Law

Day’s Unfolding Events

(1) Protest in Durham NC:

Scheduled for noon and 4 pm.  I’m following live feeds and the anti-protesters seem to have taken over downtown Durham. Not much of a fascist presence. Looks peaceful at the moment — some minor vandalism of base of statue that once had confederate monument.  Basically everything postponed until 4 pm.

(2) By the way, this is Infrastructure Week at the White House, but it’s been overshadowed by racism in the Oval Office of the White House. Being Infrastructure Week, this news is particularly embarrassing:

(3)  BREAKING — Bannon Out:

Yup, it’s true. WaPo:

President Trump has decided to dismiss his embattled chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, an architect of his 2016 general election victory, in a major White House shake-up that follows a week of racial unrest, according to two people familiar with the move.

Trump had been under mounting pressure to dispatch with Bannon, who many officials view as a political Svengali but who has drawn scorn as a leading internal force encouraging and amplifying the president’s most controversial nationalist impulses.

Bannon told friends on Friday that he expected to soon be informed whether he is being cut loose from the White House, according to multiple people close to him. One of them said Bannon is resigned to that fate, and has said he is determined to continue to advocate for Trump’s agenda on the outside.

“No matter what happens, Steve is a honey badger,” said this person, who like others interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. “Steve’s in a good place. He doesn’t care. He’s going to support the president and push the agenda, whether he’s on the inside or the outside.”

And this has gotta hurt:

Not surprising, since Bannon wanted a trade war with China.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Bannon was not pulling the strings on Trump. Trump was weened on rightwing and fake news, email forwards, and general bullshit. Bannon simply was a kindred spirit in ideology.  His removal was good in the sense that he was one of the few who could actually put some of the shit into action.

Remember, Bannon was not a party loyalist or even a Trump loyalist. Trump served Bannon’s interest. But Bannon, the ideologue, is unchained, and he has a mouthpiece in Breitbart News. This could get ugly:

Our Bigoted President: An Historical Week of Shame

It’s Friday, and it’s still difficult for me to comment on the fallout from Trump’s moral equivalence press conference on Tuesday.  Having tucked into his pocket some notes about what he was SUPPOSED to say…

Trump “went rogue” (i.e., was himself) and spoke some of the most upsetting words of any President ever.

The national discussion is all on my Twitter feed and there are so many angles:

(1) Bannon — Does he stay or go?
(2) Trump’s Councils — Mass resignations, including this one today (read the first letter of each paragraph)

(3)  Where the hell are Ivanka and Jared (they’re JEWISH for crying out loud)? (They are on vacation in Vermont, but still… they need to weigh in)
(4)  The movement to take down confederate statues. Personally, I think this is important, but only in a symbolic way. There are actual neo-nazis in our presence and they have the implicit support of our President. That’s a much bigger deal. However, they are coming down as communities demand it.
(5) The public silence from Republicans.  Many Republicans are willing to talk to reporters off-the-record, saying what everyone else says: that Trump has lost it, that he is damaging to the GOP and the country, that he is incapable of executing his duties as President, etc. Butmost (not all) lack the moral courage to go public.
(6)  Impeachment? Resignation? Censure?
(7)  Trump’s continued lies: his vineyard in Charlottesville, the General Pershing lie….
(8)  The terrorist attack in Barcelona — and how Trump can call out terrorists when they are Muslim
(9)  Oh those magazine covers

Charlottesville

I did not know it was even going on. I should have been paying attention to social media.  But I woke up on Saturday to news of skirmishes in Charlottesville. White nationalists gathered for a “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, ostensibly choosing that town because of the statute of Robert E. Lee, which was going to be taken down. It had little to do with Robert E. Lee.

The signs were in the making. The Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists had a spontaneous rally on Friday night, complete with tiki torches from Party City. The images invoked Nazi rallies from the 1930s.

As an aside, I would note that many of these racists are being identified, outed and facing the consequences.

A friend of mine suggested this was McCarthyism. It’s not. McCarthyism used the government to destroy people who were communists (and his political enemies). This is citizen action. And I argued that it could not lead to wide-spread firing of people for their political views (on ANY topic), because white supremacy is not simply a position on a single TOPIC; it is an ideology on the relative value of PEOPLE.

Day 2 was the schedule white nationalist protest in Charlottesville at noon. But the trouble started before then. The white nationalists were met by counterprotesters. Taunting led to shoving, which escalated into brawling.  Police allowed much of it to happen, and the planned whitey bigot rally was order cancelled.  Everyone dispersed, and the events of the day, troubling as they were, seemed over.

Then, around 1:45 p.m., a car plowed into another vehicle near a group of counterprotesters, creating a chain reaction that sent people flying. (Initial reports said the car had run directly into the crowd.)

Videos:



Officials identified the driver of the car as James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, a city near Toledo. One of Mr. Fields’s former history teachers called him “a very bright kid, but very misguided and disillusioned,” noting that he had written a report that was “very much along the party lines of the neo-Nazi movement.”

Nineteen people were hospitalized. One was dead, 32 year old Heather D. Heyer, of Charlottesville.

Then came what may be the most egregious thing of the whole weekend: the opffensivle tepid response from the President. On Saturday afternoon, he condemned the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” but, conspicuously, did not single out white nationalists or neo-Nazis. Pressed on whom Mr. Trump was blaming, an unnamed White House spokesman told reporters on Saturday: “The president was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counterprotesters today.”

WaPo editorial board:

HERE IS what President Trump said Saturday about the violence in Charlottesville sparked by a demonstration of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members:

We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.

Here is what a presidential president would have said:

“The violence Friday and Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., is a tragedy and an unacceptable, impermissible assault on American values. It is an assault, specifically, on the ideals we cherish most in a pluralistic democracy — tolerance, peaceable coexistence and diversity.

“The events were triggered by individuals who embrace and extol hatred. Racists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and their sympathizers — these are the extremists who fomented the violence in Charlottesville, and whose views all Americans must condemn and reject.

“To wink at racism or to condone it through silence, or false moral equivalence, or elision, as some do, is no better and no more acceptable than racism itself. Just as we can justly identify radical Islamic terrorism when we see it, and call it out, so can we all see the racists in Charlottesville, and understand that they are anathema in our society, which depends so centrally on mutual respect.

“Under whatever labels and using whatever code words — ‘heritage,’ ‘tradition,’ ‘nationalism’ — the idea that whites or any other ethnic, national or racial group is superior to another is not acceptable. Americans should not excuse, and I as president will not countenance, fringe elements in our society who peddle such anti-American ideas. While they have deep and noxious roots in our history, they must not be given any quarter nor any license today.

“Nor will we accept acts of domestic terrorism perpetrated by such elements. If, as appears to be the case, the vehicle that plowed into the counterprotesters on Saturday in Charlottesville did so intentionally, the driver should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The American system of justice must and will treat a terrorist who is Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or anything else just as it treats a terrorist who is Muslim — just as it treated those who perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.

“We may all have pressing and legitimate questions about how the violence in Charlottesville unfolded — and whether it could have been prevented. There will be time in coming days to delve further into those matters, and demand answers. In the meantime, I stand ready to provide any and all resources from the federal government to ensure there will be no recurrence of such violence in Virginia or elsewhere. Let us keep the victims of this terrible tragedy in our thoughts and prayers, and keep faith that the values enshrined in our Constitution and laws will prevail against those who would desecrate our democracy.”

The President was wrong, but he’s never been interested in facts. There was not “many sides” there. There was the Nazi side, and the anti-Nazi side, and it is not hard to pick a side, even with the 140 character limit of Twitter.

Let’s examine this more closely:

The right-wing protesters were relatively homogenous — in ideology and appearance — and largely ready for violence. They ranged from old-line racists like the Ku Klux Klan to the ones who wear polo shirts instead of hoods who try to brand themselves “alt-right.” There was no ambiguity about their cause — they demand the nation become whiter, and they are emboldened by a White House administration they believe makes that promise when the president yells “America first.”

The counterprotesters, in contrast, represented a far broader spectrum of the American center and left. There were self-identified “anti-fascists”; Black Lives Matter activists from around the country; religious leaders, including around 100 Christian ministers wearing their clerical collars; furious Charlottesville residents; and garden-variety liberals from as far away as Seattle. A handful of the “anti-fascists” wore Black Bloc garb — black shirt, black pants, black balaclava — to conceal their identities from police, though most did not.

The right-wingers were more prepared for violence. Most white supremacist and Nazi groups arrived armed like a paramilitary force — carrying shields, protective gear, rods, and yes, lots of guns, utilizing Virginia’s loose firearm laws. They used militarized defensive maneuvers, shouting commands at one another to “move forward” or “retreat,” and would form a line of shields or a phalanx — it’s like they watched 300 a few times — to gain ground or shepherd someone through projectiles. It seemed that they had practiced for this. Virginia’s governor said that the right’s weaponry was better than that of the state police. The opposition was largely winging it, preferring to establish bases in other parks with water, coffee, food, first aid, and comfort. Conflict would start much the same as it has at other alt-right rallies: two people, one from each side, screaming, goading each other into throwing the first punch.

By Sunday, even among the most radical voices on the left, there was incredulity at attempts — from various swaths of the mainstream to pro-Trump media, and of course, the president himself — to compare them to their enemies. This is Trump’s “many sides.”

A no-brainer on which side came to fight and suppress.

Pressure on the President is huge. But so far, he and VP Pence have doubled down. Pence, for example, has issued statements condemning violence from the far-right and far-left — again with the false equivalence.

The fallout? It means white supremacists will feel emboldened by the events of this weekend. This cannot be disputed. They say it, others say it of them, and the evidence is right before our eyes. If you see a conservative online saying this isn’t so, that person is lying. They felt and feel emboldened. It’s simply a fact.

During the campaign, Donald Trump needed to distance himself very publicly from the “alt-right,” a movement which is just a glorified white supremacist movement. This was due in no small part to his ties to Bannon-bart, but also just his own personality cult. His campaign talking points and promises were dog-whistles to these self-identified white nationalists, who have not been mainstream for decades.

However, now they feel like they are mainstream, and yes, to a certain extent, that is on the President. His hesitation to call their movement by name this weekend, something many GOP lawmakers criticized him over, is an utter failure on his part and the part of those attempting to advise and guide him. When David Duke says a rally of racist neo-Nazis is a “fulfillment” of your campaign’s promise, your immediate reaction should be to publicly state that, as a matter of fact, it is not. This is not me or us. He didn’t do that.

Calls for the ouster of Trump adviser Steve Bannon, as well as Stephen Miller and neo-Nazi Alexander Gorka, are approaching fever pitch. The rift on the right is stronger than it has ever been.  The Bannon supporters seem to be pushing hard on National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

This, on top of everything, is going to dog Trump (as it should)

Trump’s tweets this morning?

And then the chief executive of Merck said this morning in a tweet that he was resigning from President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council, saying he was doing so “as CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience” and that “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”

Within an hour after the statement was first issued, Trump tweeted his response. “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

UPDATE 1 pm – Under pressure, Trump gave a 5 minute statement – no questions – condemning racism (“Racism is evil”). It’s not enough. He did it under pressure and everyone (including his neo-Nazi fans) know it. Even then, he denounced hate groups “including” white nationalists, implying there were others (BLM)

Oh, it was of course read from a teleprompter. He couldn’t speak from the heart.

Breaking: Mueller Empanels DC Grand Jury

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has impaneled a grand jury in Washington to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections, a sign that his inquiry is growing in intensity and entering a new phase, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The grand jury, which began its work in recent weeks, is a sign that Mr. Mueller’s inquiry is ramping up and that it will likely continue for months. Mr. Mueller is investigating Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election and whether President Donald Trump’s campaign or associates colluded with the Kremlin as part of that effort.

A spokesman for Mr. Mueller, Joshua Stueve, declined to comment. Moscow has denied seeking to influence the election, and Mr. Trump has vigorously disputed allegations of collusion. The president has called Mr. Mueller’s inquiry a “witch hunt.”

Ty Cobb, special counsel to the president, said he wasn’t aware that Mr. Mueller had started using a new grand jury. “Grand jury matters are typically secret,” Mr. Cobb said. “The White House favors anything that accelerates the conclusion of his work fairly.…The White House is committed to fully cooperating with Mr. Mueller.”

As many people know, there already has been a grand jury in Virginia, focusing on Michael Flynn.

Before Mr. Mueller was tapped in May to be special counsel, federal prosecutors had been using at least one other grand jury, located in Alexandria, Va., to assist in their criminal investigation of Michael Flynn, a former national security adviser. That probe, which has been taken over by Mr. Mueller’s team, focuses on Mr. Flynn’s work in the private sector on behalf of foreign interests.

So what’s the big deal with THIS new one in D.C?:

Grand juries are powerful investigative tools that allow prosecutors to subpoena documents, put witnesses under oath and seek indictments, if there is evidence of a crime. Legal experts said that the decision by Mr. Mueller to impanel a grand jury suggests he believes he will need to subpoena records and take testimony from witnesses.

A grand jury in Washington is also more convenient for Mr. Mueller and his 16 attorneys—they work just a few blocks from the U.S. federal courthouse where grand juries meet—than one that is 10 traffic-clogged miles away in Virginia.

“This is yet a further sign that there is a long-term, large-scale series of prosecutions being contemplated and being pursued by the special counsel,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas. “If there was already a grand jury in Alexandria looking at Flynn, there would be no need to reinvent the wheel for the same guy. This suggests that the investigation is bigger and wider than Flynn, perhaps substantially so.”

It also suggests that Mueller is ready to move to the next phase of his investigation. It reflects that Mueller believes there’s a certain level of “there” there to justify a GJ investigation. You don’t talk to witnesses until you have a pretty good idea as to what the “truth” is (from wiretaps, etc.). That way, you can catch them in a lie.

Document Dump: Protecting Mueller

This bill — from Sens. Lindsey Graham, Cory Booker, Sheldon Whitehouse and Richard Blumenthal — us actually one of two bipartisan bills designed to protect the special counsel from removal by the President or Attorney General. The other bill — by Sens. Thom Tillis and Chris Coons (both on the Senate Judiciary Committee) — does essentially the same thing: it says the DC Circuit Court panel of 3 judges must approve any removal… and only for cause.

Trump Really DOES Want To Get Rid Of Sessions

Trump was VERY busy this morning on his Twitter machine.

It’s hard to deny that Trump does not want his AG Jeff Sessions to stay on when he disses him when you look at the second and third from the bottom tweets.

Trump raised similar questions over the weekend days after telling reporters in an interview that he had second thoughts about nominating Sessions because the former Alabama senator had recused himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

What’s going on here?

Well, typically, Trump tipped his hand in his tweets today. If he fires Sessions, he’s stuck with Rosenstein as acting AG who, like Sessions, won’t end the Russia investigation. Of course, it is the same result if he gets Sessions to quit, but it looks better if Sessions quits.  So he’s trying to humiliate Sessions.

Anthony Scaramucci, the new White House communications director, says it’s “probably” correct that Trump wants Sessions gone. According to The Hill, he said didn’t want to speak for the President, but said he thinks Trump has a “certain style” and he is “obviously frustrated.”

Yeah, obviously.

Congress is not amused by Trump’s attacks on his own attorney general:

It’s a lesson that could cost him politically in a Senate where he badly needs Republican support for his lengthy agenda, starting with healthcare on Tuesday.

“I don’t understand it. There’s no more honorable person I’ve ever met in my life than Jeff Sessions,” said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., a close friend of Sessions and his wife. “The only person who is more upset with Trump about this than me, is my wife.”

Sessions spent 20 years in the Senate, winning a reputation for affability and party loyalty. He understood and doggedly practiced the code of what’s been called the world’s most exclusive club: You can disagree without being disagreeable, but you protect the institution and its members.

***

Senators made it clear the attack on one of their own stands to color Trump’s relationship with Senate Republicans, said Inhofe, a senator since 1994.

“I’m 100 percent for the president, but I really have a hard time with this,” he said.

“That’s what he does, I don’t think he means harm with those tweets,” Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said of Trump.

But Hatch added, “I’d prefer that he didn’t do that. We’d like Jeff to be treated fairly.”

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-North Carolina, agreed.

”I guess we all have our communication style and that’s one that I would avoid,” Tillis said, adding that the Russia investigation by an outside special counsel should proceed without interruptions: “The fewer distractions we have, the faster the investigation can proceed and the less confusion the electorate has to deal with,” he said.

”Sen. Sessions is showing the independence I expected of him and that’s a healthy thing,” Tillis said.

Even those who said they were nonplussed by Trump’s criticism made it clear they sided with Sessions’ recusal decision.

“Jeff made the right decision. It’s not only a legal decision, but it’s the right decision,” said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla.

Senator Graham took to Twitter too:


Screwing around with the legal process is serious. So serious that even Republicans in Congress are drawing a red line, and that’s something they rarely have done when Trump is involved.

