While You Weren’t Looking: 5 stories from the Trump administration that aren’t about FBI raids
This week was among the most wild news cycles of the already hectic Trump era. Between the FBI raids of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, the announced retirement of House Speaker Paul Ryan, the growing concern over the potential firing of Rod Rosenstein and the newest allegations of a Trump mistress payoff, there has been little time for anything else in the news.
Which is unfortunate, because this week was also another big week in policy and scandal out of the many governmental agencies. Here are a few stories you may have missed.
The Trump administration pushed Israel not to criticize Poland’s controversial Holocaust law
The Trump administration used its diplomatic power to try and tamp down criticism of a rightwing Holocaust whitewashing law, according to a new report.
The Israeli news station Channel 10 News alleges that the Trump administration asked Israeli officials to restrain their criticism of a widely condemned Polish law that criminalizes any portrayal of Poland as complicit in Nazi war crimes.
According to the report, American officials told their Israeli counterparts that they did find the law to be objectionable, but stressed that Poland is a critical ally, and Israel should prioritize preserving relations with them.
Trump has come under fire in the past for his uncritical and friendly relationship with Polish President Andrzej Duda, who signed the controversial law. Trump famously vowed to team up Duda to fight “fake news” at a time when Duda had been accused by international observers of abusing his power to stifle the press and silence dissent.
Justice Department removes youth LGBTQ question from violence survey
The Justice Department would no longer like to know if LGBTQ teenagers are the victims of violence.
As part of an update to the National Crime Victimization Survey, the Justice Department announced that it won’t be asking 16- and 17-year-olds what their sexual orientation or gender identity is moving forward, leaving the question in place only for respondents who are 18 years or older.
The NCVS is a national survey administered twice a year to track trends in violent crime. Removing the question for LGBTQ teenagers will likely make it more difficult for the federal government to track and assess violence inflicted on LGBTQ Americans during the critical age just prior to adulthood.
Despite the fact that the survey is confidential, the Justice Department cited the “potential sensitivity” of the question for adolescents as its reason for eliminating it.
The Trump administration may pave the way to drug test people who receive SNAP
The Trump administration is weighing a proposal to allow states to drug test low income Americans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, or SNAP. The new restrictions would target a narrow section of SNAP recipients who are “able-bodied,” do not have dependents and are applying for some specialized jobs.
Such a decision would likely be heralded by Republican governors and state legislatures who have pushed for drug testing for other government benefit programs in the past.
Experiments with welfare drug testing in states like Florida, Tennessee and Utah all found that those who receive government assistance actually tended to use drugs at a lower rate than the general population. Meanwhile, the cost of administering the tests usually eat up any savings from denying drug users benefits.
Scott Pruitt tried to remove the EPA logo from the agency’s commemorative coin
Embattled Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt had some ideas for how to update the agency’s commemorative medallion. For starters, he suggests getting rid of all that EPA stuff on it, then adding some Bible stuff, and some Oklahoma stuff, while you’re at it,
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Pruitt proposed making changes to the EPA’s “challenge coin,” a commemorative souvenir given to employees and guests of the agency. Pruitt’s design plan included removing the EPA’s flower and leaf insignia, which he reportedly felt looked like a “marijuana plant,” and replacing it with imagery like a buffalo to represent his native Oklahoma.
He also reportedly wanted to add a Bible verse to the state-sponsored token. Ronald Slotkin, a career EPA employee who has since retired, told the Times that Pruitt wanted to remove “anything to do with EPA” and turn the coin into “Pruitt coin.”
A Trump judicial nominee isn’t sure that segregation should be illegal
Wendy Vitter, a nominee for district judge in Louisiana and wife of former Sen. David Vitter, isn’t sure the Supreme Court got it right on segregation.
Asked repeatedly during a Senate judiciary hearing whether she agreed with the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education — the landmark Warren-court decision that outlawed segregation in the U.S. — Vitter repeatedly declined to answer.
Vitter told senators on the panel that she would “get into a difficult area” if she commented on which Supreme Court decision “she may disagree with.”
Again, Vitter was being asked about the decision that outlawed segregation.