U.S. Politics

Friday, January 13, 2017

Norwich University Band to Perform at Trump’s Inauguration

Posted By on Fri, Jan 13, 2017 at 2:27 PM

The Norwich band - FILE
  • File
  • The Norwich band
Updated at 2:50 p.m.

The Norwich University Regimental Band and Drill Team will perform at president-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday, January 20, in Washington, D.C.

The university, home to the oldest collegiate band in the country, has been invited to perform at seven other inaugurations, most recently President Barack Obama’s in 2013.

“The Norwich University Regimental Band and Drill Team is proud to represent the university and the State of Vermont,” assistant commandant and director of bands Todd P. Edwards said in a statement announcing the news.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Morning Read: Post Walks Back Burlington Electric Hacking Story

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 9:15 AM

The Washington Post on Monday night continued to walk back a story it published Friday alleging that Russian hackers had “penetrated” the U.S. electric grid through a Vermont utility, later identified as the Burlington Electric Department.

In an editor’s note appended to the story a day after publication, the Post retracted its most explosive assertion, which had been sourced to anonymous federal officials:

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.
The original story continued to assert that malware discovered on a BED laptop last Friday was “associated with the Russian hacking operation dubbed Grizzly Steppe by the Obama administration.” But in a follow-up story published Monday night, the Post called into question even that suggestion.

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Burlington Electric Discovers Russia-Linked Malware on Laptop

Posted By on Sat, Dec 31, 2016 at 11:54 AM

  • Courtesy: Burlington Electric Department
  • BED logo
Updated at 4:35 p.m.

The Burlington Electric Department discovered suspected Russian malware code on one of its laptops Friday, the municipal utility confirmed late that night.

According to BED spokesman Mike Kanarick, the code is associated with a Russian hacking campaign known by the federal government as Grizzly Steppe. Kanarick said in a written statement Friday that the laptop was “not connected to our organization’s grid systems.”

“We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding,” he said. “Our team is working with federal officials to trace this malware and prevent any other attempts to infiltrate utility systems.”

BED issued a second statement Saturday afternoon saying that there was “no indication that either our electric grid or customer information has been compromised.” It said that similar malware had been discovered elsewhere in the country and was “not unique to Burlington Electric.”

“Media reports stating that Burlington Electric was hacked or that the electric grid was breached are false,” the utility said in the second statement.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Walters: Peter Welch Faces ‘A Totally New World’

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 11:51 AM

Congressman Peter Welch, left, in 2015 - FILE
  • File
  • Congressman Peter Welch, left, in 2015
Ever since Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, Congressman Peter Welch (D-Vt.) has positioned himself as a conciliator willing to work across the aisle to find common ground. That approach has sometimes elicited criticism from Vermont liberals (remember ACORN?), who want their representatives to stand a little taller for their views.

Like, say, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

But Welch believes he has served his constituents by seeking areas of agreement with Republicans. As a member of the minority, he told Seven Days this week, “I needed Republicans to get anything done.” But, he added, “To some extent they also needed me. They needed some Democratic validation to get a bill signed by President Obama.”

Not anymore.

“It’s a totally new world with Donald Trump,” he noted. In response to the Republican firebrand’s election, Welch is trying to “come to some judgments about what’s a practical way for me to represent Vermont.”

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Will Scott Stand Up to Trump? That Depends

Posted By on Mon, Dec 12, 2016 at 9:12 PM

Governor-elect Phil Scott speaks to reporters Monday in Montpelier. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Governor-elect Phil Scott speaks to reporters Monday in Montpelier.
Governor-elect Phil Scott didn’t support — and has said he didn’t vote for — Donald Trump for president. But now that the two Republicans are about to take office, what kind of relationship will Vermont’s next governor have with the next president?

Scott offered some hints at a press conference Monday at his Montpelier transition office. He seemed loath to tick off the top dog, yet promised to be an “independent voice.”

Vermonters should not expect to hear Scott to raise that independent voice either for or against Trump’s staffing picks. Scott declined to characterize any of Trump’s choices so far as good or bad.

“Most of the people he’s appointed I’ve never heard of,” Scott said. “There’s not anyone in particular that I’ve thought anything about.”

Scott said he’s been focused largely on his own administration’s hiring blitz and writing a state budget that’s due two weeks after he takes office. He’s announced just two cabinet members so far and said he expects to name more on Tuesday.

