Supreme Court clamps down on ‘excessive fines’ by states | The Hill

The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled unanimously that states must adhere to the Constitution’s ban on excessive fines, a decision that will likely limit the ability of states to impose certain fees and seize property.

In delivering the opinion of the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the Eighth Amendment guards against abuses of the government’s punitive or criminal law-enforcement authority, and that it extends to fines.

“This safeguard, we hold, is ‘fundamental to our scheme of ordered liberty,’ with ‘deep roots in our history and tradition,’” she said, quoting Supreme Court precedent.

Ginsburg, who returned to the bench for oral arguments Tuesday for the first time since undergoing surgery in December, was joined in the ruling by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justices Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Justice Clarence Thomas filed an opinion concurring in the judgment.

The case centered on Tyson Timbs, who pleaded guilty in Indiana state court to dealing in a controlled substance and conspiracy to commit theft. When Timbs was arrested, police seized the Land Rover he had purchased, for $42,000, from an insurance policy he received when his father died.

The state then brought a  civil forfeiture suit against Timbs for his vehicle because it had been used to transport heroin. The trial court denied the state’s forfeiture request.

Since Timbs had recently purchased the vehicle for more than four times the maximum $10,000 monetary fine he can be charged for the drug conviction, the court said the forfeiture violated the Eighth Amendment.

The Indiana Supreme Court ultimately reversed that ruling, holding that the Excessive Fines Clause constrains only federal action and is inapplicable to state impositions.

The high court vacated that ruling Wednesday.

Source: The Hill

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Bipartisan Criminal Justice Bill Closer To Becoming Law After Congressional Approval | NPR

By Ayesha Rascoe

A bipartisan bill aimed at overhauling federal prisons and reducing recidivism has been overwhelmingly approved by Congress.

The legislation is now on the verge of becoming law, with the House’s approval on Thursday, the Senate’s passage on Tuesday and the backing of President Trump.

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan previously voiced support for the legislative package, pledging that the House was “ready to get it done.” They later passed the measure by a 358-36 margin.

The Senate on Tuesday voted 87-12 in favor of the bill, known as the First Step Act. The passage of the bill by the chamber is a significant victory for advocates on the left and the right, who have pressed for Congress to take action to lower the prison population.

It’s also a big win for the White House and for Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, in particular. Kushner has made overhauling the criminal justice system one of his top projects in the White House.

Trump called Congress’ action a “great bi-partisan achievement” and “a wonderful thing for the U.S.A.!!” in a tweet on Thursday afternoon.

For months, the fate of the legislation seemed to be in a precarious position. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who helms the Senate Judiciary Committee, stressed that he wanted to include sentencing provisions, which had been left out of the version of the bill passed by the House in May.

For a while, it was unclear whether Trump would back measures to cut down on lengthy sentences. His first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, was staunchly opposed to the move.

But, with Sessions pushed out of the administration in November, Trump came out in favor of the more expansive Senate package.

Some Republicans, like Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, still oppose the legislation, which they argue will free dangerous criminals.

Facing pressure from advocates and the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to bring the bill up for a vote during the lame-duck session after its sponsors agreed to certain changes.

Here are some highlights from the legislation:

Measures focused on changing U.S. prisons

-Provides more access to rehabilitation and training programs that are aimed at helping prepare prisoners for life after their release. Certain prisoners would be eligible for incentives if they participate, including credits that would allow them to spend up to a year of their sentences in facilities like halfway houses or at home under supervision.

Republican critics of these incentives argue that prisoners could commit crimes while on supervised release. But, the bill’s sponsors say only offenders considered low or minimum risk would be eligible and the legislation excludes certain prisoners, including sex offenders and fentanyl traffickers.

-Makes it against the law to use restraints on pregnant inmates, unless they are an immediate threat to themselves or others or a flight risk.

-Requires that prisoners be incarcerated no more than 500 miles from their primary residence.

Measures focused on sentencing

-Ends automatic life sentences under the three-strike penalty for drug felonies. Instead of life, a third strike would now be a mandatory 25-year sentence. The mandatory sentence for a second offense would be reduced to 15 years compared to 20 years now.

This change would not be retroactive, so it would not help people already in prison serving life sentences under the three-strike rule. Some opponents of the bill have argued it does not go far enough to help people already affected by these laws.

-Expands the “safety valve” that allows judges to avoid imposing mandatory minimum sentences in certain cases.

-Addresses prisoners who were sentenced before laws were changed in 2010 to lessen disparities between the penalties for crack cocaine and powder cocaine. It would allow these prisoners to petition the courts to review their cases in light of the updated law.

Source: NPR

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already pulling back the curtain on the inner workings of Congress | CNBC

By Carmen Chapell

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already pulling back the curtain on the inner workings of the Capitol.

The New York Democrat, along with other incoming freshman lawmakers, is trying to usher in a culture of openness that is enabled by a vast social media following. With nearly 3 million followers combined on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez has used the platforms to involve her supporters during the transition period before she takes office.

Her enthusiastic and often pugnacious transparency campaign has earned her praise from inside and outside the Beltway. Yet it has also drawn criticism from several corners, including from President Donald Trump’s eldest son. Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t given any indication that she will let up, however.

In a series of pictures and videos on Instagram dubbed “Congress Camp,” she gave an inside look into new-member orientation, from choosing an office to voting for House leadership, while also showcasing the unique quirks of life on Capitol Hill.

“Guys, there are secret underground tunnels between all of these government buildings!” she whispers in one video. In another post, she polls her followers on whether she should choose an office with more space or one “close to our friends.”

But Ocasio-Cortez isn’t just focusing on the novelty of her experience. Last week, she tweeted sharp criticism of an orientation for new members of Congress hosted by Harvard. The event featured corporate CEOs but no labor representatives.

