U.S. High Courts, Cases 2020

 

 JIPLogo

supreme court graphicNews and comment regarding the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) are shown below, with commentary also on major issues involving U.S. federal courts. 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. Included also are notable reports involving lower federal courts.

-- Andrew Kreig, J.D., M.S.L. / Justice Integrity Project editor

Note: Excerpts below are from the authors' words except for subheads and Editor's notes" such as this. This summary of U.S. Supreme Court and other high court cases encompasses news stories and commentary in 2020. For our complete listing of periods extending back to 2018, kindly visit these links: 2018, 2019 and 2020

 

2020

January 2021 Update

Jan. 13

Top Headlines

 

Top Stories

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: House poised to impeach Trump for ‘incitement of insurrection,’ John Wagner, Jan. 13, 2021. Democratic effort to impeach Trump a second time takes dramatic turn. A lone Black officer faced down a mob at the Capitol. Meet Eugene Goodman; Analysis: How experts define the deadly mob attack at the U.S. Capitol; Pelosi calls for Trump’s immediate removal, promotes Cheney’s support for impeachment

The House is poised to impeach President Trump for a second time as it meets Wednesday to consider an article charging him with “incitement of insurrection” for his role in last week’s takeover of the Capitol by a violent pro-Trump mob. At least several Republicans plan to support the resolution.

An hour before the House was scheduled to convene, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) went on Twitter to call for Trump’s immediate removal and to promote the position of Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the No. 3 Republican in the chamber, who supports impeachment.

“Donald Trump’s incitement of a deadly insurrection against the U.S. Capitol is without precedent in our nation’s history and an egregious violation of his oath of office," Pelosi tweeted. “Fulfilling our oath to defend our Constitution requires that we act to remove him from office immediately.”

She attached a statement made by Cheney on Tuesday saying, “The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of attack.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Pence Reached His Limit With Trump. It Wasn’t Pretty, Peter Baker, Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni, Jan. 13, 2021 (print ed.). After four years of tongue-biting silence, Vice President Mike Pence would not yield to President Trump’s intense pressure to overturn the election.

For Vice President Mike Pence, the moment of truth had arrived. After three years and 11 months of navigating the treacherous waters of President Trump’s ego, after all the tongue-biting, pride-swallowing moments where he employed strategic silence or florid flattery to stay in his boss’s good graces, there he was being cursed by the president.

Mr. Trump was enraged that Mr. Pence was refusing to try to overturn the election. In a series of meetings, the president had pressed relentlessly, alternately cajoling and browbeating him. Finally, just before Mr. Pence headed to the Capitol to oversee the electoral vote count last Wednesday, Mr. Trump called the vice president’s residence to push one last time.

“You can either go down in history as a patriot,” Mr. Trump told him, according to two people briefed on the conversation, “or you can go down in history as a pussy.”

The blowup between the nation’s two highest elected officials then played out in dramatic fashion as the president publicly excoriated the vice president at an incendiary rally and sent agitated supporters to the Capitol where they stormed the building — some of them chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Pentagon to Arm National Guard Troops for Inauguration, Helene Cooper and Adam Goldman, Jan. 13, 2021 (print ed.).  About 15,000 members are expected to be deployed in Washington, D.C. Those stationed around the Capitol will carry weapons, officials said.

National Guard troops who are flooding into Washington to secure the Capitol for Inauguration Day will be armed, the Army secretary, Ryan McCarthy, has decided, Defense Department officials said Tuesday.

The armed troops will be responsible for security around the Capitol building complex, the officials said.

As up to 15,000 troops continued to arrive in Washington from all over the country, Defense Department officials had been weighing whether to deploy them with arms. Mr. McCarthy has decided that at the very least those around the Capitol building will carry weapons, said the officials, who confirmed the decision on the condition of anonymity.

Mr. McCarthy’s decision came after a meeting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California. Ms. Pelosi, according to congressional staff members, demanded that the Pentagon take a more muscular posture after a mob, egged on by President Trump last week, breached the Capitol.

Pentagon officials say they are deeply worried about protests that are planned for the inauguration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. next week. About 16 groups — some of them saying they will be armed and most of them made up of hard-line supporters of Mr. Trump — have registered to stage protests in Washington, officials said.

One Defense Department official said law enforcement agencies are planning for a range of outcomes, including a worse-case scenario in which people with firearms try to attack dignitaries, “suicide-type aircraft” try to fly into the capital’s restricted airspace and even remote-controlled drones that could be used to attack the crowd.

ny times logoNew York Times, House Votes 223-205 to Call on Pence to Strip Trump of Powers Rejection All but Ensures Impeachment Vote, Staff and wire reports, Jan. 13, 2021 (print ed.). Democrats proceeded with the resolution even after Vice President Mike Pence ruled out the option, and they warned of an impeachment vote on Wednesday. Five House Republicans said they would vote for impeachment. There had “never been a greater betrayal,” Liz Cheney said. Catch up on political news.

Lawmakers adopted a resolution that would compel Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment after President Trump incited a mob attack on the Capitol last week. In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi earlier in the evening, Mr. Pence rejected the effort.

ny times logoNew York Times, These are the Republicans who said they support impeaching President Trump, John Eligon, Jan. 13, 2021. As the House prepared to move forward with an impeachment proceeding, a small number of Republicans said they support the effort. The vote is set to come exactly one week after the United States Capitol was breached by an angry mob of Trump loyalists.

In 2019, not a single Republican voted in favor of impeachment. House Republican leaders have said they would not formally lobby members of the party against voting to impeach the president this time, and these are the Republicans who have said that they intend to vote for impeachment.

Representative John Katko. Representative John Katko of New York was the first Republican to publicly announce that he would back the impeachment proceedings. A former federal prosecutor, Mr. Katko said he looked at the facts of the siege, which began as lawmakers were working to certify the presidential election results.

“It cannot be ignored that President Trump encouraged this insurrection — both on social media ahead of Jan. 6, and in his speech that day,” Mr. Katko said in a statement. “By deliberately promoting baseless theories suggesting the election was somehow stolen, the president created a combustible environment of misinformation, disenfranchisement, and division. When this manifested in violent acts on Jan. 6, he refused to promptly and forcefully call it off, putting countless lives in danger.”

washington post logoWashington Post, New York City terminates its contracts with Trump’s company, David A. Fahrenthold, Jan. 13, 2021. New York City is terminating its contracts with President Trump’s company to run a carousel, two ice rinks and a golf course in city parks, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said Wednesday — calling it a reaction to Trump’s encouragement of a mob that ransacked the U.S. Capitol.

“The President incited a rebellion against the United States government that killed five people and threatened to derail the constitutional transfer of power,” de Blasio said in a written statement. “The City of New York will not be associated with those unforgivable acts in any shape, way or form.”

That decision — which will cut off the Trump Organization from businesses that bring in $17 million per year in revenue — makes New York the latest business partner to cut ties with Trump’s company. Trump still owns his company from the White House, and his actions as president now seem to have made it a pariah, cut off by even longtime partners.

Since Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol, the company has lost two of its banks, its e-commerce vendor and two of its real-estate brokers. The company also lost its chance to host the prestigious PGA Championship golf tournament in 2022, and lost its hopes of hosting another major golf tournament in Scotland.

Jan. 12

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Revives Abortion-Pill Restriction, Adam Liptak, Jan. 12, 2021. In the Supreme Court’s first ruling on abortion since the arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the court on Tuesday reinstated a federal requirement that women seeking to end their pregnancies using medications pick up a pill in person from a hospital or medical office.

The court’s brief order was unsigned, and the three more liberal justices dissented. The only member of the majority to offer an explanation was Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who said the ruling was a limited one that deferred to the views of experts.

The question, he wrote, was not whether the requirement imposed “an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion as a general matter.” Instead, he wrote, it was whether a federal judge should have second-guessed the Food and Drug Administration’s determination “because of the court’s own evaluation of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Here as in related contexts concerning government responses to the pandemic,” the chief justice wrote, quoting an earlier opinion, “my view is that courts owe significant deference to the politically accountable entities with the ‘background, competence and expertise to assess public health.’”

In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, said the majority was grievously wrong.

“This country’s laws have long singled out abortions for more onerous treatment than other medical procedures that carry similar or greater risks,” Justice Sotomayor wrote. “Like many of those laws, maintaining the F.D.A.’s in-person requirements” for picking up the drug “during the pandemic not only treats abortion exceptionally, it imposes an unnecessary, irrational and unjustifiable undue burden on women seeking to exercise their right to choose.”

She suggested that the next administration should revisit the issue.

“One can only hope that the government will reconsider and exhibit greater care and empathy for women seeking some measure of control over their health and reproductive lives in these unsettling times,” Justice Sotomayor wrote.

Judge Theodore D. Chuang, of the Federal District Court in Maryland, had blocked the requirement in light of the coronavirus pandemic, saying that a needless trip to a medical facility during a health crisis very likely imposed an undue burden on the constitutional right to abortion.

The case concerned a restriction on medication abortions, which are permitted in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. About 60 percent of abortions performed in those weeks use two drugs rather than surgery.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other groups, all represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, sued to suspend the requirement that women make a trip to obtain the first drug in light of the pandemic. There was no good reason, the groups said, to require a visit when the drug could be delivered or mailed.

Jan. 9

djt nancy pelosi

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump faces mounting demands to leave office or face impeachment, Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey, Mike DeBonis and Tom Hamburger, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). President Trump faces mounting pressure for his immediate ouster after he incited Wednesday’s violent siege at the Capitol — an increasingly louder drumbeat chastising his actions that threatens not only to prematurely end his waning tenure but to put him in legal jeopardy once he leaves office.

democratic donkey logoIn Congress, a growing cadre of House Democrats is pushing to rapidly impeach Trump a second time before he is scheduled to leave office on Jan. 20. They are preparing to introduce articles charging him with inciting an insurrection and having “gravely endangered the security of the United States” and its institutions.

In public, Trump has come as close as he is likely to get to admitting he lost the election, acknowledging that there will be a transfer of power and confirming Friday that he will not attend President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. But in private, the president has tried to rationalize his actions, saying he wanted only to encourage a large protest that would garner news coverage and rattle members of Congress — not for his supporters to actually storm the Capitol in the worst breach of its security since the War of 1812.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden stimulus plan includes checks, jobless aid, Jeff Stein, Erica Werner and Mike DeBonis, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden said Friday he is assembling a multitrillion-dollar relief package that would boost stimulus payments for Americans to $2,000, extend unemployment insurance and send billions of dollars in aid to city and state governments, moving swiftly to address the nation’s deteriorating economic condition and the rampaging pandemic.

joe biden twitterThe package will also include billions of dollars to improve vaccine distribution and tens of millions of dollars for schools, as well as rent forbearance and assistance to small businesses, especially those in low-income communities, Biden said at a news conference in Wilmington, Del.

“We need to provide more immediate relief for families and businesses now,” Biden said.

“The price tag will be high,” he said, adding, “The overwhelming consensus among leading economists left, right and center is that in order to keep the economy from collapsing this year, getting much, much worse, we should be investing significant amounts of money right now.”

Biden said he would lay out the package in more detail next week. It would build on some $4 trillion in economic assistance Congress has already devoted to battling the devastating pandemic, including a $900 billion package President Trump signed into law last month.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live U.S. Political Update: Democrats Lay Groundwork for Impeaching Trump Again, Staff Reports, Jan. 9, 2021. ‘I Want Him Out’: Murkowski Is First G.O.P. Senator to Call for Removal.

House Democrats intend to introduce an article of impeachment on Monday charging President Trump with “willfully inciting violence against the government of the United States.” President-elect Joe Biden prioritizes the economy, saying there is a “a dire, dire need to act now.”

  • Furious Democrats, backed by a handful of Republicans, pressured President Trump to leave office after a violent mob attack on the Capitol this week.
  • Senator Lisa Murkowski suggested she may leave the Republican Party if it continued to align itself with Mr. Trump.
  • But the president struck a defiant tone. Behind closed doors, he made clear that he would not resign. Here’s the latest from Washington.
  • Biden pledges action to address the economy and the pandemic.
  • Pelosi asked the Pentagon about preventing Trump from using the nuclear codes.
  • A judge has blocked Trump’s sweeping restrictions on asylum applications.
  • Trump's suspension from Twitter caps an online revolt against him.

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell memo outlines how Senate would conduct second trial for Trump if House impeaches, Seung Min Kim, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). Based on the Senate schedule and timelines, the proceedings would occur after the president leaves office.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump held Senators hostage in the Capitol while calling them and demanding the election be overturned, Bill Palmer, right, Jan. 9, bill palmer2021 (12:03 a.m.). We all saw Donald Trump incite the domestic terrorist attack on the United States Capitol Building. And it’s since been revealed that Trump refused to sign off on the mayor’s request that the DC National Guard be sent in to retake the Capitol. But now things have taken an even darker turn.

bill palmer report logo headerCNN is reporting that while the Capitol was under siege by Trump-terrorists, and while Trump was refusing to sign off on sending the National Guard, he called at least one Senator on the phone and demanded that the election results be overturned. CNN is reporting that Trump tried to call Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville and instead reached Republican Senator Mike Lee, making his demand.

This means that if the timeline of events as we understand it is indeed accurate, Donald Trump was holding members of Congress hostage in the basement while calling them and making demands. This is way beyond merely inciting the attack, or even refusing to do anything to put it down. This is some kind of ransom situation. Trump allowed the Vice President, every Senator, and every House member to remain held hostage and in danger of violence, while he made demands. This is one of the ugliest crimes in American history – and Trump will never get out of prison.

washington post logoWashington Post, Twitter permanently suspends Trump’s account, Nitasha Tiku and Tony Romm, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). “Despite our efforts to serve the public conversation, as Trump’s megaphone, we helped fuel the deadly events of January 6th,” the employees wrote.

Hundreds of Twitter employees demanded in a letter written this week that the company’s leaders permanently suspend Donald Trump’s Twitter account because of his actions surrounding the storming of the U.S. Capitol Tuesday, calling the company’s response insufficient.

twitter bird CustomIn an internal letter addressed to chief executive Jack Dorsey and his top executives viewed by The Washington Post, roughly 350 Twitter employees asked for a clear account of the company’s decision-making process regarding the President’s tweets the day that a pro-Trump mob breached the U.S. Capitol. Employees also requested an investigation into the past several years of corporate actions that led to Twitter’s role in the insurrection.

donald trump twitter“Despite our efforts to serve the public conversation, as Trump’s megaphone, we helped fuel the deadly events of January 6th,” the employees wrote. “We request an investigation into how our public policy decisions led to the amplification of serious anti-democratic threats. We must learn from our mistakes in order to avoid causing future harm.”

“We play an unprecedented role in civil society and the world’s eyes are upon us. Our decisions this week will cement our place in history, for better or worse,” the added.

In a statement, Twitter spokesperson Brandon Borrman wrote, “Twitter encourages an open dialogue between our leadership and employees, and we welcome our employees expressing their thoughts and concerns in whichever manner feels right to them.”

Twitter on Wednesday initially labeled Trump’s tweets about the election as disputed. But a subsequent video from the president — calling for calm while continuing to peddle disinformation — prompted the company to step up its enforcement actions.

Twitter ultimately locked the president out of his account for the first time, requiring him to delete his offending tweets — then wait 12 hours — in order to regain access. That came Thursday morning, and Trump issued his first public comments on the site later that night. Twitter said it would suspend Trump permanently if he continues to break its rules, putting users at risk.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump pressured Ga. elections investigator in a separate call that experts say could amount to obstruction, Amy Gardner, Jan. 9, 2021
More than a week before he urged the Georgia secretary of state to overturn the election results, the president urged the state’s chief elections fraud investigator to “find the fraud.

 ali alexander resized greg palast

"Stop the Steal" Republican operative Ali Alexander, top right, is shown with two others in revelations excerpted below by investigative reporter Greg Palast.

GregPalast.com, Investigation: Why did the Georgia GOP Team up with a riot instigator? Greg Palast, Jan. 8-9, 2021. “WE’LL LIGHT THE WHOLE SH*T ON FIRE!”

The star of the GOP’s get-out-the-vote door-knocking program in the Georgia Senate run-off, standing next to Alex Jones, was blasting his threat through a georgia map 2megaphone in front of the Governor’s home. “We’ll light the whole sh*t on fire!”GOP Operative: “We’ll light the whole sh*t on fire!”

Ali Alexander’s threat in December would become all too real when he repeated his performance on January 6 in Washington, DC.

In the U.S. Capitol that day, looking over the scene of screams, tear gas, and mayhem, Alexander said, “I warned you this would happen.”

Yes, he did. Nevertheless, the Georgia Republican Party’s Metro Atlanta Field Director Kevin Mason was more than happy to team up with Alexander. With his huge reach within the Alt-Right, Alexander could bring in a swarm of volunteers for the door-knocking campaign they desperately needed to hold back the looming Democratic victory in the US Senate run-offs.

republican elephant logoThe far-right celebrity was the magnet to draw scores of young enthusiasts to a January 3 training session at the DoubleTree Hotel in Roswell, an Atlanta suburb. The Palast Investigative Fund’s photojournalist, Zach D. Roberts, a specialist in white-fringe violence who’d been tracking Alexander’s pitch for mayhem across the nation, signed up.

Roberts, who joined up through Alexander’s website, StopTheSteal.US, was quite surprised to receive instructions, not from the right-wing group, but from Daniel George of the National Republican Senate Committee.

Why would the GOP team up with Alexander, a leader of the Stop the Steal extremists, especially after his well-broadcast warning of violence? The threat was not out of character. There are widely circulated films of Alexander with Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. And there is a video chat with Alexander yucking it up with a right-wing jokester holding up a giant flag with a Nazi Swastika flag.

That is, if “Alexander” is his real name. He adopted it after his reported conviction for a felony crime under the name “Ali Akbar.” [See 2012 column excerpted immediately below.]

Alexander is a shapeshifter, sometimes the eye-swiveling crazy, sometimes the dapper guest for Alt-Right podcasts. We cannot link to his most incendiary outlets such as WildProtest.com because they’ve been taken down for inciting violence.

In Georgia, with Alex Jones and Nick Fuentes, a known white nationalist, Alexander hid nothing of his hopes for Washington on January 6. “Either they take Trump, prove that they won or they’re not going to hand them back the country again. We’ll light the whole sh*t on fire!”

To fire up its base, the GOP is apparently willing to cavort with the violence-threatening fringe. The Grand Old Party dismissed Alexander’s warnings. And they also forgot John Kennedy’s warning that “Those who ride the tail of the tiger soon end up inside.”

greg palast logo

Greg Palast (Rolling Stone, Guardian, BBC), shown above, is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy" and "Billionaires & Ballot Bandits," out as major motion non-fiction movie: "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Case of the Stolen Election," available on Amazon and Amazon Prime.

 ali akbar mugshot

Crooks and Liars, The National Bloggers Club And Their Super PAC Friends, Matt Osborne, Co-authored with Alex Brant-Zawadzki and Bill Schmalfeldt, Research assistance by Melissa Brewer, Sept. 12, 2012. Ali Akbar, now President of the National Bloggers Club, is one of the conservative blogosphere's most infamous characters. He began his campaign of notoriety with a crime spree in 2006, blazing a six-year trail of fraud. That's him up there, in the mug shots.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just screwed himself even worse than you think, Bill Palmer, Jan. 9, 2021. If Donald Trump had behaved during the transition period, he probably could have convinced the judge in his New York criminal trial to let him serve house arrest at Mar-a-Lago, perhaps even let him out on bail completely, while awaiting trial. But now that he’s a documented domestic terrorist threat, the odds of his pretrial incarceration just went up.

bill palmer report logo headerI’d like to thank Donald Trump for doing more to destroy Trumpism this week than I ever could have done on my own. I’d like believe i’ve certainly put a dent in Trump these past four years, but he just took a sledgehammer to his own cause.

Donald Trump’s subreddit has just been banned from Reddit. Do you know how badly you have to screw up in life to get banned from Reddit? YouTube has permanently banned Steve Bannon.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump just got kicked off Twitter for the THIRD time tonight, Bill Palmer, Jan. 8, 2021. Shortly after Donald Trump got permanently banned from Twitter tonight, he tried rogue tweeting from the @POTUS account, which is supposed to be for government use. That only lasted about thirty seconds before Twitter cracked down, deleting his rant. Now it’s happened again on another account.

bill palmer report logo headerTwitter has now permanently suspended Donald Trump’s official campaign Twitter account @TeamTrump after he and/or his handlers used it to post the same rant that Twitter had just removed from the @POTUS account. That’s right, Trump has now been kicked off Twitter for the third time tonight.

At this rate Donald Trump’s next move will be to create a new account called “Ronald Trump” and hope that Twitter doesn’t figure out it’s also him. Trump is the dumbest villain of all time, and he’s getting dumber as the night goes on.

washington post logoWashington Post, Voting machine firm Dominion sues pro-Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, seeking more than $1.3 billion in defamation claim, Emma Brown, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). Dominion Voting Systems on Friday filed a defamation lawsuit against lawyer Sidney Powell, demanding more than $1.3 billion in damages for havoc it says Powell has caused by spreading “wild” and “demonstrably false” allegations, including that Dominion played a central role in a fantastical scheme to steal the 2020 election from President Trump.

For weeks, Powell has claimed that Dominion was established with communist money in Venezuela to enable ballot-stuffing and other vote manipulation, and that those abilities were harnessed to rig the election for former vice president Joe Biden.

dominion voting systemsIn a 124-page complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Dominion said its reputation and resale value have been deeply damaged by a “viral disinformation campaign” that Powell mounted “to financially enrich herself, to raise her public profile, and to ingratiate herself to Donald Trump.” The defendants named in the lawsuit include Powell, her law firm and Defending the Republic, the organization she set up to solicit donations to support her election-related litigation.

In an interview, Dominion CEO John Poulos said the lawsuit aims to clear his company’s name through a full airing of the facts about the 2020 election.

lin wood gage skidmorePoulos said he would like the case to go to trial rather than settle. “We feel that it’s important for the entire electoral process,” he said. “The allegations, I know they were lobbed against us . . . but the impacts go so far beyond us.”

Powell did not immediately respond to a request for comment. L. Lin Wood, left, a lawyer who has worked alongside Powell on post-election lawsuits and who says he is representating her in connection to defamation matters, called the lawsuit an attempt “to censor speech or try to intimidate people from telling the truth.”

 

Deaths From Pro-Trump Riot

brian sicknick

ny times logoNew York Times, He Dreamed of Being a Police Officer, Then Was Killed by a Pro-Trump Mob, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Tracey Tully, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). The death of Brian Sicknick, above, a veteran and experienced officer, amplified the tragedy of the riots and undermined President Trump’s pro-police claims.

Brian Sicknick followed his Air National Guard unit to Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan and a military base in his home state of New Jersey, all in the hopes of one day wearing a police uniform. It was a wish fulfilled more than 10 years ago when he joined the police department tasked with protecting the U.S. Capitol.

Then on Wednesday, pro-Trump rioters attacked that citadel of democracy, overpowered Mr. Sicknick, 42, and struck him in the head with a fire extinguisher, according to two law enforcement officials. With a bloody gash in his head, Mr. Sicknick was rushed to the hospital and placed on life support. He died on Thursday evening.

“Brian is a hero,” his brother Ken Sicknick said. “That is what we would like people to remember.”

The death of Officer Sicknick amplified the nation’s grief in the wake of the shocking attack on the Capitol by rioters, inflamed by President Trump’s calls to stop Congress from counting electoral votes and officially declaring Joseph R. Biden Jr. the winner of November’s election. One of those rioters, Ashli Babbitt, also died in the melee, shot by a police officer as she tried to push her way into the heavily protected Speaker’s Lobby, just outside the House chamber.

In all, five have died since the riot began, though three of them were not killed by hostile action. But the beating of an officer brought waves of condolences from lawmakers in both parties still reeling from the event. It also exposed one of the many contradictions of the Trump presidency in his final weeks in the Oval Office. A president who campaigned as a “law and order” candidate, boasting about his relationships with police unions and demonizing those protesting racist policing, incited a riot that led to the death of a member of the law enforcement community.

“It’s a bunch of” nonsense, William J. Bratton, the former New York City police commissioner, said of Mr. Trump’s pledges to the police, though he used a stronger word. “It was a misappropriation of the term ‘law and order.’”

Justice Department officials said during a news conference on Friday that they were investigating the circumstances of Mr. Sicknick’s death, but would not say whether it was a federal murder investigation. One official said that “felony murder is always in play,” but that investigators needed to complete their work.

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. Capitol police officer dies after engaging rioters, Peter Hermann, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). Officer Brian D. Sicknick, below right, brian sicknickcollapsed after returning to his division office and was rushed to a hospital, where officials said he died Thursday night.

On Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ordered flags at the U.S. Capitol to be flown at half-staff.

“The violent and deadly act of insurrection targeting the Capitol, our temple of American Democracy, and its workers was a profound tragedy and stain on our nation’s history. But because of the heroism of our first responders and the determination of the Congress, we were not, and we will never be, diverted from our duty to the Constitution and the American people,” Pelosi said in a statement.

capitol ties

An as-yet unidentified rioter, center, heavily disguised, invades the U.S. Capitol as part of the pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" protest carrying plastic "ties," which are normally used by law enforcers to bind the wrists of suspects but which are used also by terrorists to subdue hostage victims.

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI focuses on whether some rioters intended to harm lawmakers or take hostages, Devlin Barrett, Spencer S. Hsu and Matt Zapotosky, Jan. 9, 2021 (print ed.). FBI agents are trying to determine whether some who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday intended to do more than cause havoc and disrupt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, and they are sifting through evidence to see whether anyone wanted to kill or capture lawmakers or their staffers, according to people familiar with the investigation.

Dozens have been arrested, and Friday, officials announced charges against an Arkansas man photographed in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office chair with a foot on her desk. But investigators also are working to determine the motivations and larger goals, if any, of those who had weapons or other gear suggesting they planned to do physical harm.

FBI logoSome rioters, for instance, were photographed carrying zip ties, a plastic version of handcuffs, and one man was arrested allegedly carrying a pistol on the Capitol grounds.

“We’re not looking at this as a grand conspiracy, but we are interested in learning what people would do with things like zip ties,” said a law enforcement official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the investigation.

No photos or videos that have surfaced so far suggest any of the individuals with zip ties tried to take hostages. One possibility being pursued by investigators is that some who burst into the building may be current or former law enforcement officers, or current and former military personnel, people familiar with the investigation said.

Some who participated in the larger pro-Trump protest this week do work in law enforcement.

Chris West, the sheriff of Canadian County in Oklahoma, for example, held a news conference Friday to dispute that he was the person pictured on social media who claimed he was inside the Capitol, according to a Fox affiliate there. West told reporters that though he did come to rally in D.C. as an “individual” and Trump supporter, he never set foot in the Capitol building and thought he was walking from Liberty Square in the direction of the Capitol when the violence began.

A sheriff in Bexar County, Tex., meanwhile, told reporters that one of his lieutenants ­— Roxanne Mathai ­— was under investigation after her Facebook posts appeared to show she was at the Capitol, according to a local ABC station. Mathai has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

rnc logoMany of the initial charges have been for unlawful entry, but authorities also found suspected pipe bombs outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, and they arrested the owner of a truck they said was spotted nearby with 11 molotov cocktails inside. The FBI is still searching for the person who left the suspected pipe bombs.

Adding to the investigation’s urgency, Twitter on Friday noted that plans for future armed protests have begun circulating online, including a proposed second attack on the U.S. Capitol and assaults on state government buildings Jan. 17.

Officials cautioned that there may be a variety of motives among those who broke into Congress, and they said that a key part of their investigation is determining whether any individuals or groups had planned in advance or were coordinating in the moment to commit violence against individual politicians. Others may simply have been caught up in the moment and committed rash, unplanned crimes, officials said.

Jan. 7

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden to nominate Merrick Garland, Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee, for attorney general, Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett and Ann E. Marimow, Jan. 7, 2021 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Merrick B. Garland, a Democratic casualty of the bitter partisan divide in Washington over court nominees, to become the next attorney general, according to people familiar with the decision.

merrick garlandGarland, 68, right, serves as a judge on the federal appeals court in the District. He is best known for being nominated to the Supreme Court in 2016 by President Barack Obama — a nomination that went nowhere because Senate Republicans refused to give him a hearing. The opening on the high court was eventually filled the following year by President Trump’s choice, Neil M. Gorsuch.

Biden’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The intended nomination was first reported Wednesday by Politico.

Who Joe Biden is picking to fill his White House and Cabinet

Justice Department log circularMany Democrats still think of Garland as a living example of Republican double-standards when it comes to the courts and the law, though some Biden advisers have come to view him as well-suited to restore norms of nonpolitical decision-making at the Justice Department, given his track record as a judge and a former senior official at the department, according to people familiar with the decision.

To some in Biden’s circle, Garland seems like the best choice to restore the Justice Department’s credibility, which eroded under Trump. He enjoys a reputation as a unifying, moderating force on the appeals court, and some Democratic advisers said they view his selection as a signal to congressional Republicans that the department will operate in an evenhanded fashion in the Biden administration.

