Report: Mike Pompeo Planning to Resign as Secretary of State

H8 mike pompeo secretary state time magazine resigning senate kansas

Time magazine is reporting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is planning to resign from the Trump administration and run for a U.S. Senate seat in Kansas next year. Pompeo has come under fire during the ongoing impeachment hearings against President Trump, with many criticizing him for failing to defend State Department officials and protect U.S. policies against Trump’s efforts to politicize foreign affairs. Pompeo has not publicly confirmed his planned resignation.

Trump impeachment inquiry: 10 developments you may have missed

Transcripts, scheduled public hearings and more depositions: What happened this week in the Trump impeachment inquiry?

FILE - In this Dec. 13, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood and Trump’s charitable foundation reached a deal on Tuesday, Dec. 18 to dissolve the foundation and distribute its remaining assets to other nonprofit groups. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) [The Associated Press]

FILE – In this Dec. 13, 2018, file photo, President Donald Trump listens during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood and Trump’s charitable foundation reached a deal on Tuesday, Dec. 18 to dissolve the foundation and distribute its remaining assets to other nonprofit groups. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) [The Associated Press]

Democrats leading the House of Representatives’s impeachment inquiry of US President Donald Trump took a significant step this week, announcing the first public hearings of the probe.

The hearings, scheduled for next week, come after House investigators released the transcripts from closed-door sessions with a number of key witnesses.

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This week’s developments also included a witness revising his testimony after his memory was “refreshed”, and a report that Trump sought a public declaration from the Department of Justice clearing him of any wrongdoing – a report the US president denied.

The impeachment investigation is focused on a July 25 phone call in which Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate former Vice President Biden, a leading Democratic rival, and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company that had been investigated for corruption. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.

Trump froze nearly $400m in US military assistance to Ukraine shortly before speaking to Zelenskyy, prompting accusations from Democrats that he had misused taxpayer dollars destined for a vulnerable US ally for personal gain.

Trump has repeatedly said there was no “quid pro quo” (Latin for a “favour for a favour”) and labelled the inquiry a “witch-hunt”.

As the impeachment probe prepares to enter the public hearing phase, here are 10 key developments related to the probe from this week.

1. Public hearing schedule

Adam Schiff, who is leading the impeachment investigation, said the committee will hear from top Ukraine diplomat William Taylor and career department official George Kent next Wednesday and from former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch next Friday.

All three state department officials had previously appeared in the closed-door sessions.

Stay up-to-date on the public hearing schedule here.

2. Gordon Sondland: A ‘refreshed’ memory

Gordon Sondland, a top ally of Trump and the US ambassador to the EU, had initially denied knowledge of any link between the Ukraine military aid and Trump’s request that the Eastern European country investigate the Bidens. But he revised his testimony this week, saying that “in the absence of any credible explanation for the suspension of aid, I presumed that the aid suspension had become linked to the proposed anti-corruption statement”.

The details appeared to bolster the initial whistle-blower complaint that led to the investigation by three US House of Representatives committees. The testimony also corroborated other witnesses who said Trump sought to pressure the Ukrainians into conducting investigations that appeared to be aimed at helping his re-election campaign.

sondland
Sondland, arrives for a joint interview with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Capitol Hill [File: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo]

The White House said the Sondland transcript undermined the impeachment inquiry. White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham pointed to Sondland’s inability to say who ordered the aid to Ukraine be withheld and that he admitted he “presumed” there was a link between the demand for a statement from the Ukrainians and releasing the aid.

Trump ally Sondland admits tying Ukraine aid to Biden probe

“No amount of salacious media-biased headlines, which are clearly designed to influence the narrative, change the fact that the president has done nothing wrong,” Grisham said in a statement.

Sondland sent a text message in September in which he said Trump insisted there was “no quid pro quos”.

But according to his testimony, he told a Ukrainian presidential adviser that the “resumption of US aid would likely not occur until Ukraine provided the public anti-corruption statement that we had been discussing for many weeks”.