“Our ‘bipartisan’ Congressional orientation is cohosted by a corporate lobbyist group. Other members have quietly expressed to me their concern that this wasn’t told to us in advance,” she tweeted. “Lobbyists are here. Goldman Sachs is here. Where’s labor? Activists? Frontline community leaders?”

Fellow freshman member Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., echoed her criticisms. Tlaib said that Gary Cohn, former chief economic advisor to President Donald Trump and former Goldman Sachs executive, told the new members at orientation that they don’t “know how the game is played.”

“No Gary, YOU don’t know what’s coming – a revolutionary Congress that puts people over profits,” Tlaib tweeted.

‘Those little things are very real’

Ocasio-Cortez rose to the spotlight after defeating longtime incumbent Joseph Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District, which encompasses parts of Queens and the Bronx. A self-identified Democratic socialist, she ran on a liberal platform and chose to emphasize her identity as a young woman of color. The 29-year-old’s victory in the general election anointed her as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Ocasio-Cortez’s comments about her new role have also renewed longstanding debates on the financial challenges facing members of Congress and their staff. She has made it personal by revealing her own insecurities about her finances during the transition period.

“I have three months without a salary before I’m a member of Congress. So, how do I get an apartment? Those little things are very real,” she told The New York Times in an interview.

Many lawmakers struggle with the cost of living in Washington, D.C., even on the $174,000 congressional salary, going so far as to sleep in their offices to save on rent costs.

Ocasio-Cortez has also made it a point to talk about the economic conditions of congressional staff. Last week, she tweeted: “It is unjust for Congress to budget a living wage for ourselves, yet rely on unpaid interns & underpaid overworked staff just bc Republicans want to make a statement about ‘fiscal responsibility.'”

Low salaries as well as the prevalence of unpaid internships, which are often the first step to a full-time role, are seen as barriers to a more diverse congressional staff. Ocasio-Cortez pledged to pay her office’s interns $15 an hour, inspiring other lawmakers to make the same commitment.

She has also shared experiences that reveal the growing pains of an increasingly diverse Congress. “People keep giving me directions to the spouse and intern events instead of the ones for members of Congress,” she tweeted during orientation.

The changing face of Congress

Ocasio-Cortez is just one of the 42 women, 38 of them Democrats, part of Congress’ freshman class. They are being heralded as the faces of a new “Year of the Woman.” Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Michigan’s Tlaib are the first Muslim women elected to Congress, while Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat, is the first black woman elected to represent Massachusetts. Ocasio-Cortez posted a picture of the four women together on Instagram last month, captioning it “Squad.”

As a result of her high profile, Ocasio-Cortez’s unabashed takes on congressional life have frequently come under fire.

Eddie Scarry, a writer for the Washington Examiner, disputed Ocasio-Cortez’s account of her financial hardships based on her clothing choices.

“Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now,” Scarry tweeted. “I’ll tell you something: that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.” The tweet has since been deleted after widespread backlash.

Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., condemned the media for what he viewed as preferential treatment in coverage of Ocasio-Cortez. As a freshman congressman in 2011, Duffy received negative reactions after telling a constituent that he struggles to pay his bills.

“Hmm which headlines and article does media give to GOP and which to a Dem?” Duffy tweeted alongside screenshots of articles referencing himself and Ocasio-Cortez.

Last week, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, shared a doctored image on Instagram in which Ocasio-Cortez asks, “Why are you so afraid of a socialist economy?” In the post, President Trump responds, “Because Americans want to walk their dogs, not eat them.” Trump Jr. captioned the meme “It’s funny cuz it’s true!!!”

Ocasio-Cortez fired back, tweeting: “Please, keep it coming Jr – it’s definitely a ‘very, very large brain’ idea to troll a member of a body that will have subpoena power in a month.” Democrats have made clear that they plan to use their new subpoena power in the House to further investigate potential Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

The representative-elect has also received praise for revealing parts of the political system that are typically left in the shadows.

Actress Kerry Washington, who stars in the political drama “Scandal,” commended Ocasio-Cortez’s behind-the-scenes revelations, tweeting, “@Ocasio2018 speaking truth to power. Sharing the NEEDED #BTS of our democracy at work. So grateful.”

“I’m learning more details about how the House actually works over the past two weeks than I ever did in the past 20 years,” one follower tweeted in reply to Ocasio-Cortez.

“Thank you so much for giving us the window into the inside baseball of Congress,” another follower said.

Paul Musgrave, assistant professor of political science at University of Massachusetts Amherst, praised Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter for “treating voters as neither super-sophisticated DC insiders, nor as people who can’t be trusted to make up their own minds, but rather as people who are curious and intelligent but who aren’t experts in DC process.”

“Sometimes,” he added, “you don’t need a new theory of politics to make change, just a willingness to state the obvious.”

Source: CNBC

Feds plan unusual appeal in emoluments suit vs. Trump | Politico

By Josh Gerstein

The Justice Department is planning an unusual appeal to stop the governments of the State of Maryland and the District of Columbia from using a federal lawsuit to demand access to information about whether President Donald Trump is using his luxury Washington hotel to unconstitutionally profit from his office.

Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte turned down Trump’s request for permission to seek an appeal of early rulings in the case that went against him. Now, federal government lawyers say they plan to appeal anyway, using a rarely invoked process that can block a wayward judge from pressing on with a course of action alleged to be illegal or improper.

On Friday, the Justice Department informed Messitte that the federal government plans to try to get the Richmond-based 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to halt the case.

“The Solicitor General of the United States has authorized the filing in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit of a petition for writ of mandamus against this Court’s orders declining to dismiss the case and to certify an interlocutory appeal, as well as an application for a stay of District Court proceedings pending resolution of the mandamus petition,” Justice Department attorneys wrote.

