Slipped through the cracks: April 6, 2018

The notes and quotes you may have missed

By Compiled by Salon staff
Published April 6, 2018 8:03AM (EDT)
John Kelly (AP/Susan Walsh)
John Kelly (AP/Susan Walsh)

Each day provides us a brand new news cycle, and it’s hard to keep up. Here’s a short list of the news and notes to keep you informed.Updated regularly.

What's the purpose of the CFPB now?

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has seen massive cuts since Mick Mulvaney took over as chief. The agency, supposed to be a watchdog for consumers, has given up on regulations under Mulvaney's watch, and Mulvaney doesn't even think the agency should be funded.

So why is Mulvaney giving out a big payday to political allies? Per the Associated Press:

Mulvaney has hired at least eight political appointees since he took over the bureau in late November. Four of them are making $259,500 a year and one is making $239,595. That is more than the salaries of members of Congress, cabinet secretaries, and nearly all federal judges apart from those who sit on the Supreme Court. . .

Kirsten Mork, Mulvaney’s chief of staff, got a significant bump in pay for going to work at the CFPB. She made $167,300 in her job working for Rep. Jeb Hensarling on the House Financial Services Committee, according to LegiStorm, a website that tracks congressional salary data. She now makes $259,500 as chief of staff of the CFPB, according to bureau records. . .

Eric Blankenstein, who oversees supervision, enforcement and fair lending for the bureau, previously was a lawyer for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative making $153,730, according to federal salary data website FedSmith. He now makes $259,500, according to bureau records. Another Mulvaney appointee, Sheila Greenwood, who used to work in the Department of Housing and Urban Development making $179,700 a year, now makes $259,500.

Anthony Welcher, who worked outside government before becoming a director of external affairs for the bureau, is also making $259,500 a year. His position also did not exist under the previous administration, according to bureau records.

Another year, another no-show for Trump

Trump avoids the press again. For the second straight year, he won't be attending the White House Correspondents Association annual dinner — where he would have likely been made fun of. Here's the statement from WHCA:

The White House has informed us that the president does not plan to participate in this year's dinner but that he will actively encourage members of the executive branch to attend and join us as we celebrate the First Amendment. in keeping with tradition, press secretary Sarah Sanders also will represent the administration at the head table. The April 28 dinner celebrates award-winning, scholarship winners and the vital role of the First Amendment and the free press in American democracy.

Warren: I'll serve my full Senate term if reelected 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she would serve her full six-year term in the Senate if reelected in November.

"Yes, that's my plan. I'm running for the United States Senate in 2018," Warren told reporters Thursday, when asked if she would serve out her full term. "I am not running for president of the United States. That's my plan."

The Massachusetts Democrat previously dodged the question in a March 11 interview on NBC News' "Meet the Press," raising speculation about her 2020 plans even as she told host Chuck Todd that she was not running for president.

Warren is up for reelection in November and enjoys a 30-point lead over her Republican challengers according to a recent poll.

GOP strategist: Trump is talking like a "drunk guy in Queens"

Republican strategist Steve Schmidt blasted President Trump's speech during a roundtable discussion on tax reform in West Virginia on Thursday, saying he sounded like a "drunk guy in Queens" spouting "total nonsense."

Trump claimed that "millions and millions" of people in California voted illegally in the 2016 presidential election and that a record number of women were being raped in the migrant caravan from Latin America. There's no evidence for either remark.

Trump sounded "like a drunk guy in Queens at the end of the bar talking complete and total nonsense," Schmidt said on MSNBC. "That's the president of the United States of America. It's just extraordinary." Schmidt then blasted Trump's "lack of any comportment" and "dignity."

"It's inherent racism, this notion of people are coming here, and they're black and they're brown and they're rapists and they're murderers," Schmidt continued. "He is speaking to the ugliest threads in the country and in the country's history."

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg: We don't sell data ever

Sandberg on "Today": "Here's how our business works. We don't sell data. Ever. We do not give personal data to advertisers. People come onto Facebook. They want to do targeted ads, and that's really important for small business. But people want to show ads, we take those ads, we show them. And we don't pass any information over to the advertisers."

Trey Gowdy reflects on his time "ineffective" time in Congress

After leading the charge against Hillary Clinton with countless hearings on Benghazi, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., says that he didn't do much.

"To the extent men judge themselves based on what they do for a living, I don't have a lot to show for the last seven years," he told "Vice News Tonight." Here's the full interview:

Michelle Obama gives us the harshest Trump insult yet

In an interview packed with gentle swipes at Trump, former first lady Michelle Obama said that the U.S. needs a president who has "a deep intellect, a knowledge of history, a desire for facts and taking in information.

Obama also delivered some of the best praise of Hillary Clinton yet, calling her "the most qualified person" to have run, and compared President Obama and Trump to parents. Barack, according to Obama, was the "responsible parent" — "the one who told you to eat your carrots and go to bed on time," according to Mass Live:

“Now perhaps we have the other parent,” she said, describing a fun parent who lets the kids eat candy all day and stay up late and not follow the rules. In the future, she said, the country can look back at those two experiences and reflect.

