Judiciary Republicans approve bill based on tips from conspiracy website

Last week, with Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s support, Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday hijacked a Democratic bill calling for information from the Justice Department relating to the firing of former FBI director James Comey. They deleted the language from the Democrats’ bill and replaced it with language requesting information on matters related to Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration.

Goodlatte left the committee hearing as Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee delivered a blistering attack on the Republicans’ maneuver.

Now it’s being reported that an aide to Republican committee member Matt Gaetz of Florida used a far-right conspiracy website to write the Republican version of the bill.

Devin Murphy, a Republican staffer for Gaetz, actively solicited input and advice from r/The_Donald, a Reddit forum known for harboring discussions and sentiment of overt racism, white supremacism, Islamophobia, and neo-Nazism.
On Thursday night, three Twitter users exposed Murphy for soliciting help writing the legislation from users on the notorious conspiracy theory forum. Murphy posted frequently on the subreddit under the pseudonym of Devinm666, at one point posting an image of his official government identification as proof of his identity.

WIRED reported Friday night that the Twitter users — @regress_ceej, @TrashWeightlift, and @espressoself — discovered the identity of the Gaetz staffer after they suspected Murphy’s frequent activity and insider knowledge of the legislative process.

Since the outing of Murphy, his account has since been deleted. Shortly before midnight Friday, Murphy began deleting all of his past comments.
A review of the proposed legislation sponsored by Gaetz shows that the suggestions and solicited comments by Murphy from r/The_Donald are echoed in much of the proposed amendment.

Murphy also shared Islamaphobic views on the conspiracy subreddit, referring to President Barack Obama as “Barry o’Islama.” In subsequent posts, he refers to the president as a “Kenyan Muslim,” and refugees in Germany as “raping savages.”

Wired reports:

r/The_Donald has also provided a breeding ground for a number of unfounded conspiracies. Most recently, it helped promote the Seth Rich murder conspiracy theory, which eventually found its way to Sean Hannity. Before that, r/The_Donald also acted as an incubator for the Pizzagate subreddit, which ultimately led to a man firing a rifle inside of a crowded restaurant. [Murphy] apparently sought to give that same community a platform in Congress.

Goodlatte surely would be shocked and disturbed to learn of this. Wouldn’t he? He’ll take appropriate action. Won’t he?

“Extremely disappointed”

After all 48 Democratic and independent senators and three brave Republican senators voted Friday morning to bury a misbegotten effort to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), Congressman Goodlatte expressed his unhappiness on Facebook.

“For years, the majority of my constituents have told me that Obamacare does not work for them”?

Excuse me?

Goodlatte represents more than 730,000 constituents living in the Sixth Congressional District. Is he claiming that more than 365,000 of them have told him that “Obamacare does not work for them”? If not, how exactly does he know that?

A truly revealing measure of constituent attitudes would be a tally of the number of Sixth District residents who have contacted Goodlatte (via phone, email and letter) to oppose repealing the ACA versus those who have contacted him to support repeal. Despite requests from Goodlatte Watch and others, Goodlatte has never released those numbers. Why not? If opinion in the district is so overwhelmingly against the ACA, wouldn’t the tally reveal that?

And Goodlatte continues to insist that the ACA is failing, even though it has enabled more than 30,000 of his constituents to purchase health insurance. More than anything else, however, the ACA is endangered by Congress members like Goodlatte, who with their efforts to destroy the ACA have created great uncertainty among insurance providers and the public.

Goodlatte pledges: “I will keep working towards a solution to increase access to care and deliver affordable health insurance options.”

In fact every health care bill Goodlatte has supported would deprive tens of millions of Americans of health insurance and cause premiums for many people to skyrocket. What has changed?

Goodlatte joins failed effort to gut the CBO

Congressman Goodlatte voted Wednesday with a minority of Republicans in two unsuccessful attempts to cut funding and staff for the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

The first amendment, offered by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Penn.), would have slashed CBO’s funding by 50.4 percent. That figure, Perry said, was to match the discrepancy between CBO’s predictions for how many people would gain health insurance under ObamaCare, and the number that actually did.

“Who among us works half the time, gets it doubly wrong and gets a paycheck? The CBO,” Perry said.

