- The Trump administration announced an order that will ban evictions for millions of Americans through the end of the year.
- The order will be enacted by the CDC with the goal of preventing additional coronavirus spread that could come from forcing people out of their homes and into shelters, shared housing, or other crowded living spaces.
- The rule applies to all people who expect to make less than $99,000 this year, or $198,000 for married couples.
- It is by far the most sweeping action the administration has taken on evictions, and while many housing advocates applauded it, they also said it falls short.
- Notably, the order does not give any aid to renters or landlords, meaning that renters will still be required to pay all the money they owe when the ban ends or face eviction.
New Eviction Ban
The Trump administration issued an order Tuesday that will ban evictions for millions of Americans through the end of the year.
The new rule is by far the most sweeping action the administration has taken to protect renters who have lost their jobs or have taken other financial hits during the coronavirus pandemic.
The order, which is being enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aims to prevent the additional spread of the coronavirus that mass evictions could create by leaving renters homeless. That’s because mass evictions could force many into homeless shelters, shared housing, or other crowded living spaces.
Under the order, any renter who expects to make no more than $99,000 this year ($198,000 for married couples) or anyone who received a stimulus check under the CARES Act cannot be evicted for failing to pay rent on time.
Renters can still be evicted for other reasons than failing to pay rent, like criminal behavior or property damage. Any landlord who evicts someone for not paying rent can face criminal penalties including fines and jail time.
The order also requires everyone covered under it who is facing eviction to fill out a declaration agreeing to several statements under sworn testimony.
In addition to acknowledging that they meet the income threshold, the declaration also requires all renters to certify that they have “used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing,” are unable to make full payments due to loss of household income or wages or “extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses,” and are “using best efforts to make timely partial payments” as close to the full amount as they can afford.
If evicted, qualifying tenants must also confirm that they are “likely become homeless, need to move into a homeless shelter, or need to move into a new residence shared by other people who live in close quarters because I have no other available housing options.”
Very notably, under that declaration, renters are additionally required to agree that they understand that once the eviction ban ends on Dec. 31, their landlord can require them to pay the full amount of money they owed. If they do not, they can be evicted once the moratorium expires.
In other words, the moratorium does not erase rent payments. If you are a renter, you still owe that rent. This order just makes it so you cannot be evicted for not paying it during a set period of time. That means that if you do not pay rent or only pay partial rent during the moratorium, you will still owe everything you have not paid yet once it’s expired
If you cannot make up all those payments you owe, you can still be evicted for not paying once it ends.
While it may sound extreme, this provision is in line with most, if not all, of the federal and state-level eviction bans that have been put in place throughout the pandemic.
Before Trump’s new order, the most widespread action taken on evictions during the pandemic was a federal moratorium for renters who were residents of buildings and homes with federal mortgages, which was signed into law in March as part of the $2 trillion CARES Act.
That only applied to around one out of every four renters, and because the ban was not based on income, a lot of people were not covered. It still helped millions of Americans, but that moratorium expired at the end of July, and because it coincided with the expiration of other programs like an additional $600 in federal unemployment benefits, many experts were worried that the U.S. was facing an evictions crisis.
To prevent that, the House both extended the moratorium and expanded it to all tenants as part of the $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill it passed back May. However, Senate Republicans broadly rejected that legislation, and when they proposed their own bill in July, it did not include any plans to extend the evictions ban.
Some states had also implemented their own eviction bans that covered more renters than the federal ban did, so some of those were still in place when the federal one ended, but many of those protections have also started to expire. According to reports, right now, only 17 states and D.C. still have those safeguards.
With the federal ban expired and state bans headed the same way, experts predicted at the beginning of August that 30 to 40 million renters were at risk of being evicted in the next few months absent serious intervention.
With negotiations stalled in Congress, Trump took matters into his own hands at the beginning of last month and announced a series of executive actions aimed at helping Americans economically.
Among those actions was an executive order that Trump said would not only expand the moratorium but give more aid to renters. The order did not actually do either of those things.
In reality, it just called on the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and the director of CDC to “consider” whether an eviction ban is needed, and called for the Treasury and Housing and Urban Development secretaries to see if they could find any more funds. The order did not promise any more money.
A Bittersweet Moment for Housing Advocates
Following the executive order, many criticized Trump for misrepresenting his policy and also for not doing enough for renters. With the new order, the script has not flipped, and many have praised the president and his administration for putting such widespread safeguards in place to protect renters.
While many housing advocates have applauded the move, they’re still concerned that it falls short in one key place: providing additional aid to renters.
As noted before, renters will still have to pay the full rent at some point. What’s more, Trump’s order even explicitly allows landlords to charge “fees, penalties, or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent or other housing payment on a timely basis.”
However, the order does nothing to help people pay that rent, so while people will not be evicted, many will still also be accumulating thousands of dollars of rent-related debts. This fact has lead to some bittersweet reactions from experts and advocates.
“My reaction is a feeling of tremendous relief. It’s a pretty extraordinary and bold and unprecedented measure that the White House is taking that will save lives and prevent tens of millions of people from losing their homes in the middle of a pandemic,” said Diane Yentel, CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “While an eviction moratorium is an essential step, it is a half-measure that extends a financial cliff for renters to fall off of when the moratorium expires and back rent is owed.”
