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Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, has slithered out from his hiding place and re-emerged as a figure on the political stage. He is now advocating for a rebirth of the US' infamous "Phoenix Program" to target the ISIS terrorists the US created, and he is advising Trump from the shadows. Today Douglas Valentine, author of The Phoenix Program and The CIA As Organized Crime joins us to discuss what The Phoenix Program is and why its resurrection is so ominous.

If ISIS is still connected at some level with parts of US Intelligence or Secret Govt. (as it seems) and if Trumpf is going to use the Military and/or Mercenaries to attack ISIS in a Phoenix-like project, that will mean two wars - one out there, and one secretly behind the scenes at 'home' - expect huge carnage in both locations.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: President Donald Trump fired acting Attorney General Sally Yates on Monday night, just hours after she announced the Justice Department would not defend Trump's executive order temporarily banning all refugees, as well as citizens, from seven Muslim-majority nations. Yates had written a memo saying, quote, "I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution's solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right. I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful." Yates had served in the Justice Department for 27 years.
AMY GOODMAN: The White House issued a statement last night reading, "The acting Attorney General, Sally Yates, has betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States," unquote. It went on to say, "Ms. Yates is an Obama Administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration. It is time to get serious about protecting our country," unquote. President Trump had asked Yates to serve as acting attorney general until the Senate confirms Senator Jeff Sessions, a close ally of Trump. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York praised Sally Yates for speaking out.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER: So, Mr. President, we've had a number, a large number, of eloquent speeches about the president's executive order. And while they were going on, of course, we had a Monday Night Massacre. Sally Yates, a person of great integrity, who follows the law, was fired by the president. She was fired because she would not enact, pursue the executive order, on the belief that it was illegal, perhaps unconstitutional. It was a profile in courage. It was a brave act and a right act. And I hope the president and his people who are in the White House learn something from this. ... How can you run a country like this? How can you take a major order, major doing, and not check it out with your homeland security secretary, with the Justice Department and the attorney general? I would say, Mr. President, if this continues, this country has big trouble. We cannot have a Twitter presidency.
AMY GOODMAN: President Trump is also facing growing dissent within the State Department over his executive order. Hundreds of diplomats and other State Department officials have signed on to an internal memo saying the order will not make the country safer and runs counter to core American values. At a briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer dismissed the criticism.
PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: Any government official, or anyone who doesn't understand the president's goal in this and what this actually wasagain, I think this has been blown way out of proportion and exaggerated. Again, you talk about, in a 24-hour period, 325,000 people from other countries flew in through our airports, and we're talking about 109 people from seven countries that the Obama administration identified. And these career bureaucrats have a problem with it? I think that they should either get with the program or they can go.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Many commentators have compared Trump's dismissal of acting Attorney General Sally Yates to the infamous Saturday Night Massacre in 1973, when then-Attorney General Elliot Richardson and his deputy resigned after President Richard Nixon ordered Richardson to fire the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal.
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to two women who played key roles during the Nixon years. Elizabeth Holtzman is a former U.S. congresswoman from New York who served on the House Judiciary Committee that voted to impeach Richard Nixon. She's joining us here in New York. Jill Wine-Banks was an assistant Watergate special prosecutor and the first woman to serve as U.S. Army general counsel. More than a hundred employees of the State Department have signed on to drafts of a dissent memo that condemns Trump's executive order. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer threatened State Department officials, saying they should quit their jobs if they have a problem with Trump's "program."
PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: We're talking about 109 people from seven countries that the Obama administration identified. And these career bureaucrats have a problem with it? I think that they should either get with the program or they can go.
AMY GOODMAN: That's the White House press secretary. Jill Wine-Banks, love it or leave it?
JILL WINE-BANKS: That's an interesting issue that came up during the Saturday Night Massacre. And there was debate whether the office had been fired, all of us, or whether only Archie Cox had been fired. And we debated in the office whether we should resign in protest. And Archie advised us that that would be absolutely wrong, that we knew the case, that we should never resign. If we were fired, that was a different story, but that we needed to stay and do our job. And I agree exactly with what Liz has said and with what the acting attorney general testified to, which is that the lawyers who are involved in this have to act in accordance with their ethics and enforce the law and act in accordance with the Constitution. And we need people who will stand up and say, "You cannot do this." There are some things that can be altered in a way that makes it legal, but there are some things that simply cannot be done, and someone has to be strong enough and courageous enough to tell the president when he cannot do what he's proposing.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what would be your advice to now the incoming attorney general, Jeff Sessions, on handling this situation?
JILL WINE-BANKS: Well, first of all, he hasn't been voted in yet. And this episode may have an impact on the courage of people to vote against him. We need someone who will say what is legal and what isn't legal, and won't blindly follow what the president says, because, in both cases, that's what got people into trouble. So he may not get confirmed. But if he does, my advice would be that he has to be willing to risk his job to tell President Trump that he cannot do certain things, that they exceed the constitutional boundaries for presidential action.
AMY GOODMAN: Just to be clear on what happened back in 1973, the headline in the papersand for our viewing audience, we're showing this newspaper right now: "Nixon Discharges Cox for Defiance; Abolishes Watergate Task Force; Richardson and Ruckelshaus Out." Interestingly enough, right under that, a little sub-headline: "Kissinger Meets Brezhnev on Mideast Cease-Fire Plan." So the Middle East and Russia were in this picture then, as well. But, Jill Wine-Banks, talk about the drama of that night, first whathow each person was forced out.
JILL WINE-BANKS: Well, there's still a debate. And I've talked to Ruckelshaus, and he both was fired and resigned. And the same is supposedly true of Richardson. Both Richardson and Ruckelshaus felt that Cox had done absolutely nothing that was not within his charter, that all of his actions were proper and that it would be illegal and against what they had testified to in getting confirmed to their offices. They had promised that they would not fire him except for cause. They did not believe there was any cause, and that they could not, therefore, carry out the president's order. They were willing to resign rather than do that. The president fired them. So, they were both fired and resigned. They acted in accordance with their conscience.
I'd also like to point out to Sessions and to all other appointees that Bork, who carried out the order, ended up having his career shortened. He was never confirmed to the Supreme Court, largely because of his actions during Watergate and in firing Cox. So there are consequences for carrying out what are illegal orders.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Liz Holtzman, the impact of the Watergate hearings, given the factI mean, this was before cable, before the internet, and the hearings were broadcast on the networks nationwide. The impact of those hearings on the public consciousness?
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: Well, the hearings took place after the Saturday Night Massacre.
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: and the firings, resignations of the top Justice Department officials. The hearings galvanized the country. The hearings were bipartisan. The House Judiciary Committee voted on a bipartisan basis for three articles of impeachment. The country, which had overwhelmingly supported Nixon's re-election by a landslide marginnot the margin that this president got, but one of the biggest landslides in the history of this countrysaw that the rule of law had to govern. And the American people decided, more important than a president, more important than a party, more important than a policy was the rule of law and the Constitution.
I want to say one other thing that's really important to remember. The Saturday Night Massacre, firing the attorney general, firing the deputy attorney general, triggered the impeachment hearings against Richard Nixon, which is what brought him down in the end. So, this is something that should make the American people sit up and take notice. We have a president who is not willing to listen as to what the law requires and what the Constitution requires. That's the real message here. And the danger is for our rule of law and the constitutional rule for our democracy.
AMY GOODMAN: And President Trump and Stephen Bannon, very clearly strongly in charge right now in the White House, being appointed to the National Security Council as a principal and telling the generals that they no longer have to come
