Menashi: Unfit to sit

By Ann G. Daniels

The bad news: Steven Menashi, nominated to the super-important Second Circuit Federal Court of Appeals, thinks it’s “obvious” that Western culture, government, science, etc. is superior to everything else, especially everything Muslim; was a top legal advisor on Betsy DeVos’ plan to protect for-profit colleges that ripped off their students; and has denounced feminists, LGBTQ+ rights, and diversity efforts. The good news: he’s so bad that even Sen. Susan Collins has said she’ll oppose him, and his supporters in the administration and the Senate repeatedly had to postpone the Senate Judiciary Committee vote on his nomination before the Committee passed the nomination 12-10 on party lines on November 7. The bad news: now the nomination proceeds. And while we don’t yet have a date for the next vote, and trying to predict what the Senate will do is a little like trying to predict the future by reading chicken entrails, we have to be ready.

More good news, though: Senators Feinstein and Harris – both of whom voted no in the Senate Judiciary Committee – have already spoken out on this appalling nominee. And there’s a chance that Sen. Collins and other Republicans will cross party lines when the full Senate votes.

Senator Feinstein has expressed her concerns about Menashi’s “role at the White House” and his lack of disclosure about his work there, including on issues including family separation; and about his work under Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education’s efforts to reverse sexual assault protections, use federal funds to buy guns for teachers, and reverse attempts to crack down on deceptive for-profit colleges. She has also expressed deep concern over his racist statements, since a judge – especially in an area as diverse as that governed by the Second Circuit – must be impartial toward all who come before him

Similarly, Senator Harris has stressed that Menashihas refused to answer questions” about his work in the White House or whether he was “involved in Trump’s call with Ukrainian President Zelensky,” and she has also cited his work for Betsy DeVos on “predatory for-profit colleges.” She finds his nomination “Unacceptable.” 

We agree. As the NAACP so eloquently says: “Steven Menashi has a vile, offensive record … Under no scenario should he sit in Thurgood Marshall’s former seat on the Second Circuit and preside in the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse.”

What to do:

Please thank our Senators for speaking out on this unacceptable nominee, and urge them to stand strong and keep speaking out.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code  is ______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want to thank Senator _____ for speaking out with her concerns about Steven Menashi, and I want to urge her to keep speaking out. I trust she will vote NO on Menashi’s confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals and I hope she’ll do everything possible to persuade her colleagues to vote NO. Menashi has shown that he’s hostile towards Muslims, women, the LGBTQ+ community, lower-income families, and immigrants. He cannot be trusted to fairly decide matters before the court. 

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Do you live outside California, or have friends or family in other states? Use this link to find contact info for your Senators: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials. Or call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121, ask to be transferred to your Senator, and say this:

Hello, my name is ____ and my zip code is _____. Please vote NO on Steven Menashi’s confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals. Menashi has shown that he’s hostile towards Muslims, women, the LGBTQ+ community, lower-income families, and immigrants. He cannot be trusted to fairly decide matters before the court. 

 

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

“Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse”, photograph by Ken Lund

 

 

The other impeachment – Brett Kavanaugh

By Ann G. Daniels

Deadline: Now, the Supreme Court’s already in session –

While we’re talking impeachment … which we do, a lot … did you know that although a US President hasn’t YET been removed from office after being impeached, federal judges have been? That’s right, we can impeach a federal judge, and it’s been done before. Brett Kavanaugh, serial perjurer, time’s up.

As Senator Kamala Harris recently said, Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings were “not a serious pursuit of truth or justice” – and the way to get such a hearing is through the impeachment process. 

Senator Harris has called on the House Judiciary Committee to open an impeachment inquiry, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley has introduced H.Res. 560, “Inquiring whether the House of Representatives should impeach Brett M. Kavanaugh.” House Judiciary Committee chair Jerry Nadler says the Committee is “too busy” impeaching Trump – we certainly don’t want to distract them, but we believe Congress can multi-task, and we want their attention. After all, the House didn’t get a chance to grill Kavanaugh before, since judicial nominees only come before the Senate – let’s tell them to step up and be counted when they have the chance.

What to do:

Here’s a basic message you can tailor for each of our Members of Congress:

My name is _______, my zip code is _______, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I believe that Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings were an outrage, and I want Congress to begin impeachment proceedings to look into his perjury during those hearings. We deserve to have a Supreme Court that we can trust not to make a mockery of justice.

