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Democrats Are Eager to See the End of the Race for DNC Chair

Nearly four long months after losing power and still lacking a new chairman, Democrats are eager to get their leadership elections over with and move on with the business of rebuilding their party to challenge President Donald Trump.

"The timing certainly wasn't good to be having a leadership debate at the very moment when Trump has created one massive mess after another in Washington," said David Pepper, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. "There is a real hunger to make the decision, move forward, and have a fully operational party that gets to work."

The Democratic National Committee will pick a new chairman in Atlanta on Saturday — the last possible weekend allowed by the party's charter, which states the election must be held "prior to March 1" following an election.

The timing was intended to give party members ample time to consider their future after an unexpected loss.

But the length of the race has also allowed tensions to fester between the establishment and progressive wings. And it has hobbled the national party's ability to both respond to Trump and capitalize on the unprecedented grassroots opposition to him.

For Democrats on both sides of the chairmanship fight, the election cannot end soon enough.

Related: DNC Race Shakeup: Ray Buckley to Exit, Endorse Keith Ellison

"In reality, one of the things I would certainly propose is we ought to hold these elections a lot sooner. We should have had this election back in December," said Former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, one of the two leading candidates in the race.

"I think we can catch up and play a very meaningful role," Perez told NBC News. "But one of the learning lessons for me was we should have done this sooner."

It's a sentiment shared by supporters of Perez' main rival, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who likely would have been advantaged by a shorter race.

Ellison entered the race the week after the November election, and had been making calls to DNC members even before that, while Perez didn't even enter the race until mid-December.

"There are so many things that are essentially being put on hold or have band aids put on them until we get a new chair," said Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb, who is supporting Ellison. "I expect if he's the chair or if anyone else is, all of us will be pulling together to make that transition as fast as possible."

To be sure, this year's timing is not far off the last open chairmanship race, in 2005, when Howard Dean was elected on February 12.

And the party has not been entirely disarmed in the interim. Its congressional leaders have been organizing opposition to Trump on Capitol Hill and speaking out in the news media. And the DNC itself has a well-staffed "war room" to respond to Trump.

Interim Chairwoman Donna Brazile has earned plaudits from Democrats for taking over the DNC from controversial former chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and doing what she can with depleted staff.

But its organizational activities have been put on hold at a time when Democrats widely agree that the party can waste no time rebuilding its political infrastructure after eight years in which it was largely neglected.

Related: Race for DNC Chair Heads Behind Closed Doors in Final Stretch

"Right now, the problem I'm afraid of is we are at this critical moment and we have a very small window to handle this," Jaime Harrison, the chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party and a candidate for national chairmanship told NBC News. "Has the opportunity totally missed us? No. But if we don't get our ducks in a row soon? Then yes."

And the official Democratic party has been largely MIA as millions of people take to the streets to protest a Republican president.

"My major concern is that we're going to lose these people before 2018 if we don't somehow engage them soon in something other than going to the airport [to protest]," said Nancy Leiker, the chairman of the Johnson County Democratic Party in suburban Kansas City.

Meanwhile, the DNC's communications and rapid response operations are not running at full capacity either. That limits its ability to, for instance, coordinate state and local Democrats to amplify a national message and vice versa.

"The DNC is sort of the glue that ties the federal, statehouses, and all the other candidates together, and because of the leadership dispute, that means it can't do that," said Pepper, who is supporting Perez.

And some Democrats have jealously watched the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups rake in tens of millions of dollars from anxious progressives during the early days of Trump's presidency and wonder how much money their party may be leaving on the table without a fully operational finance machine.

The party has, however, found success with continued email fundraising please, according to sources.

Sensing the power vacuum, a bumper crop of new groups has sprung up since the election to organize liberals. They could further undercut the DNC at a time when official parties have already been losing their former monopoly status on partisan activity to super PACs and other groups that can collect bigger donations with fewer strings attached.

"The DNC is too busy trying elect their next chair. They haven't done anything that I'm aware of since the election," said Daily Action creator Laura Moser, explaining part of her motivation for creating an app that gives people one action a day to resist Trump.

Still, the race will soon be over, a new chairman in place, and Democrats can make up for lost time.

"In six months, it won't matter at all," said former chair Howard Dean. "I'm pretty confident that no matter who wins, they're going to be able to set the place up fine. And the fog won't really lift until June anyway."

