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

 

Stop Kavanaugh: rallying cry at IEB’s August AMM

It’s not just about getting out the vote on November 6, 2018. Yes, that’s critical. But there’s more than one front in our ongoing battle against Trump and his minions, so we gotta walk and chew gum at the same time! As important as the election — and with very long term implications — is the fight over control of our federal judiciary. A shocking statistic: Congress has already confirmed more of Trump’s nominations to appellate judgeships (24) in his first term than any other president going back to Reagan!

Right now, perched at the top of our judicial concerns sits the Supreme Court. The Republican-controlled Senate is pushing hard to get Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s uber-conservative nominee, confirmed as soon as possible. Hearings are scheduled to start on September 4 — with most pundits predicting that success is almost certain.

The good news is that “almost certain” means “not 100% certain.” This fight is still winnable … if we act like it!

All of which brings us to the Indivisible East Bay August 26 All Members Meeting. An overflowing house packed the room, with many of the 200+ people there showing up for their first-ever IEB event.

Fighting the Kavanaugh Nomination

For the top attraction, we joined with MoveOn’s Unite for Justice national day of action to promote the fight against Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Linh Nguyen, co-lead of the IEB Judiciary Team, delivered an impassioned presentation detailing exactly why we must push as hard as we can to delay or prevent the vote on Kavanaugh:

  • Linh gave a distressing overview of what we already know of Kavanaugh’s equally distressing record: his opposition to Roe v. Wade, his assertions that a sitting President should be exempt from any investigation, his support for unlimited pardon power for the President (even before defendants stand trial), his belief that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutional, his opposition to climate change protection measures, and his support for vote-suppressing voter ID laws.
  • There’s likely much more, but it has been hard to find out; thanks to the GOP’s obstruction in Congress, only 6% of his record has been made available to the public!
  • Yes, Kavanaugh has stated that Roe v. Wade is “settled law.” But don’t be seduced by this admission! Saying the case is settled does not imply that Kavanaugh believes it was correctly decided. If he is confirmed to the Supreme Court, he could still act to overturn it — and probably would.
Linh Nguyen's presentation on Kavanaugh, photo by Catherine de Neergaard
Linh Nguyen’s presentation on Kavanaugh. Photo by Catherine de Neergaard

Linh also talked about the Judiciary Team’s efforts to coordinate with Indivisibles and other groups around the country to block other Trump nominees to federal courts — nominees who are too far-right, blatantly partisan, or unqualified to hold the lifetime positions. The Team’s work has paid off! Activists’ pressure has terminated the nominations of Jeff Mateer, Brett Talley, Matthew Petersen, and Ryan Bounds. These potential judges were exposed as racist, homophobic, and/or lacking in any judicial experience. While Trump appears to view these attributes as desirable, our opposition eventually forced an embarrassed GOP to abandon the nominees.

What can you do?

All of which bring us to … YOU, and what you can do to prevent further judicial disaster from becoming a reality.

First and foremost: contact your senators EVERY DAY by phone, email, or fax to voice your opposition to Kavanaugh. It doesn’t matter that they’re already on record as opposed to his confirmation — contact them (every day) anyway! Their staff tells us it helps immensely for them to hear our support. Otherwise, they only hear from constituents who disagree, making it harder for them to hold to their positions. That’s why, at the meeting, all attendees took direct action by making phone calls and writing more than 300 (!) postcards to Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

IEB member Amelia hand-delivered 160+ postcards to Senator Harris
IEB member Amelia hand-delivered 160+ postcards to Senator Feinstein. Photo by Amelia Cass.

Please do the same…right now!

What to say:

My name is ____. I’m a constituent from [zip code] and a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote NO on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. I’m worried by his opposition to a woman’s right to choose, environmental and consumer protection, workers’ rights and common sense gun safety. His willingness to shield the president from prosecution and investigation is frightening. Kavanaugh’s nomination should be rejected.

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

Next: we can’t stop there. It’s essential that all 49 Democratic Senators are steadfast in their opposition to Kavanaugh — plus we need to get at least two Republicans to vote no. To accomplish this, we must contact Democratic voters in other states, particularly ones with vulnerable Republican Senators, encouraging them to voice their opposition to Kavanaugh and vote NO.

