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Other View: Trump tweet about wiretapping is worth investigating

The following editorial appears on Bloomberg View:

When President Donald Trump claimed on Twitter that his predecessor had tapped his phones, he created something of a metaphysical crisis. No one — not the Justice Department, not Congress and least of all the president himself — seemed able to ascertain the truth about the accusation. Now that they’ve had some time to look into it, what do they say?

“We don’t have any evidence,” says the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee. “No evidence,” says his Democratic counterpart. “I think you’re going to find some very interesting items coming to the forefront over the next two weeks,” muses the president, citing no evidence.

Trump’s press secretary now asserts that while the president’s tweets were inaccurate, they nonetheless conveyed a deeper truth about “surveillance and other activities.” The official position of the White House seems to be that Trump’s claim, like Schroedinger’s cat, lies in superposition, simultaneously true and not true.

It would probably be best to just leave it at that. Except that, in his uncanny way, Trump has stumbled onto a few important questions. For starters: Are federal investigators still probing the Trump campaign’s relationship with the Russian government? If so, were Trump or his associates ever under any kind of surveillance? If so, did it yield any evidence of wrongdoing?

If intelligence or law-enforcement agencies were lawfully eavesdropping on Trump’s associates, either they had a court order to do so or those associates were in contact with foreign agents who were already under surveillance. Either possibility, to put it mildly, would require some explaining.

That has not been a strong suit of Trump’s White House — or, for that matter, the rest of the executive branch. The Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Federal Bureau of Investigation, says it’s being stonewalled by the Justice Department. The House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s meddling in the election, says the same of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The result of this generalized chaos is that the public has no idea what to think. When Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Nebraska, said that the president has created a “civilization-warping crisis of public trust,” he was exaggerating — but not by much.

The only thing that can restore that trust is transparency. The Justice Department must be far more forthcoming with the public about this episode. The White House needs to stop dissembling about it. And Congress should establish an independent commission to publicly investigate it.

“The regular order is not working,” says Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina. He might have been referring to the political universe as once understood.

Readers Comment: Abortion bill was no laughing matter

Two editorials In the Times-News are a must read for concerned people to understand the importance of women’s right to choose whether or not to bear a child.

The opinions are Neal Larson’s “Trump Pace Fitting of Private Sector“ (Feb. 5) and Bob Sojka’s “Viva Lysistrata“ (Jan. 26).

The Sojka piece is significant for the threat posed by state Sen. Dan Foreman to introduce legislation classifying abortion as first-degree murder for the woman and her physician. The man equally responsible is not mentioned.

The Larson piece is dealing with the fights for recognition of their rights and among the casual comments a jab is directed at Nancy Pelosi about Gorsuch as the SCOTUS pick. Larson says, “with a bit of fear mongering (by Nancy) that Gorsuch is a threat to clean air, water and women’s rights and grandma ... “

He concluded, “Looking past the hypocrisy, however, out-of-power progressives unintentionally are hysterically funny ... and their tantrums are spectacles to remember.”

Nothing humorous about the last chance for a woman’s survival is an abortion. Ever since the publication of my 1981 book, “Legal Abortion’ A Woman’s Right,” I have followed the cases chipping away at the Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court Decision that gave women the right to choose.

I decided to see who would be effected by these changes and to what degree. I went to the respected Guttmacher Institute and the United States Agency for Development. This leg of my research was made more serious by the news release of President Trump signing the Global Gag Rule on Jan. 24, with the photo caption reading, “President Donald Trump shows off a signed executive order to reinstate a policy barring any recipient of U.S. assistance from performing or promoting abortions abroad with money they receive from non U.S. sources.”

This order dealt with the global gag order formerly called, “Mexico City Policy” first installed by Republicans in 1984, rejected by Democrats, and now reinstated by Trump. The author of America First just assumed the role of ruler over women’s constitutional rights for family planning, abortions and medical services. He stopped the care of professionals and the distribution of medical information to women around the world. With the denial of this medical care, he forces desperate women into the hands of alley practitioners of illegal abortions, which frequently result in infection and, often, death.

