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Protection Racket. Wonkagenda For Fri., March 8, 2019

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Morning Wonketariat! Here's some of the things we may be talking about today!


Trump is leaning on Senate Republicans to back his border wall, calling them up at all hours and making them offers they can't refuse. Behind the scenes some are digging through arcane rule books and crafting legislation to overhaul the National Emergencies Act, doing everything and anything they can to avoid technically saying "No" to Trump's Tortilla Curtain cash grab. God forbid they find themselves the target of a mean tweet.

As the Trump administration bucks requests to turn over documents on Javanka's security clearances, Axios gossips someone leaked documents to the House Oversight Committee -- and the leaks are coming from INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE! Axios claims to have obtained copies of some documents, but they only offer vague quotes from former Chief of Staff John Kelly and the DOJ officials downgrading security clearances "out of an abundance of caution because the background investigation has not been completed."

Axios is also gossiping that House Democrats plan to dig into Jared Kushner's shady real estate deals, and there's a fight over which House committee will get the opportunity to start sending subpoenas. Speaking to reporters yesterday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi shrugged off criticisms over investigating Trump's spawn and stated, "They are investigating certain subjects. Whoever falls into that net, falls into the net."

If you thought the last government shutdown was bad, wait until Trump submits his 2020 budget! Trump's widely expected to submit a budget that lifts caps on domestic and defense spending, blowing the national debt limit to $22 trillion. At the same time, the administration is expected to rip apart what's left of the social safety net, defund offices like the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by 70 percent, and raid funds for Overseas Contingency Operations to build Trump's goddamn wall. Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin told reporters, "Republicans are living in a wonderland if they think we will except $100 billion plus through OCO for defense while they devastate domestic programs."

Army General Joseph Votel, the top US commander in the Middle East, told the House Armed Services Committee that Trump's decision to pull US troops out of Syria and Afghanistan "makes Russia a bigger player in the area. It puts Russia in the driver's seat. It solidifies their presence in the Middle East." Gen. Votel also testified that ISIS/ISIL/whatever simply made a "calculated decision" to keep their heads down and wait "for the right time for a resurgence" after Trump declared "Mission Accomplished." WaPo has a great longread this morning that goes into further detail about how ISIS/ISIL/whatever cells are hiding sleeper cells throughout the region.

The Trump administration is getting ready to demand US allies hosting US troops pay the full price PLUS 50 percent for the privilege of hosting them, according to a Bloomberg report citing dozens of administration officials. Trump has apparently overruled national security mustache John Bolton's objections to the move, seeing it as a way to jack up defense spending. The move has scared the beJebus out of foreign policy nerds and the DOD who see demanding literal protection money from friends we've offered to help as insane. Some officials note Trump has been mulling over so-called "good behavior discounts" for countries that have policies that align closely with the US.

Trump's new head of the CFPB got chewed out by Democrats on the House Financial Services committee yesterday. Since CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger hasn't been on the job long, Democrats had to ask her a number of questions that were originally directed at former head Mick Mulvaney, who had declined to testify.

BREAKING NEWS: The Labor Department said the US added 20,000 jobs last month. Initial estimates from MarketWatch suggested 175,000.

Trump's Labor Department is proposing to revise Obama era rules governing overtime eligibility that could screw millions of people out of tens of thousands of dollars. Under the Obama rules, overtime thresholds were tied to inflation rates; the proposed Trump rule would make the Labor department consider updating the overtime threshold every four years to "provide clarity." And if you don't like it, you can find another job!

The US Fish and Wildlife Service wants to take gray wolves off the endangered species list in the lower 48 states. Farmers and ranchers are hailing the decision as a win, while environmental groups contend that the populations have only recovered in some areas and that protections are still required to prevent "an all-out war on wolves."

During a hearing before the House Natural Resources committee, South Carolina Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham blasted a 120-decibel air horn in front of a Trump official who was claiming seismic airgun blasts used by oil and gas companies were not "disruptive" to whales in the North Atlantic. After freaking out all 50 people in the room, Rep. Cunningham asked of the official, Chris Oliver, if he found it disruptive. Oliver replied, "It was irritating, but I didn't find it too disruptive." At that point, Subcommittee Chairman Jared Huffman interrupted the debate to say a pregnant aide informed him that her baby had kicked at the sound of the air horn.

