2017-02-15 / Political Page

Shake Up Time For Prez Trump?

President Donald Trump is in the second month of his four-year term, also the second month of the first 100 days in office, a time when he should be reaping reams of favorable publicity from the various sources of stories about his nascent administration. But that’s not happening. Instead he’s getting just the opposite, bad publicity, since what he thought would be a sure-fire hit, a ban on Muslims under his plan to throttle incoming immigration from seven small nations.

This chapter in the Trump Presidential administration history book, however, has not been completed yet because the Trump brain trust has not decided yet whether to abandon the ban which had been thwarted in the nation’s courts or to give it a last chance by appealing to the United States Supreme Court, where its final chance appears to be just as doomed.

Meanwhile, Trump’s present toll of hard luck appears to have run into further misfortune with the revelation that former Army Lt. General Michael Flynn, Trump’s National Security Adviser, may have misspoken with a Russian official when Trump was still trying to nail down the Republican presidential nomination last summer.

Flynn was fired by Obama in 2014. He later went to work for Trump, where he eventually passed the information along to the Trump campaign. Now Flynn is saying he had not discussed sanctions against the Russians when he spoke with his Russian source, or that the subject never came up. Last week, after the story about Flynn was revealed by the Washington Post, Trump was asked if he (Trump) was aware of it. Trump denied that he was aware of it, but said he would look into it.

Monday’s New York Times stated Flynn may have violated the Logan Act, a 1799 law, by his “consorting” with the Kremlin after it interfered with the election and paved the way to Trump’s victory over Clinton.

Thus The Times report, pointing the finger at Flynn and Trump, raised the possibility that Trump might want to unload him saying he was expendable. In fact, Flynn resigned that night.

Trump has still got enough on his plate considering that he must decide on his disposition on the Muslim immigration ban – whether to continue the fight over that by proceeding to the Supreme Court, where his chances don’t look so hot.

In fact, we think the President should forget about testing the ban’s chances in the nation’s toughest court with two strikes already against him. The better path could be rewriting the ban and taking a chance on selling that to the public, or scrapping the whole thing. Trump’s whole idea of tinkering with anything to do with restricting immigration goes against the grain of almost everybody in this country, because they have been served so well in their personal lives by the immigration system since 1776.

ADDABBO BACKS BILLS ADDING JOBS FOR DISABLED VETS: In an effort to expand employment opportunities for disabled veterans and provide new tax breaks for former military members who bought their homes using certain pensions, insurance and other funds, Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. joined with his Senate colleagues in approving two bills designed to accomplish these goals.

Addabbo, the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security, and Military Affairs, said, “We have an obligation to our nation’s veterans to ensure that they are able to live in comfort and dignity after completing their military careers. Offering our former servicemen and women greater access to job opportunities, and allowing them to keep a little more money in their household budgets are two important ways to help.”

The first bill (S.939), which Addabbo co-sponsors, would expand the state employment program for veterans with disabilities. Under current law, state agencies are authorized to fill up to 500 noncompetitive positions – those that do not require civil service examinations – with qualified disabled veterans who served during specific conflicts.

“We learned at roundtable discussions held by the Veterans Committee last year that only 100 positions for disabled military members had been set aside by the state since February of 2015,” he said. “This bill would make New York’s efforts to fill the 500 positions mandatory, rather than an option, and help to provide more disabled veterans with state paychecks.”

The second bill (S.1724) would authorize school districts throughout the state, as well as the city of New York, to adopt local laws to give veterans who bought their homes using eligible funds a break on their school real property taxes. These funds include veterans pension payments, mustering out pay, compensation paid to prisoners of war, and other monies provided to service members leaving active duty.

“If this legislation is ultimately signed into law on the state level, the New York City Council and Mayor would need to approve a local bill providing eligible veterans with a reduction in the school tax portion of their real property tax bills,” Addabbo explained. “I hope we are able to pass the bill this year in the State Legislature and provide the city with this chance to aid veteran homeowners and their families.”

Having passed the Senate, the two bills are under consideration, respectively, by the Assembly Committees on Governmental Employees and Veterans’ Affairs.

SENATE OK’S ADDABBO BILL TO ALLOW FAMILIAL DNA: In an effort to provide law enforcement agencies with new and greater tools to solve violent crimes, NYS Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. voted to approve legislation (S.2956A) in the Senate that would pave the way for the use of familial DNA searches in cases where all other investigatory leads have been exhausted.