Some landlords have expressed serious concerns about Trump’s order because in addition to not giving any aid to renters, the order also does not provide any funds for landlords — many of whom won’t be collecting full rent or even any rent at all from some of their tenants.
According to data from Rentec Direct, a property management information and tenant screening firm, in the first 10 days of August alone, landlords reported taking in almost 30% percent less in rent than during the same period in March.
Housing experts say that if landlords also face financial trouble, it could create problems for the whole market.
“An eviction moratorium will ultimately harm the very people it aims to help by making it impossible for housing providers, particularly small owners, to meet their financial obligations and continue to provide shelter to their residents,” Doug Bibby, the president of the National Multifamily Housing Coalition said.
“Not only does an eviction moratorium not address renters’ real financial needs, a protracted eviction moratorium does nothing to address the financial pressures and obligations of rental property owners,” he continued, adding that the “stability of the entire rental housing sector is thrown into question.”
As for how experts think this should be addressed, both Yentel and Bippy have called on Congress to act.
“Congress and the White House must get back to work on negotiations to enact a COVID-19 relief bill with at least $100 billion in emergency rental assistance,” Yentel told NPR. “Together with a national eviction moratorium, this assistance would keep renters stably housed and small landlords able to pay their bills and maintain their properties during the pandemic.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)
Feds Investigate Classified Files Found in Biden’s Former Office
The documents reportedly include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom
What Was in the Files?
President Biden’s legal team discovered about 10 classified files in his former office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement in Washington D.C., the White House revealed Monday.
The Department of Justice has concluded an initial inquiry into the matter and will determine whether to open a criminal investigation.
According to a source familiar with the matter who spoke to CNN, they include U.S. intelligence memos and briefing materials that covered topics such as Ukraine, Iran, and the United Kingdom.
A source also told CBS News the batch did not contain nuclear secrets and had been contained in a folder in a box with other unclassified papers.
The documents are reportedly from Biden’s time as vice president, but it remains unclear what level of classification they are and how they ended up in his office.
Biden kept an office in the. Penn Biden Center, a think tank about a mile from the White House, between 2017 and 2020, when he was elected president.
On Nov. 2, his lawyers claim, they discovered the documents as they were clearing out the space to vacate it.
They immediately notified the National Archives, which retrieved the files the next morning, according to the White House.
What Happens Next?
Attorney General Merrick Garland must decide whether to open a criminal investigation into Biden’s alleged mishandling of the documents. To that end, he appointed John Lausch Jr., the U.S. attorney in Chicago and a Trump appointee, to conduct an initial inquiry.
Garland reportedly picked him for the role despite him being in a different jurisdiction to avoid appearing partial.
Lausch has reportedly finished the initial part of his inquiry and provided a preliminary report to Garland.
If a criminal investigation is opened, Garland will likely appoint an independent special counsel to lead it.
The case mirrors a similar DoJ special counsel investigation into former President Donald Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified materials and obstruction of efforts to properly retrieve them.
On Nov. 18, Garland appointed Jack Smith to investigate over 300 classified documents found at Trump’s Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago.
Trump resisted multiple National Archives requests for the documents for months leading up to the FBI’s raid on his property, then handed over 15 boxes of files only for even more to be found still at Mar-a-Lago.
“When is the FBI going to raid the many houses of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump wrote on Truth Social Monday. “These documents were definitely not declassified.”
Rep. James Comer (R-KY), the new chairman of the House Oversight Committee, told reporters he will investigate the Biden files.
Republicans have been quick to pounce on the news and compare it to Trump’s classified files, but Democrats have pointed out differences in the small number of documents and Biden’s willingness to cooperate with the National Archives.
The White House has yet to explain why, if the files were first discovered six days before the midterm elections, the White House waited two months to reveal the news to the public.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (BBC)
Lawmakers Propose Bill to Protect Fertility Treatments Amid Post-Roe Threats
The move comes as a number of states are considering anti-abortion bills that could threaten or ban fertility treatments by redefining embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for IVF.
The Right To Build Families Act of 2022
A group of Democratic lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday that would codify the right to use assisted reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertility (IVF) treatments into federal law.
The legislation, dubbed the Right To Build Families Act of 2022, was brought forward by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Il) and Patty Murray (D-Wa.) alongside Rep. Susan Wild (D- Pa.). The measure would bar any limits on seeking or receiving IVF treatments and prohibit regulations on a person’s ability to retain their “reproductive genetic materials.”
The bill would also protect physicians who provide these reproductive services and allow the Justice Department to take civil action against any states that try to limit access to fertility treatments.
The lawmakers argue it is necessary to protect IVF because a number of states have been discussing and proposing legislation that could jeopardize or even ban access to the treatments in the wake of the Roe v. Wade reversal.
“IVF advocates in this country today are publicly telling us, ‘We need this kind of legislation to be able to protect this,’” Murray told HuffPost. “And here we are after the Dobbs decision where states are enacting laws and we have [anti-abortion] advocates who are now starting to talk, especially behind closed doors, about stopping the right for women and men to have IVF procedures done.”
