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D.C. Memo: Farming corporations are people too

Impeachment hearings; farm aid; Amazon walkout; and more.

photo of corn field with silos in background
Democrats including Minnesota Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar expressed concerns about how the payments have been distributed among U.S. farmers affeted by the trade war.
The D.C. Memo is a weekly recap of Washington political news, journalism, and opinion, delivered with an eye toward what matters for Minnesota. Sign up to get it in your inbox every Thursday.

Welcome to this week’s edition of the D.C. Memo. This week in Washington, public impeachment hearings begin, a look at how farm aid is being distributed and a deep dive on the Amazon walkout in Shakopee. Let’s get on with this.

Impeachment proceedings

The news of the week is, you guessed it, impeachment. This week, House Democrats have started public hearings in which witnesses will be questioned by the House Intelligence Committee.

On Wednesday, U.S. diplomats William B. Taylor Jr. and George Kent spoke to the committee, with Taylor suggesting a previously unmentioned phone call that happened between President Donald Trump and U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland. Taylor testified that this call was overheard by members of hi staff, and the president could be heard asking about “the investigations.” This was one day after Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden (while at the same time the government was withholding U.S. military aid to Ukraine). A second member of his staff corroborated the aforementioned call on Thursday.

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The president has said he has no memory of having such a phone call. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) today called the testimony from both diplomats “evidence of bribery.”

The next hearing will be Friday November 15 and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will testify.

Farm aid

As President Donald Trump continues to seek out a trade deal with China, Minnesota farmers have been receiving trade subsidies. But those checks, based on acreage, are mainly going to larger, wealthier farms.

In a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Democrats including Minnesota Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar expressed concerns about how the payments have been doled out.

“Despite the unprecedented scale of the USDA’s ad-hoc trade assistance — nearly twice the cost of one year of farm programs in the 2018 Farm Bill — there are significant gaps and flaws that create inequality, fail to account for the actual damage to producers, and even leave some producers shut out.”

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The Amazon walkout

For Wired, Jessica Bruder does a deep dive on how Somali workers won workplace changes at Amazon’s warehouse in Shakopee, Minnesota. Pushing back on workplace injuries and a pace that workers described as inhumane, they walked out.

At the rally outside, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis spoke:

“I’ve had many jobs,” the congresswoman told the crowd. “I cleaned offices, I worked on assembly lines, I was even a security guard once. I’ve had jobs where we did not have enough breaks, where we used to try to go to the bathroom just so that we could pray.” The East African community, she said, demanded better. “Amazon doesn’t work if you don’t work,” she said. “It’s about time we make Amazon understand that.”

But the story’s main focus was a 23-year-old college student named Nimo Omar, affectionately nicknamed “the lioness” by workers at the facility, an organizer who helped make the walkout happen. The whole piece is a good read. The effort started small and snowballed from there:

The grievance that first made workers truly interested in talking to Omar was a relatively small one. In October, Amazon announced that it would cancel its direct shuttle service from Cedar-Riverside to the Shakopee warehouse. In its place, the company had convinced the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority to add a permanent Shakopee warehouse stop to an existing bus route. Now the trip would include a transfer and take an hour and a half—twice as long as the shuttle ride had been.

Stauber’s first year

Rep. Pete Stauber isn’t the only freshman Republican in the Minnesota delegation. But he is the only Republican in the delegation who’s been able to pass a piece of legislation this Congress. Read more at MinnPost.

The president next door

The development of the week seems to be yet another moderately positioned presidential contender, former Massachuests governor Deval Patrick, entering the race.

But as for the Minnesota senator in the race, a poll this week from Monmouth puts Klobuchar at 5 percent with Iowa Democrats (+/- 4.6).

Gov. Tim Walz intends to head to Iowa to stump for Klobuchar on Saturday. The same day, we’ll be able to take a look at the next Iowa poll from CNN/The Des Moines register.

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In other news

  • More than half of Minnesota waters — including the St. Croix River — are ‘impaired.’ What does that mean? Read more at MinnPost.
  • Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) unveiled a sweeping resolution aimed at reshaping the American criminal legal system.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center has an extensive look at emails sent by White House Advisor Stephen Miller, who was once Press Secretary to Rep. Michele Bachmann. The gist of it is that Miller reads white supremaist literature and has an affinity for pushing negative narratives about people of color and immigrants.

Quote of the week

“Rooting for the Gophers!” a Klobuchar spokesperson confirmed to the Star Tribune when asked if the senator would be supporting the University of Minnesota Gophers or the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.

What I’m reading

Joshua Bote for USA TODAY: He ate a sandwich. She sold churros. After both were detained, people are protesting

I’ve always been deeply disturbed by the criminalization of street vending in cities. A good quick read on the recent protests against arrests that seem to disproportionately targeting poor people and people of color.

That’s all for this week. Thanks for sticking around. Until next week, feel free to send tips, suggestions, and sound advice to: Follow at @gabemschneider. And don’t forget to become a MinnPost member.