Did Trump High Court Pick Whitewash 1993 White House Death?

As the U.S. Senate prepared for a Sept. 4 hearing on the controversial nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, some critics are renewing a seldom-reported view that Kavanaugh played a key role in covering up evidence in the 1993 death of Clinton White House Deputy Counsel Vincent Foster.

Critics Hugh Turley and Patrick Knowlton (the latter a witness who felt harassed by Kavanaugh's methods) have followed up years of controversy by sending a letter on Aug. 31 to all members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The letter challenges the senators to explore what they call Kavanaugh's role covering up Foster's "murder," as described in their letter here.

Brett Kavanaugh.judgeWhy might leading Republican legal experts like Kavanaugh have supposedly conspired in a continuing cover-up of a tragic scandal involving a Democratic White House?

Turley declined to speculate as he spoke about the issue during his Aug. 29 lecture before the McClendon Group speaker society at the National Press Club.

But the most likely explanation points to bipartisan knowledge of heavy narcotics trafficking from Latin America through Arkansas during the Iran-Contra Affair during the 1980s when the Republican Reagan and Bush administrations wielded federal power, as described below.

In that view, neither political party then or now would want to explore Foster's work as a close associate of the Clinton family during Bill Clinton's gubernatorial years in Arkansas nor any of the potentially fatal implications for the nomination of Kavanaugh, 53, shown above at left, for a lifetime appointment to the court.

Foster's body was found in a Virginia park about 6 p.m. on July 20, 1993. Foster had last been reported seen five hours previously leaving his White House office about 1 p.m.

Kavanaugh, a hard-right attorney well-regarded in GOP circles, led the probe of Foster's death under Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr, a Republican Reagan appointee to Washington's federal appellate bench during the 1980s and Justice Department Solicitor General from 1989 to 1993 under President George H. W. Bush.

vince fosterRepublicans on Washington's federal appeals court, led by Chief Judge David Sentelle, a prominent leader of the conservative Federalist Society, appointed Starr to investigate the Clintons' investments in Whitewater, an Arkansas real estate development, as Independent Counsel from 1994 to 1998.

In expanding the probe to other matters, Starr and his associate counsel, Kavanaugh, in 1997 affirmed a U.S. Park Service Police report asserting that Foster, shown right, had fatally shot himself in Fort Marcy Park, located near the Potomac River that divides Virginia from the District of Columbia.

That official report and similar ones have been widely disputed.

One sign of the dispute was the Aug. 31 letter to the Senate noted above. Others include: a 1997 special appendix to Starr's "Report on the Death of Vincent Foster," several books, and the dinner lecture on Aug. 29 at the press club by the conservative commentator Turley.

One of Turley's key points is that the park visitor, Knowlton, has repeatedly stated that Kavanaugh improperly pressured him to change his testimony disputing the official account of the death. 

American Survival Inc. President Cliff Kincaid, a conservative commentator with views similar to Turley's and Knowlton's, attended the press club dinner lecture also, as did Knowlton's attorney John Clarke. Kincaid previewed his group's report that opposes Kavanaugh. The report announced on Sept. 1 is entitled: "The Deep State Wears Black Robes." 

hugh turleyTurley, left, his colleagues Kincaid, the late Accuracy in Media founder Reed Irvine and others have researched the death for more than two decades. They conclude that Kavanaugh and Starr suppressed strong evidence disputing official police reports that Foster committed suicide in the park.

Turley asserts that Foster's death was a "murder," although he declined last week to speculate on who killed Foster or why.

Justice Integrity Project coverage of these allegations is part of our in-depth reporting on the Supreme Court that combines mainstream, alternative and original reporting. These materials are curated on our special sub-site SCOTUS Review, named for the "SCOTUS" initialization of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Our SCOTUS selections focus heavily during recent months on the history-making Kavanaugh nomination that President Trump made on July 9. That coverage includes political and legal analysis from the political right and investigators of Iran-Contra era narcotics trafficking that are seldom reported by the mainstream media.

barry seal 1982One especially sensitive topic is the cocaine trafficking of Barry Seal, shown at right in a 1982 photo. Seal, a talented pilot beginning as a teenager in Louisiana, became linked with both federal agencies and the Medellín Cartel at times. Seal used a small rural airport in Mena, Arkansas as one of his main landing spots before his assassination in 1986. Seal's life story is portrayed (with significant omissions) in the recent bio-pic American Made starring Tom Cruise as Seal.

Investigator Daniel Hopsicker, author of the book Barry and the boys, (with "the boys" including federal operatives at times in Seal's career, according to Hopsicker's account) estimates that Seal personally imported $5 billion of narcotics into the United States during his years as a rogue operative, making him one of the most important U.S. drug traffickers of all time. Seal, arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration for narcotics trafficking, was assassinated in 1986 after desperately seeking help with his case from friends, some in high places.

Kavanaugh's role in the Foster investigation deserves far more than scrutiny than it has received so far — or is likely to receive in the rushed Senate confirmation hearings — even if some of the more extreme allegations of "murder" and knowledge of past drug-running remain in doubt because of bipartisan complicity in thwarting law enforcement and judicial proceedings.

To confirm Kavanaugh under those circumstances, we argue, creates a travesty of justice.

Yet that is the foreseeable result of the rushed confirmation hearing with an expected vote nearly along party lines. It would take at least one Republican in the current 50-49 GOP majority to call for additional time to investigate Kavanaugh's background and the overall circumstances of his appointment.    

Trump Nominates Kavanaugh After Sudden Resignation of Justice Kennedy

djt brett kavanaugh family 7 9 18 Small

President Trump introduces Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his family on July 9 at the White House

With fanfare comparable to the finale of a TV reality show, President Trump picked Brett Michael Kavanaugh in July as his nominee to replace Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Republican "swing vote" on the court who had resigned unexpectedly the previous month after conclusion of the court's 2017-18 term.

anthony kennedy oKennedy's resignation raised concerns of cronyism that surpassing normal concerns, both because of Kavanaugh had been one of his clerks and, more seriously, because Kennedy's children have had vast financial ties with the real estate empires of Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner, as we explored in a July 1 column, New GOP High Court Threatens Massive Public Pain, which cited cutting-edge reporting by others.

Yet the personal decision-making of Kennedy, right, inevitably remains largely unexplored because of the traditions of privacy and privilege that surround the court and the multitude of other scandals involving Washington leaders.

Who Is Brett Kavanaugh?

Kavanaugh, a Yale Law School graduate and former law clerk to Republican Chief Justice Warren Burger, won immediate applause from fellow-Republicans for his legal acumen and experience, which include a number of high-profile legal posts.

george w. bush wAs White House staff secretary for President George W. Bush, left, from 2003 to 2006, Kavanaugh played an instrumental role in packing the federal judiciary with hard-right Republicans vetted by the conservative Federalist Society (and not by the non-partisan American Bar Association, as during much of recent history.

In 2006, Kavanaugh won Senate confirmation for his current post as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia after Senate Democrats blocked his nomination in 2003 because of his hard-right views.

A major issue remaining from those confirmation hearings that is expected to resurface on Sept. 4 is Kavanaugh's denial that he helped approve torture of terror suspects following post-9/11 U.S. military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Democrats believe that they now have evidence that he perjured himself.

Among other serious issues raised by Democrats are Kavanaugh's recently articulated view that a president is not liable while in office for any illegal conduct.

That constitutes a radical difference from both traditional constitutional scholarship and from Kavanaugh's own views in helping Starr's team pave the way for President Clinton's impeachment by the GOP-led House of Representatives for such offenses as perjury and obstruction of justice arising from Clinton's then-shocking but consensual sexual dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, below left, a former White House intern aged 22 when the sex acts began.

monica lewinsky may 1967Kavanaugh's apparent reversal on checks-and-balances issues raise concerns across party lines because they appear to conflict with what had been generally understood as the powers of Congress and the courts under the U.S. Constitution, even though traditional views are always subject to change via articulate justices who are activists.

john roberts oThat constitutional argument over presidential power to commit crime looms as a potential battle before the court and Kavanaugh soon, given the apparent momentum of Special Counsel Robert Mueller III's investigation into the Trump administration.

The Supreme Court is currently balanced between four Republicans and four Democrats. Chief Justice John Roberts, right, a former deputy to Starr as Solicitor General, would exercise vast power.

Much of the partisan dispute over Kavanaugh's nomination reported widely in the media (and summarized on our SCOTUS Review) involves such traditional culture war flashpoints as the continued viability of the 1974 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion in many circumstances. The court ruled in 1974 that abortion is protected under a "privacy" right that it found inferred but not stated in the U.S. Constitution.

During Senate questions on the topic during confirmation, Kavanaugh is unlikely to say anything so controversial as to prevent his confirmation by itself. The court's direction, in fact, has been to stop abortions piecemeal by small steps approving state regulations that force abortion providers to end their services for the most part on supposed safety and other non-criminal grounds.

Other grounds for Kavanaugh's critics include the rushed process of his confirmation, which contrasts with Republican refusal to consider President Obama's 2018 nomination of Kavanaugh's appellate colleague, Chief U.S. Judge Merrick Garland, a Democrat, for the court seat now occupied by Kavanaugh's Georgetown Prep School contemporary Neil Gorsuch, Trump's first selection for the court.

Senate Democrats believe that one of their strongest issues against Kavanaugh is that the Senate GOP and White House officials have refused to require that all of Kavanaugh's papers from his White House decision making become available to the Senate, even though the Senate required all similar papers from the Clinton White House work of Democrat Elena Kagan before her Senate confirmation to the court. Republicans are reportedly suppressing about 100,000 pages from those years of Kavanaugh support for Bush's decision-making.

Nearly all Republicans are guaranteed to support Kavanaugh with nearly all Democrats and Independents in opposition, according to current estimates. That could mean a 51-49 party line Senate vote (if the Arizona seat of the late John McCain is filled in time) or confirmation by a slightly larger majority if one or more Senate Democrats running in heavily red states breaks party lines.

Unmentionable Factors?

Yet there are several wild-card factors that conceivably could affect the Senate vote or at least midterm voting, and which are rarely mentioned in mainstream news accounts.

That silence is in part because these factors are potentially disturbing to notions of institutional decorum that the major corporate media, like other leading institutions, seek to foster amongst the public.