Lawyers for Maryland and Washington, D.C.. have asked the judge to open a six-month discovery period where they could take depositions from witnesses, demand records and issue written questions focused on how the Trump International Hotel’s business has benefited from Trump’s election as president.

The suit, filed in June, alleges that Trump is violating two “emoluments” clauses in the Constitution by using his Pennsylvania Avenue hotel to reap financial dividends from his presidency. One provision covers business with foreign governments. The other prohibits federal officials from profiting from financial relationships with individual states.

The Trump Organization has pledged to donate to the U.S. Treasury any profits from hotel business with foreign governments. However, there is little transparency about how those amounts are calculated.

In his ruling last month denying Trump permission to appeal in the case, Messitte also noted that while lawyers representing Trump in the emoluments case were complaining that litigation would be a distracting burden for the president, the president regularly threatens to sue those he feels aggrieved by.
“It bears noting that the President himself appears to have had little reluctance to pursue personal litigation despite the supposed distractions it imposes upon his office,” the judge wrote.

Earlier this year, Messitte — an appointee of President Bill Clinton — issued an opinion turning down arguments from Justice Department attorneys that Maryland and D.C. lacked legal standing to pursue the emoluments issue against Trump. The judge also rejected arguments from Trump’s lawyers that the Constitution’s definition of emoluments includes only direct payment for official services and excludes all private business transactions.

Messitte, who sits in Greenbelt, had indicated he planned to issue an order opening discovery in the case Monday. Without some intervention by the 4thCircuit, the first formal exchange of information would likely be due within a week.

A similar suit against Trump brought by Democratic lawmakers cleared an initial hurdle in federal court in Washington , while a pair of suits filed in New York were thrown out by a judge there. That decision is on appeal.

Source: Politico

Do States Have the Right to Seize Vehicles for Minor Offenses? | Slate

By Aaron Tang

Tyson Timbs made an impulse buy. Then he made a series of mistakes.

After his father died, Timbs used roughly $42,000 of his father’s life insurance proceeds to buy a 2012 Land Rover. To support his heroin addiction, Timbs drove the Land Rover across Indiana to buy, transport, and sell drugs. Undercover police officers caught him in May 2013, and he was sentenced to one year of home detention, five years of probation, and roughly $1,200 in fines and court fees.

But that was not the end of the case. Under Indiana law, the state may seize any vehicle used in drug trafficking. So Indiana initiated a forfeiture action against Timbs’ Land Rover. The vehicle is itself a party to the case, leading to one of the more entertaining case titles in recent memory: Tyson Timbs and a 2012 Land Rover LR2 v. Indiana. While the name is unusual, forfeiture actions of this sort are quite common; by one count, states generated more than $250 million through forfeiture actions in 2012 alone.

This dispute is set make it all the way to our nation’s highest court later this month with important implications for law enforcement agencies and criminal justice reform. The case could rest on the say of one Supreme Court Justice in particular: Neil Gorsuch.

Although there was little dispute that the Land Rover was used in a crime, an Indiana district court judge denied the state’s attempt to seize it, reasoning forfeiture would violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against “excessive fines.” After all, this is a crime for which Timbs was not even sentenced to a day in jail, and the total fines and court fees amounted to just a fraction of the Land Rover’s value. But the Indiana Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Eighth Amendment’s excessive fines clause does not even apply to the states. The U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari to decide whether this striking conclusion is correct.

The state question here may be confusing. For a long period in our nation’s history, the Bill of Rights was understood only as a shield against federal encroachment on our rights. That changed with the 14th Amendment, which applied some (but not all) of the Bill of Rights’ protections at the state level. The precise pathway through which these rights are incorporated has long been a source of consternation for legal scholars, but the modern-day test is straightforward: States may not violate a right contained in the Bill of Rights if the right was “deeply rooted in our nation’s history and tradition.”

Timbs makes a forceful argument that the right to be free from excessive fines is deeply rooted in our history and tradition. That right first emerged in our Bill of Rights as an outgrowth from the 1689 English Bill of Rights and was quickly replicated across state constitutions. Indeed, by the time of the 14thAmendment’s enactment in 1868, 35 of the 37 states in the union had a ban against excessive fines. The need for protections against excessively punitive governmental exactions has only become more pressing with revelations of prosecutorial power abuses aimed at generating revenue in places like Ferguson, Missouri. For this very reason, Timbs drew supporting briefs from a wide array of groups ranging from the NAACP and ACLU to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Pacific Legal Foundation.

This should be the perfect case for a libertarian originalist like Neil Gorsuch. But it turns out there is an antecedent constitutional question in the case, and the historical evidence on that front points strongly in Indiana’s favor. That question is whether what Indiana has done—seize a vehicle used to traffic drugs through civil proceedings—can be said to constitute a fine.

There is ample evidence that the original meaning of the term “fine,” as it was used when the Eighth and 14th Amendments were ratified, did not extend to these kinds of civil forfeitures. After all, the federal government had a tradition of routinely seizing private property in ways that seem excessively harsh to the modern ear.

Consider the 1818 case of the Little Charles, a ship that the federal government seized after it sailed to Antigua in violation of an American embargo. In an opinion written by none other than Chief Justice John Marshall, the court reasoned that the ship could be subject to forfeiture even if it violated the embargo “without the authority, and against the will of the owner.”

Or take the Louisa Barbara case. Under an 1819 federal law, a ship could only carry a certain number of passengers based on its weight. The Louisa Barbara violated the limit by carrying 178 passengers—one more than it was authorized to carry. Yet the federal government proceeded to seize the entire ship. Federal courts were unmoved by the owner’s defense that many of the 178 passengers were children.

Stories of similarly harsh civil forfeitures fill Indiana’s brief in this case. Yet, as Indiana convincingly argues, no litigant even thought to argue that such forfeitures implicated the Eighth Amendment’s excessive fines clause. The first such argument was raised under a state constitution’s excessive fines clause in 1920 and failed; no court deemed a civil forfeiture to be an excessive fine until a federal court did in 1992—a position the Supreme Court ultimately agreed with the following year.