I hope Trump and Bannon consider that.

And there are even reports that Trump’s cabinet is ready to bail over this (as a last straw). If Erick Erickson can be believed, Tillerson isn’t the only cabinet member who is displeased with the president’s attacks on Sessions.

“If he can get treated that way, what about the rest of us?” one of the President’s Cabinet secretaries asked me with both shock and anger in his voice. I am told reports about Rex Tillerson (not who I talked to) are legitimate. He is quite perturbed with the President’s treatment of his Attorney General and is ready to quit. Secretary Mattis (also not who I talked to) is also bothered by it. They and other Cabinet members are already frustrated by the slow pace of appointments for their staffs, the vetoes over qualified people for not being sufficiently pro-Trump, and the Senate confirmation pace.

In fact, the Cabinet secretary I talked to raised the issue of the White House staff vetoes over loyalty, blasting the White House staff for blocking qualified people of like mind because they were not pro-Trump and now the President is ready to fire the most loyal of all the Cabinet members. “It’s more of a clusterf**k than you even know,” the Cabinet secretary tells me about dealing with the White House on policy. It is not just Tillerson ready to bail.

How’s Sessions handling this? Not well:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has no plans to leave office, as friends say he’s grown angry with President Donald Trump following a series of attacks meant to marginalize his power and, potentially, encourage his resignation.

“Sessions is totally pissed off about it,” said a Sessions ally familiar with his thinking. “It’s beyond insane. It’s cruel and it’s insane and it’s stupid.”

Cruel, Insane and Stupid.  Trumpworld.

Can A Sitting President Be Indicted?

The conventional wisdom has always said that a sitting president cannot be indicted. Under current law, a President is immune from civil lawsuits in federal court, when it comes to his official acts as president.  This is because of Nixon v. Fitzgerald, a 1982 Supreme Court ruling.  There, the Supreme Court wrote: “The ‘singular importance of the President’s duties’ warrants a stay where civil actions, such as this one, ‘frequently could distract a President from his public duties to the detriment of not only the President and his office but also the Nation that the President was designed to serve.’”

From this case it was always thought that an indictment would similarly be barred.

However, nothing in the Constitution or federal law explicitly says presidents are immune from indictment while they remain in office.  So what’s the answer?

A legal memo unearthed by the New York Times and written for special prosecutor Kenneth Starr during the Clinton Administration concludes that the indictment of a President for acts done prior to taking office, is constitutional.  Here is that memo (after the NYT letters):

Where The Rubber Meets The Road

I guess it was bound to happen — the ultimate constitutional question: What happened when the top law enforcement agency refuses to comply with the courts?

It has happened on the state level — with desegregation. The governors refused to comply with Brown v Board of Education. So the federal government was sent in, in the form of the US Department of Justice. They sent in the National Guard.

But what happens if the US Department of Justice itself doesn’t comply with a court order? We’re about to find out. And it is such a small matter, too:

In defiance of a court order, the Justice Department is refusing to release part of a security form dealing with Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ contacts with the Russian government.

On June 12, a judge had ordered the agency to provide the information within 30 days, a deadline that passed on Wednesday.

A recently launched ethics watchdog group called American Oversight filed a Freedom of Information Act request in March for sections of the Standard Form 86 relating to Sessions’ contact “with any official of the Russian government.”

The group then filed a lawsuit in April after it said the government didn’t provide the documents.

“Jeff Sessions is our nation’s top law enforcement officer, and it is shocking one of his first acts after being named Attorney General was to mislead his own agency about a matter of national security,” the group’s executive director, Austin Evers, said in a statement.

He continued: “The court gave DOJ thirty days to produce Attorney General Sessions’s security clearance form, DOJ has already confirmed its contents to the press and Sessions has testified about it to Congress, so there is no good reason to withhold this document from the public.”

On Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Justice Department had told NPR that the documents would be released by the deadline, NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly reports.

The Standard Form 86, more commonly called SF86, is a very detailed form required to be filled out for obtaining security clearance for certain government positions. It’s the same form presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner has recently had to revise after omitting meetings with Russian officials.

Sessions has admitted speaking with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, at least twice in 2016, which he did not disclose at his confirmation hearing. But in June, Sessions testified to senators that the “suggestion that I participated in any collusion” with the Russian government “is an appalling and detestable lie.”

American Oversight says it’s nonpartisan, but its staff has connections to Democrats, according to USA Today.

A status conference in the case is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

This is all under-the-radar right now. I don’t imagine it can remain that way for very long.  To be continued…..

UPDATE – – 2 pm:

In a filing this morning with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Justice Department released that part of Sessions’ form which poses the question:

“Have you or any of your immediate family in the past seven (7) years [bold font in original] had any contact with a foreign government, its establishment (such as embassy, consulate, agency, military service, intelligence or security service, etc.) or its representatives, whether inside or outside the U.S.?”

Sessions checked “No.”

Well, at least he’s on the record now.

The Blackmail of Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzenzski

The fallout from Trump’s Twitter attack yesterday on TV hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzenzski (mostly the latter) continues, and it doesn’t go well for Trump.  The couple wrote a devastating op-ed in WaPo, the title of which says it all:

They are quite right — Donald Trump is not well.  I question whether he ever was.  But it is what they said this morning on their show that caught my interest, and the interest of many others:

MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski claim President Trump and his White House used the possibility of a hit piece in the National Enquirer to threaten them.

But President Trump has a very different account of what happened. “FAKE NEWS,” he tweeted during “Morning Joe” Friday morning.
The editor in charge of the Enquirer, Dylan Howard, said “we have no knowledge of any discussions between the White House and Joe and Mika about our story, and absolutely no involvement in those discussions.”

Meanwhile, Scarborough says he has proof of the White House threats — “I have texts from your top aides and phone records.”
Scarborough and Brzezinski are essentially alleging a form of blackmail.

The accusation came during a wider discussion about the president’s offensive tweets targeting the co-hosts. It piqued the attention of journalists because it implies that the president is using a friendly media outlet to punish his opponents.

What’s definitely true is this: Trump and the publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, are friends and allies. Jeffrey Toobin documented the mutually beneficial relationship in this week’s edition of The New Yorker.

The Enquirer, a supermarket tabloid, frequently promotes the president’s agenda.

Here’s exactly what the co-hosts alleged on Friday’s “Morning Joe.”

“We got a call that, ‘Hey, the National Enquirer is going to run a negative story against you guys…’ And they said, ‘If you call the president up, and you apologize for your coverage, then he will pick up the phone and basically spike this story,” Scarborough said.

Scarborough didn’t name names, but he said “three people at the very top of the administration” called him about this.

“The calls kept coming and kept coming, and they were like ‘Call. You need to call. Please call. Come on, Joe. Just pick up the phone and call him.'”

In other words, grovel to the president and he’ll make the mean story disappear.

Scarborough did not immediately respond to a request from CNN for more details.

But he and Brzezinski also described the alleged discussion in a Washington Post column on Friday.

“This year,” they wrote, “top White House staff members warned that the National Enquirer was planning to publish a negative article about us unless we begged the president to have the story spiked. We ignored their desperate pleas.”

Scarborough and Brzezinski are now engaged. The negative article was about their past marriages and the beginning of their relationship. It was published in early June.

Dylan Howard, the chief content officer for the Enquirer’s parent company American Media, said “we accurately reported” the story, but “at no time did we threaten either Joe or Mika or their children in connection with our reporting on the story.”

Brzezinski suggested otherwise.

“Let me explain what they were threatening,” she said. “They were calling my children. They were calling close friends.”

She said “these calls persisted for quite some time, and then Joe had the conversations that he had with the White House where they said ‘Oh, this could go away.'”

In response, White House press secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that he is “not aware” of White House officials pressing Scarborough to call up Trump and make nice.

Here’s the video:

The president himself weighed in via Twitter a few minutes later.

Scarborough responded quickly to Trump’s tweet with one of his own:

It get worse.

For Trump.

Redstate talked to Scarborough and asked him about it. This is what Scarborough reportedly said:

“NBC execs knew in real time about the calls and who made them to me. That’s why Mark Kornblau wrote about contemporaneous texts. I showed him and executives as they were coming in to keep them advised.”

Scarborough also said the calls about the National Enquirer story started in late April and early May but that he never placed a call to President Trump, contra Trump’s tweet. “I never called the President about this,” he said. “I challenge him to reveal any phone records showing that I called him. He can’t because I didn’t.”

Blackmail is a very serious charge. The administration will likely face questions about in their latest press briefing and how they respond will be telling.

UPDATE: NY Magazine has news on this, with sources. This seems to be the story — it contradiction that Joe called him to discuss the Enquirer story.

According to three sources familiar with the private conversations, what happened was this: After the inauguration, Morning Joe’s coverage of Trump turned sharply negative. “This presidency is fake and failed,” Brzezinski said on March 6, for example. Around this time, Scarborough and Brzezinski found out the Enquirer was preparing a story about their affair. While Scarborough and Brzezinski’s relationship had been gossiped about in media circles for some time, it was not yet public, and the tabloid was going to report that they had left their spouses to be together.

In mid-April, Scarborough texted with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner about the pending Enquirer story. Kushner told Scarborough that he would need to personally apologize to Trump in exchange for getting Enquirer owner David Pecker to stop the story. (A spokesperson for Kushner declined to comment). Scarborough says he refused, and the Enquirer published the story in print on June 5, headlined “Morning Joe Sleazy Cheating Scandal!”

The Daily Beast (which apparently published just before NYMag) has basically the same story.

UPDATE:  A Vanity Fair story adds come color. This is Mika’s perspective…

I Wonder Why Trump Gets Negative Press

This morning:

This, apparently, is what set him off:

Not too bad. I mean, it’s not like they claimed he wasn’t born in America. I guess it was the “little hands” thing that may have done it.

Then again, maybe it was the fact that Hannity went after Joe last night.

In any event, Mr. Unpresidential Thinskin’s response was horrible.

Since I am speechless, I will let Jay Caruso over at the conservative Redstate speak for me:

Unfortunately, for the people who are upset Donald Trump receives very little positive media coverage, they need to cast their gaze at the President and not the media because he brings it on himself time and time again.

Remember, he is the President of The United States of America. He is the Commander-In-Chief. He is the de facto leader of the free world.

***

First of all, that he’s bellowing about Morning Joe means he was watching the show this morning. Why say something about a show you don’t watch?

Second, when the President tweets high school drivel such as this, the media is going to talk about it because it is what he is discussing. Kellyanne Conway tried to argue the media is “obsessed” over the President’s tweets, but the White House said his tweets are official statements. It is not Donald Trump, the reality television host popping off about Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough. It is an official statement issued by the President of The United States.

What President Trump said about Mika supposedly bleeding from a facelift is low-grade trash, worthy of anonymous Internet trolls, not the most powerful man in the world.

People will argue, “Oh that’s just the President trolling, and guys like you fell for it.” Yes, silly me. I expect the President of the United States to concern himself with matters related to his office and to conduct himself with a little character and dignity.

How gauche. 

Naturally, what will happen, is the media will focus on this (tada!) because the President thinks tweeting the way guys scribble on the bathroom wall in the 9th grade is the proper way to conduct his daily business. Meanwhile, the people in his administration who are doing real work, aren’t getting credit or media coverage for the work they’re doing because President Jeff Spicoli is too busy making Mr. Hand speculate if he’s on dope.

Grow up, Mr. President.

This is bullying. This is sexist. It may even indicate mental instability.  He thinks that when you read these Mika tweets, you’ll be on his side. In his mind, he’s being persuasive. Imagine being that awful.

Personally, I would love to see him censured by Congress.

Backlash is universally negative.  Mika herself responded this way:

MSNBC:

MSNBC’s competitor:

And from others:

(Lynn Jenkins is a GOP Congresswoman from Kansas)

Coming to his defense:

I’m so glad he has his hands on the red button.  Also,

********************************************************************

MORE:

For the record, “Morning Joe” enjoyed its highest ratings ever in the second quarter of this year and has increased viewership in nine consecutive quarters.  And….

What? You mean Trump lied?

And yeah. I know some people are saying Trump is trying to distract everyone from the horrible healthcare thing, but that doesn’t make sense.  People can focus on more than one thing.  Besides, distract us from what?  Are things happening that we can see or discuss?  Not yet.

UPDATE:  From the Sarah Huckabee press briefing —

I wish someone would ask what it is with Trump and visions of women bleeding.

BONUS UPDATE — Even Hannity!!

… but he adds that he can nevertheless understand how Trump is upset with “Morning Joe” coverage. And then calls media “crybabies”…

The New O’Keefe Video

So, the White House spokesman wants people to watch a video even though she doesn’t know if it is accurate.  How’s that for devotion to the truth?

The video is by James O’Keefe, and it is itself about the truth.  But O’Keefe and his outfit, Project Veritas, have been known to use slick editing procedures to distort the truth, rather than expose it.  Let’s see what O’Keefe has this time.

Interesting. What O’Keefe, who has been hit with a $1 million conspiracy lawsuit, doesn’t tell you is that Bonifield has held many positions at CNN, most recently serving as a supervising producer for CNN Health, a position he has held since 2015.

CNN Health.

Other than that, there’s not much there there.

Does CNN’s coverage drive its ratings? I’m sure it does.  Just like as Fox.

Is the Trump-Russia collusion things bullshit?  This CNN supervisor says it could be.  And you know what? IT COULD BE.

But isn’t that why we have an investigation?  Isn’t that the point?

The opinion of a CNN Health producer means nothing.  You know who doesn’t think the Russia investigation is “a hoax”? The CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the DNI, the House Intel Committee, the Senate Intel Committee, and Robert Mueller.

Trust The GOP, Do You?

Well, read this:

Political data gathered on more than 198 million US citizens was exposed this month after a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee stored internal documents on a publicly accessible Amazon server.

The data leak contains a wealth of personal information on roughly 61 percent of the US population. Along with home addresses, birthdates, and phone numbers, the records include advanced sentiment analyses used by political groups to predict where individual voters fall on hot-button issues such as gun ownership, stem cell research, and the right to abortion, as well as suspected religious affiliation and ethnicity. The data was amassed from a variety of sources—from the banned subreddit r/fatpeoplehate to American Crossroads, the super PAC co-founded by former White House strategist Karl Rove.

Deep Root Analytics, a conservative data firm that identifies audiences for political ads, confirmed ownership of the data to Gizmodo on Friday.

Another Terrorist Attack In London

Last night, a van with three people drove into a crowd of worshipers in Finsbury Park, a district in North London. One person was killed, ten were injured.

It was a terrorist attack, but not a typical one that garnishes worldwide press attention. Because this time, the terrorists were white and the targets were Muslim.

Here’s what is known so far:

— The driver of the van, a 48-year-old white man, was wrestled to the ground by people at the scene and held until police arrived. He has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, according to police.
— Muslim Welfare House CEO Toufik Kacimi said the attacker shouted “I did my bit, you deserve it.”
— Imam Mohammed Mahmoud of the Muslim Welfare House stopped an angry crowd from turning on the van driver, telling the furious mob: “Do not touch him.”  This will, and should, get much notice. The imam followed Islam and protected the man from the furious mob.
— Police have not named the man arrested, but the van bears the logo and phone number for Pontyclun Van Hire in south Wales.
— UK Security Minister Ben Wallace, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s World At One, said, “This individual, so far as we know at the moment, was not known to us.”
— All of the victims were from the Muslim community, police said.
— One man was found dead at the scene, according to police, but it’s not clear if he was killed during the attack. Police said he was already receiving first aid when the attack unfolded.
— Two people were treated at the scene, May said, and eight others have been taken to three hospitals. Two of them are seriously injured.
— Islington’s Seven Sisters Road, where the attack took place, is home to at least four mosques, and would have likely been filled with worshipers leaving late-night taraweeh prayers.
— The Islington borough of north London, of which Finsbury Park is a part, is home to a large Muslim community. Around 10% of the borough’s population is Muslim.
— It’s been nearly 24 hours and Trump and the White House have not talked about it.

Then there is this:

The death of a Virginia teenager who police say was assaulted and then disappeared after leaving a mosque in the Sterling area isn’t being investigated as a hate crime, authorities said Monday.

On Sunday, police found the girl’s remains and a 22-year-old man has been charged with murder in connection with the case.

The mosque, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling, and relatives identified the girl as 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston.

Fairfax County police identified the man charged with murder in her death as Darwin Martinez Torres of Sterling. On Monday, they did not release any explanation as to why they weren’t investigating the murder as a hate crime.

Relatives identified the slain teen as Nabra Hassanen, 17, right, of Reston, seen in a social media post with a filter. (All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center)

According to accounts from police and a mosque official, a group of four or five teens were walking back from breakfast at IHOP early Sunday when they were confronted by a motorist. All but one of the teens ran to the mosque, where the group reported that the girl had been left behind, according to Deputy Aleksandra Kowalski, a spokeswoman for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office.