One such fact is the Supreme Court's composition and leadership. The court's members are drawn from a relatively narrow niche of the American populace, including an American legal community that is educated in some 200 different law schools.

If Kavanaugh is confirmed:

  • All members of the court would be alumni of either Yale Law or Harvard Law School, although Justice Ruth Ginsberg spent her final year as a transfer to Columbia's law school);
  • neil gorsuch headshotEach court member would have been reared as Roman Catholic (Justice Neil Gorsuch, right, reportedly worships now at an Episcopal church with personal views that remain private) or Jewish, like three of the court's Democrats;
  • Chief Justice John Roberts — who runs not simply the court but supervises all federal court operations via his leadership of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts — continues the Republican hold on the office in place for nearly a century since 1921 except for a seven-year period when Chief Justice Fred Vinson held the post during the five terms of Democratic presidencies ending in 1953; and
  • Many of the court's major decisions can be expected to occur under predictable 5-4 party line votes, thus seriously undermining public confidence in the legitimacy of the nation's court system to uphold a rule of law in a reasonably non-partisan fashion under federal and state constitutions.

As two examples of radical right activism in particular via recent 5-4 votes along party lines:

In 2000 after the narrow presidential election voting, the court in Bush v. Gore installed George W. Bush as president on dubious legal grounds in an unsigned opinion that cited no precedent to end the Florida recount. The court forbade vote recounts despite conflict of interests by three of the five in the court's majority whose relatives directly benefited from jobs because of the decision. Separately, in 2010, the court overturned the federal campaign finance system in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Such decisions pave the way for a court that, by its return to work in October, could no longer be burdened by Justice Kennedy's "swing" vote that mostly upheld conservative causes in close cases but occasionally supported other views.

Such factors are being widely analyzed as relevant to the Kavanaugh confirmation fight.

But other angles, explained below, are usually regarded as too sinister or speculative ever to be reported in depth, aside from a few books or alternative media outlets.

The Ultimate Unmentionables

The Foster death is one such topic, although the basics drawn from official accounts were widely reported at the time because of his position as White House counsel, his close relationship with the Clintons and the inherent drama of a hard-to-explain death of a new White House official.

bill clinton wVincent Foster was a native of Hope, Arkansas, where he began a lifelong friendship with his kindergarten schoolmate and contemporary Bill Clinton, right.

Clinton married his 1973 Yale Law School classmate Hillary Rodham in 1975 and was elected Arkansas attorney general in 1976 for one term before election to the governorship in 1978. She had previously worked as a staffer on the House Judiciary Committee during its impeachment probe of President Richard Nixon and then as a law professor at the University of Arkansas.

Foster also went on to a prominent career. He became managing partner of Little Rock's Rose Law Firm, widely regarded as one of his state's power centers. In February 1977, Foster hired Hillary Rodham as the firm's first female associate, a post from which she advanced to law firm partner as she continued her work advocating for children and helping to represent several the state's most powerful companies.

Meanwhile, voters rejected Bill Clinton's reelection in 1980 during the Reagan national landslide. Beginning in 1982, however, Arkansas voted repeatedly re-elected Clinton as governor until his presidential run in 1992.

Little known for most of that time was an illegal plan, the so-called Iran-Contra Affair, led by top Reagan-Bush officials to bypass congressional restrictions on aid supporting the right-wing Contras fighting the leftist government of Nicaragua.

oliver north fox nraSuch officials as Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, a White House aide on the National Security Council, helped create an arms smuggling network so that senior U.S. officials could help sell arms to Iran despite a U.S. government embargo. This was to help free hostages in Lebanon of the Iran-linked Hezbollah and, it was hoped, create funding for the Contras that would bypass congressional restrictions. North is shown at left in a screenshot following his appointment to become president of the National Rifle Association.

Some authors have alleged also that a parallel, secret program in the 1980s involved CIA cooperation in cocaine and other narcotics smuggling to the United States in order to create additional secret funds for insiders and agencies.

Among those authors are the Executive Intelligence Review staff (Dope, Inc., with multiple editions beginning in 1978); Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall (Cocaine Politics, 1991), Webster G. Tarpley and Anton Chaitkin (George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, 1992); Terry Reed and John Cummings (Compromised, 1994); Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (The Secret Life of Bill Clinton, 1997); Gary Webb (Dark Alliance, 1998); Rodney Stich (Drugging America, 1999); and the aforementioned Daniel Hopsicker (Barry and 'the boys,' 2001).

Several of these books describe evidence from primary sources that Barry Seal's drug smuggling via the Arkansas airport was so massive that it necessarily involved members of the governor's inner-circle, according to such authors as Evans-Pritchard. He described Arkansas entrepreneur Dan Lasater as a major narcotics trafficker, money launderer and Clinton donor. Yet even Evans-Pritchard recognizes the scanty evidence of widespread distribution before the court and arising in Lasater's 1986 federal conviction for drug-dealing. So, such investigations necessarily rely heavily on witness statements, not official findings.

Bill Clinton said at the time that he was unaware of Lasater's drug-dealing. But reports of the relationship continued to fester, in part because of Rose Law Firm litigation involving Lasater's tangled financial investments and Clinton's pardon of Lasater.

Another angle worth noting briefly involves claims that Foster had had relationships with the National Security Agency (NSA) and an Arkansas-based contractor called Systematics that helped the NSA distribute software enabling monitoring of banks.

caspar weinberger oAs reported by Hopsicker, Forbes Magazine Senior Editor James Norman researched an in-depth cover article "Oil! Guns! Greed!" scheduled for publication in early 1995. It linked, among other things, Foster, the NSA and Systematics to billionaire businessman Jackson Stephens, a major funder of the 1988 George H.W. Bush and 1992 Clinton presidential campaigns. Norman's draft article also referenced alleged activities of Seal and Reagan Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, right, who was later indicted in the Iran-Contra affair on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

But Forbes, which Weinberger presided over as board chairman by late 1995, spiked the article and forced the resignation of Norman, Hopsicker wrote. Fortune Magazine also reported much of the anecdote, which is well-known also to other Foster case sleuths as illustrating the difficulties of reporting in depth on such inherently secret matters and powerful players.  

More generally, multiple official investigations have found that claims of official Reagan-Bush, Clinton, CIA and DEA knowledge of or involvement in drug-smuggling are unsubstantiated or exaggerated. In December 1992, President Bush prepared to leave office by pardoning Weinberger and five other top federal officials prosecuted in the Iran-Contra Affair for arms trafficking. Bush's action, in the words of Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, decapitated the official inquiry and justice.

Clinton Presidency/Foster Death

The beginning of the Clinton presidency in January 1993 coincided with massive attacks on its legitimacy and personnel by political opponents, including conservative journalists and the funders of their outlets. Among the targets were the Clintons and a number of their colleagues from Arkansas.

Foster's death just six months after the start of the new administration exploded like a bombshell in the nation's capital, particularly because few of his White House colleagues described any warning signs of mental depression that could lead to a sudden suicide in the park.

Last week, Hugh Turley, a professional magician, described at a meeting of the McClendon Group speaker society how he became involved as a researcher in the case when he decided to visit the park after the death to understand news accounts.

Turley encountered by chance that day in the park conservative media commentator Reed Irvine, who was undertaking a similar examination of the scene. Their meeting led them to devote many years to criticizing official versions of Foster's death.

Turley's research led him also to help investigative reporter Christopher Ruddy, including with guest lodging at his home. Turley worked closely with Ruddy and other skeptics of the official story.

Ruddy originally reported on the case for the New York Post and then for billionaire conservative Richard Mellon Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Ruddy wrote some of the hardest-hitting early reports disputing the Foster investigation. Ruddy later authored The Strange Death of Vincent Foster (1997), one of several book-length treatments disputing official findings that Foster killed himself by shooting himself in the mouth.

Among the other books are A Washington Tragedy by Dan Moldea (1998), The Death of Vince Foster, Clinton White House Lawyer by Marinka Peschmann (2012); Hillary and Vince: A Story of Love, Death and Cover-up by Dean Arnold (2016), and America's Dreyfus Affair, a six-part online book (available here for free) by David Martin, who has also written about 75 blog columns about the death under his pen name "DC Dave."

hugh turley david martin merton coverMartin had met Foster playing intramural basketball as undergraduates at Davidson College in North Carolina. After jointly investigating the Foster death for years Martin and Turley collaborated on a separate investigative book published in March, The Martyrdom of Thomas Merton: An Investigation.

The Roman Catholic scholar Merton, a highly influential Trappist monk and peace activist, published more than 70 books before his 1968 death in Thailand.

Martin and Turley describe as incredible the official verdict that Merton accidentally killed himself by electrocution from a fan. They link Merton's death with the suspicious assassinations earlier that year of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy after they energized their followers against the Vietnam War, much as Merton was doing with his Catholic audience.

That kind of research conclusion by Turley and his colleagues, much like their Foster findings, put them beyond the comfort zone of vast majority of Washington commentators and reporters (even though the Washington Post published breakthrough stories last spring quoting King and Kennedy family members as saying that they no longer believe the official accounts of the relatives' deaths at the hands of supposed lone-nut shooters).   

The McClendon Group at the press club has been inviting alternative voices for decades to share their views and evidence on these kinds of important but under-reported topics. The club is named for the late White House correspondent Sarah McClendon, a blunt-speaking reporter who had hectored President Bill Clinton during a 1994 press conference about the strange circumstances of Foster's death. The club chairman is her former White House staffer John Edward Hurley, who is also a director of our Justice Integrity Project among his many civic activities.

'Up the Political Ladder'

Last Wednesday, Turley argued during his lecture that Kavanaugh "moved up the legal-political ladder in the nation's capital" by covering up what Turley called Foster's "murder."

Turley and his colleagues are especially critical of Starr's decision to replace federal prosecutor Miguel Rodriguez with Kavanaugh after Rodriguez kept finding serious flaws in the official account of the death that was being prepared by the U.S. Park Service Police with the assistance of the FBI.

Turley cited documents from the National Archives to show that Kavanaugh played a central role in what Turley calls the ongoing "deep state" cover-up that is still being suppressed by the American news media. Turley argued that defenders of the official story mislead the public when they say that multiple investigations confirm it. The official investigations rubber-stamp each other with minimal new analysis, he asserted.

patrick knowltonPreviously, Turley collaborated with dissident Whitewater grand jury witness Knowlton, shown at right, and Knowlton's attorney John Clarke on the 20-page submission to the U.S. Court of Appeals three-judge panel that appointed Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. The court ordered that submission, with evidence of murder, to be included as part of the Report on the Death of Vincent Foster.