AMY GOODMAN: and they are no longer principals on the committee?
ELIZABETH HOLTZMAN: Correct. Well, I don't know if they were taken away as being principals, but the generals were told they don't have to come when certain issues are being discussed.
I want to say one other thing. I helped, along with Ted Kennedy, to write the Refugee Act of 1980. And we wrote that law in the wake of the huge crisis that happened when the boat people fled Vietnam. First of all, the United States of America took over 750,000750,000 people. We were a smaller country at that time. Americans weren't quaking in their boots. We weren't scared something terrible was going to happen to us. We took them and welcomed them with open arms. It was one of the most important and successful resettlement efforts of refugees in the history of the world. And that law was designed to abolish discrimination in admission of refugees on any basis. He must be turning in his grave now. The two of us wrote that law in 1980. And it's being disgraced now.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we're joined by Linda Sarsour, a Palestinian-American activist, lead plaintiff in the case. She helped organize the Women's March on Washington, as well.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Linda. We last saw you at the beginning of that march, the day after the inauguration, a march that trumped the Trump inauguration, the crowd three times, I think
LINDA SARSOUR: Yeah, absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: was the size. But you're suing Donald Trump now, along with a number of other plaintiffs. Explain what's the basis of the suit.
LINDA SARSOUR: Well, the basis, first of all, is that we believe that the Muslim ban is unconstitutional. We also believe that there is some preference of one religion over another, which also violates the Constitution. And we actually believe we have standing now, as we saw the acting attorney general fired by Donald Trump, who said that she would not defend something that she felt was indefensible and unconstitutional.
As a lead plaintiff, as you know, there's a lot of Jane and John Does on there, which are being protected for their legal types of status that they have, but we have anywhere from Yemeni, Somali, Sudanese students. We have medical students who are here, who are actually serving the American people. We have religious leaders who are here on R1 visas, who, if travel back to their country, would not be able to come back. I mean, these arewe have American citizens who have wives who are also trying to get visas to come into the United States. We're separating families. I mean, the stories that we are defending in this lawsuit are a lot more important than my name, but being able to put a public face as an American Muslim on this lawsuit, because we will not allow Donald Trump to get away with this.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Of course, the Trump administration is claiming that it is not a Muslim ban, that it's a ban on specific countries. And I'm wondering your response to that.
LINDA SARSOUR: Absolutely. I mean, we saw the Muslim registry program back in 2003 under the Bush administration, that actually started with about six countries, and then it went to about 29 countries of origin. So we have seen precedent of making this list a lot larger.
And what's really interesting is we talk about we want to keep America safe. From who? From Syrian refugees? Since when can somebody tell me a time or a case where there has been a Syrian refugee in this country who has committed an act of terror? And that's the problem here. There is absolutely no basis or no data that supports this particular list of countries. I don't support any list of any countries. These refugees, in particular, are leaving war, conflict. They have seen torture and massacre, and they need a safety haven. And we have heard him say, "Well, maybe the Christian refugees," so basically saying we'll take the Christians and not the Muslims.
And again, all of the campaign rhetoric that we heard, Juan, during the campaign, people said, "Oh, don't worry, he's just playing to the base. He just wants votes." Guess what. It's all been policy prescriptive, and we've watched him one executive order after another. And we're going to stop him now. This is only the first 10 days. We don't know what's to come.
AMY GOODMAN: So, former New York mayor and Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani appeared on Fox News and explained how Donald Trump planned to institute the executive order barring travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.
RUDY GIULIANI: I'll tell you the whole history of it. So, when he first announced it, he said, "Muslim ban." He called me up. He said, "Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally." I put a commission together with Judge Mukasey, with Congressman McCaul, Pete King, whole group of other very expert lawyers on this. And what we did was, we focused on, instead of religion, danger! The areas of the world that create danger for us, which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal. Perfectly sensible. And that's what the ban is based on. It's not based on religion. It's based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.
AMY GOODMAN: So that's former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, close adviser to Donald Trump. Linda Sarsour?
LINDA SARSOUR: I mean, Rudy Giuliani is a known racist Islamophobe. And he basicallywhat he was trying to explain here, that it was a Muslim ban, but they were going to find another way to package it so it didn't come off unconstitutional. And it is very clear to so many people, including the acting attorney general who has now been fired, that this is unconstitutional. We have had members of Congress, some of whom are not always good on the issue, saying this is unconstitutional. So to tell me that Donald Trump and Steve Bannon are going to know more than a woman who has served 27 years in our Department of Justice is absolutely outrageous. So, we are going to continue to challenge this executive order and many unconstitutional executive orders that are to come.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I'm wondering what you think of the media coverage so far of this issue, because, clearly, the media has been somewhat more confrontational to the Trump administration. But on this issue of the Muslim ban and of Trump's executive order on immigration, what's your sense of that coverage?
LINDA SARSOUR: I think, generally speaking, the media has been pretty good on this issue. Why? Because there is no other way to be about it. It's very clearly unconstitutional. And also, the uprising at airports across the country, you cannot ignore the people rising up against this administration. Since the Women's March on Washington, we have seen continued mass mobilization in cities across America, where people are just putting a call out and people are coming out in the thousands, whether it be here in New York City, in Atlanta, in Cleveland, Ohio, in San Francisco, in Los Angeles. So, the media can't ignore that. And I think more of that is to come.
AMY GOODMAN: And Trump is hitting the media hard. And so, a lot of it is clearly self-defense. But on this issue of who he wants to keep out of this country, I want to turn to an interview with Christian Broadcasting Network, when Trump said persecuted Christians will be given priority when it comes to applying for refugee status in the United States.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They've been horribly treated. Do you know, if you were a Christian in Syria, it was impossible, very, veryat least very, very tough to get into the United States? If you were a Muslim, you could come in, but if you were a Christian, it was almost impossible. And the reason that was so unfair is that theeverybody was persecuted, in all fairness, but they were chopping off the heads of everybody, but more so the Christians. And I thought it was very, very unfair. So, we are going to help them.
AMY GOODMAN: "So, we are going to help them," referring to the Christians. Linda Sarsour?
LINDA SARSOUR: I mean, those claims are all baseless. Yes, of course, there are some Christians that are being persecuted in many countries across the world. But inlet's take Syria, for example. They were a minority that were protected by the government for a very long time. And for him to say that Christians are seeing more than Syrian Muslims, for example, who are being displaced in the millions, as fiveover 500,000 Syrians have been massacred, mostly by the Assad regime. So, to claim that one religion is more persecuted than another, I think, is, first of all, divisive, which we don't need right now in this world, and I think it's also untrue.
AMY GOODMAN: In fact, the Times says, the U.S. "accepts tens of thousands of Christian refugees. According to the Pew Research Center, almost as many as Christian refugees (37,521) were admitted as Muslim refugees [about 38,000] in the 2016 fiscal year." Juan?
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I wanted to ask you about theanother topic related to the recent attack in Quebec, which initially the reports were that it was a Moroccan Muslim. It turns out to have been not only a white nationalist, but someone who is basically a supporter of Donald Trump and of Marine Le Pen, the right-wing leader in France. Your reaction to this attack and how that was initially covered?
LINDA SARSOUR: I mean, it's not the first time. It's like the Boston bombing, when we had two young Algerian boys with bookbags, and we called them the "bag men," without absolutely no information on these young men. Same thing is happening right now in Quebec. And what really bothers me about this is that it creates more animosity, and people never see the correction. People see whatever the media first reports. And to know that a white nationalist, a supporter of Donald Trump, walked into a mosque and killed six innocent people, the fact that people don't feel safe to pray in a country like Canada or now in the United Stateswe have now security across the mosques. I'm on listservs where people are talking about what types of precautions. I mean, this is not why Muslims or any person of any faith came to the United States. We should feel safe. And the fact that you could be on your knees in this country praying to your god and to be shot is absolutely horrific. I was horrified. And I just the pictures of the victims' fathers, you know, and people who have contributed to the society who are now not here with us today.