  • For Senator Kamala Harris, add: I want to thank Senator Harris for publicly stating her support for impeaching Brett Kavanaugh. Please keep it up!
    (
    email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • For Senator Dianne Feinstein, add: I hope Senator Feinstein will wholeheartedly support impeaching Brett Kavanaugh, and will publicly state her support as Senator Harris has done.
    (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • For Representative Barbara Lee, add: I want to thank Representative Lee for cosponsoring H.Res. 560. I hope she’ll continue to fight for impeaching Brett Kavanaugh.
    (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • For Reps. Mark DeSaulnier and Eric Swalwell, add: I want Representative ____ to cosponsor H.Res. 560, and I hope he will fight to impeach Kavanaugh as Rep. Barbara Lee is doing. We need the House to take action to make sure that the Supreme Court doesn’t become as corrupt as the White House.
    Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
    Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065 

Chișinău,” graphic by Tony Bowden

Ann G. Daniels’ checkered professional background includes practicing law, reproductive rights advocacy, creating web content for nonprofits and educational organizations, and teaching adult and family literacy. She also designs jewelry, teaches knitting, and sings second soprano.

 

Dis-Barred: Barr should be impeached

By Heidi Rand

Deadline: Start now and keep going – We didn’t have to call the Psychic Hotline to know that Bill Barr would be the Disaster-in-Chief’s Roy Cohn. As patriotic whistleblowers and intrepid journalists shine light on the Current (not for long we hope) Occupant’s abuses of power, also illuminated are his colluding toadies’ high crimes, and it’s time to reveal what Bill “Cover-Up” Barr has been up to.

The Constitution provides the same remedy to eject a law-breaking Attorney General: impeachment. What might a Barr impeachment inquiry focus on?

What you can do:

Call your Members of Congress. The House would initiate an impeachment inquiry, so contact your Representative to thank them each for speaking out against Barr: Rep. Swalwell (CA-15) has called for Barr’s impeachment; Rep. Lee (CA-13) has called for Barr to resign, as has Rep. DeSaulnier (CA-11) and:

What to say: 

My name is ____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I urge Representative ____ to continue speaking out publicly about AG Barr’s corrupt abuses of power, and I want the House to open an impeachment inquiry into his conduct related to the whistleblower’s complaint, and the Mueller Report and intelligence investigations.

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

Our Senators can speak out publicly about Barr’s corruption, can push for investigations, including as members of the Judiciary Committee. Senator Kamala Harris is speaking out to insist that Barr come back to Congress to testify under oath about the question she asked him at a May Judiciary Committee hearing — which he refused to answer — whether the White House had asked him to open an investigation of anyone.

What to say to Senator Harris:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for calling on AG Barr to return to testify to Congress under oath about your question to him at the hearing in May regarding whether the White House every asked him to investigate anyone. Please call for an impeachment inquiry into Barr’s conduct related to the whistleblower’s complaint and the Mueller Report and intelligence investigations.

Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Senator Feinstein released a statement on September 21 calling on Barr to transmit the whistleblower report and any guidance provided to the Director of National Intelligence to Congress as soon as possible. The former is moot, but Feinstein should continue to push for more information, and to speak out publicly about Barr’s abuses.

What to say to Senator Feinstein:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for your September 21 statement about AG Barr. Please continue to pursue your request that he provide information on any advice or guidance by the Justice Department to the Acting Director of National Intelligence about transmittal of the whistleblower’s report to Congress. And please call for an impeachment inquiry into Barr’s conduct related to the whistleblower’s complaint and the Mueller Report and intelligence investigations.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Do you live outside the East Bay, or have friends in other districts or states? Spread the word! Use this link to find contact info for all Members of Congress.

 

“NOT OK,” graphic by Lynn LaRocca, of Alameda4Impeachment

Heidi Rand fights the evil empire with skills gained as a Ninth Circuit staff attorney and civil rights lawyer, using words to resist, and to inform and inspire others to take action. She also wields a mean camera and knitting needles, though not at the same time.