Karen L. Dunn, a former prosecutor who once clerked for Garland, called him “the perfect choice for this job. He will restore independence and integrity to the Justice Department, be the people’s lawyer, not the president’s lawyer, and will come in with the respect of the career public servant who advance the cause of justice every day.”

kristen clarkeLawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Kristen Clarke’s Nomination as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Staff report, Jan. 7, 2021. President-elect Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Kristen Clarke, right, the president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law to be the nation’s nineteenth Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice enforces the nation’s civil rights laws while ensuring equal justice under law for all Americans. The President-elect will announce the appointment, along with the appointment of his choice for Attorney General at an event in Delaware later today.

Clarke’s career and leadership have proved that she is committed to seeking truth and justice for all Americans through our system of laws. She formerly served as the head of the Civil Rights Bureau for the New York State Attorney General’s Office, spent several years at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and worked at the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

Jan. 2

julian assange stella morris son gabriel righ max belmarsh prison irish examiner com

Stella Moris and son Gabriel, right, and Max leave Belmarsh prison after visiting her partner and their father, Julian Assange. His two children could lose their father for the rest of their lives [Source: irishexaminer.com].

Covert Action Magazine, Opinion: Upcoming Ruling in Assange Trial Threatens More Than Just Freedom of the Press, Steve Brown, Jan. 2, 2021. Although important legal principles are at stake in the extradition trial of Julian Assange, below right in a file photo, for which a ruling will be handed down on January 4, it should not be forgotten that there are important human issues at stake as well.

One such issue is Assange’s health, which has progressively worsened under what seems to be cruel and even sadistic maltreatment by the British government, including the refusal of appropriate medical care and confining him in his cell for 23 hours a day, seven days a week.

The other is that, if the Judge’s ruling is adverse, Julian’s two children may never see their father again.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomMany stories have been written about the legal issues in Julian’s case, and the chilling effect that his extradition to the U.S.  — where he will almost certainly be imprisoned for life — would have on journalists around the world who seek to expose the lies and crimes committed by their own governments.

Most of those stories present Julian, primarily, as a symbol, a hero to his principles, and an ominous example in how far tyrannical governments and corrupt politicians will go to keep their citizens ignorant and submissive.

But Julian is more than a symbol. He is also a father, a husband-to-be (even if he may have to be married in prison) and, most importantly, a human being —o ne who, as the world watches in horror and shame, is being subjected to calculated assaults on his physical and mental health in hopes that he will quickly die and spare the British and American governments the embarrassment of having to deal with him.

For nearly three years Assange and his partner, Stella Moris, had successfully kept their personal relationship and the existence of their two children a secret. Moris only revealed it (on April 11) because “Julian’s poor physical health puts him at serious risk, like many other vulnerable people, and I don’t believe he will survive infection with coronavirus” — which had been spreading rapidly through the British prison system, especially at Belmarsh, the high security prison in which Assange is being held.

 

December

Dec. 31 michael flynn djt

President Trump pardoned former National Security Advisor and 2016 campaign advisor Michael Flynn, left, this fall from multiple felonies after Flynn pleaded guilty.

Howe on the Court via SCOTUSblog, Analysis: The Supreme Court and the president’s pardon power, Amy Howe, below right, Dec. 31, 2020. The Constitution gives the amy howepresident the power “to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of impeachment.”

In the days before Christmas, President Donald Trump used this power to pardon or commute the sentences of over 40 people, including Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager; Charles Kushner, the father of Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner; Roger Stone, who was convicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller of obstruction of justice and other crimes; and four men who were convicted of killing Iraqi civilians while working as contractors for the private security firm Blackwater.

With just under three weeks remaining in Trump’s term, there could be more pardons on the horizon – and Trump has asserted that he has the “absolute right” to pardon himself.

The Supreme Court has made clear that, subject to the exception for impeachment, the president’s power to grant pardons is “unlimited,” with virtually no oversight or limiting role for Congress. In Ex parte Garland, which involved President Andrew Johnson’s pardon of a lawyer who had served in the legislature of the Confederacy, the court indicated that the president’s pardon power covers all federal offenses. The president can issue a pardon at any point after a crime is committed and before, during or after criminal proceedings have taken place.

The president cannot, however, pardon someone for future crimes. A pardon covers both the offender’s guilt for the crime and the sentence for that crime. When there is a full pardon, the Supreme Court has explained, it is as if the defendant never committed the crime.

SCOTUSblog, The lives they lived and the court they shaped: Remembering those we lost in 2020, James Romoser, Dec. 31, 2020. The lead plaintiffs in three landmark civil rights cases. A government lawyer who argued at the Supreme Court more than anyone else in the 20th century. A chief justice’s right-hand man. A trailblazing feminist who became a transformative justice.

These were among the people we lost in a year that was so defined by death. As the year comes to a close, SCOTUSblog looks back at some of the individuals who died in 2020 after living lives that brought them – at different times and for different reasons – to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Some worked behind the scenes. A few attained modest fame. One became “notorious.” All left an imprint on the court or the law.

  • Bruce Carver Boynton
  • ruth bader ginsburg scotusMark Cannon
  • Bernard Sol Cohen
  • Drew Saunders Days III
  • Ruth Bader Ginsburg, right
  • Timothy Andrew O’Brien
  • Aimee Stephens
  • Alexander Louis Stevas
  • Darius Leander Swann
  • Lawrence Gerald Wallace
  • Ralph Karl Winter, Jr.

Howe on the Court via SCOTUSblog, Analysis: In year-end report, Roberts praises “unsung heroes” of the pandemic, Amy Howe, right, Dec. 31, 2020. Chief amy howeJustice John Roberts issued his annual year-end report on Thursday, and the theme – perhaps unsurprisingly – was the coronavirus pandemic. Roberts paid tribute to everyone in the federal court system and the federal government who allowed the courts to carry out their work safely, but he singled out what he called the “‘first to fight’ in the judicial family – the trial courts and their staff.”

Roberts began his report, as he often does, with a historical reference: the outbreak of influenza that the first chief justice, John Jay, encountered when he traveled to New York to hear cases in the lower courts. (In a trademark display of Roberts’ wry humor, he noted that two justices who skipped the Supreme Court’s first session received a more distant assignment, requiring 1,800 miles of travel – “providing,” he wrote, “yet another lesson in what happens when you miss a meeting.”)

john roberts oRoberts, left, discussed the Supreme Court’s response to the pandemic only briefly, noting that the court held “oral argument by teleconference for the first time” and managed “to stay current in our work.” The federal courts of appeals, Roberts continued, “have responded with similar considered flexibility,” as have the state courts, “who are responsible for the vast bulk of judicial proceedings.”

But it was the federal trial courts that “faced the greatest challenge,” Roberts emphasized, and – in his view – they responded. Roberts cited the example of bankruptcy courts, with their often-complicated cases that “can involve 100 participating attorneys.” “Much of their work is not glamorous,” Roberts wrote, “but it is essential, and it got done.” Jury trials have resumed, Roberts noted, after modifications to courtrooms to make them safer for everyone involved. Roberts was pleased that members of the public continue to report for jury duty despite the pandemic.

Roberts lauded the judicial branch’s creativity in responding to other aspects of the pandemic – holding, for example, drive-through and outdoor naturalization ceremonies.

Roberts concluded by making clear that he did not want “to minimize the hardships and suffering caused by the pandemic. Like others throughout the country, judiciary employees have contended with illness and loss. My thoughts,” Roberts said, “are with them.”

Roberts’ message made no mention of the other topic that has dominated the headlines in 2020: the presidential election. Although Roberts is a lifelong Republican, both he and the court have been frequent targets of President Donald Trump’s ire. Roberts began 2020 presiding over Trump’s impeachment trial, and he ended the year being vilified on Twitter by Trump allies hurling wild attacks. Even if Roberts didn’t say so, he is no doubt looking forward to a new and quieter year.

 joe biden

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: My Joe Biden Story, Linda Greenhouse, right, Dec. 31, 2020 (print ed.). In a career as a journalist, I had never encountered a linda greenhouse thumb Custompolitician like him.

As Ben Smith, the media columnist for The Times, suggested a few weeks ago, pretty much every journalist who passed through Washington, D.C., during the past half century knows President-elect Joe Biden and has a story to tell. I’d like to end this strange year, and welcome the new one and the new president, by telling mine.

I met then-Senator Biden in the mid-1980s, when he was a member of the Judiciary Committee and I was covering the occasional judicial confirmation. By 1987, he was chairman of the committee, after the Democrats retook the Senate in the 1986 midterms. That summer, President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.

Dec. 29

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Will Pence Do the Right Thing? Neal K. Katyal, right, and John Monsky, Dec. 29, 2020. On Jan. 6, neal katyal othe vice president will preside as Congress counts the Electoral College’s votes. Let’s hope that he doesn’t do the unthinkable — and unconstitutional.

President Trump recently tweeted that “the ‘Justice’ Department and FBI have done nothing about the 2020 Presidential Election Voter Fraud,” followed by these more ominous lines: “Never give up. See everyone in D.C. on January 6th.”

The unmistakable reference is to the day Congress will count the Electoral College’s votes, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding. Mr. Trump is leaning on the vice president and congressional allies to invalidate the mike pence leftNovember election by throwing out duly certified votes for Joe Biden.

Mr. Pence, shown in a file photo thus far has not said he would do anything like that, but his language is worrisome. Last week, he said: “We’re going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted. We’re going to win Georgia, we’re going to save America,” as a crowd screamed, “Stop the steal.”

And some Republicans won’t let up. On Monday, Representative Louie Gohmert of Texas and other politicians filed a frivolous lawsuit, which has multiple fatal flaws in both form and substance, in an attempt to force the vice president to appoint pro-Trump electors.

Mr. Katyal, a law professor at Georgetown, is a former acting solicitor general of the United States. Mr. Monsky is the creator of the American History Unbound Series of multimedia productions that covers watershed moments in American history and a board member of the New-York Historical Society.

Dec. 28

ny times logoNew York Times, A Cheerleader’s Vulgar Message Prompts a First Amendment Showdown, Adam Liptak, right, Dec. 28, 2020. A Pennsylvania school district adam liptakhas asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether students may be disciplined for what they say on social media. The Supreme Court next month will consider whether to hear the case of Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., involving a student’s freedom of speech while off school grounds.

It was a Saturday in the spring of 2017, and a ninth-grade student in Pennsylvania was having a bad day. She had just learned that she had failed to make the varsity cheerleading squad and would remain on junior varsity.

The student expressed her frustration on social media, sending a message on Snapchat to about 250 friends. The message included an image of the student and a friend with their middle fingers raised, along with text expressing a similar sentiment. Using a curse word four times, the student expressed her dissatisfaction with “school,” “softball,” “cheer” and “everything.”

Though Snapchat messages are ephemeral by design, another student took a screenshot of this one and showed it to her mother, a coach. The school suspended the student from cheerleading for a year, saying the punishment was needed to “avoid chaos” and maintain a “teamlike environment.”

The student sued the school district, winning a sweeping victory in the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia. The court said the First Amendment did not allow public schools to punish students for speech outside school grounds.

Next month, at its first private conference after the holiday break, the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear the case, Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., No. 20-255. The Third Circuit’s ruling is in tension with decisions from several other courts, and such splits often invite Supreme Court review.

In urging the justices to hear the case, the school district said administrators around the nation needed a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court on their power to discipline students for what they say away from school. “The question presented recurs constantly and has become even more urgent as Covid-19 has forced schools to operate online,” a brief for the school district said. “Only this court can resolve this threshold First Amendment question bedeviling the nation’s nearly 100,000 public schools.”

Justin Driver, a law professor at Yale and the author of The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court and the Battle for the American Mind” agreed with the school district, to a point.

“It is difficult to exaggerate the stakes of this constitutional question,” he said. But he added that schools had no business telling students what they could say when they were not in school.

“In the modern era, a tremendous percentage of minors’ speech occurs off campus but online,” he said. “Judicial decisions that permit schools to regulate off-campus speech that criticizes public schools are antithetical to the First Amendment. Such decisions empower schools to reach into any student’s home and declare critical statements verboten, something that should deeply alarm all Americans.”

The key precedent is from a different era. In 1969, in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, the Supreme Court allowed students to wear black armbands to protest the Vietnam War but said disruptive speech, at least on school grounds, could be punished.

Dec. 27

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump’s criminal culpability, Robert Harrington, Dec. 27, 2020. In all of Donald Trump’s pardons and commutations to date, sixty of the sixty-five have a personal connection. While the Constitution places no barrier on pardons or commutations and no standard by which they must adhere, it is nevertheless so very, er, Trumpian — for lack of a better word — that most of Donald Trump’s pardons and commutations could be construed as having a corrupt purpose. Cory Booker puts it even more plainly in his recent tweet: “A pardon is supposed to be an instrument of justice — not a tool of corruption.”

bill palmer report logo headerIn a recent interview with CBS, former fixer and hatchet man for Donald Trump Michael Cohen — who is currently serving an in-home three year sentence for fraud and lying to Congress during the Russia probe — gave his opinion about Trump’s perceived abuse of the presidential pardon. Cohen also used the opportunity to plug his book, “Disloyal,” which became a New York Times bestseller, and to plug his upcoming book which will, no doubt, also be a bestseller.

The difference between what Cohen has to say and what Trump has to say boils down to — what else? — evidence. Cohen’s testimony in court and his final mea culpa before Congress has been backed by impressive mountains of evidence.

The bottom line, as far as Cohen is concerned, is that Trump is going to face a mountain of legal issues once he leaves office, because “I have been questioned by the attorney general’s team on many occasions now as well as the District Attorney’s office … I know what it is they’re looking for.” That they will be prosecuting Donald Trump Cohen has no doubt.

Cohen cannot get into details because “it’s an ongoing investigation,” but, “it has to do with his finances, it has to do with his tax returns, it has to do with his properties, it has to do with the financial personal statements that he provided in order to obtain loans.” So if Cohen is right, Donald Trump is in significant civil and criminal jeopardy.

Cohen also thinks Trump is on the order of a billion dollars in debt. Trump, of course, calls Cohen a liar, and that is one of his more polite adjectives used by the one-term lame duck president. “The fact that Donald Trump calls me a liar,” Cohen avers, “should automatically mean that I’m telling the truth.”

Dec. 26

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump goes off the deep end in a haze of delusional desperation, Bill Palmer, Dec. 26, 2020. Just how poorly are things going President Donald Trump officialfor Donald Trump? He’s spent the day accusing the Supreme Court, the FBI, the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney John Durham, and Republican Senators of conspiring to hide the fact that he secretly won the 2020 election. Translation: he knows it’s all over for him.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump also made up a fake story today about an imaginary person who told him that elections in Afghanistan are better run than the 2020 U.S. election was. In response to this idiocy, “Move to Afghanistan” is now trending on Twitter. No one outside his shrinking lunatic base wants Trump here anymore. Then again, it’s doubtful that Afghanistan would want him either.

As Donald Trump’s delusional desperation grows more absurd, his most ardent remaining supporters are heading down that same path. Earlier today they tried to convince themselves on social media that House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has secretly been arrested. This obviously didn’t happen. Trump and his supporters have always made up nonsense, but now that he’s lost and their movement is at a dead end, that nonsense is becoming more clinically insane.

ny times logoNew York Times, Behind Trump Clemency, a Case Study in Special Access, Kenneth P. Vogel, Eric Lipton and Jesse Drucker, Dec. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Philip Esformes was sentenced to 20 years for Medicare fraud. Then a well-connected organization supported by his family weighed in with the White House.

philip esformesPhilip Esformes, left, acquired a $1.6 million Ferrari and a $360,000 Swiss watch and traveled around the United States on a private jet, a spending spree fueled by the spoils from what federal prosecutors called one of the largest Medicare fraud cases in history.

“Philip Esformes is a man driven by almost unbounded greed,” Denise M. Stemen, an agent in the F.B.I.’s Miami field office, said last year after Mr. Esformes, 52, a nursing home operator, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the two-decade scheme that involved an estimated $1.3 billion worth of fraudulent claims.

djt smiling fileThat prison term ended suddenly this week, when President Trump commuted what remained of Mr. Esformes’s sentence.

His rapid path to clemency is a case study in how criminals with the right connections and resources have been able to cut through normal channels and gain the opportunity to make their case straight to the Trump White House.

Background: South Florida Business Journal, South Florida man sentenced to 20 years in $1B Medicare fraud, Ashley Portero, Sept. 13, 2019. Former health care executive Philip Esformes was sentenced to 20 years in prison Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

philip esformesThe Miami Beach resident, right, was convicted on 20 criminal charges, including bribery and money laundering, in connection to what's been described as the largest Medicare fraud scheme in U.S. history.

“Esformes will now spend years in prison for orchestrating a kick-back and money laundering scheme that defrauded America’s health care system out of millions of dollars,” said Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

HHS logoEsformes was accused of billing Medicare and Medicaid programs for more than $1 billion in fraudulent services from 1998 to 2016. In April, a federal jury found him guilty of paying kickbacks to doctors and administrators and one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States.

FBI logoEsformes operated a network of skilled nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Florida, including Adar Associates, Eden Gardens LLC, Lauderhill Manor LLC, Flamingo Park Manor LLC and La Serena Retirement. The nursing homes admitted many Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, even if they did not qualify for those placements.

Once patients were admitted, the facilities billed the government health care programs for unnecessary treatments and services, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors claimed Esformes concealed inadequate care and conditions at the facilities by bribing an employee of a Florida state regulator. In return, he received advanced notice of surprise inspections to the facilities in his network (Emphasis added).

He personally received more than $37 million during the course of the fraud, according to court documents. Prosecutors said he spent some of the illegal proceeds on luxury cars, expensive clothes and watches, and on a bribe to a basketball coach at the University of Pennsylvania.

Odette Barcha, a hospital administrator, and Arnaldo Carmouze, a former physician assistant, previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme. In April, Carmouze was sentenced to 80 months in prison and ordered to pay $12,590,761 in restitution (Emphasis added). Barcha was sentenced to three to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay $704,516 in restitution.

Dec. 25

michael flynn djt

Former general and Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, shown above in a file photo separate from Trump's, has called for a military coup to maintain the presidency of Trump, who has pardoned Flynn from federal crimes stemming from lying at Flynn's contacts with Russians before taking office in January 2017. Flynn's attorney Sydney Powell, invited to the White House three times in recent days to meet with Trump, has been working on courtroom, political and media strategies to disallow voting results in multiple swing states to keep Trump in office.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Sidney Powell’s secret intelligence contractor witness is a pro-Trump podcaster, Jon Swaine, Dec. 25, 2020 (print ed.). As she asked the U.S. Supreme Court this month to overturn President Trump’s election loss, the attorney Sidney Powell cited testimony from a secret witness presented as a former intelligence contractor with insights on a foreign conspiracy to subvert democracy.

sidney powellPowell, right, told courts that the witness is an expert who could show that overseas corporations helped shift votes to President-elect Joe Biden. The witness’s identity must be concealed from the public, Powell has said, to protect her “reputation, professional career and personal safety.”

The Washington Post identified the witness by determining that portions of her affidavit match, sometimes verbatim, a blog post that the pro-Trump podcaster Terpsichore Maras-Lindeman published in November 2019. In an interview, Maras-Lindeman confirmed that she wrote the affidavit and said she viewed it as her contribution to a fight against the theft of the election.

“This is everybody’s duty,” she said. “It’s just not fair.”

terpsichore maras lindemanIn a recent civil fraud case, attorneys for the state of North Dakota said that Maras-Lindeman, shown in a screenshot at left, falsely claimed to be a medical doctor and to have both a Ph.D. and an MBA. They said she used multiple aliases and social security numbers and created exaggerated online résumés as part of what they called “a persistent effort . . . to deceive others.”

Powell’s reliance on Maras-Lindeman’s testimony may raise further questions about her judgment and the strength of her arguments at a time when she is becoming an increasingly influential adviser to the president.

Trump’s legal team distanced itself from Powell last month after she falsely claimed Republican state officials took bribes to rig the election. But she has visited the White House three times in the past week, once to participate in an Oval Office meeting. Trump has weighed naming Powell a special counsel to investigate the election, according to previous reports.

Maras-Lindeman, 42, served in the Navy for less than a year more than two decades ago and has said she worked later as a government contractor and part-time interpreter. She has identified herself as a “trained cryptolinguist.”

North Dakota’s assertions about her credentials came in a civil case brought by the state’s attorney general in 2018 over a purported charitable event she tried to organize in Minot, N.D., where she and her family resided. Attorneys for the state said she used money she collected — ostensibly to fund homeless shelters and wreaths for veterans’ graves — on purchases for herself at McDonald’s, QVC and elsewhere.

A judge ultimately found that Maras-Lindeman violated consumer protection laws by, among other things, misspending money she raised and soliciting donations while misrepresenting her experience and education. He ordered her to pay more than $25,000.

Maras-Lindeman has appealed to the state Supreme Court. In court filings and in her interview with The Post, she denied mishandling the funds or misleading donors. She blamed identity theft and bureaucratic failings for a proliferation of variations on her name and social security numbers associated with her.

Dec. 22

william barr doj announcement Custom

ny times logoNew York Times, Barr Sees ‘No Reason’ for Special Counsels for Hunter Biden or the Election, Katie Benner, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The outgoing attorney general, William Barr, again broke with President Trump on his unsupported claims of widespread election fraud and the need to appoint a special counsel to investigate the president-elect’s son.

Attorney General William P. Barr, shown above in a file photo, said Monday that he saw no reason to appoint special counsels to oversee the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into Hunter Biden, son of President-elect Joseph R. Biden, Jr., or to investigate President Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud, again undercutting Mr. Trump’s efforts to bend the department to his political will and to overturn the results of the election.

President Donald Trump officialAt a news conference to announce charges in an unrelated terrorism case, Mr. Barr said that he did not “see any reason to appoint a special counsel” to oversee the ongoing investigation into the younger Mr. Biden.

“I have no plan to do so before I leave,” Mr. Barr said. ”To the extent that there is an investigation, I think that it’s being handled responsibly and professionally.”

He also said that he would name a special counsel to oversee an inquiry into election fraud if he felt one was warranted. “But I haven’t and I’m not going to,” Mr. Barr said. He added that he saw “no basis” for the federal government to seize voting machines.

Mr. Barr’s comments are sure to further poison his relationship with Mr. Trump, who has expressed rage that Mr. Barr has not done more to help him overturn the results of the November election.

Mr. Barr has long been regarded as Mr. Trump’s most loyal and effective cabinet member, who on several occasions made decisions that directly benefited Mr. Trump and his allies. But his relationship with the president fractured in the wake of the election after he publicly said that he had not seen enough voter fraud to change the election’s outcome and it became clear that he had kept the ongoing investigation in Mr. Biden’s son under wraps.

tommy tuberville doug jonesIncoming Republican U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, left, is shown with the incumbent Alabama Democrat whom he defeated, Doug Jones.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s final hope rests with Tommy Tuberville. Sad! Dana Milbank, right, Dec. 22, 2020 (print ed.). dana milbank CustomPresident-unelect Trump has studied every play in the Coups-for-Dummies playbook: court challenges, pressure on Republican officials to overturn the election, even a half-baked plan for martial law from pardoned convict Michael Flynn. But no luck.

Now, Trump’s final hope rests with Tommy Tuberville.

This is like finding out your death-row appeal will be argued by Sidney Powell.

Tuberville — or “Tubs,” from his college football coaching days — is the Republican senator-elect from Alabama, and he’s proposing to object to the election results in the Senate on Jan. 6. Trump exulted: “Great senator.”

Problem is, Tubs, if he were a Democrat, is what Trump might call a “low-IQ individual.” In their wisdom, the voters of Alabama chose to replace Democrat Doug Jones, who prosecuted the Birmingham church bombing, with a man who recently announced his discovery that there are “three branches of government,” namely, “the House, the Senate and the executive.”

Tuberville was baffled by the vote counting after Election Day (“The referees are suddenly adding touchdowns to the other team’s side of the scoreboard”), and last week said he plans a Senate challenge to the electoral college tally.

Dec. 21

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr sides with Mike Pompeo against Donald Trump as everything falls apart, Bill Palmer, Dec. 21, 2020. There is no longer any plan, strategy, or scheme that will magically save Donald Trump from being booted out of office in thirty days. He can’t accept that, because once he’s out of office, he’ll be on a path to prison, bankruptcy, and the end of his life as he knows it.

There’s a reason why Trump is now reduced to listening to the delusional fantasies of his crackpot election lawyers: they’re the only people still floating any scenarios for magically saving him. Trump’s “adult” henchmen already know it’s over, and are now trying to cover their own backsides.

bill palmer report logo headerAttorney General Bill Barr is publicly admitting that Trump lost the election fair and square. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is publicly admitting that it was indeed Russia who hacked U.S. government agencies. Barr has lost his job over it, and Pompeo might be about to. But now Barr is publicly siding with Pompeo on the Russia thing, contradicting Trump’s assertion that the hack was either overblown, or fake, or somehow done by China.

It’s clear that henchmen like Barr and Pompeo are trying to rehabilitate their images now that Trump is taking a fall. After all, the DOJ could easily charge them both with felonies for the criminal antics they carried out while in office. The best way to beat those charges is to establish the narrative now that they couldn’t have been willing Trump henchmen, since they stood up to him in the end.

Barr and Pompeo shouldn’t be let off the hook at all. They each belong in prison; Barr for numerous instances of felony obstruction of justice and Pompeo for his criminal antics in the Ukraine scandal. But for now, the point is that some of Trump’s biggest henchmen are already selfishly turning against him. They know Trump is finished.

Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jennar Ellis allege election fraud to Republican legislators this month in a performance widely ridiculed because of lack of evidence persuasive to courts and Giuliani's flatulence (heard shortly before this screenshot).

Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jennar Ellis allege election fraud to Republican legislators this month in a performance widely ridiculed because of lack of evidence persuasive to courts and Giuliani's flatulence (heard shortly before this screenshot).

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: How Trump drove the lie that the election was stolen, undermining voter trust in the outcome, Amy Gardner, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). Flanked by pro-Trump media outfits and an assortment of state lawmakers and lawyers who gave oxygen to debunked allegations, the president persuaded millions of Americans that the vote was rigged.

Mediaite, Rudy Giuliani Disavows Sidney Powell’s Role in Trump Legal Fight — After Her Third Oval Office Visit in Four Days, Reed Richardson, Dec 21, 2020. Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and quixotic leader of the campaign to overturn the 2020 election, Rudy Giuliani, labored to distance the president from fellow legal conspiracist Sidney Powell, even though she has visited the White House in three of the last four days.

During an appearance on Newsmax’s Spicer & Co, Giuliani insisted that Powell was acting independently and was not associated with his official efforts on behalf of Trump, despite those visits.

Giuliani’s reference to “special counsel” came after news reports that, during Powell’s Friday Oval Office audience with the president, he reportedly floated the idea of naming Powell as special counsel to investigate election fraud — a move that it should be pointed out is beyond Trump’s authority, since, by regulation, only the attorney general can appoint a special counsel.

However, just moments later, Giuliani appeared to subtly cast aspersions on Powell’s legal strategy. “We’re going to be extremely aggressive, we’re going to fight for our client as hard as we can,” he added. “But we’re also going to do in within the bounds of rationality, common sense, and the law. And it can be done. There’s no reason to go beyond anything.”

This isn’t the first time Giuliani has ruled out Powell having an official role in the legal fight, as he claimed the pair were “pursuing two different theories” just before Thanksgiving. Still, Giuliani’s disavowal rings hollow, since Powell continues to have the president’s ear and, just days before his earlier disavowal, Giuliani and Powell held a surreal, joint press conference where he stood beside her as she pushed delusional election conspiracies involving George Soros, Hugo Chavez, the Clintons, and Antifa, among others.

djt looking up

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump is leaving behind crises and undermining Biden before he takes office, Toluse Olorunnipa, Josh Dawsey and Anne Gearan, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). In a situation without precedent in U.S. history, one president is ending his term amid a global emergency while seeking to delegitimize a successor — and floating the prospect of mounting a four-year campaign to return to power. 

Biden’s incoming administration has long described a “perfect storm” of four crises facing the country — the pandemic, economic distress, climate change and racial justice. It suddenly has another to add: a historic cyber intrusion into government networks that likely began months ago and could reverberate for months to come.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: The ‘Red Slime’ Lawsuit That Could Sink Right-Wing Media, Ben Smith, Updated Dec. 21, 2020. Last week, a lawyer for Antonio Mugica sent scathing letters to Fox, Newsmax and OAN demanding that they immediately, forcefully clear his company’s name. Voting machine companies threaten “highly dangerous” cases against Fox, Newsmax and OAN, says Floyd Abrams.

antonio mugicaAntonio Mugica, left, was in Boca Raton when an American presidential election really melted down in 2000, and he watched with shocked fascination as local government officials argued over hanging chads and butterfly ballots.

It was so bad, so incompetent, that Mr. Mugica, a young Venezuelan software engineer, decided to shift the focus of his digital security company, Smartmatic, which had been working for banks. It would offer its services to what would obviously be a growth smartmaticindustry: electronic voting machines. He began building a global company that ultimately provided voting machinery and software for elections from Brazil to Belgium and his native Venezuela. He even acquired an American company, then called Sequoia.