This history is what makes this case so hard for someone like Neil Gorsuch. If he follows the history and tradition of the Eighth Amendment to its logical extreme, the excessive fines clause would have nothing to say about an excessively harsh civil forfeiture. So, according to this thinking, Indiana could have seized Timbs’ vehicle due to its involvement in small scale drug trafficking even if it was the tawdriest of Ferraris. At the same time, there is the trouble of the aforementioned case called, Austin v. United States, in which the Supreme Court held in 1993 that the excessive fines clause does in fact cover civil forfeitures, at least when initiated by federal authorities. Yet Gorsuch has shown little reluctance to overrule settled precedent in his time on the bench so far. Finally, there is some evidence that the term “fine” was historically used interchangeably with “forfeiture,” which means that an ordinary member of the public in 1791 or 1868 may well have thought the latter encompassed by the former.

The court should acknowledge that both understandings of “fine” are plausible—one that includes forfeitures and one that does not. At that point, it seems wiser to decide which is the correct understanding of the Eighth Amendment by looking to the broader principles undergirding the Constitution, precedent, and the dire consequences of a rule authorizing limitless civil forfeitures for petty crimes. Each of those considerations weighs in Timbs’ favor. Or more precisely, they weigh in favor of a certain 2012 Land Rover and its odds of being reunited with its owner.

Source: Slate

The $5 billion election: How the 2018 midterms became the most expensive in history | CNN

By David Wright

The 2018 midterm election will go down as the most expensive in US history.

A week out from Election Day, spending to influence congressional midterm elections already has surged to a record-smashing $4.7 billion, according to a new tally of activity by candidates, political parties and their outside allies.

Democratic donors are fueling the dramatic increase, according to the analysis by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics. It predicts spending will surpass $5.2 billion by November 6 — a 35% jump over the 2014 midterms and the largest leap in at least two decades.

In all, Democratic House candidates have raised more than $951 million, far exceeding the $637 million that went to their Republican rivals, according to the center’s tally.

Money raised directly by candidates goes further than funds collected by outside groups because television stations must provide candidates the lowest available advertising rate in the weeks leading up to the election. Other groups active in the midterms, such as super PACs, do not qualify for the lower rates.

The Democratic candidates’ lopsided fundraising advantage also is playing out in the most competitive races.

Over the course of the election cycle, donors have sent $166.8 million to Democratic candidates in the 30 House contests CNN has identified as toss-ups. Republicans in those races collected just $90.7 million.

“You don’t need to be a political analyst to say that a lot of this is driven by rage,” Sarah Bryner, the center’s research director said of the surging donations to Democrats. “You have people in places like Boston and Chicago and San Francisco and New York who are making political giving part of the strategy to express their dissatisfaction with the President.”

Democrats need to flip just 23 Republican seats to take control of the House, and dozens of races remain too close to call.

While the new figures underscore the enormous energy driving the Democratic Party’s base ahead of the November 6 election, it remains to be seen whether the big cash influx to individual Democratic candidates will result in success at the polls.

Large Republican donors are helping make up the difference in crucial races, and the party committees, led by the Republican National Committee, also are raising big sums.

Among big donors, Nevada casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, lead the way. They have handed out more than $113 million to groups aiding GOP candidates. It’s the most money the Adelsons have ever disclosed spending in an election cycle.

Democratic mega-donors also are giving big sums. San Francisco billionaire and possible 2020 contender Tom Steyer, had donated $51 million to federal races through mid-October. And, another possible White House aspirant, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, also is writing large checks to help Democrats.

Michael Malbin, executive director of the non-profit Campaign Finance Institute, said the midterms may turn more on voter perceptions of Trump than any other factor.

“We are seeing rough parity both in the party committees and in the roster of rich people supporting each side,” he said.

“The President is the one dominating the agenda, either positively or negatively, depending on which side you’re on.”

Source: CNN

Trump’s List: 289 Accomplishments in 20 Months | Geller Report

As Trump nears the two-year mark of his historic election and conducts political rallies around the country, during which he talks up his wins in hopes it will energize Republican voters, the administration has counted up 289 accomplishments in 18 categories, capped by the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

They include 173 major wins, such as adding more than 4 million jobs, and another 116 smaller victories, some with outsize importance, such as the 83 percent one-year increase in arrests of MS-13 gang members.

Trump’s successes in reducing the cost of taxes and regulations, rebuilding our military, avoiding wars of choice and changing the courts rival those of all previous Republican presidents.

“Trump has an advantage over Ronald Reagan: He has a Reagan Republican House and Senate while Reagan had a [Democratic Speaker] Tip O’Neill House and a pre-Reagan Republican Senate. Reagan and [former GOP Speaker] Newt Gingrich were the ice breakers that allowed Trump’s victories to grow in number and significance,” he added.

Unlike the Year One list which included many proposals and orders still to be acted on, the new collection includes dozens of actions already in place, signed legislation, and enforced executive orders.

And shockingly the NAFTA achievement is presented as a sidebar to the larger achievement that reads, “President Trump is negotiating and renegotiating better trade deals, achieving free, fair, and reciprocal trade for the United States.” Under that umbrella are eight trade deals cut with Japan, South Korea, Europe and China.“President Trump is a truly unique leader in American history. He’s a kid from Queens who became an international business leader and made billions by getting things when no one said he could,” said Trump’s 2016 campaign pollster John McLaughlin.“They told him he couldn’t be president and beat the establishment and he did. For two years the establishment is telling him he can’t do things in Washington and he’s succeeding in spite of them. He never retreats. He doesn’t back up. He’s relentless. He just wins,” he added.Comparing the two years shows that the latest has an expanded group of economic achievements while the pro-life category was folded into the health care section.

