On Thursday, July 6 Yolanda and Ann represented Indivisible Morongo Basin at the Health Care Action at Rep Paul Cook’s Yucaipa office. His office was locked and, in anticipation of our action, his staff had actually removed all the signage indicating that it was his office. As if that would stop us. We made some new Indivisible friends and invited the Trump chicken to attend a rally in Yucca Valley. It was great connecting with people who are deeply concerned with this issue. Before we left we filled out hospital insurance forms describing why we need insurance and posted them on his office window.
Is Trump colluding with Russia or enriching himself off the presidency? There’s one easy way to find out. Every president since Carter has released their tax returns for a simple reason: it demonstrates that they don’t have conflicts of interests. But Trump has refused to release his tax returns. This would be unacceptable for any president, and it’s particularly shocking given the global reach of Trump’s businesses, including those tied to Russia.
Until we see Trump’s tax returns, we cannot be certain that foreign governments don’t have leverage over Trump that can be used to influence American policy. And we can’t be certain that he’s acting in the best interests of Americans. The integrity of American democracy is at stake here, and Congress needs to defend it.
Congress has power to get his returns…but they’re sitting on their hands. Trump isn’t a king—he can’t simply mandate that his tax returns remain hidden. Congress has the power to get his tax returns. But they’re refusing to use this power, largely because Republicans in the House and Senate are blocking efforts to do so.
This is simply unacceptable. Members of Congress are standing up for Trump instead of standing up for their country and their constituents. Given the importance to our democracy and to national security, Congress should step in and make Trump’s returns public. This is why our founders established our system of checks and balances in the first place—to ensure that no single branch of government gets away with abuses of power.
THE PRESIDENTIAL TAX TRANSPARENCY ACT
This simple bill would require President Trump and future major party presidential nominees to release the three most recent years of their tax returns, with only minor redactions for privacy. If they refuse, the Treasury would provide the returns to the Office of Government Ethics or Federal Election Commission.
This is a bipartisan bill in the House, with support on both sides of the aisle.
We demand that Congressman Paul Cook take a stand and protect our democracy by co-sponsoring the Presidential Tax Transparency Act, or H.R. 305.
— Adapted from indivisibleguide.com.
The following Soapbox by Eric Hamburg of Wonder Valley appeared in the April 5 Hi-Desert Star. You may listen to Rep. Cook’s “tele-townhall” here – or maybe a better use of your time would be to join fellow Indivisibles from throughout the 8th Congressional District at the “CA-08 Town Hall for Congressman Paul Cook” on April 22 in Victorville!
Cook’s telephone ‘town hall’ leaves questions unanswered
Rep. Cook held a telephonic “town hall,” with very short (one day) notice, on March 29. While the congressman was well intentioned and genial during this call, this format did not fit the congressman’s expressed “need” of hearing from his constituents to inform his actions. Questions to him were screened and, intentionally or not, most of the ones that he heard during the call were complimentary of him and/or supportive of his positions; when not, the answers he gave were imprecise, rarely on-point and provided little substance.
During this call the representative heard virtually no dissenting views on many grave and critical issues that confront his constituents, the country and the world, among them questions as to 1) his 100 percent pro-Trump voting record, 2) his position on Trump administration corruption and conflicts of interest, 3) concerns as to Trump campaign/administration involvement, and Trump’s own potential involvement in Russian manipulation of the 2016 election, 4) his position on gutting environmental regulations, defunding of climate science and climate change denial, 5) defunding of essential women’s health care, and 6) his vote allowing ISPs to sell private Internet information, to name a just a few.
It was particularly disturbing that Mr. Cook, when asked, expressed no objections as to Rep. Nunes’ highly inappropriate and damaging actions in the House Intelligence Committee. Rep. Cook should tell Speaker Ryan to have Rep. Nunes recuse himself from the investigation.
During the American Health Care Act debate, Rep. Cook never took a public stand. Calls to his offices resulted in non-committal responses. Perhaps he would have voted against the AHCA if it ever came to a vote but we can’t know that, and we frankly have the right to know where he stood on the substance of the bill.
Positively, Rep. Cook did voice an objection to proposed cuts in funding for the National Institute of Health and Centers for Disease Control, but when the budget comes under consideration will he use his vote to assure that such cuts don’t happen or will he go along with such cuts intact when the budget comes up for a vote as he has with the rest of the Trump agenda?
