From the introduction to Global Trends in Democracy: Background, U.S. Policy, and Issues for Congress (R35344, Oct. 17, 2018): “Widespread concerns exist among analysts and policymakers over the current trajectory of democracy around the world. Congress has often played an important role in supporting and institutionalizing U.S. democracy promotion, and current developments may have implications for U.S. policy, which for decades has broadly reflected the view that the spread of democracy around the world is favorable to U.S. interests.”

Policy and Legislative Research for Congressional Staff: Finding Documents, Analysis, News, and Training (R43434, Mar. 28, 2018)  “is intended to serve as a finding aid for congressional documents, executive branch documents and information, news articles, policy analysis, contacts, and training, for use in policy and legislative research. … This report is not intended to be a definitive list of all resources, but rather a guide to pertinent subscriptions available in the House and Senate in addition to select resources freely available to the public. This report is intended for use by congressional staff and will be updated as needed.”

Social Media Adoption by Members of Congress: Trends and Congressional Considerations (R45337, Oct. 9, 2018) examines Member adoption of social media broadly. Because congressional adoption of long-standing social media platforms Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube is nearly ubiquitous, this report focuses on the adoption of other, newer social media platforms. These include Instagram, Flickr, and Google+, which have each been adopted by at least 2.5% of Representatives and Senators. Additionally, Members of Congress have adopted Snapchat, Medium, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Periscope, and Tumblr at lower levels. This report evaluates the adoption rates of various social media platforms and what the adoption of multiple platforms might mean for an office’s social media strategy. Data on congressional adoption of social media were collected by an academic institution in collaboration with the Congressional Research Service during the 2016-2017 academic year.

From Expedited Removal of Aliens: Legal Framework (Sept. 19, 2018, R45314):

In general, aliens whom immigration authorities seek to remove from the United States may challenge that determination in administrative proceedings with attendant statutory rights to counsel, evidentiary requirements, and appeal. Under the streamlined expedited removal process created by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 and codified in Section 235(b)(1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), however, certain aliens deemed inadmissible by an immigration officer may be removed from the United States without further administrative hearings or review.

From the summary of International Law and Agreements: Their Effect upon U.S. Law (RL32528, Sept. 19, 2018):

The status of an international agreement within the United States depends on a variety of factors. Self-executing treaties have a status equal to federal statute, superior to U.S. state law, and inferior to the Constitution. Depending upon the nature of executive agreements, they may or may not have a status equal to federal statute. In any case, self-executing executive agreements have a status that is superior to U.S. state law and inferior to the Constitution. Courts generally have understood treaties and executive agreements that are not self-executing generally to have limited status domestically; rather, the legislation
or regulations implementing these agreements are controlling.

Federal Role in U.S. Campaigns and Elections: An Overview (Sept. 4, 2018): “Conventional wisdom holds that the federal government plays relatively little role in U.S. campaigns and elections. Although states retain authority for most aspects of election administration, a closer look reveals that the federal government also has steadily increased its presence in campaigns and elections in the past 50 years. Altogether, dozens of congressional committees and federal agencies could be involved in federal elections under current law.” — Joe

From Questioning Judicial Nominees: Legal Limitations and Practice (R45300, Aug. 30, 2018):

The U.S. Constitution vests the Senate with the role of providing “advice” and affording or withholding “consent” when a President nominates a candidate to be an Article III judge—that is, a federal judge entitled to life tenure, such as a Supreme Court Justice. To carry out this “advice and consent” role, the Senate typically holds a hearing at which Members question the nominee. After conducting this hearing, the Senate generally either “consents” to the nomination by voting to confirm the nominee or instead rejects the nominee.

— Joe

From Motherboard: “the federal government says it may not be able to prosecute election hacking under the federal law that currently governs computer intrusions. Per a Justice Department report issued in July from the Attorney General’s Cyber Digital Task Force, electronic voting machines may not qualify as “protected computers” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the 1986 law that prohibits unauthorized access to protected computers and networks or access that exceeds authorization (such as an insider breach).”

H/T beSpacific. — Joe

Advising the President: Rules Governing Access and Accountability of Presidential Advisors (LSB10183, Aug. 8, 2018) examines three categories of Presidential advisors and the related ethics requirements and limitations that apply to their respective roles: employees who serve full-time, regular appointments; outside advisors who are formally appointed to temporary roles; and informal, personal advisors with whom the President consults. — Joe

From Calling Balls and Strikes: Ethics and Supreme Court Justices (LSB10189, Aug. 20, 2018): “What mechanisms ensure the integrity of Justices as federal officials? Are Justices subject to any rules of ethical conduct? How might such ethics rules be enforced? This Sidebar examines these questions and Congress’s potential role in regulating the ethics of the Supreme Court Justices.”