Turley, Knowlton, and Clarke later published a 510-page, in-depth critique of Kenneth Starr’s report on Foster’s death. These documents can be seen at their website FBI Cover-up. Clarke attended the press club lecture and is shown below left.

john clarkeTurley is a professional magician and freelancer. As a columnist for the Hyattsville (Maryland) Life and Times, he won a National Newspaper Association award for best serious column in the small-circulation, non-daily division.

Recently, Turley contributed to the report by Cliff Kincaid, The Deep State Wears Black Robes: Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Judicial Supremacy, and America’s Betrayal by the Bench. Kincaid, another conservative commentator, attended the dinner lecture also and briefly previewed the report opposing Kavanaugh.

Most news consumers, even those closely watching the Kavanaugh confirmation process, have probably never heard of the sustained criticism of Kavanaugh by Turley and his largely conservative colleagues.

Indeed, the depth of their research and advocacy might seem impossible to believe in these partisan times. The spiritual godfather of it, the late arch-conservative Reed Irvine, was a bete noir of Democrats and liberals. Yet he proved with his allies to be an implacable critic of his fellow conservatives on this issue.

Some cynics might suggest that these critics are receiving some hidden financial or career reward for their seemingly tireless labors through decades on the case disputing  stenographers for official sources, including many of their fellow conservatives.

But this editor, at least, believes that any such financial rewards are highly unlikely even in our age of many hidden political payments. Blogs and books made available for free on the Internet, like theirs, bring relatively little financial return.

Instead, it seems most likely to this observer that the critics are generally offended at superficial "investigation" of such a prominent death, particularly one with potentially dire implications for honest government under the Constitution.

What's Next?

chuck grassley oAll members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), right, have received the Turley-Knowlton letter alleging a Kavanaugh-Starr cover-up in the Foster death.

It seems unlikely that any of the senators would make a public issue regarding one of its points since the underlying issues are so sensitive. But a subsidiary issue that might become the subject of questioning is whether Kavanaugh violated legal rules by his alleged repeated contacts with the media during the Starr probe to leak information, as reported in an Aug. 22 Washington Post article, Senate Democrats want to know whether Kavanaugh crossed line as a source during Clinton probe.

More generally, it is possible also that the arguments on the more sensitive Foster issues might affect one or more votes in conjunction with some other objection that is easier for the senators to discuss publicly.

There's always at least some doubt in such matters until all the votes are counted. Indeed, few things might seem more surprising in Washington than conservatives opposing Kavanaugh in the ways described above.


roger stone clintons coverSelf-employed investor, political researcher and libertarian activist Robert Morrow of Texas has raised several points of disagreement with points in the column above based on his extensive research into the Foster death for The Clintons' War on Women, a 2015 book that Morrow co-authored with longtime GOP strategist Roger Stone.

In essence, Morrow believes that Foster committed suicide in his White House office in the midst of multiple, intensive personal and professional pressures. Morrow argues that Hillary Clinton (while the president was otherwise occupied out of White House with a cable television interview) ordered a disposal of the corpse in a cover-up to limit damage, including potential scrutiny of private papers and relationships.

Morrow, who majored in history student at Princeton University and earned an MBA from the University of Texas, is based in Austin. He has a controversial history of investigating political, sex, assassination, and drug money-laundering scandals allegedly involving top leaders of both major political parties. In 2016, for example, he won election as chairman for Travis Country Republican Party, located in the Texas state capital of Austin.

Morrow withstood several months of intense controversy before resigning in mid-2016 after declaring his opinion that GOP presidential front runner Donald Trump was unfit for office Morrow believes that Trump was involved but never accused in child raping / molestation activities with his friend Jeffrey Epstein, who served a 13-month sentence on sex charges, in the summer of 1994.

roger stone headshotMorrow's criticism of Trump irritated Stone (shown in a file photo), Morrow's co-author on the Clinton book and a longtime friend of Trump's.

Stone has recently complained that he is unfairly under intensive investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has subpoenaed several of Stone's close associates including two Stone colleagues scheduled for grand jury appearances on Sept. 7.

Regarding the Foster death, Morrow shared his views as follows during an exclusive telephone interview on Sept. 5 with our project. He noted several times that he regards the book Following Orders by Marinka Peschmann as the most credible of the book-length treatments that are solely about the Foster death and its investigation. Morrow's comments:

Vince Foster committed suicide in his White House Counsel's office because he was depressed over his failed relationship with Hillary Clinton, who had been quite nasty to him during the summer of 1993.

Hillary immediately ordered that Foster's body be dumped off-site so that the office would not become a crime scene that would expose every deep, dark Clinton secret.

The reason that the right wing in the 1990s was so convinced that Foster had been murdered was because the body had obviously been dumped and a suicide staged in Fort Marcy Park. The park visitor Patrick Knowlton is really important because he did not see Foster's car in the parking lot until it was delivered later.

Update 2: Response to Update 1

Hugh Turley and several of his supporters responded to the "Update" above by rejecting the thesis that Foster killed himself in his White House office. They cited previous commentary (excerpted below) undermining the White House suicide theory, and debunking one of its oft-cited supports, a claim that First Lady Hillary Clinton had shamed Foster in a large internal meeting the week before his death. Clinton was reportedly traveling to Asia and otherwise out of the White House, they say. Shown below is a column on these themes that Turley published two years ago:

ron kesslerFBI Coverup.com, The ongoing FBI and press cover-up of the murder of Vince Foster, Hugh Turley, The ongoing FBI and press. On June 2, 2016, a news story in the Daily Mail seemed designed to attract a right-wing audience by blaming Hillary Clinton for the suicide of Vince Foster. The “exclusive” story by Ronald Kessler, right, claimed Hillary “attacked and humiliated [Foster] in front of other White House aides a week before he took his own life.”

The story quickly spread among conservative news outlets and was repeated by Rush Limbaugh. No one bothered to verify if the story was true. At the time of the alleged humiliation of Vince Foster, one week before his death, Hillary Clinton was traveling in Asia and Hawaii.

hillary clinton bill clinton honoluluThe New York Times and AP reported on Mrs. Clinton's trip to the G-7 Summit in Tokyo with the President and her mother in early July. She remained after President Clinton returned to Washington and was joined by Chelsea and two of her friends in Hawaii [as shown by a file photo at left].

This is well documented in Hillary's book Living History. Lisa Caputo, press secretary to Hillary Clinton, testified to Senate that she was with the First Lady in Los Angeles on July 20 on their return trip from Hawaii and Japan.

The story by Kessler published in the Daily Mail and repeated by Clinton's opponents was not new. Kessler first wrote this story in 2011, in his book The Secrets of the FBI and later in 2014 in The First Family Detail: Secret Service agents reveal the hidden lives of presidents.

Kessler wrote:

hillary clinton vince fosterFormer FBI agent Coy Copeland was the senior investigator who read the reports of other agents. According to Copeland, what never came out publicly was that the agents learned that about a week before his death, Hillary Clinton and Foster, who was her mentor at the Rose law Firm in Little Rock [and shown together in a file photo], held a meeting to go over the health care legislation she was proposing. Those who were present told the FBI agents working for Starr that Hillary violently disagreed with a legal objection Foster raised at the meeting and humiliated Foster in front of aides, Copeland says.

"Hillary put him down really, really bad in a pretty good-size meeting,” Copeland says. “She told him he didn't get the picture, and he would always be a little hick-town lawyer who was obviously not ready for the big time.”

Based on what “dozens” of others who had contact with Foster after that meeting told the agents, “The put-down that she gave him in that big meeting just pushed him over the edge,” Copeland says. “It was the final straw that broke the camel's back.”

Patrick Knowlton and I examined over 20,000 pages documents from the Vince Foster death investigation, including scores of FBI handwritten notes and interview reports of friends, family and co-workers of Foster. Many of these FBI documents that we reviewed at the National Archives were unredacted. We never saw any mention of a meeting, a week before Foster's death with Hillary, Foster, and other staff present, not even a tele-conference.

 # # #

     This column's author is an investigative reporter and is active in a number of journalism and bar groups, including service as the deputy chair of the McClendon Group. As disclosures: He and his family retain ownership of their farm in northern Arkansas where he was reared in part and thus follows Arkansas politics more closely than most. He holds a master's in studies in law degree from Yale Law School and is active in alumni affairs. He served as law clerk to a federal judge before embarking on a career that included extensive volunteer work in the 1992 Clinton-Gore presidential campaign and transition. Also, he once worked on a separate legal project as a junior attorney helping represent the Rose Law Firm on a matter unrelated to this column's topics. Also, Christopher Ruddy, then as now head of Newsmax and a proponent of Kavanaugh's nomination in July, made a personal donation eight years ago in support of this site's investigative work.

Contact the author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

"SCOTUS Review: Related News Coverage

News and comment regarding the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) are shown below in excerpts drawn from a site curated by the Justice Integrity Project. The links to a sample of significant reports are drawn primarily from major national outlets or from those featuring specialized expertise. They are arranged in reverse chronological order.


Sept. 7

OpEdNews, Opinion: Deep State: Kavanaugh Covered-up Murder of Vince Foster, Garland Favorito, Sept. 7, 2018. As Republicans and Democrats exchange barbs on how wonderful or terrible Brett Kavanaugh's decisions will be as a U.S. Supreme Court judge, neither group of senators will have the courage to discuss an elephant in the committee room concerning Judge Kavanaugh's background. In 1996, Kavanaugh conducted an investigation into the death of Vincent Foster and concluded his death was a suicide despite overwhelming evidence Foster was murdered.

  • Kavanaugh replaced him and completed the investigation that concluded Foster committed suicide despite obvious evidence of murder:
  • Foster did not own the gun or ammunition that was used to kill him;
  • Foster's fingerprints were not on the gun that was used to kill him;
  • No dirt or grass was on his shoes but he was found 200 yards into the park;
  • Foster's grey 1989 Honda was not in the parking lot at the time of his death;
  • Powder burns found on his body were consistent with homicide, not suicide.

The U.S. Court of Appeals eventually ordered Starr to include a supplement about the cover-up in the final 20 pages of his report despite his objections. The supplement was written by Attorney John Clarke, witness Patrick Knowlton and researcher Hugh Turley.