Last month, Mr. Mugica initially took it in stride when his company’s name started popping up in grief-addled Trump supporters’ wild conspiracy theories about the election.

“Of course I was surprised, but at the same time, it was pretty clear that these people were trying to discredit the election and they were throwing out 25 conspiracy theories in parallel,” he told me in an interview last dominion voting systemsweek from Barbados, where his company has an office. “I thought it was so absurd that it was not going to have legs.”

rudy giuliani recentBut by Nov. 14, he knew he had a problem. That’s when Rudy Giuliani, right, serving as the president’s lawyer, suggested that one voting company, Dominion Voting Systems, had a sinister connection to vote counts in “Michigan, Arizona and Georgia and other states.” Mr. Giuliani declared on Twitter that the company “was a front for SMARTMATIC, who was really doing the computing. Look up SMARTMATIC and tweet me what you think?”

Soon his company, and a competitor, Dominion — which sells its services to about 1,900 of the county governments that administer elections across America — were at the center of Mr. Giuliani’s and Sidney Powell’s theories, and on the tongues of commentators on Fox News and its farther-right rivals, Newsmax and One America News.

Here’s the thing: Smartmatic wasn’t even used in the contested states. The company, now a major global player with over 300 employees, pulled out of the United States in 2007 after a controversy over its founders’ Venezuelan roots, and its only involvement this November was with a contract to help Los Angeles County run its election.

In an era of brazen political lies, Mr. Mugica has emerged as an unlikely figure with the power to put the genie back in the bottle.

djt maga hatLast week, his lawyer sent scathing letters to the Fox News Channel, Newsmax and OAN demanding that they immediately, forcefully clear his company’s name — and that they retain documents for a planned defamation lawsuit.

He has, legal experts say, an unusually strong case. And his new lawyer is J. Erik Connolly, who not coincidentally won the largest settlement in the history of American media defamation in 2017, at least $177 million, for a beef producer whose “lean finely textured beef” was described by ABC News as “pink slime.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: There is no middle ground between fact and fiction on the election results, Editorial Board, Dec. 21, 2020 (print ed.). As President Trump continues to lie about last month’s election, national Republican leaders are trying to stake out what they imagine as a middle ground: While Joe Biden is the president-elect, the 2020 election was marred by substantial fraud and election irregularities. In fact, this is also a lie, and their dishonesty damages U.S. democracy.

ron johnson oAt a Wednesday Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), right, declared that it is “not sustainable” for a large proportion of Americans to believe the election results are illegitimate. He then set about encouraging this false belief by dignifying debunked attacks on the vote’s integrity. Mr. Johnson insisted that pro-Trump forces have raised “legitimate concerns” about “violations of election laws,” “fraudulent votes and ballot stuffing,” and “corruption of voting machines and software that might be programmed to add or switch votes.”

Republicans are inaugurating a new, dangerous era in which political parties may refuse to acknowledge election results merely because they dislike the choices voters made. The damage is twofold: Dignifying fake claims of widespread election irregularities shreds confidence in democracy, destabilizing the nation’s politics and encouraging potentially violent resistance to duly elected leaders.

Meanwhile, GOP state lawmakers in swing states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania have responded to Republican outrage about Mr. Trump’s loss by promising major voting overhauls. This would fit into Republicans’ longer-term efforts to impose restrictions on casting ballots that depress voter participation yet provide little improvement in election integrity.

Sidney Powell, right, and Jenna Ellis

Trump attorneys Jenna Ellis, left, and Sidney Powell conduct a press conference with Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani before Trump fired Powell.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Donald Trump checks out, Bill Palmer, right, Dec. 21, 2020. Donald Trump’s election lawyers Sidney Powell and Lin Wood have spent this bill palmerevening using social media to rather viciously attack Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, accusing them of being part of some kind of ill-defined conspiracy against Trump.

Presumably, this is because Meadows dared to tell Trump that Powell’s lunatic plans to magically overturn the election were literally impossible, and that Pompeo dared to publicly admit that it was Russia who hacked U.S. government agencies. But the specific reasoning behind the scuffle is less important than the fact that it’s happening at all, and what it tells us about Donald Trump himself.

bill palmer report logo headerPowell, Wood, Meadows, and Pompeo are all fully complicit in Trump’s overall corrupt agenda. They’re all his henchmen. If Trump were still in the game, he’d be giving them marching orders, telling them what to do, and getting them all on the same page – his page.

Instead, Trump’s henchmen are all eating each other alive, even as Trump says and does little. This is a clear sign that he’s checked out mentally, and his henchmen are each left to their own devices and trying to fill the resulting power vacuum with their own personal agendas.

Best anyone can tell, Trump likes to hear from his lunatic lawyers because their magical imaginary solutions make him feel good – but then he also likes it when his more stable henchmen explain why none of it’s real, because that gives him an excuse not to have to take action.

Donald Trump is in that place where he’s scared of his own shadow, knows he’s one false move from finished, also knows that he’s doomed if he doesn’t do anything, and just wants to be told that it’s all going to be magically okay. In other words, he’s checked out entirely.

Dec. 17

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: John Roberts’s self-defeating attempt to make the court appear nonpolitical, Varad Mehta and Adrian Vermeule, Dec. 17, 2020).  If Roberts’s apostasies have demoralized the right — Vice President Pence flatly called him a “disappointment to conservatives” in August — john roberts othey have emboldened the left.

Far from sating critics of the court, his concessions have only whetted their appetite. His fundamental error has been to think that he could deflect attacks from the left by surrendering to it on some of the most divisive issues. Rather than conciliatory, these gestures have been regarded as a sign of weakness.

Varad Mehta is a historian and writer. Adrian Vermeule is the Ralph S. Tyler Jr. professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School.

Dec. 15

william barr at doj

washington post logoWashington Post, William P. Barr to depart as attorney general, Trump announces, Matt Zapotosky, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). William P. Barr, right, is stepping down as attorney general, President Trump announced Monday, ending a controversial tenure as the country’s top law enforcement official in which critics say he repeatedly used the Justice Department to aid Trump’s allies only to have the president turn on him when he did not bring charges against those seen as political foes and disputed claims of widespread election fraud.

Trump revealed the move on Twitter, writing that he and Barr, shown above in a file photo, had a “nice meeting” at the White House, and Barr would “be leaving just before Christmas to spend the holidays with his family.”

Trump claimed, “Our relationship has been a very good one, he has done an outstanding job!” — though Trump had expressed frustration with Barr in recent days because Barr did not reveal before the election that Hunter Biden, President-elect Joe Biden’s son, was under investigation by the Justice Department.

He told Fox News this weekend that Barr “should have stepped up” on the matter.

“All he had to do is say an investigation’s going on,” Trump said, adding later, “When you affect an election, Bill Barr, frankly, did the wrong thing.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Proud Boys who came ‘seeking violence’ sparked clashes during pro-Trump rally, D.C. officials say, Tom Jackman, Michael Brice-Saddler and Ann E. Marimow, Dec. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Police said that 38 people had been arrested for protest-related actions, and D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said eight officers were injured, one seriously. Ten people were charged with assault on a police officer.

Dec. 13

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘The last wall’: How dozens of judges rejected Trump’s efforts to overturn election, Rosalind S. Helderman and Elise Viebeck, Rosalind S. Helderman and Elise Viebeck, Dec. 13, 2020 (print ed.). They are both elected and appointed, selected by Democrats and Republicans alike.

Some have served for decades — while others took the bench only months ago.

Since the November election, they have all ruled in court against Trump or one of his allies seeking to challenge or overturn the presidential vote.

In a remarkable show of near-unanimity across the nation’s judiciary, at least 86 judges — ranging from jurists serving at the lowest levels of state court systems to members of the United States Supreme Court — rejected at least one post-election lawsuit filed by Trump or his supporters, a Washington Post review of court filings found.

The string of losses was punctuated Friday by the brief and blunt order of the Supreme Court, which dismissed an attempt by the state of Texas to thwart the electoral votes of four states that went for President-elect Joe Biden.

Palmer Report, Opinion: After humiliating Supreme Court defeat, Donald Trump shifts course in his grift, Bill Palmer, Dec. 13, 2020. The Supreme Court has now destroyed Donald Trump. It’s ended his presidency, and it’s cleared the way for others to drive him into prison and bankruptcy. But that isn’t stopping Trump from continuing his grift. In fact, now that his life is about to get squeezed from all sides, he needs the money more than ever.

bill palmer report logo headerTrump is now planning to run TV ads pretending that he won the election, according to Bloomberg. Since there is literally no one else for him to appeal to, it means he’s simply trying to con his gullible supporters into giving him money for an imaginary election battle.

Trump had better pocket what he can. He’s now just 38 days from being an ordinary citizen again. New York State is ramping up its criminal case against him, amid rumblings that his creditors are planning to cut their losses on him. Trump is so pathetically in debt, even his election grifting isn’t likely to keep his financial house of cards intact for long.

Dec. 11

djt biden smiles resized

ny times logoNew York Times, Supreme Court Rejects Texas Suit Seeking to Subvert Election, Adam Liptak, right, Dec. 11, 2020. The Supreme Court on adam liptakFriday rejected a lawsuit by Texas that had asked the court to throw out the election results in four battleground states that President Trump lost in November, ending any prospect that a brazen attempt to use the courts to reverse his defeat at the polls would succeed.

The court, in a brief unsigned order, said Texas lacked standing to pursue the case, saying it “has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections.”

The order, coupled with another one on Tuesday turning away a similar request from Pennsylvania Republicans, signaled that a conservative court with three justices appointed by Mr. Trump refused to be drawn into the extraordinary effort by the president and many prominent members of his party to deny his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his victory.

It was the latest and most significant setback for Mr. Trump in a litigation campaign that was rejected by courts at every turn.

Texas’ lawsuit, filed directly in the Supreme Court, challenged election procedures in four states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. It asked the court to bar those states from casting their electoral votes for Mr. Biden and to shift the selection of electors to the states’ legislatures. That would have required the justices to throw out millions of votes.

djt brett kavanaugh amy coney barrettMr. Trump has said he expected to prevail in the Supreme Court, after rushing the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett in October in part in the hope that she would vote in Mr. Trump’s favor in election disputes.

“I think this will end up in the Supreme Court,” Mr. Trump said of the election a few days after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death in September. “And I think it’s very important that we have nine justices.”

He was right that an election dispute would end up in the Supreme Court. But he was quite wrong to think the court, even after he appointed a third of its members, would do his bidding. And with the Electoral College set to meet on Monday, Mr. Trump’s efforts to change the outcome of the election will soon be at an end.

supreme court CustomDec. 10

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S., states sue Facebook as an illegal monopoly, setting stage for potential breakup, Tony Romm, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The U.S. government and 48 attorneys general filed landmark antitrust lawsuits against Facebook on Wednesday, seeking to break up the social networking giant over charges it engaged in illegal, anti-competitive tactics to buy, bully and kill its rivals.

facebook logoThe twin lawsuits filed in federal district court allege that Facebook under its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, behaved for years as an unlawful monopoly — one that had repeatedly weaponized its vast stores of data, seemingly limitless wealth and savvy corporate muscle to fend off threats and maintain its stature as one of the most widely used social networking services in the world.

The state and federal complaints chiefly challenge Facebook’s acquisition of two companies: Instagram, a photo-sharing tool, and Justice Department log circularWhatsApp, a messaging service. Investigators said the purchases ultimately helped Facebook remove potentially potent rivals from the digital marketplace, allowing the tech giant to enrich itself on advertising dollars at the cost of users, who as a result have fewer social networking options at their disposal.

Read the state and federal lawsuits against Facebook

The lawsuits together represent the most significant political and legal threats to Facebook in its more than 16-year history, setting up a high-profile clash between U.S. regulators and one of Silicon Valley’s most profitable firms that could take years to resolve. Antitrust regulators explicitly asked a court to consider forcing Facebook to sell off Instagram and WhatsApp to remedy their competition concerns. Such a punishment would unwind Zuckerberg’s digital empire and severely constrain Facebook’s ambitions.

The Federal Trade Commission, led by Republican Chairman Joe Simons, brought its lawsuit in a D.C. district court. Letitia James, the Democratic attorney general of New York, led her Democratic and Republican counterparts from dozens of states and territories in filing their complaint in the same venue. Appearing at a news conference, James on Wednesday sharply rebuked Facebook for having put “profits ahead of consumers’ welfare and privacy.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Silicon Valley feared Facebook’s bullying tactics years before they came to the attention of regulators, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Facebook hasn’t kept its promises of independence to WhatsApp and Instagram.

Facebook executives approached Ali Partovi, the creator of a popular app that used Facebook’s data, a decade ago with a threatening ultimatum. Sell your company to us or we will shut you down, according to legal filings. Partovi’s app, iLike, had built a predecessor to the “like” button.

facebook logoPartovi refused the offer. Shortly after, Facebook discontinued features that iLike relied upon, pushing Partovi to sell his start-up to Myspace for a fraction of its previous value. Facebook then built its own “like” button, modeled after iLike.

The negotiations — when Facebook was a much smaller player — are early evidence of the hardball tactics to neutralize competition that got the social network to where it is today: a platform that counts more than a third of the world’s population as monthly users of its family of apps, which include WhatsApp messaging and the photo-sharing service Instagram.

That behavior is now the subject of sweeping antitrust lawsuits filed Wednesday from 48 state attorneys general and the Federal Trade Commission. The suits allege that the company is a monopoly that abused its market power through years of anti-competitive conduct and illegal acquisitions, enabling Facebook to become the world’s largest social network while stripping users of alternatives.

hunter biden

washington post logoWashington Post, Hunter Biden confirms he is under federal investigation, Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett and Colby Itkowitz, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.).  Federal prosecutors have been investigating Hunter Biden, President-elect Joe Biden’s son, to determine if he failed to report income from China-related business deals, according to people familiar with the matter — a politically explosive probe that is likely to challenge the Justice Department in the incoming administration.

The investigation into the president-elect’s son began in 2018, though little could be learned immediately about what, if any, wrongdoing it had found. The existence of a tax investigation was confirmed Wednesday by Hunter Biden in a statement saying he had just been advised of it.

According to a person familiar with the matter, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing and politically sensitive investigation, FBI agents had been seeking to talk to Hunter Biden as part of the case on Tuesday — though an interview has not yet been scheduled or taken place — as well as serve subpoenas on Hunter Biden and his associates.

irs logo“I learned yesterday for the first time that the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware advised my legal counsel, also yesterday, that they are investigating my tax affairs,” Hunter Biden said in a statement. “I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisors.”

“President-elect Biden is deeply proud of his son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger,” the Biden transition team wrote in a statement.

Although the investigation has been ongoing for some time, it is unclear how far along prosecutors consider themselves toward building a criminal case or closing the matter. The subject of an investigation typically is interviewed when prosecutors have amassed a good deal of evidence — though prosecutors seeking to serve subpoenas as recently as this week suggests there is more investigative work to be done.

A person familiar with the case said that the investigation continued during the election year but that agents took care not to take overt investigative steps as voting neared that would have made it more widely known. Those precautions, the person said, became unnecessary once the election was over.

If the investigation is continuing when Joe Biden takes office, it will mark a major test for him and his attorney general. Democrats have criticized the Justice Department, alleging it has lost its historical independence from the White House during the Trump administration, as Attorney General William P. Barr has intervened in cases to the benefit of President Trump’s friends, and Joe Biden’s incoming chief of staff has said the president-elect will not tell the Justice Department whom to investigate or not.

Trump on Wednesday night tweeted a claim about voters changing their minds “if they knew about Hunter Biden” and added, falsely, “But I won anyway!”

Hunter Biden’s foreign business ventures have long dogged his father’s political life, as Republicans have alleged they presented conflicts of interest for the elder Biden.

Trump and his GOP allies targeted Hunter Biden throughout the presidential campaign, specifically his work for a Ukrainian gas company while his father was vice president, as well as his China-related business affairs. Trump invited a former business associate of Hunter Biden to attend the final presidential debate, and in a staged event beforehand, the associate discussed a deal involving a Chinese company.

The associate, Tony Bobulinski, alleged that in May 2017 he met with Joe Biden and his son, as well as Joe Biden’s brother Jim to discuss a joint venture with the Chinese energy firm CEFC. That was after Joe Biden had left public office, and it was far from clear he would again run in 2020. But Bobulinski appeared to be disputing Joe Biden’s assertion that he had never discussed foreign business dealings with his son. Bobulinski told Sinclair Broadcast Group in October that he had been interviewed for five hours by the FBI.

Trump’s fixation on Hunter Biden began months before Joe Biden won the Democratic presidential nomination. Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open a public investigation into Hunter Biden’s work for a Ukrainian energy company while simultaneously withholding U.S. military aid to the country.

washington post logoWashington Post, Doug Jones is on Biden’s attorney general list, along with Sally Yates, Merrick Garland and Deval Patrick, Matt Viser, Matt Zapotosky and Amy B Wang, Dec. 10, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden’s top advisers have asked at least one outside advocacy group for input about Sen. Doug Jones as a potential attorney general, one indication that his team is giving serious consideration to the Alabama Democrat as the nation’s top law enforcement official.

Biden is not expected to make a decision this week, prolonging the debate both inside and outside his transition team over what will be one of the highest-profile roles in his administration. It has sent the wider legal and political worlds into a frenzy, with Biden’s close-knit advisers keeping a tight lid on their decision-making process amid widespread interest over who will lead a consequential department whose morale has plummeted under an assault from President Trump.

Justice Department log circularIt also has extended questions about the diversity of Biden’s Cabinet, as a range of groups press him to name a Black attorney general in the aftermath of a national racial reckoning on race that Biden has vowed to systematically address.

At least four candidates remain under serious consideration for the position, according to two people familiar with the decision-making process who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk about internal discussions. In addition to Jones, top Biden advisers are eyeing former deputy attorney general Sally Yates, federal appeals court judge Merrick Garland and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. All but Patrick are White.

doug jones senateJones, right, who lost his reelection bid in November, has a record that has impressed some civil rights groups. Allies have pointed to his time as a U.S. attorney, which included the prosecution two decades ago of Ku Klux Klan members for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church in which four young Black girls were killed.

In what has become another vital component during Biden’s selection of nominees, Jones has a long-standing relationship with the president-elect, dating back to 1978 when Biden went to Alabama to speak at Cumberland School of Law at Samford University and was introduced by a young Jones.

Jones later worked with Biden on the Senate Judiciary Committee and was the Alabama co-chair of Biden’s short-lived 1988 presidential campaign.

Dec. 8

Attorney Mark Anderl, his wife, U.S. District Judge Esther Salas, and their son, Daniel Anderl

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: My Son Was Killed Because I’m a Federal Judge, Esther Salas (shown above with her son and husband, a United States District Court judge for the District of New Jersey who sits in Newark), Dec. 8, 2020. Protecting judges is essential to our families, and our democracy.

“Let’s keep talking; I love talking to you, Mom.” Those were the last words spoken to me by my only child, Daniel, as we cleaned up the basement from his birthday festivities. He was still glowing from a glorious weekend at home with his parents and friends.

Then the doorbell rang. Daniel raced up the stairs. Seconds later, as I stood alone in our basement, my beloved son was shot to death. Mark Anderl, my husband of 25 years was shot three times and critically injured.

This tragedy, every mother’s worst nightmare, happened for a reason wholly unrelated to either my husband or my son, but because of my job: I am a United States District Court judge. A lawyer who had appeared before me was angered by the pace of a lawsuit he had filed in my court. He came to my home seeking revenge.

My attacker sought to hurt me but his ire, and his focus, were not unique. Federal judges are at risk from other would-be attackers.

The threat to judges is intensifying. Security incidents targeting judges and other personnel who play integral roles in federal court cases rose to 4,449 threats and inappropriate communications in 2019, from 926 such incidents in 2015, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

roy den hollander esther salasIn my case, Roy Den Hollander [shown at right with the judge in file photos), a New York lawyer who had filed a suit against the male-only military draft, harbored deadly grudges.

On July 11, 2020, he killed a lawyer in California. Eight days later, he came to our door and killed Daniel. Too late, I learned that he had often described himself as “anti-feminist.” In a self-published memoir, he described me as “a lazy and incompetent Latina judge appointed by Obama.”

For judges and their families, better security is a matter of life and death. But its importance goes beyond our well-being alone. For our nation’s sake, judicial security is essential. Federal judges must be free to make their decisions, no matter how unpopular, without fear of harm. The federal government has a responsibility to protect all federal judges because our safety is foundational to our great democracy.

U.S. Election Litigation

supreme court Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court denies Trump allies’ bid to overturn Pennsylvania election results, Robert Barnes, Dec. 8, 2020. The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a last-minute attempt by President Trump’s allies to overturn the election results in Pennsylvania.

The court’s brief order provided no reasoning, nor did it note any dissenting votes. It was the first request to delay or overturn the results of the presidential election to reach the court.

The lawsuit was part of a blizzard of litigation and personal interventions Trump and his lawyers have waged to overturn victories by Democrat Joe Biden in a handful of key states.

Trump called the speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives twice during the past week to make an extraordinary request for help reversing his loss in the state. But Speaker Bryan Cutler told the president he had no authority to step in, or to order the legislature into special session, a Cutler spokesman told The Washington Post.

Republican members of the legislature and Congress supported the Supreme Court challenge to the changes they had made to Pennsylvania’s voting system in 2019.

A group of Republican candidates led by Rep. Mike Kelly (R) challenged Act 77, a change made by the Republican-controlled legislature to allow universal mail-in ballots. Their charge was that the state constitution’s requirements on absentee ballots meant the legislature didn’t have the authority to open mail-in balloting for others.

Trump allies ask Supreme Court to intervene in Pennsylvania election

But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said the challenge was filed too late — only after the votes were cast and the results known. Democrat Joe Biden won the state by a more than 80,000-vote margin.

The unanimous order blamed petitioners for a “complete failure to act with due diligence in commencing their facial constitutional challenge, which was ascertainable upon Act 77’s enactment.”

It added that some of the petitioners had urged their supporters to cast their ballots using the new main-in procedure.

The U.S. Supreme Court rarely intervenes in a decision of a state supreme court interpreting its own constitution and laws. But the plaintiffs charged that the system raised federal issues. Although acknowledging that it is up to states to develop election procedures, the claim was that the federal Constitution was violated if the Pennsylvania legislature expanded the mail-in procedure without proper authority from the state constitution.

Further, they claimed the individual constitutional rights of Kelly and the others were violated. Their theory was that because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed the challenge because it was filed too late, they were denied due process.

Trump by Michael Vadon Creative Commons e1486885124813

Palmer Report, Opinion: Supreme Court rejects Donald Trump’s election case; so much for Alito and SCOTUS saving him, Bill Palmer, Dec. 8, 2020. 
Today is the safe harbor deadline, meaning that after today, the presidential election results can no longer be disputed or revised. So it’s a big deal that the U.S. Supreme Court just refused to hear a case brought by Donald Trump and his allies, which sought to overturn the results in Pennsylvania.

bill palmer report logo headerNotably, this was the case that was presented to conservative Trump-friendly Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito. So the rejection, which doesn’t note any dissenters, suggests that Alito agreed with the rejection – and that it may well have been unanimous.

So this could be the end of it. We’ll see if the Supreme Court makes any additional moves tonight, before the safe harbor deadline at the end of the day. But it looks like Donald Trump has finally, fully lost his to bid to magically overturn the election.

Trump always had literally zero chance of pulling this off, at the margins he lost by. But it’s comforting that Trump’s failure to magically overturn the election is becoming more official by the hour.

michael flynn arms folded

washington post logoWashington Post, Michael Flynn judge says pardon doesn’t mean ex-national security adviser is innocent, Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow, Dec. 8, 2020. A federal judge dismissed Michael Flynn’s prosecution Tuesday after President Trump’s pardon, but said the act of clemency does not mean the former national security adviser, above, is innocent of lying to FBI agents about his talks with the Russian government before Trump took office.

In formally ending Flynn’s three-year legal saga, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said he probably would have denied the Justice Department’s controversial effort this year to drop the case, which Democrats and many legal experts said appeared to be an attempt by Attorney General William P. Barr to bend the rule of law to help a Trump ally.

emmet sullivan 2012Sullivan, left, expressed deep skepticism about the Justice Department’s stated reasons for abandoning the case, criticizing it for applying a different set of rules to Flynn, who twice pleaded guilty to lying about his contacts with Russia’s ambassador during special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe of 2016 election interference.

The judge also said he was troubled by the government’s “dubious” rationales as well as aspects of its “ever-evolving justifications” that ignored applicable law, appeared to be irrelevant or to contradict prosecutors’ previous statements.

“President Trump’s decision to pardon Mr. Flynn is a political decision, not a legal one. Because the law recognizes the President’s political power to pardon, the appropriate course is to dismiss this case as moot,” Sullivan wrote, adding: “However, the pardon ‘does not, standing alone, render [Mr. Flynn] innocent of the alleged violation.’ ”

The 43-page ruling delivered the court’s final say in the politically charged case, after the Justice Department and Flynn’s defense requested immediate dismissal following Trump’s “full and unconditional pardon” on Nov. 25. The action ensured that Flynn will not face federal penalties for “any and all possible offenses” arising from facts or circumstances “in any matter related” to Mueller’s Russia probe.

Read the opinion here.

Flynn, 61, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying in an FBI interview and to senior White House officials about the scope of his pre-inauguration conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak after Moscow intervened to boost Trump in the 2016 U.S. election.

FBI logoFlynn, ousted from the White House after only 22 days on the job, was the only Trump White House adviser charged in Mueller’s investigation, and faced up to six months in prison under an initial plea deal.

But when Sullivan did not initially approve a sentence of probation that had the government’s blessing, Flynn changed defense teams and began accusing prosecutors and his former attorneys of entrapping and coercing him into pleading guilty despite his earlier sworn statements. Flynn moved in January to withdraw his guilty plea, and Barr ordered a review of the case that determined that the Justice Department should drop the prosecution.

djt handwave fileIn reversing course, the Justice Department concluded that Flynn’s lies were not material to any valid counterintelligence or criminal investigation. The government also said it doubted that it could persuade a jury to convict him since key FBI officials who led the probe into potential Trump campaign ties to Russia had been discredited.

Meet the judge who will decide Flynn’s case, one of the Justice Department’s most probing skeptics

In Tuesday’s opinion, Sullivan cast doubt on the government’s true reasons.

“As this case has progressed, President Trump has not hidden the extent of his interest in this case,” noting that Trump tweeted or retweeted about Flynn’s case at least 100 times. “Given this context, the new legal positions the government took … raise questions regarding its motives in moving to dismiss.”

Justice Department log circularThe president has repeatedly attacked the Russia investigation as a “witch hunt” and embraced Flynn’s case as a rallying cry for his reelection campaign. For more than a year, Flynn attorney Sidney Powell has called the pursuit of Flynn a corrupt effort by the FBI and “deep-state” conspirators to “get Trump,” discussing the case several times with Trump, before taking a prominent legal role last month promoting Trump’s unsuccessful claims of voter fraud.

The judge also took issue with the government saying that Flynn had a “faulty memory” in defending his misstatements.

“Mr. Flynn is not just anyone; he was the National Security Advisor to the President, clearly in a position of trust, who claimed that he forgot, within less than a month, that he personally asked for a favor from the Russian Ambassador that undermined the policy of the sitting President prior to the President-Elect taking office,” Sullivan wrote.

Sullivan declined to immediately dismiss the case upon the Barr Justice Department’s motion in May, instead tapping a retired federal judge to argue against the government’s position to help determine whether dismissal was in the public interest. The department argued that judges must dismiss prosecutions when the government and defense agree to do so, leading to an extraordinary legal battle that reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and raising questions about the power of the courts to check the executive branch.

With Flynn’s pardon, those questions may now go unanswered, but Sullivan on Tuesday strongly rejected the Justice Department’s argument, saying courts are not a “rubber stamp.”

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014Prosecutors conceded at one point, he noted, that judges may act to protect the public against exceptional abuses by “rogue” prosecutors, such as the “corrupt dismissal of politically well-connected individuals.” But Sullivan said that narrow reading “fails to acknowledge the possibility that the ‘considered view of the Executive Branch as a whole’ could be contrary to the public interest.”

Similarly, the judge called the government’s “newly-minted” definition of “materiality” perplexing, “not the law” and an unexplained “about-face” from prior prosecutors’ position that Flynn’s lie’s were “absolutely material” and “went to the heart” of the FBI’s investigation.

Sullivan’s complaints echoed findings by a bipartisan Senate investigation that the Flynn-Kislyak talks were relevant to assessing “what Moscow sought to gain and the counterintelligence vulnerabilities” of Trump’s team.

The Justice Department inspector general found last year the FBI committed serious errors but had sufficient legal basis to open the criminal inquiry into whether individuals associated with Trump’s campaign cooperated with the Russians.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Judge Sullivan hears legal arguments against Trump’s pardon of Michael Flynn, Bill Palmer, Dec. 8, 2020. When Donald Trump granted a preemptive pardon to Michael Flynn, right, Palmer Report pointed out that it wasn’t a magic wand. There isn’t clear precedent as to whether preemptive pardons (for charges not yet brought) are constitutional, because they’ve never been properly challenged in court.

bill palmer report logo headerThey’ll surely be challenged during the course of Trump’s pardon spree, and we’ve been wondering if Judge Emmet Sullivan would initiate that process himself. After all, he’s been going out of his way to stop Bill Barr from sabotaging the Flynn case.