IEB Meeting with Sen. Feinstein Staff June 2019

Meeting with Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Staff, June 20, 2019
1 Post St., San Francisco

From Sen. Feinstein’s office: Jim Lazarus, State Director; Abigail Ellis, Field Representative; two interns

Read Indivisible East Bay’s pre-meeting memorandum

TOPICS DISCUSSED:

  • Climate Change & Infrastructure: Climate change and rising sea levels (a consequence of climate change) affect infrastructure, including roads and bridges. We asked whether Sen. Feinstein is working to include climate change in infrastructure legislation; Jim Lazarus said not that he knew of, but that he’d let the Senator know about our concern.
  • Iran and the Middle East/AUMF Repeal & Defense Appropriations Bill: Lazarus expressed frustration that Sen. Feinstein has tried repeatedly to contact Secretary of State Pompeo, who hasn’t returned any of her calls. He said that Feinstein supports the nuclear treaty with Iran and does not support the US withdrawal from it OR the unilateral use of force without authorization from Congress. Ellis said that Feinstein supports the repeal of the 2001 AUMF; Lazarus continued that in political reality, there will be a defense appropriations bill, and it will probably include a compromise on the AUMF repeal.
  • ICE and CBP Detention Facilities/Border Supplemental Appropriations Bill: We presented background information and recommended that the Senator view the recent argument of a Justice Department lawyer before a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel that CBP needed the authority to deny children sleep as well as access to basic hygiene. Lazarus agreed to do this. Feinstein’s staff has visited the detention facilities, and she is extremely concerned about how the children are being treated; Ellis said that the facilities are exploiting loopholes, which the Senator wants to close via legislation. As far as her staff knows, her thinking on the role of ICE has not changed.
  • American Dream and Promise Act: We asked Sen. Feinstein to move to proceed to a floor vote on the bill. Lazarus asked if anyone asked Sen. McConnell, and we pointed out that by Senate rules, any Senator can make a motion for a floor vote.
  • Judicial Nominations: We have asked Sen. Feinstein to vote NO on the floor on Trump’s judicial nominations even if she votes YES in the Judiciary committee. According to her staff, she has to maintain relationships and cooperation with some Republicans: for example, when Sen. Feinstein might seek support from some Republican Senators for judicial nominations she favors, especially of nominees from California—or of other legislative goals she supports.
  • Election Security: The Senator is concerned about election security. We urged Sen. Feinstein (and other Democratic Senators) to push back on Sen. McConnell, and were skeptical of Lazarus’ explanation that the GOP opposes election-security legislation because it traditionally favors “local control” and fears possible overreach from federal government standards for elections.
  • American Family Act of 2019: We expressed disappointment that Sen. Feinstein still hasn’t joined 38 of her colleagues in cosponsoring this legislation to help families with children. Lazarus said he didn’t know of any concerns keeping her from cosponsoring and implied she might be exploring alternatives.
  • Investigations & Oversight: We expressed concern that the House and Senate Intelligence Committees are not obtaining adequate information about the Mueller investigations and the previous FBI counterintelligence investigation into Russian interference in our 2016 election. Lazarus was unable to tell us what Sen. Feinstein is doing to ensure that the Senate Intelligence Committee, of which she is the ranking member, will finally obtain all the information it needs. 

 

– By IEB member Phil

Keep Readler off the bench

Deadline: now and ongoing –

The GOP continues to push through horrendous federal judges at berserker-pace, making it hard to even keep up, and harder to fight since they have a death grip majority in the Senate. We still need to stand up against the worst of the horribles. And gee, here’s one! In June 2018, Trump nominated Chad Readler to a lifetime judgeship on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, one level below the Supreme Court.

As Trump’s point man in the Department of Justice, Readler has attacked the Affordable Care Act, including protection for people with preexisting conditions, and has defended Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), from Readler’s home state, opposes his nomination. We’ll go even further and say Readler should never be a judge — read more below about his record.

What you can do:

NOW’s the time to make all of our voices heard to scuttle this nomination. Pick up your phone to call your Senators – and then stay on the phone to tell all of your friends, especially those who live in states with Republican senators, to call theirs! Pressure is working – Senator Collins announced on March 5 that she will vote NO based on Readler’s role as a lead attorney and policy adviser in the Justice Department’s decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act, including its provisions protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions.  Send your friends this link with contact info for their Senators.