Meet Neil Gorsuch, the New Antonin Scalia

Posted on Jan 31, 2017
By Bill Blum
[Image: gorsuchtrump_590.jpg]
Donald Trump with Neil Gorsuch on Tuesday. (Carolyn Kaster / AP)

Just when we might have thought we'd seen Donald Trump at his zaniest (say, in the first presidential debate) and most dangerous (say, in his executive order on immigration last week), he outdid himself with the nomination of Neil Gorsuch, 49, a judge from the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (headquartered in Denver), to fill the late Antonin Scalia's empty chair on the Supreme Court.
The zany part is the way our narcissist in chief introduced Gorsuch as his pick. The dangerous part is that Gorsuch is exactly the sort of Scalia-in-waiting we would expect from an extremist right-wing administration that aims to roll back constitutional rights in pursuit of a political agenda driven by the fantasies of racial nostalgia, misogyny and the passions of white nationalism.
Let's deal with the zany part first:
Instead of the usual news release followed by a public meet-and-greet in the Rose Garden to introduce his first high court selection, Trump went the route of "Celebrity Apprentice" (perhaps Miss Universe might be a better analogy), summoning both Gorsuch and another Supreme Court contender, 3rd Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman, to the White House in anticipation of the prime-time TV broadcast he had called to announce his choiceall for the purpose of building suspense and maximizing media interest. Fortunately for Hardiman, he was not required to remain on hand for the actual announcement, which Trump delivered in the East Room of the White House from what looked like the same lectern where President Obama stood to tell the world that Osama bin Laden had been killed.
Once again, Trump put himself center stage. With Gorsuch and his wife, Louise, on hand, in addition to Scalia's widow, Maureen; Trump's sons Eric and Don Jr.; chief strategist Steve Bannon; House Speaker Paul Ryan; and several GOP senators in a hall of white faces, Trump reminded viewers across the nation and the globe that he had long promised to select a jurist "in the mold of Justice Scalia," as well as someone who "loves our Constitution." Touting his selection process as "the most transparent in history," he added that Gorsuch could serve on the high court for "50 years" and that his decisions could have an impact on American life for "a century or more."
Sadly, and here's the dangerous part: In Gorsuch, Trump has probably found his man. During the presidential election campaign, Trump listed 21 federal and state court judges as possible replacements for Scalia. In a comprehensive study led by Mercer University law professor Jeremy Kidd, Gorsuch was ranked second among the 21 in judicial qualities most resembling Scalia's. Utah Supreme Court Justice Thomas Leethe brother of Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utahgarnered the top spot.
Professor Kidd and his fellow researchers based their rankings of Trump's potential nominees according to their adherence to Scalia's legal philosophy of "originalism" (the idea that judges should interpret the Constitution according to its presumed original meaning) and their propensity to issue dissenting opinions, in the fashion of Scalia, when their benchmates were unwilling to go as far doctrinally as the potential nominees would have liked.
Gorsuch was appointed to the 10th Circuit by President George W. Bush in 2006. Since then, he has amassed a conservative judicial record that confirms Kidd's findings. His body of work has been summarized by both the liberal Alliance for Justice Action Campaign and the authoritative SCOTUSblog website. Their summaries encompass opinions, rulings, judicial votes and published articles on an array of vital constitutional issues, including:
Religious liberty
In 2013, Gorsuch joined with five other members of a divided 10th Circuit panel to write a concurring opinion of his own in the case ofHobby Lobby v. Sebelius. The decision, subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote, held that for-profit corporations are persons under the law and can legally exercise their own religious views, even if doing so contravenes the rights of their female employees under the Affordable Care Act to receive health insurance coverage for contraceptive care.

Abortion Rights

In a decision issued in October, Gorsuch wrote a dissent in which he argued that the Circuit Court should reconsider whether Utah's governor had acted improperly when he attempted to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood.

The Second Amendment and the death penalty

In 2012, Gorsuch urged the 10th Circuit to re-examine and loosen its previous rulings on the right of felons to own firearms. The full court voted otherwise. Gorsuch has also been a consistent supporter of the death penalty.

Access to the courts and attacks on liberals

As noted by the Alliance for Justice in a National Review Online op-ed published in 2005 before Gorsuch became a judge, he "attacked American liberals' for what he said was an over-reliance on constitutional litigation. He asserted that liberals' overweening addiction to the courtroom' negatively affects public policy by aggrandizing the courts and consequently dampening social experimentation' by the legislative branches." He has not been similarly critical of litigation initiated by right-wing organizations.

In accepting Trump's nomination Tuesday night, Gorsuch praised Scalia as "a lion of the law." In the weeks and months ahead, the Senate will debate and ultimately determine whether Gorsuch will have the opportunity to further Scalia's legacy.

Will the Democrats find the courage to oppose him? Will progressives come together as a movement to demand that they do so, as they did to derail Ronald Reagan's nomination of Scalia's mentor, Robert Bork, in 1987?

With the Supreme Court's remaining elderly justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 83, Anthony Kennedy, 80, and Stephen Breyer, 78) nearing the inevitable end of their professional careers, the future of our most powerful judicial bodyand with it, the future of the Constitutionliterally hangs in the balance.

