Saturday, July 22, 2017

CONYERS: After Trump Attacks DOJ, All 17 Judiciary Democrats Demand Immediate Hearings

Judiciary Dems: Failing to Act Now Will Allow Others to Inflict Lasting Damage to the Department of Justice

Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, in an interview with the New York Times, President Donald Trump indicated his contempt for the leadership of the Department of Justice.  The President directly attacked the credibility and fairness of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  President Trump also warned Special Counsel Mueller that there would be “a violation” if his investigators attempt to scrutinize his family’s finances.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Led by Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr., all seventeen Democrats on the House Committee on the Judiciary wrote to Chairman Bob Goodlatte to demand oversight hearings as soon as practicable, below. 

Although the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Senate Committee on the Judiciary all continue to do work in this space, the House Committee on the Judiciary has not held a single oversight hearing related to the Russia investigation, allegations of obstruction of justice, or the President’s treatment of Department of Justice personnel.

The House Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It also has jurisdiction over the Foreign Agents Registration Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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CONYERS Celebrates Mandela Day

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear." - Nelson Mandela

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CONYERS: Commemoration" Detroit Rebellion 50th Anniversary

This year marks 50 years since the Detroit Rebellion. During the summer of 1967, the city of Detroit was marred by a civil disturbance that erupted in response to acts of police brutality at an unlicensed bar.

The events to follow those acts of injustice left the city in turmoil for several days. Police officers and civilians were injured; buildings, homes, and businesses destroyed; and many citizens and community members were arrested, injured or killed.

President Lyndon B. Johnson called me to verify these reports were true.

During that time, I was in the midst of my second Congressional term. I took to the streets in hopes of redirecting the people’s rage into more proactive actions. I grabbed a bullhorn and climbed on top of a car in the middle of the crowd and I began to urge my friends and neighbors to stop the destruction and the violence.

My argument was that we as a community could not achieve anything through violence.

Unfortunately, this series of events stemmed not only from what happened at that 12th Street and Clairmont Avenue speak easy – but from years of built up frustration with segregation, discrimination and police brutality as well as oppressive and seemingly unbreakable poverty.

The Detroit Uprising lasted for five days before order was restored to the city. More than 7,000 people were arrested and more than 40 died.

For some, the uprising was a turning point for the city of Detroit. The city saw a massive growth in activism and community engagement. Following the rebellion, Detroiters elected its first black mayor, Coleman A. Young.

Fifty years later, I’ve witnessed drastic transformation at home and across the nation. However, the frustration that Detroiters felt is still very much alive for African Americans and people across this nation.

More can and must be done to prevent this from ever happening again.

As I did in Detroit during the time of the rebellion – I will continue to urge people to fight for equality and justice through strategic, meaningful and peaceful action.

As the Ranking Member for the Judiciary Committee, I’ve worked with my Republican Chairman to form a bipartisan Congressional working group with a focus on finding common ground between police and the communities they are sworn to protect and serve.

We have a long way to go. But history shows us we have and will continue to overcome these challenges.

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CONYERS Weekly CBC Message To America: Understanding The Roots Of Crime & Poverty

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. addresses the deeply rooted issues of crime and persistent poverty in urban communities from a criminal justice perspective. Rep. Conyers serves as the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee and serves as the Dean (longest serving Member) of the House of Representatives.

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CONYERS Weekly CBC Message To America: Understanding The Roots Of Crime & Poverty

Congressman John Conyers, Jr. addresses the deeply rooted issues of crime and persistent poverty in urban communities from a criminal justice perspective. Rep. Conyers serves as the Ranking Member on the House Judiciary Committee and serves as the Dean (longest serving Member) of the House of Representatives.

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CONYERS & SANDERS Announces Introduction Of The Employ Young Americans Now Act

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people sittingU.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) held a roundtable discussion at a Sasha Bruce Youthwork center and announced the introduction of the Employ Young Americans Now Act—which would provide $5.5 billion in immediate funding to employ one million young Americans.

Image may contain: 10 people, people smiling, people standing, suit and outdoor

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, outdoorImage may contain: 4 people, people standing

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CONYERS on ’67: ‘They just couldn’t take it any longer’

The sound of a ringing phone was heard inside the Dexter Avenue home of U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. around 9 a.m. on July 23, 1967.