What to say:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Please do all you can with your colleagues in the Senate to fight Chad Readler’s confirmation to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Readler has defended the Trump Administration’s worst policies, including separating immigrant children from their parents, and he has spent his career working for causes and for policies that would hurt millions of people.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553

More information:

Some lowlights about Readler from Alliance for Justice, a national association representing 130 groups committed to equal justice and access to justice:

  • As acting head of the Department of Justice Civil Division under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Readler defended the Trump Administration’s most odious policies, including separating immigrant children from their parents at the border, while claiming that “[e]verything that the Attorney General does that I’ve been involved with he’s . . . being very respectful of precedent and the text of the statute and proper role of agencies.”
  • Readler has become a leader in the Trump Administration’s fight to destroy the Affordable Care Act and the protections it offers to millions of Americans. As acting head of the Civil Division, Readler filed a brief to strike down the ACA, including its protections for people with preexisting conditions.
  • He has tried to undermine public education in Ohio; supported the efforts of Betsy DeVos to protect fraudulent for-profit schools; fought to make it harder for people of color to vote; advanced the Trump Administration’s anti-LGBTQ and anti-reproductive rights agenda; fought to allow tobacco companies to advertise to children, including outside day care centers; sought to undermine the independence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; and advocated for executing minors.
  • And read these powerful letters opposing Readler’s confirmation:

Fired up to do more?

  • See the Indivisible East Bay Judiciary team’s calls to action list and help fight other horrendous judicial nominees.
  • Read about our hardworking, effective Judiciary team! Have a question or want to lend a hand? Contact us!

Bar Barr – Tell Senators to vote against AG nominee

Deadline: ASAP and until the vote – Here we go again: another nominee for Attorney General who thinks the president has unfettered powers, that religion trumps (sorry not sorry) law and that it certainly is more important than the rights of LGBTQ folk, that the Muslim ban is good but abortion rights and criminal defendants’ and prisoners’ rights are not … Ladies and gentlemen and resisters of all ages, the Current Occupant presents: William Barr!

The vote on Barr’s nomination is fast approaching. Senator Kamala Harris has said she will oppose his nomination because “he won’t defend independent investigations from attacks and ensure equal protection under the law for all Americans.” She’s also said she opposes him because he doesn’t “embrace a smart on crime approach to public safety.” We agree. Please thank her, and ask Senator Dianne Feinstein to say the same – and to commit to vote against the nomination. See below for call scripts and contact info.

Some scary facts about Barr:

  • He has publicly criticized Robert Mueller’s investigation, yet during his Senate hearing, he refused to commit to recuse himself from overseeing Mueller’s investigation. He also refused to commit to make Mueller’s findings public. Biased and secret – the exact opposite of what an Attorney General should be.
  • As organizations concerned with the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of and from religion have pointed out, he has called for constitutional U.S. law to be replaced with “God’s law.”
  • “He believes that Trump cannot be questioned for firing [FBI Director James] Comey in a criminal obstruction probe because presidents always have the discretion to fire an FBI director” – People for the American Way
  • Barr believes in being tough on minor drug offenders and opposes sentencing reform. He’s a big fan of mass incarceration.
  • He recently praised former Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “an outstanding attorney general.”
  • Read an excellent summary of his disturbing positions on justice reform, LGBTQ rights, immigrant rights, reproductive freedom, and more, in this article.

What you can do:

Call your Senators. They are the ones who will vote on the nomination.

Senator Harris has already spoken out against Barr and said she will vote against him. What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for speaking out against Attorney General nominee William Barr and saying you’ll vote against him. He’s the wrong person for the job, for all the reasons you’ve said – he won’t uphold the law in a way to protect us.

Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Senator Feinstein has made statements indicating that she doesn’t favor Barr, but as of January 17 she hasn’t said so explicitly and also hasn’t said how she’ll vote. What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Please speak out and commit to vote against Attorney General nominee William Barr and saying you’ll vote against him. He’s the wrong person for the job. He won’t uphold the law in a way to protect us.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Spread the word to everyone you know, send them the link to this article, and if they don’t have their Senators’ numbers on speed dial, give them this link.

December 2018 meeting with Feinstein staff

On December 10, 2018, Indivisible East Bay had our first meeting with Senator Feinstein’s new interim state director Peter Muller. We met field representative Abby Ellis in the senator’s San Francisco office and Peter, who is based in Los Angeles, joined us by phone.

