care in enormous numbers. The Trumpcare proposal plans to defund Planned Parenthood for one year. It will prohibit patients from using their Medicaid coverage at Planned Parenthood. Medicaid is a government program that helps low-income people obtain medical coverage.

Defunding Planned Parenthood will affect services that help women avert pregnancies. Moreover, there are few health care clinics or medical practitioners that are willing to serve the low-income population. Restricting access to contraceptive care can lead to several thousand more births to children that will eventually be on Medicaid themselves. Ultimately, this could cost as much as $21 million in 2017.

Trump Supporters

Ironically, Trumpcare will severely hurt many of those that voted for him. Research shows that the Trump voter does better under Obamacare than Trumpcare. How can this be? Most of the people who voted for Trump were older, lower-income citizens. It appears that despite all his promises regarding health care to his voters, Obama did more for them than Trump. When confronted with this reality in an interview, President Trump responded, “Oh, I know.” Go figure.

Trumpcare: Who Benefits From the New Plan?

After months of talk, the GOP released what is now being called “Trumpcare”. The health care reform bill, known as the “American Health Care Act,” is being presented in response to Obamacare, also known as the “Affordable Care Act”. During his campaign President Trump promised he would repeal Obamacare as one of his first orders of business. Now in two months, it appears he and the Republican party are making good on their promise.

But now that the GOP has presented their plan, people are starting to think Obamacare wasn’t so bad.

Obamacare

In 2009, the Democratic members of Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. It was signed into law by President Obama in 2010. Republicans hated it, although it has done a lot of good. For one, it guaranteed that people with preexisting health conditions could not be rejected by insurers or charged more than others. It also allows children to stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26. As a result, more than twenty million uninsured people now receive health insurance coverage. Access to primary care, specialty care, medicines, surgeries, and treatment for chronic conditions has risen. It’s projected that Obamacare saves tens of thousands of lives every year. Obamacare also expanded Medicaid and helped people living near the poverty line obtain health coverage.

But for all the good Obamacare has done, it certainly has its problems. For instance, high deductibles for its Bronze plan users make up about 20 percent of its customers. Notwithstanding, people are realizing all the benefits they will miss now that the Republican-backed Trumpcare has been released.

TrumpcareHow Obamacare was Funded

The Affordable Care Act is funded by single taxpayers with incomes above $200,000 and couples making more than $250,000 annually. They pay an additional 0.9% Medicare payroll tax. There’s another 3.8% tax that applies to investment income properties which also helps fund Obamacare. The two taxes have been in effect since 2013.

Major Modifications for Trumpcare to Benefit the Wealthy

Under the proposed Trumpcare bill, people earning more than $1 million per year are projected to save approximately $165 billion in taxes over 10 years. The legislation is looking to eliminate two surcharges on the rich that helps pay for Obamacare, but the taxes would end after this year.

It’s not just the millionaires that benefit from Trumpcare. People who earn between $500,000 and $1 million per year also get a tax break of nearly $55 billion over a decade. Further, those with annual incomes of between $200,000 and $500,000 save approximately $53 billion.

Reaction to Trumpcare

The financial implications for the rich of Trumpcare have Democrats and Republicans alike upset. Trumpcare seems to benefit tax filers in the top 1%, or those who earn more than $772,000 a year, who expect to enjoy a $37,000 tax cut in 2022. The top .01% will receive a tax cut of more than $207,000. Clearly the bill will benefit the ultra wealthy.

At the same time, it’s the lower-income Americans that stand to suffer the most. Specifically, those who are insured through Medicaid or subsidized policies will suffer under the legislation. The new health care bill will potentially leave 14 million Americans uninsured than under Obamacare in 2018, rising to 24 million by 2026. In total, approximately 52 million people would be uninsured by 2026 under the GOP plan, compared to 28 million who would lack insurance under the current law.

Immigration: Why Did Border Patrol Ask for ID on a Domestic Flight?

A recent domestic flight was boarded by immigration officers who asked to see passengers’ identification. The flight from San Francisco to New York was met by two U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) agents who were conducting a search at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to CBP, an immigrant who had legal immigration documents received a deportation order after multiple criminal convictions for domestic assault, driving while impaired, and violating a protective order. The agents were in search of this unidentified immigrant, but did not find the person on the flight.

Was this Action Typical?

According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, law enforcement officials sometimes board airplanes to apprehend a suspect or fugitive. They occasionally may pull someone off a flight or officers will enter a plane to make an arrest. However, it is highly unusual for officials to do what they did here – wait outside an arriving plane to ask for identification from each passenger.

ImmigrationWhy Did CBP Ask Passengers for ID?

During campaign season, President Trump promised his supporters he would deport “bad dudes” or “bad hombres”, a term he coined for immigrants convicted of crimes. It appears he’s trying to make good on his promise.

Asking for identification from each passenger was without a doubt atypical for CBP and certainly not protocol. Due to this unusual action by CBP, people are starting to question whether it was connected to President Trump’s new immigration guidelines. Under the Obama administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) prioritized finding and deporting undocumented immigrants with prior criminal convictions. The Trump administration has taken this one step further. Under the Trump administration, the Department of Homeland Security issued guidelines to ICE and CBP empowering federal agents to detain, target and deport any immigrant currently in the United States without documentation. This includes immigrants who have no past criminal convictions.

What are the Immigration Laws in the U.S.?

The Immigration and Naturalization Act (“INA”) is the body of law that governs current immigration policy.

There are essentially three ways to legally immigrate to the United States. First, an immediate family relative can sponsor anyone seeking immigration visas so long as the immigrant is at least 21 years old and can demonstrate either the sponsor or the immigrant has the financial means to support him or herself in the United States. Second, individuals who leave their home country to avoid persecution can obtain refugee status through the U.S. Embassy, thereby obtaining refugee and asylum status. Third, lawful permanent residency allows for a foreign national to work and live lawfully in the U.S. This is known as obtaining an employment or work visa.

Are Immigrants a Problem in the U.S.?

Recent statistics show that there are a record 61 million immigrants and their American-born children who live in the United States. Given the limited ability for most immigrants to immigrate to America legally, there are an estimated 15.7 million who live here illegally. These people are known as undocumented (or illegal) immigrants, and they are foreign people who have no legal right to remain in the U.S.

As with any group of people, some immigrants are criminals, but it is dangerous to assume all immigrants are “bad dudes.” Not only is it an unsubstantiated stereotype, it also unfairly categorizes an entire group of people based purely on their immigration status. The fact that this stereotype is perpetuated by the President of the United States, the most powerful position in the world, encourages narrow-minded thinking.

President Trump’s new stricter guidelines that encourage targeting, detaining and deporting immigrants are consistent with his campaign and presidency which seem to focus on dividing our nation instead of uniting it.