Three generations of resisters! Ellen, Meriam and Iris. Photo by LeAnn Kanowsky
Three generations of resisters! Ellen, Meriam and Iris. Photo by LeAnn Kanowsky

But wait, there’s more: Expanding on Linh’s call to action, IEB Governance Committee members Andrea and Charlotte offered additional actions you can take:

  1. Sign up for the IEB weekly newsletter. Each issue opens with 3 action items, and the actions are also listed on the Calls & Emails page of our website, and are featured on our Facebook page.
  2. Use social media to get the message out. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and post your support for IEB’s positions on your own social media pages, your Twitter feed or even on Nextdoor. Check out this perfect example of boosting the cause!
  3. Share these tips with your family and friends, especially those in other states, and ask them to take action.

The goal: make it so “expensive” for Mitch McConnell to twist arms that he abandons the effort to confirm Kavanaugh. We have the opportunity to win by running out the clock. If Kavanaugh is not confirmed by the end of the 2018 Congressional session, the nomination gets kicked back to the President, forcing a delay that could doom the appointment — especially if we win a majority of the Senate in November.

The ultimate symbol of America

While info and direct action to #StopKavanaugh was going full steam, kitchen science was also happening! IEB Wizard Ted Lam conducted extensive testing (yeah, noms!) to perfect a recipe for homemade Peet’s Major Dickason’s blend ice cream, and he let loose his team of IEB family members (his son Lucas and  volunteers extraordinaire Tiffany and George) to churn up 12 delectable quarts with a robin’s egg blue vintage electric ice cream maker.  

Tiffany, Lucas and George making ice cream for the resistance!
Tiffany, Lucas and George made ice cream for hungry activists! Photo by Heidi Rand

The action we take

George did double duty, and says that “after churning up resistance . . .  I mean ice-cream, I was posted post-haste to help out at the Postcards to Voters table.” Members flocked to write 100 postcards to Democratic voters in support of Audrey Denney and TJ Cox, running for Congress in California Districts 1 and 21. Both districts, largely rural and agricultural, are ripe to be flipped.

Aaaand that brings us full circle — back to the importance of the midterm elections, as we mentioned at the top of this article. Almost every problem we face right now will get better if we can end the GOP’s control of Congress; however, we need to continue keep making noise and applying pressure. Every phone call, postcard, and email counts!

 

Tracking down Senator Feinstein

On the morning of August 11, 2018, IEB members tracked down Senator Dianne Feinstein at a campaign office-warming for San Francisco Supervisor Catherine Stefani. It was a very cozy event of the kind Sen. Feinstein clearly (and understandably) prefers to open town halls — though during her remarks she did say something about envying Supervisor Stefani’s ability to get out and meet her constituents in her small district, compared to a whole state. That was a little galling from someone whom we’ve barely seen try to meet with the general public.

But the event was also kind of sweet in its way. Along with Sen. Feinstein, several SF women politicians came out to support Supervisor Stefani, including Mayor London Breed and State Treasurer Candidate Fiona Ma. Senator Feinstein led the crowd in a chorus of “Happy Birthday Your Honor the Mayor” and all of the younger women appeared genuinely starstruck to be there with one of their role models, whom a couple of them jokingly compared to Taylor Swift. Certainly, it was heartwarming to see this group of women come together to support each other and marvel at how much has changed — and how much has stayed the same — since Sen. Feinstein was the second woman (first elected) on the SF Board of Supervisors.

But the real reason we were there was to talk to Sen. Feinstein about Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. We politely cornered her near the exit, shook her hand, and thanked her for everything she was doing, all her letters and tweets. We told her we were also working hard to fight the Kavanaugh nomination. As she edged away up the stairs, we told her we wanted to see action from the Democrats. She stopped, turned back to us and said that they would take action, but that we couldn’t win. As we looked at her, dismayed, she reframed the statement: Democrats in the Senate need Republicans to vote with them, and that to get that, we probably need some new information to come out. We agreed and told her we were working on both of those things too.