Addabbo, a co-sponsor of the bill, noted that he had recently called for New York to adopt familial DNA searching to help solve the brutal murder of Karina Vetrano in Howard Beach this past August. While it was not immediately known if familial DNA played a role in apprehending the suspect in the Vetrano investigation, the Senator still supports the use of expanded DNA searches in the state.

“I continue to believe that this type of search is an important resource in violent criminal investigations where the trail seems to be getting colder and colder,” Addabbo said. “It took six long and painful months for the investigators to identify and arrest a suspect in the Karina Vetrano case. Against great odds, our law enforcement agencies did a tremendous job in connecting the dots between the suspect’s earlier suspicious behavior, a 911 call, and the murder.”

However, Addabbo said that allowing law enforcement officials to search the state’s DNA database for potential family matches to evidence found at crime scenes could help speed investigations. This type of search might identify possible relatives of the criminal, based on DNA left behind at the scene, and lead law enforcement officials to perpetrators in a more timely manner. The Senator stated, “We know that familial DNA has been used in roughly ten other states for almost 10 years, with success in finding felons.”

Under the legislation, the DNA Subcommittee of the New York State Commission on Forensic Science would create a report by the end of 2017, recommending best practices for the sometimes-controversial practice of familial DNA searching. The final NYS Familial Search Policy would only be used in limited circumstances, including those where the crimes in question are violent and when all other investigative leads have failed to resolve the case, Addabbo (D–Howard Beach) explained.

“Several months ago, I joined with Assembly Member Stacey Pheffer Amato to ask that the DNA Subcommittee consider the use of familial DNA searching,” Addabbo said. “Our comments have been included in the record of the public hearing being held on this topic by the Commission on February 10th, which they personally testified at, Addabbo explained. “While there are legitimate questions regarding privacy rights and other issues surrounding the practice, I believe we can develop a policy that would address these concerns while giving our law enforcement community a powerful new tool to bring violent felons to justice.

Under existing New York practices, evidence found at crime scenes is compared to DNA samples already collected from convicted criminals and included in the New York State searchable DNA database. If a complete match is not discovered, familial searching would allow for a deliberate effort to identify potential relatives of the person committing the crime through their DNA. Partial matches sometimes occur during routine DNA searches, but the new state Familial Search Policy would clarify that the database could be specifically searched to identify family members of perpetrators.

Addabbo concluded, “Our state has the capability and the technology to find murderers, rapists and other felons. We should not sit idly by while those criminals walk on our streets. Our state should take a positive step towards protecting the public and incorporate familial DNA as another investigative tool for law enforcement.”

Having passed the State Senate, the legislation will now be referred to the appropriate Assembly standing committee for consideration.

MALONEY APPLAUDS LAWSUIT AGAINST ALLEGED 9/11 SCAMMERS: Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney, lead sponsor of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act, released the following statement today, following the announcement that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and New York Attorney General filed suit to hold parties accountable for allegedly scamming 9/11 heroes out of money.

“It is beyond abhorrent that RD Legal Funding, LLC would target 9/11 heroes to scam them out of funds intended to help relieve financial hardship by covering medical expenses and replacing lost income related to their heroic acts during the worst terror attack on American soil. This lawsuit will hopefully not only end this alleged illegal and immoral scheme, but also recover these funds for those who need and deserve them. The joint work by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the New York Attorney General is the type of oversight we need to keep companies accountable to their clients and the American public,” Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) stated.

STAVISKY ANNOUNCES LEGISLATION TO PROTECT NEW YORK VOTERS’ RIGHTS: Senator Toby Ann Stavisky announced the release of a legislative package that would increase voting protections and access to the polls for all New Yorkers. These bills are part of the Senate Democratic Conference’s “Resistance Agenda,” which she said is “intended to stand up to President Trump and his allies in New York State.”

“In addition to the Trump administration falsely attacking the electoral process, the New York State Senate Republican majority has repeatedly blocked efforts to ensure voters’ rights are protected and ease access to voting,” Stavisky said.

“New York State has one of the lowest voter turnout figures in the nation, which is directly caused by efforts to suppress the vote and deny our residents their constitutional rights,” Stavisky said. “Every New Yorker has a right to have their voice heard and their vote counted. We cannot allow any attempts to restrict access to the polls and we will continue to fight to protect New Yorkers’ voting rights while improving and modernizing the entire voting process. I am proud to stand with my Senate Democratic colleagues, and call for New York State to finally bring its election laws into the 21st century.”