It appears from calls to his field office that no other meetings with concerned constituents are “on his calendar” during the April recess, just as one did not happen during the previous recess. If Rep. Cook’s intent is to have this teleconference stand in lieu of face-to-face meetings with his constituents, then this call was an inadequate substitute for that. The congressman has an opportunity to participate in such an exchange at the Victorville town hall he has been invited to on April 22. Will he take this opportunity to hear something other than what was frankly a much too limited dialog allowed during the teleconference?
I, of course, don’t expect Rep. Cook to agree with all of my views but as the representative of over 700,000 people, we expect him to hear and respond to the full range of concerns from the thousands of people in this district who are deeply troubled by the profound damage that is being done to our democracy and factor this into his actions and votes. Large numbers of people in this district did not vote for Rep. Cook’s re-election and now national polling shows that large majorities disapprove of Trump (the popular vote loser) and his actions. He stated numerous times during the teleconference that he wants to hear such views but this teleconference was not such a vehicle. I hope for better from him.
We did it! YOU did it! Every one of you who called, wrote, shared, showed up, rallied, and reached out contributed to this win – and this is a BIG win! We’re under no illusions that TrumpCare is gone for good, but this giant defeat out of the gate has to be demoralizing for the Right and is revealing of the fragility of the Republicans’ foolhardy bargain with Trump. People all over the Basin worked really hard to make this happen, and that work made a difference. Thank you, Indivisibles of the Morongo Basin and throughout the 8th District!
Now, it’s time to get back to work. Our next general meeting is coming up in early April and it will be all about ACTION! Look for details soon.
Finally, a word from the national Indivisible Guide Team:
Friday was just an incredible victory for Americans—and also an incredible victory for you. There is no way TrumpCare would have been defeated before coming to a vote if it hadn’t been for the thousands of office visits, phone calls, and town hall questions from constituents like you and your Indivisible group members. This is your win, and you did it by standing indivisible. Phenomenal, just phenomenal. We hope you and your group are taking the time to celebrate—you deserve to relish this moment and be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
The resistance to the Trump agenda continues on the opinion pages of the Hi-Desert Star. Keep it up, people! You’re getting the message out, and it makes a difference.
Letters to the Editor:
- People are upset for a reason by John Stevens of Yucca Valley
- Prevent future conflicts of interest by Rebecca Unger of Joshua Tree
- Won’t sit back while GOP destroys lives by Stephen Bost of Yucca Valley
- Protesting is part of American DNA by Kit Brooks of Joshua Tree
- The duping of America by John M. Freter of Yucca Valley
- New health care bill has terrible problems by Ann Bost of Yucca Valley
- Cook made himself a prop for far right by jill Giegerich of Joshua Tree
(Reminder: Find contact information for submitting your letters to the editor of newspapers throughout the 8th District here.)
Indivisible Morongo Basin was also one of eight District 8 Indivisible groups that signed on to a response to Rep. Paul Cook’s February op-ed that rejected the calls for a town hall. The letter was published in the Victorville Daily Press and the Barstow Desert Dispatch. Full text:
An open letter to Rep. Paul Cook
Posted Mar 13, 2017 at 9:34 AM
By T.C. Corrigan
Congressman Cook: Thanks so much for your op-ed last week. We’re glad to hear you’re safe. The “missing person” milk cartons that we saw on the news had us worried!
We’re writing you today as everyday citizens from California’s 8th District who, in recent weeks, have formed several local Indivisible groups in response to the Trump agenda. Indivisible is a national, non-partisan, grassroots movement working to resist that agenda, but our local, 8th District groups operate autonomously and democratically.
For weeks we’ve asked you to schedule a public town hall. Town halls are a time-honored means for constituents to directly inquire about their representatives’ policy positions and share their thoughts on the country’s direction.
Despite our many requests, you declined to schedule a public town hall during district work week (Feb. 18-26) — a period when legislators were expected to be in their districts interacting with constituents. In last week’s op-ed, you explained your reticence. We would like to respond to your main points.
First, you argued that February’s nationwide town halls were “wholly unproductive and oftentimes unsafe.” Citizens asked their representatives tough policy questions and shared personal stories about those policies’ impacts on their lives. What could be more productive for a democracy? The vast majority of town halls were also entirely peaceful. And where constituents did vent their frustrations, is it not their representatives’ responsibility to listen and consider their views?