AMY GOODMAN: In a prime-time address on Tuesday night, President Donald Trump announced his pick for the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died nearly a year ago.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Millions of voters said this was the single most important issue to them when they voted for me for president. I am a man of my word. I will do as I say, something that the American people have been asking for from Washington for a very, very long time. Todaythank you. Today, I am keeping another promise to the American people. By nominating Judge Neil Gorsuch of the United States Supreme Court to be of the United States Supreme Court.
AMY GOODMAN: Neil Gorsuch is a 49-year-old federal judge, member of the Federalist Society, widely seen as a conservative jurist. Trump was able to nominate Scalia's replacement only because the Republican-led Senate refused to consider Obama's nominee for the post. On March 16th last year, Obama nominated Garland, but Republican senators refused to hold confirmation hearings.
As a judge on the Tenth Circuit, Neil Gorsuch ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby in the case deciding whether the company could refuse to provide birth control coverage to employees as required by Obamacare. Judge Gorsuch also has a long history of ruling against employees in cases involving federal race, sex, age, disability and political disco nation and retaliation claims. Senate Democrats have vowed to filibuster his nomination. During remarks last night, Judge Gorsuch described Antonin Scalia as "a lion of the law."
JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: For the last decade, I've worked as a federal judge in a court that spans six Western states, serving about 20 percent of the continental United States and about 18 million people. The men and women I've worked with at every level in our circuit are an inspiration to me. I've watched them fearlessly tending to the rule of law, enforcing the promises of our Constitution and living out daily their judicial oaths to administer justice equally to rich and poor alike, following the law as they find it and without respect to their personal political beliefs. I think of them tonight.
Of course, the Supreme Court's work is vital not just to a region of the country, but to the whole, vital to the protection of the people's liberties under law and to the continuity of our Constitution, the greatest charter of human liberty the world has ever known. The towering judges that have served in this particular seat of the Supreme Court, including Antonin Scalia and Robert Jackson, are much in my mind at this moment. Justice Scalia was a lion of the law. Agree or disagree with him, all of his colleagues on the bench cherished his wisdom and his humor. And like them, I miss him.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about Judge Gorsuch, we are going to go to Washington, D.C., where we're joined by two guests. Ian Millhiser is senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the editor of ThinkProgress Justice. His new article is titled "Who is Neil Gorsuch?" He's also author of the book Injustices: The Supreme Court's History of Comforting the Comfortable and Afflicting the Afflicted. We are also joined by Nan Aron, who is president of Alliance for Justice.
Ian Millhiser, let's begin with you. Your overall response to President Trump's choice of Judge Gorsuch to be the next Supreme Court justice?
IAN MILLHISER: Yeah, I mean, this is a terrible pick. This is someone who will probably be to Scalia's right. Scalia was very bad on choice. I think that Gorsuch will match that. Scalia was bad on issues like birth control. Gorsuch will match that. But in addition to that, what makes Gorsuch very unusual is that he wants to dismantle the deference that courts have typically played to federal agencies. It's a very technical issue, but it's also very important. It goes to whether or not, when the people elect a Democratic president, that Democratic president is going to be able to protect the environment, to protect workers, to make wages go up, or whether they're going to be at the mercy of a Republican-controlled court. So, his primary agenda is to shift power toward the judiciary at the very moment that the Republican Party is consolidating its control over the judiciary. And I think that that leads us to some very dangerous places.
AMY GOODMAN: He has been hailed as a man who is deeply erudite, a great writer, a classmate of President Obama at Harvard Law Schoolthis, across the spectrum. Your thoughts?
IAN MILLHISER: Yeah, I mean, he's a very smart guy. And, I mean, to some extent, that's what makes him dangerous. You know, this is someone who is going to, with great precision, with great intelligence, look for ways to implement a very conservative agenda. And that person, frankly, scares me more than someone who's dumb. I mean, this guy is extraordinarily competent, extraordinarily talented, and he's going to put all of considerable brainpower towards implementing a very right-wing agenda.
AMY GOODMAN: Neil Gorsuch wrote in an essay in 2005 for the National Review, in which he said, quote, "American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education." He continued, "This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary." Ian Millhiser, your response?
IAN MILLHISER: I would feel better if the views that he expressed in that article matched what his record on the bench, because at least if he's saying that the courts should be less involved generally, that means that when liberals want something, they don't get it, but when conservatives want something, they don't get it, either. What I've seen from Gorsuch is something else. What I've seen from Neil Gorsuch is that when liberals want something, regardless of whether there's precedent in their favor, he's looking for ways to dismantle those precedents, and when conservatives want something, he's going out of their way to give them their wish list. And that's even scarier than someone who just wants to dismantle the court's role in society.
AMY GOODMAN: Reproductive rights, Ian?
IAN MILLHISER: Well, as you said, he voted the wrong way in Hobby Lobby to say that a woman's boss has a degree of control over their access to birth control. He also went out of his way to try to defund Planned Parenthood in a very odd case in which he used the court's rules in a way that they're really not supposed to be used. So I don't think there's any question that not only is he going to vote the way that he voted in Hobby Lobby over and over again, but that he is anti-choice and will vote to dismantle Roe.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean on the Planned Parenthood front? Can you explain what that case was?
IAN MILLHISER: Sure. So it was actually a fairly minor case. There was a question of whether or not Planned Parenthood's funds could be cut off by the Utah governor. And the reason I call it a minor case is because it was really just a case about the governor's motivation. It was a totally fact-based inquiry. There was no grand legal question in play. And Gorsuch invoked a process that's used to make the whole court hear a case. It's typically only invokedit's only invoked very rarely. And when it is, it's because there is some sort of grand legal principle in place. So the fact that he would try to do this in a case that legally was very small, even though obviously politically it matters a great deal what happens to Planned Parenthood, suggests to me that he is willing to use every tool at his disposal, and he's willing to break with traditions and break with ordinary process, in order to push an agenda that's going to restrict access to reproductive rights.
AMY GOODMAN: Neil Gorsuch has long opposed assisted suicide, which his home state of Colorado legalized last year. He wrote a 2006 book called The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia. In it, he outlines his argument for retaining current laws banning assisted suicide and euthanasia, saying, quote, "All human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong." What is the significance of this, Ian Millhiser, both on assisted suicide and what it means for reproductive rights?
IAN MILLHISER: Right. I mean, it's significant because it tells you immediately what he'll do in an assisted suicide case. But obviously the rhetoric that he uses there is the rhetoric that abortion opponents are using. You know, the anti-choice rhetoric is to present the fetus as a human life and say thatexactly what Neil Gorsuch said about human life in his book. So, when you look at his full record, his vote in Hobby Lobby, his vote in the Planned Parenthood case, his adoption of the rhetoric of people who call themselves pro-life, I think it's very, very clear what he's going to do when he has an abortion case in front of him.
AMY GOODMAN: We're going to break and then come back to this discussion with Ian Millhiser, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund and editor of ThinkProgress Justice, and Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: "Dead Man Walking," David Bowie, here on Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. We are continuing to look at Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court. We're joined by Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice. Still with us, Ian Millhiser, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, editor of ThinkProgress Justice.
Nan Aron, when you saw the pick announced in a kind of reality TV way, no one knew who it was going to be, but at 8:00 Eastern Standard Time, President [Trump] announced that Neil Gorsuch was his choice, and he came out with his wife, Gorsuch did. Talk about your response and what you are most concerned about right now.
NAN ARON: Well, we werewe expected either Neil Gorsuch or Tom Hardiman. And probably Neil Gorsuch, by the afternoon, was considered the front-runner. I would say we were obviously very disappointed, but not surprised.
The events of the past several weeks have added new urgency to this discussion and to the debate that will ensue over the Supreme Court. We now know we have a president, Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Mike Pence, who would love to dismantle the social, economic, political progress made in this country for over a hundred years. And what is so critically important at this particular moment in time is to have courtsand, in particular, a Supreme Courtthat can operate as an independent check on the president's powers, excesses and even impulses. So I'd say this discussion, this focus on the court, is critically important, because, after all, while Donald Trump will be in office four years, eight years, Supreme Court justices are on the court for life. And so, this inquiry that will be taken by the Senate is really an important one, is an awesome one.
But at the end of the day, we do know Neil Gorsuch. We know his record. And, yes, he's very smart. Yes, he's very collegial. But that's not the end of the inquiry when you consider a Supreme Court justice. What you need to look at is the record, as Ian has done and we have done. And it shows an individual who will limit the ability of government to protect Americans' air, water, medicines, food, weaken workers' rights, civil rights, limit abortion, do away with abortion. He's even criticized the courts for advancing LGBTQ rights. So, this is a man who is really out of sync with America at the moment. He's not out of sync with Heritage Action. He's not out of sync with the Federalist Society. He's not out of sync with Wall
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what the Federalist Society is.
NAN ARON: The Federalist Society is an organization, principally of law students, law teachers, lawyers, funded in part by the Koch brothers, who espouse a very limited role for the courts. Their view is the courts can't protect, can't safeguard, won't allow our agencies to ensure that we've got protections, which really places people's lives in peril. It is aconsidered a right-wing organization. And in fact, the Trump administration outsourced the selection of its judges and Neil Gorsuch to the Federalist Society and Heritage Action. A very sad, sad phenomenon at the moment.
We also know that this president, as stated several times during the campaign, was looking for an individual who would both expand gun rights and overturn Roe v. Wade. So we know that the president is very assured that Neil Gorsuch will complement, will carry out, will implement his agenda on those two things. But there's even more to be worried about, and that is really the ability of our government and its agencies to provide protection for all Americans.
AMY GOODMAN: Ian Millhiser, Judge Gorsuch was a clerk for Anthony Kennedy, another Supreme Court justice. There was discussion that because Anthony Kennedy would feel so comfortable with Judge Gorsuch at his side
AMY GOODMAN: that he might be more willing to retire, which would mean President Trump chooses another Supreme Court justice. Can you talk about this?
IAN MILLHISER: Yeah, I mean, lord, I hope not. I mean, here's the thing. Anthony Kennedy is conservative, but he's much more moderate than Neil Gorsuch. And Anthony Kennedy does have a libertarian streak. You know, he's supportive of some restrictions on police. He, you know, sometimes votes with the liberals in criminal justice cases. I think that he is cautious about executive power, and he might be particularly cautious about this executive's power. And he's also good on gay rights. So, when you look at Anthony Kennedy's record, a lot of what he cares about is going to be lost if he gives his seat to Donald Trump. He's not going to be giving it to Neil Gorsuch. He's going to be giving it to whoever Donald Trump picks. And so, you know, I'm not a mind reader. Only Anthony Kennedy can know what Anthony Kennedy is thinking. But I hope that he realizes that he is the only thing standing between Donald Trump right now and Trump being able to do more or less whatever he wants. And if he wants to continue to be a check on this president, he needs to not give the president his seat on the Supreme Court.
President Trump took the unprecedented step of giving Bannon a full seat on the "principals committee" of the National Security Council last week. Bannon has emerged as one of the most powerful figures in the White House. On Tuesday, The New York Times ran an editorial posing the question "President Bannon?" The Times wrote, "We've never witnessed a political aide move as brazenly to consolidate power as Stephen Bannonnor have we seen one do quite so much damage so quickly to his putative boss's popular standing or pretenses of competence." For more, we speak with Josh Harkinson, senior reporter at Mother Jones. His recent article is headlined "The Dark History of the White House Aides Who Crafted Trump's 'Muslim Ban.'"