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said he's not concerned at all about the party missing a moment that galvanized activists.

"Trump does something to energize Democrats every day," Hoyer told NBC News.

And former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who also served as chairman of the DNC, said that while he understood the eagerness to get started, installing a chair earlier would not have made much of a difference.

"I don't think a new chair in December would have been anything but another voice in the cacophony of the voices criticizing various things about the Trump administration,"

nbcnews

 


 

The Dakota Access Pipeline

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is vowing legal action after the US Army Corps of Engineers was directed to complete an easement for the Dakota Access Pipeline project. The tribe insists the environmental impact statement should be completed first.

The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), intended to carry crude oil from the Bakken shale fields to Illinois, has been nearly completed aside from a segment running under Lake Oahe, which supplies drinking water to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. The tribe and water protectors believe the four-state pipeline threatens drinking water and cultural sites.

On Tuesday, US Senator John Hoeven announced in a statement that the acting secretary of the army told him he has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with an easement necessary to complete the Dakota Access pipeline.

Hoeven added that this move “will enable the company to complete the project, which can and will be built with the necessary safety features to protect the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and others downstream.”

However, his decision was met with protest from the Standing Rock Native Americans, who later on Tuesday issued a statement saying that the tribe will challenge “any suspension of pipeline’s environmental review.”

“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will vigorously pursue legal action to ensure the environmental impact statement order issued late last year is followed so the pipeline process is legal, fair and accurate.”

The group said that Hoeven was “prematurely championing Trump directives to grant an easement for illegal construction.”

“The Army Corps lacks statutory authority to simply stop the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and issue the easement. The Corps must review the Presidential Memorandum, notify Congress, and actually grant the easement. We have not received formal notice that the EIS has been suspended or withdrawn.”

If the EIS is abandoned, this would mean that the change is based on “personal views and, potentially, personal investments” of Donald Trump, the statement said.

“We stand ready to fight this battle against corporate interest superseding government procedure and the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans.”

Standing Rock, the sixth-largest Native American reservation, has a land area of over 9,000 sq km and a population of 8,000 people.

On January 18, the group launched an initiative, calling upon members of the public to send their comments on DAPL project directly to the Army Corps of Engineers.

It is important to ensure that EIS “fully takes into consideration tribal treaty rights, natural resources, cultural and sacred places, socio-economical concerns, environmental justice, and the health and wellbeing of those downstream who rely on our drinking water,” the initiative states. 

The comment period is open until February 20 and so far almost 70,000 letters have been sent to the Army Corps.

Months of protests from Native Americans, environmentalists and military veterans pressured the Obama administration to order a halt to DAPL construction in December 2016.

However, following his inauguration Trump signed a presidential memorandum calling for the construction to resume, pending certain qualifications.

Trump’s decision was quickly condemned by environmentalists, Native American activists, the American Civil Liberties Union and a number of Democratic lawmakers.

rt



 

Protests, anti-Trump events offer inauguration alternative


President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration will be met with resistance from protesters hailing from across the country.

Rallies, protests and marches will be erupting throughout Washington, D.C., as Trump is officially sworn into office on Friday.

Here’s a list of events happening before, during and after the inauguration ceremony:

Jan. 19: The Day Before the Inauguration

Andy Shallal, the owner of D.C.’s popular Busboys and Poets restaurants, is holding The Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance on the eve of Inauguration Day. The sold-out event will run from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Rather than billing the Peace Ball as a directly anti-Trump event, its invitation describes it as an opportunity to “celebrate the accomplishments and successes of the past four years” and reflect on the future.

Singers Solange and Esperanza Spalding will headline the ball. Other notable attendees include actress Ashley Judd, actor Danny Glover and celebrity chef José Andrés. Trump and Andrés are currently embroiled in a lawsuit sparked after Andrés pulled out of a planned restaurant for Trump’s D.C. hotel over Trump’s rhetoric about undocumented immigrants.

Jan. 20: Inauguration Day

Hours prior to Trump being sworn in as the 45th president, the ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition is holding a protest — starting at 7 a.m. at the Navy Memorial — that hopes to attract tens of thousands of protesters to push back against Trump’s presidency.