That prospect got a boost over the weekend when another Federal Judge, Reggie Walton, publicly urged Sullivan to consider ruling that Flynn’s pardon doesn’t apply to charges not yet brought. Sure enough, Sullivan announced today that he’ll hear friend of the court amicus briefs from legal experts who are arguing that Flynn’s pardon isn’t valid for charges that haven’t been brought yet.

There’s no roadmap for where this is headed. But we now have confirmation that Judge Sullivan is at least considering formal arguments against the scope of Flynn’s pardon. This could open the door for the DOJ to hit Flynn with additional criminal charges once Trump is gone

Dec. 6

Twitter, Analysis of Supreme Court requests for briefs on Pennsylivania's presidential balloting, Stephen Vladeck (right, University of Texas law professor), Dec. 6, stephen vladeck resized2020. A lot of reactions today to Justice Alito moving up the deadline for PA to respond to @MikeKellyPA's application for an emergency injunction to throw out PA's certification of its presidential electors.

Here's a quick #thread on why none of this matters—or is going to matter:

First, there's the obvious point: Even if this gambit somehow succeeds (spoiler: it won't), the worst-case scenario is that PA's electoral votes get tossed.

In that case, Biden would *still* receive 286 electoral votes when the Electoral College votes on 12/14. He needs 270.

3. Now, let's get to why the Kelly suit isn't going anywhere. First, it was dismissed by the PA Supreme Court based upon a state procedural bar ("laches"). #SCOTUS does not have jurisdiction to review state court decisions that rest on such "independent and adequate" state rules.

djt looking up

Palmer Report, Opinion: The principal reason Donald Trump belongs in prison, Robert Harrington, Dec. 6, 2020. I have infinite respect for Dr. Mary L. Trump, Donald Trump’s niece. I read with fascination her book, “Too Much and Never Enough,” and if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. We are fortunate that a woman who grew up to be a first rate trained psychologist was at Donald Trump’s elbow for so many of his formative years. She is to the history of Trump what the Watergate tapes were to Nixon, or the Zapruder film was to the Kennedy assassination. She was there, she witnessed the formation (and the formulation) of the monster. Dr. Trump has the qualities, intelligence and qualifications to relate and interpret what and how Donald Trump happened.

But when it comes to the central reason why Donald Trump must go to prison I think Dr. Trump, for all her perspicacity, widely misses the point. In fact I think most commentators on the tragedy that is Donald Trump and the Trump presidency miss the point.

bill palmer report logo headerIn a recent interview, Dr. Trump said, “It’s quite frankly insulting to be told time after time that the American people can’t handle [the prosecution of Trump] and that we just need to move on.” I can’t argue with her there. But then she gave her reason: “If anybody deserves to be prosecuted and tried, it’s Donald. [Otherwise] we just leave ourselves open to somebody who, believe it or not, is even worse than he is.”

While that’s all true enough, and I can’t dispute it, it’s not the principal reason Donald Trump belongs in prison. The principal reason Trump needs to go to jail is one I made in passing in the last article I wrote to you, brothers and sisters. So vital is that point that I think it requires it’s very own article.

djt prison palmer reportDonald Trump must go to prison not merely because we must discourage future monsters who may be worse, he must go to prison because we do not have the right not to send him there. We do not have the right to forgive him for the crimes he has committed against other people.

Think of it yourself. Imagine someone has harmed you very deeply, so deeply in fact, that the harm he has done to you has ruined your life, or destroyed the life of someone you love. Now imagine if I came along and ostentatiously forgave that person, completely absolved them of any wrongdoing they may have committed against you. Wouldn’t that seem to you the pinnacle of arrogance and conceit? Wouldn’t you wonder how dare I do such a thing and — more to the point — who the hell do I think I am that I should do such a thing, that I should so presumptuously arrogate such a power to myself? Wouldn’t you even go so far as to think I am committing a crime just as bad, or at least in the same league, as the man I so conspicuously absolved?

Of course you would. You would feel your heartfelt cry for justice he’s been ignored, rejected, smothered in a blanket of self-righteous goo and sentimental self-congratulation.

By forgiving Trump we would be committing a grave injustice to more than a quarter of million men and women Trump has murdered through negligence, the thousands of family businesses he’s ruined, the 545 immigrant children he has permanently separated from their parents, the dozens of women Trump has sexually assaulted and raped, the hundreds, or even thousands of Americans and their families Trump has put in fear of their lives with angry Tweets because they were “guilty” of insulting him, or insufficiently praising him, or not going far enough in assisting him in his criminal endeavors.

What hubris it would be for us to ignore justice for such a man! What arrogance would be ours to then slap ourselves on the backs with smug approbation and call ourselves peacemakers! We have no such right. We must, at the very least, try to send Donald Trump to prison — and we have no right not to.

Yes, we need to prevent another Trump. Yes, we need to send a message that no one, not even the president of the United States, is above the law. Yes, we need to prosecute Trump because the law demands it, that no free society can hope to survive without the rule of law. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

But above all, we must avenge the millions of Americans Donald Trump has harmed, the ones he harmed insolently, thoughtlessly, without remorse, without so much as an afterthought. He has harmed and killed Americans with elitist indifference, as if it’s his birthright and we are all nothing by comparison. Justice must be done. Justice cries out from the ground for the voiceless Donald Trump has destroyed. Justice must be done if only for the reason that we have no right to contemplate anything less than justice, and for that reason alone we have no choice but to do our duty. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.

Dec. 4

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: America may not be so lucky next time. Benjamin L. Ginsberg, Dec. 4, 2020. Benjamin L. Ginsberg practiced election law for 38 years. He co-chaired the bipartisan 2013 Presidential Commission on Election Administration.

The country was lucky that President Trump and his reelection campaign were so inept. He ultimately lost by a wide margin, and his challenges to the results have been farcical. His rhetoric ramped up in inverse proportion to his ability to produce evidence supporting his charges of systemic “fraud” or “rigged” elections.

The United States might not be so lucky next time. What if the 2020 election had been as close as it was in 2000, and the outcome hinged on a state (or states) with a truly narrow margin? How would the country have fared under a Trump-style assault on democracy’s foundations?

Trump’s attempts to negate millions of votes by challenging state certifications revealed cracks in those foundations. Some shoring-up is clearly needed before the next election cycle begins. A good place to start might be with the appointment of a bipartisan commission that would propose election reforms to Congress and the states. Here are half a dozen suggestions to get things started:

Revise the Electoral Count Act of 1887, a law that came perilously close to being invoked for the first time in its history. Its muddled language would not have provided clear answers to myriad crucial questions. What happens if a state submits competing slates of electors? How to determine if a “majority” of the electoral college refers to all 538 electors or only those present and voting? If choosing the president fell to the House, with a single vote for each state, could a majority of members prevent the swearing-in of enough minority members (who nonetheless represented more states) so that the majority’s presidential candidate would win? The 1887 law clearly needs updating and clarifying.

Dec. 3

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s Choice, Linda Greenhouse (shown at right on the cover of her memoir), Dec. 3, 2020. Will she join the Supreme Court’s grievance linda greenhouse cover just a journalistconservatives? Justice Amy Coney Barrett (below left) had a choice.

She could provide the fifth vote on the Supreme Court that Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh needed — and would not have received from the Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — to place a temporary block, in the name of religious freedom, on New York’s pandemic-driven limitations on church and synagogue attendance.

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoOr she could give that precious fifth vote to Chief Justice John Roberts in the name not only of public health but also of judicial modesty, since the most severe restrictions the Catholic and Jewish organizations were complaining about were no longer in effect and the whole case might well disappear into thin air if the Supreme Court simply stayed its hand.

History will record the choice Justice Barrett made in the court’s Nov. 25 decision as the first moment of fruition for the hopes and fears engendered by her abrupt election-eve ascension to the Supreme Court following Justice Ginsburg’s death in September.

The real significance of the decision lay in the which-side-are-you-on test it posed for the newest justice. I don’t mean the conservative side versus the liberal side. Obviously, she’s a conservative. What matters is that a month into her tenure, she chose to align herself with what I call grievance conservatism: conservatism with a chip on its shoulder, fueled by a belief that even when it’s winning, it’s losing, and losing unfairly.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: I Wrote the Special Counsel Rules. Barr Has Abused Them, Neal K. Katyal (right, a law professor at Georgetown), Dec. 3, 2020. neal katyal oThere is no reason for the outgoing attorney general to appoint his preferred prosecutor for the continuing Trump-Russia inquiry.

Attorney General William Barr’s decision on Tuesday to name John Durham, the U.S. attorney for the District of Connecticut appointed by President Trump, as special counsel to investigate matters surrounding the 2016 election violates the rules for special counsels as well as fundamental democratic principles.

There may be reasons the inquiry by Mr. Durham, below left — an investigation that began in 2019 into the Trump-Russia inquiry — should continue, but there is absolutely no reason to permit an outgoing attorney general to try to install his preferred personnel at the investigation’s helm in the new administration. And it is entirely appropriate for President-elect Joe Biden to appoint all the prosecutors in his new administration, just as john durham o portrait 2 croppedhis predecessors have done.

The special counsel regulations, which I drafted in 1999 as a Justice Department staff member, were designed with the idea that some investigations require a person from outside the department to assure the public of sufficient independence.

The reason for using any of these models, especially the special counsel one, is really the opposite of Mr. Barr’s apparent goal. They are designed to insulate from politics serious investigative work that needs to be done.

So far as anyone can tell, after months of work, Mr. Durham’s effort appears not to be investigative work that requires insulation from politics but political work that Mr. Barr now wants to insulate from investigative scrutiny. That stands the special counsel model on its head and underscores why he should not receive the “special counsel” designation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Why Prosecuting Trump Is a Very Bad Idea, Eric Posner (University of Chicago law professor and the author of “The Demagogue’s Playbook: The Battle for American Democracy From the Founders to Trump”), Dec. 3, 2020. The goal would be to renew faith in our government, but its effect would be the opposite.

As the Biden administration slowly coalesces, there have been many calls for its Justice Department to prosecute Donald Trump for any crimes he may have committed while in office. The hope, proponents of this view argue, is to establish that the president is subject to the rule of law and to deter future presidents from breaking the law.

The problem with this agenda is that there is little evidence that Mr. Trump did commit crimes as president. A conviction, given what we know now, is all but impossible. The calls to investigate him echo the president’s own calls to investigate Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden based on mere speculation — calls that most people, especially liberals, rightly condemned.

The most plausible charge is that Mr. Trump obstructed justice by interfering with, and possibly lying to, Robert Mueller and his investigators. Critics also argue that Mr. Trump may have broken the law by threatening to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless the Ukrainian government announced the opening of an investigation into the Bidens. A third possible charge is that Mr. Trump corruptly mixed his financial affairs with government business.

All of these charges would face formidable difficulties in court.

Investigations into allegations that Mr. Trump was involved in credit and tax fraud and campaign finance violations before his presidency are another matter. But convictions based on such pre-presidential behavior will not reflect on his presidency nor hold lessons for future presidents.

And even these investigations run the risk of turning Mr. Trump into one of the last things we want him to be: a martyr.

Dec. 2

President Trump, left, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Attorney General William Barr and his wife at Barr's swearnig in ceremony at the White House on Feb 14, 2019 (White House photo).

President Trump, left, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Attorney General William Barr and his wife at Barr's swearing in ceremony at the White House on Feb 14, 2019 (White House photo).

ny times logoNew York Times, Barr Admits Finding No Evidence of Fraud That Could Have Swayed Election,New York Times, Barr Admits Finding No Evidence of Fraud That Could Have Swayed Election, Katie Benner, Emily Cochrane, Glenn Thrush and Michael S. Schmidt, Dec. 2, 2020 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr said Tuesday that the Justice Department has not uncovered voting fraud at a scale that could have affected the results of the presidential election, reaffirming Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s win despite President Trump’s groundless claims that he was defrauded.

Mr. Barr’s comments, in an interview with The Associated Press, were a prominent repudiation of Mr. Trump’s baseless assertions and came days after the Justice Department log circularpresident implied that the Justice Department and the F.B.I. may have played a role in an election fraud.

Mr. Barr’s comments came as another Trump ally signaled he was ready to move on after a surreal month of lawsuits, conspiracy theories and denials by the president of a loss that has proved durable and decisive.

Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, who has refused to recognize Mr. Trump’s election loss, on Tuesday moved closer to overtly accepting the reality that Mr. Biden would be in the White House next year, while discussing the prospects for more pandemic stimulus in 2021.

william barr resized profileTaken together, Mr. Barr’s direct declaration and Mr. McConnell’s indirect reference to Mr. Biden’s new administration represent a major, if not unexpected, blow to the president’s postelection effort to change the results from two men whom he has often relied on for political cover.

Moments after Mr. Barr’s comments were made public, Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, emailed a statement on campaign letterhead, claiming — again without evidence — that he had found “ample” proof of national voter fraud sufficient to swing the election to Mr. Biden.

“With the greatest respect to the Attorney General, his opinion appears to be without any knowledge or investigation of the substantial irregularities and evidence of systemic fraud,” wrote Mr. Giuliani late Tuesday.

Amid the fallout from Mr. Barr’s statements about the election, the Justice Department also announced that he had given extra protection to the federal prosecutor examining the origins of the investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Mr. Barr appointed the prosecutor, John H. Durham, as a special counsel, a move that makes it more difficult for the Biden administration to fire him without providing evidence of misconduct.

Mr. Durham has been conducting the investigation for a year and a half, and Mr. Trump and his allies had been banking on him uncovering wrongdoing by Obama-era F.B.I. officials to help the president’s political fortunes in the lead up to last month’s election. But Mr. Durham has charged only one person, an F.B.I. lawyer who pleaded guilty to doctoring an email.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump fired me for saying this, but I’ll say it again: The election wasn’t rigged, Christopher Krebs, Dec. 2, 2020. Christopher Krebs is the former director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

chris krebs oOn Nov. 17, I was dismissed as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a Senate-confirmed post, in a tweet from President Trump after my team and other election security experts rebutted claims of hacking in the 2020 election. On Monday, a lawyer for the president’s campaign plainly stated that I should be executed. I am not going to be intimidated by these threats from telling the truth to the American people.

Three years ago, I left a comfortable private-sector job to join, in the spirit of public service, the Department of Homeland Security. At the time, the national security community was reeling from the fallout of the brazen Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. I wanted to help.

This point cannot be emphasized enough: The secretaries of state in Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania, as well officials in Wisconsin, all worked overtime to ensure there was a paper trail that could be audited or recounted by hand, independent of any allegedly hacked software or hardware.

That’s why Americans’ confidence in the security of the 2020 election is entirely justified. Paper ballots and post-election checks ensured the accuracy of the count.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Lawyers should not be complicit in Trump’s attack on democracy, By 25 former presidents and the former CEO of the D.C. Bar, Dec. 2, 2020 (print ed.). It is deeply troubling that so many lawyers and law firms have let themselves be used in this corrosive undermining of confidence in the democratic process.

The period since the election has seen a destructive and unwarranted series of abusive lawsuits filed by some members of the American legal profession. While lawyers must represent their clients with determination and zeal, no lawyer may seek, on behalf of any client, to subvert democratic institutions or burden the courts with claims that the lawyer knows are frivolous. As former presidents and a former CEO of the District of Columbia Bar, which has more than 100,000 members from every state, we think that it is important to explain that it did not have to be this way, and it should not have been.

Since the election, instead of telling their client to stop, some lawyers — too many — have leveled attacks on the integrity of the electoral process, basing their assertions on unfounded allegations of “voter fraud” or “ballot tampering.”

Lawyers for President Trump have filed at least three dozen lawsuits in various states, charging grave abuses of the electoral process. Their goal has been to scuttle the process for counting and certifying the vote, thereby expunging millions of votes. If any legitimate evidence to support the challenges existed, we would defend the lawyers in raising the pertinent legal issues. But in the absence of any meaningful evidence, we must condemn the abuse of the judicial system to subvert the democratic process.

Fortunately, federal and state judges, regardless of prior political affiliation, have quickly and courageously rebuffed these groundless lawsuits. But it is deeply troubling that so many lawyers and law firms have been willing to sign their names to these filings, letting themselves be used in this corrosive undermining of confidence in the democratic process. Members of the bar have an obligation to refrain from undertaking a matter for a client when the lawyer knows that the purpose of the lawsuit is purely political and lacks concrete factual support or plausible legal merit.

ivanka eric don jr trump Custom

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Has Discussed Pardons for 3 Children, Kushner and Giuliani, Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt, Dec. 2, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has discussed with advisers whether to grant pre-emptive pardons to his children (shown above), to his son-in-law and to his personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, and talked with Mr. Giuliani about pardoning him as recently as last week, according to two people briefed on the matter.

Mr. Trump has told others that he is concerned that a Biden Justice Department might seek retribution against the president by targeting the oldest three of his five children — Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump — as well as Ms. Trump’s husband, Jared Kushner, a White House senior adviser.

djt rudy giulianiDonald Trump Jr. had been under investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel, for contacts that the younger Mr. Trump had had with Russians offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign, but he was never charged. Mr. Kushner provided false information to federal authorities about his contacts with foreigners for his security clearance, but was given one anyway by the president.

The nature of Mr. Trump’s concern about any potential criminal exposure of Eric Trump or Ivanka Trump is unclear, although an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into the Trump Organization has expanded to include tax write-offs on millions of dollars in consulting fees by the company, some of which appear to have gone to Ms. Trump.

Presidential pardons, however, do not provide protection against state or local crimes.

Mr. Giuliani’s potential criminal exposure is also unclear, although he was under investigation as recently as this summer by federal prosecutors in Manhattan for his business dealings in Ukraine and his role in ousting the American ambassador there. The plot was at the heart of the impeachment of Mr. Trump.

The speculation about pardon activity at the White House is churning furiously, underscoring how much the Trump administration has been dominated by investigations and criminal prosecutions of people in the president’s orbit. Mr. Trump himself was singled out by federal prosecutors as “Individual 1” in a court filing in the case that sent Michael D. Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer, to prison.

The discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani occurred as the former New York mayor has become one of the loudest voices pushing baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, which Mr. Trump still proclaims publicly that he won. Many of Mr. Trump’s longtime aides have refused to do his bidding to try to overturn an election that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. won by nearly seven million votes. But Mr. Giuliani has repeatedly thrust himself into the spotlight to cast doubt on the results, which has ingratiated him with the president.

gabriel sterling resized screenshot

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘It Has to Stop’: Georgia Republican Lashes Out at Trump, Richard Fausset, Dec. 2, 2020 (print ed.). A top-ranking election official in the state criticized the president for failing to condemn threats of violence against election workers. Gabriel Sterling, shown above in a screenshot, a voting system official in Georgia, harshly criticized the president for failing to condemn threats of violence against people overseeing the election in his state.

In one of the most striking rebukes to President Trump since he launched his baseless attacks on the American electoral process, a top-ranking Georgia election official lashed out at the president on Tuesday for failing to condemn threats of violence against people overseeing the voting system in his state.

republican elephant logo“It has to stop,” Gabriel Sterling, a Republican and Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, said at an afternoon news conference at the state Capitol, his voice shaking with emotion. “Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language.”

He added: “This is elections. This is the backbone of democracy, and all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this. It’s too much.”

Mr. Sterling’s outburst of anger and frustration came amid a sustained assault on Georgia’s election process by Mr. Trump as he seeks to reverse his loss to his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. Mr. Sterling, who previously said he had received threats himself, said that threats had also been made against the wife of his superior, Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state.

“Mr. President, it looks like you likely lost the state of Georgia,” Mr. Sterling said. He added that the president needed to “step up” and say, “Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed. And it’s not right.”

Mr. Sterling also called on the state’s two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, to condemn the rhetoric that he said was getting dangerously out of hand. The two senators, both Trump loyalists, have called for Mr. Raffensperger to resign.

 

November

Nov. 30

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Barrett’s Vote Could Tilt the Supreme Court on Gun Rights, Adam Liptak, right, Nov. 30, 20200 (print ed.). Conservative justices are adam liptakon alert for a promising case in which to expand Second Amendment rights. Justice Amy Coney Barrett could shift the balance.

A Second Amendment case decided last week by the federal appeals court in Philadelphia is a promising candidate for Supreme Court review, not least because it presents an issue on which Justice Barrett, left, has already taken a stand.

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoIt concerns Lisa M. Folajtar, who would like to buy a gun. But she is a felon, having pleaded guilty to tax evasion, which means under federal law she may not possess firearms.

She sued, arguing that the law violated her Second Amendment rights. A divided three-judge panel of appeals court rejected her challenge, saying that committing a serious crime has consequences. It can lead to losing the right to vote, to serve on a jury — or to have a gun.

The ruling adopted the position of the Trump Justice Department. “The right to keep and bear arms is analogous to other civic rights that have historically been subject to forfeiture by individuals convicted of crimes, including the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury and the right to hold public office,” lawyers for Attorney General William P. Barr told the appeals court.

stephanos bibasIn dissent, Judge Stephanos Bibas, right, a former law professor appointed to the court by President Trump (and the author of a scathing decision on Friday rejecting the president’s challenge to the election results in Pennsylvania), wrote that the framers of the Constitution would not have allowed lawmakers to bar felons convicted of nonviolent crimes from owning guns.

“Lisa Folajtar asks us to treat her as an equal member of society,” he wrote. “Though her tax-fraud conviction affects some of her privileges, it does not change her right to keep and bear arms.”

Nov. 29

washington post logoWashington Post, 20 days of fantasy and failure: Inside Trump’s quest to overturn the election, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Amy Gardner, Nov. 29, 2020 (print ed.). With his denial of his loss to Joe Biden, President Trump endangered America’s democracy and threatened to undermine national security and public health. All the while, he largely abdicated the responsibilities of the job he was fighting so hard to keep.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismisses lawsuit against mail ballots with prejudice in another defeat for Trump, Elise Viebeck, Nov. 29, 2020 (print ed.). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court dismissed with prejudice a Republican lawsuit seeking to invalidate more than 2.5 million votes cast by mail in the general election, the latest in a string of legal defeats for the GOP as President Trump fails to undo his losses in key battleground states.

Justices on the state high court ruled unanimously late Saturday that Republican petitioners waited too long to file their suit challenging Act 77, the 2019 law that established universal mail voting in Pennsylvania. Trump allies had asked the court to invalidate all votes cast by mail in the most recent election or direct the majority-Republican legislature to choose a slate of presidential electors. The ruling with prejudice means that the plaintiffs are barred from bringing another action on the same claim.

The court’s written order called the latter option “extraordinary,” noting that it would disenfranchise 6.9 million voters.

“The want of due diligence demonstrated in this matter is unmistakable,” the justices wrote, noting that the lawsuit was filed “more than one year” after no-excuse mail voting was enacted in Pennsylvania. The order blamed petitioners for a “complete failure to act with due diligence in commencing their facial constitutional challenge, which was ascertainable upon Act 77’s enactment.”

Concurring, Justice David N. Wecht noted that the GOP petitioners “failed to allege that even a single mail-in ballot was fraudulently cast or counted.”

Legal experts had predicted little chance of success for the suit, which also sought to block certification of election results. Trump and his allies have gained no substantive traction with more than two dozen cases trying to undermine President-elect Joe Biden’s win since Election Day.

The ruling followed a procedural setback for the petitioners on Wednesday, when a temporary order blocking further certification of election results was stayed on appeal from state officials who already had formalized Biden’s win the previous day. The state asked the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to exercise extraordinary jurisdiction in the case, a request it granted as part of Saturday night’s order.

washington post logoWashington Post, For Trump advocate Sidney Powell, a playbook steeped in conspiracy theories, Aaron C. Davis, Josh Dawsey, Emma Brown and Jon Swaine, Nov. 29, 2020 (print ed.). The appellate lawyer has emerged as a key voice on the far right, becoming a leading purveyor of outlandish allegations about the election.

She zipped through classes at the University of North Carolina, earning her diploma in less than two years. She added a law degree and in her early 20s became, she has often said, the youngest federal prosecutor in the country.

And when Sidney Powell — then a Democrat — moved into private practice, she co-wrote a paper hailed as a “manual” for deciphering sometimes-arcane appellate rules, salting in advice for fellow attorneys: Never “slant” the truth to benefit a client. “To write anything less than an accurate statement of facts can cost an attorney credibility with the court,” she wrote.

sidney powellFast forward two decades — through a bitter case she says shook her faith in the U.S. justice system — and there was Powell, right, at a lectern at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee, introduced as an attorney representing President Trump.

At the Nov. 19 news conference, before a national television audience, she asserted that “communist money,” the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and a manipulated computer algorithm were all connected in a secret plot that had altered potentially millions of ballots and stolen the election from Trump.

Powell did not stop there. In an interview two days later with the conservative outlet Newsmax, she said she had been given evidence — which she said she could not disclose — that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican and an ally of the president, had taken bribes and conspired to orchestrate Trump’s defeat. Nationwide, she estimated that “thousands” of local elections officials knowingly helped carry out the master scheme to tamper with ballots. In fact, Powell claimed, if anyone bothered to look, they’d probably find that U.S. elections had been rigged for decades.

In important places, the headspinning allegations did not land well.

Trump watched from the White House as his usual cast of sympathetic proxies — including Fox News’s Tucker Carlson and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie — turned on Powell, according to an official familiar with the events, who like others interviewed for this report spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe confidential or private interactions at the White House and at Trump’s campaign offices. On ABC’s Sunday talk show, Christie said Powell’s comments had tipped the president’s legal efforts to challenge the outcome of the election into a “national embarrassment.”

In calls to the White House, several GOP senators warned that Powell seemed unhinged, two officials said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Even as Trump Claimed Fraud, These Republicans Didn’t Bend, Peter Baker and Kathleen Gray, Nov. 29, 2020 (print ed.). They refuted conspiracy theories, certified results, dismissed lawsuits and repudiated a president of their own party.

If the president hoped Republicans across the country would fall in line behind his false and farcical claims that the election was somehow rigged on a mammoth scale by a nefarious multinational conspiracy, he was in for a surprise. Republicans in Washington may have indulged Mr. Trump’s fantastical assertions, but at the state and local level, Republicans played a critical role in resisting the mounting pressure from their own party to overturn the vote after Mr. Trump fell behind on Nov. 3.

The three weeks that followed tested American democracy and demonstrated that the two-century-old system is far more vulnerable to subversion than many had imagined even though the incumbent president lost by six million votes nationwide. But in the end, the system stood firm against the most intense assault from an aggrieved president in the nation’s history because of a Republican city clerk in Michigan, a Republican secretary of state in Georgia, a Republican county supervisor in Arizona and Republican-appointed judges in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

They refuted conspiracy theories, certified results, dismissed lawsuits and repudiated a president of their own party, leaving him to thunder about a supposed plot that would have had to include people who had voted for him, donated to him or even been appointed by him. The desperate effort to hang onto office over the will of the people effectively ended when his own director of the General Services Administration determined that Joseph R. Biden Jr. stephanos bibasis the president-elect and a judge Mr. Trump put on the bench chastised him for ludicrous litigation.

“Free, fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy,” Judge Stephanos Bibas, right, appointed by Mr. Trump in 2017, wrote for a three-judge panel of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia on Friday as it dismissed the latest of dozens of legal claims filed by Mr. Trump and his allies. “Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Contenders for Biden’s Cabinet Draw Fire From All Sides, Michael D. Shear and Jonathan Martin, Nov. 29, 2020 (print ed.). There are leading candidates and dark horses. There are potential roadblocks from progressives and conservatives. And there are competing factions.

Aides to Mr. Biden who are managing the selection process are revealing little about whom he intends to choose. And yet, as is typical in Washington in the early days of a transition, the names of those the president-elect is said to be considering are a frequent source of discussion. This time, the gossip is spreading via Zoom calls, Twitter posts and encrypted text messages sent by lawmakers, lobbyists and political consultants.

Whom Mr. Biden will tap to be the next attorney general is among the most talked about — and politically fraught — decisions that the president-elect will make as civil rights issues roil the country and some Democrats expect investigations into President Trump and his associates.

sally yates oSally Q. Yates, left, the deputy attorney general in the final years of the Obama administration, had long been considered the front-runner. Mr. Biden is close to her and has told friends that he could imagine her as the nation’s top law enforcement official. But some advisers fear that Republicans would block her nomination because of her refusal to defend Mr. Trump’s first travel ban and her role in the early stages of the investigations into his campaign and associates.

Mr. Biden could instead pick Lisa Monaco, the former homeland security adviser for President Barack Obama who was a finalist in 2013 to be deval patrick oF.B.I. director. And like Ms. Yates, she worked well with Mr. Biden when he was vice president.

But both women are up against Deval Patrick, right, the former Massachusetts governor who served as the head of the department’s civil rights division in the Clinton administration and would be the second Black man to be attorney general.

us senate logoThe president-elect’s aides see civil rights issues as a far more deep-seated problem than simply one that has arisen because of Mr. Trump. The aides believe that Mr. Patrick’s experience at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. and his stewardship of the department’s civil rights division positions him to take on that issue.