“Immediately thereafter, the ADAMS’ personnel notified both Loudoun County and Fairfax County authorities who immediately began an extensive search to locate the missing girl,” the mosque said in a statement.

Loudoun and Fairfax police jointly conducted an hours-long search around Dranesville Road and Woodson Drive in Herndon, which is in Fairfax. Remains thought to be the girl’s were found about 3 p.m. Sunday in a pond in the 21500 block of Ridgetop Circle in Sterling. During the search, an officer spotted a motorist driving suspiciously in the area and arrested Torres, police said.

Police said they collected several articles of evidence but declined to provide further details.

The girl’s mother said detectives told her that Nabra was struck with a metal bat.

The ISIS-type terrorists want to start a holy war. It looks like some stupid whiteys are willing to play into that.

UPDATE:   Aaaaand this is happening in France

This was a car loaded with explosives which rammed into a police van on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. The driver of the car was killed. No explosion. No other injuries, but it appears to be a botched terrorist attack.

Supreme Court Notes

Some US Supreme Court news this morning:
 
(1) North Carolina has – um, HAD — a law that said registered sex offenders could not go to certain sites on the Intertubes. The Supreme Court struck down that law, saying it violated First Amendment. The decision was 8-0, although there was sharp disagreement about how much states can regulate Internet use.  The opinion is here.
 
(2) The US Trademark Office cannot prevent an Asian-American rock group called “The Slants” from registering that name, even though it might be offensive. Another First Amendment victory.
 
(3) The Supreme Court took a case on political gerrymandering (where the party in power gets to redraw districts that favor themselves). They’ve never struck down a political gerrymandering case before, but some say they just might this time. The case started when Republicans gained complete control of Wisconsin’s government in 2010 for the first time in more than 40 years. It was a redistricting year, and lawmakers promptly drew a map for the State Assembly that helped Republicans convert very close statewide vote totals into lopsided legislative majorities.

In 2012, Republicans won 48.6 percent of the statewide vote for Assembly candidates but captured 60 of the Assembly’s 99 seats. In 2014, 52 percent of the vote yielded 63 seats.

Verdict in on Philando Castile Killing

Remember this? I wrote about it last year.

A Minnesota jury has reached a verdict in the manslaughter trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the officer who fatally shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop last year.  Yanez is on trial for one count of second-degree manslaughter and two counts of intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety because Castile’s girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter were also in the car.

Announcement soon.

UPDATE: NOT GUILTY ON ALL COUNTS

Of course.

What’s This Tweet About?

Trump’s not busy enough. He’s got free time to watch TV and get defensive. His tweets this morning railed against the “fake news” media and how there was no proof that his campaign (or, in his phrasing, he himself) colluded with Russia to affect the outcome of the election. (He also incorrectly claimed that the investigation had only been going for seven months: It began last July.)

But one tweet is confusing many people, including myself.

Who is he referring to? We know that the “FBI director” is James B. Comey, whom he fired in early May. But who is “the man who told me to fire the FBI director”?

We know two things about that second person from Trump’s tweet. That person told him to fire the FBI director, and that person is investigating him.

At first pass, that would seem to indicate that he’s referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who appointed former FBI director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel, leading the independent investigation into the Russia affair.

Rosenstein also wrote a letter last month outlining concerns about Comey that Attorney General Jeff Sessions then passed on to Trump with the recommendation that Comey be fired.

While that seems like it fits with Trump’s description, then — it actually doesn’t. First of all, Rosenstein’s letter never called for Comey’s firing. (It’s also worth noting that Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt that he planned to fire Comey anyway.)  Obviously, Trump is trying to rewrite the record here, albeit badly.

Second of all, the description of Rosenstein as investigating Trump is a bit off. The special counsel is investigating Trump, and Rosenstein can fire Mueller if he wishes, but he’s not in charge of that investigation. Rosenstein also has jurisdiction over the FBI’s investigation into the Russia matter.

So maybe Trump’s actually referring to Mueller? Mueller’s certainly investigating him — but there’s no indication that Mueller told Trump to fire Comey.

The safest answer: Trump is referring to Rosenstein — and trying to impugn the deputy attorney general by ensnaring him in the firing of Comey at the outset. Which raises another question …

2. Is Rosenstein’s role in the matter tainted? WaPo’s Matt Zapotosky raised this point on Twitter.

This issue of his letter to Trump about Comey was not a point of concern when Rosenstein first appointed Mueller. Of course, at that point the investigation wasn’t into Trump’s alleged attempt to lean on Comey to curtail the investigation into Michael Flynn. ABC News reported that Rosenstein had privately acknowledged to friends that he might need to recuse himself for that reason.

Which could be true. If Rosenstein letter was part of a “plot” to provide justification for Comey’s firing, that’s problematic for Rosenstein… even if he was not part of the plot.  He may have a conflict being Mueller’s higher-up.

What would happen if Rosenstein were to recuse himself from oversight of the special counsel?

The duty would fall to the associate attorney general who was recently appointed, Rachel Brand. A 44 year old conservative, Brand was barely alive when Nixon tried to fire his special counsel.  It is expected that Brand, unlike Rosenstein might be the one to do Trump’s bidding, if he ever decides to fire Mueller.

So, with Trump repeatedly tweeting about this being a “witch hunt”, does that “mystery tweet” today suggest that Trump knows the path to getting rid of the special counsel?

Yes, this IS a reality show.

UPDATE from… uh…. Fox News:

Fox News reports:

A source confirmed to Fox News that Trump’s tweet was referring to Rosenstein. However, a seperate source close to Trump’s legal team said the president was NOT confirming he was under investigation. He was simply referring to the content of a recent Washington Post story.

The Sessions Sessions

Ok, I’ll liveblog SOME of Sessions hearing before the Senate Intel Committee, but again, I expect he’ll talk about what he wants to talk about and then filibuster (or rely on executive privilege) when trapped in a corner.

2:56 pm

Sessions has no recollection of meeting, talking to Russian ambassador or other Russian official at the Mayflower hotel.


(Kislyak must be the gray-haired guy on the right)

Never discussed anything with any foreign agent about any campaign ever.

Sessions says he was victim of Franken’s “rambling question” after six hours of testimony.  Getting a little faux outraged in his opening statement here. (What Sessions is leaving out is that AFTER his hearing answer to Franken, he also left it out of written answers, which staff vet carefully.)

Sessions says it’s “absurd” to say his recusal should have kept him from participating in the Comey firing. He’s claiming he can narrow his stated recusal *from* campaign matters to *only* the Trump campaign.

Sessions appears to stand by his earlier assertion — that he recommended firing Comey due to his handling of Hillary email investigation.

Sessions pretty much confirms Comey’s conversation with Sessions about problems with the White House (Trump) talking directly to Comey about Russia. Except…

And now he’s talking about drugs and crime and gangs.  Talking a lot about it.  His favorite subject.

Aaaaaand that’s the gist of his statement.  I don’t doubt most of it. In fact, I don’t think Sessions was ever involved in any collusion (even though his inability to remember meetings with Russians is… uh…. troubling).

I’ll update if he says anything different under questioning, but I suspect this is all we will get out of him.

Sessions will not talk about conversations with President — NOT based on executive privilege but based on long-standing Department of Justice “policy”.

I think this is a good summary so far:

Wait…. that’s different from “longstanding DOJ policy”. I mean, it’s bullshit too, but it’s also different.

Oh my God. That’s disconcerting. As is this:

Tom Cotton is really reprehensible.

Kamala Harris is up. She wants to ask questions and he wants to stall and take long answers. She wants documents.

And the Chair admonishes her.

Yup.

Can Trump Fire Mueller?

This is complicated and I don’t have much time. So hold on.

Trump does not have the legal authority to fire special prosecutor Mueller directly, but that doesn’t mean Trump can’t TRY.  For Trump to fire Mueller, he TECHNICALLY must order the Attorney General to fire Mueller.  If Trump tried to fire Mueller directly, Mueller could (and probably would) choose not to “recognize” Trump’s independent authority to fire him.

But wait, there’s another problem. If Trump asked Attorney General Sessions to fire Mueller — well, Sessions technically can’t either, because he recused himself from all matters relating to Russia… and that would presumably mean that he is recused from hiring or firing the special counsel looking into Trump-Russia collusion. Then again, Sessions was the one who fired Comey, and he probably should not have for the same reason.  So if Sessions tried to fire Mueller on Trump’s order, Mueller could choose not to “recognize” Mueller’s independent authority to fire him.

The correct person to fire Mueller (on order from Trump) is deputy AG Rob Rosenstein, the one who appointed Mueller to special prosecutor.

Whoever does it, it is very much like the Saturday Night massacre in Watergate.  There, Nixon told his attorney general Elliott Richardson to fire independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox. Richardson refused so Nixon fired him.  Nixon then told Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus also refused and Nixon fired him too. Nixon then ordered the Solicitor General of the United States, Robert Bork, as acting head of the Justice Department, to fire Cox. Both Richardson and Ruckelshaus had given personal assurances to Congressional oversight committees that they would not interfere, but Bork had not. On November 14, 1973, federal district judge Gerhard Gesell ruled firing Cox was illegal absent a finding of extraordinary impropriety as specified in the regulation establishing the special prosecutor’s office.

It was a constitutional crisis.

The situations between now and then are strikingly comparable. The question is if Rosenstein will carry out Trump’s bidding, or if Sessions would, or if Trump would simply try to do it directly…. if he tried at all.

When questioned last week by Senator Kamala Harris of the Senate Intelligence Committee (who seemed to be looking well down the road), Rosenstein refused to say whether he would exercise his authority to fire Mueller if it ever came down to that.  At least, he refused to say in open session.

With all that said, I don’t think Trump will try to fire Mueller, despite what Newt Gingrich and others are saying.  Not only are the minefields legally (see above), but the political fallout just might be too much — even for Republicans.  After Nixon tried to fire Cox, public support crashed for Nixon (what little remained) and impeachment rose rapidly in the polls.

At that point, Republicans in Congress would join Democrats to appoint an independent counsel (just like they did in Watergate, where they appointed Jaworski).  Heck, it could be Mueller again.

So huge risk, low reward. I don’t think Trump would try this, but God knows what advice he is getting, and whether he will follow it.

UPDATE:  Rosenstein just happens to be testifying before the Appropriations Committee today.

He also says AG Sessions “theoretically” has power to fire Mueller.

Aw, Susan Collins goes to the direct question:

Maryland And DC Attorneys General File Lawsuit Against Trump Under Emoluments Clause

Although CREW currently has a lawsuit going, the attorneys general of Maryland and DC have filed a lawsuit today against President Trump, citing a constitutional violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.  The damage? Well, they claim, the US is effectively not living up to the Constitution, a document that Maryland signed onto in part because of the Emoluments Clause.  Also, they are losing tax revenue.

Here is the full complaint:

The Comey Memos — Part Two

So some idiot at Redstate is making the argument that the Comey Memos were leaked in contravention of the law:

The documents leaked by Comey were official government records. Period. They were created by a government employee (Comey) while acting in his official capacity (FBI director) on a government-issued laptop while sitting in a government car driven by another government employee and probably in the company of a government security detail.

See how he pulled a Spicer there (“Period.”)?  As if saying “period” makes his argument stronger.

Still, he has a point. The Comey memo is an official government record.

You know what else is an official government record? A social security check. A letter from the IRS. Lots of things.

The moron continues:

The documents are not “unclassified.” The documents, by the very fact that they recorded a conversation with the president, would have carried a ‘confidential’ classification.

Ummmmm…. No, it wouldn’t.  Or as we say in the fact-checking business, CITATION NEEDED.

Here’s the deal — private conversations with the President are not automatically classified.  They’re just not.  Classification is based on the content, not on the parties.  If that were the case, then forget the memos.  Even TESTIFYING about any private conversation with the President would be a no-no.

Once you recognize that a private conversation with the President is not classified, you can see that a memo summarizing a private conversation with the President is also not classified.

Another thing about classification — who does this idiot think makes classification calls in the first place? Comey is the head of the FBI. He can classify or declassify anything he damn well wants, including his own work product.

But the moron continues:

There is zero way it would not have been classified ‘for official use only’ as the conversation was inarguably covered by executive privilege. The memos were the property of the US government and are clearly covered under the Federal Records Act.

Well, there is a difference between documents that are classified, documents that are subject to executive privilege, and documents covered by the Federal Records Act. The Comey memos were not classified; they were not subject to executive privilege (and if they were, Trump waived that privilege); and the Federal Records Act only deals with maintaining and preserving those documents (I’m sure the FBI has copies, so, no problem there).

He then goes on to discuss 18 U.S. Code § 641, which says:

Whoever embezzles, steals, purloins, or knowingly converts to his use or the use of another, or without authority, sells, conveys or disposes of any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof, or any property made or being made under contract for the United States or any department or agency thereof… Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; but if the value of such property in the aggregate, combining amounts from all the counts for which the defendant is convicted in a single case, does not exceed the sum of $1,000, he shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

The word “value” means face, par, or market value, or cost price, either wholesale or retail, whichever is greater.

A rather dumb argument. I suppose Comey did steal the paper that he printed or made photocopies on.  But the he didn’t “convert” or “convey” the actual RECORD itself, which presumably is still on his laptop.

And then he finally links to an FBI website which says that that the FBI has policy and procedures regarding discretionary release of information in accordance with the Privacy Act.  Guess who has discretion?

HUGE Redstate fail. Embarrassing.

Did Comey Break The Law By Revealing His Memo Contents To The Press?

No, and in fact, if Trump goes after Comey for dong that, Trump could get in deeper trouble. Here’s why:

As the news broke, I was on the phone with Stephen Kohn, partner at a law firm focused on whistleblower protection. We’d been talking about where the boundaries lay for Comey in what he could and couldn’t do with the information about his conversations with the president. Kohn’s response to the story about Kasowitz, though, was visceral.

“Here is my position on that: Frivolous grandstanding,” he said. “First of all, I don’t believe the inspector general would have jurisdiction over Comey any more, because he’s no longer a federal employee.” The inspector general’s job is to investigate wrongdoing by employees of the Justice Department, of which Comey is no longer, thanks to Trump.

“But, second,” he continued, “initiating an investigation because you don’t like somebody’s testimony could be considered obstruction. And in the whistleblower context, it’s both evidence of retaliation and, under some laws, could be an adverse retaliatory act itself.”

In other words, Comey, here, is an employee who is blowing the whistle, to use the idiom, on his former boss. That boss wants to punish him for doing so. That’s problematic — especially if there’s no evidence that Comey actually violated any law that would trigger punishment.

Trump’s Tweets Today Are The Most Unhinged And SELF-Destructive (And It’s Only 10:00 AM)

God knows why they just don’t take his phone away. Or give him a fake phone with a fake Twitter account.

This is how bad it has gotten: Trump’s own advisers have gone on television and stated that Trump’s tweets are not his policy.  Well, who knows? How can we tell? Would Trump agree with that?

Even this morning, Kellyanne Conway said that the media is obsessed with Trump’s tweets, implying that people should not place emphasis on them.  But that is in contradiction from what others in the White House – and Trump himself — have said:

“This obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little what he does as president …” Conway said during that interview.

“That’s his preferred method of communication with the American people,” said Craig Melvin, the show’s co-host.

“That’s not true,” Conway interjected.

“Well, he hasn’t given an interview in three weeks, so lately it has been his preferred method,” Melvin replied.

Even setting aside that three-week modification, Melvin is correct that the administration has touted Twitter as being more important than media coverage. After Trump won the presidency in November, he and his team were asked if he would stop tweeting so much as president. The answer? No — because the media can’t be trusted.

Shortly after the election, Trump spoke with CBS’s Leslie Stahl, telling her how he planned to moderate his Twitter use once he was sworn in.

“I’m going to do very restrained, if I use it at all, I’m going to do very restrained,” he said. “I find it tremendous. It’s a modern form of communication. There should be nothing you should be ashamed of. It’s — it’s where it’s at.”

By January, his description of his Twitter habit was a bit less enthusiastic.

“Look, I don’t like tweeting. I have other things I could be doing. But I get very dishonest media, very dishonest press. And it’s my only way that I can counteract,” Trump told Reuters in January. That’s the theme: The media is the enemy, so Trump will tweet to the people directly.

On ABC’s “This Week” in January, incoming press secretary Sean Spicer made that same case.

And more to the point, even if his tweets are not policy, they sometimes contradict policy.  And that makes for headaches for Trump’s team.

Today being a prime example. Let’s start with his first four tweets of the day (which apparently were made while watching Morning Joe on MSNBC):

Let’s start with the first tweet at the bottom, where he calls “it” a “travel ban” and a “watered down, politically correct” version of his original executive order which banned all travel from 7 mostly-Muslim nations. Arguably, Trump is showing his intent to disfavor Muslims by the executive order, a point that has doomed the executive orders in court so far. In court briefs, DOJ lawyers have said the orders are “religion-neutral” in operation, drawing “distinctions among countries based on national-security risks identified by Congress and the Executive Branch, not religion, and applies evenhandedly in the six designated countries.”