Stavisky Democratic Conference’s Resistance Agenda package includes:

 Deceptive Practices and Voter Suppression Act – S.2952

 Early voting – S.2950

 Consolidation of federal and state primaries – S.3562

 The Voter Empowerment Act – S.3304

 Constitutional Amendment to Repeal 10 Day Voter Registration Requirement – S.2478

 Expansion of affidavit voting – S.4074

 Reduce restrictions on affidavit voting – S.1265

 Board of Elections feasibility study – S.4085

 Prohibiting election districts from being split on and off campus – S.3092

 Party Enrollment Reform – S.2940

Additionally, the Resistance Agenda is accompanied by a report from the Senate Democratic Policy Group that highlights seven concerning facts on the current state of our voting system in New York, Stavisky added.

MALONEY ‘DISAPPOINTED’ IN CHOICE OF EDUCATION CHIEF: Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (D–Queens- Manhattan), released the following statement on Feb. 7 after Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the next US Secretary of Education by a 51-50 vote in the Senate.

“As a former educator, I am deeply disappointed that more GOP senators didn’t listen to the American people and oppose the confirmation of Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos. Her record of support for policies that undermine our public school system, and her weak commitment to critical federal laws that protect students with disabilities were, for me, disqualifying. I was also deeply troubled by her unwillingness to state clearly that guns don’t belong in schools nor recognize that campus sexual assault is truly a crisis on college campuses. The Department of Education’s mission to ensure equal access to education includes a safe campus environment for all students.” Maloney concluded that the Senate vote “completely undermines that mission.”

NOLAN STATEMENT ON SUNNYSIDE YARDS FEASIBILITY STUDY: “It will take time to review this study and I invite our community to read it and form their own opinions, which I hope they will share with me” said Assembly Member Catherine Nolan. “I will be making it available on my Facebook page.”

“I continue to oppose this level of large scale development for Western Queens. I look forward to working with my colleagues in government, community leaders and all residents to share opinions and see what options are available so as to have a voice. Open sky, clean water and sewers, fire, police, health and senior care, public transit, schools, parks, community centers and expanded college education facilities must all be addressed,” Nolan (D–Ridgewood) concluded.

DROMM, JACKSON HEIGHTS DEMOCRATS WELCOME #CLOSERIKERS CAMPAIGN: The following individuals released this message:

Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights, Elmhurst), New Visions Democratic Club President Shekar Krishnan, Just Leadership USA Policy, and Campaign Director Janos Marton, New York Civil Liberties Union Deputy Advocacy Director Ruthie Epstein Directly impacted #CLOSErikers campaign members and New Visions Democratic Club members

In 2015, Dromm made history as one of the first public officials to call for the closure of the Rikers Island jail complex, sparking the formation of the #CLOSErikers campaign. Dromm, Krishnan and New Visions Democrats will host #CLOSErikers representatives and the New York Civil Liberties Union. These experts and advocates will speak about Rikers Island’s culture of corruption and the coordinated mass effort to close it down.

The group held a meeting on Thursday, February 9 at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, 37-06 77th Street in Jackson Heights, Queens.

Background: Over two million people are currently incarcerated in the United States. That represents 25% of the world’s population of incarcerated individuals or about 15 times that of Japan or Iceland. According to their statement.

Our criminal justice system—from stop and frisk to incarceration—has targeted poor communities of color, especially young black men. This is a direct result of the “War on Drugs,” which led to an explosion in our prison population over the last 30 years. But the damage doesn’t end there. Those released from prison suffer continued punishment as they find themselves barred from voting and jury service, limited in housing and employment opportunities, or facing draconian immigration consequences, not to mention the immense social stigma of former incarceration.

“The battle against this grave injustice isn’t being fought in far away places. It’s happening right here in the campaign to close Rikers Island, the notorious jail complex in New York City. With its ‘deep-seated culture of violence,’ in the words of US Attorney Preet Bharara, Rikers Island has wreaked havoc on the lives of those incarcerated there and their families. Over 77,000 New Yorkers cycle in and out of Rikers each year, and 89% of its detainees are African American or Latino. Approximately 80% of Rikers detainees are simply awaiting their day in court, not yet convicted of a crime but too poor to afford bail, trapped in an endless cycle of unjust court delays. Even when released from Rikers, the damage can be permanent. The tragic story of Kalief Browder will never be forgotten. Closing Rikers Island is an urgent goal, and when achieved, it will place New York City at the forefront of the movement to end mass incarceration.”