Sept. 5

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Was Kavanaugh Obsessed With Vince Foster? Sean Wilentz (professor of history at Princeton and reputed friend of the Clinton family). Sept. 5, 2018. He needs to explain why he followed right-wing conspiracy theories about the White House aide’s suicide.

Judge Starr’s predecessor as independent counsel, Robert Fiske, had looked into unfounded claims that White House Counsel Vincent Foster, who committed suicide in Fort Marcy Park in 1993, had in fact been murdered as part of an alleged White House cover-up related to Whitewater. After a thorough investigation, Mr. Fiske concluded in 1994 that there was nothing to the conspiracy theories and that Mr. Foster, who suffered from depression, had indeed killed himself.

Official accounts by the United States Park Service in 1993 and by Republican Congressman William Clinger, the ranking member of the House Government Affairs Committee in 1994, came to an identical conclusion, as did a bipartisan report of the Senate Banking Committee early in 1995.

By reopening a closed investigation, he irresponsibly gave the Foster conspiracy freaks credibility to continue smearing the Clintons and poison public debate for another three years, all at the taxpayers’ expense.

brett kavanaugh cspan hearing sept 4 2018 Custom

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, shown in a witness stand at far right, with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) at left center.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kavanaugh won’t say whether presidents have to respond to subpoenas, Seung Min Kim, Ann E. Marimow and Elise Viebeck, Sept. 5, 2018. Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh emphasized that he had not taken a position on constitutional issues regarding presidential investigations. Earlier, Kavanaugh testified that the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion was settled precedent. But he did not say whether the case was correctly decided.

washington post logoWashington Post, Hearing offers an ‘unprecedented’ display of the Senate’s institutional decline, James Hohmann, Sept. 5, 2018. The hearing for President Trump's latest Supreme Court nominee is dramatically more intense than last year’s hearing for Neil M. Gorsuch because both sides expect Brett M. Kavanaugh will tip the balance of the court.

washington post logoWashington Post, After nominee is heckled, Trump suggests protesting should be illegal, Felicia Sonmez, Sept. 5, 2018 (print edition). President Trump has long derided the mainstream media as the “enemy of the people” and lashed out at NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem. On Tuesday, he took his attacks on free speech one step further, suggesting in an interview with a conservative news site that the act of protesting should be illegal.

Trump made the remarks in an Oval Office interview with the Daily Caller hours after his Supreme Court nominee, Brett M. Kavanaugh, was greeted by protests on the first day of his confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill.

washington post logobrett kavanaughWashington Post, Ten issues likely to come up on Day 2 of the Kavanaugh hearings, Ann E. Marimow and Michael Kranish​, Sept. 5, 2018. Questions could span the course of Brett M. Kavanaugh’s long career in Washington — from his tenure as a member of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s team in the 1990s to the George W. Bush White House to the 12 years he has spent as a federal judge.

SCOTUSblog, Live blog of confirmation hearing (Day Two), Andrew Hamm, Sept. 5, 2018. We are live-blogging the second day of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senators are going through their first round of questioning for the nominee.

Sept. 4

Roll Call, Kavanaugh Hearing Erupts in Chaos as Dems Demand Documents, John T. Bennett, Sept. 4, 2018. Kamala Harris: ‘We have not been given an opportunity to have a fair hearing.’

Sept. 3

washington post logobrett kavanaugh confirmation hearing 2004 CustomWashington Post, Democrats’ view of Kavanaugh shaped by bitter 2004 hearing, Michael Kranish, Sept. 3, 2018 (print edition). When former President George W. Bush nominated Brett Kavanaugh (shown during testimony then) for a federal circuit judgeship, Kavanaugh’s work on partisan missions put him at odds with Democrats. But the strategy Democrats used then to block his nomination for three years will no longer be available to them as Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court hearings begin Tuesday.

ny times logoNew York Times, How Brett Kavanaugh Would Transform the Supreme Court, Adam Liptak, Sept. 3, 2018 (print edition). Most confirmation hearings concern nominees who would not change the court’s basic direction. That is not the case with the nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, whose Senate confirmation hearings will begin on Tuesday.

william burck cnn

ny times logoNew York Times, Coveted Lawyer’s Juggling Act May Be Good for Trump, and Bad, Michael D. Shear and Michael S. Schmidt, Sept. 3, 2018 (print edition). William Burck, shown above in a screengrab, is deciding which documents about Judge Kavanaugh can be released. He also represents White House officials in the special counsel inquiry.

Sept. 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump to withhold 100,000 pages of Kavanaugh’s White House records, Seung Min Kim, Sept. 2,  2018 (print edition). The president claimed executive privilege in his decision to not release the records from Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh’s tenure in the George W. Bush White House. The move drew criticism from Democrats, who have pushed for more disclosure ahead of confirmation hearings.

washington post logobrett kavanaughWashington Post, Issues for Kavanaugh: The president who chose him and the court he would change, Robert Barnes, Sept. 2, 2018 (print edition). As Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett M. Kavanaugh, right, begin Tuesday, abortion, affirmative action, religion and gay rights are among the issues at stake. But the hearings also come as the powers of a special prosecutor to investigate the president are part of a national debate, with decisions on executive power possibly awaiting the high court.

washington post logoWashington Post, The key players in the Kavanaugh hearings — and what’s at stake for each of them, Amber Phillips, Sept. 2, 2018. The Senate hearings to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh take place in a uniquely hyperpartisan political moment.



Aug. 22

More Pressure On Kavanaugh

washington post logobill clinton wWashington Post, Senate Democrats want to know whether Kavanaugh crossed line as a source during Clinton probe, Tom Hamburger, Robert Barnes and Robert O'Harrow Jr., Aug. 22, 2018. The senators are exploring whether the Supreme Court nominee violated federal rules in his private communications with outsiders during Kenneth Starr’s wide-ranging investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

During independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr’s tumultuous investigation of President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, there were loud objections and even lawsuits filed over Clinton’s complaints that information meant to be kept secret was being leaked to the press by Starr’s staff.

Among those guiding the journalists and authors was a young lawyer named Brett M. Kavanaugh, now a federal judge and President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Citing Cohen plea, Senate Democrats seek delay in Kavanaugh hearings, John Wagner and Mike DeBonis, Aug. 22, 2018. Senate Democrats on Wednesday called for delaying confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh in the wake of a guilty plea by Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former attorney, on campaign-finance counts that involve the president.

Democrats, who have been seeking leverage to slow down Kavanaugh’s consideration, argued that a new justice could be forced to decide questions directly relating to Trump, including whether he must comply with a subpoena from prosecutors and whether he can be indicted while in office.

susan collins oSCOTUSblog, Wednesday round-up, Edith Roberts, Aug. 22, 2018. For The Washington Post, Elise Viebeck and Gabriel Pogrund report that “[a] Republican senator whose vote could ensure the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh” — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine – “offered an upbeat assessment of their meeting Tuesday, highlighting the judge’s statement that the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion is ‘settled law.’”

Additional coverage comes from Scott Detrow at NPR , Natalie Andrews and Byron Tau for The Wall Street Journal, Sheryl Gay Stolberg for The New York Times, and the Associated Press. At The Hill, Tal Axelrod reports that “[a] Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday shows a plurality of Maine voters want … Collins … to reject Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court and many will be less likely to support her for reelection if she votes to confirm him.”

Megan Keller reports at The Hill that “Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) on Tuesday said that he thinks a ‘smelly special interest network’ of dark money was involved in Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination process.”

In an op-ed for The Hill, Steven Calabresi refutes “criticism of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court [charging] that his references to constitutional originalism suggest he would reach a series of bad results in certain cases.”

At Slate, Mark Joseph Stern suggests that “[a]side from the looming election,” “there is one clear reason” why the Republicans are “so eager to push through Kavanaugh’s nomination before the documents [from the nominee’s days in the White House counsel’s office] are released”: “The Supreme Court has stacked its October docket with major cases that will require Kavanaugh’s vote for a conservative victory.”

Aug. 20

washington post logoWashington Post, Brett Kavanaugh memo detailed explicit questions for Clinton, Michael Kranish, Aug. 20, 2018. Brett Kavanaugh wrote in a strikingly explicit 1998 memo that he was “strongly opposed” to giving then-President Bill Clinton any “break” in the independent counsel’s questioning about his sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky, according to a document released Monday. [Read the memo from Brett Kavanaugh]

In the memo, Kavanaugh, who worked as an associate counsel for independent counsel Ken Starr and is now President Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, laid out several proposed questions, including, “If Monica Lewinsky says that you inserted a cigar into her vagina while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?”

Excerpts of the memo have been previously reported, including by The Washington Post last month, quoting from a book about the Lewinsky investigation. However, the full memo had not been released until Monday, when it was released by the National Archives in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Post.

Aug. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Why Cover Up Brett Kavanaugh’s Past? Editorial Board, Aug. 17, 2018. For the first time in modern history, Republicans are refusing to request a Supreme Court nominee’s relevant papers. Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s supporters have spent the last month lavishing him with acclaim. He’s a legal superstar, they say, one of the most qualified Supreme Court nominees in history. So why are Senate Republicans so afraid of letting Americans learn more about him?

After what they did to Judge Merrick Garland in 2016 — obliterating Senate tradition by outright ignoring President Barack Obama’s third Supreme Court nomination for partisan political gain — you might think it would be hard for Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to inflict any more damage on the court.

brett kavanaugh.judgeLSurprise! They’re now running the most secretive and incomplete confirmation process in modern history. They scrambled to set the start of Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing for Sept. 4, even as they have refused multiple requests by their Democratic colleagues to see more than one million documents covering his years as White House staff secretary to President George W. Bush. Judge Kavanaugh, right, has called that job, which he held from 2003 to 2006, “the most interesting and informative” of his career in terms of preparing for his work on the bench.

These documents could contain important information about his role in some of the Bush administration’s most controversial actions, including its warrantless wiretapping program and its torture policy. Judge Kavanaugh was evasive during his 2006 confirmation hearing for a seat on the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., where he currently sits. He denied any involvement in those policies, but Democratic senators have long believed that his answers to them were, at best, misleading. And at least one former Bush official appeared to directly contradict him. So what was his true role? The documents may or may not answer that question definitively, but we’ll never know without seeing them.

