Trump's tainted presidency

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Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser after lying about conversations with the Russian ambassador during the Trump transition.

Trump's presidency is tainted

Maybe a special prosecutor is not needed to investigate Russian influence on the 2016 election, President Trump, and his family and administration ("Don't appoint a special prosecutor," Sunday).

However, the fluid, mercurial, mental meanderings of the man at the helm can best be explained by financial interests controlled by outside forces.

If there are grounds for impeachment, leaving his administration in place is not enough. His vice president is complicit in this process. All the nominations for cabinet positions are contaminated by the questionable motivations of this president.

I challenge the commentary's conclusion that not a single vote was changed. This is illogical. The election outcome cannot be separated from the involvement of a foreign power, the highly questionable behavior of FBI Director James Comey, and Wikileaks. This was a circus, aided and abetted by a media that worked hard to say that both candidates were legitimate and equally qualified to govern. Coverage of Trump sold papers and guaranteed viewers.

— M.P. West, Philadelphia

Mandatory minimums don't work

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted this month to reinstate mandatory minimum penalties for drug offenses. This rehash of archaic penalties should not be the future of Pennsylvania.

As a former Bucks County deputy district attorney, I understand the allure of mandatory minimums. They make it easier for prosecutors to secure convictions and persuade defendants to cooperate.

But the role of a legislator is not the same as a district attorney. The General Assembly must enact laws that address problems, not symptoms, while weighing the effectiveness with costs. And the financial costs of this bill are huge - about $19 million for the first year and up to $85 million projected annually going forward. Naturally, the fiscally inept, Republican-controlled House passed the bill sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R., Montgomery) on the same day it approved the budget and did not account for these increased costs.

Mandatory minimums haven't won the "war on drugs." They neither reduce crime and recidivism nor curtail opioid use. This legislation serves only as a tough-on-crime political ploy instead of a constructive approach, such as investing in local drug courts focused on treatment, in the prevention of opioid addiction, or in public schools.

Our elected officials must do better.

—  Sara Johnson Rothman, Upper Dublin, sarajohnsonrothman@gmail.com

Giving outweighs tax deductions

If nonprofits had to prioritize the elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Endowment for the Arts vs. the loss of the charitable tax deduction, their time would be better spent on the first two. Just as the charitable tax deduction benefits a small group of donors - 30 percent; 5 percent under the Republicans' proposal - it helps an even smaller portion of the nonprofit sector ("Don't let tax reform hurt nonprofits," April 12). Donors motivated by tax incentives are not the average donor, who, in 2015, was part of a household that gave $2,974 to charities. Those dollars were, most likely, parsed out in small gifts. While some of those gifts may have gone to large institutions, such as universities, medical facilities, and art museums, most of the mega gifts don't go to the average nonprofit. Most nonprofits, which rarely receive a six- or seven-figure tax-deductible gift, would unlikely feel a sting were the charitable tax deduction to be eliminated.

Smaller donations are highly valued and should not be discounted. And while those nonprofits that receive headline-making gifts might see a downturn, research suggests it would be a temporary dip.

— Laura Otten, director, Nonprofit Center, La Salle University, otten@lasalle.edu

It's fine to adhere to Constitution

I read your editorial, "High price for Gorsuch" (Sunday) with a chuckle and shake of the head. One passage in particular, "Gorsuch's 'originalist' views of the Constitution - said to be more extreme than those of Scalia," is indicative of how deeply liberalism and multiculturalism have damaged our country, when fealty to the written word of the Constitution is "extreme."

It also reflects why your medium continues to descend into utter irrelevance due to your myopic, liberal self-importance.

— Kenneth Rayca, Cinnaminson

Prevent spread of plant pests

Invasive plant pests and diseases are primarily introduced through commercial trade, but once they are here, they are mostly spread by us. When we take firewood from home to our campsite, mail homegrown fruits or plants, or order plants, seeds, or fruit online, we can contribute to the unintentional spread of destructive plant pests.

Damaging pests such as the spotted lanternfly and European gypsy moth threaten Philadelphia and the state. These pests can hide on vehicles, trees, forest products, and outdoor equipment, furniture, and other household articles.

We've slowed the spread of these pests, but it only takes one person to move something he or she shouldn't. For instance, the emerald ash borer beetle didn't fly to Pennsylvania - it hitchhiked here. Now, all of our urban, suburban, and rural ash trees are at risk of attack, as are those in 30 other states.

Pests and diseases could devastate our neighborhoods and public green spaces and damage native species of plants, forests, watersheds, lakes, rivers, and water delivery systems. Damage from invasive plant pests costs our country about $40 billion annually.

We urge you to help stop the spread of these harmful pests.

— Timothy Newcamp, state plant health director, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Dana Rhodes, state plant regulatory official, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Carlisle, timothy.e.newcamp@aphis.usda.gov

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