There is also a glaring problem: the revised travel ban was authored by Trump’s administration and signed by Trump himself — the Justice Department’s role is merely defending its legality.  Why is he taking umbrage with the Justice Department?

In any event, his tweets this morning on the subject of the travel ban hurt his already weak case.

Next up on this morning’s hit parade, this:

Again, he was watching Fox & Friends and they were apparently talking about vacancies.  Odd that he would blame the Democrats, since they do not control the Senate (who has to improve Ambassadors and other certain posts).

Almost two months ago, Politico did a story on why this is taking so long, and it has nothing to do with the Democrats:

Hundreds of key jobs across the federal government remain vacant as a result of an overworked White House personnel office that is frustrating Cabinet secretaries and hampering President Donald Trump’s ability to carry out his ambitious legislative agenda.

The process is bogged down as a result of micromanaging by the president and senior staff, turf wars between the West Wing and Cabinet secretaries and a largely inexperienced and overworked staff, say more than a dozen sources including administration insiders, lobbyists, lawyers and Republican strategists.

Trump personally oversees the hiring process for agency staff by insisting on combing through a binder full of names each week and likes to sign off on each one, according to two people with knowledge of the administration’s hiring process. Also weighing in on the names — and not always agreeing on final picks — are leaders of sometimes warring factions, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, senior strategist Steve Bannon, Cabinet secretaries and, sometimes, the White House’s top lawyer, Don McGahn.

“It’s like a medieval court,” said one person advising potential nominees through the confirmation process. “The White House meets once a week to go over personnel in some attempt to create uniformity, but in this White House, you just have to smile at that. … It’s hard to impose uniformity among the White House’s different coalitions.”

The only uniformity is that potential hires must show fealty to the president. One person close to the White House said a sense of “paranoia” has taken over amid fears that disloyal hires might undercut Trump’s agenda or leak to the press.

Another reason they are having a hard time getting positions filled? People don’t want to serve under Trump. especially with a special counsel investigation and FBI probe hanging over the White House.

Even if it were true that Dems were somehow slowing up the confirmation process, that doesn’t explain the vacancies. From the LA Times:

What’s the effect? Just eight of 120 State Department posts, including ambassadorships, that require Senate confirmation have been filled, according to the Partnership for Public Service. As a result, foreign officials and diplomats struggle to find someone to discuss trade and security issues with.

We have officially entered hurricane season with no head of NOAA and no head of FEMA.

And in the Pentagon, Trump has filled only five of the 53 top jobs – the slowest pace for nominations and confirmations in over half a century. No Army Secretary. No Navy Secretary.

The hold-up, insiders say, is Trump’s insistence on absolute loyalty… to him.

The Washington Post has a wonderful database tracker page to keep up with Trump’s lack of progress on filling key positions.

And finally, Trump’s final tweet of the morning (we hope):

This is Trump engaging in an attack against London mayor Sadiq Khan (a Muslim) when Khan said that is “no reason to be alarmed”. Trump attacked that quote, complaining that London had just had a terrorist attack, and they should be freaking out (I guess).

What happened here? Trump watched Fox News, which had truncated the quote and changed its meaning:

But Mr Trump’s criticism is based on a quotation entirely removed from its context. He appears to be confused about what happened in part because Fox News repeated the same short quote but without the full remarks from the mayor of London.

What Mr Khan actually said was that there is no reason to be alarmed about the increased police presence on the streets after the attack.

“My message to Londoners and visitors to our great city is to be calm and vigilant today,” Mr Khan said. “You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers.

“There is no reason to be alarmed by this. We are the safest global city in the world. You saw last night as a consequence of our planning, our preparation, the rehearsals that take place, the swift response from the emergency services tackling the terrorists and also helping the injured.”

There is no reason to be alarmed by this… with “this” referring to the increased police presence.

Rather than admit he was misquoting Khan, Trump doubled down… on the mayor of a city just attacked by terrorists.

Could it be because this particular mayor is Muslim?

Today could have been a good day for Trump — he intended to announce an infrastructure bill (which Dems could get behind). But he squandered it with these Tweets.  With Comey testifying in a few days, Trump does not have many more chances to have “good days”.

The “Unmasking” Diversion

Over at Fox News, they use the word “unmasking” a lot. To me, it looks like they haven’t realized it is a common practice in the intelligence community. They just use the word a lot so that their low-information viewers will think it is bad.

“Unmasking”, of course, is the process whereby a redacted name of an American citizen is unredacted for someone who is reading an intelligence report.  A request is made to unmask the name so that the reader can better understand and perhaps act on the information (or fully advise another)

Unmasking is not leaking.  When the name of a U.S. person is unmasked, that information is provided only to the intelligence official who requested that unmasking. There’s no equivalence between so-called unmasking and leaking.  Of course, the recipient of unmasked information could then illegally disclose it through a leak. But that’s leaking.

Unmasking is not a crime. The process for unmasking vary from agency to agency and case by case depending on how the information was collected. But the exact procedures are not publicly known and may be classified.

Even if it turns out that procedures weren’t followed, people would most likely be subject to administrative discipline. It’s still not a crime.

But Trump and obedient Republicans have to switch focus to something other than possible Russia collusion, so “unmasking” is their go-to.  In the recent subpoenas sent out by the House Intelligence Committee, half of them were related to investigations of “improper unmasking.”

Never mind that these allegations have already been thoroughly debunked. In April, numerous media outlets, citing both Republican and Democratic congressional sources, reported that intelligence reports pertaining to the communications of Trump’s advisers with foreign agents were “normal and appropriate” and contained “no evidence of wrongdoing.”

Even Trump is pimping the unmasking. His tweet today:

It’s really not.  As I said, even improper unmasking is an administrative slap on the wrist.

But Trump has a bigger problem.  Pushing the “unmasking and surveillance” line only leads to more information about why requests were made. And when that information comes to the surface, well, that’s a path that’s been harmful to Trump’s cause thus far.

I don’t think he sees that many moves ahead.

Trump Loses In Federal Court…. Again…. This Time on Sanctuary Cities

A federal district court ruling yesterday bars President Trump from withholding funds from jurisdictions that refuse to cooperate with federal agencies to deport undocumented immigrants, marking his second setback in court on immigration.  The first setback, of course, was his Muslim ban.

Before I get to the substance of this post, first things first:

No, it wasn’t the Ninth Circuit that ruled against Donald — it was a federal district court — one level down.  Yes, the court is within the Ninth Circuit, but it isn’t the ACTUAL Ninth Circuit court itself.  So the next stop isn’t the Supreme Court, it’s the Ninth Circuit.

Also, it wasn’t JUST the Ninth Circuit that ruled against Trump’s Muslim ban; it was a federal district court in Maryland.  And Massachusetts, I believe, as well.

*Sigh*.  He apparently thinks you sue a circuit court when you don’t like a decision.

Look, the opinion was a no-brainer.

Trump’s order, signed Jan. 25, threatened to cut off funding from local governments that refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities. Santa Clara County and the city of San Francisco challenged the order, arguing, among other things, that the president doesn’t have the power to withhold federal money.

They’re right. He doesn’t.

The 49-page ruling focused largely on an all-too-familiar theme for this administration: the consequences of bragging and bluster by Trump and top administration officials.

Just like the judges who ruled on Trump’s travel ban, Judge Orrick homed in on the vast discrepancies between what government lawyers defending the sanctuary cities order argued in court and what administration officials said about it in public.

In court, the government tried to make the case that the order doesn’t actually do anything, at least not at the moment, because the administration has yet to define what exactly a sanctuary city is or threaten any particular jurisdiction with a loss of funds.  It was their way of convincing the judge to toss out the lawsuit on the grounds that no city or county has yet suffered any harm.

The problem with that approach is that administration officials boasted about how the order would force sanctuary cities to their knees, singling out particular places.  So, in court, the Trump lawyers argued that it was essentially an empty shell even though it was portrayed in news conferences, briefings and television interviews as a powerful tool to protect the public from dangerous undocumented immigrants being shielded by wayward cities and counties.

Fine,said, Judge Orrick. If the order is powerless, then surely you won’t mind if I impose this injunction which prevents you from actually doing anything. So that’s what he did.

I somehow don’t think Trump was briefed about that, because he is treating it as a loss.  Which it IS, but it’s just what his lawyers argued.

According to Orrick, the government contended that the order was merely an example of Trump using the “bully pulpit” to “highlight a changed approach to immigration enforcement” — in essence, something much more benign than what Trump and company had described.

The argument was lost on the judge, who ridiculed the government’s position as “schizophrenic.”

“If there was doubt about the scope of the Order, the President and Attorney General have erased it with their public comments,” Orrick wrote.

“Is the Order merely a rhetorical device,” he added, “or a ‘weapon’ to defund the Counties and those who have implemented a different law enforcement strategy than the Government currently believes is desirable?”

The ruling continued: “The statements of the President, his press secretary and the Attorney General belie the Government’s argument in the briefing that the Order does not change the law. They have repeatedly indicated an intent to defund sanctuary jurisdictions in compliance with the Executive Order.”

Here is the decision.  If you do nothing else, read the last paragraph.

The Terrorist You Won’t Hear About

A terrorist armed with guns and a thousand round of ammunition failed in his attempt to go on a shooting spree in America, killing and wounding unknown numbers.

You don’t about this story, because he failed in his attempt.

And also, because the terrorist is a right wing white guy:

The FBI arrested an alleged right-wing extremist who had amassed 1,000 rounds of ammunition and was said to be plotting a mass shooting.

A complaint filed in federal court and obtained by the Statesman on Monday stated that a search warrant was executed on the home of 50-year-old Steven Thomas Boehle after a confidential informant said that he was planning a shooting spree.

According to the complaint, Boehle “exhibits sovereign citizen extremism ideology.”

Although Boehle is prohibited from owning firearms due to a 1993 assault on a intimate partner, three guns were found in his home.

He was charged with making false statements about his criminal history while trying to buy additional firearms from gun dealers in the Austin area.

When people factor their sense of national security and views on firearms, they don’t factor in stories like this because these stories don’t get widespread coverage. The FBI doesn’t take a bow. Maybe they should.

Twitter Pushes Back On Trump Administration

Twitter filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Customs and Border Protection today. Twitter seeks an injunction barring them from asking for the identity of the person behind @alt_uscis.

It’s not clear what legal reason the Trump administration is seeking to identify @alt_uscis.  The @alt_uscis bio states: “Immigration resistance . Team 2.0 1/2 Not the views of DHS or USCIS. Old fellow drank russian soup.”  It could be a now-fired USCIS employee and they are looking for a leak, or maybe they just don’t like criticism.

Anyway, it is going to put this administration (as well as social media resistance) to a test.  Keep your eyes open.

Yeah, I Admit That I Just Emailed Rachel Maddow

I know you get a lot of email, which means I only have a few seconds to grab your interest.  Here I go…

WHY AREN’T YOU DOING A COMPLETE SHOW ON EZRA COHEN-WATKINS?
Let me bullet-point it for you:
  • Reminder: ECW is the 30-year-old White House aide — the NSC’s senior director of intelligence who started his own ‘review’ of surveillance intercepts of the Trump transition, took his findings to the White House Counsel’s office only to get told to stop. [Source: AP]

  • Although reports say that Michael Ellis and a third person gave the unmasked intel to Nunes, it seems obvious that ECW gathered this information in his ‘review’ [Source: NYT]
  • ECW is a Flynn protege [Source: NYT, above]

  • McMaster wanted ECW out, but Bannon and Kushner intervened [Source: NYT, above]  (Isn’t that intervention unusual? Why those two? Where is the Chief of Staff in all this?)

  • ECW has no face. (No, seriously. You can’t find a picture of him online, which doesn’t mean anything, but is fun/weird)

  • His wife works for a D.C. public relations firm. Her client is… Russia. [Source: a reputable blog, but I think your staff should try to confirm.]

Now the heavy stuff that nobody seems to be talking about (save perhaps Nancy LeTourneau at the Washington Monthly this morning)

  • In order to unmask a document, one needs the approval of the underlying intel agency that masked the document in the first place. Furthermore, once unmasked, you cannot share that unmasked information with another person unless it relates and is necessary to the purposes of your briefing, etc.  And finally, if you are going to share that information outside of your branch of government (say, with a congressional committee) you need to go BACK to then intel agency for further approval.  (I heard this many times last night and I believe Susan Rice said this as well.  Transcripts aren’t available yet, but someone can find this out).

  • This begs the question: regardless of why ECW got the unmasked information (i.e., on whose authority, if anybody), he would have to get permission from the underlying intel agency to share it.  Question: Did ECW follow intel protocol with the unmasked information that he obtained? Did anyone in the White House? (I suspect not)

  • Regardless of whether he got permission to share, ECW really really appears to be a leaker — or a link in within a “leak chain”  — is he not?  He cannot be a whistleblower — for that, he would have to expose wrongdoing. But even conservative news outlets acknowledge that Rice’s unmasking was perfectly legal.  So my questions are: Why hasn’t he been brought in for questioning? Why does he still have (as far as we know) security clearance?
Okay, that’s my quick pitch.

Thanks for your time.  I enjoy your show (obviously), but I won’t fanboy here.

7th Circuit: LGBTQ Discrimination IS Sex Discrimination

It’s not definitive, but this is a huge step. The Seventh Circuit ruled 8-3 that a woman who was denied a job because she was a lesbian had a cause of action under Title VII.  Title VII is the civil rights law which prevents workplace discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, and religion. It generally applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including federal, state, and local governments. Congress has frequently considered amending Title VII to add the words “sexual orientation” to the list of prohibited characteristics, yet it has never done so.

In an opinion which many critics will call “legislating from the bench”, the 7th Circuit majority in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, ruled that Title VII discrimination is applicable because “it would require considerable calisthenics to remove the ‘sex’ from ‘sexual orientation. ‘”  This is undeniably true.  If Ms. Hively had been a man with a preference for women, there would have been no issue with her being hired.  But she is a woman.  Therefore, this has to do with gender.

The dissent argues, predictably:

[Plaintiff’s attorney] is advancing a creative new legal argument for reinterpreting Title VII, deploying the comparative method not as a method of proof (its normal and intended function) but as a thought experiment with the end of imbuing the statute with a new meaning that it did not bear at its inception.

That’s a rather typical conservative judicial interpretation (unless we are talking about the word “arms” in the Second Amendment).

Anyway, this is a big step forward, and I expect that the Supreme Court will visit this soon.  Here is the full opinion:

Wow! Fox News And The White House Are Going Full Bore On This Susan Rice Thing!

It is amazing how the goalposts have moved from Trump’s initial tweets on March 10.  Let’s look at them again:

Okay.

So Obama has now become Susan Rice, Obama’s National Security Adviser.

“Wiretap” has become “names unmasked”.

“Trump” and “Trump Tower”, the object(s) of the supposed “wiretap(p)”, is not Trump associates.

But other than those things — Trump was 100% correct when he said “Obama wiretapped me”.

Here’s what we do FOR A FACT: Susan Rice — who was the NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER — sought to unmask intelligence a lot.  When she or anybody else does this, the N.S.A. uses a two-part test to evaluate unmasking requests: “Is there a valid need to know in the course of the execution of their official duties?” and “Is the identification necessary to truly understand the context of the intelligence value that the report is designed to generate?”

The answer to these questions is often yes. “Masking and unmasking happens every single day, dozens of times, or hundreds of times. I don’t even know the numbers,” Jim Himes, a Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, told me. “There needs to be a process followed. It’s a fairly rigorous process, involving lots of review by counsels and that sort of thing.”

There is an audit trail for these requests and the responses.  Which means that if Susan Rice was abusing this process, she did a terrible job of covering it up. All Trump’s aides had to do to discover her alleged abuse was to review logs on a White House computer that tracked her requests.

And while Republicans are targeting Rice, recklessly asserting that she spied on Trump’s campaign, their attacks also implicate the N.S.A., which would have had to determine that the intercepts had “intelligence value,” and then to approve any unmasking based on its two criteria: that Rice had “a valid need to know” the identities of masked names and that unmasking was necessary to understand the report.

And they love that it is Rice, because Rice was also involved in the non-scandal called Benghazi.

So it seems the political winds may be shifting on this story, or at least blowing in a slightly more favorable direction for the White House. But unless firm evidence of any actual wrongdoing emerges, these partial revelations, some favorable to the president and some unfavorable, are probably mostly a distraction, or at least a way to while away time, until the real news emerges from the congressional or FBI investigations.

