The Week in Review: February 13th-February 19th

Monday, President Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigned, amidst the ongoing controversy involving his conversations with the Russian ambassador. Reports have come out that Flynn discussed the Obama administration’s imposed sanctions with the ambassador before the inauguration, after he told others including Vice President Mike Pence otherwise. “Unfortunately, because of the fast pace of events, I inadvertently briefed the vice president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador,” he wrote in his resignation letter. Trump is set to interview four candidates for the job today.

Andy Puzder, the Trump administration’s pick to head the Department of Labor, and fast food CEO, withdrew his nomination Wednesday. Republican lawmakers indicated he would not have enough votes to be confirmed. Puzder, a controversial pick to begin with, lost all hope of being confirmed after a tape was supplied by “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Puzder’s ex-wife had made an appearance on the show, detailing alleged domestic violence in the 1980’s. Trump has nominated Alexander Acosta to replace Puzder. Acosta is the dean of Florida International University’s law school, and a former member of the National Labor Relations Board.

Scott Pruitt was confirmed by the Senate, Friday, to head up the Environmental Protection Agency, in another “fox guarding the hen-house,” scenario for the Trump cabinet. Pruitt was confirmed by a vote of 52-46, putting the former Oklahoma AG and ardent EPA opponent in charge of the agency which he has lead several lawsuits against. Democrats Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota both crossed party lines to vote for Pruitt, likely because of their coal-country constituents.

Arguably the most talked about event of the week was the contentious press conference Donald Trump held after announcing his new pick for Labor Secretary. It was hard to keep up with all the news Trump was making. He fantasized about blowing a Russian spy ship “out of the water,” attacked the “very fake news” media, and mused on the potential “nuclear holocaust” that could happen between Russia and the US. He declared he was the “least racist” person and then asked a black reporter to set up a meeting with the Congressional Black Congress, asking is they were friends of hers. He also falsely claimed that his was the largest electoral college victory since Raegan before being fact checked in real time. Trump, near the end of the exhausting affair, answered a question about concerns in the rise of anti-Semitism by saying he was the “least anti-Semitic person.” It’s been a chaotic and controversial few weeks for the new administration so naturally Trump capped off the week with a campaign style rally in Florida.

The Department of Public Health’s quarterly overdose report showed more troubling news in the fight to combat the opioid epidemic in the Commonwealth. The number of unintentional opioid related deaths continues to rise, with 1,465 in 2016, increasing again over the previous year. The synthetic opioid fentanyl, was found present in 75% of the toxicology-screened deaths last year. MA Governor Charlie Baker said that his administration “will continue our intense focus on fighting this epidemic by further increasing treatment options and expanding support for law enforcement and their efforts to arrest and convict drug traffickers who prey on vulnerable people, selling them more and more deadly and addictive substances.”

The verdicts in thousands of drunken-driving cases are now up in the air after a ruling by Judge Robert A. Brennan. Judge Brennan, ruled that the reliability of breathalyzers could not be confirmed due to the state crime labs failure to use written worksheets verifying the devices calibration methods. There will be a case-by-case review of all applicable cases between June of 2012 and September 2014. This will affect 500 pending cases and hundred more, even those where the defendant has pleaded guilty. “In the absence of written protocols, it cannot be assumed that any particular calibrator understood or routinely applied the proper standards in calibrating a device,” wrote Judge Brennan.

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