Read more about Sondland’s testimony here.

3. Transcripts, transcripts and more transcripts

The transcripts of Kurt Volker, Michael McKinely, Marie Yovanovitch, William Taylor, George Kent, Fiona Hill and Alexander Vindman were also released this week.

Kurt Volker

Volker, Trump’s former special representative for Ukraine negotiations, detailed what he described as the role of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, as a conduit between Washington and Kyiv.

Volker and Sondland, with Trump’s secretary of energy, Rick Perry, were known as the “three amigos”, responsible for Trump’s unofficial channel to Ukrainian government officials, witnesses testified.

Volker
Kurt Volker, a former special envoy to Ukraine, arrives for a closed-door interview with House investigators, as House Democrats proceed with the impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump [File: Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]

Volker said his decision to resign on September 27 was because of the impeachment inquiry.

“I didn’t think I would be able to go to Ukraine or meet with Russians and be able to carry out those duties in that way anymore,” he said. He also said he wanted to provide testimony “with as much candour and integrity as I possibly could”.

Marie Yovanvitch

Yovanovitch, who was abruptly removed from her post as the US ambassador to Ukraine in May, told the inquiry on October 11 that she felt threatened by Trump describing her on the call to Zelenskyy as “bad news” a transcript showed.

“I was very concerned,” she said. “I still am.”

Yovanovitch
Former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, arrives on Capitol Hill [J Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]

A previously released White House summary of the call showed that Trump told Zelenskyy that the ambassador was “bad news” and was going to “go through some things”.

Trump impeachment inquiry: What do the first transcripts show?

Yovanovitch also told investigators she had been told to “watch my back” and that people were “looking to hurt” her.

Michael McKinley

McKinley told the inquiry last month that he recommended a statement of support for the now-removed US ambassador to Ukraine, Yovanovitch, but was told US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo decided “better not to … at this time”.

“The timing of my resignation was the result of two overriding concerns: the failure, in my view, of the State Department to offer support to Foreign Service employees caught up in the impeachment inquiry; and, second, by what appears to be the utilisation of our ambassadors overseas to advance domestic political objectives,” McKinley said, according to the transcript released by House committees.

William Taylor

Taylor, the top US diplomat in Ukraine, told the investigators he understood that the security assistance, and not just a White House meeting for Ukraine’s new president, was conditioned on the country committing to investigations of Joe Biden and the 2016 election.

“That was my clear understanding, security assistance money would not come until the president committed to pursue the investigation,” Taylor said.

Amassador impeach
Ambassador William Taylor is escorted by US Capitol Police as he arrives to testify before House committees [File: J Scott Applewhite/AP Photo]

Politicians asked if he was aware that “quid pro quo” meant “this for that”.

US diplomat had ‘clear understanding’ of Ukraine quid pro quo

“I am,” Taylor replied.

George Kent

Kent, a deputy assistant secretary of state, told the Trump impeachment inquiry that he was subject to attacks by Giuliani but was told to “keep my head down” by a senior State Department official.

Giuliani is central to the inquiry and has been mentioned frequently in testimony by State Department diplomats who have painted a picture of the former New York City mayor running a shadow US policy toward Ukraine to pressure it to carry out a corruption investigation into Biden and his son.

George Kent
George Kent, deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian Affairs, arrives to testify at a closed-door deposition as part of the impeachment inquiry into US President Donald Trump [File: Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

Kent mentioned Giuliani 73 times.

“His assertions and allegations against former Ambassador Yovanovitch were without basis, untrue, period,” Kent testified, referring to the Trump lawyer.

“Mr Giuliani, at that point, had been carrying on a campaign for several months full of lies and incorrect information about Ambassador Yovanovitch, so this was a continuation of his campaign of lies,” Kent said.

Giuliani has not commented on Kent’s testimony, but has said he played a role in the effort to remove Yovanovitch.

Kent said Ukrainian officials understood when they met Giuliani that he was not a regular private citizen and understood he represented Trump.