As protests continue across the country and globe over Donald Trump's order closing the borders to refugees and citizens of seven majority-Muslim nations, we turn to look at the man largely credited with writing the executive order: Stephen Bannon, Trump's chief strategist. Over the first two weeks of the Trump administration, Bannon has emerged as one of the most powerful figures in the White House. On Tuesday, The New York Times ran an editorial posing the question, "President Bannon?" The Times wrote, quote, "[W]e've never witnessed a political aide move as brazenly to consolidate power as Stephen Bannonnor have we seen one do quite so much damage so quickly to his putative boss's popular standing or pretenses of competence," unquote.
Bannon is the former head of Breitbart News, a site that's been described as online haven for white nationalists. He left the job in August to run Trump's campaign. Last week, Trump took the unprecedented step of giving Bannon a full seat on the principals committee of the National Security Council. While Bannon has given few interviews since Trump's election, many journalists have been scouring the archives of Breitbart, where Bannon once hosted a radio show. In a piece today, The Washington Post highlights a program from 2015 when Bannon questioned Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke, who's now Trump's nominee to be interior secretary. This is Steve Bannon.
STEPHEN BANNON: There's a level of frustration and anger here in the United States that we're not prosecuting this war, and we're actually in discussions about bringing over Muslim refugees into this country, with a president who's now mocking, you know, the talk radio people, mocking the audience on talk video, mocking the sites like Breitbart, that are bringing up these issues. What say you?
REP. RYAN ZINKE: Well, I think we need to do two thingsor three things. One is we need to put a stop on refugees until we can vet. You know, we've been through a number of classified briefings.
STEPHEN BANNON: Why stop until we vet? I don't understand. What do you mean, vet? Why notwhy not justwhy notwhy not just stop? Why notwhywhywhywhy are you going through this thing on vetting, the opportunity cost of vetting?
REP. RYAN ZINKE: Well, becausewell, vetting is important, because we don't know
STEPHEN BANNON: Why? No, you only vetstopcommander, you only vet if you're going to let them in. Why even let them in?
AMY GOODMAN: So that's Stephen Bannon interviewing Ryan Zinke in 2015. In another program from 2015, Bannon interviews Senator Jeff Sessions, Trump's nominee to be the attorney general. Sessions praised a 1924 immigration law which imposed a racist quota system. This is Stephen Bannon.
STEPHEN BANNON: As it exists today, with the current laws on the books, right? This is not passing Gang of Eight, correct? This is whatthis is what our current laws on the books would actually allow to happen, that we would have, at the end of this time period, 50 yearsyou'd basically have an increase in the population of what? A hundred and fifteen million people, 14 million basically from the native-born population, and 103 million would actually come fromfrom outside.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS: In seven years, we'll have the highest percentage of Americans non-native born since the founding of the republic. And some people think, "Well, we've always had these numbers." But it's not so. This is very unusual. It's a radical change. And in fact, when the numbers reached about this high in 1924, the president and Congress changed the policy, and it slowed down immigration significantly. And we then assimilated through the 1965 and created really the solid middle class of America, with assimilated immigrants, and it was good for America. And then we passed this law that went far beyond what anybody realized in 1965, and we're on a path now to surge far past what the situation was in 1924.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, who now could be voted to be the attorney general, being interviewed by Steve Bannon in 2015.
To talk more about Bannon, we're joined by Josh Harkinson, senior reporter at Mother Jones, his recent article headlined "The Dark History of the White House Aides Who Crafted Trump's 'Muslim Ban.'"
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Josh.
JOSH HARKINSON: Thanks for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you lay out who Stephen Bannon is? And then we'll ask you about Stephen Miller.
JOSH HARKINSON: Well, I think, at heart, Stephen Bannon is a nationalist whoyou know, he turned Breitbart News into an empire that is really one of the preeminent platforms for the alt-right, as he told us back this last summer. And, you know, he is deeply opposed to Islam, on many levels. But, you know, he is basically a demagogue in the mold of those from past eras. And I, you know, think he's risen to power within the Trump administration based on his ability to inflame racial fears and xenophobia.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what happened this weekend, the ban, through two executive orders, that now the press secretary, Sean Spicer, is saying is not a ban, although he, himself, used the term many times, as did President Trump.
JOSH HARKINSON: Right. And if you look, as we did at Mother Jonesyou know, we looked at his radio interviews, shortly after he became Trump's campaign manager back last summer. And he has a long history of interviewing anti-Islam activists and promoting this paranoid vision of Islam as a religion bent on the destruction of Western civilization. And so, I think, in that context, there is no doubt that this policy is really about preventing Muslims from coming into the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to a talk that Stephen Bannon delivered via Skype in a conference held inside the Vatican in 2014. He talked about the crisis that capitalism confronts in the West in the war against Islamic fascism.
STEPHEN BANNON: I believe the world, and particularly the Judeo-Christian West, is in a crisis. And it's really the organizing principle of how we've built Breitbart News to really be a platform to bring news and information to people throughout the world, principally in the West, but we're expanding internationally, to let people understand the depths of this crisis. And it is a crisis ofboth of capitalism, but really of the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian West and our beliefs. We are in an outright war against jihadists, Islam, Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing almost far quicker than governments can handle it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, there is Stephen Bannon in an address in a conference inside the Vatican a few years ago. The significance of, Josh Harkinson, of what he's saying here?
JOSH HARKINSON: Well, you know, as you're probably aware, President Obama declined to even use the term "Islamic terrorism," but here you have Stephen Bannon framing the battle against terrorism as a religious war, which is exactly what radical terrorists want. They want to present themselves as the representatives of Islam, when in fact it is a religion of millions of people that is very moderate. And, you know, that's evident in our allies in the Islamic world, in their approach to governance. But Stephen Bannon is really, in this sense, playing into the hands of actual terrorists.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let me ask you about this most recent information that has come out, that he has been made a principal on the National Security Council, what exactly this means, this man who came out of Goldman Sachs, who was the head of Breitbart News, a news haven for white supremacists and nationalists. What is he doing on the National Security Council? And the significance of this, as well as the demoting of two of the traditional positions on the National Security Councilthe head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph Dunford, as well as the director of national intelligence, currentlythose two positions?
JOSH HARKINSON: Right. This is really unprecedented. You know, David Axelrod, Obama's political adviser, sometimes sat in on these meetings, but he had nothing close to a permanent position. And Bannon's elevation, while these other officials are demoted, really tells us that he's going to be playing a key role here on this council, which should be deeply disturbing, not just because of his radical ideology, you know, his views on Islam, but also because he's a political operative, and his MO has always been to use policy as an arm of politics, his arm of winning over his adversaries. And so, it's scary. I mean, he could start a war just for political gain.
AMY GOODMAN: It was interesting to hear David Axelrod's response to Sean Spicer, who had said, "He is being no different than David Axelrod for Obama, who was his political adviser. He had walked in and out of NSC meetings. We're just making ourselves transparent," to which David Axelrod responded, "It's amazing to go to sleep and wake up as an alternative fact." He said, "I did not participate in these meetings. Sometimes I would go in to hear what people were saying, for example, about Afghanistan. But," he said, "it's certainly very different from being a principal at the table."
JOSH HARKINSON: Right, and I think that's the key point. You know, Bannon is reallyI mean, look at his behavior at Breitbart News, where he had no qualms about using xenophobia to gain readers and clout. And, you know, I think his behaviorhe also has a famously confrontational style, where he loves tohe views himself at war with his adversaries. He has a very black-and-white view of the world. And so, you know, this suggests that he will encourage Trump to clash even more than he already does with foreign leaders around the world.
AMY GOODMAN: I'd like to turn to comments Bannon also made about the media in that interview last week with The New York Times, where he said, "The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while." Bannon added, "I want you to quote this. The media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States." Very quickly, Josh?
JOSH HARKINSON: Yeah, so this war against the media is, you know, a classic authoritarian tactic, discrediting the people who tell you what's going on in the world, questioning their authority to give you the facts, which causes basically the people to not know what's up and what's down, to question, you know. And so, then that allows him to do whatever he wants, with impunity, ultimately.
AMY GOODMAN: And quickly, Stephen Miller, who exactly he is, this former headchief of staff of Senator Sessions, who's now one of the top advisers to President Trump?
JOSH HARKINSON: Yeah, Stephen Miller is an interesting guy. You know, he's very young. He's 31 years old. He was formerly Jeff Sessions' top aide and, you know, has been described as having a mind meld with Sessions, you know, is very much opposed to multiculturalism and is a nativist in the Sessions strain. And, you know, he has a history, from his earliest days in politics at Duke University, where he was a columnist at the campus newspaper, of writing these op-eds that are just very far-right and, you know, appealing tobasically, he is a mini Steve Bannon. He's a demagogue in training, essentially.
AMY GOODMAN: And his relationship with Richard Spencer, the well-known white supremacist?
JOSH HARKINSON: Exactly. So, he and Richard Spencer, you know, who I spent a lot of time with a few months ago, were both members of the Duke Conservative Union. And they worked together to bring Peter Brimelow, a very influential white nationalist, the head of the group VDARE, to campus to talk about immigration issues. And, you know, Spencer told me, basically, that he thought he was a mentor to Miller. Miller vehemently denies this, but other members of the Duke Conservative Union told me that they did work together on this event.
Too bad, but not surprising, the Democrats are approving Trump's nominations so far.
Magda Hassan Wrote:Too bad, but not surprising, the Democrats are approving Trump's nominations so far.

