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Political Watch 5/25/17

• Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) confirmed to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on May 18 that there’s still no evidence of collusion between President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. On May 9, Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey for what Trump essentially described as poor job performance. Feinstein’s comments come days after The New York Times reported Comey had written in a memo that Trump asked him to “let go” of an investigation into Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, who was reportedly fired for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about communications with Russian officials in relation to sanctions against the country prior to signing on with the administration. After the firing of Comey, deputy U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein announced last week the appointment of Comey’s predecessor, former FBI Director Robert Mueller, to lead an independent investigation into whether Russia colluded with the Trump campaign to get the president elected in 2016. “It would depend on this investigation that you’re talking about that would bring forward any criminal activity and, of course, has the right and the ability to charge people, select targets, look at them, bring about an indictment,” Feinstein said. “It’s a very big investigation and somebody that’s as sophisticated as Bob Mueller is really the one to carry it out.” As a ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Feinstein receives access to sensitive, and often classified, material. Blitzer reiterated his question: “So far, you’ve not seen any evidence of collusion, is that right?” Feinstein clarified: “There are all kinds of rumors around, there are newspaper stories, but that’s not necessarily evidence.” 

• In a Washington Post interview with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) posted to YouTube on May 17, Harris expressed concern that the Russia investigation is eroding the public’s trust in government. “We have a responsibility to one, to obviously affirm what everyone knows, which is that Russia interfered with the election of the president of the United States,” Harris said. “And then determine whether there was any coordination, at least, between any campaign and the Russians’ involvement in our election process.” 

• On May 19, Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) called for more funding for oil pipeline safety on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. The speech came during a formal recognition by Carbajal of the second anniversary of the Refugio Oil Spill in 2015. At the time, Carbajal was 1st District supervisor for Santa Barbara County. “Our local funds were stretched as we mounted our cleanup effort that ended up costing over $100 million,” Carbajal said. “I was pleased that President Obama signed into law last year the Safe Pipes Act, directing the Department of Transportation Pipeline Safety Program—PHMSA—to increase the frequency of their pipeline monitoring on this California coast. We must ensure that PHMSA is fully funded to ensure that it can effectively monitor our oil pipelines and hopefully prevent future disasters like the Refugio-Plains oil spill.” 

Jordan Cunningham (R-Templeton), who represents California’s 35th Assembly District in the state Legislature, is continuing his fight for inclusion of funds for career technical education (CTE) that were apparently left out of the new 2017-18 state budget proposal. “Next year, the career technical education grant program is set to expire,” Cunningham said in a video posted to his official Facebook profile on May 17. “CTE supports critical programs like the FFA, like SkillsUSA, and many others. We have to continue to support CTE in our schools.” According to an article published in the Santa Maria Times on May 23, State Officials confirmed that the missing funding would be allocated back to CTE programs in the final budget.