Aug. 17

brett kavanaughAlliance for Justice, Opinion: Republicans “Running a Scam” to Confirm Kavanaugh, Bill Yeomans, Aug. 17, 2018. AFJ Justice Fellow Bill Yeomans writes that Senate Republicans are short-circuiting the normal confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, by moving ahead without obtaining all the relevant documents from his career -- and he minces no words.

Yeomans notes:

"The Republican Senate majority is running a scam to ram through confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh without the scrutiny that is essential to our constitutional health. Republicans are panicking…polling shows that a majority of the public already opposes Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Senate Republicans understand that the more the public learns about the nominee and his positions and the longer the Senate and public have to consider the nomination, the less popular he will become."

Adding his voice to the chorus of those demanding that Republicans stop taking irresponsible shortcuts, Yeomans concludes that the Senate "must take the time to gather and release all of the records."

Aug. 16

New York Magazine, Opinion: Poll: Kavanaugh Is the Most Unpopular Court Pick in Decades, Eric Levitz, Aug. 16, 2018. The conservative movement’s judicial agenda is extremely unpopular. This is, in part, because the movement recognizes that some of its goals are too politically toxic to advance through the more democratic branches of the federal government, and thus, seeks to implement them through litigation. Congress would have had a difficult time clearing the way for unlimited corporate spending on American elections, or gutting the Voting Rights Act of 1965, or legalizing most forms of political bribery, or hobbling public-sector unions — but the Roberts court had no such trouble.

And yet, historically, the unpopularity of conservative jurisprudence has rarely put a dent in the in the public image of conservative judicial nominees.

Democratic voters have traditionally followed the lead of their party’s elites, and judged Republican presidents’ Supreme Court picks on the strength of their professional qualifications, rather than their ideological commitments. John Roberts and Samuel Alito are two of the most radically reactionary Supreme Court justices in our nation’s modern history, and yet both enjoyed overwhelming public support when their nominations were brought before the Senate. Even last year, in our hyperpolarized epoch, when Donald Trump announced his intention to put Neil Gorsuch into Merrick Garland’s rightful Supreme Court seat, 49 percent of Americans said that the Senate should confirm him, while just 36 percent said it should not.

All of which makes this new CNN poll remarkable: A plurality of American voters currently want the Senate to reject Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In the past three decades, no high court nominee has ever attracted plurality opposition in initial polling — and only Robert Bork suffered a lower level of opening support.

Aug. 11

Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Democrats all but acknowledge Kavanaugh is headed toward confirmation to Supreme Court, Sean Sullivan​, Aug. 11, 2018 (print edition). The Senate is poised to install Brett M. Kavanaugh on the high court and take the next step toward fulfilling President Trump’s pledge to remake the Supreme Court — and the wider federal judiciary, potentially for decades.

July 21

DCDave Blog, Opinion: Christopher Ruddy on Brett Kavanaugh, David Martin, July 21, 2018. Christopher Ruddy is the Long Island, New York, native who is the CEO of the media organization Newsmax, regularly sought out for interviews by the mainstream press because he keeps the company of his neighbor in Palm Beach, Florida, President Donald Trump and is one of his closest informal advisers.

vincent foster oRuddy first rose to prominence, though, as the only American reporter raising doubts about the mysterious July 20, 1993, death of President Bill Clinton’s deputy White House Counsel, Vincent W. Foster, Jr., shown at right. His first critical article appeared in the New York Post on January 27, 1994. In 1997 he would publish a book entitled The Strange Death of Vincent Foster: An Investigation. (Amazon used to tout my review of that book as the leading one, based upon the number of viewers finding it “helpful,” which it still is, but they have now deeply buried it away.)

Writing critically on the Vince Foster case, Ruddy could hardly avoid talking about young Brett Kavanaugh, who took over as Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s lead investigator after the resignation in disgust of Miguel Rodriguez. In the long passage below, we pick up the story on page 240 of Ruddy’s book.

He is talking about the troublesome witness, Patrick Knowlton, who had been tracked down by the British reporter, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. Knowlton had happened by Fort Marcy Park where Foster’s body was found on the afternoon of July 20, where Knowlton had stopped in to take an emergency leak. Hearing on television that night about the discovery of the body there, he had done his civic duty and called the Park Police to tell them what he had seen. They had demonstrated little interest, taking only a short statement from him....

patrick knowltonWhen Knowlton, left, appeared before the grand jury the following week, Brett Kavanaugh, one of Starr’s prosecutors who (according to his official biography) had never prosecuted a case before, was doing the interrogation. Kavanaugh, a Yale graduate, was seen as one of the rising stars on the team: extremely bright, an establishment man in his late twenties with Harrison Ford looks and a demeanor to match.

Knowlton would later recount that during the proceedings he “was treated like a suspect,” with Kavanaugh focusing more on his character than on the potentially valuable information he had to offer. Kavanaugh asked a series of questions about Knowlton’s encounter with the Hispanic-looking man including one of a graphic sexual nature.

In contrast with Ruddy’s toned-down version, here is how Richard Poe described the grand jury interrogation, the details of which he got from the chapter entitled “Street Fascism” in Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s 1997 book, The Secret Life of Bill Clinton:

Perhaps the most telling indication of Starr's attitude toward Knowlton is the humiliating cross-examination to which this brave man was subjected before the grand jury. Knowlton says that he was "treated like a suspect." Prosecutor Brett Kavanaugh appeared to be trying to imply that Knowlton was a homosexual who was cruising Fort Marcy Park for sex. Regarding the suspicious Hispanic-looking man he had seen guarding the park entrance, Kavanaugh asked, Did he "pass you a note?" Did he "touch your genitals?"

July 12

washington post logoWashington Post, In major abortion ruling, Kavanaugh offers clues of how he might handle divisive issue, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, July 12, 2018. Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh issued a strongly worded dissent last fall in a case involving a pregnant immigrant teenager in federal custody.

ny times logobrett kavanaughNew York Times, Democrats Zero In on Nominee’s View of Presidential Power, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, July 12, 2018 (print edition). Democrats thought the weakness of a Supreme Court nominee would be health care and abortion. Then came Brett M. Kavanaugh’s writings on shielding presidents from investigation.

Democrats who once saw health care and abortion as their best lines of attack against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, are recalibrating their approach to go after him for his view that a sitting president should not have to answer questions in a criminal case, much less face indictment.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in an interview on Wednesday that Judge Kavanaugh’s belief in broad presidential authority was “just off the deep end.”

For Democrats facing an uphill struggle to block Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, his protective views of the presidency could prove to be a bright red ribbon. Rather than just playing it safe with a broad swath of voters worried about access to health care and abortion, Democrats now see an opportunity to excite their base by fanning fears that the highest court in the land could turn into a bulwark to protect the man appointing its members.

The Hill, Yale Law School students, alumni denounce Trump Supreme Court pick, Justin Wise, July 12, 2018. More than 400 current and former Yale Law School students are banding together to denounce President Trump's latest Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, saying that "people will die" if the Yale alum is confirmed.

"Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination presents an emergency — for democratic life, for our safety and freedom, for the future of our country," they wrote in an open letter published earlier this week. "Without a doubt, Judge Kavanaugh is a threat to the most vulnerable. He is a threat to many of us, despite the privilege bestowed by our education, simply because of who we are."

akhil amar colorKavanaugh graduated from Yale Law School in 1990 and has spent the past 12 years as a federal judge on the nation’s second most powerful court — the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. He was nominated by Trump on Monday to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court.

His nomination led to glowing praise from Yale and Yale law professors. In an op-ed for The New York Times, professor Akhil Reed Amar, right, made a liberal's case for Kavanaugh. In addition, the school sent out a press release with multiple endorsements from the university's faculty.

July 11

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Subpoena May Put Nominee’s Legal Theory to the Test, Adam Liptak, July 11, 2018 (print edition). Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh has questioned the wisdom of forcing sitting presidents to answer questions from prosecutors.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Zero In on Nominee’s View of Presidential Power, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, July 11, 2018. Democrats thought the weakness of a Supreme Court nominee would be health care and abortion. Then came Brett M. Kavanaugh’s writings on shielding presidents from investigation.

Democrats who once saw health care and abortion as their best lines of attack against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, are recalibrating their approach to go after him for his view that a sitting president should not have to answer questions in a criminal case, much less face indictment.

Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said in an interview on Wednesday that Judge Kavanaugh’s belief in broad presidential authority was “just off the deep end.”

For Democrats facing an uphill struggle to block Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, his protective views of the presidency could prove to be a bright red ribbon. Rather than just playing it safe with a broad swath of voters worried about access to health care and abortion, Democrats now see an opportunity to excite their base by fanning fears that the highest court in the land could turn into a bulwark to protect the man appointing its members.

washington post logoWashington Post, The elite world of Brett Kavanaugh, Paul Schwartzman and Michelle Boorstein, July 11, 2018. Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court grew up in Washington and lives in one of its most affluent neighborhoods, among Democrats who avoid talking politics with him.

washington post logoWashington Post, What to expect from Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation battle, Amy Brittain, July 11, 2018. Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh incurred tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt buying baseball tickets over the past decade and at times reported liabilities that could have exceeded the value of his cash accounts and investment assets, according to a review of Kavanaugh’s financial disclosures and information provided by the White House.

White House spokesman Raj Shah told The Washington Post that Kavanaugh built up the debt by buying Washington Nationals season tickets and tickets for playoff games for himself and a “handful” of friends. Shah said some of the debts were also for home improvements.

In 2016, Kavanaugh reported having between $60,000 and $200,000 in debt accrued over three credit cards and a loan. Each credit card held between $15,000 and $50,000 in debt, and a Thrift Savings Plan loan was between $15,000 and $50,000.

July 10

SCOTUSblog, Tuesday round-up: reactions To Kavanaugh Nomination, Andrew Hamm, July 10, 2018 (with links to reports below). Amy Howe has this blog’s coverage; Mark Walsh provides a “view” from the East Room. Additional coverage comes from Nina Totenberg on NPR’s Morning Edition (podcast), Tony Mauro of The National Law Journal and David Jackson and Richard Wolf of USA Today. Commentary comes from Jessica Mason Pieklo of Rewire.News, who writes that “as in all reality TV, there was a clear winner in Trump’s selection process. But unlike on The Bachelorette, the rest of us are the ones who were always going to lose.”

