Daily Archives: February 18, 2018

Trump budget plan to eliminate LIHEAP through zero funding

ELIMINATION: LOW INCOME HOME ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

Department of Health and Human Services

The Budget proposes to eliminate the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) in order
to reduce the size and scope of the Federal Government, and better target resources within the Department
of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.
Funding Summary
(In millions of dollars)
2017 Enacted 2019 Request 2019 Change from 2017
Budget Authority……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 3,390 0 -3,390
Justification
LIHEAP is a Federal program that has been known to have sizeable fraud and abuse, leading to program
integrity concerns. Specifically, a 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study concluded that the
program lacked proper oversight, which resulted in a significant number of improper payments. In particular,
the report highlighted a number of incidents in which program funds were distributed to deceased or
incarcerated individuals. In addition, the report determined that LIHEAP application processors did little
to prevent awards from being provided to individuals with fake addresses and fake energy bills. Since the
report, States have taken steps to work toward improving the verification of identify and income.

Read on.

And other programs eliminated in the budget: Agricultural Department’s rural water and wastewater grants, the Education Department’s student support and academic enrichment grants, the Labor Department’s Indian and Native American Program, and development assistance provided through the State Department and the Agency for International Development.

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Trump Transition Records, A Source Of Friction With Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Were Almost Destroyed

By Jason Leopold

Last December, President Donald Trump accused special counsel Robert Mueller of illegally obtaining thousands of presidential transition emails and other materials from a federal agency. Now, newly released documents show that Mueller almost never got them — the agency would have ordinarily destroyed transition records, a top lawyer there wrote, but “the news cycles” prompted officials to ask if they should preserve them. Eventually, they were copied onto a thumb drive.

Trump and Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Ron Johnson and Rep. Trey Gowdy, lashed out at the General Services Administration, which provides administrative support, such as office space, computers, and cell phones, to presidential transition teams, including Trump’s. Gowdy and Johnson demanded that the GSA explain how Mueller’s team obtained the records, which they said were “privileged.”

The issue led to further friction between the Trump administration and Mueller, whose team is probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and the possibility that Trump officials colluded with the Kremlin. Following the revelations about the emails obtained through the GSA, Trump supporters called on the president to fire Mueller.

BuzzFeed News has now obtained documents, some heavily redacted, that shed light on how and why the GSA turned over the records to the FBI and Mueller. The documents were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

Seth Greenfeld, a lawyer for the GSA, explained in a June 8, 2017, email to his boss that during a conversation with a special counsel staffer and the FBI, he told them that the GSA would normally “destroy the records and wipe the machines, but given the news cycles, GSA decided it was prudent to inquire about preservation during the machine wiping process.”

Greenfeld said the GSA reached out to its internal watchdog who contacted the FBI and Department of Justice “and got the ball rolling” to preserve the Trump transition documents, which were copied onto a thumb drive. But Greenfeld noted that in order for the GSA to turn over the records to law enforcement, he believed the agency would need a subpoena, because the GSA did not own the records.

A subpoena, Greenfeld said, “will remove evidence admissibility issues if there is a prosecution of someone in the future, but I ultimately defer to law enforcement on the issue of a need for a subpoena.”

The FBI determined that a letter, as opposed to a subpoena, would suffice. On June 22, 2017, an FBI agent sent a formal letter to GSA Deputy General Counsel Lennard Loewentritt, and a separate letter was sent to the Defense Information Systems Agency in Fort Meade, which serviced the GSA’s computer equipment, requesting preservation and production of the transition team’s records. The FBI agent’s name was redacted from the letter.

Loewentritt was singled out by the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers for illegally turning the transition team’s records over to Mueller.

The FBI letter requested that the GSA preserve a wide range of materials that may be responsive to its ongoing probe into collusion.

The term “Documents and Responsive Materials” includes, but is not limited to, all issued electronic devices, to include computers, cellular telephones, wireless devices, and CMS devices, as well as, both in draft and final form, all emails, voicemails, documents, photos, text messages, instant messages, electronic, handwritten; and/or hardcopy records, databases, telephone records, correspondence, transcripts, audio recordings, analyses, briefings, assessments, banner entries, user agreements, audit records, metadata, storage devices, notes, memoranda, diary and calendar entries, visitor logs, meeting attendance records, meeting room reservations, meeting agendas, badge records, records of entry and exit to any building, room, or secure facility, safe access records, video surveillance of public and non-public areas, and access logs, including of classified information.

The GSA emails turned over to BuzzFeed News indicate that transition team officials were aware the agency might be forced to turn over the transition records.

Read on.