USDA employees get refresher on 1st Amendment

  • Federal food and land inspectors have been reminded to treat businesses and citizens with respect and let them have their say. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue issued the policy statement, affirming USDA’s commitment to freedom of religion and speech. Purdue told employees USDA must help safeguard first amendment rights. He said, doing so is not optional. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  • The White House unexpectedly fired FBI Director James Comey. In a statement, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said President Donald Trump acted on the recommendations from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Spicer said a search for a new FBI director would begin immediately. (Federal News Radio)
  • The President’s selection for Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been confirmed. Dr. Scott Gottlieb nomination was approved by the Senate by a 57-42 vote. Many Democrats opposed Gottlieb’s appointment because of his potential financial ties to medical companies that are subject to FDA regulations. Gottlieb promised to recuse himself for a year from decisions involving about 20 companies. (Associated Press)
  • The Senate has confirmed a second  Defense Department  appointee.  Heather Wilson was approved as the new Air Force Secretary by a vote of 76 to 22. Wilson is the second consecutive female secretary. She takes over for Deborah Lee James, who served under the Obama administration. Wilson is a former member of the House of Representatives, and the first woman vice wing commander in the Air Force. Wilson will oversee the Air Force, as it expands to 321,000 active duty airmen. (Air Force)
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke toured the Bears Ear National Monument in Utah to determine whether to reverse a National Park Service designation made late in the Obama administration.  Zinke, a former Navy seal, must carry out a Trump administration policy to review whether Bears Ears and 27 other sites should remain national monuments. Zinke inspected the 1.3 million acre Bears Ear site on foot, horseback and helicopter this week.  He heard opposing views from ranchers and tribal leaders. (Associated Press)
  • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled a controversial removal and appeals authority for senior executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) was unconstitutional. The court upheld an appeal from Sharon Helman, former director of the Phoenix VA medical center, who was fired in 2014. The Merit Systems Protection Board will review the original decision on Helman’s firing. VA Secretary David Shulkin said the court’s decision reaffirms his desire for new accountability legislation from Congress.
  • Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) introduced a bill to update government websites for the 21st century. The Connect to Government Act requires all future and redesigned federal websites to be mobile-friendly. Kelly cited a recent report which found more than 40 percent of federal websites are not mobile-friendly. (Rep. Robin Kelly)
  • A cyber attack this week against the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) online comment site has drawn  the attention of some members of Congress. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) wrote to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai asking for more details on how the commission is responding to the recent distributed denial of service attack.  FCC’s computer network was paralyzed by a flood of comments HBO’s John Oliver discussed potential changes to Net Neutrality.  Wyden and Schatz want to know whether the FCC has the resources and expertise to deal with the attack, and whether the public was prevented from submitting comments over the last few days. (Sen. Ron Wyden)
  • The Partnership for Public Service announced the 26 finalists for the 2017 Service to America Medals. Cabinet secretaries offered their congratulations to the finalists. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said he’s gained a new appreciation for career federal employees since he took office. A selection committee will choose the winners and announce them at an awards gala in September. (Federal News Radio)