Defenders of the CBO have noted that the predictions were made before the Supreme Court struck down parts of the law requiring states to accept Medicaid expansion and that few alternative predictions are consistently more accurate.

“Some Republicans in Congress and the Trump Administration are engaged in a steadily escalating campaign to tear down the Congressional Budget Office and anyone else who does not tell them what they want to hear. This amendment is a direct assault, eliminating half of CBO’s budget,” said House Budget Committee Ranking Member John Yarmuth.

Members of the Trump administration have regularly derided and denounced the CBO, which has projected that its healthcare laws would lead to millions more uninsured, and disputed claims that its budget plan would balance.

The amendment was defeated by a vote of 314 to 107.

The second amendment, offered by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), used a newly-revived rule that allows Congress to specifically target certain federal roles for elimination, called the Holman rule. The amendment sought to eliminate 89 CBO employees who work on the scoring.

“Too often, predictions made by CBO turn out to be off the mark,” Griffith said.
That amendment was defeated by a vote of 309 to 106.

The Republican chair and the Democratic ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee sent a joint letter to their colleagues urging opposition to the amendments.

On a bipartisan basis, we agree that CBO plays a vital role in the legislative process. We rely on CBO’s analysts to provide fair, impartial, and fact-based analysis. Without that analysis, Congress could not do its work or stay within the very budget constraints we set up for ourselves in law.

The only possible conclusion is that Goodlatte and other Republicans are lashing out at the CBO for consistently finding that their plans to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act would deprive tens of millions of Americans of health insurance.

In other words: the CBO isn’t coming up with the results we want. Therefore it is wrong and deserves to be punished.

What a way to make policy.

Is Goodlatte losing confidence in Robert Mueller?

With Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s support, Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday hijacked a Democratic bill calling for information from the Justice Department relating to the firing of former FBI director James Comey.

Democrats were hoping to put Republicans on the spot with a “resolution of inquiry” that, if it had passed, would have asked the Department of Justice to provide documents related to any potential involvement Attorney General Jeff Sessions had in the firing of Comey.

The resolution was sponsored by Democrats Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, and David Cicilline of Rhode Island.

But Republicans used their majority in the committee to tack on an amendment that struck the Democrats’ language, and instead called for a special counsel to investigate matters more closely related to Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration. That includes the recently-revealed information that former Attorney General Loretta Lynch asked James Comey to refer to the Clinton email scandal as a “matter” instead of an “investigation.”

It passed along party lines in the committee, 15-13.

Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia defended the move by saying Democrats were being “redundant” for seeking information from the administration while the Mueller special counsel investigation was ongoing.

“This resolution seems to be just one more opportunity for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to vicariously voice Hillary Clinton’s long and growing list for why she lost the election,” Goodlatte said.

Jayapal said the committee had fallen down with its responsibilities by not investigating Russia matters, “even as our counterparts in the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have put country over party and have refused to step away from their essential roles.”

The Republican action was yet another attempt at distraction from real and current matters of concern about the Trump campaign and the Trump administration relating to Russia.

In a revealing remark, Goodlatte said of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign’s possible collaboration with Russia: “There is real concern over whether this is a fishing expedition.”

Remember that when Mueller was appointed in May, Goodlatte said:

“Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the right decision by appointing a special counsel to oversee the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s efforts to influence our nation’s 2016 presidential election. Former Director Mueller is a well-respected law enforcement professional who served the FBI for a dozen years under both Democratic and Republican presidents. I am confident that he will serve with integrity and professionalism, and will conduct a thorough and fair investigation.

“I applaud the Trump Administration for taking this important step that the previous Administration repeatedly declined to do in other matters, ensuring an independent and thorough investigation is conducted to unearth all the facts. This decision will help instill much needed public confidence in the investigation.”

So it appears Goodlatte now has doubts about the investigation he expressed so much confidence in just a couple of months ago. What’s changed? I mean, aside from the fact that President Trump is now lashing out at Mueller and denouncing his probe as a “witch hunt.”

Goodlatte approves Russia sanctions but won’t probe Russian election interference

Congressman Goodlatte was among the overwhelming majority of Republicans and Democrats in the House of Representatives who voted Tuesday to impose new sanctions on North Korea, Iran and Russia.

Goodlatte posted on Facebook:

These nations continue to undermine America’s national security and promote instability elsewhere. This legislation today makes it clear that these threats will not be ignored.