Scott made several statements that indicated he’s not inclined to speak out against Trump in these early transition days. “I’m not looking to poke my finger in the eye of the president-elect,” he said, commenting that he’s “over” being distressed about Trump’s actions.

But Scott indicated he will stand up to Trump “when it’s appropriate.” That time, he said, is “when Vermont is vulnerable.”

Scott, who takes office January 5, could find Vermont in conflict with the Trump administration on any number of issues — including immigration.

The president-elect has pledged to cut federal funding to localities that become “sanctuary” cities for undocumented immigrants.

Several Vermont cities, including Burlington and Winooski, are considering establishing themselves as sanctuary cities that would not help federal authorities pursue undocumented immigrants. Scott said he supports their right to do that.

Scott said he doesn’t have plans to make significant changes in state policy on the issue. Under departing Gov. Peter Shumlin, Vermont enacted a policy directing state police not to report undocumented immigrants with whom they come into contact to federal officials.

Scott said Monday that he and his staff have not discussed that policy, even as he prepared to appoint a public safety commissioner. But he said, “I don’t expect to do anything dramatic.” He added that revoking Shumlin’s policy would qualify as dramatic.

When it comes to Trump’s threat to withhold federal funds, Scott seemed less firm. “I think we have to make sure we’re keeping that in mind,” he said. “We rely heavily on federal funding.”

Scott also said he also supports the concept behind Shumlin’s decision last week to pardon those convicted of possession of up to one ounce of marijuana before that offense was decriminalized in 2013. But the new gov is worried that the old one will stick him with the work.

Shumlin announced Thursday that he was offering pardons to as many as 17,000 Vermonters. He gave them a Christmas Day deadline to apply — just 12 days before Shumlin leaves office.

Scott said his staff reached out to Shumlin’s to emphasize he hopes the pardoning will be done before Shumlin leaves.

“It’s not an easy process,” Scott said. “My hope is he will be able to fill his responsibility.”

Shumlin spokesman Scott Coriell said that’s the plan. “It’s a priority of ours,” he said. As of Monday morning, 250 people had applied for pardons.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Shumlin: Repealing Obamacare Would Be a ‘Disaster’ for Vermont

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 3:33 PM

Gov. Peter Shumlin speaking Tuesday - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Terri Hallenbeck
  • Gov. Peter Shumlin speaking Tuesday
If Republican president-elect Donald Trump makes good on his pledge to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, it will be a “disaster” for Vermont, Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin said Tuesday.

In 2010, 8.6 percent of Vermonters lacked health insurance. Last year, the number had dropped to 2.7 percent, the governor said. Vermont has the second lowest rate of uninsured people in the country overall, according to his office.

Vermonters who receive subsidies for their health coverage get a median of $300 per person per month, said Sean Sheehan, director of outreach and education at the Department of Vermont Health Access.

If Trump eliminates the health insurance programs enacted under President Barack Obama, as he has said he will, Vermonters would lose at least $100 million a year in subsidies, Shumlin said.

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U.S. Attorney’s Office Adds a Civil Rights Prosecutor

Posted By on Tue, Nov 29, 2016 at 12:37 PM

U.S. Attorney Eric Miller, at podium - FILE: MARK DAVIS
  • FIle: Mark Davis
  • U.S. Attorney Eric Miller, at podium
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Burlington has hired a new prosecutor who will focus on enforcing civil rights laws.

Julia Torti, a Vermont native who worked as a civil rights attorney in New York, is one of 34 new assistant U.S. attorneys that the U.S. Department of Justice is hiring across the country to enforce laws against discrimination.

The Vermont office said it secured one of the positions through a competitive application process.

“Aggressive protection of the civil rights of the residents of Vermont is a top priority for the Department of Justice,” U.S. Attorney Eric Miller said in a prepared statement. “The Department and this U.S. Attorney’s Office are committed to a level playing field for all Vermont residents, promoting equal opportunity for Vermonters, and educating the public about their rights and responsibilities under federal civil rights laws.”

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

At Burlington Book Tour Stop, Sanders Soothes Supporters

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2016 at 11:35 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders at a book tour event in Burlington Tuesday night - ALICIA FREESE
  • Alicia Freese
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders at a book tour event in Burlington Tuesday night
Several hundred Vermonters assembled at the Church of Bernie on Tuesday night.