Along the way, there have been some disappointments, such as failing to replace Obamacare, fund a big infrastructure plan, and build the border wall.

But the White House believes that despite a lack of media coverage of his accomplishments, supporters know about them and will head to the voting polls to help the GOP maintain control of the House and keep the president on what CNN dubbed a “winning streak.”

In the Washington Post Friday, former Bush speechwriter and columnist Marc Thiessen agreed and said that Trump has proven to be successful at keeping his campaign promises. He wrote, “The fact is, in his first two years, Trump has compiled a remarkable record of presidential promise-keeping.”

The list:

Economic Growth

  • 4.2 percent growth in the second quarter of 2018.
  • For the first time in more than a decade, growth is projected to exceed 3 percent over the calendar year.

Jobs

  • 4 million new jobs have been created since the election, and more than 3.5 million since Trump took office.
  • More Americans are employed now than ever before in our history.
  • Jobless claims at lowest level in nearly five decades.
  • The economy has achieved the longest positive job-growth streak on record.
  • Job openings are at an all-time high and outnumber job seekers for the first time on record.
  • Unemployment claims at 50 year low
  • African-American, Hispanic, and Asian-American unemployment rates have all recently reached record lows.
    • African-American unemployment hit a record low of 5.9 percent in May 2018.
    • Hispanic unemployment at 4.5 percent.
    • Asian-American unemployment at record low of 2 percent.
  • Women’s unemployment recently at lowest rate in nearly 65 years.
    • Female unemployment dropped to 3.6 percent in May 2018, the lowest since October 1953.
  • Youth unemployment recently reached its lowest level in more than 50 years.
    • July 2018’s youth unemployment rate of 9.2 percent was the lowest since July 1966.
  • Veterans’ unemployment recently hit its lowest level in nearly two decades.
    • July 2018’s veterans’ unemployment rate of 3.0 percent matched the lowest rate since May 2001.
  • Unemployment rate for Americans without a high school diploma recently reached a record low.
  • Rate for disabled Americans recently hit a record low.
  • Blue-collar jobs recently grew at the fastest rate in more than three decades.
  • Poll found that 85 percent of blue-collar workers believe their lives are headed “in the right direction.”
    • 68 percent reported receiving a pay increase in the past year.
  • Last year, job satisfaction among American workers hit its highest level since 2005.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans rate now as a good time to find a quality job.
    • Optimism about the availability of good jobs has grown by 25 percent.
  • Added more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs since the election.
    • Manufacturing employment is growing at its fastest pace in more than two decades.
  • 100,000 new jobs supporting the production & transport of oil & natural gas.

American Income

  • Median household income rose to $61,372 in 2017, a post-recession high.
  • Wages up in August by their fastest rate since June 2009.
  • Paychecks rose by 3.3 percent between 2016 and 2017, the most in a decade.
  • Council of Economic Advisers found that real wage compensation has grown by 1.4 percent over the past year.
  • Some 3.9 million Americans off food stamps since the election.
  • Median income for Hispanic-Americans rose by 3.7 percent and surpassed $50,000 for the first time ever in history.
    • Home-ownership among Hispanics is at the highest rate in nearly a decade.
  • Poverty rates for African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans have reached their lowest levels ever recorded.

American Optimism

  • Small business optimism has hit historic highs.
    • NFIB’s small business optimism index broke a 35 year-old record in August.
    • SurveyMonkey/CNBC’s small business confidence survey for Q3 of 2018 matched its all-time high.
  • Manufacturers are more confident than ever.
    • 95 percent of U.S. manufacturers are optimistic about the future, the highest ever.
  • Consumer confidence is at an 18-year high.
  • 12 percent of Americans rate the economy as the most significant problem facing our country, the lowest level on record.
  • Confidence in the economy is near a two-decade high, with 51 percent rating the economy as good or excellent.

American Business

  • Investment is flooding back into the United States due to the tax cuts.
    • Over $450 billion dollars has already poured back into the U.S., including more than $300 billion in the first quarter of 2018.
  • Retail sales have surged. Commerce Department figures from August show that retail sales increased 0.5 percent in July 2018, an increase of 6.4 percent from July 2017.
  • ISM’s index of manufacturing scored its highest reading in 14 years.
  • Worker productivity is the highest it has been in more than three years.
  • Steel and aluminum producers are re-opening.
  • Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, and NASDAQ have all notched record highs.
    • Dow hit record highs 70 times in 2017 alone, the most ever recorded in one year.

Deregulation

  • Achieved massive deregulation at a rapid pace, completing 22 deregulatory actions to every one regulatory action during his first year in office.
  • Signed legislation to roll back costly and harmful provisions of Dodd-Frank, providing relief to credit unions, and community and regional banks.
  • Federal agencies achieved more than $8 billion in lifetime net regulatory cost savings.
  • Rolled back Obama’s burdensome Waters of the U.S. rule.
  • Used the Congressional Review Act to repeal regulations more times than in history.

Tax Cuts

  • Biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history by signing the Tax Cuts and Jobs act into law
    • Provided more than $5.5 trillion in gross tax cuts, nearly 60 percent of which will go to families.
    • Increased the exemption for the death tax to help save Family Farms & Small Business.
    • Nearly doubled the standard deduction for individuals and families.
    • Enabled vast majority of American families will be able to file their taxes on a single page by claiming the standard deduction.
    • Doubled the child tax credit to help lessen the financial burden of raising a family.
    • Lowered America’s corporate tax rate from the highest in the developed world to allow American businesses to compete and win.
    • Small businesses can now deduct 20 percent of their business income.
    • Cut dozens of special interest tax breaks and closed loopholes for the wealthy.
  • 9 in 10 American workers are expected see an increase in their paychecks thanks to the tax cuts, according to the Treasury Department.
  • More than 6 million of American workers have received wage increases, bonuses, and increased benefits thanks to tax cuts.
  • Over 100 utility companies have lowered electric, gas, or water rates thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
  • Ernst & Young found 89 percent of companies planned to increase worker compensation thanks to the Trump tax cuts.
  • Established opportunity zones to spur investment in left behind communities.