It’s clear that she hasn’t given up, and that she will keep up the fight to the best of her ability no matter what, but it’s also clear that she needs our calls and encouragement to build her strength and resolve. Because if we don’t win this fight, it won’t be because it was impossible; it will be because it was very hard and too many of us gave up. We need to make her believe that we can win, and we need to believe it ourselves because that’s the only way we have a chance.

Please contact both senators today and say:

My name is ______, my zip code is _________ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for everything you’ve done to protect the Supreme Court. Please keep fighting the Kavanaugh nomination and rallying your constituents. We are winning the battle for public opinion. Most Americans support reproductive rights, workers’ rights, and the ACA. We need to keep showing more of them that Kavanaugh threatens those things, and keep showing vulnerable Republicans how much they have to lose.

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

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

 

Meeting with Senator Feinstein’s staff in Oakland

By George McRae

A group of mainly Indivisible East Bay members met for a great Q&A on Tuesday, August 14, 2018 at the Oakland Public Library with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s State Director Sean Elsbernd and Field Representative Abby Ellis.

Top of list: the upcoming confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Senator Feinstein has been adamant and doing what she can to open up all the hidden files on Kavanaugh, while Senator Grassley is pushing to start hearings the Tuesday after Labor Day, so when the Supreme Court meets the first Monday in October (the Court’s traditional giddy-up) they’ll have a full house of nine. Discussion revolved around the National Archives not being able to even produce the requested documentation by at least the middle of October. The issue of Kavanaugh perjuring himself when he was being vetted for the D.C. District Court was discussed and it was clarified that those documents are in the pile at the Archives.

What to do about it?? Call Senator Feinstein’s and also Senator Harris’s offices REPEATEDLY! Yes, emailing over and over – daily, if not hourly – is vital. Seriously. The Senators’ staffs keep track of numbers of contacts per zip code per issue and calls, faxes, emails are weighted EQUALLY. Senator Feinstein asks for and is given daily reports on numbers for and against issues, and the zip codes where the comments are from. So if she gets ten thousand calls supporting Kavanaugh, that’s what she gets. If, on the other hand, she gets ten thousand calls against Kavanaugh, then that’s what she gets! She is shown the high volume reports daily. The staff stressed that they are NOT hearing from US about Kavanaugh, and the lack of calls is a mystery. [Ed. note: see our current actions, posted here, and call every day. The Kavanaugh actions listed are all still timely]

We discussed that many people think they don’t have to call because they know that the Senators are opposed to Kavanaugh already, or know their public position on another issue, but again, THEY NEED to hear from us even so! In addition, they really need to hear our thanks when they are doing a good job! It encourages them to keep going in getting the work done on the issues we strongly support.

IEB meeting with Sen. Feinstein staff Aug. 13, 2018

We discussed the tariff war, and the destruction it is bringing to our state as well as to the rest of the country. Sean specifically mentioned harm from the tariffs on Chinese goods that have provoked Chinese retaliation in the form of tariffs on agricultural exports and said that small, medium and even large farms are looking at this coming Labor Day as the day to decide whether they can live or die as businesses. Sean also said that such harm is galvanizing even GOP Senators from states with a large agricultural base.

We touched on some international issues, including a discussion about Israel, Turkey, and Iranian nuclear proliferation. Sean said that Sen. Feinstein is very concerned about problems that Netanyahu is causing, and about the threat of global economic collapse due to the ongoing economic crisis in Turkey.

Finally, we asked the Senator’s position on universal health care, and as we’ve heard from Sean before, the question is how to pay for it, and the Senator’s main concern is to make sure that everyone is covered first.

 

George McRae works as a theater professional, an audio-describer for blind and visually impaired people, and standardized patient for healthcare educators. Oh, he also keeps bees. 

Photographs by George McRae

Experts talk about how to beat the Kavanaugh nomination

By Candace Goldman

On August 2, 2018, Indivisible East Bay took part in a community meeting in Berkeley to discuss Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court, and actions we can take to prevent his approval by the Senate. IEB co-sponsored the meeting with the California Civil Rights Coalition, Equal Justice Society, The Center for Independent Living, and People For the American Way.