Others around the president-elect are not eager to reward Mr. Patrick, who jumped into the Democratic nomination last year to challenge Mr. Biden as a politically moderate answer to the party’s more liberal candidates.

Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, is also under consideration for attorney general.

ap logoAssociated Press via Washington Post, High court takes up census case, as other count issues loom, Mike Schneider and Mark Sherman, Nov. 29, 2020 (print ed.). President Donald Trump’s attempt to exclude people living in the country illegally from the population count used to divvy up congressional seats is headed for a post-Thanksgiving Supreme Court showdown.

The administration’s top lawyers are hoping the justices on a court that includes three Trump appointees will embrace the idea, rejected repeatedly by lower courts. It’s the latest, and likely the last, Trump administration hard-line approach to immigration issues to reach the high court. Arguments will take place on Monday by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even as the justices weigh a bid to remove, for the first time, millions of noncitizens from the population count that determines how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives as well as the allocation of some federal funding, experts say other issues loom large for the 2020 census as it heads into unchartered territory over deadlines, data quality and politics.

A host of novel questions outside of the court’s eventual decision could determine the final product of the nation’s once-a-decade head count, including whether the incoming Biden administration would do anything to try to reverse decisions made under Trump.

Among other questions: Will the Census Bureau be able to meet a year-end deadline for turning in the numbers used for apportionment, the process of dividing up congressional seats among the states? Will the quality of the census data be hurt by a shortened schedule, a pandemic and natural disasters? Could a Democratic-controlled House reject the numbers from the Republican administration if House leaders believe they are flawed? Will a lame-duck Senate pass legislation that could extend deadlines for turning in census numbers?

Nov. 27

  us dc federal courthouse Small

The Barrett Prettyman, Jr. federal courthouse in Washington, DC.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Emmet Sullivan’s handling of the Michael Flynn case is vindicated, Elliot Williams, Nov. 27, 2020. Elliot Williams was a deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department from 2013 to 2017.

President Trump’s pardon of former national security adviser Michael Flynn didn’t merely save one man from going to federal prison. Far more importantly, the pardon demonstrated the wisdom of U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan’s refusal to dismiss the case against Flynn. In the end, the judge’s steadfastness saved the Justice Department from itself — or at least from its attorney general.

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014Flynn, right, was one of six associates of the president who were investigated and charged with federal crimes as part of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. In open court, Flynn entered a knowing, voluntary and intelligent guilty plea to a felony charge for lying about his substantive contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States. However, last May, acting on instructions from Attorney General William P. Barr, the Justice Department did a startling about-face in the case, seeking to dismiss it by arguing in court that prosecutors should never have brought the case in the first place.

Enter Sullivan, below left, — a judge before whom I have appeared, and who I can attest is not one to suffer fools. He declined to dismiss the case, instead bringing in an outside adviser who argued that the Justice Department’s argument smelled curiously like pretext for seeking to dismiss emmet sullivan 2012the case to benefit a political ally of the president.

Sullivan’s healthy skepticism of the Justice Department’s arguments ensured that the branches of our government functioned as they were supposed to, and that no one branch was allowed to hide from the costs of its actions. The president and his allies have repeatedly attacked the special counsel’s investigation from its earliest days, characterizing it as a partisan witch hunt fixated on Trump’s undoing. Once Flynn was charged, it was only a matter of when, not if, the president would pardon him.

The decision to withdraw charges can only be explained, then, as an attempt by the president and attorney general to produce the effect of a pardon (that is, vacating a criminal conviction), without incurring any of the natural political costs of granting a pardon.

Presidential acts of clemency can carry political costs: George W. Bush’s commutation of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby’s prison term, Bill Clinton’s pardon of Marc Rich, and George H.W. Bush’s pardon of Caspar Weinberger still linger over the three presidents’ legacies. Such is the cost of exercising unreviewable power.

However, passing the Flynn pardon off onto the Justice Department would have been an attempt to deputize prosecutors in carrying out a political favor for the president. It would have hidden political cronyism in the dry, apolitical packaging of legalese.

Sullivan had to have known this. By rejecting the Justice Department’s attempts to get out of the case, he was not digging in to stick it to a defendant he might have thought was guilty. He was protecting the justice system as an institution, ensuring that it wasn’t perverted by the Trump administration and the attorney general.

amy coney barrett cnbc

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Midnight Ruling Exposes Rifts at a Supreme Court Transformed by Trump, Adam Liptak, right, Nov. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The justices issued six opinions, adam liptakseveral of them unusually bitter, in upholding challenges from churches and synagogues to state pandemic restrictions on religious services. A few minutes before midnight on Wednesday, the nation got its first glimpse of how profoundly President Trump had transformed the Supreme Court.

Just months ago, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was at the peak of his power, holding the controlling vote in closely divided cases and almost never finding himself in dissent. But the arrival of Justice Amy Coney Barrett late last month, which put a staunch conservative in the seat formerly held by the liberal mainstay, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, meant that it was only a matter of time before the chief justice’s leadership would be tested.

On Wednesday, Justice Barrett (shown above) dealt the chief justice a body blow. She cast the decisive vote in a 5-to-4 ruling that rejected restrictions on religious services in New York imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to combat the coronavirus, shoving the chief justice into dissent with the court’s three remaining liberals. It was one of six opinions the court issued on Wednesday, spanning 33 pages and opening a window on a court in turmoil.

The ruling was at odds with earlier ones in cases from California and Nevada issued before Justice Ginsburg’s death in September. Those decisions upheld restrictions on church services by 5-to-4 votes, with Chief Justice Roberts in the majority. The New York decision said that Mr. Cuomo’s strict virus limits — capping attendance at religious services at 10 people in “red zones” where risk was highest, and at 25 in slightly less dangerous “orange zones” — violated the First Amendment’s protection of the free exercise of religion.

Wednesday’s ruling was almost certainly a taste of things to come. While Justice Ginsburg was alive, Chief Justice Roberts voted with the court’s four-member liberal wing in cases striking down a restrictive Louisiana abortion law, blocking a Trump administration initiative that would have rolled back protections for young immigrants known as Dreamers, refusing to allow a question on citizenship to be added to the census and saving the Affordable Care Act.

Chief Justice Roberts is fundamentally conservative, and his liberal votes were rare. But they reinforced his frequent statements that the court is not a political body. The court’s new and solid conservative majority may send a different message.

That said, the court’s dynamics can be complicated, and not all decisions break along predictable lines. For instance, while Chief Justice Roberts has lost his place at the court’s ideological center, his replacement, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump’s second appointee, values consensus and may turn out to be an occasional ally.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Senate Democrats Face Power Struggle for Top Judiciary Job, Carl Hulse, Nov. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Senators Richard J. Durbin and Sheldon Whitehouse are vying to be the top Democrat on the panel that controls judicial nominations, reflecting a broader debate among activists about how to wield power.

As soon as Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois learned officially on Monday that there would be a Democratic opening at the top of the Judiciary Committee, he was on the phone to his colleagues trying to nail down their support for the position.

dick durbin speaking screenshot“Never take anything for granted,” Mr. Durbin, right, said of his bid to replace Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, who stepped aside as the senior Democrat on the panel under intense pressure from progressive activists who deemed her insufficiently aggressive for the job. “I have been through these contests before.”

One fellow Democrat whom Mr. Durbin did not talk to was Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, left, who made clear by the next afternoon that he was also interested in the job. Some of the same progressive activists who pressed to shove Ms. Feinstein aside said they would be backing him.

sheldon whitehouseThe competition set up a rare internal power struggle that reflected broader disputes among Democrats over the direction and approach of their party in a new Congress. As they sort through the results of the election, which handed them control of the White House but left their hopes of taking the Senate hanging by a thread, some are pushing for a new, more combative style and generational change.

Depending on the results of two Senate runoffs in Georgia in January, whoever wins the battle for the post will be either the chairman of the panel or the senior Democrat, with a crucial role to play on a panel that Republicans have turned into a judicial confirmation assembly line.

Mr. Durbin is the next in line behind Ms. Feinstein on the committee, and Democrats generally adhere to seniority when awarding such posts. The tension in this case partly comes from the fact that Mr. Durbin is already the No. 2 leader and holds an important subcommittee chairmanship on the Appropriations panel, which controls federal spending. To some, he is trying to hoard power, potentially at the expense of his own effectiveness in either job.

Members of both parties have viewed Mr. Durbin as an effective advocate for committee Democrats who have chafed at the way Republicans have jammed through nominees in recent years.

“Believe me, I wouldn’t take this on if I didn’t think I could do the job,” he said in an interview this week.

Under Republican control since 2015, the committee has been the focal point for that party’s drive to confirm more than 220 conservative federal judges, including three Supreme Court justices and 53 appeals court judges.

Against that backdrop, Mr. Whitehouse, 65, who declined to be interviewed for this article, has charted out how a network of advocacy groups has taken money from undisclosed donors to support the confirmation of conservative judges who are seen as potentially sympathetic to their interests.

During the confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett in October, Mr. Whitehouse devoted his first round of questioning to laying out his case and telling her that she needed to understand the “forces outside of this room who are pulling strings and pushing sticks and causing the puppet theater to react.”

Nov. 26

michael flynn djt

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Pardons Flynn, Ending Case His Justice Dept. Sought to Shut Down, Charlie Savage, Nov. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Michael Flynn, above left, the president’s former national security adviser, twice pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about conversations with Russia’s ambassador.

The pardon brings to an end the drawn-out legal saga of Mr. Flynn, who was the only White House official to be convicted as part of the Trump-Russia inquiry.
President Trump pardoned on Wednesday his former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. about his conversations with a Russian diplomat and whose prosecution Attorney General William P. Barr tried to shut down.

“It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter.

The presidential pardon brings to an end the drawn-out legal saga of Mr. Flynn. The Justice Department had moved in the spring to withdraw the charge against him after a public campaign by Mr. Trump and his allies, but the judge overseeing the case, Emmet G. Sullivan, had held up the request to scrutinize its legitimacy.

Though Mr. Trump had said months ago that he was “strongly considering” pardoning Mr. Flynn and was said to be planning for it after he lost the election, the intervention by Mr. Barr had held out the possibility that his administration could end the prosecution of a presidential favorite without requiring Mr. Trump to take explicit political responsibility for the act.

But as the case has lingered — delayed first by Mr. Flynn’s unsuccessful attempt to get an appeals court to block Judge Sullivan from reviewing the basis for Mr. Barr’s move, and then by further weeks of inaction from the judge — Mr. Trump ultimately moved to do so anyway.

Mr. Flynn was the only White House official to be convicted as part of the Trump-Russia investigation that was completed by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Under Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr, the administration has been trying to discredit and dismantle that inquiry. Mr. Trump also commuted the sentence of his longtime friend Roger J. Stone Jr. on seven felonies in a case brought by prosecutors working for Mr. Mueller.
breaking

ny times logoNew York Times, White House Weighs Pardon Blitz Before Trump’s Exit, Kenneth P. Vogel and Eric Lipton, Nov. 26, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has so far granted 28 pardons, which wipe out convictions, and 16 commutations, which reduce prison sentences.

Political allies and associates are starting to press for clemency as President Trump also considers extending his criminal justice overhaul. Political allies and associates are starting to press for clemency as the president also considers extending his criminal justice overhaul by commuting lengthy sentences for other offenders.

It’s not just Michael T. Flynn. The White House is weighing a wave of pardons and commutations by President Trump in his final weeks in office, prompting jockeying by a range of clemency seekers and their representatives, including more allies of Mr. Trump.

Among those hoping for pardons are two former Trump campaign advisers, Rick Gates and George Papadopoulos, who like Mr. Flynn, the former national security adviser who was pardoned on Wednesday by Mr. Trump, were convicted in cases stemming from the special counsel’s Russia investigation.

But it is not just the well-connected and wealthy who could benefit from one of Mr. Trump’s final exercises of executive power, lawyers in contact with the administration said.

Several groups that have pushed for a criminal justice overhaul are working with an ad hoc White House team under the direction of Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, with a goal of announcing as many as hundreds of commutations for offenders now in jail for crimes ranging from nonviolent drug convictions to mail fraud and money laundering.

The end of any presidential administration is a time for intense lobbying related to pardons.

But in Mr. Trump’s case, it extends to his own personal and political considerations, his lingering bitterness over the Russia inquiry and his transactional approach to governing.

The sheer number of people in the president’s circle to have gotten in trouble with the law has also made the question of pardons especially fraught. In addition to Mr. Flynn, Mr. Gates and Mr. Papadopoulos, Trump aides and associates who have been convicted include Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former lawyer; Roger J. Stone Jr., his longtime friend and adviser; and Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman.

Others in the president’s circle to face federal charges include Stephen K. Bannon, his former strategist, who was indicted in August on charges of defrauding donors to a campaign to support Mr. Trump’s plans to build a wall along the border with Mexico, and Elliott Broidy, a top fund-raiser, who pleaded guilty last month in a foreign lobbying case.

A blitz of late pardons or commutations for federal crimes — over which presidents have unchecked power — is seen by some criminal justice reform activists as another way to build his record on that issue.

Far more explosive in political terms is the possibility of pardons or commutations for allies, associates or even himself, reflecting Mr. Trump’s oft-stated belief that his presidency was undermined by law enforcement investigations, including the special counsel’s inquiry.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court blocks limits on religious services in N.Y., Robert Barnes, Nov. 26, 2020. Religious organizations said they were illegally targeted by pandemic-related restrictions imposed to combat spiking coronavirus cases. The 5-to-4 order was the first show of solidified conservative strength on the court since Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation.

The Supreme Court’s new conservative majority late Wednesday night sided with religious organizations in New York that said they were illegally targeted by pandemic-related restrictions imposed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to combat spiking coronavirus cases.

The 5-to-4 order was the first show of solidified conservative strength on the court since the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett, whom President Trump chose to replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg following her death in September. The decision differed from the court’s previous practice of deferring to local officials on pandemic-related restrictions, even in the area of constitutionally protected religious rights.

“Even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten,” said the unsigned opinion granting a stay of the state’s orders. “The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”

The limits were severe, at times capping worship services at only 10 people. But the state said they were necessary to deal with “hot spots” of virus outbreaks.

The Supreme Court’s order was issued just before midnight, and five justices wrote separately.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who had been the court’s pivotal member in previous emergency applications seeking relief from virus-related restrictions, dissented along with the court’s three liberal members.

He noted that while the court was considering the petitions, Cuomo, a Democrat, had eased the restrictions, and thus there was no need for the court to intervene now.

“It is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” Roberts wrote for himself.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor said the court was intervening where it should not.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP effort to invalidate more than 2.5 million votes in Pennsylvania dealt another setback, Elise Viebeck and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Republicans faced another procedural setback in a Pennsylvania lawsuit seeking to invalidate more than 2.5 million votes, as a temporary order blocking further certification of election results was stayed on appeal from state officials who had already formalized President-elect Joe Biden’s win the day before.

Legal experts said the case had little chance of success, much like the other last-ditch GOP election lawsuits pending in battleground states. Republicans have gained no substantive traction across more than two dozen cases trying to undo results favoring Biden since Election Day, and as of Tuesday, four of six states where President Trump tried to overturn the outcome have certified Biden’s win.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Robert Mueller’s screw-up with the Michael Flynn case just keeps looking worse, Bill Palmer, Nov. 26, 2020. Yet another way in which Robert Mueller blew it: Michael Flynn didn’t just lie to the FBI. He stood accused of being an unregistered foreign agent, violating the Logan Act, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, and various other serious alleged crimes.

robert mueller full face fileMueller, right, agreed not to prosecute Michael Flynn for any of those serious crimes, and let him plead out on one minimal charge, in exchange for his testimony against Donald Trump. Then in the end, Mueller made no move on Trump at all. What a waste.

bill palmer report logo headerWe still don’t have a satisfactory explanation for why Mueller came out like gangbusters in the first year of his probe, getting Flynn to flip on Trump and busting Manafort, only to spend the second year of his probe doing nothing, before ultimately giving up and going home.

We now know that Rod Rosenstein had been obstructing Mueller’s probe the entire time. But it’s not like Mueller wasn’t producing results. He started off super aggressive. Then he just sort of stopped investigating, long before Bill Barr came along at the end.

In fact, now that it’s become clear that Bill Barr is a muddling bumbler and ineffective henchman, it makes it all the more suspicious that Barr was somehow able to take Mueller down just by breathing on him. Then again, once Mueller finally was forced to testify, it became clear that he knew and understood far less about his own investigation than the average observer did. Maybe the guy really did go senile halfway through his investigation.

But when Mueller gave Flynn a nearly free pass in order to get him to flip on Trump, it was fairly clear at the time that Mueller intended to go after Trump. But in the end, Mueller couldn’t even be bothered to try subpoenaing Trump to testify in person. Now more than ever, we deserve answers about what went so horribly wrong with the Mueller probe. It allowed Trump to complete his term, and helped get more than a quarter million Americans killed.

Bloomberg, Ex-Trump Lawyer Sidney Powell Files Election Suits in ‘DISTRCOICT’ Court, Tony Aarons, Nov. 26, 2020. Sidney Powell brings cases after being dropped from Trump team; Georgia case misspells district as ‘DISTRCOICT’ in court name.

A lawyer who was dropped from President Donald Trump’s legal team filed typo-strewn lawsuits in Michigan and Georgia alleging massive election fraud.

sidney powellSidney Powell, right, who has pushed some of the most extreme conspiracy theories around the election of Joe Biden, filed the lawsuits late Wednesday, according to a post on Twitter. The two cases have similar themes of problems linked to voting machines, mail-in ballots and deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

Powell was kicked off Trump’s legal team this week after her claims about a vast Democratic conspiracy against the president. Days earlier she had appeared at a press conference alongside Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, where she alleged a plot to swing the election to Biden that involved voting-machine tampering and Venezuela.

The pre-Thanksgiving lawsuits, which target elected officials in both states, also include other claims about forged ballots and observers being unable to watch the vote count.

Despite numerous allegations of voter fraud and irregularities from Trump and his supporters, no evidence has emerged of widespread problems that would have changed the results of the election, which Biden won with 306 electoral votes.

Powell also represented former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was pardoned by Trump Wednesday.

Both of Powell’s latest lawsuits were riddled with typographical errors.

The Michigan lawsuit, which was on the court website, was frequently marred by formatting problems that removed the spacing between words. For example: “TheTCFCenterwastheonlyfacilitywithinWayneCountyauthorizedtocountthe ballots.”

In the Georgia complaint, which was only available on Powell’s website, the word district in the court name was misspelled twice on the first page of the document. First there was an extra c for “DISTRICCT” and then, a few words later, “DISTRCOICT.”

 Nov. 24

nbc news logoNBC News, Opinion: Senate Republicans' Georgia bullying failed. But Lindsey Graham's ethics violations stand out, Richard Painter (right, former chief ethics richard painterlawyer for President George W. Bush) and Claire O. Finkelstein (faculty director of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the University of Pennsylvania), Nov. 24, 2020. Graham’s actions should be clearly identified and vociferously rejected by his fellow senators, as well as by the Biden administration.

Republican Party organizations have continued to support President Donald Trump’s unfounded allegations of voter fraud, amplifying his message in the press and in court filings. No such claim has survived legal scrutiny.

The president's own Department of Homeland Security has said that the 2020 election was “the most secure in American history,” a statement that resulted in the firing of the director of that agency’s cybersecurity division. Just last week Trump summoned Michigan Republican leaders to the White House to try to throw out the state's election results. Despite these efforts, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania have certified the results in favor of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. And on Monday, the head of the General Services Administration approved the official transition process.

A handful of Republican senators has particularly disgraced the U.S. Senate in their willingness to support Trump’s doomed attempt to reverse the results of a lindsey grahamlawful and secure election.

A handful of Republican senators has particularly disgraced the U.S. Senate in their willingness to support Trump’s doomed attempt to reverse the results of a lawful and secure election. The most egregious example is Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, the subject of an ethics complaint we filed, along with former Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub, last Wednesday with the Senate Ethics Committee.

The complaint centers on a phone call Graham, left, placed to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to propose that Raffensperger invalidate thousands of mail-in ballots. According to The Washington Post, Graham “asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures,” which would have included ballots legally cast by eligible voters. In a subsequent interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Raffensperger explained that he took the senator’s message to mean “look hard and see how many ballots you could throw out.”

Graham denies this account and maintains he was merely inquiring into the standards for mail-in ballots. His denial is not plausible. CNN reported that a staffer for Raffensberger, Gabriel Sterling, said “he participated in a controversial phone call with Sen. Lindsey Graham and claimed he heard Graham ask if state officials could throw out ballots.” Sterling and his family have received death threats and are now under 24-hour police protection.

Moreover, in the process of denying an attempt to invalidate ballots in Georgia, Graham admitted to reporters that he had also spoken with officials in Arizona, Nevada and possibly other states, because, as he said, “the future of the country hangs in the balance.”

Almost as worrisome as these attempts to influence election officials is Graham’s invocation of his authority as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to further the Republican narrative of fraud. Four days after the election, he vowed to launch a committee investigation into alleged irregularities, declaring that as chairman "all credible allegations of voting irregularities and misconduct will be taken seriously.” The next day he credited “allegations of system failure, fraud” as the reason Trump lost the election.

Graham is indeed empowered to investigate irregularities. But it would be a profound misuse of his office to call for an investigation for the purpose of bolstering Trump’s bid for re-election. Thus far there has been no public disclosure of any further plans regarding Graham’s promised investigation. Let’s hope it stays that way. If, however, Graham follows through, it will be clear that the investigative powers of the U.S. Senate are being pressed into service to challenge election results after the fact, either to reverse the outcome of the presidential election or to intimidate voters, election workers and the Georgia secretary of state in the upcoming January Senate runoff.

As we documented in an October report issued under the auspices of the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the use of public investigatory powers for partisan political purposes has been a hallmark of the current administration, as demonstrated by William Barr’s Department of Justice. If our norms have become so distorted that the investigative powers of the Senate are similarly available for misuse, our country is experiencing a rule-of-law crisis of the first order.

Senate ethics rules prohibit Senate employees from engaging in campaign activity, unless it is clear that they do so on their own time, outside of Senate space, and without using Senate resources.

Senate ethics rules prohibit Senate employees from engaging in campaign activity, unless it is clear that they do so on their own time, outside of Senate space, and without using Senate resources. But there is no reason to suppose that Graham’s attempt to interfere in either the presidential election or the Georgia Senate runoff is being done in his personal capacity, rather than as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Taken in the context of the threats to launch an investigation into voter fraud, it is difficult to separate Graham’s official position from his personal one in support of Trump and GOP candidates in Georgia. It would not have been necessary to disentangle the two, however, had Graham steered clear of any conduct that cast doubt on his impartiality as chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Perhaps the most deeply concerning aspect of Graham’s disenfranchisement campaign lies in its motive and methodology, namely to coordinate efforts across the Republican Party to flip the results of the election, a goal that could not be accomplished without disenfranchising a large number of Black voters. Both Georgia and South Carolina, Graham’s home state, have a history of infringing on the voting rights of African Americans. In recognition of this history, both states were previously under the supervision of the Department of Justice based on provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In the 5-4 Shelby County v. Holder decision, however, the Supreme Court in 2013 rescinded this supervision. Graham’s actions are illustrative of the type of conduct that might not have happened had the Voting Rights Act been fully in effect.

Graham did not succeed in his apparent attempt to disenfranchise thousands of Georgians in the November 2020 election. But if the Georgia secretary of state or his staffer had had less integrity, Graham might have prevailed. Such misconduct on the part of a sitting senator is an embarrassment to the Senate and a threat to our democracy, one that must be addressed in a full assessment of U.S. election security in the new administration. Graham’s actions should be clearly identified and vociferously rejected by his fellow senators, as well as by the Biden administration. They should make clear that interference with the counting or certification of votes is conduct unbecoming of a senator and will not be tolerated.

Nov. 22

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Dismisses Trump Lawsuit Seeking to Delay Certification in Pennsylvania, Alan Feuer, Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). In a scathing order, a federal judge rejected the Trump campaign’s claim of widespread improprieties with mail-in ballots, removing a major legal hurdle to certifying Joseph R. Biden’s Jr.’s victory there. A federal judge in Pennsylvania dismissed on Saturday night a lawsuit by the Trump campaign that had claimed there were widespread improprieties with mail-in ballots in the state, ending the last major effort to delay the certification of Pennsylvania’s vote results, which is scheduled to take place Monday.

In a scathing order, Judge Matthew W. Brann wrote that Mr. Trump’s campaign, which had asked him to effectively disenfranchise nearly seven million voters, should have come to court “armed with compelling legal arguments and factual proof of rampant corruption” in its efforts to essentially nullify the results of Pennsylvania’s election.

matthew brannBut instead, Judge Brann, right, complained, the Trump campaign provided only “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations” that were “unsupported by evidence.”

The lawsuit, filed on Nov. 9, accused Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, Kathy Boockvar, and several counties with largely Democratic populations of unfairly handling mail-in ballots, which were used in unprecedented numbers during this year’s election. The suit claimed that under Ms. Boockvar’s guidance, the Democratic counties gave voters who had submitted mail-in ballots with minor flaws an opportunity to “cure” or fix them while counties with mostly Republican populations did not alert voters about faulty ballots.

That, according to the campaign, violated the equal protections clause of the U.S. Constitution.

But Judge Brann rejected this argument, likening it to Frankenstein’s monster, which had been “haphazardly stitched together.” He ruled that the Trump campaign, lacking standing to make the claim, could not prove that it had suffered any harm if some counties, anticipating a deluge of mail-in ballots, helped their voters to file proper ballots while others did not.

“That some counties may have chosen to implement” Ms. Boockvar’s suggestions while others did not, “does not constitute an equal-protection violation,” Judge Brann wrote.

rudy giuliani calls for beheading dems

Rudy Giuliani, Trump's top lawyer in lawsuits seeking to overturn the election, calls for beheading Democratic leaders (that would include President-Elect Biden) on Fox New's Hannity show. (Sceengfrab by Dave Lindorff).

This Can' Be Happening Blog via OpEdNews, Opinion: 'They should be beheaded!': Trump and Giuliani Go Full IS in Attack on Biden and Democrats, Dave Lindorff, oenearthlogoNov. 22, 2020. It's often been noted that countries that go to war tend to adopt the behaviors of their enemies in fighting them, and then bring that war and the techniques they have appropriated home where they begin to apply them domestically.

For at least two decades, since the US in 2001 launched its so-called "War" on Terror following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001, the US, under a series of three presidents, has waged a grossly illegal war around the globe against alleged terrorists, real or perceived, in countries as remote as Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. In this borderless, lawless "war" the US has turned to the same kind of terrorism that it accuses its enemies of using.

sean hannity white houseThese attacks on terrorist leaders are, in the lingo of the trade, referred to as "decapitations." It's the same term applied to what the Taliban in Afghanistan or IS fighters in Syria or elsewhere use to describe how they kill captives in their actions, which they, without an airforce or access to drone technology, dispatch in the old-fashioned way, with a large knife or a sword.

Now soundly and decisively defeated in his bid for re-election (Biden's winning the national vote by 4% and by 6 million votes and counting, with only heavily Democratic New York State and primarily even more heavily Democratic New York City having a significant one-sixth of its fox news logo Smallvotes in the form of absentee ballots left to count) and having won 306 Electoral College votes, 36 more than needed, Dear Leader Donald Trump is turning to IS tactics in his flailing effort to hang on to the White House.

On Nov. 19 on Fox News's "Sean Hannity Show," Rudy Giuliani, the head of Trump's legal team that is filing dozens of lawsuits in so-called swing states that narrowly went for Joe Biden this year seeking to overturn those Biden victories, told Hannity, shown in a file photo above right, that the Democratic Party had been taken over by "the Clintons," and then added that the the leadership of that party "needs to be beheaded."

He made a hand-accross-the-neck gesture to emphasize his meaning.

Hannity cut the interview off abruptly at that point, but the Fox News shock-jock shouldn't have been caught by surprise."

Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani leads a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, 2020.

Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani leads a news conference at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, DC on Nov. 19, 2020.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump’s wildest claims are going nowhere in court. Thank legal ethics, Adam Winkler (professor at UCLA School of Law, where he teaches legal ethics and other subjects),  Nov. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s lawyers can’t make assertions without evidence in front of judges.

President Trump’s lie that the election was stolen has had some unfortunate success in the court of public opinion: Polling shows that more than three-quarters of his supporters believe the contest was riddled with fraud. To overturn the result, though, Trump needs to win in the court of law. A president who packed the federal courts with conservatives now depends on the judicial system to agree with his perspective and provide him a pathway to a second term despite Joe Biden’s win.

Yet Trump’s legal strategy has run aground — in no small part because of legal ethics. While lawyers are often cast as unscrupulous and immoral, they are required to follow a strict code of professional responsibility established by state bars. The famous duty of lawyers to keep a client’s confidences, for instance, comes from these ethical codes. Law students must take a course in legal ethics, the bar exam includes a section on ethical rules, and continuing-education requirements emphasize lawyers’ duties to clients and to the courts.