Worker Development

  • Established a National Council for the American Worker to develop a national strategy for training and retraining America’s workers for high-demand industries.
  • Employers have signed Trump’s “Pledge to America’s Workers,” committing to train or retrain more than 4.2 million workers and students.
  • Signed the first Perkins CTE reauthorization since 2006, authorizing more than $1 billion for states each year to fund vocational and career education programs.
  • Executive order expanding apprenticeship opportunities for students and workers.

Domestic Infrastructure

  • Proposed infrastructure plan would utilize $200 billion in Federal funds to spur at least $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment across the country.
  • Executive order expediting environmental reviews and approvals for high priority infrastructure projects.
  • Federal agencies have signed the One Federal Decision Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) streamlining the federal permitting process for infrastructure projects.
  • Rural prosperity task force and signed an executive order to help expand broadband access in rural areas.

Health Care

  • Signed an executive order to help minimize the financial burden felt by American households Signed legislation to improve the National Suicide Hotline.
  • Signed the most comprehensive childhood cancer legislation ever into law, which will advance childhood cancer research and improve treatments.
  • Signed Right-to-Try legislation, expanding health care options for terminally ill patients.
  • Enacted changes to the Medicare 340B program, saving seniors an estimated $320 million on drugs in 2018 alone.
  • FDA set a new record for generic drug approvals in 2017, saving consumers nearly $9 billion.
  • Released a blueprint to drive down drug prices for American patients, leading multiple major drug companies to announce they will freeze or reverse price increases.
  • Expanded short-term, limited-duration health plans.
  • Let more employers to form Association Health Plans, enabling more small businesses to join together and affordably provide health insurance to their employees.
  • Cut Obamacare’s burdensome individual mandate penalty.
  • Signed legislation repealing Obamacare’s Independent Payment Advisory Board, also known as the “death panels.”
  • USDA invested more than $1 billion in rural health care in 2017, improving access to health care for 2.5 million people in rural communities across 41 states
  • Proposed Title X rule to help ensure taxpayers do not fund the abortion industry in violation of the law.
  • Reinstated and expanded the Mexico City Policy to keep foreign aid from supporting the global abortion industry.
  • HHS formed a new division over protecting the rights of conscience and religious freedom.
  • Overturned Obama administration’s midnight regulation prohibiting states from defunding certain abortion facilities.
  • Signed executive order to help ensure that religious organizations are not forced to choose between violating their religious beliefs by complying with Obamacare’s contraceptive mandate or shutting their doors.

Combating Opioids

  • Chaired meeting the 73rd General Session of the United Nations discussing the worldwide drug problem with international leaders.
  • Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand, introducing new measures to keep dangerous drugs out of our communities.
  • $6 billion in new funding to fight the opioid epidemic.
  • DEA conducted a surge in April 2018 that arrested 28 medical professions and revoked 147 registrations for prescribing too many opioids.
  • Brought the “Prescribed to Death” memorial to President’s Park near the White House, helping raise awareness about the human toll of the opioid crisis.
  • Helped reduce high-dose opioid prescriptions by 16 percent in 2017.
  • Opioid Summit on the administration-wide efforts to combat the opioid crisis.
  • Launched a national public awareness campaign about the dangers of opioid addiction.
  • Created a Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis which recommended a number of pathways to tackle the opioid crisis.
  • Led two National Prescription Drug Take Back Days in 2017 and 2018, collecting a record number of expired and unneeded prescription drugs each time.
  • $485 million targeted grants in FY 2017 to help areas hit hardest by the opioid crisis.
  • Signed INTERDICT Act, strengthening efforts to detect and intercept synthetic opioids before they reach our communities.
  • DOJ secured its first-ever indictments against Chinese fentanyl manufacturers.
  • Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team, aimed at disrupting online illicit opioid sales.
  • Declared the opioid crisis a Nationwide Public Health Emergency in October 2017.

Law and Order

  • More U.S. Circuit Court judges confirmed in the first year in office than ever.
  • Confirmed more than two dozen U. S. Circuit Court judges.
  • Followed through on the promise to nominate judges to the Supreme Court who will adhere to the Constitution
    • Nominated and confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
  • Signed an executive order directing the Attorney General to develop a strategy to more effectively prosecute people who commit crimes against law enforcement officers.
  • Launched an evaluation of grant programs to make sure they prioritize the protection and safety of law enforcement officers.
  • Established a task force to reduce crime and restore public safety in communities across Signed an executive order to focus more federal resources on dismantling transnational criminal organizations such as drug cartels.
  • Signed an executive order to focus more federal resources on dismantling transnational criminal organizations such as drug cartels.
  • Violent crime decreased in 2017 according to FBI statistics.
  • $137 million in grants through the COPS Hiring Program to preserve jobs, increase community policing capacities, and support crime prevention efforts.
  • Enhanced and updated the Project Safe Neighborhoods to help reduce violent crime.
  • Signed legislation making it easier to target websites that enable sex trafficking and strengthened penalties for people who promote or facilitate prostitution.
  • Created an interagency task force working around the clock to prosecute traffickers, protect victims, and prevent human trafficking.
  • Conducted Operation Cross Country XI to combat human trafficking, rescuing 84 children and arresting 120 human traffickers.
  • Encouraged federal prosecutors to use the death penalty when possible in the fight against the trafficking of deadly drugs.
  • New rule effectively banning bump stock sales in the United States.