The Detroit Democrat’s field representative, Arthur Featherstone, took the call. Conyers, then 38, was needed at the corner of 12th and Clairmount, where a crowd of hundreds had gathered.

“There was an ugly crowd there and would the congressman be kind enough to come?” asked Detroit Deputy Police Chief Hubert Locke to Featherstone.

It was the start of a fateful day for Conyers, who at the time was serving his second term in Congress. And while it’s been 50 years since that summer, Conyers, now 88, says there are some things one can never forget.

The angry faces of the men looking back at him as he stood atop a car on 12th. The rumble of military tanks rolling down the street outside his home on Dexter. The site of police riding around the city in Ford police cruisers in pairs of four.

“And I will never forget the sound of tanks going down Dexter Avenue, which is not that wide of a street to begin with. The sound of the tanks just ... it was exacerbated. The streets were so narrow that the sound kept coming. It looked like it was a military invasion,” said Conyers, the longest-serving current member of the House of Representatives, from his office inside Detroit’s federal courthouse last month.

Seeing the mayhem and destruction around him on 12th, Conyers — with the help of Featherstone and others — climbed atop a parked car, megaphone in hand, shirt-sleeves rolled above his elbows, and faced the rage head on.

‘They listened to him’

Conyers said he was attempting to quell the looting and violence that had erupted.
“I was trying — as a supporter of Dr. (Martin Luther) King and one who worked on nonviolence and community order — I was trying to discourage that,” he said.


It was a critical moment in the 1967 riots captured by photographers: Conyers standing on top of a car surrounded on all sides by a crowd. Images of the congressman talking to a group of mostly black men were published in newspapers in Detroit and around the nation.

Many of the men looked like Conyers, dressed in button-up shirts. Many donned fedoras and other hats of the time, such as a trilby or newsboy. They appeared to be working-class, blue-collar people gathered on the street.

None appeared armed. For a moment, most stood with hands on hips and their heads up, looking at Conyers and listening.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

CONYERS Convenes Forum on Kobach Voter Commission, Calls for Kobach to Step Down

Ahead of Trump’s  voter commission’s first meeting, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. convened a forum with the Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and  House Judiciary Committee Democrats to examine voting rights and privacy concerns related to recent requests made by the commission’s co-chair, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, to obtain detailed voter-roll information.

During the forum, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan-Grimes, Connecticut Secretary of State Denise Merrill, Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Kristen Clarke of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Janai Nelson of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund spoke out against the commission’s requests for sensitive voter data and raised concerns about the commission’s motives.

In addition to the forum, Conyers joined Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, Bennie G. Thompson, and Robert A. Brady in sending a letter to Vice President Michael Pence to request that he ask for the resignation of Kris Kobach from his position as the Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, and that he rescind Mr. Kobach’s unprecedented request for sensitive voter information.

In June, the Congressional Black Caucus sent letters to the National Association of Secretaries of State and the National Association of State Election Directors raising concerns that these requests may lead to voter suppression and privacy violations.  The Congressional Hispanic Caucus also sent a letter to the Secretaries of State to raise concerns.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

CONYERS, CUMMINGS, THOMPSON & BRADY to VP Pence: Remove Kobach from Election Commission and Rescind Request for Sensitive Voter Information

Washington, DC (July 18, 2017)—Today, Reps. John Conyers, Jr., Elijah E. Cummings, Bennie G. Thompson, and Robert A. Brady, Ranking Members of the House Committees on Oversight and Government Reform, Judiciary, Homeland Security, and House Administration, sent a letter, below, to Vice President Michael Pence requesting that he ask for the resignation of Kris Kobach from his position as the Vice Chair of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, and that he rescind Mr. Kobach’s unprecedented request for sensitive voter information.

“Mr. Kobach has repeatedly claimed, falsely, that widespread voter fraud exists and advertises his work on the Commission to promote his own campaign for governor of Kansas,” the Members wrote. “These actions undermine the integrity of the Commission and raise significant concerns that the Commission will be used as a tool for voter suppression.”

Conyers, Cummings, Thompson, and Brady stated that Mr. Kobach appeared to violate the Hatch Act by using his official role on the Commission to further his 2018 gubernatorial campaign and solicit campaign contributions  campaign website that tout his work on the Commission.