The evening was emceed by Eva Paterson, a long-time civil rights advocate, and speakers included Leslie Proll with the NAACP, Amy Everitt of NARAL Pro-Choice California, Raymundo Jacquez III from Centro Legal de la Raza, Noreen Farrell of Equal Rights Advocates, Dan Roth with the American Constitution Society, and IEB’s own Linh Nguyen, who co-leads our Judiciary Team.  Linh did a masterful job of informing the gathering about what IEB and the Judiciary Team have been doing. She really engaged the audience and was an inspiring example of what we can do when we band together to take action.  Great job, Linh – and thank you!

The speakers addressed the dangers a Kavanaugh confirmation would represent – and they are legion – and also the actions we can take to defeat his nomination.  Everyone’s rights and interests are at risk with this potential swing position on the Supreme Court – from women’s health to labor protections, from shredding Executive accountability to continuing environmental destruction to endangering the lives of immigrants.  Each speaker emphasized that it is NOT a foregone conclusion that Kavanaugh will be approved, but we need to keep a laser beam on the nomination and ramp up the pressure to defeat him.

What you can do:

  • Tell Senators Feinstein and Harris that you want them to vote NO on Kavanaugh in the Judiciary Committee; and that if the nomination gets out of committee and to the full Senate, you want them to vote NO and hold all other Democrats and swing voters to do the same
    • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
    • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Call all the people you know in the states whose senators are on the Judiciary Committee and urge them to tell their senators to vote NO on Kavanaugh in committee and, if necessary, in the full Senate
  • Ask all your friends to contact their senators – especially swing votes like Senator Murkowski of Alaska and Senator Collins of Maine – and tell them to vote NO if the nomination reaches the full Senate.
  • Read our articles here, here, here, here, and here (wow, we’ve been busy!) for more info, suggested call scripts, and actions you need to take.
  • Make your voice heard: Unite for Justice has called for nationwide rallies to oppose Kavanaugh on Sunday, August 26. Find an event near you at this link, or attend NARAL Pro-Choice California’s event from 1-3 PM, San Francisco Civic Center.
  • Educate yourself: the IEB All Members Meeting will also be held on August 26 from 1-3 PM at Sports Basement, Berkeley. Linh will present an updated version of the Kavanaugh presentation she made at the August 2 meeting. Please join us if you can – it’s important to educate ourselves about this unacceptable nominee who would serve for life (and he’s only 53 years old!) if confirmed. We need to keep the pressure intense to stop this dangerous nomination.

 

July meeting with Sen. Feinstein’s State Director

By Janna Layton and Catya de Neergaard

On July 25, 2018, a group of Indivisible East Bay members held our regular meeting with Senator Feinstein’s state director, Sean Elsbernd. As usual, the talk ranged over a wide variety of subjects, and Sean gave detailed answers to a large number of questions.

IMMIGRATION

Family Separation, Reunification, and Detention

Sen. Feinstein’s Staffers’ Visit to the El Centro Detention Center:

  • Sean reports that two of Feinstein’s staff visited the El Centro detention center last week, where they witnessed horrible conditions:
    • One cell was over capacity by about 30 people
    • The only food item available for any meal is a bean and cheese burrito
    • Separated children did not even have mats
  • Both children and adults are held in El Centro
  • Staffers were not allowed to bring mobile phones or speak to detainees
  • Feinstein was deeply troubled by her staffers’ report, and contacted Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
  • Feinstein’s reaction to the visit was covered in this article by the San Diego Union Tribune.

Other Detention Centers:

  • Feinstein has not visited any detention centers and is not likely to. The detention centers are more likely to prepare ahead of time for a visit from Feinstein than they are for her staffers.
  • Staffers will visit all centers in CA to determine if what they saw at the El Centro facility is typical or a one-off. Feinstein wants this information before Judiciary Committee hearing.
  • Staff are going to the Yuba City detention center next week, but will have similar restrictions as in the El Centro center.
  • Several detention centers have cancelled their contracts with ICE.
    • It is important to note that detainees in those centers are not released, but transferred to different centers.

Other Issues:

  • In the 48 hours before our meeting, it was announced that hundreds of parents have been deported without their children.
    • The ACLU suspects many of these parents might not have gotten asylum hearings.
  • Senator Harris’s REUNITE Act – a Feinstein staffer wrote the bulk of this act, so Feinstein will likely eventually support it. 
    • However, Feinstein has been working on another, similar act that has the support of all Democratic senators, which she believes has a better chance of passing.
    • Sean is unsure if Senator Cruz is still talking with Feinstein re: her act, but if he is, it is only because of local resistance groups in Texas putting pressure on him.