While climate change is always a high priority for IEB and usually makes our meeting agendas in some form, it’s rarely at the very top of our memo — mainly because that space is generally filled by a reaction to the latest crisis coming out of the White House. So it was a promising sign of the power shift in DC that we started with a discussion of the Green New Deal (GND). Peter said that while Sen. Feinstein isn’t yet familiar with the details of the Green New Deal proposal, as far as he could tell she’s generally supportive of the program and would invest more time in learning about it once it’s a bit further advanced in the House.

We brought up the plan Feinstein supports to extend certain controversial provisions in the WIIN Act, a water bill which, among other things, diverts water south of the Delta. We shared our concerns that the extension of those provisions could result in harm the Delta ecosystem, but Peter said that Sen. Feinstein’s office has examined the matter carefully and doesn’t believe the provisions have been harmful so far or will become so if extended.

We also talked about asylum seekers at the California-Mexico border and those being detained (along with other immigrants) throughout the state. Sen. Feinstein still wants to visit the detention facilities herself, but doesn’t yet have plans to do so. Meanwhile, her staff has visited every facility in California in which immigrants are detained, as well as some in Texas. But it’s been hard to perform oversight, because the facilities know they are coming and are able to prepare. Sen. Feinstein continues to work on getting legislation ready to pass at the earliest opportunity. (First we need to elect more Democrats.) We asked her to prioritize addressing the seemingly unnecessary “metering” at ports of entry that is causing a humanitarian crisis in which asylum seekers are forced to choose between waiting in overflowing shelters in Mexico — with complete uncertainty about having their claims heard — or attempting dangerous, illegal crossings and turning themselves in at understaffed remote outposts. And meanwhile we asked her to look at ways she could collaborate with the House concerning funding for immigration enforcement, particularly with respect to making sure the executive branch spends the money in the way Congress intended.

We discussed delays in funding transit projects — Sen. Feinstein does her best to advocate for projects in California but doesn’t have much influence otherwise; Attorney General nominee William Barr — she shares our concerns about his civil rights record and biases; judiciary appointments — Republicans are happy with how this is going. so we are likely to see more of the same; and homelessness — she has a bill ready and is looking for a Republican co-sponsor.

Finally, we asked what the senator’s hopes and dreams are for working with our new blue House. Peter listed:

  • Immigration
  • Gun Control – Peter said that Sen. Feinstein saw a strong opportunity for a bump stock ban (which the White House announced only days later)
  • Environment
  • Homelessness
  • Immigration enforcement oversight
  • Appropriations – put more constraints on the administration
  • Health care
  • 2016 election investigation – help her better leverage her position on the Judiciary Committee

 

IEB’s Last Meeting With Sean

On October 24, 2018 Indivisible East Bay had our last-ever meeting with Senator Feinstein’s State Director Sean Elsbernd. It was also our last office visit with the Senator’s staff before the 2018 midterm elections, so it could possibly also be our last-ever Feinstein meeting – but as of this writing, that’s unlikely given her lead in the polls. Feinstein has given no indication yet on who will replace Sean as state director.

Our first topic was immigration. We followed up on Sen. Feinstein’s recent commitment to visit the detention facilities in California where separated kids are being held; Sean said she plans to make that visit soon after the election. Feinstein has also said that a comprehensive immigration reform bill is one of her priorities for the next Congress, especially if the Democrats win. We gave a list of priorities for such a bill, including legal status for immigrants, protection for asylum seekers, and less leeway for the executive branch to make the system harsher and more restrictive. We also had in our group an advocate for help for a very specific population: adults who were adopted from foreign countries as children, but who never became citizens because something went wrong with their paperwork, meaning they are now technically unauthorized immigrants and could be subject to deportation. Our advocate was the wife of such a person, following up on a request she had made at a previous meeting for Sen. Feinstein to look into this issue. Sean assured us that she had, but that they had not been able to find a way to move legislation forward under this Congress. He confirmed that she will continue to try, and may include it in comprehensive reform.

We asked what we could do to help the senator fight the terrible judges that the president nominated for California seats on the 9th Circuit. Senator Chuck Grassley scheduled a so-called hearing for these nominees while the Senate is away on recess – a farce of an event attended by up to two Republican senators who asked approximately zero questions. Sean said that Sen. Feinstein is certain that the way this happened was intended as revenge for what Republicans perceive as her role in “ruining” the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. As for what we can do to help, Sean said that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are still strategizing, and that, of course, a lot depends on who wins the Senate in next week’s elections. He suggested raising awareness of the red flags in the judges’ records, writing letters to the editors of newspapers, and generally making it clear that California does not support these nominees.