After the House passes HR 1 today, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to crack her knuckles and roll out some familiar policies as a prelude to the 2020 elections. Most of the bills are expected to die in the Republican-controlled Senate, but that's the point, as Pelosi recently told Rolling Stone. "During a presidential year, we'll be the lounge act, that's the main event. Everything that we're talking about has to be elevated to the presidential level."

On Monday the House Rules Committee will begin to discuss a resolution calling for Robert Mueller's Trump-Russia report to be released (minus any super secret stuff). The committee is expected to put a resolution to a full floor vote before the congressional recess next week. HOT DAMN!

Yesterday the House passed a resolution condemning bigotry after House Majority Whip Rep. Jim Clyburn went to bat for Rep. Ilhan Omar. Following the resolution, a few 2020 candidates tepidly criticized the soon-to-be indicted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his hard right turn to anti-Arab racism and flirtation with authoritarianism. Party stalwarts are now nervously staring down progressives as the 2020 DNC platform begins to take shape, wondering just how far they should go in knocking Israel and/or Palestine.

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand can't seem to get a bite out of the Big Apple as many of the state's delegates wait to see what Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio are doing. According to Politico, New York's power players aren't giving Gillibrand the cold shoulder, they're simply holding their cards close to their chest (for now).

Politico reports Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is close to deciding if #HesRunning. Bullock's been staffing up his Big Sky Values PAC with people who could easily transition into a major campaign, though he says he won't make any formal announcement until after the Montana legislative session in April. With Joe Biden "95 percent" sure #HesRunning, Bullock's quiet moves are giving hope to some Democrats who want to see more candidates capable of locking down Rust Belt states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

IF #HesRunning, Beto O'Rourke will face more criticism from Berners that he's a "faux progressive." This early onslaught, gossips Vanity Fair, has led some Beto supporters to think Beto has a better chance than Vermont's newly Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders, and that his supporters are running scared.

HEY EVERYONE! Jim Jordan's nemesis, Ohio Democrat Janet Garrett, is launching an anti-Jim Jordan PAC called Jordan Watch in order to "expose Jim's radical ideology to the people he is suppose to represent." Roll Call notes that Jordan comes from one of the reddest districts in the state, but a lawsuit challenging the statehouse-drawn congressional boundaries could shake things up in 2020. If the suit is successful, a PAC like Jordan Watch could play a prominent role.

A Senate report slammed Equifax for neglecting basic cybersecurity practices FOR YEARS, saying the company's negligence led to one of the largest data breaches in history. Democratic Sen. Tom Carper stated, "I was surprised that a company as big as Equifax who has so much sensitive data on so many people in this country was so ill prepared to anticipate a cyber attack and to be able to thwart it."

When Chelsea Manning appeared before a grand jury on Wednesday, she invoked her Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights on questions about her leaking of diplomatic cables and secret shady military stuff to Wikileaks back in 2010. Manning is expected in court later today for a contempt hearing after defending Julian Assange and railing about secrecy, apparently still oblivious that civilians and members of the military have legal obligations.

Pharma-Bro Martin Shkreli is affectionately known as "Asshole" by his prison bodyguards "D-block" and "Krispy" and, according to a bizarre profile the WSJ isn't supposed to have, he's still (ALLEGEDLY) scamming investors by buying rare pharmaceutical drugs via a contraband cell phone (instead of joining a prison band full of child molesters). Shkreli now cares for "prison cats," and can even do 15 push-ups in a row, though he admits he still gets his ass kicked for correcting other prisoners' grammar. Shkreli just deleted his secret Twitter account that he'd been using to shitpost about freshman members of Congress, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whom he believes are coming for his stolen money.

Republican Rep. Rodney Davis defended the godawful band Nickelback on the House floor after Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan said the band was about as popular as a 2013 voting rights provision. Davis chided Pocan, and called Nickelback "one of the greatest bands of the '90s," leading Pocan to respond, "One more reason why there's a difference between Democrats and Republicans, clearly found on the floor of the Congress today."

And here's your morning Nice Time! BABY KOALA CUDDLES!

This baby Koala just loves cuddling www.youtube.com

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Dominic Gwinn

Dominic is a broke journalist in Chicago. You can find him in a dirty bar talking to weirdos, or in a gutter taking photos.

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