Border Security and Immigration

  • Secured $1.6 billion for border wall construction in the March 2018 omnibus bill.
  • Construction of a 14-mile section of border wall began near San Diego.
  • Worked to protect American communities from the threat posed by the vile MS-13 gang.
    • ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division arrested 796 MS-13 members and associates in FY 2017, an 83 percent increase from the prior year.
    • Justice worked with partners in Central America to secure criminal charges against more than 4,000 MS-13 members.
    • Border Patrol agents arrested 228 illegal aliens affiliated with MS-13 in FY 2017.
  • Fighting to stop the scourge of illegal drugs at our border.
    • ICE HSI seized more than 980,000 pounds of narcotics in FY 2017, including 2,370 pounds of fentanyl and 6,967 pounds of heroin.
    • ICE HSI dedicated nearly 630,000 investigative hours towards halting the illegal import of fentanyl.
    • ICE HSI made 11,691 narcotics-related arrests in FY 2017.
    • Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand introduced new measures to keep dangerous drugs out the United States.
    • Signed the INTERDICT Act into law, enhancing efforts to detect and intercept synthetic opioids.
    • DOJ secured its first-ever indictments against Chinese fentanyl manufacturers.
    • DOJ launched their Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement (J-CODE) team, aimed at disrupting online illicit opioid sales.
  • Released an immigration framework that includes the resources required to secure our borders and close legal loopholes, and repeatedly called on Congress to fix our broken immigration laws.
  • Authorized the deployment of the National Guard to help secure the border.
  • Enhanced vetting of individuals entering the U.S. from countries that don’t meet security standards, helping to ensure individuals who pose a threat to our country are identified before they enter.
    • These procedures were upheld in a June 2018 Supreme Court hearing.
  • ICE removed over 226,000 illegal aliens from the United States in 2017.
    • ICE rescued or identified over 500 human trafficking victims and over 900 child exploitation victims in 2017 alone.
  • In 2017, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) arrested more than 127,000 aliens with criminal convictions or charges, responsible for
    • Over 76,000 with dangerous drug offenses.
    • More than 48,000 with assault offenses.
    • More than 11,000 with weapons offenses.
    • More than 5,000 with sexual assault offenses.
    • More than 2,000 with kidnapping offenses.
    • Over 1,800 with homicide offenses.
  • Created the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office in order to support the victims and families affected by illegal alien crime.
  • More than doubled the number of counties participating in the 287(g) program, which allows jails to detain criminal aliens until they are transferred to ICE custody.

Trade

  • Negotiating and renegotiating better trade deals, achieving free, fair, and reciprocal trade for the United States.
    • Agreed to work with the European Union towards zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsides.
    • Deal with the European Union to increase U.S. energy exports to Europe.
    • Litigated multiple WTO disputes targeting unfair trade practices and upholding our right to enact fair trade laws.
    • Finalized a revised trade agreement with South Korea, which includes provisions to increase American automobile exports.
    • Negotiated an historic U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement to replace NAFTA.
    • Agreement to begin trade negotiations for a U.S.-Japan trade agreement.
    • Secured $250 billion in new trade and investment deals in China and $12 billion in Vietnam.
    • Established a Trade and Investment Working Group with the United Kingdom, laying the groundwork for post-Brexit trade.
  • Enacted steel and aluminum tariffs to protect our vital steel and aluminum producers and strengthen our national security.
  • Conducted 82 anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations in 2017 alone.
  • Confronting China’s unfair trade practices after years of Washington looking the other way.
    • 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of goods imported from China and later imposed an additional 10% tariff on $200 billion of Chinese goods.
    • Conducted an investigation into Chinese forced technology transfers, unfair licensing practices, and intellectual property theft.
    • Imposed safeguard tariffs to protect domestic washing machines and solar products manufacturers hurt by China’s trade policies
  • Withdrew from the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
  • Secured access to new markets for America’s farmers.
    • Recent deal with Mexico included new improvements enabling food and agriculture to trade more fairly.
    • Recent agreement with the E.U. will reduce barriers and increase trade of American soybeans to Europe.
    • Won a WTO dispute regarding Indonesia’s unfair restriction of U.S. agricultural exports.
    • Defended American Tuna fisherman and packagers before the WTO
    • Opened up Argentina to American pork experts for the first time in a quarter-century
    • American beef exports have returned to china for the first time in more than a decade
  • OK’d up to $12 billion in aid for farmers affected by unfair trade retaliation.

Energy

  • Presidential Memorandum to clear roadblocks to construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
  • Presidential Memorandum declaring that the Dakota Access Pipeline serves the national interest and initiating the process to complete construction.
  • Opened up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to energy exploration.
  • Coal exports up over 60 percent in 2017.
  • Rolled back the “stream protection rule” to prevent it from harming America’s coal industry.
  • Cancelled Obama’s anti-coal Clean Power Plan and proposed the Affordable Clean Energy Rule as a replacement.
  • Withdrew from the job-killing Paris climate agreement, which would have cost the U.S. nearly $3 trillion and led to 6.5 million fewer industrial sector jobs by 2040.
  • U.S. oil production has achieved its highest level in American history
  • United States is now the largest crude oil producer in the world.
  • U.S. has become a net natural gas exporter for the first time in six decades.
  • Action to expedite the identification and extraction of critical minerals that are vital to the nation’s security and economic prosperity.
  • Took action to reform National Ambient Air Quality Standards, benefitting American manufacturers.
  • Rescinded Obama’s hydraulic fracturing rule, which was expected to cost the industry $32 million per year.
  • Proposed an expansion of offshore drilling as part of an all-of-the above energy strategy
    • Held a lease sale for offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico in August 2018.
  • Got EU to increase its imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States.
  • Issued permits for the New Burgos Pipeline that will cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Foreign Policy

  • Moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
  • Withdrew from Iran deal and immediately began the process of re-imposing sanctions that had been lifted or waived.
    • Treasury has issued sanctions targeting Iranian activities and entities, including the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force
    • Since enacting sanctions, Iran’s crude exports have fallen off, the value of Iran’s currency has plummeted, and international companies have pulled out of the country.
    • All nuclear-related sanctions will be back in full force by early November 2018.
  • Historic summit with North Korean President Kim Jong-Un, bringing beginnings of peace and denuclearization to the Korean Peninsula.
    • The two leaders have exchanged letters and high-level officials from both sides have met resulting in tremendous progress.
    • North Korea has halted nuclear and missile tests.
    • Negotiated the return of the remains of missing-in-action soldiers from the Korean War.
  • Imposed strong sanctions on Venezuelan dictator Nicholas Maduro and his inner circle.
  • Executive order preventing those in the U.S. from carrying out certain transactions with the Venezuelan regime, including prohibiting the purchase of the regime’s debt.
  • Responded to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime.
    • Rolled out sanctions targeting individuals and entities tied to Syria’s chemical weapons program.
    • Directed strikes in April 2017 against a Syrian airfield used in a chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians.
    • Joined allies in launching airstrikes in April 2018 against targets associated with Syria’s chemical weapons use.
  • New Cuba policy that enhanced compliance with U.S. law and held the Cuban regime accountable for political oppression and human rights abuses.
    • Treasury and State are working to channel economic activity away from the Cuban regime, particularly the military.
  • Changed the rules of engagement, empowering commanders to take the fight to ISIS.
    • ISIS has lost virtually all of its territory, more than half of which has been lost under Trump.
    • ISIS’ self-proclaimed capital city, Raqqah, was liberated in October 2017.
    • All Iraqi territory had been liberated from ISIS.
  • More than a dozen American hostages have been freed from captivity all of the world.
  • Action to combat Russia’s malign activities, including their efforts to undermine the sanctity of United States elections.
    • Expelled dozens of Russian intelligence officers from the United States and ordered the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle, WA.
    • Banned the use of Kaspersky Labs software on government computers, due to the company’s ties to Russian intelligence.
    • Imposed sanctions against five Russian entities and three individuals for enabling Russia’s military and intelligence units to increase Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities.
    • Sanctions against seven Russian oligarchs, and 12 companies they own or control, who profit from Russia’s destabilizing activities.
    • Sanctioned 100 targets in response to Russia’s occupation of Crimea and aggression in Eastern Ukraine.
    • Enhanced support for Ukraine’s Armed Forces to help Ukraine better defend itself.
  • Helped win U.S. bid for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.
  • Helped win U.S.-Mexico-Canada’s united bid for 2026 World Cup.

Defense

  • Executive order keeping the detention facilities at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay open.
  • $700 billion in military funding for FY 2018 and $716 billion for FY 2019.
  • Largest military pay raise in nearly a decade.
  • Ordered a Nuclear Posture Review to ensure America’s nuclear forces are up to date and serve as a credible deterrent.
  • Released America’s first fully articulated cyber strategy in 15 years.
  • New strategy on national biodefense, which better prepares the nation to defend against biological threats.
  • Administration has announced that it will use whatever means necessary to protect American citizens and servicemen from unjust prosecution by the International Criminal Court.
  • Released an America first National Security Strategy.
  • Put in motion the launch of a Space Force as a new branch of the military and relaunched the National Space Council.
  • Encouraged North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to increase defense spending to their agree-upon levels.
    • In 2017 alone, there was an increase of more than 4.8 percent in defense spending amongst NATO allies.
    • Every member state has increased defense spending.
    • Eight NATO allies will reach the 2 percent benchmark by the end of 2018 and 15 allies are on trade to do so by 2024.
    • NATO allies spent over $42 billion dollars more on defense since 2016.
  • Executive order to help military spouses find employment as their families deploy domestically and abroad.

Veterans affairs

  • Signed the VA Accountability Act and expanded VA telehealth services, walk-in-clinics, and same-day urgent primary and mental health care.
  • Delivered more appeals decisions – 81,000 – to veterans in a single year than ever before.
  • Strengthened protections for individuals who come forward and identify programs occurring within the VA.
  • Signed legislation that provided $86.5 billion in funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the largest dollar amount in history for the VA.
  • VA MISSION Act, enacting sweeping reform to the VA system that:
    • Consolidated and strengthened VA community care programs.
    • Funding for the Veterans Choice program.
    • Expanded eligibility for the Family Caregivers Program.
    • Gave veterans more access to walk-in care.
    • Strengthened the VA’s ability to recruit and retain quality healthcare professionals.
    • Enabled the VA to modernize its assets and infrastructure.
  • Signed the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act in 2017, which authorized $2.1 billion in addition funds for the Veterans Choice Program.
  • Worked to shift veterans’ electronic medical records to the same system used by the Department of Defense, a decades old priority.
  • Issued an executive order requiring the Secretaries of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs to submit a joint plan to provide veterans access to access to mental health treatment as they transition to civilian life.
  • Increased transparency and accountability at the VA by launching an online “Access and Quality Tool,” providing veterans with access to wait time and quality of care data.
  • Signed legislation to modernize the claims and appeal process at the VA.
  • Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act, providing enhanced educational benefits to veterans, service members, and their family members.
    • Lifted a 15-year limit on veterans’ access to their educational benefits.
  • Created a White House VA Hotline to help veterans and principally staffed it with veterans and direct family members of veterans.
  • VA employees are being held accountable for poor performance, with more than 4,000 VA employees removed, demoted, and suspended so far.
  • Signed the Veterans Treatment Court Improvement Act, increasing the number of VA employees that can assist justice-involved veterans.

Source: Washington Examiner