They don't have enough votes to stop them. Mostly they have voted against. They are planning it seems to block the nominee for the Supreme Court, as he wants to destroy what little progress is left legally, but the Republicans have enough votes to change the number of votes needed for that position - and are likely to vote soon to change that number - afterwards, they will have enough to override the Democratic opposition. That said, I would hope to see every Democrat vote 'no' against every nominee and every effort of Trump as a symbolic gesture if nothing else. The massive public demonstrations to date against Trump [somewhere about 6-7 million in the streets in just under two weeks, with much larger ones planned with the coming of warmer weather] are an effort to put pressure on the Democrats to DO SOMETHING/ANYTHING! I sit and watch my Country being dismantled and hurling backward into the very bad past at lightning speed. This, when Trumpf did not win a majority of the votes. Hillary would have been very bad; Trumpf always was going to be simply horrible. Today we threatened Iran. Anyone who thinks Trumpf is some antidote to neoliberal polices and will bring some positives externally, if not internally will, I think, be very sadly mistaken very quickly. New wars are just weeks away and all the old wars will continue. The war now basically is being taken to the USA population itself - more than usual. I sadly predict soon a growing 'civil-war' atmosphere in the USA, as Trumpf and his policies divide the Nation almost down the middle - people either love him and think he is a gift of their God and political saviour; or people hate him and think he is a new Hitler-wanna-be, and the most dangerous politician in the last hundred years or more. Fewer than usual are non-committal, and I think once he starts cutting medical care, abortion and reproductive rights, lets the police attack non-whites with abandon for the crime of being Black, rounds up illegal immigrants, and his other domestic programs; fails to rebuild jobs at home or raise wages, etc., even fewer will there be. My only hope is a MASSIVE mobilization to completely change the Senate in two years when all of them must face re-election, and then make Trumpf's moves mostly impossible. However, his ability to wage war will remain [Presidents have long done this without approval of Congress - against the Constitution], as will his wrecking crew powers, generally. I'd not put it past Trumpf to declare some limited martial law after the HUGE demonstrations coming. But at that point impeachment can and will be an option, with Pence also in the cross-hairs along with Trumpf. I only hope Americans learn that a return to normal Democratic rule will NOT be the solution - we need something totally different if we are to survive at all. The Empire is in rapid collapse now and it is ugly. Anyone who thinks because they are outside are protected - think again - this contagion is coming fast.