Let’s set aside that his “story” emanates from Mike Cernovich, the man who made up stories that there is an child-sex ring literally underground at a Washington, D.C. pizza restaurant.  Let’s also set aside the fact there is nothing there.  Just don’t believe the Fox hype.

UPDATE:  The Wall Street Journal gets in on the act, with its editorial board issuing a blistering op-ed on Tuesday morning:

All this is highly unusual — and troubling. Unmasking does occur, but it is typically done by intelligence or law-enforcement officials engaged in anti-terror or espionage investigations. Ms. Rice would have had no obvious need to unmask Trump campaign officials other than political curiosity.

I can think of a need. And it is obvious. If the Russians were hacking the DNC and attempting to sabotage the election (which was known at the time by Rice), and Trump campaign officials were meeting and talking with Russian agents (which was known at the time by Rice), then I can understand why she might want that information unmasked.

Rice spoke to MSNBC shortly and said she didn’t use any such intelligence for political purposes.

“The allegation is that somehow Obama administration officials utilized intelligence for political purposes; that’s absolutely false,” she said. She added: “I leaked nothing to nobody, and never have and never would.”

She confirmed that such unmasking was part of her duties as national security adviser, without referring to specific cases.

“That’s necessary for me to do my job,” she said. “It’s necessary for the secretary of state, or the secretary of defense, or the CIA director to do their jobs. We can’t be passive consumers of this information and not — and do our jobs effectively to protect the American people. Imagine if we saw something of grave significance that involved Russia, or China, or anybody else, interfering in our political process and we needed to understand the significance of that. For us not to try to understand it would be dereliction of duty.”

Right.  And It’s circular logic. If Rice didn’t know who was on the calls how could it be a political attack? On the other hand if Trumps people hadn’t been talking to Russian operatives they wouldn’t have been recorded.

UPDATE AGAIN — CNN’s Chris Cuomo gets it:

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo told viewers on Tuesday that the controversy surrounding former national security adviser Susan Rice is “another fake scandal being peddled by right-wing media.”

Cuomo offered the remarks about Rice’s reported request to know the identities of President Trump transition team members mentioned in intelligence briefings during CNN’s “New Day.”

Rice has been accused of unmasking the Trump transition members.

“So President Trump wants you to believe that he is the victim of a ‘crooked scheme,’ ” Cuomo began. “Those are his words. And here are our words: There is no evidence of any wrongdoing.”

“And, in fact, if anything the [national security adviser] asking for identities was a reflection of exactly how much traffic there was involving Trump people and foreign players,” Cuomo continued.

“The White House blasting the press for not reporting on another fake scandal being peddled by right-wing media.”

The HB2 Repeal: Is It As Bad As Everyone Says?

Well, I find myself in the awkward position of disagreeing with friends, colleagues, and organizations that I respect (like the ACLU, of which I have been an active member for 24 years). That’s not fun. The issue? House Bill 142.

For those living under a rock, HB142 is the bill passed by the North Carolina General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Cooper yesterday. It attempts to repeal HB2 — the heinous “transgender bathroom bill” —  and more importantly (from some people’s perspective) appease the NCAA which has threatened to ban North Carolina from holding any tournaments due to HB2.

To read some of the headlines, you would think HB142 lines up transgender people and shoots them. “The HB2 “Repeal” Bill Is an Unmitigated Disaster for LGBTQ Rights and North Carolina” screams Slate. Reverend Barber calls it “an insult to civil rights“.  The ACLU says: “there is no repeal of the anti-trans HB2, only more discrimination“.

Really? There’s actually been NO repeal AT ALL?  There’s MORE discrimination?  What am I missing?  Am I the one who is crazy?

Quite possibly. But right now, I honestly believe HB 142 is a fairly decent compromise.  And it’s quite possible that the resistance may be overplaying this victory by casting as a loss.

Those who do this are wrong in my view.  HB142 is not HB2.0.

Let’s get a few things out of the way:

First, this was always going to be a compromise bill. Republicans rule the North Carolina General Assembly.  So if you expected a civil rights bill ON TOP OF a repeal of HB2, then somebody sold you a lie.  And it wasn’t Governor Cooper. Now, it is perfectly reasonable to demand that the law protect transgender people (as well as gay, bisexual, queer, etc. people). *I* demand that. But those things do not come in a day.  They just don’t. We’re STILL working on racial inequality for crying out loud.  The exercise here — with this bill — was not to get the law to protect transgender people, but to get the law to stop discriminating against them.  So if you are in the “all or nothing, today” camp, stop reading, because I practice the art of the possible, and nothing I say going forward will please you (in fact, it will likely infuriate you).

Secondly, to those who say that HB 142 doesn’t do enough — well, of course not. Again — it is a compromise bill. I have no reason to think that Roy Cooper or Senator Jackson or the others did not hammer out the best deal possible.  Again, it wasn’t intended to resolve the issue of transgender rights for all time.

Finally, I personally could not give a damn about the NCAA and where tournaments are held. I think the loss of jobs to the state are, and should be, a concern.  Same with the loss of state “prestige”. But the bottom line for me is civil rights. For me, that overshadows everything.  That’s the yardstick I am using here to measure the success, or lack thereof, of HB142 in comparison to HB2. So please don’t question my motive. I want what the ACLU and the LGBTQ community and all lovers of civil rights want – full stop, period.

That said, HB2 is dead. Can I get an “amen”?

Bueller?

Bueller?

If you read some of these articles (or scan the headlines) you would think HB2 is not dead, or that it had been supplemented with worse stuff.  So let’s break this down and discuss what HB142 — now the law — actually does.  Because it’s short, I’ll insert the entire text:

Okay, so is HB2 repealed? Yes. It’s right there in English.  Section One. Statutory Laws 2016-3 — which is HB2 — is repealed.  Click the link. Read what HB2 was.  It was a lot!  It’s gone now.

So let’s move to the NCAA gripes, because it was in plain non-legalese English, and it will help explain what is no longer.  Here, specifically, is the reason the NCAA singled out North Carolina for the proposed ban (from the NCAA website):

The board stressed that the dynamic in North Carolina is different from that of other states because of at least four specific factors: 

  • North Carolina laws invalidate any local law that treats sexual orientation as a protected class or has a purpose to prevent discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individuals. 
  • North Carolina has the only statewide law that makes it unlawful to use a restroom different from the gender on one’s birth certificate, regardless of gender identity.  
  • North Carolina law provides legal protections for government officials to refuse services to the LGBT community. 
  • Five states plus numerous cities prohibit travel to North Carolina for public employees and representatives of public institutions, which could include student-athletes and campus athletics staff. These states are New York, Minnesota, Washington, Vermont and Connecticut. 

The second and third factors are gone. HB142 wiped them out with the stroke of a pen.  The fourth factor relies on those other cities, but they will presumably permit travel to North Carolina now.

That’s not nothing.  That’s something.  That’s a victory.  Can we acknowledge that?

To be sure, it returns us to the status quo — i.e., the time Charlotte’s ordinance protecting those with non-conforming gender identity. Is the government working to protect the transgender community from discrimination?  Nope.  But now the government is not doing the actual discrimination itself, and, yes, that is big.

It’s like desegregating the public water fountains, even though the business-owned lunch counters remain segregated.  It’s NOT “nothing”; it’s NOT “worse”. It’s an improvement.

What about the NCAA’s first factor and the argument that HB142 does not allow Charlotte and other communities to pass laws protecting the transgender community (at least until 2020)?  I shake my head at that argument, and this is where I think most people have it wrong. We shouldn’t WANT local municipalities to have the power to “enact or amend an ordinance regulating private employment practices or regulating private public accommodation”.

Why not?

Because hundreds of communities in North Carolina will take the opportunity to stick it to the LGBTQ community.

What’s the point of repealing HB2 if Apex, North Carolina (for example) can turn around and pass its own version next week?  You see, not every community in North Carolina is as enlightened as Charlotte or Raleigh or Asheville.  In fact, most aren’t (drive through East Carolina one day).  And LGBTQ people are everywhere in North Carolina. Taking legislative power away from local municipalities was a feature, not a bug.

Also, it is better off if the battlefield is the state legislature — ONE state legislature — rather than hundreds of cities, town, incorporated settlements, etc.  The “resistance” lacks the resources to fight the transgender discrimination issue in every NC municipality and win. Leaving invidious prejudicial treatment to the whims of local legislatures would allow pockets of prejudice to exist for decades (see, for example, the school district in Mississippi which finally became racially desegregated this month!)

What happens in 2020, when the prohibition is lifted?  In truth, it matters little.  The provision to kick the can down the road wasn’t meant to postpone justice.  And it certainly wasn’t meant to postpone injustice.  It just acknowledges reality — that no matter what the state legislature does, it will end up in the courts, as everything does with civil rights.

Put another way — you’re not going to end discrimination against the transgender community completely until a court says so. End of story. You can’t legislate “equal protection under the law” because it is a constitutional/legal issue, not a political one.  And by 2020, these issues will have been worked out.

Yes, it is true that repealing HB2 probably killed North Carolina lawsuits against HB2 (rendered them moot).  But there are plenty of other lawsuits out there, most notably, Grimm v. Gloucester County School Board, regarding the 17 year old transgender male student in a Virginia high school. Sent back down to the Fourth Circuit from the U.S. Supreme Court a few weeks ago, it is likely to go back up as soon as the Fourth Circuit decides (both sides are likely to appeal).  And the outcome there will govern what happens in North Carolina — mostly likely in 2019.

So what do we have to be upset about?  HB2 is no more. HB2-like discrimination cannot sneak in through the back door via local legislatures.  And everything is on hold until the courts resolve this, which they were going to do anyway.  It hasn’t slowed down the litigation track.

“Justice delayed is justice denied” is a maxim used by Martin Luther King, Jr., but dates back to William Penn and even the Magna Carta. I wholly acknowledge that transgender people have every reason to be anxious and upset that the guarantee of their civil rights were not met on March 30, 2017.  I don’t know who or what led them to believe the a Democratic governor in a mostly-conservative state could deliver them their rightful legal protections in one fell swoop.

But if they are angry, then I say good.  They need to be; everyone needs to be.  But nobody should feel defeated by HB142, as many do.  The system works, albeit slowly, and if you don’t remind people every once in a while of their victories, then cynicism wins.  And when cynicism wins, corruption and prejudice is not far behind.

This goes in the win column, and we need to remain vigilant. THAT’S my point.  I ask permission to revise and extend my remarks as needed.

Disdain For Democracy

Worse than lying, says Greg Sargeant:

Trump is enraged at being subjected to a system of democratic and institutional constraints, for which he has signaled nothing but absolute, unbridled contempt. The system is pushing back, and he can’t bear it.

On Monday morning, the latest chapter in this tale — Trump’s unsupported accusation that Obama wiretapped his phones — took another turn. Trump’s spokeswoman said on ABC News that Trump does not accept FBI Director James Comey’s claim — which was reported on over the weekend — that no such wiretapping ever happened.

As E.J. Dionne writes, this episode is a “tipping point” in the Trump experiment. Trump leveled the charge based on conservative media. Then, after an internal search for evidence to back it up produced nothing, the White House press secretary called on Congress to investigate it and declared the administration’s work done. While the previous administration did wiretap, the problem is the recklessness and baselessness of Trump’s specific allegations, and the White House’s insistence that the burden of disproving them must fall on others — on Congress and on the FBI. Trump’s allegations must be humored at all costs, simply because he declared them to be true — there can be no admission of error, and worse, the White House has declared itself liberated from the need to even pretend to have evidence to back up even Trump’s most explosive claims.

This is more than disdain for the truth. It represents profound contempt for our democratic and institutional processes. In this sense, it’s only the latest in what has become a broader pattern:

  • When the media accurately reported on Trump’s inaugural crowd sizes, the White House not only contested this on the substance in a laughably absurd manner. It also accused the press of intentionally diminishing Trump’s crowd count, thus trying to delegitimize the news media’s institutional act of holding Trump accountable to factual reality.
  • Trump has tweeted that the media is the “enemy of the American people” and has accused the media of covering up terrorist plots. Stephen K. Bannon has railed against the press as “the opposition party.” Trump gave a recent speech heavily devoted to attacking the media, once again for deliberately and knowingly misleading Americans. All this goes far beyond merely questioning the media’s role as an arbiter of truth.
  • After getting elected, Trump continued to repeat the lie that millions voted illegally in the election, undermining faith in American democracy. When the media called out this falsehood, the White House threatened an investigation to prove it true, which hasn’t materialized, in effect using the vow of investigations as nothing more than a tool to obfuscate efforts to hold him accountable.
  • After a court blocked Trump’s travel ban, Trump questioned the institutional legitimacy of the “so-called judge” in question. He also cast the stay as a threat to our security, even though the ban has no credible national security rationale, something that has now been demonstrated by leaks from the Department of Homeland Security (exactly the sort of leaking that has Trump in a fury). Senior adviser Stephen Miller flatly declared that the ban would be reintroduced in part to demonstrate that Trump’s national security power “will not be questioned,” thus declaring the explicit goal of sweeping away institutional checks on it. And then the White House delayed introduction of the new ban in order to continue basking in good press from his speech to Congress, thus undercutting its own claim that this is an urgent national security matter.
  • Trump continues to hold court at Mar-a-Lago, using the power of the presidency to promote his own resort, whose membership fees sink money into his own pockets. The White House publicly intervened in a business dispute involving Trump’s daughter and even tried to steer customers her way, an act which Kellyanne Conway embellished by cheerfully sticking a rhetorical middle finger in the face of anyone who finds such behavior troubling.

We’re witnessing a level of total disdain for basic democratic and institutional processes that defies description, and perhaps calls for a new vocabulary. But the story does not end here. As Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic explain in a great piece, the almost comical lack of good faith that Trump and the White House are showing toward our processes is inspiring an escalation in institutional pushback — from the courts, the media, government leakers, and civil society — that is having much more of a constraining effect than Trump ever could have anticipated. Indeed, the Trump White House’s ongoing conduct is itself producing the very systemic resistance that now has Trump in such a rage.

Another Doc Dump – Indictment Against Dude Threatening JCCs

The rash of threats against Jewish Community Centers appears to be partly solved [UPDATE: Very partly. We’re only talking about 10% of the threats and vandalism seen nationwide lately]. Federal G-men arrested Juan Michael for making threats against many JCCs in an attempt to stalk/frame his ex-girlfriend. He appears to be a copycat though. Still, scary dude.

Who’s Sorry Now?

On July 25, 2015, Joe Torres and Kayla Norton, joined about a dozen other people in a convoy of pickup trucks waving large Confederate flags as they drove around Douglas County, a suburban Atlanta community. Most of them belonged to a group called “Respect the Flag.”

This was only a few weeks after Dylann Roof attended a prayer service at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, then shot and killed nine people, all African Americans.

The convoy of trucks passed by the victim’s residence where the victims were grilling hot dogs and hamburgers while hosting a child’s birthday party featuring a bouncy castle, snow-cone machines, and a DJ.  They yelled racial slurs.

The drivers parked the trucks near the house and the slurs continued. Torres retrieved a shotgun from his vehicle, pointed his shotgun at the group of African American party-goers and stated he was going to kill them while his friends stated that “the little ones can get one too,” referring to the young children at the party.

Norton was accused of making similar threats. The victims said some member of Torres’ group was armed with a knife and a tire tool.

Most of the group was arrested and made some sort of plea deal.  But Torres and Norton were sentenced yesterday. Torres was sentenced to 20 years, with 13 years in prison, after a jury convicted him on three counts of aggravated assault, one count of making terroristic threats and one count of violating of Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act.  Kayla Norton was sentenced to 15 years, with six years in prison. She was convicted on one count of making terroristic threats and one count of violation of the Street Gang Act.

Look how sad they are.

I suspect they weren’t sad until they actually got caught.

At the sentencing hearing, Kayla Norton apologized for her role in the incident saying, “I want you all to know that is not me. That is not me, that is not him. I would never walk up to you and say those words to you. I’m so sorry that happened to you. I am so sorry.”

The problem is that she did walk up and say those words.

Oh well. No sympathy here. Actions have consequences.  I’m sure they will make many friends among the mixed-race populations in prison.

Lot Of Hypocrisy About Leaks

The Pentagon Papers was a leak from Daniel Ellsberg. It helped de-legitimize the Vietnam War.

Deep Throat was Mark Felt, a top FBI official. He gave Woodward and Bernstein the deep background on the Watergate scandal.

Edward Snowden leaked information about US government surveillance programs.

Chelsea Manning leaked documents and video relating to Iraqi air strikes, diplomatic cables, and Gitmo, most of which did not put the US in good light.

Vice President Cheney outed Valerie Plame as a CIA operative in order to exact revenge on her husband, a critic of the Bush Iraq War policy.

To most people, one of more of these people are heroes — one of the “good guys”.  But they were all leakers.

Everybody constructs reasons for leaks they like and leaks they don’t like. But it is hard to come up with a non-hypocritical reason for distinguishing “good leaks” from “bad leaks”.