“Giuliani was not consulting with the State Department about what he was doing in the first half of 2019. And to the best of my knowledge, he’s never suggested that he was promoting US policy,” Kent said.

Kent also said that “POTUS wanted nothing less than President Zelenskyy to go to the microphone and say investigations, Biden and Clinton”.

According to the transcripts, he added: “That was the message … Zelenskyy needed to go to a microphone and basically, there needed to be three words in the message, and that was the shorthand.”

Fiona Hill

Hill, a former White House Russia adviser, said that during a White House meeting, Trump’s then-National Security Adviser John Bolton “immediately stiffened” as Sondland “blurted out: Well, we will have an agreement” with Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, “for a meeting if these investigations in the energy sector start” – a reference to the firm, Burisma, where Biden’s son was on a board.

Hill said then Bolton abruptly ended the meeting.

Alexander Vindman

Vindman, an Army officer assigned to the National Security Council, said he alerted superiors on two occasions, including after he listened to the July 25 call between Trump and Zelenskyy.

He also said there was “no ambiguity” that Sondland told Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens.

“There was no ambiguity. I guess, in my mind. He was calling for something, calling for an investigation that didn’t exist into the Bidens,” Vindman said.

He added that the US-Ukraine relations “is damaged” and “will continue to be damaged and undercut”.

4. More no-shows

A number of current and former Trump administration officials did not show up for their scheduled testimony this week, heeding to White House instructions to not comply with the investigation.

Among them was John Bolton, the former national security adviser who was forced out by Trump earlier this year.

A US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee official said that Bolton has threatened to take the committee to court if it subpoenas him. A congressional source to Reuters news agency said the inquiry is unlikely to go down that route.

The Washington Post, citing people familiar with Bolton’s views, said although he is willing, he wants to see how a court battle between Congress and the White House over the constitutionality of the subpoenas shakes out first. The battle is likely to go to the Supreme Court and could spill into next year.

President Donald  J. Trump (L) speaks as National security advisor John Bolton (R) listens during a meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington
rump speaks as then-National Security Adviser John Bolton listens during a meeting [File: Oliver Contreras/EPA-EFE]

Members of the committees conducting the inquiry have said they want to see if Bolton will corroborate previous witnesses’ testimony that he was alarmed at Trump asking a foreign government to get involved in domestic politics.

On Friday, the New York Times reported that Bolton’s lawyer said that his client was “part of many relevant meetings and conversations” pertaining the the impeachment inquiry.

Charles Cooper made the revelation in a letter that suggests Bolton will appear before Congress only if a judge orders him to do so.

The letter, addressed to the top lawyer for the House of Representatives, seeks to distinguish Bolton and former deputy Charles Kupperman from other current and former White House officials who have testified so far to impeachment investigators. The letter said that Bolton and Kupperman, unlike the other witnesses, provided direct advice to Trump regularly and would be asked during any congressional appearance to disclose sensitive foreign policy and national security information.

“As I emphasised in my previous responses to letters from the House Chairs, Dr Kupperman stands ready, as does Ambassador Bolton, to testify if the Judiciary resolves the conflict in favour of the legislative branch’s position respecting such testimony,” Cooper wrote.

Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s acting chief of staff, also failed to appear for a scheduled deposition.

Democrats subpoenaed Mulvaney late on Thursday as the White House signalled that he would not appear.

An official working on the inquiry told the Associated Press that Mulvaney’s lawyer informed the committees leading the impeachment probe one minute before the deposition was supposed to start that Mulvaney had been directed not to comply with the subpoena. The person said Mulvaney’s lawyer said he has “absolute immunity”, a claim that Democrats have challenged in court for other administration witnesses.

Mick Mulvaney - White House
Trump listens as Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney delivers a report during a Cabinet meeting [Shawn Thew/EPA]

Mulvaney said in a news conference last month that the Trump administration’s decision to hold up military aid was linked to Trump’s demand for the investigations. He later walked back his remarks, but Democrats said that was tantamount to a confession and have cited it as evidence in their inquiry.