Asylum Seekers

  • This has not been focused on as much because there are so many issues to be highlighted, and the public can only take so much.
  • The fact that Attorney General Sessions does not attend oversight hearings as he should has been has been overlooked.
  • Even some GOP moderates like Senator Rubio have disagreed on the Trump administration’s treatment of asylum-seekers from Central America

ICE

Appropriations Bill:

  • Feinstein voted against the bill in the Appropriations Committee
  • This might get brought up again in September
  • There is slim chance of a government shutdown. Senator McConnell and Congressman Ryan know how bad that would look. However, Trump might not care.

Splitting ICE:

  • Feinstein has not discussed this with Sean.
  • If done, it would likely be done by Sessions rather than legislature.
    • If Sessions does this, it might be because part of the group that wants to break off from ICE is a union that supported Trump.

Other:

  • Sean will follow up with Feinstein re: letter to Grassley

 

SOCIAL SAFETY NET

Health Care

  • Senator Feinstein spoke with Peter Lee in the Covered CA administration.  It is expected that Covered CA rates will go up sharply next year. This will give Senator Feinstein a platform for a strong message to wrap the ACA mess around the Republicans. Hurt in the pocketbook is going to wake people up to the message that Republicans broke healthcare. They need to fix it.
  • We have asked Feinstein frequently and continue to ask her to consider supporting the single payer system. Sean usually replies that such a bill, for example, the ‘Medicare for All Bill’ introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders, doesn’t currently have any hope of passing, so it is a low priority.

Housing/Homelessness

  • Senator Harris introduced The Rent Relief Act in the Senate on July 19, 2018.  There is already a similar bill in the House. Senator Feinstein joined Senator Harris in the introduction and will continue to touch base with Senator Harris about this bill. This bill is a big CA issue. 
  • IEB strongly supports the Rent Relief Act’s goal of giving low-income residents more federal support to pay for housing. Indivisible can to help this bill along by getting more co-sponsors.
  • Senator Feinstein is working on a new plan for cities and counties to apply for a new federal grant program to address homelessness. There would be strict quality controls, for example, for low income housing. She is calling it her ‘first day’ bill because she plans to introduce it the first day of the new Congress (provided, of course, that she wins the election).
  • Possible housing solutions:
    • Senator Feinstein has visited or had her staff visit various ‘tiny homes’ and other solutions to homelessness.  
    • She has a binder listing the name and description of the shelters and other facilities for the homeless across the state.  She sees the scope and quality of solutions across the state.
    • There is no one size fits all solution for homelessness and the housing crisis.
  • One potential source of funding is the VA. The VA and various veterans’ assistance programs have pots of money.  Housing homeless veterans with the money could be considered a front end solution to prevent the medical catastrophes that come with homelessness.
  • The federal government and each county have surplus property that could be used to build low income housing.  There is a federal law to transfer surplus property. The feds have just transferred a big lot between 7th and 9th streets to the City of San Francisco for $1.

 

NATIONAL SECURITY AND FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Helsinki/Russia

  • There was a hearing that day in the Senate Formulations Committee with Secretary of State Pompeo testifying.
    • Feinstein is not on that committee, but she is anxious to talk to colleagues about how it went.
  • Feinstein does not think Russia will be an issue that sways Republicans, but trade. Last summer, Feinstein held a forum with farmers in the Central Valley. They said if trade issues continue until Labor Day, that will hurt their businesses. They invest their money into resources at the beginning of the year, so this is a big issue for them.
  • Efforts are being made by Intelligence to get info on what was said at the Summit, but it is unlikely that transcripts will be made public. Such transcripts have not been public for previous administrations.

