Floodwaters have begun to recede a bit in Houston, as some sunshine finally returns and the airport begins to re-open after five hellish days. But its only "the end of the beginning" in the Bayou City, cautions one meteorologist as Harvey moves back onshore near the Texas/Louisiana border, continuing to threaten lives there and in states to the north, even as officials expect the death toll in and near Houston to surge in the days ahead. Moreover, a nearby chemical plant in Crosby is likely to explode soon, due to the flooding, according to the company's CEO.
All of this as Congress prepares to return from their long Summer recess after Labor Day, and members respond to some of the startling Executive Actions taken by Donald Trump as the record-shattering hurricane slammed ashore last Friday night.
We're joined by CONGRESSMAN HANK JOHNSON today to discuss some of those actions, including the President's pardon of former Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was found guilty of criminal contempt of court for violating federal court orders against detaining Latinos on nothing more than suspicious of being undocumented and Trump's less-noticed Executive Order reversing President Obama's restrictions on the Pentagon's infamous "1033 Program".
On the Arpaio pardon, Johnson tells me: "President Trump has proclaimed loudly, by that action, that he will use the power of the presidency to benefit himself, and to benefit his supporters, his friends, and his family. And so it does not augur well for a future for this country under Donald Trump."
"To follow up the notorious pardon of Joe Arpaio with a rescinding of President Obama's executive order which placed limits on the Pentagon's 1033 program — it does send a clear message to law enforcement that it's open season on the civil rights of anyone who you choose to violate the civil rights of. It's not a good thing for America."
The DoD's "1033 Program" supplies surplus military weapons and equipment — such as automatic rifles, mine-resistant vehicles, armored drones and even grenade launchers — for free, to local law enforcement agencies around the country. Johnson has been introducing and re-introducing his bi-partisan "Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act" (H.R. 1556) for three successive years now and explains today — as Republican Sen. Rand Paul appears to agree in the Senate — why curbs must be placed on the program.
In an op-ed by Johnson, to be published by the Guardian on Friday, he explains one of the things that "makes it dangerous is the fact that 1033 requires that the equipment be 'placed into use' within 12 months of being acquired." He tells me today that means that "if they don't use them, then they have to turn them back in. And so it's a recipe for misuse. It's a recipe for abuse of civil rights of the citizens who law enforcement is sworn to protect and serve. It's frightening that this onslaught of weaponry, straight from the battlegrounds of Afghanistan and Iraq, will find its way back to the streets of America's cities and towns."
The controversial program originally came to the nation's attention after military vehicles and gear were deployed by local law enforcement in Ferguson, MO in response to protests after the police killing of African-American teenager Michael Brown in 2014. After the nation was horrified by the militarization of local military and it was discovered that some weaponry had been disappearing, or was being sold by local agencies, Obama placed restrictions on the program that Trump, last Friday night, lifted with a stroke of his pen.
I also ask Johnson about whether he believes Congressional Republicans from Texas will support Harvey disaster relief upon their return next week (unlike after SuperStorm Sandy slammed the East coast in 2013), about his Election Integrity bill, and whether he intends to join fellow Democrats in the House who have filed Articles of Impeachment against President Trump.
Finally, Defense Secretary James Mattis appears to be separating himself somewhat from Trump — though not nearly as much as some on the Left are suggesting — following the order to ban transgender members of the US Military and saber-rattling with North Korea. And, as more longtime State Dept. officials announce they are leaving, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's job may be on the line following a clear separation from the President's "values" following Trump's statements about neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville.
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