Hello and welcome back to the D.C. Memo. This week you can find me healing from a sunburn acquired during last weekend’s Nats game (luckily without any stray Army jets) and gearing up for the first game of my recreational softball season. You will either laugh or scoff at the name we came up with: Mitts Romney. I can’t claim credit for coming up with this one, but it feels like an annoyingly “Hill bro” name to which I’m sure we will all form some attachment. Speaking of annoying Hill bros, here’s what went on in Washington this week: Congressional hopeful weighs in on the alleged human rights abuses by MPD, Rep. Tom Emmer supports Minority Leader McCarthy despite a past betrayal and Rep. Angie Craig tries to do something about our gas prices.
Human rights violations from MPD
Spurred by the police murder of George Floyd in 2020, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) investigated the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) for human rights violations. MDHR released its findings Wednesday, concluding that the city of Minneapolis and MPD “engage in a pattern or practice of race discrimination in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.”
In short, MDHR found:
- MPD engages in a pattern or practice of discriminatory, race-based policing
- The pattern or practice of discriminatory, race-based policing is caused primarily by an organizational culture
- Without fundamental, organizational culture changes, reforming MPD’s policies, procedures, and trainings will be meaningless
Strikingly, the report said “MPD officers use higher rates of more severe force against Black individuals than white individuals in similar circumstances,” alleging that MPD has a problem with systematic oppression of people of color (particularly Black people) in Minnesota, especially compared to their white counterparts.
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those who have interacted with MPD officers or those who followed the trial of Derek Chauvin, the MPD officer who was convicted of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after kneeling on George Floyd’s neck in May of 2020.
Moving forward, MDHR says the department will work with the city of Minneapolis to develop a consent decree, which is a court-enforceable agreement that identifies specific changes to be made and timelines for those changes to occur. Unlike previous efforts to reform policing in Minneapolis, a consent decree is a court order issued by a judge and also integrates independent oversight in the form of a monitor or monitoring team that regularly reports to the court to hold the parties accountable to the agreed upon changes.
Don Samuels, who is currently running for Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District which includes Minneapolis, issued a statement about the MDHR report Wednesday night saying that the report “validates what Black residents have been telling us for decades about discriminatory practices by the MPD.”
“Our community deserves safety,” Samuels said in an emailed statement. “In order to achieve it, elected officials at every level of government must work together. While this report establishes a route for the city and state to work together under a consent decree, we should also insist that the federal government moves forward the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and dedicates additional funding to support the recruitment and retention of high-quality officers, so all residents and visitors to our city and cities across the country feel safe, secure and respected by the police regardless of their race or ethnicity.”
To briefly catch you up on the Washington drama: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was caught on tape asking former President Donald Trump to resign after the Capitol attack last year — something McCarthy had previously denied. Another recording reveals McCarthy saying some of his own members posed a Capitol security risk. These findings have made some in the GOP angry, but for the most part, House Republicans are shrugging it off. That includes Minnesota’s Sixth District Rep. Tom Emmer, who also chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee.
“Nobody cares about that,” Emmer told Politico. “Nobody but the media and journalists. It’s a distraction that some New York Times reporters would rather report on things that Americans don’t care about, instead of focusing on what’s causing the inflation, which is the reckless spending these guys are doing. Those are the issues. The tape’s not.”
The GOP’s strategy here is a fairly good one, and one that has generally worked in their favor in the past: for beloved elected leaders like McCarthy, power, popularity and influence in Congress outweigh what some could call disloyalty. Similarly, former President Trump favored blaming the media and “fake news” for reports of him being accused several times of sexual assault and of his “locker room talk.” None of that stopped him from getting elected in 2016, and it seems that within the GOP leaders care more about winning elections than they do about ethics issues or disagreements within the party.
Indeed, Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who’s also close to McCarthy, told Politico that “I’m for Donald Trump being the next president and Kevin McCarthy being the next speaker.”
Let up on the gas
Second District Rep. Angie Craig cosponsored the Gas Prices Relief Act this week, which would help lower high gas costs for Minnesota families by temporarily suspending the 18.4 cent federal gas tax until Jan. 1, 2023. It’s no secret that gas has been prohibitively expensive lately, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain bottlenecks and ongoing war in Ukraine have had harmful effects the economy, driving up prices at the gas pump and the grocery store.
“I know that Minnesotans are struggling to keep up with gas prices, and I share their frustration,” Craig said in a press release. “In these difficult times, Congress must do all it can to lower costs for working families – especially at the gas pump. That’s why, today, I am joining the effort to temporarily suspend the national gas tax and provide some much-needed relief for American consumers.”
Craig also called on Minnesota state leaders to pause the 28.5 cent per gallon gas tax for the rest of the year. Combined with nixing the federal gas tax, current gas prices could go down by about 47 cents per gallon.
A rift among Democrats
This week Democratic leaders in the House once again found a roadblock coming from their most liberal members over a bill that seemed like an easy Democratic win.
H.R. 350, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, has 207 co-sponsors (including three Republicans) would create domestic terrorism offices within the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The bill passed the House during the last Congress but didn’t see much action after that. Earlier this week, senior House Democrats said they plan to work with the DOJ to “tweak” the bill in order to get outside groups who are opposed to the bill — like the ACLU and the Council on American-Islamic Relations — to change their minds.
Democratic leaders assumed this domestic terrorism bill would be an easy lift focused on the growing national threat from white supremacists. However, after talking to the House’s farthest left members, it seems like it won’t pass as easily as leaders thought.
“It’s not happening … it’s a horrible bill,” Fifth District Rep. Ilhan Omar told Punchbowl News. Omar and other members of the Squad oppose the bill for fear of it creating new statutes or surveillance lists that could be discriminatory to already marginalized groups.
What I’m reading
- “The price kids pay: Schools and police punish students with costly tickets for minor misbehavior,” ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune. The investigative reporting scene in Chicago has always been incredible, and I immediately check out anything they produce, especially when it’s a collaboration between the Trib and ProPublica. This story is no different, calling out injustices in the school systems in the city and their connections to the Chicago Police force, which has been notoriously corrupt for years. It’s a tough story, but well worth the read.
- “Young influencers are being offered cheap procedures in return for promotion. They say it’s coming at a cost,” NBC. As an avid social media user (especially TikTok these days), I’ve begun to notice that people are starting to get cosmetic procedures at younger and younger ages, especially young girls. This report by reporter Kat Tenbarge revealed that cosmetic surgeons are beginning to advertise their products by offering them for free or at reduced prices to popular young influencers on platforms like TikTok in exchange for promotional posts. The saddest part? Many of these young people regret getting the procedures and some of them say they feel addicted to body modification.
That’s all from me this week. Thanks for reading. As always, please feel free to send any questions, comments or thoughts on “Mitts Romney” as a softball team name to firstname.lastname@example.org.