KOSLOWITZ SLAMS TRUMP ON IMMIGRATION EXECUTIVE ORDER: Council Member Karen Koslowitz (D–Forest Hills) delivered a stinging rebuke to President Trump on his executive order, which banned refugees from certain Muslim majority nations. Koslowitz commenced her remarks by quoting Emma Lazarus, and then began a personal journey into why this executive order was so repugnant to her. “As Emma Lazarus wrote so beautifully and eloquently, …give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door,” said Koslowitz.

“Well, we now have a President who stands against this very American principle. I am alive today because my mother, grandmother, aunts, and uncle fled Poland in 1923. They fled in terror because my grandfather was brutally murdered in the night because he was Jewish. He was hated and despised simply because his religion was different. My grandfather’s name was Shea Wrona, and he was buried alive in 1923. And now, in 2017, this President is also singling out people because of their religion and unconstitutionally denying them safety, security, and freedom. My grandfather’s life was ended tragically, but he lives on in me; he lives on in his great-granddaughters; and his great great-grandchildren.

“So I am proud to stand today with many of my colleagues in New York City and New York State government and call [out] this executive order for what it is, because I know what it is, my family has lived it. It’s racism, bigotry, ignorance, and hatred. Protecting Americans from terrorism is of paramount importance, but this executive order is definitely not the answer. I believe in America and in American values, shame on you Donald Trump,” she concluded.

MENG STATEMENT REJECTING TRUMPS IMMIGRATION ORDER: Congress Member Grace Meng (D–Flushing) issued the following statement on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refusing to reinstate President Trump’s executive order banning refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries:

“I applaud today’s unanimous decision by a panel of judges from the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. President Trump’s executive order was unconstitutional when he signed it, and it should never be allowed to impact another person seeking refuge in America. Immigrants have always made America great, a Muslim ban never will.”

MALONEY, POE RENEW LEGISLATION EMPOWERING IRS TO PUNISH HUMAN TRAFFICKERS: Congress Members Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Ted Poe (R-TX) renewed efforts to give the federal government more funding and resources to go after pimps and traffickers with the reintroduction of the Human Trafficking Fraud Enforcement Act. The legislation gives the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) more resources to target pimps and traffickers for taxable income, as well as providing financial assistance and whistleblower protections to survivors. The two representatives were also cosponsors of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking, which became law in 2015.

“Modern day slavery is happening here, on our shores, and we must do everything we can to stop it,” said Rep. Maloney. “Pimps and traffickers are holding women captive, degrading their humanity, and selling victims and their bodies over and over again. We must use every tool possible, including the IRS, to take down traffickers, who have often proven elusive to apprehend and prosecute. In 1931, the infamous gangster Al Capone was ultimately indicted for tax fraud. The IRS can play a similar role in cracking down on criminals profiting from human trafficking and prostitution. This bill will target the real criminals, those involved in the promotion of commercial sex acts – pimps and traffickers – and exploiting persons in prostitution. ”“Human trafficking is a criminal enterprise, and like any business the answer to exposing it is to follow the money trail,” said Rep. Poe. “This bill will better equip law enforcement in their efforts to identify, track down and take down traffickers by giving the IRS more resources to go after traffickers for income. I believe this will be a valuable tool in identifying these criminals who are now able to live freely, and make money, while enslaving innocent people.”

Human Trafficking Fraud Enforcement Act background:

 The bill authorizes $4 million to establish an office within the IRS to prosecute sex traffickers for violations of tax laws. The new IRS office would coordinate closely with existing sex trafficking task forces in the Department of Justice.

 Imposes stiffer penalties – including fines of up to $50,000 and jail sentences of up to 10 years – for traffickers who fail to file tax returns, supply tax information, or pay taxes

 Establishes a new felony offense for an “aggravated failure to file” in cases where income or payments are derived from criminal activities.

 Designates the victims of criminal sex traffickers as whistleblowers and allows them collect up to 15% of the fines levied against their abusers.

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