MISSING AND MURDERED: There was little fanfare when President Trump designated May 5 as “Murdered American Indians and Alaska Natives Awareness Day.” But behind the scenes, the Department of Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs has been chipping away at and drawing attention to the staggering rate of violence committed against American Indian and Native Alaskans, especially women.
Cold Case Task Force: The Department’s Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney and her team plan to roll out a comprehensive approach to cold cases and violent crimes against American Indians and Alaskan Natives. It will include a cold case task force that would work with the Department of Justice to better utilize forensics, DNA tracking and technological innovations to resolve what lawmakers have called “an epidemic” of missing and murdered Native women.
- “There are many people who are still missing and families need closure — and our Office of Justice Services has been very willing to work in partnership with the Department of Justice to focus on cases that are specific to Indian country,” Sweeney told Power Up in a recent interview.
- “It’s a proposal that would not only raise awareness but allow [us to] roll up [our] sleeves and start tackling some of the issues that continue to plague our communities and [try] to arrest the trends and the trajectory of the trend,” she added, referring to the Indian Affairs office that oversees law enforcement in Indian country.
The statistics are grim: Native women living in tribal communities are murdered at a rate more than ten times the national average. And 84 percent of indigenous women have experience violence (sexual, physical or psychological) in their lifetimes. The alarmingly high statistics are exacerbated by shortcomings in local tribal law enforcement, infrastructure, and data collection processes, and limited access to broadband and cell service.
- “Tara’s proposal to do a cold case task force in this area is long needed. So that’s one area where we think we can work with the DOJ and their exorbitant expertise and partner that with our Indian Affairs law enforcement to really do something,” Kate MacGregor, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s deputy chief of staff, told us.
On the docket: Sweeney, an Alaskan Native, is heading to her home state today to hold public listening sessions on the issue in Nome and Bethel, where a significant number of cold cases currently exist. Staffers from the Department of Health and Human services, along with staff from the White House Domestic Policy Council, are engaged on the issue and will be attending the listening sessions as well.
But it's not just Alaska: In June, Sweeney held a series of roundtable discussions on the issue in Arizona joined by leadership from Indian country. New Mexico, Washington, Montana, California, Nebraska, Utah, Minnesota, and Oklahoma have also struggled with the scourge of violence against American Indian women.
- “One thing I have found with respect to Native American politics and policy is we don’t really have any sort of voice or megaphone to raise awareness about our issues unless there is national conflict over anything that has to do with Indian country and this issue isn’t necessarily about a national conflict but more of a national epidemic,” Sweeney said.
A data crisis: In addition to the confusing layers of jurisdiction — and how exactly a tribe decides to arrange its law enforcement program — is a pervasive data problem that Sweeney’s proposal seeks to address.
- For example: In 2016, there were 5,712 cases of missing and murdered indigenous women reported, according to the National Crime Information Center but only 116 of them were logged in the DOJ's federal missing persons database.
There are also a number of pieces of legislation that seek to improve legal databases and coordination between tribal law enforcement and federal agencies.
- “Savanna's Act,” named after Savanna LaFontaine-Greywin — a 22-year-old who was abducted and murdered while she was 8-months-pregnant in 2017 — calls for new guidelines on collecting statistics on missing and murdered Native women and improved access to these databases.
- Lawmakers also reintroduced a bipartisan version in the House: “Sometimes the record of that missing indigenous woman or person isn't documented, leaving questions unanswered for sometimes decades, leading to gaps in information, missing person cases unsolved and perpetrators roaming the streets,” Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) told reporters, per CBS News's Grace Segers. “In this updated version of Savanna's Act, I worked hard to prioritize the safety of Native women, including urban areas to protect indigenous women throughout the country.”
- The “Not Invisible Act of 2019" was also introduced this year in the Senate: The bipartisan bill would establish “an advisory committee of local, tribal and federal stakeholders to make recommendations to the Department of Interior and Department of Justice on best practices to combat the epidemic of disappearances, homicide, violent crime and trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives.”
- Sweeney has taken into consideration existing recommendations: “During confirmation and personal meetings, members of [the] Senate Indian Affairs [panel] provided information on this effort. Our focus right now is what we can do administratively. We look forward to working with Congress for longer-term solutions,” an Interior spokeswoman told Power Up.
EXPERTS SAY WE SHOULD LOOK AT HIGH-CAPACITY MAGAZINES: “It took a shooter all of 32 seconds to spray 41 rounds outside a popular bar in Dayton, Ohio, this month, an attack that killed nine people and injured 27,” our colleague Griff Witte reports. “A lightning-fast response from nearby officers prevented a far higher toll: When police shot him dead, the killer still had dozens of bullets to go in his double-drum, 100-round magazine.”