A bad day for Russian oligarchs

Thirty-eight Russians have been hit with American sanctions because of their efforts to get involved with international elections. The oligarchs have strong ties to Putin, but some also have ties to the Trump administration. Per NPR:

The move by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control targets members of Russia's elite, including Kirill Shamalov, the husband of Russian President Vladimir Putin's daughter, who famously received a loan of more than $1 billion from state-owned Gazprombank.

Shamalov's name has also been indirectly linked to U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, through the Paradise Papers — a trove of financial documents leaked from an offshore law firm that emerged last year.

The Paradise records showed that while Ross had divested himself of many holdings when he took office, he held on to a stake in the shipping company Navigator Holdings through a chain of companies in the Cayman Islands. In turn, Navigator was found to be earning around $20 million annually to ship gas for a Russian company named Sibur — which is co-owned by Shamalov.

Read the full report over at NPR.

Republicans: Still in trouble

Some good news for Democrats, from the Cook Political Report:

Our latest ratings feature 55 competitive seats (Toss Up or Lean Democratic/Republican), including 50 currently held by Republicans and five held by Democrats. There are also three non-competitive seats poised to switch parties thanks to Pennsylvania's new map (PA-05 and PA-06 to Democrats, PA-14 to Republicans). Overall, Democrats would need to win 27 of the 55 competitive races to win a majority. We continue to view Democrats the slight favorites for House control.

What's John Kelly up to these days?

President Donald Trump's chief of staff isn't doing much these days, and it's mostly because the president marginalized him, just like the president marginalized his other chief of staff, Reince Priebus, because the president doesn't like being told no. The Associated Press has more:

But those close to the president say that Trump has increasingly expressed fatigue at Kelly’s attempts to shackle him and that while Trump is not ready to fire Kelly, he has begun gradually freezing out his top aide.

Trump recently told one confidant that he was “tired of being told no” by Kelly and has instead chosen to simply not tell Kelly things at all, according to a person who was not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kentucky punishes the poor

Here's what the state of Kentucky is doing in its budget, according to the Washington Post:

The plan would flatten Kentucky's corporate and personal income-tax rates, setting both at 5 percent. Currently, Kentucky's corporate tax rate runs between 4 and 6 percent, while its income-tax rate ranges from 2 to 6 percent. The new flat rate of 5 percent for everyone means that small companies and Kentuckians with below-average incomes will face tax hikes, and higher earners will get tax cuts.

The bill attempts to make up for those cuts by nearly doubling the cigarette tax and imposing sales taxes on 17 additional services, including landscaping, janitorial work, golf courses and pet grooming. The state's nonpartisan legislative staff estimated the plan will, on net, raise money, although other experts are skeptical.

Essentially, the plan is to give a bunch of money back to the top 1 percent — an average of $7,000 each to people making more than $1 million — while increasing taxes for anyone earning between $55,000 and $92,000.

"Fox & Friends" should not be talking about race

And here's why:

"Jay-Z's complaining about white privilege, but we had a black president for eight years. Did he do a good job?" - Ashley Earhardt.

What's the president mad about today?

He gets no respect. After all, people are saying he's starting a massive trade war with China, but no one realizes how good this trade war is going!

Trump was also in a defensive mood about EPA chief Scott Pruitt, who was in the spotlight because of his ethics problems, but is now there because his name was allegedly floated in talks of replacing Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

The children are our future

And here's a second grader explaining trade deficits, thanks to "Jimmy Kimmel Live."

Women fired after giving the Trump motorcade the finger writes op-ed 

Giving the finger should not be a fireable offense, a woman who lost her job doing just that wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Thursday.

Julie Briskman was captured by a White House photographer last summer giving President Trump's motorcade the finger as it passed by her as she bicycled along a road near Trump's golf club in Virginia. The photo quickly spread across the internet and seh was fired days later by her company, which cited "corporate protection" and a social media policy banning obscene or inappropriate content in its decision.

"The First Amendment bars retaliation against me by Trump. But Trump doesn't need to punish me for my speech if fear of him spurs my employer to do it," Briskman wrote.

Briskman has filed a lawsuit against her employer, Akima LLC, claiming that her firing violated Virginia law because it violated her right to free speech in her personal time based on fear of government retaliation.

Protect Democracy, the group helping Briskman file the lawsuit, has struggled to find office space in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Briskman said, because landlords fear government retaliation.

"This sort of behavior is familiar to people in Egypt, Hungary, Thailand, Turkey and Russia, where the ability to do business increasingly depends on being seen as favorable to the regime," she wrote. "If Americans can keep their jobs only when they refrain from criticizing the president, then that freedom is lost. And once the freedom to speak is lost, then the rest of our constitutional rights will not be far behind."

Compiled by Salon staff

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