The FBI — ‘Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity’ — still working on diversity

For the FBI, the longstanding failure to diversify its ranks is nothing short of “a huge operational risk,” according to one senior official, something that compromises the agency’s ability to understand communities at risk, penetrate criminal enterprises, and identify emerging national security threats. Indeed, 10 months before being fired as director of the FBI by President Trump, James Comey called the situation a “crisis.”

“Slowly but steadily over the last decade or more, the percentage of special agents in the FBI who are white has been growing,” Comey said in a speech at Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black school in Daytona Beach, Florida. “I’ve got nothing against white people — especially tall, awkward, male white people — but that is a crisis for reasons that you get, and that I’ve worked very hard to make sure the entire FBI understands.”

It’s a charged moment for the FBI, one in which diversifying the force might not strike everyone as the most pressing issue. Trump has repeatedly questioned the bureau’s competence and integrity. Many Democrats blame Hillary Clinton’s defeat on Comey’s decision to announce that the bureau was reopening its inquiry into her emails days before the election.

Injured nuclear workers finally had support. The Trump administration has mothballed it.

Nearly three years ago, President Barack Obama responded to long-standing concerns that workers exposed to toxic chemicals at the country’s nuclear weapons labs were not receiving proper compensation. Obama created an advisory board to be composed of scientists, doctors and worker advocates. Their recommendations have led to significant changes, including the repeal of a rule that made it more difficult for workers who’d been injured in the last two decades to get compensation. President Donald Trump and his administration have taken a different approach: His Labor Department has let nearly all of the board member’s terms expire — and so far hasn’t nominated new ones. “For two years our board put a lot of brain power and cutting-edge expertise into developing recommendations,” said Ken Silver, an occupational health professor at Eastern Tennessee State University, who until last month was a board member.

Trump approval rating still underwater among NM voters

Donald Trump’s approval rating among New Mexico voters is still underwater, but rose slightly from the lows of January. According to the latest numbers from Morning Consult, in February, 42 percent of New Mexico voters approve of Trump’s job performance while 55 percent disapprove. While this is a slight improvement over the January numbers, which showed a 39 percent approval rating and 58 percent disapproval rating, it still is far below Trump’s initial numbers among New Mexico voters from when he was inaugurated in January of 2017. And a Morning Consult poll pitting Trump against a generic Democrat shows 44 percent of voters nationwide say they would vote for the Democrat, while just 36 percent say they would vote for Trump. Trump recently named Brad Parscale as his 2020 campaign manager.

Trump’s approval rating in NM continues to fall

New Mexico voters have soured on President Donald Trump, bringing his already-low statewide approval rating down below 40 percent in January. That’s according to numbers from pollster Morning Consult.

Pollsters found that in January 2017, when he was inaugurated, 52 percent of New Mexico voters approved of Trump’s job performance. But just one year into his four-year term, that number plummeted to 39 percent. His disapproval rating in the state also increased, from 35 percent in 2017 to 58 percent in 2018. Nationwide, however, his approval rating rose.

State moves to update oil and gas permits, while on the federal level, BLM cuts public protest period

The New Mexico Environment Department’s (NMED) Air Quality Bureau will host a hearing on Monday about proposed changes to construction permits for oil and gas facilities. The process kicked off in the summer of 2016, and the public comment period closed at the end of January. According to the department, the general construction permit codifies air protection rules for industry to “streamline the application process and to provide consistency in the oversight process.”

The issue is the latest in a line of moves that environmental groups say reverse protections for people and natural resources. Jon Goldstein, director of regulatory and legislative affairs with the Environmental Defense Fund, said that if finalized, the changes would make New Mexico’s new oil and gas construction permits among the weakest in the United States. “This is especially egregious when you consider the methane hotspot in the San Juan Basin and the importance of that issue in New Mexico,” Goldstein said.

EPA’s waters and jobs, plus climate change and Cape Town’s dwindling water supplies

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that along with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, finalized the “Waters of the United States” applicability date. Last March, President Donald Trump directed the agencies to review the “Clean Water Rule” also known as the Waters of the U.S. Rule, which was finalized in 2015 as a way to clarify confusion over parts of the Clean Water Act. The rule applies to navigable waterways and their tributaries. Under the rule, a tributary doesn’t need to be a continuously flowing body of water. But it must have flowing water—marked by a bed, bank and high water mark—to warrant protection.

DOJ threatens (again) to withhold funds from Bernalillo County over immigration info sharing

The U.S. Department of Justice is again threatening to withhold some crimefighting funds from Bernalillo County over what the Trump administration has called “sanctuary” policies. The DOJ contacted Bernalillo County and 22 other jurisdictions, including New York City and the states of California, Illinois and Oregon, saying they violated the law that promotes sharing immigration enforcement information with the federal government. DOJ says the statute requires cooperation as a condition for receiving grants through the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program. Wednesday, DOJ threatened to subpoena officials who do not comply with their documents request. The threat is the latest in the fight between the federal government and local jurisdictions they deem as “sanctuary.” There is no formal definition of a so-called “sanctuary” city or county, though the Trump administration generally uses it to refer to local jurisdictions that do not fully comply with federal requests to aid enforcement of immigration law.

SF Mayor responds to Trump admin threats to arrest ‘sanctuary city’ pols

Santa Fe’s mayor has a message for the Trump administration after the Department of Justice floated the idea of arresting elected officials in charge of cities with “sanctuary policies”: You know where to find me. On Facebook Wednesday evening, Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales linked to a Newsweek story about the controversial, and likely unconstitutional, idea. “The Trump administration can find me at the Santa Fe Mayor’s office from 8-6, Monday – Friday,” Gonzales wrote. “I will stand up for all New Mexicans keeping their families together.”

Gonzales, who is leaving the mayor’s office this year but running for the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor, has been an outspoken supporter of sanctuary efforts. Santa Fe is one of the more progressive areas of the state.

Martinez’s legacy undefined as she approaches final session in charge

Gov. Susana Martinez leaned in, and a discernible vigor crept into her voice. Speaking at a news conference earlier this month about her proposed state budget, the former prosecutor seemed in her element, discussing an issue that has come to define her two terms in office: crime. She started her presentation on the state’s spending plan talking about a crime wave, and when a reporter asked about bail reform, she eagerly lambasted new court policies as creating a “revolving door at the jail.” Yes, there was talk of tax reform and education, too. But if there is any issue Martinez has felt most comfortable railing about in front of the cameras, it is crime.

SOS calls end of Trump voter fraud panel a ‘victory’

Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver was quick to react to the dissolution of President Donald Trump’s controversial commission that sought evidence of voter fraud. “This is a victory for the integrity and privacy of New Mexico voters,” Toulouse Oliver said in a statement Wednesday evening. “From its inception, President Trump’s election commission never demonstrated that the collected data would be used for lawful purposes, how voters’ personal data would be secured, or how comparing insufficient data would produce any meaningful conclusions.”

The White House cited the lack of cooperation from states as one reason to dissolve the commission. “Despite substantial evidence of voter fraud, many states have refused to provide the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity with basic information relevant to its inquiry,” Trump said in a statement. “Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense, today I signed an executive order to dissolve the commission, and have asked the Department of Homeland Security to review these issues and determine next courses of action.”