H/T beSpacific. — Joe

Information Warfare: Issues for Congress (R45142, Mar. 5, 2018) “offers Congress a conceptual framework for understanding IW as a strategy, discusses past and present IW-related organizations within the U.S. government, and uses several case studies as examples of IW strategy in practice. Countries discussed include Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. The Islamic State is also discussed.” — Joe

From the announcement: “Today we are thrilled to announce the general availability of PACER Docket Alerts on Once enabled, a docket alert will send you an email whenever there is a new filing in a case in PACER. … We believe PACER Docket Alerts will be a valuable resource to journalists, researchers, lawyers, and the public as they grapple with staying up to date with the latest PACER filings.” — Joe

Here’s the abstract for Michael James Bommarito, Daniel Martin Katz and Eric Detterman, OpenEDGAR: Open Source Software for SEC EDGAR Analysis (June 27, 2018):

OpenEDGAR is an open source Python framework designed to rapidly construct research databases based on the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval (EDGAR) system operated by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). OpenEDGAR is built on the Django application framework, supports distributed compute across one or more servers, and includes functionality to (i) retrieve and parse index and filing data from EDGAR, (ii) build tables for key metadata like form type and filer, (iii) retrieve, parse, and update CIK to ticker and industry mappings, (iv) extract content and metadata from filing documents, and (v) search filing document contents. OpenEDGAR is designed for use in both academic research and industrial applications, and is distributed under MIT License.

— Joe

An excerpt from The Trump Administration’s “Zero Tolerance” Immigration Enforcement Policy (R45266, July 20, 2018):

Administration officials and immigration enforcement advocates argue that measures like the zero tolerance policy are necessary to discourage migrants from coming to the United States and submitting fraudulent asylum requests. They maintain that alien family separation resulting from the prosecution of illegal border crossers mirrors that occurring under the U.S. criminal justice system policy where adults with custody of minor children are charged with a crime and held in jail, effectively separating them from their children.

Immigrant advocates contend that migrant families are fleeing legitimate threats from countries with exceptionally high rates of gang violence, and that family separations resulting from the zero tolerance policy are cruel and violate fundamental human rights—such as the ability to request asylum. They maintain that the zero tolerance policy was hastily implemented and lacked planning for family reunification following criminal prosecutions. Some observers question the Trump Administration’s capacity to marshal sufficient resources to prosecute all illegal border crossers without additional resources. Others criticize the family separation policy in light of less expensive alternatives to detention.

— Joe

An excerpt from the CRS Report, Tit-for-Tat Tariff Measures and U.S. Trade Policy (IN10927 July 11, 2018):

As a result of Section 232 investigations launched by the Administration, the United States has unilaterally applied new tariffs on steel (25%), aluminum (10%), and potentially auto imports from the EU, Canada, Mexico, China, and other countries. Some countries were exempted, generally based on quota agreements to limit the amount of steel and/or aluminum exports to the United States. The last time a president had taken restrictive trade action under this law was based on a 1983 petition submitted by the U.S. machine tool industry.

— Joe

An excerpt from Justice Anthony Kennedy: His Jurisprudence and the Future of the Court (R45256 July 11, 2018):

Unlike several other Justices on the Court, Justice Kennedy did not necessarily subscribe to a particular judicial philosophy, such as originalism or textualism. Instead, Justice Kennedy’s judicial approach seemed informed by a host of related principles. First, Justice Kennedy’s views on the law were often grounded in concerns for personal liberty, particularly freedom from government interference with thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct. His emphasis on liberty manifested itself in a range of opinions he wrote or joined during his tenure on the Court, including on issues related to free speech, religious freedom, and government policies concerning same-sex relationships. Second, the structural protections of the Constitution—i.e., restraints imposed on the federal government and its respective branches by the doctrines of federalism and separation of powers—also animated Justice Kennedy’s jurisprudence. For Justice Kennedy, separation of powers was a “defense against tyranny,” and he authored or joined a number of Court opinions that invalidated on separation-of-powers grounds intrusions on the executive, legislative, or judicial functions. Likewise, during the Rehnquist Court and Roberts Court eras, Justice Kennedy joined several majority opinions that recognized federalism-based limitations on the enumerated power of the federal government, established external limitations on Congress’s legislative powers over the states, and reaffirmed protections for state sovereignty. Third, Justice Kennedy’s jurisprudence was undergirded by his view that the Court often has a robust role to play in resolving issues of national importance. With Justice Kennedy casting critical votes, over the last 30 years the Court has reasserted its role in a number of areas of law in which it was previously deferential to the judgment of the political branches.

— Joe