Reporting on Kavanaugh as Washington insider comes from Richard Wolf of USA Today and Joan Biskupic of CNN. Writing for The Economist, Steven Mazie calls Kavanaugh “an unremarkable choice for a Republican president,” notwithstanding that for Trump, “who has departed from so many presidential norms, to have picked someone with close ties to the Washington, DC establishment, may seem surprising for its utter conventionality.”

At The National Law Journal, Tony Mauro lists seven of Kavanaugh’s “more notable rulings that will come into sharp focus now” as his nomination moves forward in the Senate; in a second story at The National Law Journal, Mauro, with Mike Scarcella, compiles “snippets from some of Kavanaugh’s remarks over the years” that could also attract attention. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, it “will not take long before the President’s ambition – to choose a Justice who would vote to roll back constitutional protection for women’s abortion rights – could be fulfilled or frustrated,” reports Lyle Denniston for Constitution Daily. Commentary comes from Bill Blum of Truthdig, who writes that except for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, “Trump could not have chosen a candidate who poses a greater threat to progressive values and causes.”

Reactions to the Kavanaugh nomination

In reaction to President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, politicians and interest groups are releasing statements. SCOTUS Watch is tracking “the public statements made by United States senators about how they plan to vote.” This post tracks the statements by interest groups that we have received. We invite you to alert us (nominationstatements [at] gmail [dot] com) to any statements we have missed. In support of the nominee:

Alliance Defending Freedom (Michael Farris, president, CEO and general counsel)Americans United for Life (Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO)Heritage Action for America (Tim Chapman, executive director)Institute for Free Speech (Bradley Smith, chairman and founder)March for Life (Jeanne Mancini, president)National Rifle Association of America, Institute for Legislative ActionPacific Legal FoundationThe Catholic Association Against or concerned about the nominee:

Anti-Defamation League (Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director)Auburn SeminaryBend the Arc: Jewish Action (Stosh Cotler, CEO)Brady Campaign (Avery Gardiner, co-president)Center for Reproductive Rights (Nancy Northup, president and CEO)Demos (Chiraag Bains, director of legal strategies)Everytown for Gun Safety (John Feinblatt, president)Human Rights CampaignIndivisible Project (Ezra Levin, co-executive director)Lambda LegalPeople for the American Way (Michael Keegan, president)Democracy for America (Jim Dean, chair)Freedom From Religion FoundationPhysicians for Reproductive Health (Willie Parker, board chair)

washington post logoWashington Post, Winners and losers from Trump’s second search for a new justice, Amber Phillips, July 10, 2018. President Trump’s nomination process was not without controversy, and not everyone came out ahead. The big winner of President Trump’s second Supreme Court pick is Trump himself. He seized the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy to remind the Republican Party why it needs him: He has the power to make the Supreme Court lean more reliably conservative for a generation.

washington post logoWashington Post, With Brett Kavanaugh, Georgetown Prep can count two Supreme Court nominees among its alumni, Moriah Balingit​, July 10, 2018. Kavanaugh graduated from the elite prep school in 1983, two years ahead of Justice Neil Gorsuch.

nbc news logoNBC News, How Kavanaugh ruled on gun control, health care, and other hot-button issues, Jessica Spitz, July 10, 2018.  Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh has written almost 300 opinions on a range of issues over his 12 years serving on the federal appellate court.

Corruption Allegations Against Kennedy, Kavanaugh

djt brett kavanaugh family 7 9 18 SmallWall Street On Parade, The Dark Money Behind Trump’s Supreme Court Pick, Pam Martens and Russ Martens, July 10, 2018. There is something revoltingly un-American about a man who stands with his wife and two young daughters to accept the nomination for the highest court in America, talks about feeding the homeless and coaching girls’ basketball – all the while knowing that a lot of very dirty corporate money lurks in the shadows of his nomination.

We’re talking about the fact that Trump made his Supreme Court nominee selection of Brett Kavanaugh from a list that was pre-approved by the Federalist Society – a receptacle for the dark money that flows from the billionaire Charles Koch’s network of corporate polluters and democracy-killing front groups that got the Supreme Court to rubber stamp unlimited corporate money in political campaigns via the Citizens United decision in 2010.

According to the Desmog, using data compiled by the Conservative Transparency project, Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund are two of the largest dark money groups contributing to the Federalist Society. Donors Trust has given $13,494,100 in total while Donors Capital Fund has given another $11,366,368. The two nonprofits share the same address: 1800 Diagonal Road, Suite 280, Alexandria, Virginia. The actual contributors behind those large sums remain anonymous as a result of the structure of the groups.

The Federalist Society has received another $4 million in total from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and another Koch-related group, the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation. In an exclusive report in 2010 we found that Charles Koch’s fingerprints were all over Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund. We reported the following:

“There are shades of Charles Koch all over Donors Capital and Donors Trust. Two grantees receiving repeat and sizeable grants from Donors Capital are favorites of the Koch foundations: George Mason University Foundation and Institute for Humane Studies. Another tie is Claire Kittle. A project of Donor’s Trust is Talent Market.org, a headhunter for staffing nonprofits with the ‘right’ people. Ms. Kittle serves as Talent Market’s Executive Director and was the former Program Officer for Leadership and Talent Development at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

Then there is Whitney Ball, President of both Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust. Ms. Ball was one of the elite guests at the invitation-only secret Aspen bash thrown by Charles Koch in June of this year, as reported by ThinkProgress.org. Also on the guest list for the Koch bash was Stephen Moore, a member of the Editorial Board at the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Moore is a Director at Donors Capital Fund. Rounding out the ties that bind is Lauren Vander Heyden, who serves as Client Services Coordinator at Donors Trust. Ms. Vander Heyden previously worked as grants coordinator and policy analyst at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.

“Legal counsel for the Kochs has declined to respond to two emails with a week’s lead time seeking clarification of the relationship the Kochs have to Donors Capital and Donors Trust.”

Our investigation was initiated to root out who had funded the circulation of an anti-Muslim film called “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” Just seven weeks before the 2008 Presidential election between John McCain and Barack Obama, and as a whisper campaign emerged linking Obama to Muslims, 100 newspapers and magazines across the U.S. distributed DVDs of the race-baiting “documentary.” Between the newspapers and a separate direct mail campaign, 28 million DVDs flooded households in swing voter states. Donors Capital Fund paid $17,778,600 to the Clarion Fund to carry out the effort. The funds from Donors Capital Fund represented 96 percent of all funds the Clarion Fund received in 2008.

djt greets supreme court justice anthony kennedy picture screenshot

Palmer Report, Opinion: Exposed: secret corrupt retirement deal between Anthony Kennedy and Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, July 10, 2018. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was secretly negotiating with Donald Trump about his replacement, even as he was casting major pro-Trump votes that were out of character with his own judicial record. This comes on top of earlier revelations that Kennedy’s son played a key role at Trump’s favorite Russian money laundering bank. We’re now looking at a full blown scandal that’s getting uglier by the hour.

anthony kennedy oNBC News is now backing off from its earlier implication that Anthony Kennedy (shown at right) only agreed to retire if Donald Trump specifically picked Brett Kavanaugh, and is now reporting that Kennedy provided Trump with five names that would be acceptable to him. Brett Kavanaugh was the only conservative name on the list, so Kennedy would have known that Trump could only pick Kavanaugh. These negotiations reportedly began months ago. This means that Kennedy was secretly negotiating his retirement with Trump while he was casting the swing vote on issues like Trump’s Muslim Ban.

While Kennedy has sided with conservatives on fiscal issues, he’s often sided with liberals on civil rights issues like gay marriage; his vote in favor of the Muslim Ban was out of character. If Kennedy had voted against Trump on the Muslim Ban, at a time when he was negotiating with Trump over his potential replacement, it likely would have prompted the vindictive Trump to break off those negotiations. Kennedy would have known this – meaning that his final votes can be seen as fully corrupt.

If anyone were tempted to give Anthony Kennedy the benefit of the doubt about the corrupt nature of this secret deal, that goes out the window within the context of the fairly straight line that can be drawn from Kennedy to his son to Donald Trump to Russian money laundering to the Trump-Russia election rigging conspiracy. Kennedy’s legacy is clearly ruined; the only question is whether he’ll end up facing criminal charges. Follow the money.

fox news logo SmallFox News, NBC News reporter deletes tweet claiming Trump, Kennedy were in cahoots over Kavanaugh selection, Brian Flood, July 10, 2018. NBC News Capitol Hill reporter Leigh Ann Caldwell on Tuesday deleted a tweet that had triggered backlash, claiming President Trump and retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy were in cahoots to get Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the seat.

Caldwell initially tweeted, “On Kavanaugh pick… Kennedy and Trump/WH had been in negotiations for months over Kennedy’s replacement. Once Kennedy received assurances that it would be Kavanaugh, his former law clerk, Kennedy felt comfortable retiring, according to a source who was told of the discussion.”

"I’ve deleted this tweet," Caldwell later tweeted, "because it incorrectly implies a transactional nature in Kennedy’s replacement. I am told by a source who was not directly part of the talks that Kennedy provided Pres. Trump/ WH a list of acceptable replacements."

Kavanaugh, 53, formerly clerked for Kennedy and was elevated to the powerful federal appeals court in the District of Columbia by former President George W. Bush, under whom he had also served as a White House lawyer and staff secretary. Trump officially nominated Kavanaugh to fill Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court on Monday night.

Politico, How a private meeting with Kennedy helped Trump get to ‘yes’ on Kavanaugh, Christopher Cadelago, Nancy Cook and Andrew Restuccia, July 9, 2018. While he was eager to keep the suspense alive, the president was always leaning toward Kennedy’s former clerk. After Justice Anthony Kennedy told President Donald Trump he would relinquish his seat on the Supreme Court, the president emerged from his private meeting with the retiring jurist focused on one candidate to name as his successor: Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Kennedy’s former law clerk.

Trump, according to confidants and aides close to the White House, has become increasingly convinced that “the judges,” as he puts it, or his administration’s remaking of the federal judiciary in its conservative image, is central to his legacy as president. And he credits Kennedy, who spent more than a decade at the center of power on the court, for helping give him the opportunity.

jefferson morleyJFKFacts.org, Opinion: On JFK secrecy, Brett Kavanaugh sides with the CIA, Jefferson Morley (right), July 10, 2018. The D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 on Monday that the CIA does not have to pay my court costs incurred in the long-running FOIA lawsuit Morley v. CIA. The split decision was joined by Judge Brett Kavanaugh (below left), who was nominated by President Trump later that day to serve on the the Supreme Court.

brett kavanaughAbout the information I obtained via litigation, the unsigned opinion said, “the public benefit was small.” The decision made no reference to extensive coverage of Morley v . CIA in the New York Times, Fox News, San Diego Union, St. Paul Pioneer Press, CBS News in Dallas, and the New Yorker, among many other news organizations.