- Such magazines have little use in hunting, law enforcement or self-defense: “But high-capacity devices, which are readily available online and in stores, have been used in more than half of all mass shootings in recent years, including especially deadly attacks in Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Tex., and Parkland, Fla,” Griff writes.
- Some research shows that limits can work: “Boston University professor Michael Siegel has found that states limiting the size of magazines are less likely to experience a mass shooting. Nine states and the District of Columbia have such bans on the books, with most limiting magazines to 10 bullets.”
- But the NRA and many GOP lawmakers vehemently oppose limits: “There’s not a shred of evidence that high-capacity-magazine bans work,” said NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen.
- A former ATF agent and now gun-control advocate disagrees: “The high-capacity magazine is what takes it to a whole other level of carnage,” said David Chipman, who served 25 years as a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, who now serves as a senior policy adviser for Giffords, a group that advocates gun control.
TOP TRUMP AIDES DOWNPLAY RECESSION TALK: “President Trump and two of his senior economic advisers on Sunday played down the risk of a recession after a tumultuous week in the markets suggested that the economy is heading onto shaky ground,” our colleagues Tory Newmyer, Felicia Sonmez and Robert Samuels report.
- Kudlow says ‘let’s not be afraid of optimism’: “I don’t see a recession at all,” White House economic adviser Lartry Kudlow added on “Fox News Sunday.”
- Navarro stills says tariffs aren’t hurting consumers: “They’re not hurting anybody here. … They’re hurting China,” White House trade director Peter Navarro said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” They’re slashing their prices.”
- But new research says he’s wrong: “Economists at Harvard University, the University of Chicago, the International Monetary Fund and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston [found] that the tariffs are effectively tax increases on America,” Tory, Felicia and Robert write of a new study that Navarro dismisses.
- Trump was similarly skeptical of a recession:
Trump also said “I’m prepared for everything” when we asked why he and his advisers haven’t planned for a possible recession. https://t.co/O9Ai5gOwKS— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) August 18, 2019
BIDEN RUNS INTO ONLINE FUNDRAISING TROUBLES: “Joe Biden raised $4.6 million online on his first day in the 2020 presidential race, surprising doubters who thought the former vice president couldn’t run a modern campaign,” Politico’s Maggie Severns and Allan James Vestal report. “But since then Biden’s online fundraising has tumbled — looking more like flash-in-the-pan opponent Beto O’Rourke than top-tier rivals like Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.”
- Key stat: "More than 60 percent of the $13.2 million Biden has raised online came in the first week of his campaign."
- Biden and Beto: "While other top candidates spiked early and then gradually raised more money online as the 2020 campaign has carried on, Biden’s pattern is similar to O’Rourke, who roared into the race with millions raised in his first day but has trickled off since then," Severns and Vestal write. But unlike Beto, Biden has held many high-dollar events.
- Biden refuses to budge on praise for Republicans: At a fundraiser over the weekend, the former VP raised some eyebrows with this comment:
Biden at a Cape Cod fundraiser tonight: “There’s an awful lot of really good Republicans out there. I get in trouble for saying that with Democrats, but...every time we ever got in trouble with our administration, remember who got sent up to Capitol Hill to fix it? Me.”— Matt Viser (@mviser) August 18, 2019
NEW THIS MORNING: Howard University will add men's and women's golf teams after NBA star Steph Curry's donation, our colleague Wesley Lowery reports of what university officials believe is the first time the historically black university will have a golf team since the 1970s and its “first Division I golf program in the university’s 152-year history.”
- The details: “The cost of a collegiate golf program, including both operating expenses and scholarships, can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. While declining to reveal the exact amount, Wesley writes, Curry’s team said he will make a seven-figure donation paid out over the next six years, aimed at giving Howard time to raise an endowed fund that would make the program self-sustainable.
- “To hear somebody as passionate about the game as I was, all the while still pursuing their education at Howard … impacted me,” Curry told Wes over the weekend about a conversation he had with then Howard junior Otis Ferguson in January. Players in the program will also pay it forward by agreeing to volunteer in Greater Washington with Eat. Learn. Play., a foundation run by Curry and his wife, Ayesha, that encourages healthy development in children.
- Why it matters: “Curry’s announcement comes as the sport — more than 20 years after Tiger Woods became the first black golfer to win the Masters — continues to see deep diversity struggles,” Wes writes. “The PGA Tour is nearly as white today as it was in the 1980s, a number of historic black golf courses across the nation have shuttered, and golf programs at HBCUs are struggling to survive.