Second, you accuse us of “creating not a dialogue but an indoor protest space with ample media coverage.” We’ve had several productive, if passionate, discussions with your staff, and we are committed to a productive town hall where constituents can ask questions, share stories, and respectfully listen. And if your positions are so popular, you should have no problem packing the place with grateful constituents, right? Your spokesman called us a “fringe group,” after all.
Third, you say the 8th District “voted for President Trump by a wide margin,” and that he “must be given the latitude to govern.” President Trump did receive 54 percent of the 8th District’s vote, but does that justify ignoring constituents who disagree with his agenda? Indeed, our members include Republicans who voted for you, but recoil at the president’s agenda and want you to address it at a town hall.
As for the president’s “latitude to govern,” we ask, “how much latitude, and at what cost?” He has twice signed un-American Muslim bans that — according to a leaked DHS report — will not make us safer. He also called for a border wall that American taxpayers (not Mexico) will pay tens of billions to construct, and his deportation directives disrupt our non-violent neighbors’ lives. Rather than “drain the swamp,” he tasked career politicians and billionaire lobbyists with dismantling decades of pro-social regulations. He seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act despite your party’s inability to present a replacement that would make quality healthcare affordable to all Americans. And every day we learn more about his campaign’s communication with Russian officials while that country meddled in our election. Again, how much latitude, and at what cost?
You say you “will not be a rubber stamp for the President.” But according to fivethirtyeight.com you have cast every single vote this Congress in support of the Trump agenda. Further, your Jan. 30 statement defended the illegal, un-American, and unsafe Muslim ban, and only quibbled with its rollout. We are heartened to read about your concern with Russian meddling in our election, but why haven’t you called for an independent investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia? In short, if you’re not a rubber stamp for the President, prove it.
Finally, you argue that despite this year’s “hectic calendar” you have “met with groups of veterans, off roaders, conservationists, and active duty troops — among many others.” Sure, but you have not given advance public notice for these meetings (as you did prior to the Trump administration). So you meet with groups of your choosing on your terms, and anyone else can send an e-mail and wait for a generic response. Taxpaying constituents deserve more.
You served our country courageously. Now we ask you to find a bit of that courage and hold a public town hall during April recess. It not, we’ll arrange one for you with plenty of advance notice. If you decline, we’ll invite others who are interested in your job, and we’ll save you an empty seat. We hope it doesn’t come to that, though. Many of us would love to put a face (other than the one on missing posters and milk cartons) to the name.
T.C. Corrigan is founder of the Indivisible group of the San Bernardino Mountains. He penned this op-ed with the help of and on behalf of other members of Indivisible groups of California’s 8th District from Barstow, Big Bear, Eastern Sierras, Morongo Basin, Mount Baldy, Victor Valley and the Yucaipa area.
The Hi-Desert Star Opinion pages have been flooded with resistance action over the last week. Thank you to all you letter-writers, and please keep it up!
- Cook: ‘I won’t be appearing as a political prop for protests’ by Congressman Paul Cook, who clearly has been feeling the heat!
- Paul Cook: silence, avoidance a strange response by Daniel Newell of Joshua Tree
Letters to the Editor:
- We are not ‘fringe’ groups by Margaret Verba of Lee Vining and Indivisible East Sierra
- Disappointed in Paul Cook’s absence by James Hammons of Yucca Valley
- We are long overdue for new leadership by Mindy Kaufman of Joshua Tree
- Hope Congressman Cook knows he’s MIA by Liz Mediavilla of Pioneertown (with plug for Indivisible Morongo Basin! Thanks Liz!)
- It’s time for Cook to meet the public by Michelle Myers of Pioneertown
(Note: Find contact information for submitting your letters to the editor of newspapers throughout the 8th District here.)
In the Star March 2 edition, the feature “Word on the Street” posed the question, “Do you think Congressman Paul Cook should hold a town hall meeting?” Of the six responses from residents across the Basin, five were in favor of a town hall. Several comments made note that courtesy and avoiding shouting were necessary to have a productive event, and one suggested that Cook “could livestream it as well, seeing as how his district covers a large territory and not everyone can be there in person.”