The House-approved bill would give Congress the power to block any effort by the White House to weaken sanctions on Russia.

One of the most serious threats from Russia occurred last year when the Putin regime interfered in the US presidential election with the intention of helping Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. Further there are many disturbing indications of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and representatives of the Russian government.

As chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte has the power to schedule hearings to investigate these matters.

So Goodlatte needs to be asked:

If you are so concerned about threats from Russia, why did you vote to kill a resolution of inquiry asking the Department of Justice to provide Congress with documents relating to President Trump conflicts of business interests and possible ties to Russia?

And why have you ignored repeated letters from Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee calling for investigations into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia and whether President Trump and other administration officials have obstructed justice in the probe of Russia’s role in the election?

Goodlatte welcomes death of rules protecting workers, consumers, environment

Congressman Goodlatte has tweeted his pleasure at a report that the Trump administration is killing 16 federal regulations for every new one adopted.

Tellingly, Goodlatte says nothing about the actual regulations that have been scrapped or why he believes they are unnecessary. His default position is that regulations of any kind are almost always bad for business; his favorite description for them is “burdensome.” Their role in protecting workers, consumers and the environment are of little or no concern to him.

The Washington Post reported last week:

The Trump administration said it was pulling or suspending 860 pending regulations. Of those, 469 were being completely withdrawn. Another 391 were being set aside or reevaluated. These proposed regulations could be revisited at some point or dropped altogether.

The rules the administration targeted govern everything — from the basics of everyday living, such as a product safety standard for mattresses’ flammability when it comes to cigarettes, to what sort of precautions construction firms should be required to take so their workers are not run over by other vehicles on site.

Consumer and worker advocates countered that Trump officials were scrapping critical government safeguards, and the implications of these actions could ripple across the country for years.
“These rollbacks of critical public protections will leave American workers, consumers and children vulnerable on a daily basis,” said Amit Narang, regulatory policy advocate for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, “to risks such as air and water pollution, unsafe products and tainted food, dangerous workplaces and a newly deregulated Wall Street that once again could threaten economic collapse.”

(More details here.)

Among the regulations that Goodlatte is pleased to see disappear or be delayed:

— The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order, that required any company bidding on a federal contract of $500,000 or more to disclose labor law violations– including wage theft and health and safety infractions. Those disclosures then had to be taken into account during the bidding process.

— A regulation that would have helped low-wage workers save money in government-sponsored retirement plans through auto-IRA accounts.

Rules aimed at reducing workers’ exposure to cancer-causing silica and beryllium.

None of this seems to matter to Congressman Goodlatte, who has long put private profits above workers’ rights and public safety.

Goodlatte should see this


Although it’s in an adjoining Congressional distrct, I wish Congressman Goodlatte could be at the Wise County Fairgrounds this weekend to see the thousands of people seeking free care at the Remote Area Medical clinic.

About 1,100 such people descended on the fairgrounds Friday, with more expected Saturday and Sunday. Medical personnel from across the state were there with makeshift examination rooms in tents and sheds. Sheets hung from clothespins for privacy; giant fans pulled hot air through buildings intended for livestock shows.

These events are staged nationwide, but the Wise clinic is among the biggest, drawing people from throughout Appalachia and casting Washington’s sterile political debates into the starkest human terms.

A third of the patients who registered Friday were unemployed. Those who couldn’t afford a room slept in their cars or camped in the fields around the fairgrounds. They lined up in the dead of night to get a spot inside the event.

It is the place of last resort for people who can’t afford insurance even under Obamacare or who don’t qualify for Medicaid in a state where the legislature has resisted expansion.

To clarify: it’s Republicans in the General Assembly who have blocked expansion of Medicaid to 400,000 low-income working Virginians under the Affordable Care Act. And not only does Goodlatte oppose Medicaid expansion in Virginia, he wants to repeal it nationwide.

In a June 27 interview Goodlatte said Virginians should not worry about Republican efforts to curtail Medicaid expansion: “Since Virginia did not expand, we’re not going to experience that aspect of the problem.”

As health policy expert Timothy Jost noted:

[T]he logic here is bizarre. It is like saying that refugees who are starving to death in a refugee camp that has received no relief supplies should count themselves lucky that they will not be affected by the cut-off of relief supplies to another refugee camp that was receiving help.