Two ethical rules have been fatal to Trump’s election lawsuits in state after state: the lawyer’s duty of candor to a court and the lawyer’s duty to avoid frivolous claims. The president can spew all the theories he wants, and his advocates can say whatever they like on television, but because of these two ethical duties, Trump’s lawyers can make claims before courts only if they can back them up with actual evidence.

Lawyers are obligated to be truthful in everything they say to a court. If they aren’t, they can lose their license to practice law. In a hearing over Trump’s claim that his campaign was being excluded from observing the ballot count in Philadelphia, the judge — a conservative George W. Bush appointee — asked Trump’s lawyer if campaign observers were in fact present. Because of the duty of candor to the court, Trump’s lawyer had to concede that campaign observers were indeed in the room.

djt rudy giuliani headshots CustomConcerns about violating ethical rules partly explain why Trump’s lawyers are deserting him. Two large law firms withdrew as counsel only days after filing lawsuits. Two new lawyers signed on, only to withdraw within days themselves. Lawyers in high-profile cases rarely quit a client so quickly — unless they fear that the representation will violate the rules of legal ethics. Then they have no choice. Likewise, most of the establishment legal team that defended Trump during his impeachment has stayed away from the post-election litigation efforts.

The exodus has left Trump’s lawsuits in the hands of Rudolph W. Giuliani, who until this past week hadn’t been in a courtroom in decades. Although he’s made wild accusations in news conferences about “a massive fraud” involving the Clintons, George Soros and Hugo Chávez, Giuliani acknowledged in a federal court hearing in Pennsylvania that “this is not a fraud case.” And so far, none of the strangest claims he’s made publicly have found their way into any court filings.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The disinformation system that Trump unleashed will outlast him. Here’s what reality-based journalists must do about it, Margaret margaret sullivan 2015 photoSullivan, right, Nov. 22, 2020. It’s time for journalism to stand for something — or lose its audience to the excitement of burgeoning lies.

President Trump didn’t create the media cesspool that he’ll bequeath to a troubled nation. He just made it exponentially worse — not only with his own constant lies but with his ability to spread the ugliness.

Just days ago, he tweeted out a debunked conspiracy theory that a company that makes voting machines had deleted millions of Trump votes. And though he — barring true disaster — will leave office in January, the widespread disinformation system that he fostered will live on.

Social media platforms, streaming “news” channels and innumerable websites will spew lies and conspiracy theories, and will keep weakening the foundation of reality that America’s democracy needs in order to function.

So what, if anything, can the reality-based press do to counter it?

I see three necessities.

First, be bolder and more direct than ever in telling it like it is. No more pussy-foooting or punch-pulling. No more of what’s been called “false equivalence” — giving equal weight to truth and lies in the name of fairness.

Nov. 22

supreme court Custom

Politico Magazine, Analysis: The Supreme Court’s “Breathtakingly Radical” New Approach to Election Law, Wendy Weiser and Daniel Weiner, Nov. 22, 2020. The justices won’t end up deciding the 2020 presidential race, but they have set the stage for a massive rollback of voting rights.

In the end, the blizzard of lawsuits from President Donald Trump’s campaign will amount to nothing beyond a megaphone for disinformation about the integrity of the 2020 election. As destructive as the president’s attempts to undermine democracy are, the most lasting damage to America’s election system is likely to come instead from a series of Supreme Court rulings that appear perfunctory but actually could restrict voters’ rights for years to come.

In the weeks before Election Day, the court weighed in on more than a dozen cases in a way that many portrayed as a mixed bag for voting rights—allowing voting expansions to stand in some cases and sharply curtailing them in others. But that scorecard approach obscures the principal effect of the court’s rulings: In all of the cases, regardless of whether the Trump campaign won or lost, the justices quietly—yet dramatically—rolled back Americans’ voting rights in ways that could do permanent harm—that is, unless Congress steps in.

Let’s start with the visible damage.

In multiple cases, and often without a shred of explanation, the Supreme Court affirmatively stepped in to make it harder to vote. The first case was in Wisconsin in April, right after the pandemic hit. A lower court had extended the deadline for returning mail ballots in the presidential primary by six days. But the night before the election, over a withering dissent by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—one of her last written opinions—the Supreme Court blocked that extension, leaving voters only hours to obtain and return their ballots. The result: thousands of citizens were unable to return their ballots on time, and their votes were not counted.

Likewise, in South Carolina in early October, the court reinstated a witness requirement for absentee ballots after voting had already started and weeks after the ballot instructions had been printed. While the court exempted voters whose ballots were delivered within two days of its ruling without a witness signature, at least 2,509 ballots arrived after that date and were disqualified. In Alabama, the court stepped in two weeks before Election Day to reinstate witness identification requirements for absentee ballots and a ban on curbside voting.

Until these rulings, federal courts across the country had generally responded to the pandemic by expanding voting access, applying well-established legal doctrines to evaluate burdens to voting rights under the Constitution. Their decisions mainly allowed more voters to take advantage of mail voting and to have safe ballot drop-off and voting locations. Election officials adapted their systems accordingly, and voters requested and received ballots in keeping with the new procedures.

After the Supreme Court ruled in South Carolina, however, appellate courts followed its lead and blocked more than a dozen voter-friendly rulings and settlements within a span of a few weeks. In one egregious case only four days before Election Day, a federal appeals court halted a settlement allowing Minnesota voters to mail back their ballots up until Election Day. At the time, there were more than half a million ballots—all containing instructions with the previous deadline—still outstanding.

These decisions likely disenfranchised tens of thousands of Americans this year, disproportionately people of color. But their most significant damage is not limited to this election. Although the Supreme Court didn’t provide a rationale for its rulings, individual justices articulated two principles that guided their votes, and the way the court applied those principles this election season sets dangerous precedents for the future.

First, there’s what’s known as the Purcell principle, which maintains that federal courts shouldn’t make changes to voting rules close to an election. The supposed purpose of this judge-made doctrine is to prevent confusion and chaos by requiring last-minute changes to election practices that could disenfranchise voters or cause administrative snafus. But in many cases during the lead-up to this election, the Supreme Court itself caused confusion and administrative problems by reversing voting rights rulings from lower federal courts that had already been implemented by election officials, and the circuit courts followed suit. (This would seem to suggest that while the Supreme Court believes this rule applies to lower courts, it is not a constraint on its own rulings.)

What’s more, the Purcell principle has never before been applied as a blunt instrument to block all voting rights protections close to an election, regardless of their impact, as the Supreme Court seemed to do this year. A broad application of this precedent could make it impossible to challenge barriers to voting that were themselves imposed at the last minute, including obstacles erected purposefully to thwart certain voters. This isn’t theoretical; it’s precisely what happened in Texas when a federal appeals court used the Purcell principle to uphold Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Oct. 1 executive order, which sharply limited the number of ballot drop-off sites in a way that targeted voters in more populous counties, after a federal district court ruled against it.

Second, and even more dangerous, five of the court’s justices have signed onto opinions endorsing a brand new legal theory—that the Constitution gives state legislatures virtually untrammeled authority to set voting rules for federal elections, no matter how arbitrary or unreasonable. This previously discredited theory, which was first articulated by three justices in one of the cases concerning the 2000 presidential election recount in Florida, could insulate most anti-voter laws—from arbitrary voting restrictions to burdensome registration requirements—from constitutional review by federal courts. What is more, the Court may be poised to prevent even state courts from reviewing their own state’s laws for compliance with state constitutional protections. Indeed, that was the logic Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas wanted to apply to strike down the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s ruling extending the absentee ballot receipt deadline this year. They were outvoted this time, but this logic could also be applied to prevent state and local election officials from expanding voter access beyond legislative mandates—as many did to ensure voters’ health and safety this year.

These theories are breathtakingly radical, and if they take root, they will seriously undermine Americans’ voting rights going forward. But here is the good news: When it comes to voting rights, the Supreme Court does not necessarily get the last word. Congress can take the lead.

Wendy Weiser is vice president for democracy and Daniel Weiner is deputy director of the Election Reform Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law.

Nov. 20

jfk limo dallas 31kb

Future of Freedom Foundation, Analysis: The Cunning Plot to Kill Kennedy, Jacob Hornberger, right, Nov. 20, 2020. If anyone murders a federal official, you can be assured jacob hornberger newof one thing: the feds will do everything they can to ensure that everyone involved in the crime is brought to justice. It's like when someone kills a cop. The entire police force mobilizes to capture, arrest, and prosecute everyone involved in killing the cop. The phenomenon is even more pronounced at the federal level, especially given the overwhelming power of the federal government

Yet, the exact opposite occurred in the Kennedy assassination. The entire effort immediately became to pin the crime solely on a "communist" ex-U.S. Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald and to shut down any aggressive investigation into whether others were involved in the crime.

What's up with that? That's not the way we would expect federal officials to handle the assassination of any federal official, especially the president of the United States. We would expect them to do everything -- even torture a suspect -- in order to capture and arrest everyone who may have participated in the crime.

For example, just three days after the assassination and after Oswald himself had been murdered, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach sent out a memo stating, "The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial."

How in the world could he be so certain that Oswald was the assassin and that he had no confederates? Why would he want to shut down the investigation so soon? Does that sound like a normal federal official who is confronted with the assassination of a president?

The answer to this riddle lies in the brilliantly cunning scheme of the U.S. national-security establishment to ensure that the investigation into Kennedy's assassination would be shut down immediately and, therefore, not lead to the U.S. national-security establishment.

The assassination itself had all the earmarks of a classic military ambush, one in which shooters were firing from both the front and back of the president. It is a virtual certainty that responsibility for the ambush lay with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who had been waging a vicious war against Kennedy practically since the time he assumed office. (See Future of Freedom Foundations book JFK's War with the National Security Establishment: Why Kennedy Was Assassinated by Douglas Horne, who served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s.)

While the JCS were experts at preparing military-style ambushes, they lacked the intellectual capability of devising the overall plot and cover-up, given its high level of cunning and sophistication. That responsibility undoubtedly lay with the CIA, whose top officials were brilliant graduates of Ivy League Schools. Moreover, practically from its inception the CIA was specializing in the art of state-sponsored assassinations and in how to conceal the CIA's role in them.

To ensure that the role of the Pentagon and the CIA in the Kennedy assassination would be kept secret, they had to figure out a way to shut down the investigation from the start. Their plan worked brilliantly. While the normal thing would have been all-out investigations into the murder, in this particular murder the state of Texas and U.S. officials did the exact opposite. They settled for simply pinning the crime on Oswald, the purported lone nut communist ex-U.S. Marine.

Here is how they pulled it off.

As the years have passed, it has become increasingly clear that Oswald was a government operative, most likely for military intelligence or maybe the CIA and the FBI as well. His job was to portray himself as a communist, which would enable him to infiltrate not only domestic communist and socialist organizations but also communist countries, such as Cuba and the Soviet Union.

After all, how many communist Marines have you ever heard of? The Marines would be a good place to recruit people for intelligence roles. Oswald learned fluent Russian while in the military. How does an enlisted man do that, without the assistance of the military's language schools? When he returned from the Soviet Union after supposedly trying to defect and after promising that he was going to give up secret information he had acquired in the military, no federal grand jury or congressional investigation was launched into his conduct, even though this was the height of the Cold War.

Thus, Oswald would make the perfect patsy. He could be stationed wherever his superiors instructed. And he would have all the earmarks of a communist, which would immediately prejudice Americans at the height of the Cold War.

lee harvey oswald in dallas custodyBut simply framing Oswald (shown in custoday in Dallas after the shooting) wouldn’t have been enough to shut down the investigation. An aggressive investigation would undoubtedly be able to pierce through the pat nature of the frame-up. They needed something more.

If you’re going to frame someone who is supposedly firing from the rear, then doesn’t it make sense that you would have shots being fired only from the rear? Why would they frame a guy who is supposedly firing from the rear by having shots fired from the front?

That’s where the sheer brilliance of this particular regime-change operation came into play. The plan was much more cunning than even the successful regime-change operations and assassinations that took place prior to the one against Kennedy — i.e., Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, Cuba from 1959-1963, and the Congo in 1961.

There is now virtually no doubt that Kennedy was hit by two shots fired from the front. Immediately after Kennedy was declared dead, the treating physicians at Parkland Hospital described the neck wound as a wound of entry. They also said that Kennedy had a massive, orange-sized wound in the back of his head. Nurses at Parkland said the same things. Two FBI agents said they saw the big exit-sized wound. Secret Service agent Clint Hill saw it.

Navy photography expert Saundra Spencer told the ARRB in the 1990s that she developed the JFK autopsy photos on a top-secret basis on the weekend of the assassination and that they depicted a big exit-sized wound in the back of JFK’s head. A bone fragment from the back of the president’s head was found in Dealey Plaza after the assassination. That is just part of the overwhelming evidence that establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the shot that hit Kennedy in the head came from the front.

Okay, if you’ve got a shooter firing from the back and he’s a communist, and if you have other shooters firing from the front, then they have to be working together. So, who would the shooters be who were firing from the front? The logical inference is that they had to be communist cohorts of Oswald.

That’s what Oswald’s supposed visits to the Cuban and Soviet embassies in Mexico just before the assassination were all about — making it look like Oswald was acting in concert with the Soviet and Cuban communists to kill Kennedy.

If the assassination was part of the Soviet Union’s supposed quest to conquer the world, retaliation would mean World War III, which almost surely would have meant nuclear war, which was the biggest fear among the American people in 1963.

But why not retaliate in some way? Would U.S. officials at the height of the Cold War hesitate to retaliate for the communist killing of a U.S. president, simply because they were scared of nuclear war? Not a chance! In fact, throughout Kennedy’s term in office the Pentagon and the CIA were champing at the bit to attack Cuba and go to war with the Soviet Union.

But here’s the catch: How do you take action that is going to destroy the world when it was your side that started the assassination game in the first place? Remember: It was the CIA that started the assassination game by partnering with the Mafia to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Thus, Lyndon Johnson, the CIA, and the JCS had the perfect excuse to shut down the investigation and pin the crime only on Oswald: If they instead retaliated, it would be all-out nuclear war based on an assassination game that the U.S. had started.

In fact, when Dallas District Attorney Henry Wade alleged from the start that Oswald was part of a communist conspiracy, Johnson told him to shut it down for fear that Wade might inadvertently start World War III.

earl warrenMoreover, when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, right, initially declined Johnson’s invitation to serve on what ultimately became the Warren Commission, Johnson appealed to his sense of patriotism by alluding to the importance of avoiding a nuclear war. Johnson used the same argument on Senator Richard Russell Jr.

From the start, the Warren Commission proceedings were shrouded in “national-security” state secrecy, including a top-secret meeting of the commissioners to discuss information they had received that Oswald was an intelligence agent. When Warren was asked if the American people would be able to see all the evidence, Warren responded yes, but not in your lifetime.

Does that make any sense? If the assassination was, in fact, committed by some lone nut, then what would “national security” and state secrecy have to do with it?

...

Thus, the plan entailed operating at two levels: One level involved what some call the World War III cover story. It entailed shutting down the investigation, as well as a fraudulent autopsy, to prevent nuclear war. The other level involved showing the American people that their president had been killed by only one person, a supposed lone nut communist former Marine.

...

Gradually, as the years have passed, the incriminating puzzle has come together. The big avalanche of secret information came out in the 1990s as part of the work done by the Assassination Records Review Board.

Of course, there are still missing pieces to the puzzle, many of which are undoubtedly among the records that the CIA and national-security establishment are still keeping secret. But enough circumstantial evidence has come to light to enable people to see the contours of one of the most cunning and successful assassination plots in history.

Nov. 19

djt handwave file

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump tries delaying count to cast doubt on Biden win, Amy Gardner, Robert Costa, Rosalind S. Helderman and Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Nov. 19, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump has abandoned his plan to win reelection by disqualifying enough ballots to reverse President-elect Joe Biden’s wins in key battleground states, pivoting instead to a goal that appears equally unattainable: delaying a final count long enough to cast doubt on Biden’s decisive victory.

joe biden oOn Wednesday, Trump’s campaign wired $3 million to election officials in Wisconsin to start a recount in the state’s two largest counties. His personal lawyer, ­Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has taken over the president’s legal team, asked a federal judge to consider ordering the Republican-controlled legislature in Pennsylvania to select the state’s electors. And Trump egged on a group of GOP lawmakers in Michigan who are pushing for an audit of the vote there before it is certified.

Giuliani, below left, has also told Trump and associates that his ambition is to pressure GOP lawmakers and officials across the political map to stall the vote certification in an effort to have Republican lawmakers pick electors and disrupt the electoral college when it convenes next month — and Trump is encouraging of that plan, according to two senior rudy giuliani recentRepublicans who have conferred with Giuliani and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter candidly.

But that outcome appears impossible. It is against the law in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin law gives no role to the legislature in choosing presidential electors, and there is little public will in other states to pursue such a path.

Behind the thin legal gambit is what several Trump advisers say is his real goal: sowing doubt in Biden’s victory with the president’s most ardent supporters and keeping alive his prospects for another presidential run in 2024.

The shift in strategy comes after the president has suffered defeat after defeat in courtrooms around the country. And it serves as a tacit acknowledgment that Trump has failed to muster evidence to support his unfounded claims about widespread fraud.

washington post logoWashington Post, Wayne County Republican who asked to ‘rescind’ her vote certifying results says Trump called her, Tom Hamburger, Kayla Ruble and Tim Elfrink, Nov. 19, 2020. The certified election results have already been sent to the secretary of state.

President Trump called a GOP canvassing board member in Wayne County who announced Wednesday she wanted to rescind her decision to certify the results of the presidential election, the member said in a message to The Washington Post on Thursday.

“I did receive a call from President Trump, late Tuesday evening, after the meeting,” Monica Palmer, one of two Republican members of the four-member Wayne County canvassing board, told The Post. “He was checking in to make sure I was safe after hearing the threats and doxing that had occurred.”

djt maga hatThe call came after an hours-long meeting Tuesday in which the four-member canvassing board voted to certify the results of the Nov. 3 election, a key step toward finalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

For now, Trump’s intervention seemed unlikely to change the course of events in Michigan. Biden is winning the state by a wide margin, more than 148,000 votes. The state said Palmer’s board has done its job, and cannot retract its votes. The state’s board of canvassers is still scheduled to hold a hearing Monday to certify the results.

 

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: We need a commission on voter suppression in 2020, Jennifer Rubin, right, Nov. 19, 2020 (print ed.). An jennifer rubin new headshotattempt to disenfranchise Detroit voters by two Republicans members of the Wayne County, Mich., Board of Canvassers failed Tuesday, thanks in large part to a Zoom conference that allowed the public to observe their antics. Slate’s Ben Mathis-Lilley writes on the episode:

“[Board chair Monica Palmer] made something of a misstep by trying to block Detroit’s votes but not those tallied in nearby Livonia, which has a much whiter population, even after it had been noted during the meeting that Livonia’s numbers included the same kinds of small inconsistencies that were purportedly at issue. . . .

For his part, Republican canvassing board member William Hartmann has spent the last decade-plus filling his Facebook account with images of Barack Obama caricatured as a toothless, cigarette-smoking bum and hustler.

Fortunately all of this failed to go over with the members of the public, many of them Black, who spoke directly to Palmer and Hartmann during the comment period before they reversed their position. Palmer and Hartmann were lectured about the vote-counting process and told repeatedly they were embarrassing their state in what was sure to be a losing effort.”

It is moments like this that suggest we need a top-to-bottom evaluation of the 2020 election, including the conduct of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy; Attorney General William P. Barr’s decision to change Justice Department protocol in the investigation of voting fraud allegations; state efforts to block early voting; state rules preventing ballots to be processed in advance of Election Day; and pressure applied to local election officials such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Throw in as well a deep dive into social media treatment of disinformation and the frivolous lawsuits from the Trump campaign.

Christopher Krebs DHSSuch a commission should interview public servants such as Christopher Krebs, left, who was fired from his position as head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency; the 16 U.S. attorneys and assistant U.S. attorneys who determined there was no pattern of fraud in the election; and local and state officials, lawmakers and nonpartisan groups who saw the good, the bad and the ugly. We need to come up with reliable, factual data to serve as the basis for expert recommendations designed to maximize voter participation, election security and public confidence in the results.

Some of the results and recommendations might include criminal referrals for anyone who made false statements under oath or interfered in vote tabulation. Findings would also provide the basis for proposals to change state and federal voting laws to prevent voter intimidation, foot-dragging and conspiracies theories that thwart popular will. We may need laws to prohibit conduct that plainly attempted to impede a free and fair election.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: No, judges don’t overturn elections because of isolated irregularities, Jeremy W. Peters, Nov. 19, 2020. President Trump’s approach to challenging the election has been scattershot and contradictory, as his campaign demands that courts stop ballots from being counted in certain places while insisting that a more thorough review is necessary in other places.

Confusing as it may seem, essentially his goal is this: to get judges to invalidate the results in enough counties and states so that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s lead disappears.

Would judges ever actually do that?

They have before, though never on the scale that the president and his legal team is attempting. There are numerous examples going back hundreds of years in the United States when courts have been asked to toss out the results of elections on the local, state and federal levels. Losing candidates have prevailed for a variety of reasons: because the court determined that the count was off, or that inconsistent standards were applied in processing ballots, or even that there was voter fraud.

But these cases are the exception. And election law experts said that judges have set the bar extremely high. It’s not enough to claim — or even prove — that irregularities occurred. The irregularities have to be significant enough to change the outcome of the race, which is extraordinarily rare.

“The prevailing view today is that courts should not invalidate election results because of problems unless it is shown that the problems were of such magnitude to negate the validity of which candidate prevailed,” said Edward B. Foley, director of election law at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law. This is inherently difficult to do, he added, given how hard it is to provide evidence that disputed ballots were cast in favor of a particular candidate.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Did Joe Biden just pull a fast one? Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 19, 2020. Earlier this week the media reported that Joe Biden bill palmerwas privately lamenting about not wanting to have to criminally prosecute Donald Trump, even while making clear that he would let the DOJ handle it and not interfere in any way. It’s a non-story, both because Biden won’t be involved in the DOJ’s decisions about federal charges, and because Trump is likely to get hit with state charges in New York first anyway. But it nonetheless set off a firestorm.

At first I thought Biden was simply leaking this particular lament because he wanted to position himself as being above the fray, and therefore make sure that the DOJ’s inevitable prosecution of Trump doesn’t look partisan. But today it finally hit me.

bill palmer report logo headerFor the past ten days since Biden was declared the winner, Palmer Report has been pointing out that the real story with Trump is that he’s now facing prison and bankruptcy. It’s been really irksome that the mainstream media is still hung up on fantasies about Trump launching a media venture or running in 2024, when in reality he’ll be in prison by then. I’ve been wondering how many weeks or months it would take for the media to finally shift gears and acknowledge that Trump is done for.

But now that Biden has leaked his lament about wishing he didn’t have to prosecute Trump, the mainstream media is suddenly spending portions of every day talking about the criminal liability that Trump faces. It’s finally prompted the media to shift gears and start acknowledging that Trump is looking at federal prison, state prison, litigation, you name it. It’s taking Trump’s legs out from under him, because once the public is aware that Trump has no leverage when it comes to where he goes next, it shatters Trump’s narrative that he’s somehow in the driver’s seat.

Did Joe Biden just pull a fast one? As a result of his leak about not wanting to prosecute Trump, suddenly the national conversation is about Trump being prosecuted, instead of Trump leaving on a magic carpet. If Biden had leaked that he did want to prosecute Trump, that wouldn’t have worked, because the media would have just criticized him for being too brazen about it. But as it’s playing out, Biden’s leak has resulted in the media finally acknowledging that Trump is backed into a corner on criminal charges.

Keep in mind that Joe Biden has been on the political stage for nearly fifty years. He knows how the media works. He knows how narratives work. Did Biden just get lucky, or did he purposely leak this in order to goad the media into turning toward the real narrative? Biden is a lot savvier than some people give him credit for.

ny times logoNew York Times, Confrontations in swing states escalate as Trump continues to attack election process, Nick Corasaniti, Jim Rutenberg and Kathleen Gray, Updated Nov. 19, 2020. Money pours into Georgia ahead of runoff races that will determine control of the Senate.

President Trump’s false accusations that voter fraud denied him re-election are causing escalating confrontations in swing states across the country, leading to threats of violence against officials in both parties and subverting even the most routine steps in the electoral process.

In Arizona on Wednesday, the Democratic secretary of state, Katie Hobbs, issued a statement lamenting the “consistent and systematic undermining of trust” in the elections and called on Republican officials to stop “perpetuating misinformation.” She described threats against her and her family in the aftermath of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory over Mr. Trump in her state.

In Georgia, where Mr. Biden holds a narrow lead that is expected to stand through a recount concluding Wednesday night, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, has said he, too, received menacing messages. He also said he felt pressured by Senator Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, to search for ways to disqualify votes.

In Pennsylvania, statehouse Republicans on Wednesday advanced a proposal to audit the state’s election results that cited “a litany of inconsistencies” — a move Democrats described as obstructionist and unnecessary given Mr. Trump’s failure to present any evidence in court of widespread fraud or other problems. Republicans in Wisconsin filed new lawsuits on Wednesday in the state’s two biggest counties, seeking a recount. Mr. Biden reclaimed both states after Mr. Trump won them in 2016.

Nowhere was the confusion and chaos more evident than in Michigan on Tuesday night, when two Republican members of the canvassing board in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, initially refused to certify election results, pointing to minor recording discrepancies. It was a stunningly partisan move that would have potentially disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of voters from a predominantly Black city, and after a stream of public backlash, the two board members reversed their votes and agreed to certify.

ny times logoNew York Times, Charges Against U.S. Protesters Are Being Dismissed by the Thousands, Neil MacFarquhar, Nov. 19, 2020. Prosecutors declined to pursue many of the cases because they concluded the protesters were exercising their basic civil rights.

Matt Kaufmann loved bringing real-world issues into his classroom, but he never expected he would become a lesson himself. The headlines, however, made it hard to avoid: “Kentucky High School Teacher of the Year Arrested,” blared the local news after he was detained on May 31.

An English teacher at Marion C. Moore School at that time, Mr. Kaufmann was among more than 800 people swept up by the police in Louisville during the many months of demonstrations prompted by the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville.

Mr. Kaufmann and his fiancée, protest novices, joined a large downtown crowd in late May, he said, when police officers began to break up the demonstration by firing tear gas and charging from all sides. With a helicopter thumping overhead, he suddenly found himself lined up on the ground with dozens of other protesters, then hauled off to a crowded jail cell.

“I had never experienced anything like that before,” Mr. Kaufmann, 41, said. “It was scary.”

Now, more than five months later, as Mr. Kaufmann’s case and those of thousands of others finally land in courts across the United States, a vast majority of cases against protesters are being dismissed. Only cases involving more substantial charges like property destruction or other violence remain.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Four Years of the Trump Administration in Court. One Word Stuck in My Head, Linda Greenhouse, Nov. 19, 2020. A succession of Trump policies reflected the administration’s spite and heartlessness.

During four years struggling to keep up with the flood of court cases challenging the refusal by various Trump administration officials to follow the law, a word ​has come to mind so often that I can’t shake it. It’s the word “mean.​” There’s a meanness to the ​man and to the policies issued from the sycophantic bubble that passes for his administration.

One example is a decision this past weekend by Judge Nicholas Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn. He invalidated a series of moves by Chad Wolf, the supposed acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, following the Supreme Court’s decision in June that stopped President Trump from canceling DACA, the Obama administration program that still protects from deportation undocumented immigrants who were brought here as children.

Nov. 18

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Choosing an attorney general could be Biden’s most important personnel decision, Jennifer Rubin, right, Of all the jennifer rubin new headshotmesses in all the departments that the Biden administration will need to clean up, none will be more of a challenge than the Justice Department.

Consider all the questions the new attorney general must face:

    • Whether to investigate President Trump and, if so, for what crimes.
    • Whether to investigate other members of the Trump administration for obstruction of justice, perjury or other crimes.
    • Whether to attempt to compile a definitive narrative of the Russia scandal and Ukraine affair.
    • How to determine if any Justice Department attorneys misrepresented facts to the court, assisted in any illegal activity or violated their code of professional ethics.
    • [Plus seven other sample major issues.]

Justice Department log circularGiven all that, President-elect Joe Biden should consult with his highly regarded pick for White House counsel, Dana Remus, about potential conflicts of interest for attorney general nominees that could arise from their prior work in, or knowledge of, matters during the Trump administration.

The knotty issues that the next attorney general will have to untangle come on top of a slew of policy decisions and reallocation of resources — some of which may require legislation, voting rights enforcement, antitrust enforcement, drug enforcement, criminal justice reform, actions on environmental crime and dozens of other matters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: An improbable journalist’s case could pressure the Supreme Court to rethink qualified immunity, George F. george f willWill, right, Nov. 18, 2020. Priscilla Villarreal, who calls herself Lagordiloca, which she translates as the Crazy Fat Lady, is a familiar figure on the streets of Laredo.

She has cruised them practicing a form of journalism that she calls “News on the Move.” In December 2017, the police department of Texas’s 10th-largest city arrested her for committing two felonies. She was charged, essentially, with committing journalism: She got information from the government and published it.