Indivisible Morongo Basin made its local protest debut in Yucca Valley on February 28 with our “Pray for Paul” silent candlelight vigil, with over 80 people in attendance. The action came off perfectly as a result of really impressive planning and execution by a dedicated team of Indivisible members who made it look easy. THANK YOU for your skill, commitment, and vision to Yolanda, Patty, Marya, Kit, Jill, Eva S., and Eva M., as well to our security volunteers, sign-makers, and everyone else who contributed. We’ll append photos/video when we have them.
The inspiration for our vigil came from the hardworking members of other District 8 Indivisibles, especially Victor Valley and SB Mountains, who developed their own vigil in Apple Valley. View the video from Apple Valley here, and read about it in the San Bernardino Sun.
Here’s coverage of our local vigil and the standoff with Congressman Paul Cook from the March 2 edition of the Hi-Desert Star:
At an impasse over town halls: Cook says no to ‘chaotic meetings’
By Stacy Moore, Hi-Desert Star
YUCCA VALLEY – Residents of the HI-Desert tried to keep up the pressure on U.S. Rep. Paul Cook with a mock candlelight vigil Tuesday, but the congressman isn’t budging.
The locals are calling for Cook to hold a town hall in his 8th District, but Cook is standing firm on his decision not to host a public meeting.
“I’ll continue meeting with constituent groups just as I have in the past – including those which disagree with me, but do so in a constructive manner,” Cook wrote in an editorial Wednesday.
“However, I won’t attend chaotic political protests which accomplish little and jeopardize the safety of participants, my staff, or me.”
The congressman and his spokesman’s descriptions of demonstrators as politically extreme agitators who could turn violent are not playing well with the residents taking part in the “Where is Paul Cook” movement.
“We are not a fringe. We’re upstanding Americans who value our democracy and we want an opportunity to express our views for him to take back to Washington, “ Eva Soltes, a spokeswoman for indivisible Morongo Basin, said at Tuesday’s vigil.
Chapters of Indivisible, a group founded in the wake of Donald Turmp’s election, are using a tongue-in-cheek “missing” campaign to spotlight his choice not to host a town hall.
At the candlelight vigil, constituents stood at the corner of Twentynine Palm Highway and Old Woman Springs Road as the sun set. They held LED candles and “missing person” fliers with Cook’s image.
“He has nothing to fear; we are very peaceful people,” Soltes said. “We just want to explain our concerns.”
One of their biggest concerns is health care; Trump voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act before under the Obama administration, and Republicans are now working on what they say will be a repeal and replacement of Obamacare.
Cook spokesman Michael Fresquez said last week the Indivisible members refuse to accept that the ACA must be repealed, and that makes them a fringe group.
“The extreme part of their political agenda is their unwillingness to accept changes to Obamacare or admit that any part of it has failed,” he said. “It has resulted in higher premiums for many people, many aren’t allowed to see the doctor they want, and fewer and fewer insurance companies are participating in the exchanges. The result for many is reduced quality of care and less affordable care.”
Soltes said Tuesday their concern about health care is a life-or-death matter. GOP proposals would lower tax credits for customers on the health care exchanges, raising costs, according to reports from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Urban Institute. “Because of the health care agenda being proposed, people could die,” Soltes said.
A post from Cook’s office on his Facebook page Tuesday asked for constituents’ thoughts on the ACA. It had garnered 199 comments by Wednesday evening.
Another topic at the candlelight vigil was immigration and deportation.
“I’m a citizen of the United States and because of Trump’s immigration policy, I feel compelled to carry my birth certificate with me at all times,” Yolanda Brown, another Indivisible spokeswoman, said.
“If I’m in fear, and I was born here, I’m sure I’m not the only one.”
In Cook’s editorial, he said he has been “unwavering” on both health care and immigration for years.
“Voters made a clear choice in my last election, and I plan to keep my word to fight for my long-held positions: Obamacare is deeply flawed and must be repealed and replaced with a better plan,” he wrote. “Any new plan must roll back Obamacare regulations and mandates while ensuring that Americans have access to quality care to fit their budget.”
He said America must secure its borders before reforming immigration law. “The borders are not secure; we must provide more resources for our border enforcement to stop not only illegal immigration but the flow of drugs, criminals and victims of human trafficking into the United States,” he wrote.
While Cook stood firm in his vow that he won’t host a town hall, Indivisible members said they aren’t going to stop.
“I hope he realizes our group is persistent, we’re strong in our beliefs and most importantly,” said Brown, “we’re not going anywhere.”