Guttmacher provides more facts. “Every year, hundreds of thousands of women die in pregnancy or childbirth; 99 percent of these deaths occur in the developing world and the vast majority are preventable. Fully satisfying the unmet need for modern contraception of 225 million women would avert an additional 52 million unintended pregnancies and 70,000 maternal deaths.”

Sojka shares my fear of the potential danger of growing attacks on women’s rights. Check out the numbers and the reliability of the sources. Criminal charges of murder of our own babies is no laughing matter.

Idaho View: Just when things started looking up in Boise

This appeared in the Idaho Falls Post Register:

If you’ve ever wondered what elected representatives and senators can do for their districts during the off-season months, take a look at a couple of examples of good legislative work that came up this week.

First, Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, heard from property owners in her district that gas and oil industry operators had been taking advantage of them. The 46-page bill she introduced in response last week was the result of months of work with Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, Department of Lands Director Tom Schultz, other legislators and, of course, her constituents. If it becomes law, oil and gas operators must gain approval from more royalty property owners in a “spacing unit” and open up more of the citing process to the public.

Next, Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, prevailed in her proposal to give districts the freedom to use leftover funding after health care expenses at their own discretion. A competing bill would have kept health care expenses as a separate line item. Horman told Clark Corbin of Idaho Education News that “Given there was such a strong opposition to new line items and, in fact, a call to consolidate line items, we decided to find a hybrid way to both identify costs for this year and identify projections as we move forward.” Horman’s thorough understanding of the myriad ways school districts could use un-earmarked funding and of the state’s complicated and overworked system of budgeting—and her goals for fixing it—have paid off again.

Finally, civil asset forfeiture. This one was a rare animal, indeed. Written by Idaho Freedom Foundation-approved conservative Rep. Steven Harris, R-Meridian, and Democratic Rep. Ilana Rubel, Boise, this civil asset forfeiture bill is a much-needed bipartisan “Kumbaya” moment for our state. The bill, which passed the House last week, limits the practice of police confiscating property they suspect may be linked to drug crimes and keeping it without any clear due process for the owner to get it back if they’re not charged.

Given that excellent example, it feels like kind of a freefall when you look at the real stinkers from the same period.

Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, and Rep. Christy Zito, R-Hammett, attempted to kill a bill that would update Idaho’s notary law, last updated in the 1980s—before electronic signatures and e-documents were invented. Scott and Zito took issue with the idea that the 1980s version of the notary law would be replaced with “Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts,” from the Uniform Law Commission.

Scott thought the commission, which proposes model legislation that puts Idaho in compliance with other states, was too new-fangled. According to a report by Betsy Z. Russell in the Spokesman-Review, Scott said she thought Idaho had been adopting uniform law for only a couple of years. Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, a member of the Uniform Law Commission since around 2001, was quick to point out the commission had been in place since the late 19th century.

Not one to back down, Scott moved to hold the bill in committee since laws like the notary update were “globalized planning for Idaho law.” She lost because her argument made little sense. Legislators should never become speed bumps when they’re arguing on behalf of their constituencies, but doesn’t Scott ever tire of being wrong, then looking foolish for refusing to quit when it becomes apparent she has no idea what she’s talking about?

But the worst and wackiest of the week goes to Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, who introduced a bill to exempt communications, including emails, between Idaho legislators from public disclosure. Why? So they can more “freely” discuss legislation.

That’s right. The legislation they’re writing because they are elected to represent the public is apparently too full of secrets for public view.

Makes no sense to us either.

House Speaker Scott Bedke told reporters, “Don’t panic.” He felt the bill was “borne out of frustration” from those lawmakers who can’t afford to pay staff and must process public records requests themselves. But the part that makes us a little panicky, frankly, is that the bill passed out of the House State Affairs committee without a hearing, without debate and without discussion.

What could a bill like this do in a state where it turns out businessmen casually suggest in emails to their political allies that Fish and Game commissioners shouldn’t be reappointed because they refuse to consider something the public doesn’t want, but the businessman does? It’s not like that’s ever happened.

These depths of darkness are where democracy goes to die.