“Mr. Kobach’s partisan activity and his recent sanctions for dishonesty before a court of law cast a shadow over the Commission and undermine its integrity,” the Members wrote. “Mr. Kobach should step down as Vice-Chair and be replaced with an individual who can be trusted to ensure that the Commission operates in a bipartisan manner to protect voter information and to protect the right of Americans to vote.”

Conyers, Cummings, Thompson, and Brady expressed grave concerns with Mr. Kobach’s unprecedented request on behalf of the Commission for sensitive voter data, its failure to specify how that information would be used, its failure to provide clear or sufficient safeguards to protect sensitive voter information, and the Commission’s initial secret phone call that appears to violate the Federal Advisory Committee Act.

“These actions openly flout federal privacy and transparency laws,” the Members wrote.  “The Commission has not offered any plan to protect its proposed nation-wide voter database, even after federal officials have confirmed that voter databases in at least 21 states were hacked in last year’s election by Russia.”

The Members explained that Mr. Kobach’s request has deeply alarmed voters, who are reportedly contacting election officials with fears about the Administration’s intent and requesting to cancel their voter registrations to protect private data.

“We have serious concerns that Mr. Kobach’s purpose in gathering state voter rolls is to conduct a data-matching project that matches each state voter list with other federal databases, in an attempt to discover and then potentially purge purported ‘fraudulent registrations,’” The Members wrote.  “The Commission should explore increasing access to voting, not perpetuating the false and damaging notion that massive voter fraud exists in our nation’s elections.  We will fiercely oppose any attempt by this Administration to suppress the vote and undermine the protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, the National Voter Registration Act, the Voting Rights Act, and other important voter protection laws.”

The Members requested that Pence address several questions about the Commission at its upcoming meeting on July 19, including how it will ensure future compliance with privacy and transparency laws. They also requested documents relating to the purpose of the Commission and how it plans to use state voter information.

Recent reports show that Kris Kobach has proposed making voter registration requirements much stricter – potentially limiting access to the ballot box. In addition to today’s letter, the Congressional Black Caucus and House Judiciary Committee Democrats will host a forum today at 3 p.m. to examine concerns related to Kobach’s requests and proposal. 
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Monday, July 17, 2017

CONYERS: Medicare For All

The Senate GOP and House Republicans so-called healthcare bill still imposes the same barbaric cuts to Medicaid that will end the program as we know it.

It’s no exaggeration to say that if this bill passes, poor and working people will suffer and many will die. Their bill still ends protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

It allows insurance companies to offer barebones plans that hardly count as “insurance” and don’t provide meaningful care. Meanwhile, for people with pre-existing conditions who need real medical care, insurers will offer plans with sky high prices most cannot afford.

Most importantly, their bill still does nothing to make access to quality healthcare more affordable for you and your family.

Fortunately, Democrats have a better plan: Medicare for All When every American can enroll in Medicare for All, you won’t have to shop and compare between 50 different plans with terms and rules nobody can understand.

No more getting nickel-and-dimed with premiums, copays and deductibles.

No more fighting with insurance companies over denied claims, or surprise bills for things you were never asked about.

No more holding your care hostage for executive salaries, advertising costs, and profit margins. Instead, just like the fire department, schools, roads, and bridges, we’re going to treat healthcare as an essential serviced provided equally to all people.

My Medicare for All bill is the Democratic alternative to Trumpcare.

After we’ve defeated this awful Trumpcare bill, we will fight tirelessly until we make Medicare for All a reality.


Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Friday, July 14, 2017

Jayapal, Cicilline Introduce Resolution of Inquiry to Force Trump Administration Release Documents Pertaining to Possible Obstruction of Justice

The resolution, if passed, would require the Department of Justice to release any and all information pertaining to collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After the Department of Justice released a heavily redacted,single-page document, below, confirming that Attorney General Jeff Sessions lied to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian government, House Judiciary Committee members, Representatives Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) and David Cicilline (RI-01) introduced a resolution of inquiry requesting the Trump administration release any and all information pertaining to Attorney General Sessions’ involvement in the firing of FBI director James Comey in violation of his recusal and related matters.