Can the EPA Survive Trump & Congress?

Profile of an Agency in Crisis Through the Eyes of a Former EPA Official

[Image: 2-700x470.jpg] Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from EPA / Wikimedia and azmichelle / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
In the first few days of the Trump administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already has felt shockwaves.
Trump issued an Executive Order imposing an immediate hiring freeze on federal agencies for 90 days, giving the Office of Personnel Management time to come up with a plan to shrink the federal government through attrition. At a time when the federal workforce includes many workers about to retire, the impact could be substantial.
The new administration has informed the EPA and other science agencies that its scientists may no longer publish or speak publicly about their research without a review by the White House. Agency staff also may not post blogs or comments on social media.
The nominee to head the EPA, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, is an avowed enemy of the agency and has sued it 14 times to block enforcement of its rules. Questioned about human-caused climate change, Pruitt grudgingly conceded its existence. But he said that the extent of its harmful effects had not been adequately assessed and is "subject to continuing debate."
No wonder that David Doniger, director and senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate and clean air program, predicts, "[The environmental community is] in for a rough ride."
Doniger joined NRDC in 1978, and in 1993 took a position in the Clinton administration. He spent most of his time there as counsel to the head of the EPA's clean air program and director of climate change policy for the agency's air program. He also represented the US during climate negotiations in Kyoto. He returned to NRDC in 2001. He sat down for an interview with WhoWhatWhy on January 24.
Doniger knows what it's like to face political opposition to environmental policies from Republican and Democratic members of Congress looking to protect fossil fuel industries. He's seen Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush try to dismantle the EPA.
"This is different," he says.
The tactics may not have changed, but the intensity is far greater.
He worries that the Trump administration's goal is not simply to reverse specific Obama Administration policies, but to destroy the agency and the laws it implements more fundamentally through draconian budget cuts, the departures of committed staff, and the passage of laws that would make it impossible for the agency to do its work under any administration.
At stake, he says, is the agency's long-term future.
[Image: 3-1024x682.jpg]Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from NRDC and USEPA / Flickr

Tall and lean, Doniger is bald and bearded, with a sardonic wit. His work space is small, part of a suite of offices occupying the entire floor of a modern skyscraper in Washington a few blocks from the Washington Monument. The building's mix of tenants is diverse. Coal industry lobbyists used to rent offices upstairs, Doniger says. The building continues to house The Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol's conservative publication.
NRDC reports that it has 2.4 million members and activists. Its annual budget tops $130 million. It isn't that NRDC and its environmental allies lack a game plan. They know that "you don't get anywhere just with information anymore," Doniger says.
NRDC bases its work on facts, science, and "true stuff," but what makes that information effective is conveying a message to either "embolden" friendly members of Congress, or "scare" the unfriendly ones, into doing the right thing, he says. Pressure on Congress and the new administration requires mobilizing large numbers of citizens, he says, an effort that began in earnest with the Women's March on Washington on January 21. NRDC was one of the co-sponsors of the event.
Doniger believes in the rule of law and the rule of the marketplace. He has predicted that the courts will continue to uphold the EPA's authority and obligation to protect public health from the harmful effects of climate change. That means the agency will be able to continue to regulate carbon pollution from power plants, cars and trucks and other polluting industries. As for the marketplace, electric utilities already have moved away from building any new coal-fired power plants, and there is growing reliance on other sources of energy, such as natural gas, solar, wind and even nuclear power.
Polls also have offered some reason for hope. When the D.C.-based Glover Park Group, a lobbying and strategic communications firm, did an online survey of 2,000 Trump voters last December, they expressed strong support for regulations protecting air and water. Even policies to address climate change were backed by six out of ten Trump voters.
However, a Pew Research Center post-election poll was less sanguine. While a majority of Americans support environmental regulations, saying they are worth the cost, the support was much more robust among Democrats, Independents and moderate Republicans. Fewer than a third of conservative Republicans agreed.
And other concerns darken the horizon.
[Image: 4-1024x682.jpg]Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump's choice to head the EPA, has sued the agency 14 times. Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) .

What's at stake, Doniger says, is whether there will still be an EPA strong enough to rebound when a more environmentally friendly Congress or White House takes over.
The EPA is built on foundational laws such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. They essentially give the agency the power to develop rules and enforce them to protect public health threatened by tainted air and water.
According to its website, the agency's mission is "to ensure that all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work," to base its actions on the "best available scientific information," and to enforce federal laws protecting human health and environment "fairly and effectively."
The agency's birth in 1970 came at a time when Americans were alarmed by smog and burning rivers, when Rachel Carson's Silent Spring had raised concerns about toxic chemicals and their potential risks.
In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson asked for passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.
"His message to Congress listed all the problems the laws should address," Doniger says. Johnson directly asked for "authority to address carbon emissions" because of the "risk of global warming."
Doniger calls Senators Edmund Muskie (D-ME) and Howard Baker (R-TN) the laws' "founding fathers." They and their staffs, he says, were "extremely far-sighted" in their understanding of what was needed to protect public health and the environment, and to address "new problems as they arise."
The laws were designed to insulate the EPA from being "captured" by the industries they regulated, he adds. Not only could business interests sue the agency if they felt its rules were too stringent, so could environmental groups if they believed the agency was not meeting the timetables in the law or enforcing it properly.
That meant that groups like NRDC could take the EPA to court, he says.
He concedes that neither law would pass today, but in the 1970s, they were approved "almost unanimously" by Congress. Indeed, President Richard Nixon's leadership was crucial to the creation of the EPA.
There have been past administrations hostile to the EPA before, but the political calculus has been different. "Even in the Reagan days, there was still more bipartisan support" for environmental protection, Doniger says.
In the 1980s, for example, when Anne Gorsuch was named EPA Administrator, her tenure lasted only 22 months. Gorsuch attempted to eviscerate the Clean Air Act. But she was challenged by a Democratic House, and moderate, pro-environment Republicans in the Senate.
Gorsuch, he says, was an extremist, "probably Koch Brothers before there was the Koch Brothers." But she and her deputies "overreached" and "got booted out."
[Image: 5-1024x682.jpg]David Doniger, Director, Climate and Clean Air Program, Natural Resources Defense Council, worries about the EPA's future. Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from NRDC.