ANSWER’s website describes the rally as a “massive demonstration” along Pennsylvania Avenue with “progressives” coming to D.C. from around the country. ANSWER has called Trump a “racist, sexist bigot.”

ANSWER has been vocal in its criticism of Trump over the past few months. In October, it helped organize a protest against Trump’s “bigotry” outside his D.C. hotel.

#Trump420: Marijuana advocates are also planning to come out in force on Inauguration Day.

DCMJ, a local group that led D.C.’s marijuana legalization effort in 2014, says it will dole out 4,200 joints on the morning of inauguration at 8 a.m. in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. While it’s legal for D.C. residents to smoke marijuana in private, it is still illegal to consume in public.

Four minutes and 20 seconds into the Trump presidency, organizers will tell participants to light up their joints.

Trump has previously said it should be a state’s right to decide whether to legalize marijuana, but he has not said whether he supports legalization. Trump has, however, said he backs medical marijuana.

But local organizers said that Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Trump’s nominee for attorney general, is the main target of the protest. Sessions is a staunch opponent of legalizing marijuana.

Those joints came at a cost, though. All that work on the marijuana grinder meant blisters for the activists, the website DCist reports.

DisruptJ20: A group of D.C. organizers have planned a week of events aimed to shut down the inauguration and “paralyze the city itself” through blockades and marches, according to its website.

The group has already held an LGBT dance party outside of Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s home in the Chevy Chase neighborhood.

An organizer told the Guardian that the protests would have happened regardless of the 2016 election outcome, but “it took on a whole new meaning” in light of Trump’s surprising victory.

On Friday, the group will hold its “Festival of Resistance” from Columbus Circle to McPherson Square from noon to 5 p.m. They will hold a coordinated march and rally with “Occupy Inauguration.”

Jan. 21 : The Day After the Inauguration

The Women’s March on Washington will cap off a busy week of protests and rallies.

The march, which is expected to draw up to 200,000 participants, will begin at 10 a.m. on Independence Avenue and 3rd Street SW. There will also be hundreds of other sister marches nationwide held in solidarity.

Celebrities are also expected to be a large presence at the march. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem was named an honorary co-chair, along with singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte.

Other notable attendees are singers Cher and Katy Perry, comedian Amy Schumer and actresses Scarlett Johansson, Uzo Aduba and America Ferrera.

Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), who is boycotting Trump’s inauguration, said he will attend the march with his wife and daughter.

Four Women for All Women, a 252-mile run from Harlem in New York City to D.C. that began on Wednesday, will join the Women’s March on Saturday in the nation’s capital. The run is raising money for Planned Parenthood, which Republican leaders plan to defund as a part of an ObamaCare repeal.

The Women’s March comes one week before the annual March for Life on Jan. 27. Trump’s incoming White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway, plans to attend the anti-abortion march. 

Jan. 19–21

A three-day festival starting the day before the inauguration is hoping to provide some comic relief amid a partisan time.

“What a Joke” is a nationwide comedy festival that will have stand-up comedy performances in five D.C. locations and in cities nationwide — and across the pond in England. The proceeds will go to the American Civil Liberties Union.

According to DCist, they will sell Trump’s signature red hats, but with “Make America Great Again” replaced with “What a Joke.”

The D.C. organizers told the online publication that while they don’t expect the festival to bring immediate change to Congress, they still want the performances to celebrate unity and diversity.

“We want people to come out and to realize that there is a community of people who probably feel the way they do, and want to find a way to spend their time constructively but not so seriously or heavy,” one organizer said.

the hill

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Trump unleashes Twitter attack against Civil Rights Legend

Donald Trump tore into civil rights legend John Lewis on Saturday for questioning the legitimacy of the Republican billionaire's White House victory, intensifying a feud with the black congressman days before the national holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.

Trump tweeted that Lewis, D-Ga., "should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results."

The incoming president added: "All talk, talk, talk - no action or results. Sad!"

Lewis, among the most revered leaders of the civil rights movement, suffered a skull fracture during the march in Selma, Alabama, more than a half-century ago and has devoted his life to promoting equal rights for African-Americans.

The weekend clash highlighted the sharp contrast between how many African-Americans view Trump's inauguration compared with Barack Obama's eight years ago

It also demonstrated that no one is immune from scorn from a president-elect with little tolerance for public criticism. Trump has found political success even while attacking widely lauded figures before and after the campaign — a prisoner of war, parents of a slain U.S. soldier, a beauty queen and now a civil rights icon.