“For six months, we have watched the Trump administration make a mockery of our laws and the highest office in our land while our Republican colleagues refuse to allow hearings on obstruction of justice and collusion with Russia,” said Rep. Jayapal. “Our resolution of inquiry will force the House Committee on the Judiciary to consider allegations of obstruction of justice involving the Justice Department. The Senate Judiciary Committee is taking action on the matter. We need the Republicans on our committee to wake up and take these issues seriously. We have a duty as members of Congress and the Judiciary Committee to exercise oversight over the administration and the Justice Department.”

"We’ve known for a while now that Paul Ryan and the Republicans don’t want to work with us on just about anything. That's true for jobs, tax fairness, infrastructure, workforce training, and health care," said Rep. Cicilline. "But what's most outrageous is that they don’t even want to work with us to make sure the American people know the truth about allegations of obstruction of justice involving the Justice Department. There is no more serious responsibility than protecting our democracy and the American people deserve members of Congress who take this responsibility seriously."

A copy of the Jayapal-Cicilline resolution of inquiry can be found, below.

The two representatives demanded that House Republicans wake up and conduct oversight of the Trump administration. Attorney General Sessions has failed to disclose his meetings with the Russian government, largely ignored his recusal from the Russia investigation and helped to fire the FBI Director under false pretext. Just yesterday, the Department of Justice released a document, below, that suggests the Attorney General failed to disclose any contacts with foreign governments on his security clearance application.

The Jayapal-Cicilline Resolution is designed to obtain information about these and other systemic problems at the highest levels of the Trump administration. The Majority has refused to conduct even basic oversight of the Department of Justice. This resolution will force the issue, and leave each member to choose whether the House Judiciary Committee will begin to address these urgent problems or continue to be complicit in the administration’s undermining of justice.

Jayapal and Cicilline will closely follow ongoing developments specifically pertaining to the role of Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner in potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. If the administration fails to be more forthcoming about these troubling developments, Jayapal and Cicilline plan to amend the resolution to demand more transparency and accountability to the American people.

Background: a resolution of inquiry is a legislative tool that has privileged parliamentary status, meaning it can be brought to the floor if the relevant committee hasn’t reported it within 14 legislative days, even if the Majority leadership has not scheduled it for a vote. Once introduced, the committee must schedule a markup in that set time, which means there has to be debate and the committee must vote on the resolution. The committee can report the resolution “unfavorably” after markup to prevent it from going to the floor, otherwise it can be raised for a vote before the full House of Representatives.
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Thursday, July 13, 2017

CONYERS & SENSENBRENNER Reintroduce Bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations  Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) reintroduced the bipartisan Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2017 (VRAA), which would fully restore and modernize the original Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965 to reflect today’s societal needs and challenges.

One of the VRA’s core protections is its preclearance system, which previously required states with a documented history of discrimination to allow the federal government to review changes to voting laws and practices before they were implemented. This provision was struck down in 2013 by the Supreme Court in Shelby v. Holder, where the court held that while preclearance is constitutional; it is unconstitutional to apply it to states based on the 1965 formula.

Congressmen Sensenbrenner and Conyers introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2017 in response to this ruling. The VRAA would make all states and jurisdictions eligible for coverage formula based on voting violations in the last 15 years. Key elements of the legislation include:

·         Applies equally to every state in the country and only applies if a state has a documented history of discrimination.

·         States would only be subject to preclearance if they have committed five voting violations in the last 15 years.

  • Provides greater transparency in elections so that voters are made aware of any changes to polling times, dates, locations, and protocols. The additional sunlight will deter discrimination from occurring and protect voters from discrimination.

  • Allows for preliminary relief to be obtained more readily, given that voting rights cannot often be vindicated after an election is already over.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Congressman Conyers: “As a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus who cosponsored the original Voting Rights Act in 1965, I have witnessed firsthand the stain that discrimination has placed on our democracy.   The right to vote is the foundation of all other rights and the Voting Rights Act was critical to ensuring equal access to the ballot box for all Americans. In the wake of the 2013 Supreme Court decision, some states immediately worked to roll back the progress that has been made.  Congress has a long history of protecting and expanding access to the ballot box and it should continue to build on that legacy by fully restoring and enhancing the Voting Rights Act.”

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Every American – no matter the color of their skin – needs to know that we understand their right to vote is sacred. That is why reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act is so important. I’m confident that congressional leaders of both parties can come together in support of this modernized legislation and show their unfailing commitment to protecting that right.”