Three years after her arrest, she is suing the city and some of its employees, charging that her arrest was retaliatory. Her case involves a 2020 preoccupation, police misbehavior, and a court-created rule, “qualified immunity,” that breeds misbehavior by enabling much of it to go unpunished.

Villarreal, who sometimes uses salty language that would cause blushes below deck in a troop transport, has used her cellphone and her Facebook page — she has more than 170,000 followers — to livestream and comment on crime scenes, traffic accidents, immigration enforcement and other matters, including police behavior. She has enemies in high places.

 

Nov. 14

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: The Whole World Is Watching: Will It Be Wag the Dog against Iran, 'Autogolpe' (Coup against one's own government), or webster tarpley 2007Legal Transfer of Power to Biden? Webster G. Tarpley, right, Nov. 14, 2020. Destiny of 330 Million Americans Might Now Depend on the Whim of One Mentally Troubled Adventurer; By Acting as Accessories, Republican Party Has Earned Extinction – Let’s Make Sure that They Get It, Starting in Georgia on January 5!

Decapitated US Government Leaves Window of Vulnerability Wide Open on World Stage; Pompeo Eyed with Suspicion by emmanuel macronFrench President Macron, left, Who Promises to Keep Biden Informed of All that Transpires in Monday Meeting; French Views Reflect Recent Terror Attacks by Jihadis; Pompeo’s Visit to Israel Prepared by Veteran Neocon Warmonger Eliot Abrams.

Trump Fanatics Gather in DC’s Freedom Plaza (Capacity 15,000); Few Elected Officials Present Reportedly Include One QAnon Fanatic from Georgia; Not Enough for Coup; Trump Makes Perfunctory Drive-By Cameo Appearance but No Rousing Speech, then Hurries Off to Play Golf; Energy Level Falling; Anti-Trump Forces Wisely Declined Provocation.

One Week After Associated Press Called Election for Biden, Concern Grows of Threat of Public Health Chaos due to Failure to Ascertain Him as Victor; Trump’s GSA Overseer Emily Murphy, Now Sabotaging Transition, Has Been Faulted for Misleading Congress on Trump Hotel and New FBI Headquarters Issues.

Is Time for New 1776 or Rather a New 1865, which Was Already the Second American Revolution? From Mussolini’s March on Rome in October 1922 to the Pathos of the “Million MAGA March”: The First Time as Tragedy, the Second Time as Farce!

Nov. 13

washington post logoWashington Post, Alito homes in on gay marriage, gun rights, religious liberty in stern speech to conservatives, Robert Barnes, Nov. 13, 2020. When a public official says he is pessimistic that his comments won’t be twisted or misunderstood but then adds, “here goes,” even he knows something controversial is coming up.

That’s how Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. began his rock-ribbed and unusual speech to the Federalist Society on Thursday night. He recited “previously unimaginable” pandemic-related restrictisamuel alito oons on individual freedoms and lamented that freedom of speech, religion and gun rights are in danger of “second-tier” constitutional status.

Alito worries about pandemic-related restrictions on religious freedoms

He delivered a brushback to liberal Democratic senators who have criticized the court. He renewed grievances with his colleagues — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was an implied offender — about decisions on abortion rights and deferring to public officials who limit the size of worship services as preventive measures aimed at abating the spread of coronavirus.

Same-sex marriage? Check. These days, “you can’t say that marriage is a union between one man and one woman” without fear of reprisal from schools, government and employers, Alito said.

It was an address that chronicled Alito’s disappointments with the Supreme Court that had a 5 to 4 conservative majority until recently. Maybe it was to set an agenda for one with a new and perhaps more reliable 6 to 3 margin.

Alito’s positions on the issues are not new, much of what he said was recycled from dissents and opinions he has written. But virtual speeches to an audience by a Supreme Court justice are rare, and the 30-minute lecture by Alito, apparently aided by a teleprompter and in front of a plain, blue background, made an impact.

Nov. 11

Top Headlines

 

Attempted Coup By Trump?

 

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

 

Top Stories

djt biden smiles resized

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: The Times Called Officials in Every State: No Evidence of Voter Fraud, Nick Corasaniti, Reid J. Epstein and Jim Rutenberg, Nov. 11, 2020 (print ed.). New York Times, Statements Amount to Forceful Rebuke of Trump’s False Claims. The president and his allies have baselessly claimed that rampant voter fraud stole victory from him. Officials contacted by The Times said that there were no irregularities that affected the outcome.

Election officials in dozens of states representing both political parties said that there was no evidence that fraud or other irregularities played a role in the outcome of the presidential race, amounting to a forceful rebuke of President Trump’s portrait of a fraudulent election.

Over the last several days, the president, members of his administration, congressional Republicans and right wing allies have put forth the false claim that the election was stolen from Mr. Trump and have refused to accept results that showed Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the winner.

But top election officials across the country said in interviews and statements that the process had been a remarkable success despite record turnout and the complications of a dangerous pandemic.

“There’s a great human capacity for inventing things that aren’t true about elections,” said Frank LaRose, a Republican who serves as Ohio’s secretary of state. “The conspiracy theories and rumors and all those things run rampant. For some reason, elections breed that type of mythology.”

Steve Simon, a Democrat who is Minnesota’s secretary of state, said: “I don’t know of a single case where someone argued that a vote counted when it shouldn’t have or didn’t count when it should. There was no fraud.”

“Kansas did not experience any widespread, systematic issues with voter fraud, intimidation, irregularities or voting problems,” a spokeswoman for Scott Schwab, the Republican secretary of state in Kansas, said in an email Tuesday. “We are very pleased with how the election has gone up to this point.”

The New York Times contacted the offices of the top election officials in every state on Monday and Tuesday to ask whether they suspected or had evidence of illegal voting. Officials in 45 states responded directly to The Times. For four of the remaining states, The Times spoke to other statewide officials or found public comments from secretaries of state; none reported any major voting issues.

Statewide officials in Texas did not respond to repeated inquiries. But a spokeswoman for the top elections official in Harris County, the largest county in Texas with a population greater than many states, said that there were only a few minor issues and that “we had a very seamless election.” On Tuesday, the Republican lieutenant governor in Texas, Dan Patrick, announced a $1 million fund to reward reports of voter fraud.

Some states described small problems common to all elections, which they said they were addressing: a few instances of illegal or double voting, some technical glitches and some minor errors in math. Officials in all states are conducting their own review of the voting — a standard component of the certification process.

President Trump and his allies have baselessly claimed that rampant voter fraud stole victory from him. The Times contacted officials, representing both parties, in almost every state, who said that there were no irregularities that affected the outcome.

 Trump by Michael Vadon Creative Commons e1486885124813

ny times logoNew York Times, Fighting Election Results, Trump Employs a New Weapon: The Government, Peter Baker and Lara Jakes, Nov. 11, 2020 (print ed.). As President Trump and his administration insist he didn’t lose, the rest of the world has increasingly moved to accept Joe Biden’s victory.

President Trump, facing the prospect of leaving the White House in defeat in just 70 days, is harnessing the power of the federal government to resist the results of an election that he lost, something that no sitting president has done in American history.

In the latest sign of defiance, the president’s senior cabinet secretary fueled concerns on Tuesday that Mr. Trump would resist handing over power to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. after legal challenges to the vote.

“There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

djt pence yard sign logoMr. Trump’s attorney general has at the same time authorized investigations into supposed vote fraud, his general services administrator has refused to give Mr. Biden’s team access to transition offices and resources guaranteed under law and the White House is preparing a budget for next year as if Mr. Trump will be around to present it.

The president has also embarked on a shake-up of his administration, firing Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper as well as the heads of three other agencies while installing loyalists in key positions at the National Security Agency and the Pentagon. Allies expect more mike pompeo portraitto come, including the possible dismissals of the directors of the F.B.I. and the C.I.A.

He snapped when asked if Mr. Trump’s delaying tactics undermined the State Department’s efforts to pressure political leaders abroad to accept losing results. “That’s ridiculous and you know it’s ridiculous, and you asked it because it’s ridiculous,” he said.

Mr. Pompeo, right, can often be sarcastic, particularly when speaking to reporters, but the State Department made no effort to clarify if he was joking. Asked later on Fox News if he was serious, he did not say. “We will have a smooth transition,” he said. “And we will see what the people ultimately decided, when all the votes have been cast.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Postal worker admits making up allegations of ballot tampering, officials say, Shawn Boburg and Jacob Bogage, Nov. 11, 2020 (print ed.). A Pennsylvania postal worker whose claims have been cited by top Republicans as potential evidence of widespread voting irregularities recanted to U.S. Postal Service investigators.

us mail logoA Pennsylvania postal worker whose claims have been cited by top Republicans as potential evidence of widespread voting irregularities admitted to U.S. Postal Service investigators that he fabricated the allegations, according to three people briefed on the investigation and a statement from a House congressional committee.

Richard Hopkins’ claim that a postmaster in Erie, Pa., instructed postal workers to backdate ballots mailed after Election Day was cited by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) in a letter to the Department of Justice calling for a federal investigation. Attorney General William P. Barr subsequently authorized federal prosecutors to open probes into credible allegations of voting irregularities and fraud, a reversal of long-standing Justice Department policy.

But on Sunday, Hopkins, 32, told investigators from the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General that the allegations were not true, and he signed an affidavit recanting his claims, according to the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation. Democrats on the House oversight committee tweeted late Tuesday that the Justice Department logo“whistleblower completely RECANTED.”

The reversal comes as Trump has refused to concede to President-Elect Joe Biden (D), citing unproven allegations about widespread voter fraud in an attempt to swing the results in his favor. Republicans held up Hopkins’ claims as among the most credible because he signed an affidavit swearing that he overheard a supervisor instructing colleagues to backdate ballots mailed after Nov. 3.

The Trump campaign provided that affidavit to Graham, who in turn asked the Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation to launch an investigation. The Trump campaign also cited reports of the allegation in a federal lawsuit filed Monday against Pennsylvania election officials that seeks to prevent them from certifying the states’ election results.

john roberts djt state of union

Chief U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, left, exchanges a greeting with Donald Trump at a State of the Union address.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justices show they’re inclined to uphold ACA, Ann E. Marimow, Amy Goldstein, Paige Winfield Cunningham, Paulina Firozi and Robert Barnes, Nov. 11, 2020 (print ed.). Justices urged to defer to Congress and uphold ACA; Breyer takes issue with interpretation of ‘shall;’ Alito compares mandate to a plane continuing to fly without one part; Roberts skeptical of allowing challengers to ‘roam around’ the ACA; Gorsuch presses ACA challengers about their specific injury; Thomas draws an analogy to wearing masks during the pandemic, Nov. 10, 2020. California solicitor general urges court not to ‘tear down’ the ACA; Three questions for the justices reviewing the Affordable Care Act.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday is reviewing the latest Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act, reviving the partisan battle over health care that was central to the presidential contest and the confirmation of the newest justice, Amy Coney Barrett.

The court is reviewing a decision that found part of the law, also known as Obamacare, unconstitutional. The case raises questions about the fate of health insurance for millions of Americans. The lawsuit was brought by Republican state officials and is backed by President Trump’s administration, which has prioritized abolishing the law.

Three justices appointed by Trump — Barrett, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh — are on the case, along with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Steven G. Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas.

 

Attempted Coup By Trump?

djt john bolton cnn

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: John Bolton: Time is running out for Trump — and Republicans who coddle him, John R. Bolton, above right in a cable screenshot, Nov. 11, 2020. A Ylale Law School graduate and lifelong Republican, John R. Bolton served as national security adviser under President Trump and is the author of “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.”

As of this writing, the Republican Party has not suffered permanent damage to its integrity and reputation because of President Trump’s post-election rampaging. This will not be true much longer.

john bolton room where cover CustomIt is simply a truism that Trump has a legal right to pursue all appropriate election-law remedies to ensure an accurate, lawful vote count. To be credible, however, any aggrieved candidate must at some point produce valid legal arguments and persuasive evidence.

Trump has so far failed to do so, and there is no indication he can. If he can’t, his “right” to contest the election is beside the point.

The real issue is the grievous harm he is causing to public trust in America’s constitutional system. Trump’s time is running out, even as his rhetoric continues escalating. And time is running out for Republicans who hope to maintain the party’s credibility, starting with Georgia’s two Senate runoffs in January. Here is the cold political reality: Trump is enhancing his own brand (in his mind) while harming the Republican brand. The party needs a long internal conversation about the post-Trump era, but first it needs to get there honorably.

Consider the competing interests. Donald Trump’s is simple and straightforward: Donald Trump. The near-term Republican interest is winning the mark esperGeorgia runoffs. The long-term Republican interest emphatically involves winning those Senate seats, but it also involves rejecting Trump’s personalized, erratic, uncivil, unpresidential and ultimately less-than-effective politics and governance.

Trump is engaging in what could well be a systematic purge of his own administration, starting with the utterly unjustified firing of Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, right, this week and continuing through high- and mid-level civilian offices in the department. Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, head of the National Nuclear Safety Administration, was forced to resign. Washington is filled with rumors that the CIA and FBI directors are next.

rutherford hayes samuel tilden resized

OpEdNews, Opinion: Trump and Republicans Staging a Hayes/Tilden Coup, Rob Kall, right, Nov. 11, 2020. They Don't Need to Win Lawsuits, Just Stall. rob kall newoenearthlogoDonald Trump and the leadership of the Republican party are aggressively staging a coup, inspired by the 1876 Tilden Hayes election, and the Democratic Party and their mainstream media surrogates, CNN and MSNBC have not yet caught on. They are laughing at a situation that must be aggressively addressed with dire urgency. Mainstream Pundits are smarmily laughing at Trump, when it is they who are the clueless ones.

Mark my words. The 1876 Hayes Tilden election will become a frequently cited element of the news very soon.

It doesn't matter if Trump wins or loses the plethora of lawsuits he and his surrogates are filing across the nation. As long as he slows down the process and delays the finalization and confirmation of state vote counts he will win the election. If even a few Republican run states refuse to certify the vote counts, Biden will no longer have the 270 electoral votes. If that happens, Trump won't have the 270 electoral votes either. Under those circumstances, the election will fall to be decided by the House of Representatives. The process there will hand the victory to Trump.

Thom Hartmann and Greg Palast predicted this possibility earlier in the year. Now, election integrity activist Jonathan Simon and journalist David Sirota are also weighing in.

Earlier this week, in an interview, Greg Palast explained to me, describing the coup as an "article 2 gambit. Now article 2 of the constitution says that the state legislatures pick your electors. Now i bet you thought we all know we don't actually vote for president we vote for electors. No, you don't even vote for electors, your vote is purely advisory.

America does not have a democracy. We give advice to each state legislature and the legislatures then determine which electors go to the electoral college."

On May 8th, in an interview on my Bottom-up Show, Thom Hartmann theoretically described what is actually now happening, citing a similar occurrence in the 1876 Tilden Hayes presidential election, where the article 2 Gambit worked to reverse the election.

OpEdNews, Opinion: Trump Is Sandbagging to Send Election to the House; Election Integrity Should Not Help Him, Jonathan Simon, shown at right oenearthlogobelow, author of "Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and The New American Century," also shown below, Nov. 11, 2020.

jonathan simonAs Donald Trump, facing a defeat he signaled in advance he would not (and could not, given the stakes and his nature) accept, files lawsuit after lawsuit in a kind of virtuoso false-note cadenza improvised on a lifelong theme of litigiousness, some of my election integrity colleagues (and good friends) have declared support for Trump's attempted putsch, "open-mindedly" asserting it is our vehicle to a new election-integrity dawn. The ironies could not be much richer.

We do face what one of my colleagues, appalled by Trump, described as a "horrible dilemma:" to seize the rarest of opportunities to secure bipartisan support and press for serious election reform or essentially keep silent vigil and pray Trump's con doesn't work. The answer, to me, becomes clearer with every CAPS LOCK TWEET, frivolous lawsuit, and breathless Trump/GOP fundraising appeal. This crisis is being played for money (lots of it) and short- and long-term political advantage. It has literally nothing to do with democracy or election integrity. And it is being played by the same cynics who doubled down on every thumb on the electoral scales, including voter-suppression and disinformation schemes galore.

It is worthy of note that Trump has never stopped claiming that there were "millions of illegal voters" who cost him the popular vote victory in 2016 without ever producing a shred of evidence to substantiate that eternally repeated claim. In fact, he slapped together an Electoral Integrity "Commission" to ferret out the fraudsters and then disbanded it without so much as a Report.

We do face what one of my colleagues, appalled by Trump, described as a "horrible dilemma:" to seize the rarest of opportunities to secure bipartisan support and press for serious election reform or essentially keep silent vigil and pray Trump's con doesn't work. The answer, to me, becomes clearer with every CAPS LOCK TWEET, frivolous lawsuit, and breathless Trump/GOP fundraising appeal. This crisis is being played for money (lots of it) and short- and long-term political advantage. It has literally nothing to do with democracy or election integrity. And it is being played by the same cynics who doubled down on every thumb on the electoral scales, including voter-suppression and disinformation schemes galore.

It is worthy of note that Trump has never stopped claiming that there were "millions of illegal voters" who cost him the popular vote victory in 2016 without ever producing a shred of evidence to substantiate that eternally repeated claim. In fact, he slapped together an Electoral Integrity "Commission" to ferret out the fraudsters and then disbanded it without so much as a Report.

jonathan simon code redAnd it is further worthy of note that Trump's current strategy is not about actually overturning enough votes to win election legitimately. His own aides have acknowledged that is impossible. Rather it is fixed on delaying certification past the applicable deadlines. The law favors delay and Team Trump knows it.

His plan is to prevent certification of 270 Biden electoral votes by tying up several state processes in court past the state deadlines (the "hard" one being 12/14, when the Electoral College votes on slates) and then either importuning friendly state legislatures (the GOP controls Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Arizona) to send Trump elector slates to Congress, or simply throwing the election to the House, where the GOP controls the majority of state delegations (under the Twelfth Amendment, the House votes for president by state delegation) so Trump wins.

Does that look like democracy or electoral integrity to you? To me it looks like yet another right-wing scheme to steal an election and haven't we been through (and been irreparably harmed by) enough of those? Don't kid yourselves this is a clear and present danger.

So I think we should examine what's going on now in context. Yes, our electoral system is manifestly in need of serious reform. And yes, no Democrat, since The Help America Vote Act (2002) ushered in the Computerized Voting Era, has challenged the system's non-transparency or the parade of red flags that that non-transparency has given rise to. But Trump has no intention of pursuing a genuine investigation bent on bringing transparency to the system. He is interested in the welfare of no one and nothing other than Donald J. Trump not his party, not his nation, not its voters. That has been demonstrated beyond any disputing. He will lie. He will falsely accuse. He might even commit fraud as part of his desperate putsch.

I think our responsibility is not to join the Democrats and media in chanting how wonderful and legitimate our electoral system is. We know better than anyone that it is not. But our responsibility is to keep careful watch over the delay-scam that Trump is now setting in motion, and give what support we can to the beleaguered election officials who will now be attacked ruthlessly and desperately (my god, they're even going after their own GOP Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in Georgia!). So far Trump has failed for lack of evidence in virtually every case he has taken to court, some before highly partisan right-leaning judges. We can let that process play out (it is infinitely more than Kerry or Clinton or Ossoff or Coakley or any Democrat-of-note with the exception of Al Franken has ever ventured). But we don't have to and shouldn't provide more anecdotal or ambiguous forensic fuel to a desperate man who has utter contempt for fact and evidence, or to the party that yet again is riding cynical shotgun for him.

It's not that we as Democrats, Progressives, or EI advocates "won." Given the polls and the control of the equipment, and given all the other outcomes (from Senate to House to state legislatures), Democrats are hardly the "winners" of this election. We have at least as good reason, in the pervasive red shift from both exit and tracking polls, to suspect wholesale rigging to benefit Republican candidates, as Trump has to suspect retail indeed much better, given the egregious numbers and the whole forensic history of the post-HAVA era.

Perhaps this will turn out to be a long-postponed moment of truth and reckoning for our voting system and for a counting process incidentally or diabolically designed for concealment. We continue to crunch numbers and search for telltale patterns of "mistabulation." Computerized election fraud rarely, if ever, comes out and shakes your hand. Trust in our electoral process and its core protocols has, as I've cautioned with increasing urgency over the past two decades, at last jumped the shark, hit the wall, gone over the cliff so perhaps there will now be a more receptive audience for our near-proofs and desperate pleas.

But you don't get Trump if you don't get that he will use everyone and everything he possibly can for his own ends -- and lose you when you no longer serve them. He's demonstrated that his whole life with hardly a single flinch.

You think you'll ride his scattershot charges to some new dawn for electoral integrity. If you get in bed with him (and do anything to further nurture the hopes of his besotted followers), don't expect to get up in the morning.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Pompeo committed treacherous sedition with his announcement of Trump's coup, Wayne Madsen, left, Nov. 11, 2020. Secretary wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallof State Mike Pompeo committed an act of treacherous sedition when he commented on a smooth presidential transition at a Tuesday press conference at the Department of State. In answer to a Fox News's reporter's question about the transition, Pompeo relied, "There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration."

That comment, by the senior Cabinet officer of the United States, sent foreign ministries around the world, as well as the diplomatic corps in the United States, into a bewildered frenzy.

wayne madesen report logoThe U.S. Secretary of State position is far more than that of a foreign minister. The Secretary of State also acts as a type of notary and official document repository for the Executive Branch of government. The Secretary of State acknowledges and archives documents such as international treaties, instruments of surrender, and letters of resignation from the president and vice president of the United States.

When Pompeo wrongly announced that Donald Trump had been elected to a second term, over the wishes a majority of the state electors chosen by the American voters, he was misusing his position in an official capacity and to a degree never before seen in American history.

American System TV, Opinion: Is Trump Unleashing an Autogolpe against US Constitution? Webster G. Tarpley, right, Nov. 11, 2020. Ominous Signs Multiply: webster tarpley 2007Trump’s Defense Secretary Esper Brusquely “Terminated” by Tweet.

  • Pentagon Boss Had Publicly Rejected Trump’s Bid to Use Cover of Insurrection Act to Deploy Federal Troops Against Peaceful Protesters;
  • Replacement is Christopher Miller, Current Head of National Counterterrorism Information Center;
  • Firing of Esper Introduces Chaos Factors at Worst Possible Time, with China’s Aggressor Xi Considering Attack on Taiwan.
  • Palmer Report, Opinion: The Georgia hand recount is about to put Donald Trump one step closer to the door, Bill Palmer, Nov. 11, 2020. Joe Biden is ahead by 14,000 votes in Georgia, making him the clear winner, but due to the relatively close margin the state has ordered a hand recount. Good. This will help to finish off Donald Trump more quickly.

    Trump has literally 0.0% chance of somehow magically overturning the election result, and he knows it. He’s only “contesting” the election so he can keep fundraising from his gullible supporters; the fine print literally says that he gets to keep the majority of the money he raises. Trump won’t give up the ghost until the money starts running dry.

    The Georgia recount has no chance of changing the result; even hand recounts never change the margin by more than a few hundred votes. So once this recount is finished, Joe Biden will be way ahead again, and the major media outlets will go ahead and declare him the winner there.

    That’s a big deal, because Trump’s argument that he’s magically going to overturn the election result is based on the notion that he can somehow win Pennsylvania, Arizona, and Georgia to get him over 270. Some news outlets have called Arizona for Biden and some haven’t. But once they all call Georgia for Biden after the recount, it’ll mean that Trump can’t get to 270 even if he somehow flipped Pennsylvania, which has been the main focus of his imaginary voter fraud claims.

    In other words, once the Georgia recount is over, Donald Trump will have a hard time selling the “I still might secretly win” nonsense to anyone, even many of his own supporters. At that point there won’t be any money in pretending to contest the election anymore, and Trump will have to shift his focus to trying to give himself a softer landing when it comes to facing prison and bankruptcy after he’s out of office.

Nov. 10

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden behaves as the incoming president, even as Trump balks at giving up power, Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan, Nov. 10, 2020 (print ed.). President-elect Joe Biden sought to project the authority of an incoming president Monday as he dealt with matters domestic and international, even as the defeated incumbent continued to balk at turning over the reins.

Biden began taking calls from foreign leaders, speaking Monday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He also was weighing whom to appoint to top White House positions, with several of his longtime advisers expected to take senior roles. And he turned his attention to the coronavirus, dispatching a key aide to brief Senate Democrats this week and making a strong pitch to Americans of every ideology to follow public health recommendations.

Biden urged Americans to wear masks, at one point holding one up during a speech in Wilmington, and sought to depoliticize the act of putting one on.

djt biden smiles resized

washington post logoWashington Post, White House orders agencies to rebuff Biden transition team, Lisa Rein, Matt Viser, Greg Miller and Josh Dawsey, Nov. 10, 2020 (print ed.). The Trump White House on Monday instructed senior government leaders to block cooperation with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, escalating a standoff that threatens to impede the transfer of power and prompting the Biden team to consider legal action.
Follow the latest on Election 2020

Officials at agencies across the government who had prepared briefing books and carved out office space for the incoming Biden team to use as soon as this week were told instead that the transition would not be recognized until the Democrat’s election was confirmed by the General Services Administration, the low-profile agency that officially starts the transition.

While media outlets on Saturday projected Biden as the winner, President Trump has not conceded the election.

“We have been told: Ignore the media, wait for it to be official from the government,” said a senior administration official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly.

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Updates: Justices show they’re inclined to uphold ACA, Ann E. Marimow, Amy Goldstein, Paige Winfield Cunningham, Paulina Firozi and Robert Barnes, Nov. 10, 2020. Justices urged to defer to Congress and uphold ACA; Breyer takes issue with interpretation of ‘shall;’ Alito compares mandate to a plane continuing to fly without one part; Roberts skeptical of allowing challengers to ‘roam around’ the ACA; Gorsuch presses ACA challengers about their specific injury; Thomas draws an analogy to wearing masks during the pandemic, Nov. 10, 2020. California solicitor general urges court not to ‘tear down’ the ACA; Three questions for the justices reviewing the Affordable Care Act.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday is reviewing the latest Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act, reviving the partisan battle over health care that was central to the presidential contest and the confirmation of the newest justice, Amy Coney Barrett.

The court is reviewing a decision that found part of the law, also known as Obamacare, unconstitutional. The case raises questions about the fate of health insurance for millions of Americans. The lawsuit was brought by Republican state officials and is backed by President Trump’s administration, which has prioritized abolishing the law.

Three justices appointed by Trump — Barrett, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh — are on the case, along with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Samuel A. Alito Jr., Steven G. Breyer, Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Clarence Thomas.

 

Trump by Michael Vadon Creative Commons e1486885124813

washington post logoWashington Post, As an ex-president, Trump could disclose the secrets he learned while in office, current and former officials fear, Shane Harris, Nov. 10, 2020 (print ed.). As president, Donald Trump selectively revealed highly classified information to attack his adversaries, gain political advantage and to impress or intimidate foreign governments, in some cases jeopardizing U.S. intelligence capabilities. As an ex-president, there’s every reason to worry he will do the same, thus posing a unique national security dilemma for the Biden administration, current and former officials and analysts said.

All presidents exit the office with valuable national secrets in their heads, including the procedures for launching nuclear weapons, intelligence-gathering capabilities — including assets deep inside foreign governments — and the development of new and advanced weapon systems.

But no new president has ever had to fear that his predecessor might expose the nation’s secrets as President-elect Joe Biden must with Trump, current and former officials said. Not only does Trump have a history of disclosures, he checks the boxes of a classic counterintelligence risk: He is deeply in debt and angry at the U.S. government, particularly what he describes as the “deep state” conspiracy that he believes tried to stop him from winning the White House in 2016 and what he falsely claims is an illegal effort to rob him of reelection.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barr clears Justice Dept. to investigate alleged voting irregularities as Trump makes unfounded claims, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Nov. 10, 2020 (print ed.). william barr new oAttorney General William P. Barr, right, on Monday gave federal prosecutors approval to pursue allegations of “vote tabulation irregularities” in certain cases before results are certified and indicated he had already done so “in specific instances” — a reversal of long-standing Justice Department policy that quickly drew internal and external criticism for fueling unfounded claims of massive election fraud pushed by President Trump and other conservatives.

Justice Department log circularRichard Pilger, head of the Justice Department’s Election Crimes Branch, stepped down from his position in protest over Barr’s directive — though he remains at the agency, according to people familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a politically volatile situation.

The people said Barr had first broached a similar idea some weeks ago and that political leadership in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, of which the Election Crimes Branch is a part, pushed back. Those officials were blindsided when Barr’s memo was released on Monday, the people said.

ny times logoNew York Times, Growing Discomfort at Law Firms Representing Trump in Election Lawsuits, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Rachel Abrams and David Enrich, Nov. 10, 2020 (print ed.). Some lawyers at Jones Day and Porter Wright, which have filed suits about the 2020 vote, said they were worried about undermining the electoral system.

Like many big law firms, Jones Day, whose roots go back to Cleveland in the late 1800s, has prided itself on representing controversial clients.

There was Big Tobacco. There was the Bin Laden family. There was even the hated owner of the Cleveland Browns football team as he moved the franchise to Baltimore.

