Brock Long’s abuse of government vehicles, staff time and taxpayer dollars made landfall this week, as early reports of an inspector general’s investigation turned into a raging storm and put Long’s job in immediate risk.
We found out just a week ago that Long was under internal investigation for his frequent trips between Washington, D.C. and North Carolina. He repeatedly took with him a fleet of FEMA cars with FEMA drivers and FEMA staff who stayed in FEMA-funded hotel rooms. The news broke as FEMA was under scrutiny for its ongoing handling of Hurricane Florence, and for Long’s refusal to correct the President’s baseless conspiracy theory about Hurricane Maria’s death toll.
Long granted Sunday that “some policies were not developed” regarding his use of vehicles, but it appears that doesn’t begin to cover it: The House Oversight Committee is involved, as are federal prosecutors. That most recent development reportedly almost led to Long quitting altogether. For now, he remains.
In 1991, the White House, upon learning of Anita Hill’s sexual harassment complaint against then-nominee Clarence Thomas, directed the FBI to expand Clarence’s background file with further investigation. President Donald Trump, faced with a similar situation, has not, saying investigations aren’t the FBI’s “thing.”
Just as the Department of Homeland Security diverted funds from other programs to fund ICE’s deportation machine, so too has the Department of Health and Human Services, which houses migrant children in government custody, diverted millions of dollars from other programs to increase their capacity for migrant child detention. The State Department, meanwhile, announced a record low refugee ceiling for the coming year.
Attorney Jeff Sessions has continued to heavily involve himself in immigration cases, where he has a unique ability to set precedent. Immigration judges are part of the executive branch, and Sessions on Wednesday released his latest edict, ruling that immigration judges cannot dismiss removal proceedings except in a limited set of circumstances. It’s part of his larger effort to quicken decisions and deportations, including by requiring judges to meet case quotas.
The Trump administration has argued that coal and nuclear power plants on the brink of closure deserve government handouts to keep functioning because they’re more stable energy providers during disasters. Hurricane Florence proved that argument false — as members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission did months ago. As it happens, that bipartisan commission, which is now majority Trump-appointed, happens to have a chief of staff who loves far-right European nationalists. “Salvini seems like a boss,” he wrote in one email, referring to Italy’s anti-immigrant deputy prime minister and well-known Trump campaign VIP.
The Trump administration formally rolled back methane rules this week, allowing more of one of the potent drivers of climate change to leak into the atmosphere.
The administration’s also relaxed regulations on the storage of coal ash; Florence’s landfall — worsened, scientists quickly determined, by climate change — led to the collapse of a landfill containing roughly 180 dump trucks worth of that ash, which may have flowed into the Cape Fear River.