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law in August of 1965, and it has been reauthorized four times since.  President George W. Bush signed the most recent reauthorization into law in 2006, after the House voted 390-33 and the Senate 98-0 in favor of the legislation.

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

CONYERS: Judiciary Democrats Demand Answers On Abrupt DOJ Settlement Of Fraud Case Handled By Russian Lawyer Who Met With Trump Jr.

DOJ Abruptly Settled Money Laundering Case that Involved Russia Sanctions, New York Real Estate Holdings, and Kremlin-Linked Lawyer Who Met with Donald Trump Jr.

Washington, D.C. – Today, all seventeen Democratic members of the House Committee on the Judiciary wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request information about his decision to abruptly settle United States v. Prevezon Holdings Ltd, a money laundering case that the Department of Justice (DOJ) abruptly settled that involved Russia sanctions, New York real estate holdings, and the lawyer who met with Donald Trump, Jr. 

In their letter, the Members wrote, “Last summer, Donald Trump, Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected attorney in an attempt to obtain information “that would incriminate Hillary.”  Earlier this year, on May 12, 2017, the Department of Justice made an abrupt decision to settle a money laundering case being handled by that same attorney in the Southern District of New York.   We write with some concern that the two events may be connected—and that the Department may have settled the case at a loss for the United States in order to obscure the underlying facts.”

In addition to the letter, House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr., issued the following statement:

“The connections here are too substantial to ignore.  Why was a Russian money-laundering case involving more than $230 million dismissed without explanation?  Why was a central figure in that case chosen to approach the Trump campaign about assistance from the Russian government?  Was the firing of Preet Bharara in any way related to his office’s prosecution of these crimes?  Wittingly or unwittingly, was the Department of Justice involved?

“Even if these facts are mere coincidence—and there is reason to be doubtful that they are mere coincidence—they merit immediate explanation by the Attorney General and immediate investigation by the House Judiciary Committee.”

Background: The Prevezon case relates to a massive tax-theft and money laundering scheme uncovered in 2007 by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.  His 2012 death in Russian custody led to the passage of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which enabled President Obama to sanction the Russian officials thought responsible for such human rights abuses.

2013 complaint filed in federal court alleged that Prevezon helped to launder more than $230 million stolen from the Russian treasury, largely through high-end real estate in Manhattan.  One of Prevezon’s attorneys was Natalia Veselnitskaya—a lawyer known for lobbying against the Magnitsky Act, and the “Russian government attorney” who met with Donald Trump, Jr. and others to discuss “information and official documents that would incriminate Hillary” on June 9, 2016.  Even Donald Trump Jr.’s alternative explanations for this meeting—he described the discussion, at one point, as “primarily about adoption”—appear to turn on Ms. Veselnitkaya’s efforts to protect her client and undo U.S. sanctions on Russian officials.

On May 12, 2017—just two days before the Prevezon trial was set to begin—the Department of Justice settled the case for less than $6 million and no admission of guilt.  Ms. Veselnitskaya told one Russian news outlet that the penalty was so light that it seemed “almost an apology from the government.”

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CONYERS: Statement for the Markup of H.R. 469, the “Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2017”

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
H.R. 469, the “Sunshine for Regulations and Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act of 2017,” has a simple goal:  to discourage the use of settlement agreements and consent decrees.

Here are just a few reasons why this is problematic.

To begin with, this bill, by delaying regulatory protections, jeopardizes public health and safety.  This explains why the Administration issued a veto threat against a very similar version included in legislation considered last Congress. 

It also explains why a broad consortium of more than 150 organizations strenuously oppose this bill. 

These organizations include the National Resources Defense Council, the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, the Sierra Club, and EarthJustice, among other groups.

Simply put, this bill could be used to prevent critical, life-saving federal regulatory actions from being implemented.

For example, the bill gives opponents of regulation multiple opportunities to stifle agency regulatory actions by allowing essentially any third party who is affected by such actions to:
                     intervene, subject to rebuttal;
                     participate in settlement negotiations; and
                     submit public comments about a proposed consent decree or settlement agreement that agencies would then be required to respond to.

In the case of consent decrees concerning a rulemaking, an agency would be forced to go through two public comment periods:  one for the consent decree and one for the rulemaking that results from the consent decree, doubling the agency’s effort.