House Democrats held hearings, and pointed a spotlight on a leaked EPA "hit list" of staffers, including scientists, targeted by Gorsuch and her lieutenants. There were charges of mismanagement in EPA's toxic waste programs. The investigations resulted in a short tenure for Reagan's appointees. With one exception, Doniger says, Gorsuch and all her deputies were forced to resign. (Doniger notes with irony that Gorsuch's son, Neil, was on Trump's short list for the Supreme Court. He was nominated for the court on Jan. 31)
Faced with congressional resistance and a public outcry, Reagan replaced Gorsuch with William Ruckelshaus, who had served as the EPA's first administrator under Nixon. Republican Ruckelshaus is credited with restoring morale at the agency, and beefing up its enforcement efforts. When he left his position, he wrote to Reagan that "The ship called EPA is righted and is now steering a steady course."
EPA also endured the fierce budget cutting of the Gingrich Revolution, when Republican conservatives took over the House in 1994. But the backstop was Democratic President Bill Clinton. Clinton resisted Gingrich's efforts to gut EPA regulations, and vetoed spending bills that would have imposed huge cuts on the EPA and other federal agencies. That budget stalemate resulted in a federal government shutdown and an ultimate political win for the president.
While President George H.W. Bush actually helped pass 1990 legislation strengthening the Clean Air Act, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney wanted to reverse progress. But nothing Bush and Cheney tried to do to weaken the EPA was as extreme as the Trump proposals, Doniger says. "The worst shading of the truth in the George W. years already has been exceeded" by the Trump administration, he charges.
It is no longer only the business lobby that opposes the EPA, Doniger says, adding that the "emergence of the far right" has bolstered forces against the agency. These forces, he adds, "have effectively taken over one party." The new president, he insists, has himself been taken over "by [the conservative Heritage Foundation] and the Koch brothers. Suddenly the fringe is in the center."
[Image: 6-1024x682.jpg]The EPA so far has survived eight Presidents, even those hostile to it. Photo credit: NRDC pix / Flickr (CC BY 2.0) and The White House / Wikimedia

Doniger knows the EPA both as an advocate who pushed it do more, as well as a staffer who worked from within. He respects its career staff. He calls them "very smart, very strategic," and committed to environmental protection.
The message of the new administration has "disheartened" staffers, he says. But many staffers, he adds, want to stay and "weather this."
But it could be far more difficult. Environmental advocates are depending on Senate Democrats to use the filibuster ensuring that the Republican's slim 52-48 majority will not be enough to pass most legislation to defend the agency. But the threats on the EPA are more intense. Even in the George W. Bush years, Doniger says, "the constraints and restraints were not so absolute" that they prevented the agency from functioning.
He recalls his own work in the Clinton EPA, which laid the groundwork for an agency legal opinion establishing the EPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, if those emissions contribute to climate change and harm public health.
When the George W. Bush administration reversed that legal opinion and refused to regulate carbon emissions and other air pollutants, Doniger, then back at NRDC, sued the agency. The case, Massachusetts vs. EPA, went all the way to the Supreme Court. The court ruled, Doniger says, that the original EPA legal opinion was right, and "the Bush Administration had the wrong view of the law."
The Bush White House dragged its feet in implementing the court's ruling, and blocked moving the ball forward on addressing climate change. Nevertheless, EPA administrator Stephen Johnson asked agency staff to develop the evidence that proved that climate change endangered human health. When the EPA emailed its endangerment finding to Bush's Office of Management and Budget (OMB), officials there refused to open the email attachment, and kept the document secret.
However, when Obama came into office, Doniger says, "the EPA had done its homework." The endangerment finding was ready. It helped the Obama EPA defend its actions to limit emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. The rules Obama's EPA implemented have been upheld by the courts.
"The people on the other side know this story," Doniger says. That's why "they are determined to destroy the agency's capacity," he charges. It's a "scorched earth" tactic, he says, similar to an invading army's destroying roads and bridges so that the enemy can't easily rebuild.
How do you destroy an agency so thoroughly that it can't revive, even when the politics change?
If budget cuts are draconian enough, the EPA will lack the experts it needs to do its work. "Smart people will leave," he says. He fears a "massive brain drain" at the agency. That affects not only the agency's ability to use science to regulate but also to justify its regulations by demonstrating that the cost of compliance is outweighed by the benefits to the public and the environment.
[Image: 7-1024x682.jpg]President Donald Trump's inauguration began uncertain times for the EPA. Photo credit: Coast Guard / Flickr

Doniger doubts that even the Trump administration and Congress would try to gut the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts directly, since they remain politically popular with all voters, including Trump supporters.
But Congress could pass "sneaky regulatory bills" that will overturn these and other fundamental laws in other ways. He cites the REINS (Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act that essentially treats any agency regulation as if it were just a proposed law, needing approval by Congress within a tight timeframe. Other regulatory bills would "complicate the process, rigging the game," so that agencies could not regulate, regardless of the risks to the public.
The Trump administration also could pull away from the Paris agreement on climate change, Doniger says. But doing so, he predicts, would cause outrage from virtually every other nation in the world, and greatly complicate US efforts to get cooperation in fighting terrorism or on trade. "You hope that Trump's national security and foreign policy appointees get it," he says.
He adds that if the US drops out, China "is in the position to claim leadership" on climate change. China recognizes its pollution problems, and also is encouraging its renewable energy industry. That would mean "a major loss of prestige" for the US.
These are Doniger's macro fears. But there also are the worries closer to home, the issues on which he played a pivotal role. He recalls, for example, his informal chat in 2008 with an auto company lobbyist, worried that his company would have to comply not only with federal EPA greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards, but also regulations from California and the Department of Transportation.
Doniger asked if the auto company would be willing to follow an EPA standard that was as stringent as California's, provided that was the only standard its cars would have to meet. The lobbyist said that was a "good idea" but that "Mary Nichols [California's air quality regulator] would never go for it."
Doniger then approached Nichols with the same proposal. She was receptive, but told him, "GM will never go for it." Doniger suggested they talk to one another.
These talks, begun in the waning days of the Bush administration, set the stage for the Obama team to forge an agreement. The 13 automakers would not oppose stricter federal emissions and fuel efficiency standards, and California would deem cars that met those standards to be in compliance with state rules.
That was a huge achievement, but "now that's in peril," he says. Automakers are pressing Trump to relax the EPA standards, and want the administration to force California to back down and accept them.
The EPA may try to revoke its permission to California to set higher emissions and fuel efficiency standards, he says. California, and a dozen other states will fight the EPA's efforts.
"These are the things I think about," Doniger says. "The terrible time ahead, but also the accomplishments," over the years, and whether they will survive.
Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser hasn't yet spoken in public about the president's immigration ban. Too bad. Jared Kushner could bring a personal touch to the discussion: In 1982 his grandmother, a Holocaust survivor, testified about the difficulties she faced in finding refuge in a world of closed borders.