The hymn books at the First Unitarian Universalist Society Meeting House where they gathered went unopened. Instead, people in the pews paged through hardback copies of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) hefty new book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, waiting for the man himself to appear at the pulpit. It proved a fitting setting for a former presidential candidate who’s now famous for his political proselytizing.

Hosted by Phoenix Books and held in Sanders’ hometown of Burlington, the event was one of several sold-out stops on his nationwide book tour. Sanders announced his Senate campaign at the same church in 2006 and some of his most zealous fans attended Tuesday night’s sermon.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Sanders on Trump: ‘We’re Going to Hold Him Accountable’

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 9:08 PM

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaking Wednesday at George Washington University - VIDEO SCREENSHOT
  • Video screenshot
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) speaking Wednesday at George Washington University
In what he billed as a major speech, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) pledged Wednesday night to hold president-elect Donald Trump to some of the promises he made while also standing up to any racism, sexism and bigotry that Trump may condone.

The speech was delivered at George Washington University and streamed live online.

Sanders, who nearly snared the Democratic presidential nomination before campaigning for nominee Hillary Clinton, read a snippet from his new book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In. In it, he declared, “We set the agenda for the America of tomorrow.”

His speech offered an indication of the new role the 75-year-old senator expects to play during a Trump presidency: speaking out early, often and loudly against any transgressions. Earlier Wednesday, the Senate Democratic leadership appointed Sanders to a new role — chair of outreach — that could give him a bigger stage from which to speak.

“What you will see on Capitol Hill is, many Democrats will be prepared to work with Mr. Trump if he turns out to be sincere about the promises he made during the campaign,” Sanders told the GWU crowd. “If those promises turn out to be hollow, if they were nothing more than campaign rhetoric, we will not only oppose his economic policies, we will expose that hypocrisy.”

Sanders cherry-picked all the Trump campaign promises he could support, challenging Trump to come through in standing up for the middle class and elderly, for raising the minimum wage and ending “disastrous” trade policies.

“He was saying he was going to be the champion of the middle class,” Sanders said of Trump. “We’re going to hold him accountable.”

“Mr. Trump said, unlike many Republicans — the vast majority of Republicans — he said he will not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid,” Sanders said. “Pay attention to see what he does.”

Trump talked about a $10-an-hour federal minimum wage, Sanders said. “We will hold him to those words,” he pledged.

Then Sanders shifted to the agendas he doesn’t want to see Trump pursue.

“We will not be involved in the expansion of bigotry, of racism, of sexism,” Sanders said, to thunderous applause. “I know I speak for millions of fellow Americans. Mr. Trump, we are not going backward in terms of bigotry. We are going to go forward in creating a nondiscriminatory society.”

Earlier Wednesday, Sanders had called on Trump to rescind the appointment of Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counsel, echoing the rest of the Vermont congressional delegation and many congressional Democrats. “The president of the United States should not have a racist at his side,” Sanders said Wednesday night.

He then called on Trump to pay attention to science, not the chief executive officers of the fossil-fuel industry, when it comes to climate change. “Climate change is not a hoax,” Sanders said. “Millions of us have got to stand up and tell Mr. Trump to read a little bit about science.”

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Leahy Takes Appropriations Post, Sanders Joins Dem Leadership

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 1:35 PM

Sen. Patrick Leahy - FILE: CALEB KENNA
  • File: Caleb Kenna
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy
An earlier version of this story was first posted at 9:50 a.m.

When president-elect Donald Trump takes office in January, Vermont’s two U.S. senators will play new roles in the opposition.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced Wednesday morning that he will vacate his position as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in order to serve as the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Hours later, the Senate Democratic caucus named Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to a party leadership post — chair of outreach — and reappointed him ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee.

Both developments were striking, but for different reasons.

Leahy has served as the top Democrat on Judiciary since 1997, when then-senator Joe Biden relinquished the role. He turned down an opportunity to chair Appropriations in December 2012 when the late Hawaiian senator Daniel Inouye’s death made him the most senior member of the Senate. The position went, instead, to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who is now retiring.

At the time, Leahy explained that with Democrats in the majority and President Barack Obama in the White House, he would be able to represent Vermonters best with the Judiciary gavel. In a statement Wednesday, the Vermont senator said that Trump’s election had changed that calculus.

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