Take, for example, a consent decree resolving a dispute under the Clean Air Act.  The bill would allow any private party whose rights are affected by such decree a right to intervene, which could conceivably include anyone who breathes air. 

Like nearly all of the anti-regulatory bills we have considered to date over the last three Congresses, H.R. 469 piles on unnecessary procedural requirements for agencies and courts.

Another concern is that this bill threatens to undermine a critical tool that Americans use to guarantee their Congressionally-mandated protections, including civil rights laws. 

By reducing costly and time-consuming litigation, consent decrees and settlement agreements benefit both plaintiffs and defendants. 

They ensure that federal protections are enforced, while giving state and local governments flexibility as to how they meet their federal obligations.

Consent decrees, in particular, have been instrumental in enforcing various civil rights statutes in a wide variety cases, ranging from those involving voting rights -- to reform of mental health institutions -- to law enforcement misconduct.  Indeed, they are at the heart of civil rights enforcement.
Because of H.R. 469’s a chilling effect on the use of consent decrees and settlement agreements, civil rights enforcement will be undermined. 

Given this concern, I intend to offer an amendment addressing at least this one shortcoming of the bill.

Finally, H.R. 469 will inevitably generate more litigation that will result in millions of dollars of additional transactional costs, all of which will be borne by the American taxpayer. 

For example, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, in its analysis of the bill’s predecessor from the last Congress, concluded the measure would impose millions of dollars in additional costs, most of which would be “incurred because litigation involving consent decrees and settlement agreements would probably take longer under the bill and agencies would face additional administrative requirements.”
For all of these reasons, I must accordingly oppose H.R. 469 and I yield back the balance of my time.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

CONYERS Statement for the Markup of H.R. 2851, the “Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act of 2017” by the Committee on the Judiciary

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
H.R. 2851, the “Stop the Importation and Trafficking of Synthetic Analogues Act of 2017,” is intended to address the problem of the illicit use of analog synthetic drugs. 

This bill involves important issues concerning public health and safety, and also fairness in our criminal justice system. 

While I appreciate the desire to protect our citizens from dangerous drugs, I must oppose this flawed bill. 

I recognize that analogs to some synthetic drugs are dangerous and are harming our citizens – particularly young people. 

Some of these modified, man-made substances are more potent, more dangerous, and oftentimes more deadly than the substances they are designed to mimic.

However, in addressing the dangers these drugs pose, I believe Congress must be careful in advancing any legislative response. 

Unfortunately, H.R. 2851, although well-intended, is ultimately unwise for several reasons.

To begin with, this measure would give the Attorney General almost unfettered authority over the regulation of these substances. 

While much of the conversation surrounding synthetic analogues focuses on the chemistry of the substances – from the process of manufacturing them to their effect on the human body – H.R. 2851 would eliminate vital scientific and medical evaluations normally undertaken by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration and do away with binding recommendations provided by the Department of Health and Human Services in scheduling drugs.

There are already statutory mechanisms in place to provide for the scheduling and regulation of new drugs that may be dangerous if misused.  Those mechanisms require an appropriate degree of collaboration among the Justice Department, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Food and Drug Administration in scheduling synthetic analogues.

This is because each of these agencies are equally important to the scheduling process.

And under this bill, not only would the Attorney General hold the sole authority to schedule these substances, but he or she would also have the power to shape sentencing policy – without the input of the U.S. Sentencing Commission that is currently studying the issue of synthetic drugs and penalties.
Secondly, we must be cautious in our response to synthetic drugs and heed the lessons we learned from the fear-driven legislation enacted in response to crack.  

For example, H.R. 2851 would establish lengthy, and sometimes mandatory minimum, penalties for certain offenses involving these analog drugs. 

While mandatory minimum sentences give the appearance that we are taking strong action to address a problem, they are patently unjust as a matter of sentencing policy and are unnecessary to the imposition of appropriate sentences.  

Indeed, extremely lengthy sentences are sometimes appropriately imposed by judges, but over-penalization through mandatory minimums is counterproductive and only contributes to our crisis of over-incarceration. 

Also, this bill has the potential to chill medical research into substances that may be beneficial, or into alternative treatments for drug addiction. 

We must be careful not to harm innovation and exploration into the development of new drugs that can actually help us. 