5. Who did appear?

Jennifer Williams, a career foreign service officer and special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence for Europe and Russia, did testify in a closed-door hearing in front of members of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs, Intelligence and Oversight committees after receiving a subpoena to compel her testimony.

Williams was one of a handful of US officials who listened in on the call between Trump and the Ukrainian leader.

Williams told investigators she found Trump’s July call with Zelenskyy unusual because it was political, not diplomatic in nature, CNN reported, citing an unnamed source.

But she did not raise concerns about the call with her superiors and, when asked what Pence knew, said she never heard him mention anything about investigations of the 2016 elections, Burisma or the Bidens.

Pence aide
Jennifer Williams, special adviser for Europe and Russia in the Office of US Vice President Mike Pence arrives on Capitol Hill [File: Tom Brenner/Reuters]

The State Department’s third-ranking official also testified this week.

David Hale met with investigators for more than six hours. He was expected to tell the House committees that political considerations were behind the State Department’s refusal to deliver a robust defence of former Ambassador to Ukraine Yovanovitch.

6. Lev Parnas will comply: Reuters

Lev Parnas, an indicted Ukrainian American businessman who has ties to President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Giuliani, is now prepared to comply with requests for records and testimony from congressional impeachment investigators, his lawyer told Reuters News Agency this week.

Parnas helped Giuliani look for dirt on Biden.

Rudy Giuliani has coffee with  Lev Parnas
Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has coffee with Ukrainian American businessman Lev Parnas at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC [File: Aram Roston/Reuters]

His apparent decision to work with the congressional committees represents a change of heart. Parnas rebuffed a request from three House of Representatives committees last month to provide documents and testimony.

“We will honour and not avoid the committee’s requests to the extent they are legally proper, while scrupulously protecting Mr Parnas’s privileges including that of the Fifth Amendment,” said the lawyer, Joseph Bondy, referring to his client’s constitutional right to avoid self-incrimination.

7. Trump may release summary of April call with Zelenskyy

Trump said on Friday that he is considering releasing the transcript of an April call he had with Zelenskyy.

He says that if House investigators want to see a summary of the April 21 call, he has “no problem” giving it to them.

That call came three months before the July 25 call that sparked the impeachment inquiry.

U.S. President Trump meets with Ukraine's President Zelenskiy in New York City, New York
Zelenskyy speaks during a bilateral meeting with Trump on the sidelines of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Trump on Friday also dismissed the significance of the impeachment inquiry testimony that has been released so far.

He said, “No one seems to have any first-hand knowledge” and claims that, “Every one of those people cancelled themselves out.”

He’s criticised Democrats in the House for planning public hearings, even though the White House pushed for them to happen.

8. Did Trump ask DOJ to publicly clear him?

Trump on Thursday denied a report that he wanted Attorney General William Barr to hold a news conference to declare he broke no laws during a July phone call in which Trump pressed his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Democrats.

Trump denies he wanted Barr to publicly clear him

Trump tweeted just after midnight that the story, first reported by The Washington Post, “is totally untrue and just another FAKE NEWS story with anonymous sources that don’t exist”.

The Washington Post reported that Barr rebuffed the request, which came in September around the time the White House released a rough transcript of Trump’s July 25 call. The paper, citing unidentified people familiar with the effort, said the request was relayed from the president to White House officials, and then to the Justice Department.

Read more here.

9. White House adds aides to deal with impeachment investigation

The White House is beefing up its communications staff as it tries to grapple with the ongoing House impeachment investigation.

Pam Bondi, the former attorney general of Florida, and Tony Sayegh, a former Treasury Department spokesman, are expected to join the White House communications team to work on “proactive impeachment messaging” and other special projects, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal staffing, said that the roles would be temporary and that Bondi and Sayegh would be working as special government employees.

10. Whistle-blower offers to take written questions

The whistle-blower has offered to answer written questions submitted by House Republicans, his lawyers said.

