While many Americans are distracted by President Trump’s tweets and baseless accusations, he and the GOP are trying to gut environmental protection, consumers’ rights, digital privacy and police oversight.


WASHINGTON –  Here’s a short list of important happenings in the nation’s capital this week:

Web privacy
President Trump rescinded a rule requiring Internet service providers to seek subscribers’ permission before using their web browsing history for marketing, handing broadband providers a victory and giving Democrats a campaign issue.

Trump signed a resolution, which passed Congress with only Republican votes, to repeal the privacy rule adopted last year by Democrats at the Federal Communications Commission.

Killing the FCC’s rule means “there will be no privacy rules governing broadband providers,” FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn and Terrell McSweeny, a commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, in the Los Angeles Times.

Under the FCC rules, broadband providers would have needed consent “before collecting information about what you search for on the Internet, post on social media and what videos you watch online,” said Clyburn and McSweeny, both Democrats. Without the rule, “your broadband provider could collect this information and sell it to advertisers, or any third party, without your knowledge.”

They said polls suggest 91 percent of Americans feel they already have given up too much of their personal data.

Consumer protection
The chairman of a powerful House committee welcomed the nation’s top consumer financial watchdog to a hearing Wednesday by expressing surprise he showed up –and hoped he never does so again.

The more than three hours of questioning that followed marked a new level of hostility in the sharply partisan battle over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

The bureau has angered Republicans and many financial sector players by creating a public database of consumer complaints that identifies companies, enacting regulations placing new restrictions on mortgages and other products, as well as taking high-profile enforcement actions that led to billions of dollars in refunds and penalties.

“I believe the president is clearly justified in dismissing you and I call upon the president … to do just that, and to do it immediately,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, told Richard Cordray, the agency’s director.

The hearing came as Cordray and the bureau are in the midst of a high-stakes legal battle over the constitutional right of the president to deal with heads of independent agencies.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in February that the bureau was “an unaccountable and unconstitutional new agency that does not adequately protect consumers.” But Trump has yet to try to fire him.

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., accused Republicans of “misguided attacks.” She noted that the bureau, which oversees mortgages, credit cards and other consumer financial products, has recovered nearly $12 billion for 29 million consumers.

The environment
As Trump introduces a series of budget cuts and regulatory rollbacks that would cripple the Environmental Protection Agency, he faces one unpredictable obstacle: resistance from fellow Republicans.

A small but vocal number of GOP lawmakers have rallied in support of popular programs in their districts, including clean water programs in the Great Lakes and the Chesapeake Bay, that are among the biggest losers in the budget Trump proposed to Congress last month.

At the EPA, roughly 3,200 positions would be eliminated — about a fifth of the agency’s work force — along with 50 programs.

Among the most vocal opponents of the cuts is Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, the co-founder of the Climate Solutions Caucus, whose South Florida district is threatened by rising sea waters and includes the Everglades.

“I’m very confident an overwhelming majority of the Republicans are going to get on the record against these types of proposed cuts,” he told Environment and Energy Publishing last month.

Police misconduct
Civil rights groups and experts on police reform expressed alarm Tuesday at Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ order for a review of more than a dozen federal agreements with troubled police forces that address problems of racial profiling, discrimination and use of excessive force.

Sessions said last month that he had read a summary of the Justice Department report on Chicago and that he worried that police officers were pulling back on the streets because they fear getting in trouble if they make a mistake.

“We need to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness, and I’m afraid we have done some of that,” Sessions told a gathering of state attorneys general. “So we’re going to pull back” on federal investigations of police departments.

The broad review reflects the Trump administration’s emphasis on bolstering law and order over investigating allegations of police misconduct, and it could lead to changing or scaling back consent agreements or negotiations underway in several cities, including Miami, Baltimore and Chicago.

The Justice Department has 14 such agreements with local police departments, including a high-profile accord reached with the city of Ferguson, Mo. It was hammered out after days of street protests followed the shooting death of an unarmed Black teenager in 2014.

Proposed consent decrees could be scrapped or overhauled in those cities, officials said, despite Justice Department investigations that uncovered systemic problems in their police departments.

Jim Puzzanghera of the Los Angeles Times; Stephanie Akin, CQ-Roll Call; Todd Shields of Bloomberg News; Del Quentin Wilber and Kevin Rector of the Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS) all contributed to this report.


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