In closing, I want to note that the Committee has received a letter from more than 65 advocacy organizations opposing this bill – including the ACLU, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Families Against Mandatory Minimums. 

Furthermore, we received a letter yesterday from a number of conservative groups opposing the bill.  The signatories included Freedom Works, the American Conservative Union Foundation, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

We must not ignore their concerns as we consider approaching this issue through legislation. 

Therefore, I must oppose this bill, and I ask my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to do the same today. 

I yield back the balance of my time.

Voting is beautiful, be beautiful ~ vote.©

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

CONYERS: President Trump, follow the Constitution

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
My colleagues and I have taken the extraordinary step of filing a federal lawsuit against President Donald Trump for his violations of the U.S. Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments ClauseArticle I, Section 9 of the Constitution forbids federal officeholders, including the President, from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign state” without the consent of Congress.

The Framers included the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution because they were deeply concerned about foreign powers gaining influence over our leaders through the promise of personal financial gain. They feared that our experiment in self-government would fail if the American people could not be assured that their elected officials made decisions based on the best interests of the nation rather than the best interests of their pocketbooks. “[I]f we do not provide against corruption, our government will soon be at an end,” George Mason of Virginia warned in 1787. 

At the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, the Framers debated for days how best to ensure the undivided loyalty of elected officials. “[N]othing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption,” Alexander Hamilton explained in the Federalist Papers.  They eventually settled on the Emoluments Clause, which by its broad terms assumes that a financial benefit provided to a federal officeholder by a foreign power should be suspect and therefore subject to Congressional approval.

Since taking office, however, President Trump has&nbsp' refused to divest his business empire and has financially benefited from the actions of foreign powers that may be attempting to curry favor. To name but a few examples:  The governments of China, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia lease properties in Trump office buildings; China swiftly granted President Trump’s businesses 38 trademarks following the election, after the Trump Organization spent a decade litigating the issue in court to no avail.  Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. actively courts foreign diplomats, some of whom have hosted events or stayed at his hotel since the Inauguration.  In January 2017, a lobbying firm working for Saudi Arabia spent $270,000 on rooms and other expenses at President Trump’s Washington hotel after Inauguration Day.

As one Asian diplomat boasted to the Washington Post for a November article, “Why wouldn’t I stay at [Trump’s] Hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel,’” and another Middle Eastern diplomat acknowledged, “Believe me, all the delegations will go there.”

In January, President Trump’s attorney Sheri Dillon assured Americans that President Trump would “donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotels to the United States Treasury.” Nevertheless, in response to a request from the House Oversight Committee for documentation identifying foreign profits, the Trump Organization refused via  a single glossy brochure to “fully and completely identify all patronage” because it would be “impractical.”  Compounding the problem is the complete lack of transparency by the Administration or any form of oversight by the Majority in Congress. We learned that the “White House is telling federal agencies to blow off Democratic lawmakers oversight requests,” as Politico reported last month. 

President Trump’s actions demonstrate that he has no plans to voluntarily submit to Congressional approval of his financial benefits derived from foreign governments. By failing to do this, the President violates one of the Constitution’s most critical anti-corruption commands, and deprives Congress of its constitutionally assigned role in assessing what financial benefits from foreign states the president may accept.

No elected officeholder may be above the law, especially if he or she claims to be the sole judge of his or her own integrity. The Framers reasoned that if Congress were to decide which financial benefits a president may receive, the chances of corruption and foreign influence would be diminished because each transaction would be open to public examination. 

In deciding for himself what constitutes an emolument, President Trump is denying Congress its constitutional authority to grant – or withhold – its consent. And in our system of government, the judicial branch has the ultimate responsibility to interpret the Constitution, not the executive.   
Congress alone cannot force President Trump to comply with the Constitution. In the face of his continued defiance, therefore, we and our colleagues must ask the courts to help enforce this critical anti-corruption provision in the Constitution and direct President Trump to do what the Constitution requires. 

Our lawsuit is not just about protecting our institutional prerogative, but also to ensure that the Office of the President is not under any undue foreign influence. We owe this duty to uphold the Constitution to all Americans.

To learn about the history of Conyers enacting the constitutional mechanism of the Emoluments Clause, follow this link or just keep coming back.
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