Detroit News: Peters presses Kelly on threats to Jewish centers

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, on Wednesday pressed Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly on why his department hasn’t disclosed its plans for “swift action” in response to bomb threats made at Jewish community centers, day schools and synagogues.

Last month, all 100 senators signed a letter, led by Peters and three others, asking Kelly, as well as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey, to tell lawmakers what they plan to do to address threats against religious institutions. None has responded, according to Peters’ office.

The JCC Association of North America reported more than 100 bomb threats against JCCs and Jewish day schools at 81 locations in 33 states in January and February. Among them were threats to the JCC of Metropolitan Detroit on Jan. 18, to the Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills on Feb. 1 and to the Hebrew Day School of Ann Arbor on Feb. 27.

“It’s rare to have a letter signed by all 100 of us. This is how serious we take it. It’s been about 29 days since the letter’s been written to you,” Peters said at Senate Homeland Security hearing. “I’m just wondering when should we expect a response.”

“It should have been a long time ago, and I’m on it,” Kelly apologized. “I will tell you this. I’ve added our approach to this issue to add mosques and any religious building, church, whatever that might be affected by this.”

“I don’t know if any of the mosques have responded yet,” Kelly said. “But I’ve told my people, let’s not talk just one religion. And let’s not just talk terrorism for that matter. Let’s talk white supremacists and things like that.”

Kelly last week visited Detroit with Peters and met with representatives of Arab-American groups and immigration stakeholders, in addition to visiting with DHS personnel at the Canadian border.

Probe urged for Trump aide

A Washington-based watchdog group filed a complaint this week against President Donald Trump’s social media director after he used Twitter to call for the electoral defeat of Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash.

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, urging it to investigate whether Dan Scavino Jr. violated the Hatch Act – the federal law prohibiting political activity by government employees.

Scavino tweeted from his personal account that Trump “is bringing auto plants & jobs back to Michigan,” and Amash is a “big liability,” urging “#TrumpTrain, defeat him in primary.”

The White House denied Scavino had run afoul of the law, but former government lawyers for the Bush and Obama White Houses said Scavino’s tweet crossed ethical lines.

As part of Amash’s response to Scavino, Amash tweeted: “Bring it on. I’ll always stand up for liberty, the Constitution & Americans of every background. You can help here,” linking to a donation page for his campaign.

CREW claimed Amash’s reply violated House rules that prohibit using official resources for campaign fundraising. CREW filed a complaint against Amash with the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Amash’s office said his Twitter account is in compliance with House rules because no congressional resources are used to operate it. The 36-year-old congressman famously handles his own social media, and his House.gov website doesn’t link to the account.

Leonard: ‘Fair shake’ on incentives

Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard is vowing to give a Senate business incentive plan “a fair shake” in the lower chamber but warning that conservatives in his caucus remain more interested in pursuing “broad” tax relief for all residents.

The “good jobs for Michigan” package, spearheaded by Midland Republican Jim Stamas, sailed out of the state Senate last week in a 32-5 vote with the blessing of Gov. Rick Snyder. It would allow up to 15 businesses a year to capture a portion of income taxes paid by new hires if they successfully create hundreds of jobs.

Leonard has been non-committal about the package, along with a separate development incentive plan backed by Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert, but said Friday the House will at least give it a “good look.”

“But we do have a very conservative House,” Leonard, R-DeWitt, warned on WJR-AM radio in Detroit. “This is a House that many of the members, they don’t typically support incentives. ... They don’t want to get into the business of picking winners and losers.”

Leonard made clear he’s not saying “no” but promised “there will be some scrutiny in the House of Representatives.”

Weiser to reprise finance role

The Republican National Committee has named Michigan GOP Chairman Ron Weiser to its finance leadership team.

RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel and RNC Finance Chairman Steve Wynn announced this week that Weiser, who succeeded McDaniel as state party chair in February, would serve as a regional vice chairman on the team.

“I am delighted to announce the addition of these longtime friends of the party and supporters of this administration to our finance leadership team,” McDaniel said in a statement.

“Together this team will employ their extraordinary talent and understanding of Americans across the country to maintain and build upon our unprecedented fundraising success.”

Weiser, who was a fundraiser for the Trump campaign, has previously served as national finance chair for the RNC and was national vice chairman of the Trump Victory campaign and vice chairman of Trump’s Presidential Inaugural Committee and transition.

By:  Melissa Nann-Burke & Jonathan Oosting
Source: Detroit News