The Times and the U.K. Daily Mail, even published a photo, obtained by the lawsuit, of CIA officer George Joannides (show at right below receiving a lifetime award from the CIA) receiving a medal after he stonewalled JFK investigators in 1978. In the majority view, public interest in Morley v CIA is not a measure of its public benefit.

george joannides cia citation 1981 cia photoA strong dissent by Judge Karen Henderson takes a much more balanced and independent view of the case, in my view. Appointed by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, Henderson points out that the court had previously found that I had met the standard of “public benefit” established in case law.

In a 2013 decision the court stated:

“Morley’s request had potential public value. He has proffered — and the CIA has not disputed — that Joannides served as the CIA case officer for a Cuban group, the DRE, with whose officers Oswald was in contact prior to the assassination. Travel records showing a very close match between Joannides’s and Oswald’s times in New Orleans might, for example, have (marginally) supported one of the hypotheses swirling around the assassination. In addition, this court has previously determined that Morley’s request sought information “central” to an intelligence committee’s inquiry into the performance of the CIA and other federal agencies in investigating the assassination. Under these circumstances, there was at least a modest probability that Morley’s request would generate information relevant to the assassination or later investigations.”

“In other words,” Henderson writes, “we held that Morley satisfied the public-benefit factor in this case,”

cia logoBy ignoring this finding, Henderson argues, the majority opinion ultimately depends on the assertion that the CIA responded “reasonably” to my request. Yet, Henderson notes, the ruling also ignores the fact that the appellate court had ruled the agency’s initial response to my FOIA request was deficient on seven different legal points.

Henderson again:

“The majority discusses five in its opinion. It acknowledges that the CIA: (1) missed the 20-day statutory deadline to respond, Maj. Op. 7; (2) incorrectly referred Morley to NARA rather than responding to his FOIA request itself, Maj. Op. 7-11; (3) failed to search its operational files, Maj. Op. 11; (4) submitted an incomplete Glomar response, Maj. Op. 11-12; and (5) relied on an interpretation of Exemption 2 that was later overruled, Maj. Op. 12. It addresses these errors of law seriatim and labels them “incorrect legally,” Maj. Op. 9, but not “unreasonable.” To me, the CIA’s multiple flawed legal positions suggests that it was “recalcitrant” in declining to produce any documents before being sued. Davy IV, 550 F.3d at 1162. At the least, the errors collectively undermine the district court’s conclusion that the fourth factor “weighs heavily against Morley.” Morley X, 245 F. Supp. 3d at 78 (emphasis added).”

Henderson concludes:

“In sum, I believe the district court erred on two levels: it erred in evaluating each of the four factors individually and abused its discretion in weighing them against one another. Accordingly, this case does not call for “[d]eference piled on deference.” Maj. Op. 11. It calls for an adherence to Davy IV and our four earlier Morley opinions. Because I believe the district court ignored our mandate and misapplied our precedent, I would vacate the district court order a fifth time and remand with instructions to award Morley the attorney’s fees to which he is entitled.”

Unfortunately, the majority, meaning Kavanaugh and Trump appointee Judge Gregory Katsas, disagreed. I have 45 days to appeal.

July 9

Roll Call, Opinion: GOP Should Beware of Roe v. Wade Becoming the Fight, Patricia Murphy, July 9, 2018. Republicans could lose the war for female voters for a generation. Now that we know President Donald Trump has settled on Judge Brett Kavanaugh as his next choice for the Supreme Court, Senate Republicans are poised to deliver on a promise they have been making to conservatives for decades.

In Kavanaugh, the GOP has both its biggest opportunity to move the court to the right for a generation as well as its biggest danger — months of unscripted moments when abortion, reproductive rights and women will be at the center of a heated debate that Republicans have proved uniquely terrible at navigating over the years.

With a slim GOP majority in the Senate and nearly a dozen Democratic senators up for re-election in red states this fall, the chances are good that Kavanaugh will make it through his confirmation process fairly easily, even if it isn’t pretty.

But the chances are equally high that in the process of winning the confirmation battle, Republicans could also lose the war for female voters for a generation as the fight over the future of the court becomes a debate over Roe v. Wade, and whether women or the government should decide when, or even whether, a woman carries a pregnancy to term.

July 9

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump picks Judge Kavanaugh for Supreme Court, Robert Costa, Robert Barnes and Felicia Sonmez​, July 9, 2018. Conservative stalwart has deep ties to the Republican establishment. Brett Kavanaugh, 53, served on the U.S. Court of Appeals and worked in George W. Bush’s White House before moving to the federal bench. Democrats are preparing for a prolonged confirmation showdown on Capitol Hill — determined to rally in defense Roe v. Wade and all areas of the law they fear could be ruptured by the court.

The Intercept, Chuck Schumer Warns Senate Democrats: Fight Brett Kavanaugh Or Pay the Price From the Base, Ryan Grim, July 9, 2018. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is warning Democrats in the chamber that if they don’t put up a brutal fight over the next Supreme Court justice, there will be hell to pay from the Democratic base, according to senior Senate aides briefed on Schumer’s message.

Democratic leadership’s response in the two weeks since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement has been in stark contrast to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s firm, across-the-board rejection of any Obama nominee sent up in 2016. McConnell, flexing the power of a majority leader, announced within an hour of the news of the February 2016 death of Antonin Scalia that under no circumstances would the Senate consider a nominee before the November election.

What that fierce opposition will look like, and how broad it will be, remains to be seen, as Schumer lacks the full authority over the Senate that McConnell wielded in 2016. But as a major political party just two seats shy of a majority, Democrats are not as powerless as they sometimes let on.

washington post logoWashington Post, A more conservative high court could step, not lurch, to the right, Robert Barnes​, July 9, 2018. President Trump’s nominee and fellow conservatives on the bench can achieve right-of-center goals without overturning rulings such as Roe v. Wade.

washington post logoWashington Post, Kavanaugh has endorsed robust views of presidential powers, Ann E. Marimow, July 9, 2018. ​The record of the federal appeals court judge suggests he would be more to the right than retiring Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: If the Supreme Court is Nakedly Political, Can It Be Just? Lee Epstein and Eric Posner, July 9, 2018. President Trump was always going to pick a conservative for the Supreme Court. The only question has been whether to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy with a “business conservative” or a “religious conservative.”

But we wonder whether a Supreme Court that has come to be rigidly divided by both ideology and party can sustain public confidence for much longer.

In the past 10 years, however, justices have hardly ever voted against the ideology of the president who appointed them. Only Justice Kennedy, named to the court by Ronald Reagan, did so with any regularity. That is why with his replacement on the court an ideologically committed Republican justice, it will become impossible to regard the court as anything but a partisan institution.

Ms. Epstein is a political scientist and law professor at Washington University. Mr. Posner is a professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

July 8

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats Face Painful Choice on Supreme Court, Carl Hulse, July 8, 2018 (print edition). The Supreme Court votes by a handful of Senate Democrats from Republican states could have broad ramifications for their party, its leadership and its core voters.

July 7

webster tarpley podium2World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Supreme Court Appointment, Webster G. Tarpley (right), July 7, 2018 (74:07 min. radio show). It is now going to be the responsibility of every person of goodwill to oppose Trump's nominee to the Supeme Court. There is now a coalition to organize a series of rallies in every state on Sunday, Aug. 26. It's hoped that the Senate vote will not have been completed by this time.

The platform: that the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution means that government shall not deprive any person of rights. This is, in other words, an economic bill of rights. That's what President Franklin D. Roosevelt articulated in his 1944 State of the Union Address. It's what the GIs were fighting for when they were crushing fascism in World War II.

djt neil gorsuch anthony kenned at white house

President Trump in 2017 with Supreme Court Associate Justice William Kennedy, who swore onto the court his former clerk Neil Gorsuch, center

July 4

U.S. Supreme Court Watch

djt brett kavanaugh amy coney barrett

ny times logoadam liptakNew York Times, A Rift on the Right, Shown by Two Potential Court Picks, Adam Liptak (shown at right), July 4, 2018 (print edition). The fight over who should replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court is far from over, and there are still a half-dozen plausible candidates in the mix.

But the stark contrast between two of the leading contenders — Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh and Judge Amy Coney Barrett — reflects the division on the right between the conservative legal establishment, which is hostile to government regulation and the administrative state, and social conservatives, who are focused on issues like abortion and religious freedom.

Other candidates, notably Judges Raymond M. Kethledge and Amul R. Thapar, both of the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, have had cordial meetings with President Trump, and a White House spokesman said Mr. Trump interviewed three more possible choices on Tuesday. See also "Facebook Ads Offer Peek at Looming Supreme Court Fight."

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoSCOTUSblog, Potential nominee profile: Amy Coney Barrett, Amy Howe, July 4, 2018. In November 2017, President Donald Trump released a revised list of potential Supreme Court nominees. The November 2017 list was an expanded version of two earlier lists, announced during the 2016 presidential campaign, from which then-candidate Trump pledged, if elected, to pick a successor to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on February 13, 2016. First on the new list – because it was in alphabetical order – was Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame law professor (and former Scalia clerk) who had recently been confirmed to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. She is shown at right in a Notre Dame photo.

July 3

washington post logoWashington Post, There’s no conspiracy between Trump and Kennedy. There’s just the swamp, David Litt, July 3, 2018. A surprising number of progressives are dusting off Glenn Beck-style chalkboards, connecting the dots in a web with Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s son in the center. But the search for a shadowy conspiracy surrounding the Kennedy and Trump families obscures a far greater scandal taking place right in front of us: the dangerous concentration of wealth and political power in the United States.

deutsche bank logoThe theory, for the record, goes something like this: Justin Kennedy worked at Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank was the only Wall Street firm willing to lend money to Donald Trump. In 2017, Deutsche Bank was fined $630 million for its involvement in a Russian money-laundering scheme. After his first address to Congress, President Trump told Kennedy, “Say hello to your boy,” to which the justice replied, “Your kids have been very nice to him.” Now, the court’s swing justice is retiring, giving President Trump the chance to cement a far-right court for a generation.