We also discussed the United States’ shameful role in the war in Yemen and on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; we found, not surprisingly, that we are on the same page as Sen. Feinstein, who has called abandoning the treaty a “strategic mistake.” Even if the administration tries to withdraw from the formal treaty, Sen. Feinstein is committed to enforcing its terms by way of her role on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.

And we talked about creating a fair economy and protecting our social services. A theme of that conversation was the GOP’s false promises about its economic policy, its lies about looking out for working people who are struggling to get ahead, and its double-talk about everything from Social Security to pre-existing conditions. We told Sean that sometimes Sen. Feinstein’s moderate tone and abiding belief that Republicans will be reasonable “when push comes to shove” make some of us worry that she is falling for their lies and will be fooled into making compromises in exchange for empty words.

We also asked that the senator take the administration’s recent attack on trans people as an opportunity for a renewed push to pass the Equality Act. This bill amends existing civil rights law and defines sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs or activities.

And we asked that Sen. Feinstein look at the evidence that has come out on SESTA-FOSTA, an anti-sex trafficking bill she and Sen. Harris voted for. Although the bill was intended to prevent human trafficking and forced sex work, there are serious concerns that it has actually further endangered the populations that are vulnerable to those threats.

IEB Feinstein office visit. Photo credit: Catya de Neergaard

If Sean was sorry to be seeing the last of what he has called the “most demanding Indivisible group in California,” he didn’t show it. As for us, while we may not have shed tears at parting either, we do think he has set a high for bar his replacement as a responsive and informative representative for Senator Feinstein.

Photographs by Catya de Neergaard

9/27/18 IEB & ISF Sen Feinstein office visit

Seventeen Indivisibles from IEB and Indivisible San Francisco met with Sean Elsbernd, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s state director, on September 27 at her San Francisco office. Our almost two-hour meeting was jam-packed with questions and “asks.”

First on the agenda: a detailed back and forth on how the homeless count in San Francisco is conducted. It was further emphasized that more resources were needed to help the homeless, from outreach to affordable housing. Sean seemed particularly concerned about the estimate that 2,400 kids may be homeless.

For those of you not placing the date, September 27 was the day Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh testified in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Of course, the hearings came up, and we stressed – as we have consistently done – that we are firmly against Kavanaugh being confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice. The group urged Senator Feinstein to continue what she’s doing and to look as well for other methods to stop his confirmation.

On a not-necessarily-unrelated note, the topic of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act came up. Sean thinks that Congress will just extend the Act, at least for the short term.

Sean told us that on the important issue of immigrant family separation, their office is not getting phone calls, and that it’s crucial for people to keep this issue alive by contacting the Senator. He did acknowledge that the Kavanaugh hearings have diverted attention – but we should look for any opportunity to revive the issue.

Sean said that the House is expected to head home for campaigning and won’t be back until after the midterms, so don’t expect any legislation to pass that needs both chambers to act on.

We also talked about protecting the Mueller Trump-Russia investigation, election security, digital privacy, environmental/public health, the war in Yemen, the Farm Bill, workers’ rights, the federal judiciary, tax policy, trade, criminal justice reform, and having a town hall. Sean’s comments on each of those topics were informative and indicated the Senator’s position. As an example, the Farm Bill is in conference and the final version will have to be acceptable to 60 Senators regardless of what the House passed. Another insight: White House Counsel Don McGahn’s imminent departure will force the Administration and Senate Republicans to start from scratch on judicial nominations and will give Senate Democrats a bit of breathing room.

As of November 7, Sean will be the chief of staff for San Francisco Mayor London Breed. As of now, Senator Feinstein has not selected his replacement but he’s hoping that will be resolved shortly. The general feeling from the Indivisible folks was that Sean will be missed.

Read our memo to the Senator.

 

IEB’s September meeting with Sen. Feinstein’s staff

By Candace Goldman

On September 5, a group of Indivisible East Bay members met with Sean Elsbernd (Senator Dianne Feinstein’s current State Director) and Abby Ellis (the Senator’s Field Representative). FYI, Sean will be joining the office of Mayor London Breed in San Francisco after the mid-term elections; we wish him well.