We’re at a remarkable point in history where the president accuses his own intelligence community of working against him, as exhibited by his tweetstorm this morning:

What sounds hollow about all this is that Trump was totally fine — in fact he PRAISED — Wikileaks when it printed the John Podesta emails.

I know, I know. The Podesta emails weren’t technically leaks.  They were hacks by the Russians.  But doesn’t that make it WORSE?  Think about it.  The President is fine with Russian intelligence stealing secured information and making it public — in fact he encouraged it! — but he’s upset about “illegal” leaks from American intelligence sources?

It really does beg the question — whose side is the President on?  At best, it cements the notion that he is in the pocket of Russia.

Redstate’s Patterico’s Analysis of the 9th Circuit Decision Against Trump

Don’t normally quote from the conservative Redstate blog, and I rarely agree with Patterico (the author) on anything.  But this analysis is so good — so spot on — that I am reprinting it in full:

As you have no doubt heard, the Ninth Circuit today issued an opinion upholding the District Court’s TRO halting much of Trump’s order on immigration. This post analyzes the decision, which can be read here. Throughout, I’ll grade my own previous predictionsabout the ruling.

My overall impression is that this is a sound legal ruling — and that Donald Trump is personally to blame for it. By allowing Steve Bannon & Co. to write the order in a sloppy and overbroad manner, and further allowing them to decide that it applied to green card holders, Trump issued an the order that was bound to fail.

Perusing Twitter tonight, I see that many people who support the policy behind the order (as I do), but who have not followed the legal arguments closely, are saying this is just another leftist Ninth Circuit decision. But the order is a unanimous “per curiam” (through the court) ruling. It was joined by a judge appointed by George W. Bush who, at oral argument, expressed skepticism towards the idea that the order was motivated by religious bias, and seemed receptive to the argument that these countries might pose a threat.

The Twitter lawyers point out that this was not a ruling on the merits — and that’s right . . . but the merits still factored into the decision. A subtle point — brought up in the oral argument but missed by many observers — is that once the District Court entered the injunction, the burden shifted to the Government to show on appeal that it was likely to win in the trial court. The Court held that the Government had failed to make that showing. This portion of the ruling, then, does relate to the merits. The Court also held that the Government failed to show irreparable injury, since the TRO put the U.S. back in the same state of affairs that had existed for years.

According to the opinion, the executive order’s principal potential flaw was that it may have deprived a substantial number of people of due process, in three ways (the following paragraph describes the states’ arguments, which the Government failed to rebut for purposes of this appeal):

First, section 3(c) denies re-entry to certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders without constitutionally sufficient notice and an opportunity to respond. Second, section 3(c) prohibits certain lawful permanent residents and non-immigrant visaholders from exercising their separate and independent constitutionally protected liberty interests in travelling abroad and thereafter re-entering the United States. Third, section 5 contravenes the procedures provided by federal statute for refugees seeking asylum and related relief in the United States.

The decision to interpret the order as applying to lawful permanent residents was reportedly made by Trump advisers Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller. This was clearly the most troubling aspect of the order to the judges — as well as the aspect of the order that stood out to most objective observers as the dumbest part of the order. As I said in my analysis of the oral argument: “I think even Judge Clifton would be on board with staying the executive order to the extent it applies to LPRs [lawful permanent residents].” What I didn’t predict outright was that Judge Clifton would find this enough to join an opinion upholding the entire TRO; I had expected that he would file a concurring opinion agreeing that the TRO was appropriate as applied to LPRs, but only as to LPRs.

The Government argued that the issue of the application of the executive order to LPRs was moot, because the White House counsel had interpreted the order as not covering LPRs. But the court was not convinced, noting that the White House counsel is not the President — and, since the Administration had given so many contradictory statements on this point, nobody can be certain that they won’t apply it to green card holders again:

[I]n light of the Government’s shifting interpretations of the Executive Order, we cannot say that the current interpretation by White House counsel, even if authoritative and binding, will persist past the immediate stage of these proceedings

Basically, the court said the order is clearly illegal in denying re-entry to LPRs and non-immigrant visa holders, and they aren’t going to rewrite the order (or let the White House counsel rewrite it) to conform to the law. That’s the President’s job. The court said that the Government’s different proposals for limiting the scope of the TRO still resulted in potential due process violations.

The lack of due process for LPRs was the central aspect of the opinion, and it was completely avoidable. The fault lies with Donald Trump.

As to the argument that Trump was targeting Muslims, the Court’s language seemed carefully crafted to maintain the unanimous nature of the opinion. I predicted there were two votes for a finding of possible religious discrimination, based on Trump’s repeated statements during the campaign that he wanted a Muslim ban — but Judge Clifton was clearly skeptical of this claim. The Court dealt with this by saying: “The States’ claims raise serious allegations and present significant constitutional questions” (language clearly inserted by Judges Canby and Friedland) but refused to use this as a ground to uphold the TRO, instead reserving the issue for later, after further litigation in the District Court (an evident concession to Judge Clifton to get him on board with this opinion).

This means that Donald Trump’s mouthing off about a Muslim ban wasn’t the reason for today’s decision — but it could still have legal consequences down the line.

In other aspects more of interest to lawyers than others, the court (as predicted) found standing based on the states’ proprietary interests, and treated the injunction as an appealable preliminary injunction rather than a TRO proper, because of the length of the briefing schedule. (These are also aspects I predicted correctly based on the oral arguments.)

In summary, this is a solid legal opinion and I don’t see it being reversed by the Ninth Circuit en banc or by the U.S. Supreme Court. The judges did their jobs and they did them well. They won’t get a lot of credit for this from political partisans, but they’ll get it from me.

Yup.

Redstate by the way is now a conservative blog in exile. In a world of Brietbarts and Infowars, it remains a bastion of logical reasoned conservatism.  It is a credible opposition to the progressivism that I espouse — with emphasis on the word “credible”.

Here, for posterity’s sake, is the full opinion:

Former NC Governor Pat McCrory Needs Protection From Words

News & Observer:

Does former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory need protection? Do all current and former public officials? At least one state senator thinks so.

After a video was posted on Facebook Friday showing a group of people following McCrory during a trip to Washington, D.C., for inaugural weekend, chanting “Shame!” and calling him a bigot, Sen. Dan Bishop of Charlotte says he’ll introduce legislation to protect public officials.

The proposed legislation would “make it a crime to threaten, intimidate, or retaliate against a present or former North Carolina official in the course of, or on account of, the performance of his or her duties,” Bishop said.

“Because lines are being crossed,” Bishop, a Republican who represents the 39th District in the North Carolina Senate, wrote in an email from his Senate campaign account.

Bishop was one of the sponsors of House Bill 2, or “the bathroom bill” which McCrory signed into law. The bill was criticized for nullifying local non-discrimination ordinances statewide, directing transgender people to use restrooms and locker rooms matching the gender on their birth certificate in government-owned buildings and initially revoking the right to sue in state court for discrimination.

Bishop calls the group of people of indeterminate number “a chanting mob” and “ubiquitous leftist rioters” and wonders whether the “mob fell upon the former governor by coincidence or if they stalked him.”

Bishop said such behavior should come with a five-year prison sentence and said he’ll introduce the legislation to make it so in North Carolina, similar to an ordinance in the District of Columbia.

“So should it be in North Carolina,” he wrote. “This is dangerous. Jim Hunt, Bev Purdue and other governors never faced riotous mobs in their post-service, private lives, without personal security.”

Bishop said he also will urge his fellow legislators “to take other appropriate steps to guarantee the personal safety of Gov. McCrory by all means necessary.”

This is the video:

Now, whatever you think of the McCrory or the protesters, there is this little thing called the First Amendment.  But I won’t lecture here.  This State Senator ought to know better.

Obama (Belatedly) Takes Action Against Russian Hackers

Moments ago, the Obama administration struck back at Russia, imposing sanctions against its intelligence apparatus and expelling 35 diplomats in retaliation for the alleged orchestration of hacking attacks designed to interfere in the presidential election.

The sweeping actions outlined by the White House three weeks before the new administration takes office include:

  • Shutting down two compounds, one in in Maryland and one in New York, “used by Russian personnel for intelligence-related purposes.”
  • Sanctions against the Russian intelligence services GRU and FSB, and four high-ranking officers of the GRU. The sanctions are also aimed at two suspected hackers, including one wanted by the FBI in two other cases, and three companies that allegedly provided support to the GRU’s cyber operations.
  • Releasing technical information about Russian cyber activity, “to help network defenders in the United States and abroad identify, detect, and disrupt Russia’s global campaign of malicious cyber activities.”

“These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm U.S. interests in violation of established international norms of behavior,” President Obama said in a statement.

In his statement, Obama said the U.S. had declared 35 Russian “intelligence operatives” persona non grata. The State Department said the 35 are diplomats “who were acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic or consular status” and accused Russia of harassing U.S. diplomats overseas.

As of noon on Friday, the U.S. also will bar Russian access to two Moscow-owned “recreational compounds,” the White House said. No further detail was provided, but since 1972, the Russians have owned a historic estate overlooking the Chester River in eastern Maryland. They also own a recreation facility in Glen Cove, Long Island.

The White House said the actions will go beyond those announced Thursday.

“We will continue to take a variety of actions at a time and place of our choosing, some of which will not be publicized,” Obama said in his statement.  Meaning, covert stuff.

Here’s a poster:

And here’s the FBI White Paper on the issue:

Paul Ryan throws in muted support saying, “While today’s action by the administration is overdue, it is an appropriate way to end eight years of failed policy with Russia. And it serves as a prime example of this administration’s ineffective foreign policy that has left America weaker in the eyes of the world.”

Moscow was quick to respond:

And whose side will President-elect Trump take? Obama’s?  Unlikely.  Ryan’s (“About time you terrible Obama person!”)?  Or Russia’s (“Nyet!!”)?

Anyone want to guess?

He’s quiet now but I doubt that’ll last.

UPDATE: 

NC Legislature Still At It

Despite protests, widespread criticism and a threat by the governor-elect to challenge in court any moves that he believes would unconstitutionally limit his power, the Republican-controlled North Carolina legislature is pushing through reforms that would severely limit the incoming Democratic governor’s power.

It’s insane.  One such measure, which passed the House, was that the GOP and the Democratic Party would alternate the years in which they serve as the head of the Board of Electors in each county.  The catch? The GOP will chair all 100 county boards of elections in high-turnout even-numbered years (2018, 2020, 2022, etc.).

And get this…

How indeed?  Do they think we don’t see the inherent disadvantage that one party chairs the board of elections during even-numbered years?

Fortunately, there is pushback from the Dems about the LACK of bi-partisanship.

As I write this, there are citizen protest in the gallery.  They are trying to close the gallery now.

Other measures include the partisan election of NC Supreme Court judges.  The trend in America is to move AWAY from partisan elected judges (i.e., where judges indicate their political party).  But North Carolina is to become the first state since Pennsylvania in 1921 to move back to partisan Supreme Court judge elections.

LATE UPDATE:  SB4 passes and is signed by Gov. McCrory

SB4 would create a bipartisan commission merging the current State Board of Elections, State Ethics Commission and the lobbying functions of the Secretary of State’s office, although Democrats correctly say that there is nothing “bi-partisan” about it.

Democrats said it couldn’t be called bipartisan because they weren’t involved in creating the proposal. Republicans call it bipartisan because it would create a state board and county election boards comprised of members equally split between the parties. It would also deprive the incoming Democratic administration of control of those boards; currently, the administration can appoint three of the five state members and two of the three members on each county board.

Democrats also argued that the bill is far-reaching and should be discussed in more detail in the long session next year. Republican sponsors said the ideas in the bill have been discussed in the legislature for years, and that this is a good time to make the changes because there is no impending election.

The bill would also give Gov. Pat McCrory the authority to make a one-time appointment to fill a vacancy on the state Industrial Commission for a six-year term plus the unexpired portion of the commissioner’s term. Normally, a vacancy replacement only fills out the remainder of a term.

It would also identify state Supreme Court candidates by party in primary elections.

AND MORE:

Good way to phrase it.

Another bill nearing final legislative approval would force Cooper’s Cabinet choices to be subject to Senate confirmation.

More Fake News Believers Getting Violent

This is getting out of hand:

A Tampa woman is accused of making death threats to the parent of a first grader who died in the Sandy Hook massacre.

Investigators say 57-year-old Lucy Richards is among those who believe the 2012 shooting, that killed 20 children and 6 adults, was all a hoax. Her disbelief is so strong, investigators say she targeted a father who lost his child in the shooting. That man now lives on the east coast of Florida.

According to the indictment ,Richards contacted the father four times on January 10, saying things like, “You gonna die, death is coming to you real soon,” “there’s nothing you can do about it,” and “look behind you, death is coming to you real soon.”

Richards was arrested Monday. She is charged with four counts of transmitting threats in interstate commerce. With each count carrying a maximum of five years in prison, she could spend 20 years behind bars, if convicted.

Richards is not alone in her beliefs. There’s a whole online community of people certain the Sandy Hook shooting was staged.

She is the second person this week facing criminal charges due to conspiracy theories. Sunday, Edgar Welch was arrested for bringing a gun  inside a Washington, D.C. pizzeria. He told police he was there to self-investigate a child trafficking ring he read about on a website, which has since been discredited and labeled “fake news.”

Psychologist Dr. Mark Prange says it’s often a long-term emotional habit of not using reasoning makes people cling so tightly to conspiracy theories.

“The story is going to always be more powerful than the logic,” Prange said. “Not using a process that says, what are the checks and balances of the beliefs I am holding to and not being open that allows the belief system to get locked into almost a delusional way of looking at the world.”

He says trying to help someone locked into an extreme belief system can be challenging, “because that belief may be more important or may be so threatening for them to face why they’re holding it.”

Prange said, “It can snowball if one has not had educational experiences or family experiences or even social experiences where their beliefs are challenged.”

Lucy Richards’ next hearing is December 19.

And speaking of Edgar Welch, here is the federal complaint released today.  Edgar Welch is the man who fired an assault rifle in a D.C. pizzeria earlier this month.  From the complaint, we learn that he allegedly recruited two other individuals to join in his investigation of patently false claims that the restaurant was the center of a child sex slave ring connected to the Clintons.  Welch texted several friends attempting to convince them to drive up to Washington, D.C., with him to check out Comet Ping Pong. He texted one friend, identified in the document as “B,” a link to a YouTube video about “Pizzagate” and included the note “Watch PIZZAGATE: The Bigger Picture on YouTube.” Another friend, identified as “C,” initially thought his pal intended to drive to North Dakota to “save the Indians from the pipeline,” but Welch clarified with the texts: “Way more important, much higher stakes” and “Pizzagate.” C wrote back: “Sounds like we r freeing some oppressed pizza from the hands of an evil pizza joint.” Welch replied by encouraging his friend to watch a YouTube video about “Pizzagate.” Ultimately, the two friends did not join Welch on his quest. The document also shows that Welch was prepared to kill, telling C that the mission would involve “sacraficing [sic] the lives of a few for the lives of many.”

UPDATE: Alex Jones seems to be cleaning up after himself by scrubbing his website of Pizzagate references:

“Pizzagate: The Bigger Picture” is the headline Infowars used for a December 1 article promoting a video from Infowars producer Jon Bowne that pushes the pizzagate conspiracy theory. Jones tweeted the headline on December 1. The headline was also used on YouTube by a non-Infowars accounts to promote the Infowars video.

Welch also told The New York Times that he listens to Jones, and he reportedly liked Infowars on Facebook.

Jones and Infowars appear to be scrubbing commentary about pizzagate. Jones’ YouTube channel posted a November 23 video headlined “Pizzagate Is Real: Something Is Going On, But What?” The video has since“been removed by the user,” though it’s not clear when.

Walter Scott Follow-Up

It has been a year and a half since Walter Scott’s death.  I wrote about it here… but basically, he was running from a cop and was shot IN THE BACK As HE WAS RUNNING AWAY.  The video makes this crystal clear:

There’s even indication that the cop planted evidence on/near the body.  Yes,. look at the video.

So what happened at trial?

But despite an unarmed victim, forensics proving he was shot multiple times in the back, a police officer who made a false report, and clear video showing the entire debacle, Slager was not convicted of murder or manslaughter in his trial this week. A lone juror spared him that fate with a refusal to convict. That triggered a mistrial.

Something is horribly wrong with the system.

Fortunately, the prosecutor will retry the case.  Again.  For the THIRD time.

Even operating under a standard in which police officers get the benefit of every reasonable doubt, it seems hard to understand why the cops involved wouldn’t have been convicted of manslaughter. The fact that neither was convicted is the latest evidence that the system as it now exists does not reliably punish cops for even egregious killings.