Iran

  • Sean noted a Washington Post article that reported anonymous White House staffers have said Trump’s tweet was a distraction from North Korea.
  • Feinstein does not give his tweet much credence.
  • The Iran Deal is important to her, as she worked on it.
  • It is unlikely the Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons Act will go to the Senate floor or be amended to something.
  • Sean will talk with Feinstein re: Senator Merkley’s 2001 AUMF replacement

Election Security

  • Feinstein has been focusing on California’s election security with CA Secretary of State Alex Padilla, not nationally, because she is pragmatic about what she can accomplish.
  • Sean will check with her re: Wyden’s act.
  • It is important for local groups to reach out to their Board of Supervisors regarding election security.

Security Clearances

  • Feinstein thinks this is a distraction technique and not a big issue.
  • Some former officials have said they don’t need it anyway, and temporary clearances can be gained if needed.

Whistleblowers

  • Sean stated that Feinstein has always protected whistleblowers.

 

ENVIRONMENT

EPA Fuel Economy Waiver for CA

  • Feinstein is very aggressive on this, because she passed the laws that let CA do this.
  • She has lobbied extensively, including reaching out to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao.
  • Advocacy groups need to elevate this issue.
    • One choice would be for consumers to demand car manufacturers continue to meet high fuel efficiency standards even if standards change.

Puerto Rico

  • We talked about the disaster in Puerto Rico in the context of the growing effects of climate change all over the country and asked if Feinstein would co-sponsor the Rebuilding Resilient Energy System Act to allow Puerto Rico and other disaster-affected areas (like our own state) to be rebuilt with greener and more resilient infrastructure; Sean said he would look up the bill and convey our request to the Senator.
  • Nationwide, Indivisible can help by writing lots more letters on the situation in Puerto Rico to their MOCs. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida would be a good person to lobby because he has 10 to 20K new Puerto Rican voters in his state.
  • Senator Feinstein will continue to advocate for Puerto Rico, but the Kavanaugh  nomination is her priority.
  • We thanked the Senator for co-sponsoring the Washington DC statehood bill and asked if Feinstein would introduce a Senate version of the Puerto Rico Admissions Act; Sean said she would not, because it isn’t going to happen in 2018.

 

JUDICIARY

Judicial Nominations

Supreme Court:

  • According to Sean, Senator Feinstein does not consider the proposal to request and view documents regarding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh a “sinking ship.”
  • The Senator’s negotiations have been focused on these documents. They are important because they get Kavanaugh on the record and give insight on his positions. Some valuable documents have been found already.
  • Half a million dollars have been given each to Senators Feinstein and Grassley from the Rules Committee to research this. Feinstein is using the money to hire staff to research and comb through documents.
  • The GOP is trying avoid the Democrats pointing out the hypocrisy of their treatment of this SCOTUS nominee versus their treatment of Obama’s nominees
    • Schumer has video of Grassley demanding all papers on Kagan.
    • This tactic won’t change McConnell’s mind, but might affect Republican senators who are on the fence.

Court of Appeals:

  • The Senator’s focus has been on Kavanaugh, and Sean does not have a statement from her on Eric Murphy, nominated to the Sixth Circuit, or Ryan Nelson, nominated to the Ninth Circuit.

 

TALK TO YOUR GOVERNMENT

Town Hall

  • We want Sen. Feinstein to commit to hold a town hall after the election; Sean said that she would think about that after the election.

Join the meetings!

  • Indivisible East Bay meets with Sen. Feinstein’s key staff every month. Be part of our team! It’s a fascinating way to find out more about the things you care about. Meetings are announced in the IEB weekly newsletter; subscribe to the newsletter for this and more!

 

Photograph by Catya de Neergaard 

We Need to Save Wildlife. Again.

By Christina Tarr and Andrea Lum

Action deadline: September 24, 2018

A death knell rang on July 19 for hundreds of endangered animals and plants in the United States, as the Trump administration announced its plan to roll back two key provisions of the Endangered Species Act. The proposal by the Interior and Commerce departments, which are charged with protecting endangered wildlife, would end the practice of extending similar protections to species regardless of whether they are listed as endangered or threatened. Yes, this means polar bears. In the most brazenly anti-environmental/pro-business stance possible, the administration also wants to eliminate language that tells officials to ignore economic impacts when determining how wildlife should be protected.