Goodlatte even believes that 30 million Americans “chose not to get health insurance.” How much choice does he think was involved for those waiting for hours at the Wise County Fairgrounds?

Goodlatte needs to see first-hand the consequences of his heartless policy positions. I can’t help wondering what he would say to the folks lining up for desperately-needed free care in Wise County, Virginia.

Goodlatte’s message: “Hey, look over there!”

In a flagrant but surely doomed effort to change the subject, Chairman Goodlatte and the Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee have written to Attorney General Jeff Sessions about oversight of… the Obama administration.

(Reminder to Goodlatte: Barack Obama stopped being president of the United States six months ago. We have a new president. His name is Donald Trump. He and members of his administration and his family have said and done many legally-questionable things. You might want to take a look at them.)

Silent Bob

It’s been more than 24 hours since President Trump gave an astounding interview to The New York Times in which he:

— Said that if he had known Attorney General Jeff Sessions was going to recuse himself from the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, he would not have appointed him.

— Basically accused Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe of being Democratic party hacks.

— Suggested special counsel Robert Mueller has a vendetta against him because he wasn’t appointed FBI director and said, “A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case.” Trump has called Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.”

— Said Mueller would cross a “red line” if he investigates anything related to Trump’s or his family’s finances and left open the possibility of firing Mueller.

Now The New York Times and The Washington Post are reporting that Trump’s team is looking for conflicts of interest among Mueller’s staff and trying to undermine his investigation.

And what has Congressman Goodlatte had to say about all this? Nothing. Nothing on his Twitter account, nothing on his Facebook page, nothing on his website.

This would be troubling regardless of Goodlatte’s status in the House of Representatives. But as chair of the powerful House Judiciary Committee– charged with overseeing the executive branch and federal law enforcement– his silence is downright inexplicable and appalling. Equally dismaying is his refusal to schedule hearings on any of the multiple scandals surrounding the Trump administration, despite repeated calls from committee members.

By contrast the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Republican Charles Grassley, plans to call Donald Trump Jr. and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to testify at an open hearing about alleged ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia.

On May 17 Goodlatte issued the following statement:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made the right decision by appointing a special counsel to oversee the FBI’s investigation of Russia’s efforts to influence our nation’s 2016 presidential election. Former Director Mueller is a well-respected law enforcement professional who served the FBI for a dozen years under both Democratic and Republican presidents. I am confident that he will serve with integrity and professionalism, and will conduct a thorough and fair investigation.

I applaud the Trump Administration for taking this important step that the previous Administration repeatedly declined to do in other matters, ensuring an independent and thorough investigation is conducted to unearth all the facts. This decision will help instill much needed public confidence in the investigation.

Does Goodlatte stand by that statement? If so, it’s more important than ever that he says so– loud and clear.

Update: Judiciary Committee Democrats have sent another letter to Goodlatte:

This letter represents the fourth time that we have written to you to ask that the House Committee on the Judiciary hold hearings on matters that now extend well beyond any investigation into Russian influence.  To date, you have not responded to any of these requests.  More importantly, the Committee has not yet held a single hearing about the damage being done to the Department of Justice by the Trump Administration.

 We write again to request that you schedule hearings with the senior leadership of the Department of Justice, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, without delay.

As ACA repeal collapses, Goodlatte is still stubborn and clueless

Now that the misbegotten effort of Congressional Republicans to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)– and deprive tens of millions of Americans of health insurance– has gone down in flames, and “repeal without replace” is a non-starter, Congressman Goodlatte issued the following breathtakingly dishonest statement:

At this point, as even Goodlatte must realize, there is no “process” to keep going. Instead we get an ominous proposal (or threat) from President Trump to “let Obamacare fail“– whatever that means and whoever that hurts.

While Goodlatte blames the ACA for premium increases (due largely to better coverage and Republican-generated uncertainty over the fate of the law), he ignores the fact that the now-dead Senate Republican version of “repeal and replace” would have driven premiums much higher.

Nothing Goodlatte or the Republicans have proposed would do anything to “increase access to care and choice and deliver affordable insurance options.”

It’s time for Goodlatte to stop scapegoating the ACA and to start helping make it work better.