The implication is that Kennedy was coerced, via bribery, blackmail or something similarly sinister, into giving up his seat before the election. But the line between cause and effect remains hazy. In a tweet that accumulated more than 35,000 likes, @ProudResister summed it up as follows: “THAT’S WAY TOO MANY ‘COINCIDENCES.’ ”

us supreme court 2017There are, it must be said, a few problems with this all-caps logic. First, coincidence does not equal conspiracy. Democrats and progressives have long stood for science, facts and rational argument. Abandoning a commitment to the truth isn’t beating Trump at his own game; it’s surrendering the field. Second, you don’t need a tortured rationale to explain Kennedy’s actions. He’s a conservative. At 82 years old, he’s ready to retire, and he’d rather be replaced by another Neil M. Gorsuch than another Sonia Sotomayor.

But there’s a third and far more important reason to look past the convoluted speculation around Kennedy and his son Justin. It distracts us from a relationship that is legal but outrageous, nonetheless.

The existence of a personal connection between a conservative Supreme Court justice and a real estate billionaire turned president seems to shock some political observers. It shouldn’t. Of course the Trumps and Kennedys know each other: Both families belong to the most exclusive circle of America’s elite. This upper-upper crust has members from across the country, but it functions as a kind of a gated community, one in which personal and professional relationships inevitably intertwine. America’s super-elite sends its kids to the same schools. They bump into each other at Davos or Aspen or the Alfalfa Club in Washington. They socialize. They do business. They donate. They raise money. They take one another’s calls.

July 2

jesse kornbluthSalon, Donald Trump, Anthony Kennedy and the “boy” at Deutsche Bank: Not just about the money, Jesse Kornbluth, July 2, 2018. Jesse Kornbluth (right) edits a cultural concierge site, HeadButler.com. He is a former Contributing Editor for Vanity Fair and New York and authored “Highly Confident: The Crime & Punishment of Michael Milken.”

There’s a tangled web linking the Trump and Kennedy families. But financial corruption isn’t the whole story.

As a way of looking at a presidency that is enamored of every possible felony -- self-dealing, conflicts of interest, emoluments, collusion with foreign governments and domestic corporations -- crime-breeds-crime is a reasonable way to look at any Trump-related event.

What started the speculation about dirty money connecting Trump, Kennedy and his son is the revelation that Kennedy and Trump have had a longstanding relationship through their children and their children’s success.

ny times logoanthony kennedy oNew York Times, Trump Talks to 4 Candidates as Staff Focuses on Court Pick, Michael D. Shear, July 2, 2018. President Trump said he spoke with four candidates to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who is retiring (and shown at right), as the White House raced to meet the president’s deadline to announce a Supreme Court nominee in one week.

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump said he likely would meet with two or three other candidates before making his decision. The president has said he plans to announce his choice next Monday, kicking off a sprint to get the nominee confirmed by the fall.

“I had a very, very interesting morning,” Mr. Trump said as he met with Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands. White House officials declined to say which potential judicial nominees Mr. Trump talked with Monday morning, but the short list of candidates is believed to include six federal appeals court judges: Thomas M. Hardiman, William H. Pryor Jr., Amul R. Thapar, Brett M. Kavanaugh, Joan L. Larsen and Amy Coney Barrett.

richard painterPoliticusUSA.com, Bush Ethics Lawyer Richard Painter Calls For Investigation If Kennedy Was Paid To Resign, Leo Vidal, July 2, 2018. Richard Painter, the former White House Ethics Attorney for President George W. Bush, has come up with a way to delay hearings for a new Supreme Court justice to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.

According to Painter (shown in a file photo), there should be no hearings on a replacement for Kennedy until there is a full and complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding Kennedy’s resignation.

In other words, if Kennedy was paid or bought off in some way by Trump or his family, then the American people need to know about it. After Kennedy’s unexpected retirement announcement several stories appeared in the media claiming financial ties between Kennedy and his two sons and Trump and his family. Some people speculated that Kennedy was bought off in some way due to these extensive and longstanding financial connections.

supreme court buildingLate last week Painter tweeted his novel theory for why Senate hearings for Kennedy’s replacement should be delayed:

“The circumstances of Justice Kennedy’s resignation must be investigated by the Senate Judiciary Committee before any replacement is considered. The Constitution does not give Trump the power to use underhanded means to induce Supreme Court resignations.”

As Painter points out it would be both unethical and unconstitutional for a president to “induce Supreme Court resignations” by using financial remuneration of some kind.

Painter is a lifelong Republican who is now running for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota — as a Democrat. He is the subject of an in-depth article today at Salon.com which discusses in detail the transition he has gone through from being in Bush’s White House to being one of Donald Trump’s fiercest critics.

In the article Painter asks the same questions as millions of other Americans: “Trump admires dictators and authoritarians. His loyalty to Vladimir Putin is clear and he now has a bromance with Kim Jong-un. This is a truly dire situation, but the American people still seem asleep to what is really happening. Where is the outrage? How is Trump able to get away with this?”

Then he adds: “Donald Trump’s conduct is very dangerous for the United States.”

June 29

stephanie ruhleMSNBC, Justin Kennedy and Deutsche Bank Trump Loans, Part I and Part II, Stephanie Ruhle (shown at right in a file photo), June 29, 2018. "I worked I worked with Justin Kennedy," Ruhle wrote on Twitter. "I read the stories -- reached out to some former colleagues for their reaction. Here’s some broader context/perspective -- Neither of which fit in 240 characters."

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: A Better Reason to Delay Kennedy’s Replacement, Paul Schiff Berman, June 29, 2018. Mr. Berman is a professor at George Washington University Law School. Presidents under the cloud of investigation should not get to pick the judges who may preside over their cases. Almost immediately after Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement on Wednesday, Senate Democrats argued that his replacement should not be confirmed until after the midterm elections this fall — a version of the same argument that Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, used to stymie President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in 2016.

This is surely a valid argument, not least because Mr. McConnell’s blatantly anti-democratic ploy stole a judicial appointment from a popularly elected president and gave it to one who lost the popular vote by millions.

But there is another reason to withhold confirmation that both Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree on: People under the cloud of investigation do not get to pick the judges who may preside over their cases. By this logic, President Trump should not be permitted to appoint a new Supreme Court justice until after the special counsel investigation is over, and we know for sure whether there is evidence of wrongdoing.

June 28

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Reports of Trump collusion with Gorsuch and Kennedy to pack the Supreme Court, Wayne Madsen, June 28, 2018 (subscription required). There are multiple reports coming out of congressional and media circles in Washington, DC that Donald Trump colluded with Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and the sons of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy to convince Justice Kennedy to retire. Kennedy's announcement that he is retiring sent shock waves through the country, with fears that Trump's replacement will provide a solid 5-4 court majority that will help Trump roll back several fundamental constitutional rights.

More importantly, a 5-4 Republican majority on the court is seen by Trump as protecting him from any indictment or recommendation for impeachment arising from the Justice Department investigation of Trump and his associates being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

If Trump colluded with Gorsuch and Kennedy to "pack the court" in Trump's favor, that would represent impeachable offenses by both Trump and Gorsuch. The Supreme Court's independence from interference by the other two branches of the federal government -- executive and legislative -- is sacrosanct under the Constitution.

The 81-year old Kennedy was not only pressured to retire by his Trump-appointed court colleague, Gorsuch, but also by his son, Justin Kennedy, a personal friend of Donald Trump, Jr.

Justice Kennedy also saw pressure to step down from his other son, Gregory Kennedy, a Stanford Law School classmate of Peter Thiel, Donald Trump's high-tech adviser. Thiel's Palantir Technology, which has several U.S. intelligence and law enforcement contracts — including one with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for identifying immigrants in the United States for deportation — is partnered with Gregory Kennedy's former firm, which is ominously called Disruptive Technology Advisers, LLC and which is billed as a "merchant bank" in Los Angeles.

Disruptive Technology was founded by Alexander Davis, the son of oil billionaire Marvin Davis. Marvin Davis once owned 20th Century Fox and was a partner of Marc Rich, the international sanctions buster, who lived in Switzerland until his death in 2013. Gregory Kennedy is now the managing partner for Advection Growth Capital in New York that is involved in the privatization of several operations of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

ny times logoNew York Times, Inside the White House’s Quiet Campaign to Create a Supreme Court Opening, Adam Liptak and Maggie Haberman, June 28, 2018. President Trump singled him out for praise even while attacking other members of the Supreme Court. The White House nominated people close to him to important judicial posts. And members of the Trump family forged personal connections.

Their goal was to assure Justice Anthony M. Kennedy that his judicial legacy would be in good hands should he step down at the end of the court’s term that ended this week, as he was rumored to be considering. Allies of the White House were more blunt, warning the 81-year-old justice that time was of the essence. There was no telling, they said, what would happen if Democrats gained control of the Senate after the November elections and had the power to block the president’s choice as his successor.

There were no direct efforts to pressure or lobby Justice Kennedy to announce his resignation on Wednesday, and it was hardly the first time a president had done his best to create a court opening. “In the past half-century, presidents have repeatedly been dying to take advantage of timely vacancies,” said Laura Kalman, a historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

But in subtle and not so subtle ways, the White House waged a quiet campaign to ensure that Mr. Trump had a second opportunity in his administration’s first 18 months to fulfill one of his most important campaign promises to his conservative followers — that he would change the complexion and direction of the Supreme Court.


Hugh Turley's Book About  Thomas Merton

hugh turley david martin merton coverThe Martyrdom of Thomas Merton: An Investigation, Hugh Turley (shown below at left) and David Martin, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, March 7, 2018. Publisher's announcement below:

Seldom can one predict that a book will have an effect on history, but this is such a work. Merton's many biographers and the American press now say unanimously that he died from accidental electrocution.

From a careful examination of the official record, including crime scene photographs that the authors hugh turleyhave found that the investigating police in Thailand never saw, and from reading the letters of witnesses, they have discovered that the accidental electrocution conclusion is totally false.

The widely repeated story that Merton had taken a shower and was therefore wet when he touched a lethal faulty fan was made up several years after the event and is completely contradicted by the evidence.