The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is an incredibly popular law, credited with bringing iconic species like the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, and the humpback whale back from the brink of extinction. It is also an important tool in the fight to protect our environment, useful for blocking or limiting coal mines, development, and oil and gas drilling. In a recent press release, the Center for Biological Diversity’s Brett Hartl stated: “These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife. If these regulations had been in place in the 1970s, the bald eagle and the gray whale would be extinct today. If they’re finalized now, [Interior Secretary Ryan] Zinke will go down in history as the extinction secretary.”

What you can do:

Comment on the proposal: The comment period on this proposal opened on July 25. Please file your comments here by the deadline: September 24, 2018.

Some points you can include:

  • The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973, is an incredibly popular law, credited with bringing species like the bald eagle, grizzly bear, and humpback whale back from the brink of extinction. It is also an important tool in the fight to protect our environment, useful for blocking or limiting coal mines, development, and oil and gas drilling. Even with the ESA in full force, however, there are indications that as many as one-third of America’s species are vulnerable, with one in five imperiled and at high risk of extinction.
  • This crisis extends well beyond species officially listed as endangered, and now includes many garden variety creatures from monarch butterflies to songbirds. Experts note that some 12,000 species across the country are “in need of conservation action.” Habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, disease, and chemical pollution are the leading wildlife threats. Climate change amplifies these threats. Changing climate and precipitation patterns will create new and increased risks of drought and flooding as sea level rise creeps up the coastlines. The effects on individual species remain mostly unknown, but are likely to ripple throughout ecosystems.
  • Now, with our wild places in decline, is not the time to start weighing the economic costs of development against the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Nor do we have time to let threatened species become endangered before we move to act on their behalf. Reject these provisions whose only intent is to hobble the Endangered Species Act. We need an ESA acting in full force working to preserve our endangered wilderness, and the species with whom we share the planet.

Next, call your Members of Congress: Let them know that endangered species matter to you, thank them for their work in protecting endangered species, and urge them to continue to do so whenever they can. For example, in the 2018 Farm Bill, both Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris stood against anti-environmental provisions. Our representatives all have good records: read about Representative Barbara Lee’s support for the environment and environmental justice here, and see her conservation scorecard here. See Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s conservation scorecard here, and Representative Eric Swalwell’s here. Call them using the same comments you adapted from the above scripts, or a slightly different one, like this:

My name is ____. My zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to thank [Senator/Representative ______].

I’m calling because I’m very concerned about the proposed threats to the Endangered Species Act by the Trump Administration. The ESA, and all environmental legislation, is very important to me.

[Here’s an example, you can say something about your own experience with wildlife]: Seeing bald eagles nesting in Milpitas and peregrine falcons nesting on the Cal campus encourages me to believe that we can coexist with nature, but we have to work at it. When development and the resulting habitat loss is the chief danger to all wild life, I appreciate anything you can do to curb our destruction of wild species and wild places. We are lucky to be close to so much wilderness in the Bay Area, but we have to work to ensure that wild places persist, both here and everywhere around the country. Thank you.

[For Senators only:  Thank you for working to keep dangerous anti-environmental riders out of must-pass legislation like the Farm Bill and the Defense Authorization Act.]

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • 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

 

Christina Tarr is a local librarian with an interest in birds and wild places. Andrea Lum is on the IEB newsletter and website team, and is the IEB Volunteer Team lead.
Photograph of bald eagle by Patrick Brinksma on Unsplash

Let’s See Your Papers, Brett Kavanaugh

Call Script

Hi, my name is _____ and my zip code is ____. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling to support the Senator’s request for Kavanaugh’s documents from his work with the Bush-Cheney administration and Ken Starr’s investigation. It’s possible that the White House chose Kavanaugh as the Supreme Court nominee for reasons not yet apparent to most of us. We need a far more complete record for this candidate. I’m asking the Senator to stand firm in her request for these documents and to insist on their thorough review before Kavanaugh is examined before the Judiciary Committee. Without a complete record, the nomination hearing could be a travesty or a rubber stamp for Trump’s nominee.

Background:

Donald Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, has rightfully been called the “Forrest Gump of Republican Politics”: he worked with Ken Starr, served as the principal drafter of the Starr Report investigating Bill Clinton, worked for candidate George Bush during the Bush-Gore Florida recount, and worked in the George W. Bush White House. During those years he created a vast, but non-public, paper trail of his views on important issues. That’s critical, because he may have been nominated precisely because of those largely non-public views. Even his public views on the Presidency are extreme, as he once wrote that Congress should exempt the President from criminal prosecution and investigation while in office, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense lawyers. Read our earlier article on various reasons why Brett Kavanaugh’s record is so disturbing.