There’s been so much happening here in Rep. Paul Cook’s district during the congressional recess, we thought we’d do a round-up:
WHERE IS PAUL COOK?: The campaign initiated by Indivisible chapters in Victor Valley and San Bernardino Mountains has gone viral and was on the front page of the Feb 25 Hi-Desert Star. We’ll post a link when the electronic version becomes available. It’s also been featured nationally and internationally on Rachel Maddow, CNN, the BBC, and elsewhere.
YUCAIPA: The newest 8th District chapter of Indivisible held its first visit to Paul Cook’s Yucaipa office, with great energy and a turnout that surprised the organizers, who said, “We went during the publicly posted business hours and of course it was closed again. But we put up our ‘missing’ poster and had our event. We have only just begun!!” Watch their video.
JOSHUA TREE: #notmypresidentsday was marked by local participation in “Bad and Nasty” at the Sun Alley Stage, led by Tania Hammidi. Per the front page of the Hi-Desert Star, “Bad and Nasty stands for Bad Hombres and Nasty Women and is a nationwide movement….The movement spurred a series of DIY performance events held around the country and the world Monday that aimed to mobilize ongoing resistance to the current administration and channel their anger into art and activism.”
ACROSS THE BASIN: In that same edition of the Star were hard-hitting letters from Melissa Spurr and Eric Mueller, responding to Cook’s statement disparaging his constituents who are requesting he provide a town hall. As well, this week’s Star and The Desert Trail have been full of letters addressing hate and discrimination.
AND FROM THE FRINGE: In the wake of Cook’s statement Melissa has also started a Facebook action, “Notes from the Fringe”. Per Melissa’s description: “California’s 8th district representative, Congressman Paul Cook, has dismissed the large minority of voters who didn’t vote for him as ‘fringe local agitators’ with an ‘extreme political agenda’ with whom he refuses to meet in a town hall forum. Please join us in sending him a ‘Note from the Fringe.’ Let him know that we on the so-called ‘fringe’ are ordinary people with legitimate concerns….You don’t need to leave home to attend this event. To participate, you simply need to write a letter to Congressman Paul Cook letting him know just how you feel about being dismissed as a fringe element. Please invite anyone who may also want to participate. And feel free to fringe the edges of your letter and be as creative as you please. And please post photos of your letters if you don’t mind going public with them. They will serve to inspire and encourage others, and a large collection of them will help to underscore constituents’ frustrations with their lack of representation.” Find Cook office addresses here.
From Jill G., Member, Indivisible Morongo Basin:
On Valentine’s Day 2017, approximately 35 people from the district 8 Indivisible movement rallied at Apple Valley Town Hall for a “Be My Representative” event at Congressman Cook’s office. The purpose of the rally was to demand that Congressman Cook plan a town hall meeting during the upcoming district work week, Feb. 20 – 24. Congressman Cook has voted in 100% support of Trump’s racist, sexist and un-American agenda despite a continuous avalanche of calls from Indivisible supporters and other concerned constituents. He has shown complete disregard for the voices and opinions of those constituents and has stated that he has no plans to convene a town hall. As part of the event, satirical Valentine’s Day cards had been made that called out Congressman Cook on his lack of response to his constituents. Cards had such sentiments as “Dear Valentine, I’m so disappointed. I’ve been calling. You haven’t been listening. I DEMAND A TOWN HALL MEETING!”. 37 of those cards had been made the day before in Joshua Tree at the Harrison House card-making event. Thanks to E. and D. for pulling that event together on such short notice.
At 2pm, we assembled with placards and signs in the plaza outside the Apple Valley Town Hall building. We marched in a circle and made some noise for about an hour. Then we all trooped into the lobby where we met with Matt, Paul Cook’s staffer. T.C. of Indivisible San Bernardino Mtns., delivered a very clear and well-informed statement of our demand for a Town Hall meeting as well as handing over the 103 Valentine Cards.
A Town Hall building bureaucrat then kicked us out of the lobby although we had every right to be there. Matt came out with us and listened to some very passionate responses to his lack of information on Congressman Cook’s intentions.
More rallies are planned at Congressman Cook’s office with the hope that more and more people will join, media attention will follow and we will “change the narrative” to focus attention on the fact that our Congressional representative refuses to represent us.
WE THE PEOPLE!!
Note: Jill’s account has been published in the Hi-Desert Star!