The surprise offer on Sunday, made to Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the intelligence committee leading the inquiry, would allow Republicans to ask questions of the whistle-blower without having to go through the committee’s Democratic chairman, Adam Schiff.

 

Haley Said Kelly and Tillerson Told Her to Work Against Trump

H4 haley said kelly tillerson work against trump us ambassador united nations nikki haley white house chief staff john kelly

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley says former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told her to work against President Trump, reportedly saying they were “trying to save the country.” That’s according to Haley’s new book entitled “With All Due Respect.” Haley also writes that Tillerson told her people would die if Trump were allowed to govern unchecked.

“A Warning”: Anonymous Senior Official Slams Trump in New Book

download (2)NOV 08, 2019

A midnight self-massacre. That was the plan hatched by some senior Trump administration officials, who considered resigning en masse last year to sound the alarm about Trump’s conduct. They ultimately rejected the idea over concerns it would further destabilize the government.

The aborted warning is one of a series of revelations in a forthcoming book titled “A Warning.” Its author is an anonymous senior official within the Trump administration who published an anonymous op-ed in The New York Times last year titled “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”

In the book, the author describes senior officials waking up and trying to respond to Trump’s overnight Twitter announcements, writing, “It’s like showing up at the nursing home at daybreak to find your elderly uncle running pantsless across the courtyard and cursing loudly about the cafeteria food, as worried attendants tried to catch him. You’re stunned, amused, and embarrassed all at the same time. Only your uncle probably wouldn’t do it every single day, his words aren’t broadcast to the public, and he doesn’t have to lead the U.S. government once he puts his pants on.”

The author also claims Trump once asked White House lawyers to write a bill to send to Congress aimed at reducing the number of federal judges, after various judges had thwarted Trump’s policies. Trump reportedly said, “Can we just get rid of the judges? Let’s get rid of the [expletive] judges. There shouldn’t be any at all, really.” This according to the forthcoming book “A Warning.”

US government’s annual budget deficit balloons to $984 BILLION! Yay, USA!

With the recent tax cut and spending increases, the national debt continues to demand ever-larger interest payments.

The fiscal health of the United States has decreased markedly in the Trump era, though the economy continues to grow [Carlos Jasso/Reuters]
The fiscal health of the United States has decreased markedly in the Trump era, though the economy continues to grow [Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

The United States government ended fiscal year 2019 with the largest budget deficit in seven years, as gains in tax receipts were offset by higher spending and growing debt service payments, the US Department of the Treasury said on Friday.

The figures reflect the second full budget year under US President Donald Trump, a Republican, and come at a time when the country has an expanding tax base – with strong economic growth and an unemployment rate currently near a 50-year low.

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The budget deficit widened to $984bn, which was 4.6 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The deficit for the previous fiscal year – which runs through the end of September – was $779bn, with a deficit-to-GDP-ratio of 3.8 percent. Total revenue increased by four percent but outlays rose by 8.2 percent.

Fiscal uncertainty

The deficit reached a peak of $1.4 trillion in 2009 as the administration of former US President Barack Obama and Congress took emergency measures to shore up the nation’s banking system during the global financial crisis and provide stimulus to an economy in recession.

The annual budget deficit had been reduced to $585bn by Obama’s second term in 2016, but Republicans in Congress during that time criticised the Democratic president for not reducing it further.

Since then, the budget deficit has jumped due in part to the Republicans’ overhaul of the tax system. In the short term, that sharply reduced corporate tax income revenues and was accompanied by an increase in military spending.

By the end of fiscal year 2019, corporate tax payments were up five percent. Customs duties, which have been boosted by the Trump administration’s trade war with China and others, were up 70 percent year-on-year.

There was also higher spending on defence, healthcare and Social Security programmes. The US has an ageing population, and economists have warned that the cost of mandatory spending on Social Security and Medicare will become fiscally unsustainable.

Earlier this year, the US Congress passed a two-year budget deal backed by Trump that would increase federal spending on defence and other domestic programmes.

