Indivisible’s meeting with Rep. Swalwell

By Ward Kanowsky

Members of Indivisible East Bay and Livermore Indivisible met with Representative Eric Swalwell (CA-15) and his staff over Monday morning coffee on November 4, 2019 at Inkling’s Coffee & Tea in Pleasanton. Our discussion focused on the impeachment inquiry and where it’s heading. The two Indivisible chapters asked a range of questions and offered input during our hour-long meeting with Swalwell, who sits on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees – the two committees that will play the most critical roles during the impeachment proceedings.

Even as we met, a lot was going on. Two sets of transcripts from the closed door depositions were released that day, and Rep. Swalwell was keeping tabs on witnesses who were still scheduled for the closed door interviews during the week: John Eisenberg from the National Security Council was already a no-show for the day and Swalwell was skeptical that former National Security Advisor John Bolton would testify on Thursday as scheduled. We asked Swalwell about holding such witnesses in contempt – beyond the obstruction of Congress tool that has been used for past witnesses who have defied the proceedings. He responded that he and his colleagues have been working with Good Government Now, a non-profit organization founded to strengthen congressional subpoena enforcement, to determine if Congress can levy fines of up to $10,000/day on such witnesses, rather than have the Sergeant-at-Arms take them into custody.

The open, public hearings should begin by next week. While Rep. Swalwell said Republicans such as Devin Nunes (CA-22) and John Ratcliffe (TX-4) are likely to pull some “stunts” and try to turn the proceedings “into a circus,” the Democrats’ approach will be to keep the “testimony professional.” In this regard, staff attorneys for the Democratic representatives on the Intelligence Committee will ask most of the questions of the witnesses during the open hearings to provide this professionalism, while also setting out the strongest, prosecutorial case for a trial in the Senate. Swalwell had high praise for committee chair Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-28), whom he called the best person to oversee the hearings, saying that Schiff is “measured and unflappable.” Also, when it comes to public opinion polls, he believes it helps the Democrats when they act with dignity.

With regard to potential articles of impeachment to be determined by the House Judiciary Committee, the focus will be on the conduct of the president, especially where “sharp lines” can be drawn. For example, Swalwell believes a clear connection back to the president has been shown in the whistle-blower complaint alleging that the president used his office to solicit interference from Ukraine in the 2020 election; the president has confessed, and witnesses who listened in on the July 25 call with the head of Ukraine have corroborated the allegations. He called the president’s acts “extortion” and “defense dollars for dirt,” and noted that the subsequent coverup by the White House is obstruction. We asked about the president’s other misdeeds, and he said he sees the ten acts of obstruction laid out in the Mueller report as “prior bad acts” that could be included in the articles, as well as possible violations of campaign finance laws when payments of hush money were made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

The Senate hasn’t really felt any pressure yet on the impeachment issue, with many Republican Senators staying silent. Rep. Swalwell sees this as a wise move on their part, but at the same time hopes they will keep an open mind if and when there is a trial. From a strategic standpoint, this is also why he wants to ensure a fair process in the House before passing the case over to the Senate, with the Democrats showing restraint and demonstrating a well-prepared professional approach. He expressed some concern that once the process moves to the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could just call for an immediate yes or no vote on whether to dismiss the articles.

We told Swalwell about steps Indivisible has been taking to support the impeachment process, including:

  • Indivisible hubdialer tool – goal is to call 1.1 million voters in key Senate Republican states, tell them what’s at stake in the impeachment inquiry, and then drive calls to the Senate offices. Over 300,000 calls have been made so far.
  • Nobody is Above the Law impeachment events – partnering with MoveOn, Stand Up America, and many other groups, to organize rallies across the country on the night before the House votes on articles of impeachment. Over 160 events are registered so far,

Rep. Swalwell liked both these ideas and thought they were effective tools. He asked whether Senators Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Cory Gardner (R-CO) are included in the Hubdialer calls (they are). He also praised the Indivisible organization and said the 2018 midterm blue wave “would not have happened without Indivisible.”