The policy debate around policing has lately focused on the tactics and rhetoric of Black Lives Matter (while mostly ignoring its excellent Campaign Zero roadmap for policy reform). Whatever conservatives think of Black Lives Matter, it is long past time that more of them join with libertarians and liberals in an effort to address this problem: Armed agents of the state are killing American citizens at rates far higher than other developed countries, and even when videos show them killing unarmed individuals, some are somehow getting away with it.

Does Korematsu Provide Precedent For A Muslim Registry?

No.

No, it doesn’t.  Not even a close call.

Let’s just all get on the same page.

This is happening:

And the obvious question is…. would it be constitutional for the government to require citizens to register based on their religion?

The OBVIOUS answer should be NO, and the reason most people instinctively know it would be unconstitutional is to do a thought experiment: substitute “Christian” for “Muslim” and see how that flies.

I’m going to set aside the obvious invidiousness of the proposed registry, as well as the obvious difficulties in enforcing registration.  Instead, I’m just going to focus on Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944), the case that Trump surrogates are citing as “precedent”.

Korematsu was the case involving Japanese-American internment during World War II.  Roosevelt ordered that George Takei and his family and other Japanese-Americans leave their jobs, friends, businesses, etc. and report to “camps” for the duration of the war.  These were American citizens, living on the West Coast, of Japanese descent.  It came about as the result of a presidential executive order — Executive Order No. 9066 to be exact.

Fred Korematsu was born in Oakland, California, in 1919, the third of four sons to Japanese parents Kotsui Aoki and Kakusaburo Korematsu who immigrated to the United States in 1905.  When the internment order came down, he refused to comply and went into hiding in the Oakland area. He was arrested on a street corner in San Leandro on May 30, 1942, after being recognized as a “Jap”.  He was tried and convicted of violation of a military order – specifically, the military order for internment given under the authority of Executive Order 9066.

That military and executive orders were challenged and the US Supreme Court upheld the internment of Japanese-Americans, with three dissents.

Korematsu is still good law, so I revisited it. Why did the Supreme Court find such an order to be constitutionally valid?

One reason was precedent.  One year earlier, in a case called Hirabayashi v. United States, the Supreme Court upheld a curfew which applied only to the Japanese.

But addressing the race issue, the majority wrote only this:

It is said that we are dealing here with the case of imprisonment of a citizen in a concentration camp solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. Our task would be simple, our duty clear, were this a case involving the imprisonment of a loyal citizen in a concentration camp because of racial prejudice. Regardless of the true nature of the assembly and relocation centers — and we deem it unjustifiable to call them concentration camps, with all the ugly connotations that term implies — we are dealing specifically with nothing but an exclusion order. To cast this case into outlines of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military dangers which were presented, merely confuses the issue. Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and, finally, because Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders — as inevitably it must — determined that they should have the power to do just this. There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and time was short. We cannot — by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight — now say that, at that time, these actions were unjustified.

Basically, they are saying — “we’re at war”.

The dissent by Justice Roberts was having none of it:

This is not a case of keeping people off the streets at night, as was Hirabayashi v. United States,320 U. S. 81, nor a case of temporary exclusion of a citizen from an area for his own safety or that of the community, nor a case of offering him an opportunity to go temporarily out of an area where his presence might cause danger to himself or to his fellows. On the contrary, it is the case of convicting a citizen as a punishment for not submitting to imprisonment in a concentration camp, based on his ancestry, and solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. If this be a correct statement of the facts disclosed by this record, and facts of which we take judicial notice, I need hardly labor the conclusion that Constitutional rights have been violated.

And that is essentially the difference.  We’re not at war with the Muslims — there has been no declaration of Congress to that effect.  Furthermore, there is no “military urgency” now like there was following the bombing of Pearl Harbor (it is more than 15 years after 9/11).  Two good reasons right there.

Then you have something that you didn’t have in Korematsu, which was a case about heritage.  The proposed Muslim ban isn’t about heritage; it is about religion.  “Muslim”, after all, simply means an adherent to the religion of Islam.  Islam knows no national origin or skin color.  Cassius Clay, a black American, didn’t come from another country.  Yet he was a Muslim (which he became Muhammad Ali).

So if this is registry of religious beliefs, — welcome First Amendment.

There’s simply on way in hell this Supreme Court would be cool with registering Muslims.  It would be unanimously shot down, even without overturning Korematsu.

In fact, that would be a nice way to start the Trump presidency.  With a 8-0 loss in the Supreme Court.

What Happens If Trump Loses?

Prepare for a meltdown from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump if he loses the election.

He has repeatedly told supporters that he fears the election could be rigged, an indication that even if Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton wins, Trump might not accept it.

“First of all, it was rigged,” Trump said of the Democratic primary during a recent rally in Columbus, Ohio. “And I’m afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest.”

In Pennsylvania, Trump also made the same argument on the campaign trail.  Trump is well behind Hillary Clinton in polls. No Republican has won the state in a presidential election since 1988.  But he made that statement anyway.

And let’s not forget what Trump said at a campaign rally in Wilmington, North Carolina — he said that if Hillary Clinton is elected president, she will “abolish the Second Amendment” and “if she gets to pick her judges,” there’s “nothing you can do”, adding, cryptically, “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is…. I don’t know.”

That all went away when the polls tightened, but now that Hillary has returned to her earlier lead, expect to hear more of this “rigged” language. Maybe not from Trump, but certainly his supporters in the media.  Bill O’Reilly is scheduled to do an expose on about voter fraud tonight.  Other conservative pundits prop this up in fact-free articles with misleading “scare” headlines.

The on-again off-again conspiracy of a rigged election is confusing to Trump supporters who live in their own fact-free bubble.  They insist that Trump is going to win AND that the election is rigged, which…. uh… well, watch:

Aside from Trump, you have scarier voices in the not-so-hidden underbelly of the GOP.  People like Matt Bevin, who was elected governor of Kentucky last year after expressing “absolute” support for marriage-refusing county clerk Kim Davis.  Last month, he said this:

Somebody asked me yesterday, I did an interview and they said, “Do you think it’s possible, if Hillary Clinton were to win the election, do you think it’s possible that we’ll be able to survive? That we would ever be able to recover as a nation? And while there are people who have stood on this stage and said we would not, I would beg to differ. But I will tell you this: I do think it would be possible, but at what price? At what price? The roots of the tree of liberty are watered by what? The blood, of who? The tyrants to be sure, but who else? The patriots. Whose blood will be shed? It may be that of those in this room. It might be that of our children and grandchildren. I have nine children. It breaks my heart to think that it might be their blood that is needed to redeem something, to reclaim something, that we through our apathy and our indifference have given away.

That’s Timothy McVeigh shit, right there.  That’s calling for “patriots” to spill blood (or have their own blood spilled).  And the triggering event?  HRC’s election.

I hope I am wrong.  I hope leveler heads prevail.  But Trump could easily incite violence if he loses.  And who can honestly say that he would never do that?

P.S.  Unrelated, I guess….. A humiliation.

Judge Roy Moore Is Toast

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore has been suspended from the bench for telling probate judges to defy federal orders regarding gay marriage.

The Alabama Court of the Judiciary (COJ) issued the order Friday suspending Moore from the bench for the remainder of his term.

“For these violations, Chief Justice Moore is hereby suspended from office without pay for the remainder of his term. This suspension is effective immediately,” the order stated.

The court found him guilty of all six charges of violation of canon of judicial ethics. Moore’s term is to end in 2019. Gov. Robert Bentley will name a replacement for Moore.

In its order, the COJ wanted to make sure people understood what Moore’s case was and was not about.

“At the outset, this court emphasizes that this case is concerned only with alleged violations of the Canons of Jucial Ethics,” the COJ states. “This case is not about whether same-sex marriage should be permitted: indeed, we recognize that a majority of voters in Alabama adopted a constitutional amendment in 2006 banning same-sex marriage, as did a majority of states over the last 15 years.”

The COJ also stated it is also not a case to review or to editorialize about the United States Supreme Court’s split decision to declare same-sex marriage legal nationwide.

In its 50-page order, the COJ stated it did not find credible Moore’s claim that the purpose for the Jan. 6 order was “merely to provide a ‘status update’ to the state’s probate judges.”

“We likewise do not accept Chief Justice Moore’s repeated argument that the disclaimer in paragraph 10 of the January 6, 2016, order – in which Chief Justice Moore asserted he was ‘not at liberty to provide any guidance … of the effect of Obergefell on the existing orders of the Alabama Supreme Court’ – negated the reality that Chief Justice More was in fact ‘ordering and directing’ the probate judges to comply with the API orders regardless of Obergefell or the injunction in Strawser (federal case in Alabama).”

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Winston-Salem Clown Mystery Solved

Hoaxer:

Claims of “Killer Clown” sightings in Winston-Salem have made national headlines and made Winston-Salem one of the locations for a rash of recent claims from Greenville, South Carolina to one outrageous claim of a man who claims to have pursued one of the these clowns with a machete. These sightings are similar to other incidents that seem to run in streaks resembling the “Killer Clown” sightings in Boston in 1981. Those sightings were never verified and, at least in Winston-Salem, the current sightings appear to be fabrications.

Since the two incidents that were reported on September 4th and September 5th the WSPD has continued to work diligently to locate the alleged suspect(s) in these cases or to even find proof that they existed in the first place. These investigative steps included intensive neighborhood canvasses as well as high visibility patrols in the areas where the sightings were reported as well as nearby areas where children are likely to be present. All of which cost tax-payer money and divert resources from real crimes. In addition, an emphasis was placed on conducting in-depth interviews with all witnesses and attempting to develop any other potential witnesses and/or leads to follow.

In the course of this investigation, WSPD investigators obtained video surveillance footage of the specific area of the September 4th sighting. Officers reviewed the portion of the footage covering the time frame of the reported sighting and also a period of time immediately before and after. The video surveillance did not reveal any individual dressed as a clown or anyone trying to lure children into the woods at this location.
To date, each report of the clown sightings provided to the Winston-Salem Police Department has been thoroughly investigated and according to the WSPD they have not been able to substantiate any sightings.

On Friday at 2:48am the WSPD received another call related to suspicious activity by an individual dressed in a clown costume in the area of the 1800 block of Salem Crest Lane. The caller, 24 year-old David Armstrong, reported that an individual dressed as a clown knocked on his window. Armstrong told police that he chased the clown until the subject ran into some nearby woods.

Officers conducted a thorough investigation into this incident. At the conclusion of this investigation, Armstrong admitted to fabricating the story. Armstrong was arrested and charged with Filing a False Police Report. Armstrong was placed into the Forsyth County Detention Center under $500.00 secured bond. His court date is set for September 12th. He is the first person arrested for filing a false report in any of the current “Killer Clown” sightings- none of which have produced even the most basic photo evidence that any of the events ever occurred. In an environment where almost everyone, including many children, have cell phones capable of shooting video and stills the lack of evidence thus far is damning.

I suppose I should have foreseen this outcome.  Still, the notion of clowns in the woods was too cool/scary to think otherwise.

“It Was Better In The Original German”

Many people are saying that last night’s “Immigration Policy” speech by Trump in Phoenix Arizona was historical.  I’m one of those people.  Just WHY it was historical is a point of contention.

To me, the speech was historical because it contained the 21st century version of some of the worst ills of the world’s past.  Divisiveness and demagoguery.  Mad red0faced ranting.  I really felt like this was somewhere in Germany in 1939.

The country has heard this nationalistic refrains before.

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Trump spun a dystopian tale that painted all immigrants as people to be feared, people to be rounded up and hauled out of this country.

He said immigrants would need an “ideological certification” that confirms they “share our values.”  I mean… fuck, that’s some scary Big Brother shit.

He again approvingly referenced President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s deportation program “Operation Wetback,” a cruel and deadly disaster from the 1950s, suggesting that Trump’s version of that program would be even tougher.

The crowd cheered.

He claimed there are 2 million “criminal aliens” in America and then said, preposterously, “Day one, my first hour in office – those people are gone!”

Saying that some think the word “deport” is not politically correct, Trump mocked: “You can call it whatever the hell you want, they’re gone.”

Loud. Spewing insults and absurd claims. Red-faced and nationalistic. It was Trump as we know him to be.

It was a hate speech. You could see the hands of Steve Bannon, who runs the far-right “news” site Breitbart and is now CEO of Trump’s campaign, all over it, as if Trump was barfing out the comments section under one of the site’s white nationalist screeds.

Moderate Republicans who have been praying daily for their nominee to grow into a plausible candidate had to be sickened by what they saw Wednesday night.

That wasn’t a speech on immigration policy, as the campaign had promised. That was Donald Trump thumbing his nose at the establishment and at all the pundits who suggested he was “softening” his stance on immigration.

That was an angry man catering to a base that shares his anger, a base that mistakenly believes it constitutes an electoral majority.

Trump’s swoop from supposed statesman in Mexico to manic hate-monger in Arizona was jarring. Truly.

How bad was it?  High-profile Hispanic supporters of Donald Trump have pulled or are considering pulling their support after last night’s raging speech:

Jacob Monty, a member of Trump’s National Hispanic Advisory Council, has resigned, and Alfonso Aguilar, the president of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, said in an interview that he is “inclined” to pull his support.

“I was a strong supporter of Donald Trump when I believed he was going to address the immigration problem realistically and compassionately,” said Monty, a Houston attorney who has aggressively made the Latino case for Trump. “What I heard today was not realistic and not compassionate.”

He withdrew from the board following Trump’s speech in Phoenix, which was heavy on calls for border security and emphasized that all immigrants in the country illegally were subject to deportation.

We need to start talking — not about the damage that a Trump presidency would do to this country — but about the damage Trump’s candidacy is doing to this country.  Some media outlets are trying to break down Trump’s with all sorts of seriousness, and — for fear of looking biased — are afraid to do what needs to be done: an outright condemnation of Trump’s words.  This wasn’t policy — it was hate.  As the New York Times editors noted today:

To mock him for emptiness is almost too easy. But the fear and loathing that he has tapped into, that so easily won him the nomination, are real. . .  Tornadoes are hollow at the center, too, and they do a lot of damage.

Indeed.  This is a blood soaked white nationalist politics that has caught fire with a significant minority of the electorate. There’s no reason to imagine that changes before November.  Or after.

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

With Trump in control of the golden door, that lamp goes dark.

Breaking: Big Victory For Voter Rights — No Voter ID In Upcoming NC Elections

NC voter ID law will NOT be enforced in fall election after the U.S. Supreme Court denies stay request (in a 4-4 split — obviously, had Scalia lived, it would have been a loss for voting rights advocates, but he didn’t so……)

The stay was a request by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory and state officials to delay a permanent injunction blocking provisions in a 2013 voting law. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down several parts of the law last month, saying they were approved by legislators with intentional bias against black voters more likely to support Democrats.

The Supreme Court decision means voters won’t have to show one of several qualifying photo IDs when casting ballots in the presidential battleground state. Early voting also reverts to 17 days.

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Is The “Second Amendment People” Comment Trump’s Worst Gaffe?

As we all know by now, Trump yesterday hinted that gun lovers could (or should? or would?) shoot Hillary Clinton and/or a Supreme Court nominee as a response to Hillary Clinton selecting judges for the Supreme Court.  Here’s the comment and campaign responses in a nutshell:

The spin from the Trump campaign is laughable.  Today, his campaign surrogates received the following talking points at 9:24 a.m. today:CpgN1kgUsAEicIv

The first point is simply “blaming the media”.

The second point spits right in the face of what everyone can see for themselves.  And as for the people in attendance?  Look at the reaction of the bearded old man sitting behind Trump (to the right of him from our standpoint).  He says, “wow”.  He knew what Trump was saying.

The third point is simply pivoting away from the subject.

As Trump’s words spread, Senator Chris Murphy, of Connecticut, where a troubled young man massacred twenty-six people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, took to Twitter. “This isn’t play,” he wrote. “Unstable people with powerful guns and an unhinged hatred for Hillary are listening to you, @realDonaldTrump.”

Gabby Giffords, an actual target of political assassination, issued the following statement via the New York Daily News:

“Donald Trump might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence. Responsible, stable individuals won’t take Trump’s rhetoric to its literal end, but his words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy. They may provide inspiration or permission for those bent on bloodshed. What political leaders say matters to their followers. When candidates descend into coarseness and insult, our politics follow suit. When they affirm violence, we should fear that violence will follow. It must be the responsibility of all Americans – from Donald Trump himself, to his supporters, to those who remain silent or oppose him – to unambiguously condemn these remarks and the violence they insinuate. The integrity of our democracy and the decency of our nation is at stake.”

Joe Scarborough wrote that a line has been crossed and the GOP must now dump Trump.

Tom Friedman reminds us:

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin got assassinated.

His right-wing opponents just kept delegitimizing him as a “traitor” and “a Nazi” for wanting to make peace with the Palestinians and give back part of the Land of Israel. Of course, all is fair in politics, right? And they had God on their side, right? They weren’t actually telling anyone to assassinate Rabin. That would be horrible.

