- The Washington Times - Monday, March 13, 2017

A new watchdog organization is up and running, and has an eye trained on President Trump. American Oversight is housed in an office a few blocks north of the White House, and offers this mission statement: “There’s a perfect storm for corruption and scandal brewing in the Trump administration. And Congress has completely abdicated its responsibility to provide oversight — or even vet high-ranking nominees.”

Freedom of Information Act requests are definitely in the tool box, tips are welcome, and a first investigation is already underway.

“American Oversight asked the Department of Justice and the U.S. National Archives to investigate the use of non-governmental email and messaging apps — some of which automatically delete messages — to conduct government business. Failing to preserve such communications may violate federal law, including the Federal Records Act and the Presidential Records Act,” the organization said Monday. “Previously, Congress conducted aggressive oversight investigations when concerned that administration officials, such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, might have violated federal record-keeping laws.”

A letter has been dispatched to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, advising him that “the new administration has not learned the lessons of the past,” citing reports that “recent appointees continued to rely on non-governmental email accounts,” among many other things.

“No one is above the law. If members of the new administration are breaking the law by using personal email accounts or encrypted applications, they must be held accountable,” says executive director Austin Evers, former senior counsel at the State Department under the Obama administration.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, has taken notice of the new organization, and posted a press account of its existence at his own website. The conservative watchdog was initially founded during the Clinton administration, and its motto is “Because no one is above the law.”

TRUMP’S LUCKY WEATHER

“43 degrees, abundant sunshine but cold,” notes the Accuweather forecast for Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday, Why do we care? Well, because President Trump will be staging one of his signature jumbo rallies in Nashville on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. — and is likely to miss the winter-weather turmoils faced by so many of his constituents to the north. Mr. Trump is in a rallying mood; he has scheduled a second one five days later in Louisville, Kentucky.

On a side note, the ever-canny Mr. Trump has released “Made in the USA,” a very handsome, cheerful video recounting the story of workers who make his signature “Make America Great Again” cap and other items at two U.S.-based manufacturers. Find it on YouTube.

HASTA LA VISTA, BABY

There was giddy talk that action film hero, reality TV host and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger might run for U.S. Senate in the Golden State now that Sen. Dianne Feinstein, 85, may be on the cusp of retiring. Mr. Schwarzenegger himself put that rumor to rest.

“I’m deeply flattered by all of the people who have approached me about running for Senate, but my mission right now is to bring sanity to Washington through redistricting reform like we passed here in California,” he announced on his personal Facebook page. “Gerrymandering has completely broken our political system and I believe my best platform to help repair it is from the outside, by campaigning for independent redistricting commissions.”

Mr. Schwarzenegger recently left his short-lived perch as host of “Celebrity Apprentice” after the prime-time show — developed and once hosted by President Trump — earned meager ratings.

Mr. Schwarzenegger does have the apparatus to start something, however. Lest we forget, the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy at the University of Southern California buzzes with forums, conferences and fancy symposiums all year long. Redistricting is at the top of the list of the group’s pet topics, followed by open primaries and transparency in government.

A NOVEL OF NOTE

Arriving Tuesday from John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute: “The Shroud Conspiracy,” an unusual thriller which follows the turmoil after a forensic anthropologist discovers the Shroud of Turin — believed by many Christians to have been the burial cloth of Jesus Christ — is real.

“Evil forces intend to use DNA from traces of blood in the fabric to clone Jesus and bring on a Second Coming of their own design,” notes Howard Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.

“It’s like nothing you’ve read before,” says fellow author Brad Thor. Find the book here

WHAT ‘SANCTUARY’ MIGHT COST

“Sanctuary cities and jurisdictions across America stand to lose a total of more than $870 million if they decide to embrace their illegal policies in defiance of federal law,” notes the Federation for American Immigration Reform, citing statistics from 33 states that are home to counties or cities “that refuse to cooperate and share information with federal immigration officials.”

Likely to be targeted: the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, which funds law enforcement expenses, drug treatment and more; the Community Oriented Policing Services, which goes toward developing policing strategies and community training; and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program, which helps local police departments with incarcerated illegal aliens fund their facilities and salaries.

The immigration group also cites a roundup of potential cuts tabulated by the Center for American Progress, which found that some states would suffer more than others should they stand by sanctuary city programs. In the top-five: California is in first place, in line to lose $239 million, followed by New York ($191 million), Illinois ($91 million), Pennsylvania ($65 million) and Maryland ($35 million).

POLL DU JOUR

83 percent of U.S. workers participate in college basketball pool at the office because of “their love of sports.”

79 percent say office pools “greatly improve” their level of engagement at work.

76 percent check up on scores during office hours.

75 percent are interested in winning money.

$22.44: average amount an employee contributes to the office pool.

Source: A Randstad survey of 1,200 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 20-24 and released Monday.

• Nervous chatter, snippy remarks to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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