Fertility Treatments Under Treat
The state-level efforts in question are being proposed by Republican lawmakers who wish to further limit abortions by redefining when life begins. Some of the proposals would define embryos or fetuses as “unborn human beings” without exceptions for those that are created through IVF, where an egg is fertilized by a sperm outside the body and then implanted in a uterus.
For example, a bill has already been pre-filed in Virginia for the 2023 legislative session that explicitly says life begins at fertilization and does not have any specific language that exempts embryos made through IVF.
Experts say these kinds of laws are concerning for a number of reasons. In the IVF process, it is typical to fertilize multiple eggs, but some are discarded. If a person becomes pregnant and does not want to keep the rest of their eggs. It is also normal that not all fertilized eggs will be viable, so physicians will get rid of those.
Sometimes doctors will also implant multiple fertilized eggs to increase the likelihood of pregnancy, but that can result in multiple eggs being fertilized. In order to prevent having multiple babies at once and improve the chance of a healthy pregnancy, people can get a fetal reduction and lower the number of fetuses.
All of those actions could become illegal under proposals that do not provide exemptions.
“In my case, I had five fertilized eggs, and we discarded three because they were not viable. That is now potentially manslaughter in some of these states,” said Duckworth, who had both of her daughters using IVF.
“I also have a fertilized egg that’s frozen. My husband and I haven’t decided what we will do with it, but the head of the Texas Right to Life organization that wrote the bounty law for Texas has come out and specifically said he’s going after IVF next, and he wants control of the embryos,” Duckworth added.
In a hearing after Roe was overturned, Murray also raised concerns about “whether parents and providers could be punished if an embryo doesn’t survive being thawed for implantation, or for disposing unused embryos.”
Experts have said that even if anti-abortion laws defining when life begins do provide exceptions, it would be contradictory and confusing, so providers would likely err on the side of caution and not provide services out of fear of prosecution.
“[Abortion bans] are forcing women to stay pregnant against their will and are, at the very same time, threatening Americans’ ability to build a family through services like IVF,” Murray said in a statement to Axios. “It’s hard to comprehend, and it’s just plain wrong.”
The federal legislation to combat these efforts faces an uphill battle. It is unlikely it will be passed in the last few days of lame duck session, and with control of Congress being handed to Republicans come January, movement in the lower chamber will be hard fought.
Duckworth, however, told Axios that she will keep introducing the legislation “until we can get it passed.”
Hundreds of Oath Keepers Claim to Be Current or Former DHS Employees
The revelation came just weeks after the militia’s founder, Stewart Rhodes, was convicted on seditious conspiracy charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
An Agency Crawling With Extremists
Over 300 members of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group claim to be current or former employees at the Department of Homeland Security, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) reported Monday.
The review appears to be the first significant public examination of the group’s leaked membership list to focus on the DHS.
The agencies implicated include Border Patrol, Coast Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Secret Service.
“I am currently a 20 year Special Agent with the United States Secret Service. I have been on President Clinton and President Bush’s protective detail. I was a member and instructor on the Presidential Protective Division’s Counter Assault Team (CAT),” one person on the list wrote.
POGO stated that the details he provided the Oath Keepers match those he made in a sworn affidavit filed in federal court.
The finding came just weeks after Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes was convicted on seditious conspiracy charges for his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection.
“Law enforcement agents who have associations with groups that seek to undermine democratic governance pose a heightened threat because they can compromise probes, misdirecting investigations or leaking confidential investigative information to those groups,” POGO said in its report.
In March, the DHS published an internal study finding that “the Department has significant gaps that have impeded its ability to comprehensively prevent, detect, and respond to potential threats related to domestic violent extremism within DHS.”
Some experts have suggested the DHS may be especially prone to extremist sentiments because of its role in policing immigration. In 2016, the ICE union officially endorsed then-candidate Donald Trump for president, making the first such endorsement in the agency’s history.
The U.S. Government has a White Supremacy Problem
Copious academic research and news reports have shown that far-right extremists have infiltrated local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.
In May, a Reuters investigation found at least 15 self-identified law enforcement trainers and dozens of retired instructors listed in a database of Oath Keepers.
In 2019, Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that almost 400 current or former law enforcement officials belonged to Confederate, anti-Islam, misogynistic or anti-government militia Facebook groups.
The Pentagon has long struggled with its own extremism problem, which appears to have particularly festered in the wake of the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Nearly one in four active-duty service members said in a 2017 Military Times poll that they had observed white nationalism among the troops, and over 40% of non-white service members said the same.
The prevalence of racism in the armed forces is not surprising given that many of the top figures among right-wing extremist groups hailed from the military and those same groups are known to deliberately target disgruntled, returning veterans for recruitment.
Brandon Russell, the founder of the neo-Nazi group AtomWaffen, served in the military, as did George Lincoln Rockwell, commander of the American Nazi Party, Louis Beam, leader of the KKK, and Richard Butler, founder of the Aryan Nation.
In January, NPR reported that one in five people charged in federal or D.C. courts for their involvement in the Capitol insurrection were current or former military service members.