As I write this letter, acquittal of President Donald Trump by the Senate seems pretty much a partisan done deal, so I digress to something I think is even more unsettling.
Last week’s report by Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz was not favorable to the FBI with respect to the Trump-Russia investigation, citing at least 17 serious and repeated “mistakes” in seeking Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants on a former Trump campaign aid (“FBI report in partisan crossfire,” front page, Dec. 12). In my view, those abuses of the FISA process demonstrate more than simple incompetent mistakes at the top of the James Comey-led FBI.
The presiding FISA court judge said the FBI’s handling of the Carter Page case was “antithetical to the heightened duty of candor” required by the law that established the secret surveillance court, and “calls into question whether information contained in other FBI applications is reliable.” That is very scary stuff — considering about 99% of FISA warrant requests are approved!
Unfortunately, I think, we have become too accustomed to and accepting of shenanigans by politicians — but by leaders in the FBI and CIA?
I believe the results of federal prosecutor John Durham’s broad investigation (beyond current DOJ employees) into the Trump-Russia issue, expected this spring or summer, are critical in getting to the bottom of the matter. Hopefully those findings, whatever they might be, will help us get back to thinking the federal government is here to help us unite.
Bob Jentges, North Mankato, Minn.
FEDERAL SPENDING BILL
Somehow, BWCA study got cut
Something extraordinary happened last week, and it smells rotten. The Trump administration and Republicans held out until late, refusing to agree to an enormous spending bill that funds the entire federal government unless a provision requiring completion of a near-final study of a proposed ban on copper mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was removed from the bill (“House passes $1.4T budget, averting shutdown,” Dec. 18).
The federal spending bill addressed thousands of controversial issues, such as the border wall, election security and tax extenders. Yet, at the very end of tough negotiations between the Senate, the House and the White House, the Boundary Waters issue was on the Trump administration’s demand list before it would agree to the final spending bill.
It causes one to ask: Why is the Trump administration going to extraordinary lengths to benefit Antofagasta, a corrupt and environmentally destructive foreign mining company and owner of Twin Metals? What is contained in the reports and near-final study developed by the Forest Service over nearly two years that warrants stonewalling Congress and the American people?
The U.S. Forest Service study of a mining ban examined environmental, economic and social risks of copper mining in the headwaters of one of the most pristine ecosystems in America, and certainly the cleanest water our nation enjoys. Isn’t it self-evident, given the unusual actions of the Trump administration, that this study confirms what the Forest Service first concluded in 2016, that copper mining in the watershed of the Boundary Waters poses an unacceptable risk of harm — harm that simply cannot be fixed or mitigated — to our great canoe country wilderness and the people of Minnesota?
Even Twin Metals has an inkling of the contents of the hidden reports when it dodges this question: Can Twin Metals say there is zero risk to the BWCA?
Alex Falconer, Eden Prairie
The writer is the director of government relations at Save the Boundary Waters.
Keep protecting our rights, senator
As communities and states across the country grapple with how to reduce violent crime, too often politicians go after the rights of law-abiding citizens, instead of holding criminals accountable. In Minnesota, we are fortunate to have leaders who stand up for our rights in the Legislature and I want to thank one in particular, Sen. Warren Limmer. My teenage daughter is a competitive shooter who has enjoyed hunting with her father since she was a child. Sen. Limmer helped defeat gun control legislation in May that would have criminalized many of her common activities related to her sport.
House File 8 would have imposed so-called universal background checks for most private firearm transfers, potentially criminalizing almost all private firearm transfers in Minnesota. These laws might sound reasonable, but in reality, they make it impossible for hunters and competitive shooters to share a rifle with a friend, co-worker or even some relatives, without first paying government fees and getting a federal background check done on them. Some have jokingly suggested under so-called universal background checks a person would need an attorney with them hunting to ensure they don’t accidentally commit a felony.
Fortunately, our lawmakers listened to their constituents and stood up for our freedoms in the legislature. On behalf of my daughter, my family and every law-abiding Minnesota gun owner, I want to thank Sen. Limmer.
Tiffany Overland, Wyoming, Minn.
To really address housing crisis, we need to dedicate a lot more money
I note that Gov. Tim Walz has picked up on a line often used by homeless advocates that homelessness essentially can be thought of as a math problem (“Walz nets nearly $5M to help the homeless,” Dec. 20). Well, if that is the case, we have to get a lot better at doing math!
The math metaphor is intended to convey the idea that we can address homelessness by calculating the difference between what homeless or near-homeless people can afford for housing and the price of rent; then we provide the funds to meet that need. Easy, right? Not by my calculations.
Here is the math as I see it. In the Twin Cities, 11% of all Twin Cities households pay in excess of half of their income for housing — 137,663 households, according to 2017 American Community Survey numbers. Drawing from the budget experience of the federal rent subsidy program, to ensure that these households can afford housing in the rental market, including administrative costs, these households would need a monthly per-household subsidy of about $700. This means that it would take more than a billion dollars per year to meet this need ($700 x 12 months x 137,663 households).
If we were on top of these numbers, current housing efforts would be considered well off the mark. For the latest homeless initiative the governor hopes to raise $10 million, and over the past several years the state has invested approximately $100 million per year in bonding and appropriations in meeting the housing needs of Minnesotans statewide — not just Twin Cities residents.
This math illustration is not meant to dismiss the investments public and private agencies are making in response to growing homelessness or the progress that has been made. It is meant to show that if we are approaching homelessness as a math problem we’d better be prepared for some pretty big numbers — but numbers that are not totally unapproachable in a state with a $24 billion annual budget.
Chip Halbach, Minneapolis
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