On today's BradCast: It's kind of amazing that Trump's wildly corrupt Interior Dept. Secretary Ryan Zinke is still in office. Now that the EPA's Scott Pruitt is gone, and Interior just accidentally released a whole bunch of revealing information, maybe Zinke is a bit closer to the exit door. [Audio link to show follows below.]
But first up today, results from Tennessee's primary elections on Thursday, and the outlook for November in the key U.S. Senate race to replace the state's outgoing Republican Sen. Bob Corker. Popular former Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen is now set to face off against the very Trumpy GOP nominee Rep. Marsha Blackburn in a race is central to Democrats' chances of winning back a majority in the upper chamber of Congress in this year's midterms.
Following up our preview yesterday of next week's important U.S. House Special Election in Ohio's 12th Congressional District --- where Democratic candidate Danny O'Connor could very well flip that seat from "red" to "blue" on Tuesday --- our stable genius President tweeted out an endorsement yesterday for a Republican who is not even running in the race.
Also today, some encouraging news out of Texas, where the corporate owners and manager of the Arkema Chemical plant near Houston were indicted on Friday, following the "reckless" release of toxins into the air during an explosion at the plant amid Hurricane Harvey flooding last year.
Then, we're joined by AARON WEISS, Media Director of the Center for Western Priorities (and host of its Go West, Young Podcast), to explain the "monumental" screw-up last month when the U.S. Department of Interior accidentally released unredacted documents regarding the agency's deliberations over the unprecedented lifting of federal protections for a huge portion of the Grand Staircase-Escalante monument in Utah.
"We'd always suspected that the outcome was preordained. But this really makes it crystal clear that the fix was in from the beginning," Weiss tells me, detailing the Department's subsequent redactions in the documents, revealing what Zinke's agency hoped the public wouldn't find out. Namely, that priceless archaeological treasures, native American relics, and a huge tourist and recreational industry benefiting the local economies, are now endangered by the unprecedented closure of nearly half of the Grand Staircase and some 85% of Bears Ears monument (also in Utah). The two monuments are the first to be scaled back in response to Donald Trump's executive order calling for the review of some 27 national monuments established by previous Presidents.
Weiss explains the how the screw-up came about in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests: "Under the Freedom of Information Act, you're allowed to redact certain things. But then you also have this very broad exception, it's called the 'B-5 deliberative process exemption.' And it's supposed to be so that officials can discuss policy options candidly. But oftentimes we see that B5 redaction being used as what's called the 'because I want to' redaction. And that's exactly what happened here, because they wanted to redact stuff that didn't look good for them, they called that stuff 'deliberative'. even though many of these sections were not discussing policy options, they were just basic facts."
"If you look at what got mistakenly unredacted in just this one document, and think about the tens of thousands of other pages already released and yet to be released, it does raise huge questions about the way they're abusing that B5 deliberative exemption."
He goes on to offer an update on the several legal challenges facing the unprecedented closures by the Trump Administration, and how the unredacted revelations underscore Team Trump's pretty clear aim of aiding their friends in the fossil fuel extraction industry at the expense of all others. Weiss also highlights a newly emerging scandal regarding what appears to be a wildly corrupt development deal in Zinke's hometown of Whitefish, Montana, involving the Secretary, his wife, and the CEO of oil services giant Halliburton.
Finally today, we share a portion of a short video rant unleashed yesterday by Ring of Fire co-host Farron Cousins, regarding concerns about election system security and hacking in the upcoming election. In the clip, he argues that these worries might have been avoided entirely had both Democrats and Republicans listened "to people like Brad Friedman at The BRAD BLOG" who have been warning about these concerns "for more than 14 years". "If we would have listened to them years ago," Cousins argues, "we wouldn't even be having this conversation today." [Fact-check: Mostly true!]
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)