The main focus of the meeting was Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. As the ranking Democratic member on the Judiciary Committee, the Senator has been spending most of her time on this, actively working to obtain better background information from the National Archives and engage in more intense questioning of the nominee, as well as corralling the troops in opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Senator McConnell recently dumped over 42,000 documents for review but refused a reasonable extension of time on the hearings to allow for a proper review of the documents. As we have seen this past week, Senator Feinstein has been working hard on the new sexual assault charges that have come to light. The Senator has additionally focused on issues such as the nominee’s view of “settled law” and the immunities and prerogatives granted the President. She continues to make efforts to to push the vote back and to shed more light on the negative aspects of the nominee. However, the Senator is hampered by the limited procedural steps that can be taken and by the fact that the Republican committee majority, under hardliner McConnell, can force the process.

Regarding other GOP-backed judicial nominees, we particularly noted the federal court nominations of Jonathan Kobes, Stephen Clark, and Carl Nichols, all of whom have shown bias in relation to women’s rights — as well as on other civil rights issues (such as warrantless searches). We believe their backgrounds make them weak candidates. We encouraged the Senator to continue opposing these candidates and to work with Senator Harris and others to stop these nominations from going forward. We were advised that the Senator was working to ensure additional oversight hearings, including having Jeff Sessions address the Judiciary Committee.

We suggested bringing a writ of mandate suit to force the Republicans to adhere to the Judiciary Committee’s own rules, a tactic that could be used in other settings as well, such as immigration proceedings.

Some other issues we raised at the meeting:

Immigration

The Senator has staff visiting detention centers, particularly in El Centro and near Victorville, to work on the issues of family separation and claims of sexual abuse. They are seeing some progress and continue to work on these issues. Regarding passport denials for people born near the border, the Senator’s office is doing direct casework on this problem for constituents.

We noted the problem with bank account denials as well. Sean was not aware of this and said he would bring this to the Senator’s attention. We agreed to send information to the office on this issue.

Foreign Affairs

The Senator is not on the Foreign Affairs Committee, but she is working against efforts to stop aid to Palestine. Regarding the efforts of Erik Prince to use private forces in Afghanistan, the Senator’s office didn’t have much information on this; we encouraged her to do what she can against such a contract in the Defense Appropriations Committee.

National Security

We thanked the Senator for her support of S-2047, Preventing War in North Korea Act of 2017. Sean responded that the Senator was definitely in favor of careful diplomacy on this and other critical issues.

Opioids and Marijuana

Attendees shared personal experiences with and information about medicinal marijuana and encouraged Senator Feinstein to reconsider her more conservative position on drugs, especially regarding support for recovery programs rather than jail. 

Election Security

Regarding S-2593, Secure Elections Act, which was pulled from hearing by Rules Committee chair Roy Blunt, we encouraged the Senator to continue her efforts to get it reset for a hearing and to actually strengthen the bill. We suggested inserting the bill’s provisions in the homeland security funding. Sean thought that strategy might be a good approach. We agreed to send the February 2018 report on state election security to him for the Senator’s attention.

Farm Bill

We encouraged the Senator to vote against any reduction in SNAP and imposition of work requirements in the Farm Bill. Sean indicated that Senator Feinstein supports SNAP but the bill is a lower priority right now as the Senate is generally better on these issues than the House.

Puerto Rico

We urged support of the Resilient Energy Infrastructure bill to aid the recovery in Puerto Rico. Regarding this issue, Sean suggested we also reach out to Senator Bill Nelson from Florida.

Lobby visit to Senator Feinstein's office, 9/5/18, photo by Toby St. John
Sean Elsbernd, Senator Feinstein’s State Director. Photo by Toby St. John

It was a congenial meeting and the staff was quite responsive to our questions and ideas. One exception: the ongoing request for a town hall meeting seems to be falling on deaf ears — not necessarily from the staff, but from the Senator herself.

Click here to read the Indivisible East Bay memo for the meeting.

IEB meeting with Senator Feinstein staff, Candace Goldman. Photo by Toby St. John
IEB meeting with Senator Feinstein staff, Candace Goldman. Photo by Toby St. John

Photos by Toby St. John