But there are always people down the line who don’t hear the caveats. They just hear the big message: The man is illegitimate, the man is a threat to the nation, the man is the equivalent of a Nazi war criminal. Well, you know what we do with people like that, don’t you? We kill them.

Elizabeth Warren went for, and received, the Internet Win:

Over at Breitbart News, which I won’t link to, they were a little more honest about what Trump was saying, and agreed with it:

Trump did not suggest violence. Rather, he spoke in a way that reveals he recognizes the role an armed citizenry plays as a check on tyranny. This is James Madison 101. In Federalist 46, Madison observed that Americans are exceptional because armed and the benefit of being armed is the ability to repel tyranny. Repelling a tyranny is a defensive action, not an offensive one.

So, in Breitbart’s view, a president appointing judges you don’t like is “tyranny” which American are compelled to repel using guns.  Uh, as a defense. (Not for nothing, but Federalist 46 relates to well-regulated state militias, commanded by officers, tossing off a tyrannical federal government, not armed citizen guerillas

But I digress.

IS this the worst thing Trump has ever said?  Probably not.  We probably don’t know the worst thing he has ever said.  But during the campaign?  It’s gotta be pretty high up there.  Fortunately, Bloomberg came out with results of a poll which asked people how put off they were by the various Trump statements of this campaign.  The results:

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The mocking of the disabled reporter offended the most people.  Followed by the Khan statements, followed by “I alone can fix it.”

I don’t think Trump’s “Second Amendment” solution is as offensive as the disability comment, although it is clearly more dangerous and disconcerting.  I also don’t think it will move many minds.  At this point, if you can swallow everything that Trump has said so far, you can swallow anything.  Some people are just never going to come off that mark.

UPDATE:  Trump implies that he meant to do that — the controversy helps him.  Really.  He subscribes to the theory that there is no such thing as bad press.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Tuesday night he’s benefitting from the controversy he created earlier in the day by suggesting “the Second Amendment people” might forcefully stop Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from appointing Supreme Court justices. […]”I have to say, in terms of politics, there is few things, and I happen to think that if [the media] did even bring this up, I think it’s a good thing for me,” Trump told Sean Hannity.

“Because it’s going to tell people more about me with respect to the Second Amendment … because Hillary Clinton wants to essentially abolish the Second Amendment.”

Which is another one of Trump’s outlandish conspiracy theories that has been debunked multiple times over.

Aaaand Trump Steps In It

He was doing so well, until he started riffing.  He went a little too far from the script.

Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges — nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I dunno.

[Applause and whistles from audience.]

I think I know what the news will be for the next cycle or two.

Now, Trump will likely say he was “joking”.  But how is that funny?  Especially in a country that suffers from mass shootings?

Does joking about that make it better?

UPDATE:  Campaign responses:

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Is This The End Of The Line For Judge Roy Moore?

Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is set for a hearing at 1:30 p.m. (2:30 EST) today on charges he violated Alabama’s ethical standards for judges.

Moore is asking the Alabama Court of the Judiciary to dismiss the ethics complaint filed by the state’s Judicial Inquiry Commission. The Judicial Inquiry Commission is asking for a summary judgment against Moore and his removal, instead of moving the matter to a trial.

The JIC alleges Moore’s January 2016 order and his conduct surrounding it encouraged Alabama’s judges to disregard clear federal law.

Moore issued an order in January to Alabama’s probate judges, concerning same-sex marriage. Moore told the probate judges a ban on issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples was still in effect until the Alabama Supreme Court issued a ruling.

But Moore’s order came more than six months after the U.S. Supreme Court in its Obergefell decision had ruled state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional.

In a response filed with the Alabama Court of the Judiciary, Moore’s attorneys argue he was simply following the law and established procedure in his order, not defying the Supreme Court.

A thematic deception that infuses the JIC brief is that the Chief Justice ordered the probate judges that they ‘had a duty, under Alabama law, not to issue same-sex marriage licenses,’” the filing argues. “The Chief Justice, however, did not on his own initiative direct the probate judges to follow Alabama marriage law.

“Instead he instructed them that ‘[u]ntil further decision by the Alabama Supreme Court’ they were still under a state-court injunction issued by that Court. He neither endorsed nor criticized that injunction. Because consideration of the effect of Obergefell on that injunction had been pending before the Alabama Supreme Court for six months, the Chief Justice considered it prudent to remind the probate judges that the injunction still remained in effect pending its review.”

Moore was removed from the bench as chief justice in 2003 after refusing a federal court order to remove a 10 Commandments monument from the state judicial building.

Moore was re-elected chief justice in 2012.

Local news earlier:

A very late update from AL.com:

Suspended Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore will go on trial next month on judicial ethics charges after the Alabama Court of the Judiciary late Monday issued an order that denied Moore’s request to dismiss the charges.

The court, in a brief one-page order, also denied a motion by the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission that sought an order removing Moore from the bench without a trial.

50 Years Ago Today

Fifty years ago today, Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old engineering student and former Marine armed with a small arsenal of weapons, killed 13 people and wounded over 30 more during a shooting rampage atop the University of Texas Tower in Austin. The episode casts a long and complicated shadow. It is considered by some to have marked the beginning of the era of mass shootings; for others, the armed civilians who engaged Whitman that day suggest one way to limit the scope of such attacks.

As survivors and mourners gather to mark the anniversary on Monday, a campus-carry law that allows firearms in university buildings in Texas will also go into effect.

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Breaking: 4th Circuit Overturns Lower Court; Finds That GOP “Intentionally” Passed “Discriminatory” Voting Rights Law

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit invalidated North Carolina’s stringent new voting restrictions, holding that the law violates both the United States Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. The North Carolina measure, the Fourth Circuit held, has a discriminatory impact on black voters, impermissibly burdening their voting rights under the VRA. More boldly, the court also held that the law was enacted with discriminatory intent, designed by the Republican legislature to curb black voting rights in violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. This dual finding of discriminatory impact and intent makes the Fourth Circuit’s decision the boldest judicial rejection of voting restrictions in years.

As the court explains, North Carolina passed its omnibus voting bill, SL 2013-381, almost immediately after the Supreme Court freed the state’s voting laws from federal “preclearance”—meaning that after nearly 50 years under supervision, the state was finally free to change voting laws without federal oversight. The legislature promptly “requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices.” And “upon receipt of the race data, the General Assembly enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected black voters.” The new law created draconian requirements for valid voter ID, eliminating those IDs most commonly used by black voters; cut back early voting and killed same-day registration; eliminated preregistration for teenagers; and eliminated out-of-precinct voting for voters who accidentally showed up at the wrong precinct in the correct county.

Every single one of these restrictions disproportionately burdened black voters; indeed, as the Fourth Circuit writes, SL 2013-381 seemed to “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.” (Meanwhile, there is essentially no evidence that voter fraud ever occurs in North Carolina.) The evidence that the legislature enacted SL 2013-381 for precisely this purpose—to hamper black voting rights—is almost overwhelming. Indeed, the state even acknowledged that it had eliminated one early voting day, a Sunday, because it was a traditional “souls to the polls” day, when black voters were provided transportation from church to the polls. “Counties with Sunday voting in 2014 were disproportionately black” and “disproportionately Democratic,” the legislature said—so, in response, it did away with one of two days of Sunday voting. This, the Fourth Circuit writes, is “as close to a smoking gun as we are likely to see in modern times”:

The State’s very justification for a challenged statute hinges explicitly on race—specifically its concern that African Americans, who had overwhelmingly voted for Democrats, had too much access to the franchise.

But really, the North Carolina legislature littered its voting law with almost comically obvious smoking guns. Black voters, the court explains, are also more likely to utilize same-day registration, preregistration, and out-of-precinct voting. The legislature knew this when it enacted SL 2013-381; it had “requested a racial breakdown” of different voting methods, and, as the Fourth Circuit notes, discovered:

The legislature’s racial data demonstrated that, as the district court found, “it is indisputable that African American voters disproportionately used [same-day registration] when it was available.” … [I]n-person assistance likely would disproportionately benefit African Americans. SL 2013-381 eliminated same-day registration.

And on and on it goes—each restriction, the court persuasively explains, was crafted to crack down on voting methods favored by black voters. These “seemingly irrational restrictions unrelated to the goal of combating fraud,” the Fourth Circuit writes, can only be explained by discriminatory intent. And the legislature’s highly suspect behavior in enacting SL 2013-381—rushing it through, on party lines, as soon as it was freed of federal oversight—raises serious constitutional red flags. “Indeed,” the court writes, “neither this legislature—nor, as far as we can tell, any other legislature in the Country—has ever done so much, so fast, to restrict access to the franchise.”

As a result of the law’s discriminatory intent and impact, the Fourth Circuit concludes, each of its central provisions must be invalidated under the Equal Protection Clause and the VRA.

It is a very hard rebuke to the lower court.  Now, I know Judge Schroeder, the lower court judge who found that there was no discrimination intended when North Carolina passed its new voter laws.  He is a thorough and competent judge, and certainly no racist.  But not being a Southerner, he just doesn’t see certain things which the older Southern gentlemen of the Fourth Circuit did see.  As the Fourth Circuit wrote, “the [lower] court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees.  This failure of perspective lef the court to ignore critical facts bearing on legislative intent, including the inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina.”

This is a HUGE win for North Carolina (the people, not the current government) with national repercussions.

It will no doubt go to the U.S. Supreme Court, where, with a 4-4 split, it will probably be upheld.

The 83 page opinion is below:

Rape Survivor Jailed

Lovely:

A bipolar rape survivor was jailed for nearly a month in Houston after she broke down while testifying against her rapist. In jail, she was allegedly abused and mistaken as a sex offender. Now she’s suing the prosecutor who sent her to jail, a jail guard who allegedly hit her, and others.

The 25-year-old woman, known as Jane Doe, was the key witness in the trial of serial rapist Keith Hendricks, who received two life sentences for raping multiple women. In court last December, she broke down during questioning and ran from the courtroom, screaming that she’d never return.

She was hospitalized and then jailed because court officials feared she would not return to finish her testimony. Doe’s mom had been told her daughter would be treated in a mental health facility, but instead she was imprisoned for 28 days at Houston’s Harris County Jail, where she stayed in the general living quarters.

The woman’s lawyer, Sean Buckley, said a jail guard punched her in the face after she hit the guard (assault charges filed against her were later dropped) and that another inmate gave her a black eye. The complaint states an inmate “repeatedly slammed her head into the concrete floor” and she “was forced to drink from a spigot attached to a dirty metal toilet,”according to the Washington Post. Some jail staff mistakenly thought she was an offender from her jail record, which wrongly listed her charges as “Arrested for aggravated sexual assault,” according to local station KPRC’s investigation. After the woman testified against Hendricks again in January, she had to wait three more days in jail before she was released on January 14, in case she was asked to give more testimony.

Prosecutors had petitioned a judge for a “witness bond,” which by Texas state law allows a witness to be held without bail to make sure they arrive in court to testify. But a former Harris County prosecutor, a legal analyst, and other attorneys told local station KPRC they’d never heard of a witness bond being used to hold a rape victim.

Buckley filed the woman’s lawsuit against Harris County, the sheriff, the jail guard who hit her, and the prosecutor who asked her to be jailed. In a statement, District Attorney Devon Anderson supported the prosecutor’s decision, though as Jezebel noted, it seemed to suggest the woman’s family agreed to the witness bond while mistakenly thinking she would receive care in a proper facility. Anderson said:

Because the DA’s Office has been notified that a lawsuit is imminent, we cannot go into details about this case… However, witness bonds are a common tool used by prosecutors and defense attorneys when the lawyer has reason to believe that the witness will be unavailable or make him or herself unavailable for trial. A judge must approve a witness bond. In this case the judge and family agreed with the decision to obtain a witness bond.

KPRC’s legal analyst Brian Wice noted perhaps the most tragic result of this case: “At the end of the day she received less due process, less protection than the rapist did.”

This country, and particularly law enforcement and the courts, needs one long seminar on how to treat people who have suffered traumatic emotional injury, whether they be soldiers or rape victims.

Trump v. Ginsburg: The Rare Occasion Where Trump Is Right

Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is no fan of Trump. She has launched criticisms of him in interviews with three news organizations.She told CNN Wednesday:

He is a faker. He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that.

And earlier this week, Ginsburg told The New York Times:

I can’t imagine what this place would be—I can’t imagine what the country would be—with Donald Trump as our president. For the country, it could be four years. For the court, it could be — I don’t even want to contemplate that.

She even mused to the newspaper that “it’s time for us to move to New Zealand” if Trump were elected.

Last week, Ginsburg told The Associated Press, in another interview, that she didn’t “want to think about … [the] possibility,” of a Trump presidency, “but if it should be, then everything is up for grabs.”

Trump’s initial response also came to the Times:

I think it’s highly inappropriate that a United States Supreme Court judge gets involved in a political campaign, frankly. I think it’s a disgrace to the court and I think she should apologize to the court. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it.

Yup.  While I don’t think it is a “disgrace to the court”, nor is an apology necessary, it IS highly inappropriate.  It just isn’t done.  We all know that Supreme Court justices have political opinions — they are people, after all — but it damages the appearance of impartiality of the Court when they weigh in.

Ginsburg certainly knows this.  So why would she do it?

I think I know.

She’s not planning on staying with the Court.  She probably was going to resign at the end of the last term, but seeing as how the Senate was balking at filling the late Scalia’s seat, she probably didn’t want to make the Supreme Court have two vacancies during the election year (which would probably cause some people doubtful about Trump to vote for him anyway on that one issue alone).

So she’s speaking out.  Big deal, she’s thinking.  I’m getting out as soon as Hillary is elected.

That’s my theory.

And yes, while I agree with Trump (and the New York Times) that Ginsburg is doing something inappropriate, Trump is, as usual, taking it too far:

Oh God.  His complaint isn’t that she made a political statement, but that it was a DUMB one ABOUT HIM.  And then to question her mind?  Oy.  And so, Trump, who has a valid point for once, squanders it away by acting like a giant baby.

How’s That Open Carry Working Out For You?

Although it was a tragedy, the Dallas sniper shooting of 5 police officers was a reality-based experiment on the theory that a good guy with a gun beats a bad guy with a gun.  Not only did the bad guy with a gun kill five armed good guys, but the bad guy was killed with a robot using explosives (one of the first times that law enforcement used a drone/robot for purposes of catching someone in a domestic crime).

What’s more, the prevalence of guns, rather than making people safer, actually made things HARDER:

It is legal in Texas to openly carry rifles and has been for decades. People with rifles have been spotted at recent public protests across the state.

[Dallas Mayor] Rawlings said Dallas police Chief David Brown told him that people running through the shooting scene with rifles and body armor required officers to track them down and bring them to the police department. Whether that was time that could have been spent trying to find and stop the shooter is something police will have to comment on, Rawlings said.

He said Friday that about 20 people in “ammo gear and protective equipment and rifles slung over their shoulder” participated in the Black Lives Matter rally downtown on Thursday night.

“When the shooting started, at different angles, they started running,” he said. “We started catching.”

Then police interviewed them.

Rawlings said open carry brings confusion to a shooting scene.

“What I would do is look for the people with guns,” he said.

Max Geron, a Dallas police major, talked about the confusion during the shooting in a post on a law enforcement website.

“There was also the challenge of sorting out witnesses from potential suspects,” Geron said. “Texas is an open carry state, and there were a number of armed demonstrators taking part. There was confusion on the radio about the description of the suspects and whether or not one or more was in custody.”

Now listen to the stupidity of the counter argument:

But C.J. Grisham, president of Open Carry Texas, said police should be able to separate the good guys from the bad guys in such a scenario because “the bad guys are the ones shooting.”

“If you can’t identify a threat, you shouldn’t be wearing a uniform,” he said.

Grisham said some in law enforcement look at law-abiding gun owners as a threat.

“It’s not that difficult to tell the difference between a bad actor and a good actor,” he said. “The good guys are going to obey commands, the bad guys are not.”

Wait, wait.  Shots rings out.  And as you turn, you see a guy across the street RUNNING with a RIFLE.  He can’t hear your commands to stop.  And you didn’t actually see whether he fired those shots.

Apparently, CJ Grisham thinks that real life is like a movie, where the camera is on the shooter as he shoots.

It’s scary that these people are allowed to have opinions.

More and More, It Looks Like The Dallas Cop Killer Was A Nut

Dallas police now believe that Micah Johnson, who shot and killed 5 Dallas police following a Black Lives Matter march, was actually planning some sort of mass attack, but advanced his plans to take advantage of the BLM march. His house was full of bomb making equipment, far too much to have put together in recent days.  He had received “defensive” combat training in Dallas two years earlier.

And most troubling, writing on his wall in blood.

This man was a time bomb. It’s almost like he didn’t need a reason to go off.