At his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh will likely dodge answering how he would decide specific future cases or how he views or would rule on specific issues. Judicial nominees often do that under cover of avoiding making “pledges, promises or commitments…inconsistent with…impartial” judging under Canon 5(A)(3)(d)(1) of the Model Code of Judicial Conduct; but it also conveniently provides plausible deniability for Senators voting to confirm him. Without a written record, they can claim they are “shocked” at his future rulings. This is particularly critical given the Republicans’ narrow majority in the Senate and the Trump administration’s resulting recent withdrawal of another judicial nominee after his racist writings as an undergraduate became public.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has urged Democrats not to meet individually with Kavanaugh until Kavanaugh’s past written work has been produced. Senator Dianne Feinstein, the highest ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has demanded that the White House and Kavanaugh produce his past written work to be reviewed before any confirmation hearing. Indivisible East Bay has supported Senator Feinstein in her position (and in her hiring counsel specifically to vet Kavanaugh’s record). Republicans continue to oppose the scope of the request.

Please thank Senator Feinstein for her firm stance and call both her and Senator Harris, who is also on the Judiciary Committee, and ask them to insist that the White House and Kavanaugh turn over the documents he authored at the White House and while working for Ken Starr before the Judiciary Committee hearing.

By Dean Gloster. Dean is a former clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court who now writes novels. His debut YA, DESSERT FIRST, is out now.

Keep Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court

We know, you don’t need a singing elf on a unicorn to get you to oppose a Supreme Court nominee with a record against abortion rights, environmental protection, consumer protection, and common sense gun safety – but we’re giving you one anyway!

singing elf on unicorn

Brett Kavanaugh, nominated not long after the Fourth of July (ain’t irony great), has a record that’s all of the above. He is a “textualist,” an “originalist,” like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who believed that the Constitution must somehow be interpreted according to its text alone as written and intended by the Founding (white male slave-owning) Fathers. But most troubling of all, Kavanaugh has said that a sitting President should be exempt from criminal investigation and questioning, including questioning by prosecutors and defense counsel. No wonder Trump chose him!

Whether Kavanaugh sits on the Supreme Court for generations to come (he’s only 53 years old) is up to the Senate, and they need to hear from you: please call Senators Feinstein (202) 224-3841 and Harris (202) 224-3553 and ask them to do everything they can to block this nominee who would gut Roe v. Wade and give someone like Trump even greater executive power.

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling about Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. He would be a threat to our rights, our environment, and our protections against a dangerous administration. I want Senator ____ to speak out against Kavanaugh’s nomination, and to vote against him, and to persuade other Senators to vote against him.

Other things you can do:

  • #SaveSCOTUS Phone Banking. Sign up for an Indivisible National virtual phone bank to help flip crucial Senate seats in November. Training provided. All info & sign up for July 15 & 16 banks here.
  • Text banking with Resistance Labs: this is a fantastic resource – if the text banking to fight the Kavanaugh nomination has not yet gone live, sign up to be alerted when it’s ready to go!

 

Demand Justice – Block SCOTUS

Updated July 5, 2018

Deadline: ASAP & ongoing –  Justice Kennedy’s retirement leaves a calamitous Supreme Court vacancy, putting major decisions at risk for generations. The people on Trump’s nomination wish list oppose all we hold dear: reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, health care, the environment, voting rights, and more. This is a fight for our lives. Democratic senators are fired up and so are we! And it’s a fight we can win if they hold together and flip even just one Republican who cares more about his or her constituents’ desire to protect reproductive choice and the ACA than about doing Sen. McConnell’s bidding and being a rubber stamp for the nominations of an unpopular president.

What to say:

My name is ___, my zip code is ___ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m calling about the Supreme Court vacancy. I want the senator to do everything possible to oppose whoever Trump picks off his short list, or any other nominee who will take away our rights.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Subscribe to the newsletter. See our newsletter archives.