Tuesday News: Corporatocracy

TRUMP USES GROUPS OF BUSINESSMEN TO DEVELOP ADMINISTRATION POLICIES: President Donald Trump, lacking trust in the speed, skill or loyalty of the government workers he inherited, is shifting the task of writing U.S. policy to a network of advisory groups stacked with business executives that operates outside of public view. It’s a move that could be cheered by the voters who sent Trump to Washington to clean house. But it’s also one that might be breaking the law. In a growing number of cases, the administration has been accused of violating a federal requirement that these advisory groups – working on everything from jobs training to environmental policy – open their meetings, release their documents and announce their members’ names.

FEDERAL BUDGET BATTLE BREWING OVER DEBT CEILING, SAFETY NET IN JEOPARDY: The government's fiscal year ends Sept. 30 and legislation needs to be enacted to prevent a partial shutdown of federal agencies. At issue are the 12 annual spending bills funding agency operations. There's no agreement on what the overall spending level should be. Republican defense hawks want to lift a cap on Pentagon spending while Democrats are pressing for more money for domestic programs. Without a deal to increase spending, the annual appropriations bills are just sputtering along without a clear path to passage. The most important piece of business is the need to increase the United States' $19.9 trillion debt limit to permit the government to continue borrowing money to pay its bills, including Social Security and interest payments. The government hit its borrowing cap in March, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been using a well-worn set of accounting moves to free up cash. Nevertheless, Mnuchin says the debt ceiling needs to be raised by Sept. 29 to avert the risk of a first-ever U.S. default.

TILLIS FACES CONSERVATIVE BACKLASH OVER DEFENSE OF MUELLER: President Donald Trump has repeatedly called the investigations into how Russia influenced the 2016 election and whether there was collusion with his campaign a witch hunt, a hoax and a distraction. Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, doesn’t agree with the first description and wants to see how the investigations go before deciding on the second and third. “I’m not sure that I agree with the witch hunt and we’ll let the facts lead us to whether or not it was a hoax or a distraction,” Tillis said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” Still, his legislation attracted at least one high-profile critic from the right. Conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham attacked Tillis on Twitter, accusing the first-term senator of not respecting the separate branches of government. Asked about Ingraham’s comments, Tillis said it was she who needed a lesson in government. “The response is the irony in the statement,” he said on ABC. “I work in Congress. I’m a member of the Senate. My job is to assert the authority of the Congress as a co-equal branch. For that particular person, they may want to go back and study up on Civics 101.”

GENE THERAPY MOVES FROM THE DRAWING BOARD TO THE LAB IN NC: Biopharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. plans to invest $100 million in a North Carolina plant to focus on a process by which genetic material is introduced to counter defective or missing genes. The company confirmed Gov. Roy Cooper’s news on Monday that it will expand its Sanford operations in preparation for producing gene therapy medicines based on technology developed at UNC-Chapel Hill. Cooper’s news release says the investment will lead to 40 new jobs. Pfizer last year bought a Chapel Hill-based company developing gene-therapy treatment for neuromuscular conditions and diseases affecting the central nervous system. Pfizer is also planning to give $4 million toward gene therapy research training at North Carolina universities. A Pfizer subsidiary is expected to receive a $250,000 grant from the state to help aid the expansion.

CHARLOTTE POLICE SHOOTING CASE BACK UNDER REVIEW: A review board is set to take a second look at how a North Carolina police department handled the shooting of a black man by an officer last year. The Citizens Review Board announced in June that it found a potential error in a decision by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department that the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott was justified. A board attorney said the panel would seek additional information at the hearing scheduled for Tuesday. Scott's death last September led to two days of unrest that resulted in one death, dozens of arrests and millions of dollars in damage. In announcing no charges would be filed against Officer Brentley Vinson, Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray said Scott had a handgun and Vinson feared Scott would shoot.