The U.S. Senate voted to acquit President Donald Trump on two articles of impeachment Wednesday. On Article I, abuse of power, Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney voted along with all Democrats, making the vote 52-48. Article II, obstruction of Congress, came on party-lines, 53-47.
The allegations came in light of Trump asking Ukraine to announce an investigation of the son of former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democratic candidate for president who Trump may face in November’s general election, and the trouble Congress had getting information from the White House, which stonewalled the investigation. It would have taken two-thirds of the Senate to vote to convict Trump and remove him from office. Both New Mexico U.S. Senators voted to convict Trump and criticized the Senate Majority for not calling any witnesses for the trial, including former National Security Advisor John Bolton.
The Department of Justice held its first task force meeting on murdered and missing American Indians and Alaska Natives with much fanfare Wednesday in Washington, D.C., but local leaders question whether the federal government’s efforts will be enough. President Donald Trump issued an executive order late last year establishing what he called “Operation Lady Justice,” an interagency group led by the U.S. Department of Justice, that would “aggressively” address the crisis of murdered and missing women and girls in Indigenous communities. Although no one knows for sure how many Indigenous women and children are murdered or go missing, the federal government estimates that 1.5 million Indigenous women and children experience violence, including sexual violence, in their lifetime. Just prior to Trump’s announcement, Secretary of the Interior William Barr told a group at the Flathead Reservation in Montana last year that the Department of Justice would commit $1.5 million to hire specialized coordinators to help improve law enforcement response to the problem. But Democratic U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland,an enrolled member of Laguna Pueblo, has previously said that the DOJ’s plan “falls short,” issued a critical statement to NM Political Report Thursday.
A new poll showed New Mexico’s governor and both U.S. Senators’ approval ratings took a slight hit in the past three months. The poll, conducted by Morning Consult, found that 44 percent of New Mexico voters support the job Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is doing, while 39 percent disapprove. In the last poll, Lujan Grisham’s approval rating stood at 47 percent, compared to 37 percent disapproval. That poll was conducted in the previous three months. Lujan Grisham is a first-term Democrat, who was elected in 2018 and took office at the beginning of 2019.
U.S. Senator Tom Udall introduced legislation this week to support the conservation of wildlife corridors on tribal lands in the United States.
The Tribal Wildlife Corridors Act of 2019 would require federal entities such as the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior to coordinate with indigenous nations on land management and wildlife corridor conservation. The bill is supported by U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Luján and Deb Haaland, along with seven Democratic U.S. Senators.
The legacy of human activity on the planet has led to severe habitat loss and habitat fragmentation for millions of species. A recent report on biodiversity published by the United Nations found that activities such as farming, logging, fishing, poaching and mining have altered the planet’s ecosystems at a rate “unprecedented in human history.”
RELATED: Tribes are leaders in wildlife management
Wildlife corridors are stretches of land that are not fragmented by human-made structures such as roads, fencing, or bridges and where wildlife can move freely. These corridors are becoming increasingly rare in certain areas in the U.S. and around the globe.
A new poll shows nearly half of New Mexicans approve of the way Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham is doing her job. The poll from Morning Consult finds Lujan Grisham’s approval rating at 47 percent, while 37 percent disapprove of her job performance. Another 16 percent have no opinion. Lujan Grisham took office at the beginning of the year after easily defeating Republican Steve Pearce. Lujan Grisham was previously a U.S. Representative from the state’s 1st Congressional District, which is centered on the Albuquerque area.
New Mexico’s U.S. Senators said an internal government watchdog will provide answers about how the Trump administration seized land to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico. Meanwhile, the Senate Appropriations Committee blocked an amendment one of those Senators, Tom Udall, introduced to the defense funding bill that would bar Trump from diverting money from military projects to fund the wall. In August, Udall and New Mexico’s other Senator, Martin Heinrich, signed onto a letter to the U.S. Government Accountability Office with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Dick Durbin of Illinois asking for an investigation into the use of eminent domain to take land for the border wall. All four senators are Democrats. GAO wrote to the four Senators last week saying they would begin the review the Trump administration’s eminent domain efforts.
“At the current time we anticipate that staff with the required skills will be available to initiate an engagement in about three months,” the GAO official wrote.
Two projects at military bases will see their funding sent to fund the construction of a border wall between the United States and Mexico. In all, the federal government is diverting the funds from 127 military projects totaling $3.6 billion toward the construction of the wall. The U.S. Department of Defense says the diversion will be temporary. The projects in New Mexico that saw their funding eliminated, at least temporarily, are $85 million for an Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) training facility for at Holloman Air Force Base and $40 million originally slated for an information systems facility at White Sands Missile Range. U.S. Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, who represents the area and sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said she was “appalled at the Administration’s decision to divert military construction funds allocated for projects essential to our national defense to build a fiscally irresponsible border wall.”
On a quiet Saturday morning, just as an early morning rain had stopped and the clouds drifted away, a pile of inflatable rafts sat piled under a tree at La Llorona Park in Las Cruces. Soon, about a dozen teenagers trickled into the park, ready to float about 3 miles down the river with U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján.
Luján’s district is about 300 miles north of the public park, named after a folklore character associated with rivers and children, that butts up against the Rio Grande. Luján wasn’t there on official business, but instead to engage with young people from other parts of the state not within his congressional district as part of his campaign for U.S. Senate.
Luján’s name is likely familiar to those who even casually follow political news. Earlier this year, he was tapped to become the assistant Speaker of the House, the fourth-highest rank in Democratic leadership. His father, Ben Luján, served as the New Mexico Speaker of the House and many have speculated that if Ben Ray Luján stayed the course in Congress he might be in line to succeed U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the Trump administration’s attempt to add a question to the U.S. Census inquiring about respondents’ citizenship—for now. The court released the ruling Thursday morning, on the final day of this year’s term. The high court instead remanded the question to a district court—and with the U.S. Census Bureau’s own deadline looming, there may not be enough time for the government to get the question added to the 2020 census. The question would depress Hispanic response to the census overall, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The ruling, in which Chief Justice John Roberts was joined by the four liberal members of the court, says it did not believe the rationale the U.S. Commerce Department offered as to why it chose to add the question.
New Mexico faces challenges in getting a full and accurate count for the next census—and for receiving the federal funding that comes with it. So the state, and others, are getting ready in advance of the 2020 census. As part of the preparations, U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham traveled to New Mexico this week and met with stakeholders and public officials, including both U.S. Senators who represent the state. As part of his trip, Dillingham traveled with U.S. Sen. Tom Udall and local elected officials and stakeholders in a remote part of Los Lunas on Tuesday. The community was an example of a hard-to-count area of the state.