President Visit to Arizona Signals Reopening

Photo courtesy of Shealah Craighead member of the White House staff.
President Trump holding a roundtable on May 5 at the Honeywell International, Inc.
plant in Phoenix. Pictured from left are Secretary Scalia, Governor Ducey, Vice
President Lizer, President Trump, 2 nd Lady Lizer, Governor Lewis and Senator McSally.

By KEVIN HARTUNG

Air Force One touched down at 12:04 p.m. May 5 in Phoenix. 

President Donald Trump’s entourage included newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia, Republican Sen. Martha McSally, and Republican representatives Paul Gosar and Debbie Lesko.

This is Trump’s first long-distance trip in over a month and is a symbolic gesture to show the nation that America is reopening.

Trump exited the aircraft at about 12:30 p.m. and was met on the tarmac by Gov. Doug Ducey. The motorcade then left for Honeywell International, where Trump scheduled a tour of its N95 mask operations. News sources were quick to point out that he did so without wearing a facial mask himself.  

In a statement issued on March 30, Honeywell pledged to increase their production of N95 respirators and to add another 500 jobs to their employment rolls. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, N95 masks are labeled respirators because they meet requirements established by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health whose parent company is the CDC. N95 masks are tested and evaluated by NIOSH.  Facial masks, on the other hand, are tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 

While facial masks protect the wearer from large droplets of bodily or other fluids and the patient from the wearer’s respiratory fluids, N95 masks reduce the exposure to particles including small particles of non-oil aerosols and large droplets. 

The distinction between N95 respirators and facial masks seems vague. Large or small droplets both carry the same virulent exposure to infection.  It appears the only difference is the price. 

After his tour and before signing a proclamation in support of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls National Awareness Day, Trump held a roundtable discussion with representatives from Native American communities.

The representatives for the Navajo Nation were Vice President Myron Lizer and Second Lady Dottie Lizer. Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis represented the Gila River Indian Community. McSally, Ducey and Scalia also attended. 

The proclamation declares May 5 as a National Day of Awareness for Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls.  

A June 15, 2019, article written by Jacqueline Agtuca and published in the “Restoration of Sovereignty & Safety” magazine illuminates how serious the protection of Native American women and girls has become.

“From the entire West Coast to the Great Plains, Southwest and upper Midwest state lawmakers have acted. Twelve states including Arizona have introduced and passed legislation such as establishing an MMIWG Task Force to respond to complaints, enacting proclamations recognizing the National Day of Awareness, and authorizing and funding studies on the issues,” Agtuca said.

Indeed, last year President Trump launched Operation Lady Justice and provided $273 million to improve public safety in Native American tribal communities.

Later in the roundtable, Trump discussed the $8 billion in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds for “Indian Country.” These funds were released that morning by the Treasury Department, about five weeks after they were authorized by the Senate.

“So, the amount of money that’s being sent to ‘Indian country,’ as we call it, is the largest in the history of the U.S. And you deserve it; you’ve been through a lot, “ President Trump said. “The Navajo Nation will soon receive over $600 million. The Gila River will receive and — and I think you probably know all about this, but we’re giving you some information: $40 million.” 

Blame for the delay in releasing the funds rests between the Treasury Department and Native Americans over the disputed $8 billion as part of the CARES Act. The Treasury Department is battling with Native American tribes over where the $8 billion should be directed.

“We are pleased to begin making $4.8 billion in critical funds available to Tribal governments in all states,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “Our approach is based on the fair balancing of tribal needs.”

While the sovereignty of indigenous tribes remains unclear, what is clear is that sovereignty is organic and not granted by the states in which the Indian territory is located. The Plenary Power Doctrine grants Congress ultimate authority over Indian affairs and not the Executive Branch, and that the federal government has a “duty to protect” the tribes, implying that the necessary legislative and executive actions to carry out that duty are inferred.

It seems, therefore, that the distribution of the CARES Act federal funds lies somewhere between Indian tribal governments and Congress. Since the Treasury Department is part of the Executive Branch, its withholding of funds to ensure the money goes where it is needed is nothing more than interference and delay.

However, it appears that disparities in the distribution of funds are also evident within the Indian tribes.

“We need to spread the limited resources currently available as far as we can, and to avoid allocating to a very few tribes and under-allocating to most others,” Lewis told President Trump at the session. “And this means that you should include a limit or cap on the total funding any one tribe receives.”

The roundtable discussion then opened for reporters’ questions, which centered around Trump’s alluding to winding down the Coronavirus taskforce. Many questions were asked, such as whether it was a good idea in the face of a pandemic and isn’t listening to the experts important? Don’t you need to meet with the taskforce to get scientific expertise? Are you saying “mission accomplished?” Are you getting the advice you need, sir?

There was a question of whether Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci will be involved if the taskforce is dissolved.  Finally, if there’s a vaccine, will you get it? These questions were thrown at Trump by none other than CNN reporter Jim Acosta. This thinly veiled engagement between Trump and Acosta was reminiscent of their prior confrontations.

President Trump fielded these questions carefully with the help of Governor Ducey. However, because these questions served no purpose relevant to the issues of the roundtable, Trump quickly ended the Q&A and left for Sky Harbor, leaving no doubt that the questions would be asked again at a future news conference.

Air Force One lifted off at 3:11 p.m. from Phoenix after his visit that lasted about two-and-a-half hours.

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