Swalwell acknowledged that since impeachment has taken over the headlines, Democrats need to do a better job of letting people know about all of the other work accomplished in the House. Over 200 bills have been passed, including major legislation around background checks (H.R.8) and equal pay for equal work (H.R.7). The bills now need to be taken up by the Senate and this process has been thwarted by Senator McConnell. Swalwell proposed online campaigns aimed specifically at McConnell, to get word out about bills passed through the House and awaiting action in the Senate – possibly calling them #YourCourtMitch and #WePassedThat. He said this is also an action item where Indivisible could be very helpful. We’ll be looking into it in the future!

If you have questions or want to participate with the CA-15 team, contact Ward on Slack at @ward or by email at wardkanowsky@gmail.com.

Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.

Photo by Mallory De Lauro, Rep. Swalwell’s District Director and Foreign Affairs Adviser.

 

Now Serving: ImPeach-Mint at the AMM

By Ward Kanowsky

For a change of venue, we held Indivisible East Bay’s September All Members Meeting in CA-15 at Dublin’s IBEW Union Hall. Several allies from Livermore Indivisible (LI) chapter joined us for a full slate of speakers on a wide variety of topics, as well as resistance activities!

  • Dennessa Atiles, who recently took on the role of Indivisible National’s Senior Regional Organizer for the West Coast from Chloe Stryker and Zacharie Boisvert, introduced herself and talked about how the national group provides support to the local chapters like IEB and LI, as well as how National prioritizes issues that will have a nationwide focus. The current impeachment inquiry is the top priority, ensuring that the House moves swiftly on a vote. Defunding Hate also remains a priority so there are no budget increases for ICE or CBP.
  • Kyoko Takayama from Organizing for Action, who has recently been working with the Alameda County Census Outreach team in preparation for the 2020 census, discussed the census ambassador program. People who sign up for the ambassador program will be trained to conduct outreach such as assistance in completing questionnaires or educational outreach, and then report back to the Alameda County Census office to track and monitor progress. For more information on the program, visit www.acgov.org/Census2020 or contact Casey Farmer, Executive Director, at casey.farmer@acgov.org. For more info on how you can help ensure a complete count, read our recent article.
  • IEB’s impeachment guru Larry gave a presentation bringing us up to speed about the fast moving impeachment situation. Since his (Sunday!) update, we’ve had the whistleblower revelations about Trump’s repeated tries to use $250 million in public money to extort Ukraine into investigating false and debunked allegations related to his political rival, former VP Joe Biden, and his son Hunter Biden. And we’ve had the House finally bring a formal inquiryLarry outlined other potential impeachment articles such as obstruction of justice, abuse and violation of immigrants’ rights, attacks on freedom of the press, etc).  Here’s a link to Larry’s impeachment presentation. He also urged us to keep calling our Members of Congress to ask that the scope of articles be broad to deal with all of the corruption and abuses of power; to bring as overwhelming a portion of the public along as possible; and to strive for a real chance of conviction and removal. See our recent article for talking points and contact info.
September 29, 2019 All Members Meeting, photo by Linh Nguyen
AMM, photo by Linh Nguyen

After the speakers, attendees chose from several activities. CA-15 team co-lead LeAnn led a breakout using Vote Forward’s Voter Registration by Mail tool, and people churned out 100 letters to Arizona residents not currently registered to vote, but who would likely vote Blue in the 2020 elections. CA-11 team co-lead Ted oversaw the East Bay Activist Alliance phone banking to help support Cheryl Turpin for Virginia State Senate and Alex Askew for the Virginia House of Delegates.

And best for last! We served everyone ice cream sundaes, the most popular of course: ImPeach-Mint!

Mueller (mis)fortune cookies, photo by LeAnn Kanowsky
Mueller (mis)fortune cookies, photo by LeAnn Kanowsky

And we gave out Mueller (mis)fortune cookies; a typical fortune read, “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”  Hear hear!

Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team

Larry Baskett contributed to this article

Photographs by LeAnn Kanowsky, Ted Lam and Linh Nguyen

February AMM in Dublin

By Ward Kanowsky

Indivisible East Bay’s most recent All Members’ Meeting was held on February 24 in Dublin, the first time IEB has held the meeting in CA-15.

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The meeting included a fascinating and engaging slate of guest speakers from throughout the district, and attendees had the chance to follow up with them during the smaller breakout group sessions:

  • Arushi Avachat, a junior at Foothill High School in Pleasanton and a co-president of Students for Social Change, talked about the power of youth activism in the fight for social justice. Following the Parkland school shootings in early 2018, Arushi and others student activists planned a district-wide walkout in local schools for common sense gun control. ​​The Parkland shootings also inspired the creation of the local chapter of SSC, a national organization with chapters based in high schools; the chapter continues to expand its cause by partnering with Women’s March Empower Coalition and focusing on other important social issues such as voter registration and LGBTQ+ rights.
  • Kyoko Takayama from Tri-Valley Grassroots Organizing (TV-GO) talked about the ins and outs of community organizing. TV-GO is a coalition of progressive groups in the Tri-Valley area of CA-15, including Moms Demand Action, Organizing for Action, Swing Left, Indivisible, and others, working together and independently on important legislative issues and campaigns. Kyoko highlighted an example of organizations working effectively together that resulted in a key win: TV-GO partnered with Tracy-GO and helped to get Josh Harder elected in nearby CA-10 in the recent 2018 midterm elections.
  • Newly elected Hayward city council member Aisha Wahab spoke about her experiences in running for public office, including some of the biased, anti-Muslim sentiment she encountered along the way; during her campaign she was asked if she accepted contributions from ISIS and her car was broken into. Aisha endured and her dedication, as well as an outstanding resume proving her qualifications, resulted in her being the first Afghan American elected to public office in the United States.

IEB member Ion discussed the recent conference held in Santa Monica by California Indivisible chapters, and IEB Governance Committee member Elizabeth gave a compelling presentation about the importance of 2019 elections in the state of Virginia. Read Elizabeth’s article here.

Finally, it wouldn’t be an All Members Meeting without an action item: many of us wrote postcards in support of Nasreen Johnson, who is running for Fresno’s county board of supervisors. If Nasreen is elected, the board will have a Democratic majority.

Several members from neighboring chapter Livermore Indivisible joined us – thank you all for coming out and for your active participation! We encourage participation from interested individuals and groups from anywhere in the East Bay at all our events!

Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.

Photographs by Heidi Rand

 

Pleasanton Turns Up to Postcard

IEB Ale and Mail Postcard Party in Pleasanton
IEB Ale & Mail Postcard Party in Pleasanton – photo by Ryan Wilson

By Ward Kanowsky

Over 40 enthusiastic attendees from three progressive organizations participated in a very successful postcarding event on August 25 at The Hopyard Alehouse in Pleasanton.  Members from Indivisible East Bay, Livermore Indivisible, and the Tri-Valley Women’s March Action Group pumped out 374 postcards in support of TJ Cox’s candidacy for California’s 21st Congressional District, where he is challenging incumbent Rep. David Valadao. Mary McFarland from East Bay for TJ Cox shared that TJ has an engineering background and owns two agricultural businesses in the Central Valley.

There were also many constituents of Rep. Eric Swalwell at the event, and they wrote additional postcards to the Congressperson urging him to reach across the aisle to his colleagues who are not for the Farm Bill and tell them how important the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is to so many families in CA-15.

While Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight website shows a 64% chance of Valadao losing to a Democrat, outreach still needs to be made to voters in the area. Hillary Clinton carried CA-21 by 15 points, but incumbent Valadao beat Cox in the June primary by 14,000 votes. If you are interested in helping out, visit East Bay for TJ Cox to see how you can get involved.

Want to find out more about, or join, IEB’s CA-15 team? Email us or contact @ward on Slack.

Ward Kanowsky is co-lead, with LeAnn Kanowsky, of the Indivisible East Bay CA-15 Team.