Some of the widening of the deficit came from more spending on interest payments on the national debt, as borrowing has increased over the past year.

For September, the US government recorded an $83bn surplus, a 31 percent drop from the same month last year – when quarterly tax estimate payments typically augment receipts by a significant amount.

When accounting for calendar adjustments applied to the whole year, the adjusted deficit was $1 trillion.

In Washington, a presidential impeachment inquiry has overshadowed prospects of a looming government shutdown – which will occur on November 21 if funding for federal operations is not approved by then.

Moveon.org: Free Sticker!

The Trump administration has reached a shocking new low—yes, shocking even for Donald Trump. This week, our government began sending letters to immigrants with gravely ill children, informing them that the program allowing them to stay in the country to get their children lifesaving treatment had been terminated and that they and their children may be deported in the next month.1

The Trump administration’s policies are despicable. They are cruel. And we’ve got to make sure that voters end them in 2020—as we work to build the genuinely equitable, just society we really need.

The Muslim Ban. Shutting down the government for 35 days over his border wall. Locking up children in cages. Calling murderous Nazis in Charlottesville “very fine people.” Pardoning former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who shackled a pregnant woman, refused to investigate child sex crimes, and even bragged that his tent city jail was a “concentration camp.”2,3,4 The list goes on and on.

As the 2020 election gets underway, we must mobilize to defeat this disgusting ideology at the ballot box.

That’s why MoveOn just printed a big batch of “Vote Against Hate” stickers, and we’re giving them away for free while supplies last.

Just click here 

Although Trump may be the most public face of America’s racism, he is only a symptom of the larger problem of ingrained racism in our society—from the insides of our living rooms to our board rooms, schools, criminal justice system, and the halls of Congress.

Fighting to truly dismantle white supremacy must happen on all fronts. It’s not a partisan project—and defeating Trump and the GOP isn’t the end-point. But in 2020 we have a chance to deal a real blow to racism and its enablers by not only defeating Racist in Chief Donald Trump but also his allies in the House and Senate.

Like Steve King, the white nationalist representative from Iowa.

Like Mitch McConnell, Trump’s single biggest defender.

And like Susan Collins, Cory Gardner, and so many more who remain silent in the face of Trump’s hateful attacks in a desperate effort to protect their GOP majority.

These Republican politicians deserve a pink slip, and that is exactly what MoveOn members are planning to deliver to them next November, by building a grassroots movement that powers a blue wave to sweep Trump and his apologists out of Washington—and that presses every candidate for office to be anti-racist.

Are you ready to join the fight? Get your free “Vote Against Hate” sticker now.

Thanks for all you do.

–Kelly, Chris, Liia, Emma, and the rest of the team

Trump Slashes Endangered Species Act!

H2 endangered species act threatened protections climate change mining drilling trump extinction plan

The Trump administration finalized changes rolling back the Endangered Species Act Monday. Regulators will now be allowed to factor in economic considerations when granting “endangered” status, species classified as “threatened” will see their protections weakened, and scientists will be limited in setting climate change-related protections. Critics say the changes were made to clear the way for mining, drilling and development projects in areas populated by protected species. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt is a former lobbyist for the oil and agribusiness industries. He is currently under investigation for possible ethics violations. The 46-year-old landmark Endangered Species Act has saved over 99% of classified animals, plants and insects since its inception. It’s credited with protecting the grizzly bear, the humpback whale and the bald eagle from extinction, among many others.

Environmental groups, Democratic lawmakers and attorneys general have vowed to fight the changes. The Sierra Club called the move the “Trump Extinction Plan.” The International Fund for Animal Welfare said in a statement, “The most comprehensive assessment of biodiversity ever completed was released earlier this year and shows that more than one million species are at risk of extinction. These species are inextricably linked to our own well-being, livelihoods, economies, food security, and overall survival. Gutting key protections of the Endangered Species Act is precisely the wrong action for the U.S. to be taking.”