Lewis, a 16-term congressman, said Friday that he would not attend Trump's swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol next Friday. It would mark the first time he had skipped an inauguration since joining Congress three decades ago.

"You know, I believe in forgiveness. I believe in trying to work with people. It will be hard. It's going to be very difficult. I don't see this president-elect as a legitimate president," Lewis said in an interview with NBC's "Meet the Press" set to air Sunday.

"I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected. And they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton," Lewis said.

Lewis' spokeswoman, Brenda Jones, declined to respond to Trump and said the lawmaker's "opinion speaks for itself."

"We as a nation do need to know whether a foreign government influenced our election," she said.

U.S. intelligence agencies have said that Russia, in a campaign ordered by President Vladimir Putin, meddled in the election to help Trump win. After spending weeks challenging that assessment, Trump finally accepted that the Russians were behind the election-year hacking of Democrats. But he also emphasized that "there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines."

Democrat Clinton received 2.9 million more votes than Trump but lost the Electoral College vote.

Lewis' Democratic colleagues quickly came to his defense Saturday.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif, said he too would skip Trump's inauguration: "For me, the personal decision not to attend the inauguration is quite simple: Do I stand with Donald Trump, or do I stand with John Lewis? I am standing with John Lewis."

The Democratic Party of Georgia called on Trump to apologize to Lewis and the people of his district.

"It is disheartening that Trump would rather sing the praises of Vladimir Putin than Georgia's own living social justice legend and civil rights icon," state party spokesman Michael Smith said.

Trump continued to jab Lewis on Saturday night, charging that the congressman "should finally focus on the burning and crime infested inner-cities of the U.S."

"I can use all the help I can get!" Trump tweeted.

Yet the president-elect's assertion that Lewis' district is "falling apart" and "crime infested" is hard to prove.

Georgia's 5th Congressional District includes the Atlanta metro region, which is considered one of the nation's fastest-growing areas. Its crime and poverty rates are higher than the national average.

Crime statistics for the specific district are not measured by the federal government. Atlanta officials have reported a significant drop in crime in recent years, although they created a gun violence task force last year to address an increase in murders.

The district has an 8.2 percent unemployment rate, and the median household income is about $48,000, according to the Census Bureau.

The area covers part of the upscale Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead, along with the headquarters for Fortune 500 companies such Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, Emory University, Georgia Tech, several historically black colleges and universities and the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, one of the world's busiest.

The dispute may be helping sales of Lewis' books.

Lewis' defenders have been urging Twitter followers to buy the congressman's books, a strategy apparently succeeding. By Saturday night, a bound collection of Lewis' "March" trilogy, graphic memoirs for young people about his civil rights activism, was No. 1 on Amazon. A more traditional memoir by Lewis, "Walking with the Wind," was No. 2.

Last fall, the third of Lewis' "March" books, on which he collaborated with Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell, won the National Book Award in the young people's literature category.

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Associated Press writers Pamela Sampson and Don Schanche in Atlanta contributed to this report.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

All-Women's Mount Holyoke College Changes Policy To Welcome Transgender Students

As students cheered and whooped, the president of the all-women's Mount Holyoke College announced this week that the university has officially changed its admission policy to formally allow transgender and genderqueer individuals to enroll in the school.

Lynn Pasquerella, Mount Holyoke's president, on Tuesday announced the policy shift during a convocation address welcoming students to the fall semester.

"While we have welcomed trans students in the past and for several years have been in conversation with campus constituencies about how best to foster a respectful environment for all students, we need a formal policy," she told the students gathered. "One that would articulate our commitment to core values of individual freedom, social justice and diversity and inclusion."

"We recognize that what it means to be a woman is not static," Pasquerella continued, as the students' cheers grew louder, many of them leaping to their feet. "Just as early feminists argued that reducing women to their biological functions was a foundation of women’s oppression, we acknowledge that gender identity is not reducible to the body."

According to Mount Holyoke's website, anyone who is female or self-identifies as a woman is welcome to apply to the college. This includes transgender men and women, and individuals whose gender identity falls outside the male-female binary. Only persons who are both biologically male and self-identify as male will not be considered for enrollment./p>

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