Now Jones Day is the most prominent firm representing President Trump and the Republican Party as they prepare to wage a legal war challenging the results of the election. The work is intensifying concerns inside the firm about the propriety and wisdom of working for Mr. Trump, according to lawyers at the firm.

Doing business with Mr. Trump — with his history of inflammatory rhetoric, meritless lawsuits and refusal to pay what he owes — has long induced heartburn among lawyers, contractors, suppliers and lenders. But the concerns are taking on new urgency as the president seeks to raise doubts about the election results.

Some lawyers at Jones Day and Porter Wright, which have filed suits about the 2020 vote, said they were worried about undermining the electoral system.

At another large firm, Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, based in Columbus, Ohio, lawyers have held internal meetings to voice similar concerns about their firm’s election-related work for Mr. Trump and the Republican Party, according to people at the firm. At least one lawyer quit in protest.

Already, the two firms have filed at least four lawsuits challenging aspects of the election in Pennsylvania. The cases are pending.

The latest salvo came on Monday evening, when the Trump campaign filed a suit in federal court in Pennsylvania against the Pennsylvania secretary of state and a number of county election boards. The suit — filed by lawyers at Porter Wright — alleged that there were “irregularities” in voting across the state.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump Loves to Use the Pardon Power. Is He Next? Jack Goldsmith (co-author of “After Trump: Reconstructing the Presidency”), Nov. 10, 2020 (print ed.).  There is little to be done right now about the president’s self-serving ways, but Congress can limit future abuses.

President Trump has abused the pardon power like none of his predecessors. But we likely ain’t seen nothing yet. Now that he has lost the election, Mr. Trump will likely pardon himself, friends, family members and Trump business entities and employees for any crime they might have committed before or during his presidency.

Mr. Trump’s pardons to date, and those likely to come during a transition, reveal the problems with the supposed “absoluteness” of the pardon power — and should prompt legal reform to clarify limits on its abuse.

The pardon power that the Constitution confers on the president has just two stated limitations: A president cannot pardon for impeachment, and a presidential pardon can excuse or mitigate punishment only for federal offenses. There is little that can be done at this point to stave off a potential wave of pardons in the lame duck period, but the federal crime limitation means that Mr. Trump cannot stop state criminal investigations, including one in progress by the Manhattan district attorney into possible bank and insurance fraud by Mr. Trump and his companies.

Nov. 9

washington post logoWashington Post, McCabe will defend opening Russia probe in testimony before GOP-controlled Senate panel, Matt Zapotosky, Nov. 9, 2020. As he testifies Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe will forcefully defend the bureau’s decision to initiate an investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election, telling lawmakers that officials had a “duty” to do so because of the information that had come to them, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.
Follow the latest on Election 2020

McCabe, a longtime FBI official who briefly led the bureau after President Trump fired Director James B. Comey in 2017, is the fourth former high-ranking law enforcement official to testify before the Republican-controlled committee as a part of its review of the Russia investigation.

FBI logoLike those before him, McCabe will concede some mistakes — particularly in how the bureau applied to a secret court to conduct surveillance on a former Trump campaign adviser — but offer a robust counter to broader conservative attacks on the investigation, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. McCabe personally approved the decision to investigate Trump for possible obstruction of justice and is likely to face questions on that decision.

“Let me be very clear. We didn’t open a case because we liked one candidate or didn’t like the other one. We didn’t open a case because we intended to stage a coup or overthrow the government. We didn’t open a case because we thought it might be interesting or because we wanted to drag the FBI into a heated political contest,” McCabe will say, according to the remarks. “We opened a case to find out how the Russians might be undermining our elections. We opened a case because it was our obligation — our duty — to do so. We did our job.”

The probe by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), is one of several efforts to investigate the investigators who led the Russia probe. If Republicans maintain control of the Senate, it is perhaps the one most likely to persist after President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in.

Senate Republicans accelerate public scrutiny of Trump-Russia investigation as election looms

The investigation is largely seeking to build on that of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who found the FBI had adequate reason to initiate the probe but made serious, troubling errors in applying to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. It comes in addition to the investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was specially tapped by Attorney General William P. Barr to review the Russia probe and has publicly signaled some disagreement with Horowitz.

Nov. 7

 

Vox, Opinion: A Coup Attempt In Plain Sight, Ezra Klein, Nov. 7, 2020. How do we cover it when it’s happening here? A few years ago, there was a boom of articles called “If it happened there,” imagining how the American press would cover this or that story if it happened in another country. How would we cover the government shutdown if it happened in another country? The Ferguson protests? The Oregon militia siege? George Floyd’s killing? Mike Bloomberg?

Slate’s Joshua Keating popularized the form, but other outlets, including Vox, have deployed it. The intent was to use the tropes of foreign coverage to create a sense of what the literary critic Darko Suvin called “cognitive estrangement”: severing us from the familiarity and overconfidence that can dull our awareness of extraordinary events. And so you’d get leads like, “the pleasant autumn weather disguises a government teetering on the brink. Because, at midnight Monday night, the government of this intensely proud and nationalistic people will shut down, a drastic sign of political dysfunction in this moribund republic.”

djt as chosen oneBut the slight air of parody lent the whole enterprise a sense of unreality. America isn’t a banana republic. It wasn’t happening there. It was happening here, and that made all the difference. In order to even see the danger, to recognize the depth of tensions or the possibilities of fracture, we had to control for American exceptionalism, for the implicit belief that we were the United States of America, and we were different.

If the past four years — and the past four days — have proven anything, it’s that we are not as different as we believed, not as kissed by providence as we hoped. Perhaps we are not different at all. We need to cover it as if it happening here, because it is.
Donald Trump is trying to discredit an election he is losing

Joe Biden has won the presidency. But the current president of the United States, Donald Trump, is attempting a coup in plain sight. “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!” he tweeted on Saturday morning. This came after he demanded that states cease counting votes when the total began to turn against him, after his press secretary shocked Fox News anchors by arguing that legally cast votes should be thrown out.

The Trump administration’s current strategy is to go to court to try and get votes for Biden ruled illegitimate, and that strategy explicitly rests on Trump’s appointees honoring a debt the administration, at least, believes they owe. One of his legal advisers said, “We’re waiting for the United States Supreme Court — of which the President has nominated three justices — to step in and do something. And hopefully Amy Coney Barrett will come through.”

If that fails, and it will, Mark Levin, one of the nation’s most popular conservative radio hosts, is explicitly calling on Republican legislatures to reject the election results and seat Donald Trump as president anyway. After Twitter tagged the tweet as contested, Trump’s press secretary weighed in furiously on Levin’s behalf.

That this coup probably will not work — that it is being carried out farcically, erratically, ineffectively — does not mean it is not happening, or that it will not have consequences. Millions will believe Trump, will see the election as stolen. The Trump family’s Twitter feeds, and those of associated outlets and allies, are filled with allegations of fraud and lies about the process (reporter Isaac Saul has been doing yeoman’s work tracking these arguments, and his thread is worth reading). It’s the construction of a confusing, but immersive, alternative reality in which the election has been stolen from Trump and weak-kneed Republicans are letting the thieves escape.

This is, to borrow Hungarian sociologist Bálint Magyar’s framework, “an autocratic attempt.” That’s the stage in the transition toward autocracy in which the would-be autocrat is trying to sever his power from electoral check. If he’s successful, autocratic breakthrough follows, and then autocratic consolidation occurs. In this case, the would-be autocrat stands little chance of being successful. But he will not entirely fail, either. What Trump is trying to form is something akin to an autocracy-in-exile, an alternative America in which he is the rightful leader, and he — and the public he claims to represent — has been robbed of power by corrupt elites.

The corruption of the GOP will outlive Trump’s presidency

Members of the Trump family are explicitly, repeatedly, trying to make the acceptance of their conspiracies a litmus test for ambitious Republicans. And it is working. To read elected Republicans today — with a few notable exceptions, like Sen. Mitt Romney — is to read a careful, cowardly double-speak. Politician after politician is signaling, as Vice President Mike Pence did, solidarity with the president, while not quite endorsing his conspiracies. Of course every legal vote should be counted. Of course allegations of fraud should be addressed. But that is not what the president is demanding — he is demanding the votes against him be ruled illegal — and they know it.

What we are not seeing, in any way, is a wholesale rejection on the right of Trump’s effort to delegitimize the election. And thus there is no reason to believe Trump will not retain his hold over much of the party, and much of its base, going forward.

Even if Trump is rejected in this election, the Republican Party that protected and enabled him will not be. Their geographic advantage in the Senate insulates them from anything but massive, consecutive landslide defeats, and their dominance over the decennial redistricting process has given them a handicap in the House, too.

Here’s the grim kicker: The conditions that made Trump and this Republican Party possible are set to worsen. Republicans retained control of enough statehouses to drive the next redistricting effort, too, and their 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court will unleash their map-drawers more fully. The elections analyst G. Elliott Morris estimates that the gap between the popular vote margin and the tipping point state in the Electoral College will be 4 to 5 percentage points, and that the GOP’s control of the redistricting process could push it to 6 to 7 points next time.

Nov. 4

Top Headlines

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

Top Stories

djt biden smiles resized

washington post logoWashington Post, Counting continues in key battlegrounds: Biden 224, Trump 213, John Wagner, Nov. 4, 2020 (8:06 a.m. EST). White House race hangs in balance as votes are counted in key states.

With millions of votes still being counted, the outcome of the race between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden remained in flux, with the possibility that the winner would not be known for days. Key states where results were outstanding included Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan; Democratic stronghold counties in Georgia were still being counted, as well.

Early Wednesday, Trump falsely asserted election fraud, pledged to mount a legal challenge to official state results and made a premature claim of victory. Biden insisted that “we believe we’re on track to win this election” and pleaded for patience, citing several key states where the vote count was ongoing.

  • Biden is projected to win California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Virginia, Washington, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Oregon, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Delaware and the District of Columbia, plus one electoral vote in Nebraska.
  • Trump is projected to win Texas, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama, South Carolina, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Utah, West Virginia, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota and Wyoming, plus three electoral votes in Nebraska, according to Edison Research.
  • House Democrats appeared on track to secure another two years in the majority. But the party looked set to fall drastically short of its bullish predictions that it would cut deep into Trump country to grow its majority.
  • Party control of the Senate hung in the balance, but Democratic hopes of securing a majority appeared to dwindle.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Here’s what it comes down to now, Bill Palmer, right, Nov. 4, 2020 (7:37 a.m. EST). In the end, it all comes down to five states. The good news for Joe Biden is that the states he bill palmerneeds to win seem to be trending in his direction as the sun is coming up.

Joe Biden has clearly pulled ahead in Wisconsin. Decision Desk has him up by about 17,000 votes; MSNBC has him up by about 21,000 votes. Kornacki just said on air that there isn’t much bill palmer report logo headerleft to come in for Wisconsin one way or the other.

An hour ago Joe Biden was down by a couple hundred thousand votes in Michigan, but now Decision Desk says he’s behind by just 2,200 votes. With most of the uncounted votes in Biden-friendly places like Detroit, expert Nate Cohn tweeted that it’s trending toward Biden and that it “may not be particularly close.”

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosWe should potentially know the Wisconsin and Michigan results by sometime later today. If Joe Biden wins them both, then he’ll only need to win one state out of Nevada, Pennsylvania, and. Georgia.

Nevada has turned out to be surprisingly close, but Cohn is seeing a “pretty good set of news” for Biden in the state. Pennsylvania and Georgia could go either way at this point. But if Biden wins Nevada, Michigan and Wisconsin, then he’s at 270, it’s over, and won’t have to wait for Pennsylvania or Georgia.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Biden Urges Patience as Trump Threatens Court Action, Staff reports, Nov. 4, 2020. Dawn broke over the United States with the presidential election undecided and the specter of hours or even days of uncertainty ahead; Several states counted millions of ballots in razor-thin contests that could tip the balance to President Trump or Joe Biden; President Trump made reckless and baseless claims and said he would go to the Supreme Court before the vote count was complete. Here’s the latest.

Joe Biden expressed confidence to supporters, and President Trump falsely claimed victory. The threat of legal challenges mounted as lawyers were dispatched to battleground states. In Senate races, Democrats faced an uphill battle to claim a majority.

The morning after a chaotic, suspenseful Election Day, Americans awoke on Wednesday to the specter of hours or even days of uncertainty ahead, as several states counted millions of ballots in razor-thin contests that could tip the balance to President Trump or former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

After a long election night rife with dramatic twists and victories by both candidates, Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden battled to a near draw in electoral votes, each several dozen votes shy of the 270 needed to capture the presidency.

The field of battle had dwindled to a trio of northern states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin — that vaulted Mr. Trump to victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016, as well as Arizona and Nevada, where Mr. Biden had narrow leads, and Georgia, where he trailed but was gaining ground with every vote counted. Mr. supreme court graphicTrump prematurely declared victory and said he would petition the Supreme Court to demand a halt to the counting. Mr. Biden urged his supporters — and by implication, Mr. Trump — to show patience and allow the process to play out.

Their dueling, post-midnight appearances captured the raw struggle of a contest that many feared would leap from the campaign trail to the courts, as Mr. Trump’s lawyers readied legal maneuvers.

The president’s statement, delivered in the White House, amounted to a reckless attack on the democratic process during a time of deep anxiety and division in the country. Mr. Biden, speaking from a flag-draped stage in Wilmington, Del., appealed for calm and tried to reassure supporters rattled by a vote that was much closer than the pollsters or political analysts had predicted.

“It’s not my place or Donald Trump’s place to declare who has won this election,” Mr. Biden said, to a chorus of honking car horns at a drive-in rally. “That’s the decision of the American people.”

Mr. Trump, however, derided the vote-counting as “a major fraud on our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner,” he said. “We’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court. We want all voting to stop.”

Vote counting continued into the morning from Pennsylvania to Nevada, as election officials labored to process a flood of mail-in ballots and huge numbers of in-person votes in an election that was sure to shatter records.

So far, Mr. Trump was holding off Mr. Biden in two Southern states that the former vice president had hoped to snatch back from the Republican column: Georgia and North Carolina. These were not must-win states for Mr. Biden, but he spent heavily in both and visited them in the final stretch of the campaign.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump blatantly seeks to undermine democracy with attempts to falsely claim victory, subvert election, Dan Balz, Nov. 4, 2020. For four years, President Trump has sought to undermine the institutions of a democratic society, but never so blatantly as in the early morning hours of Wednesday. His attempt to falsely claim victory and to subvert the election itself by calling for a halt to vote-counting represents the gravest of threats to the stability of the country.

djt hands up mouth open CustomMillions of votes remain to be counted, votes cast legally under the laws of the states. Until they are all counted, the outcome of the election remains in doubt. Either he or former vice president Joe Biden could win an electoral college majority, but neither has yet done so, no matter what he says. Those are the facts, for which the president shows no respect.

A president who respected the Constitution would let things play out. But Trump has shown once again he cares not about the Constitution or the stability and well-being of the country or anything like that. He cares only about himself and retaining the powers he now holds. And so he cries “fraud” when there is no evidence whatsoever of any such thing.

amy coney barrett djt white house swearing in

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump campaign vows legal challenges as narrow race raises stakes for battles over which ballots will count, Elise Viebeck, Robert Barnes, Josh Dawsey, Emma Brown and Jon Swaine, Nov. 4, 2020. Razor-thin vote margins in a half-dozen presidential battleground states are raising the stakes for legal fights over which ballots will count, a strategy that President Trump’s campaign vowed Wednesday to aggressively pursue.

Legal experts noted that Trump cannot simply seek the Supreme Court’s intervention in the election and stop the counting of ballots, as he said early Wednesday that he intended to do.

djt pence yard sign logoBut with pivotal states such as Nevada, Michigan and Wisconsin still too close to call Wednesday morning, lawyers on both sides were gearing up for litigation — particularly over mail ballots. On Wednesday, the Trump campaign said it would immediately seek a recount in Wisconsin, where former vice president Joe Biden held a narrow edge.

Pennsylvania could also emerge as ground zero for legal jockeying. Before Election Day, the Supreme Court had declined to hear a challenge to the state’s extended deadline for accepting mail ballots, a case it could now take up if four justices agree. And Republicans have already filed two lawsuits in the state seeking to block votes from people who were allowed to correct mistakes on their mail ballots, alleging problems with that “cure” process.

Justin Clark, Trump’s deputy campaign manager, told allies, surrogates and donors in a call Wednesday morning that there will be “more litigation today, likely,” in the state, without offering specifics.

“We are full-court press to make sure all legal votes get counted properly in Pennsylvania,” he added, according to a recording of the call obtained by The Washington Post.

Top Trump campaign officials said that they expect a slate of legal challenges and have already deployed lawyers to a range of states.

“We are in recount territory in Wisconsin, in Michigan, the same way,” Clark said. “I believe we will be lodging legal challenges in both of those places because there is some . . . to counteract any funny business going on in both of those places.”

Meanwhile, the Biden campaign Wednesday said it was well-prepared to fend off any legal actions by the Trump campaign.

“We’re winning the election, we’ve won the election, and we’re going to defend that election,” Bob Bauer, a top attorney for the Biden campaign, said Wednesday morning in a call with reporters. “So we don’t have to do anything but protect the rights of voters and to stand up for the democratic process.”

Here are the voting lawsuits that could lead to post-election fights over ballots

Trump said early Wednesday that he wants the Supreme Court to determine which votes should count, falsely claiming victory while millions of votes were still outstanding.

“Frankly, we did win this election,” the president said at the White House. “We did win this election. So our goal now is to ensure the integrity for the good of this nation. This is a very big moment. This is a major fraud in our nation. We want the law to be used in a proper manner. So we’ll be going to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

There is no routine review of election results at the Supreme Court, and the court’s most consequential election case — Bush v. Gore, which effectively determined the outcome of the 2000 presidential race — did not arrive there for about a month.

The court’s power is constrained, and justices can entertain only specific constitutional questions that have risen from lower courts. A direct appeal from the president to intervene in an election does not count under these rules.

“You can’t bring a case directly to the Supreme Court in an election dispute. . . . And there’s no legal cause of action that says, ‘Stop the count and declare me the winner,’ ” said Joshua A. Douglas, law professor at the University of Kentucky’s Rosenberg College of Law.

Bauer said that if Trump at some point sought to go before the court to try to stop the counting of ballots that were lawfully cast, “he will be in for one of the most embarrassing defeats the president ever suffered before the highest court of the land.”

The Supreme Court’s work typically comes after a ruling in a case by a local judge that has gone through the appellate process. In Bush v. Gore, the court was reviewing decisions of the Florida Supreme Court, for instance, and issued its opinion Dec. 12, with the deadline for naming members of the electoral college looming.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Joe Biden pulls ahead, Donald Trump melts down about it, Twitter cracks down on him, Bill Palmer, Nov. 4, 2020. Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe just announced on NBC News that “all of the ballots have indeed been counted” in the state. This is a big deal because Biden is ahead by about 21,000 votes. No news outlet has called the state quite yet, but this mathematically means that Biden is the unofficial, likely, apparent, winner.

wisconsin map with largest cities Custombill palmer report logo headerMeanwhile Joe Biden pulled ahead in Michigan earlier this morning, and there is strong reason to believe that his lead there will continue to widen as the final ballots come in from Biden-friendly districts. If Biden wins Wisconsin and Michigan – along with Nevada, where he maintains a slim lead – then he’ll be President of the United States without even needing Pennsylvania or Georgia.

Suffice it to say that Donald Trump isn’t taking the news well. He tweeted a phony map which falsely claimed that Biden got 100% of late votes, adding “WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT?” In response, Twitter quickly pasted over his tweet with a warning label about it being misleading. Twitter also pasted over another conspiratorial Trump tweet.

While nothing is certain, it’s now clear that Joe Biden is likely to win the election – and Donald Trump knows it. No wonder he’s melting down.

 ny times logoNew York Times, The Remaining Vote in Pennsylvania Appears to Be Overwhelmingly for Biden, Nate Cohn, Nov. 4, 2020. Updated 7:19 a.m. EST. The president leads by nearly 700,000 votes, but there are 1.4 million absentee votes outstanding.

Joe Biden has won absentee ballots counted in Pennsylvania by an overwhelming margin so far, according to data from the Secretary of State early Wednesday. If he carried the remaining absentee ballots by a similar margin, he would win the state.
Votes in Pennsylvania

President Trump leads by nearly 700,000 votes in Pennsylvania as of 5 a.m. on Wednesday, and Mr. Biden’s chances depend on whether he can win a large percentage of the more than 1.4 million absentee ballots that remain to be counted.

So far, Mr. Biden has won absentee voters in Pennsylvania, 78 percent to 21 percent, according to the Secretary of State’s office. The results comport with the findings of pre-election surveys and an analysis of absentee ballot requests, which all indicated that Mr. Biden held an overwhelming lead among absentee voters.
If Mr. Biden won the more than 1.4 million absentee votes by such a large margin, he would net around 800,000 votes — enough to overcome his deficit statewide.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Mr. Biden will win the remaining absentee vote by quite so much.

Nov. 2

david kaplan

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Has the Court Learned Nothing From Bush v. Gore? Apparently not, David A. Kaplan (author of The Accidental President: How 413 Lawyers, 9 Supreme Court Justices and 5,963,110 Floridians (Give or Take a Few) Landed George W. Bush in the White House, and The Most Dangerous Branch, shown above), Nov. 2, 2020.

You remember the legal horror show called Bush v. Gore? The Supreme Court couldn’t possibly replicate that. But don’t underestimate the justices’ capacity for self-inflicted wounds. The sequel’s being scripted and it may be worse.

Twenty years ago, the court stepped in to halt a recount in the disputed 2000 presidential election. Both the Constitution and federal law specifically entrusted Congress to resolve such a deadlock. But the justices recklessly inserted themselves anyway. The fiercely divided ruling cost the court its legitimacy and hurt the country.

Now there are widespread worries that the court will jump in again. “I think this will end up in the Supreme Court,” President Trump said in late September. Having just placed Amy Coney Barrett, the sixth Republican-appointed justice on the court, he is evidently thrilled about that prospect.

Only two justices remain on the court who were there in 2000 — Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer. Have they and their fellow justices learned anything from the court’s misadventure?

One of the biggest myths about the court — born of its continuing gratuitous interventions in contentious issues that should have been left to Congress and states — is that it had no choice but to meddle. That self-proclaimed textualist, Justice Antonin Scalia, told an interviewer years after Bush v. Gore, “We were the laughingstock of the world — the world’s greatest democracy that couldn’t conduct an election.” He omitted any mention of where in the Constitution he had unearthed a “Laughingstock” clause that justified the court’s intrusion.

On occasion, he had a smugger response when asked about the 5-to-4 ruling. “Get over it!” he’d say. Justice David Souter, who dissented, never did, so appalled was he about Bush v. Gore.

The court’s docket is discretionary. The only plausible explanation for the court’s taking up Bush v. Gore is institutional arrogance — the belief that the justices alone could save the country from a crisis that wasn’t a crisis. But the Constitution and a federal statute provide what to do in such instances, even if a president isn’t chosen by Inauguration Day. That hubris not only made the justices look like partisans in robes but also raised the stakes for future court nominations.

When the court shuts down a recount, invents an individual’s right to bear arms under the Second Amendment, unleashes big money into campaigns, guts voting rights and sets abortion policy, presidents and senators react accordingly. The storm over Justice Barrett’s confirmation is the latest chapter in a story that begins with the justices themselves.

Bush v. Gore involved just one state, Florida. This year, that case might look like a picnic. With so many battleground states and with hundreds of lawsuits, no doubt this is the most litigated election ever.

Still, elections should be garden-variety state matters, even races for the presidency. State courts should be left to make decisions based on their own state laws and state constitutions. Yet there’s plenty of reason to think some of the justices would be happy to substitute their own judgment.

In 2000, the court’s logic was that the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection” rendered Florida’s system unconstitutional because different counties used different standards to evaluate contested ballots. Never mind that the counties all set out to determine the intent of any given voter. Never mind that George W. Bush’s lawyers had raised the equal protection argument only in passing.

Why would they do otherwise? There were 3,141 counties in the United States. Most contained multiple municipalities, most of which had separate voting precincts. There were different machines, ballot designs and instructions. Lines could be short in some neighborhoods, around the block in others. Many of the disparities disproportionately affected Black people, the chief intended beneficiaries of the 14th Amendment. Yet the court had never gone near declaring that such variances amounted to constitutional transgressions.

In Bush v. Gore, the justices did. Had they finally seen the light when it came to voting inequities? Nope. They were apparently ambivalent enough about their own reasoning that they said the case should not be considered a precedent. Bush v. Gore is the Lord Voldemort of Supreme Court jurisprudence — the case that must not be named.

ny times logoNew York Times, Federal Judge Rejects G.O.P. Attempt to Toss 127,000 Ballots in Texas, David Montgomery and Nick Corasaniti, Nov. 2, 2020. Republicans had tried to invalidate votes that were cast at drive-through locations in Harris County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Houston.

A federal judge in Houston on Monday rejected Republican efforts to invalidate more than 127,000 votes that were cast at drive-through locations in Harris County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city.

texas mapThe lawsuit was one of the most aggressive moves by Republicans in an election marked by more than 400 voting-related lawsuits. And it came as Texas, long considered reliably Republican in presidential elections, has emerged as a swing state this year, with polls showing an unusually close race there.

Harris County, the most populous county in Texas, is home to one of the state’s largest concentrations of Democratic voters. It had set up 10 drive-through voting sites to offer a safe, in-person voting option amid the pandemic, and polls were open for 18 days.

But in a lawsuit, Republicans argued that Chris Hollins, the Harris County Clerk, did not have the authority to allow drive-through voting in the county.

Judge Andrew S. Hanen, a federal judge who was appointed by former president George W. Bush, held an emergency hearing for the lawsuit on Monday and ruled against tossing the ballots. On Sunday, the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court had rejected a similar effort to get those ballots tossed out.

“We win,” texted Susan Hays, the elections counsel for Mr. Hollins.

In a motion on Friday asking to intervene in the case, Democrats said the suit threatened to “throw Texas’ election into chaos by invalidating the votes of more than 127,000 eligible Texas voters who cast their ballots” at the drive-through sites. The motion was filed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the campaign of M.J. Hegar, a Democratic candidate for the Senate in Texas.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Republicans now think Texas courts don’t decide their own election law, Steve Vladeck (professor at the University of Texas School of Law, co-editor in chief of Just Security, co-host of the National Security Law Podcast and a CNN legal analyst), Nov. 2, 2020. The Harris County drive-through voting case has national ramifications.

On Monday, a day before Election Day, federal district court Judge Andrew Hanen will hold a hearing on whether Harris County, Tex., clerk Chris Hollins violated the Constitution by making provisions for some Houstonians to vote in drive-through polling stations.

Although the same lawsuit has been rejected twice by the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court, the plaintiffs — who include a prominent Republican activist and a Republican state legislator — are asking Hanen to invalidate more than 100,000 ballots cast, in some instances, in temporary structures set up by Harris County. His decision may not tip the outcome of the presidential election, but it could influence a number of down-ballot races, and maybe even control of Texas’s house of representatives.

texas mapLike so many 11th-hour voting-related suits filed by Republicans in recent weeks, this suit has almost nothing to do with voter fraud. Rather, it’s the latest in a consistent and cynical line of suits — in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, among others — that appear motivated by partisan gain, assuming that the exclusion of any set of ballots from Harris County, the third-largest in the country and one of Texas’s key Democratic strongholds, is good for Republicans.

The Harris County case, in particular, gives away the game: It lays bare how little this case and others have to do with the public interest. And it’s easy to see how the plaintiffs’ argument, if taken seriously by the court and followed to its logical conclusion, would actually invalidate any number of state election laws on the ground that no two jurisdictions have exactly the same voting rules.

It would certainly be less chaotic if all Americans voted pursuant to a uniform set of federally imposed procedures — if forms, machines, drop-box specifications, mail-in ballot receipt deadlines and early voting schedules were exactly the same, from county to county and state to state — but inefficiency is not, of itself, unconstitutional.

The suit is already beset with procedural problems: Although the drive-through voting policy was announced months ago, piloted this summer and had the tacit approval of Texas’s director of elections, the plaintiffs waited until last week to first bring this federal suit. It’s also unclear how these plaintiffs (or anyone else, for that matter) are injured by having eligible voters cast timely ballots. And under something called the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, lawsuits like this — in which someone who lost in state court brings the same suit against the same party in federal court — are supposed to be barred. In other words, without ever reaching the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims, this suit could — and should — be quickly dismissed.

The merits of the suit are a sloppy rehash of two different arguments that have shown up in a number of these recent lawsuits: The first claim is that, by allowing drive-through voting, Hollins usurped the power of Texas’s legislature under the federal Constitution to set the rules for elections. Never mind that, by statute, Texas already gives election administrators some flexibility over the exact physical spaces used for polling places; that drive-through voting used security procedures and equipment comparable to that at permanent indoor stations; and that Texas’s Supreme Court, the definitive expositor of Texas election law, turned away the plaintiffs’ objections.

On Nov. 2, one day before Election Day, federal court Judge Andrew Hanen holds a hearing on whether Houston drive-through polling stations will be counted. (The Washington Post)

Trump says he can adjourn Congress. He's misreading the Constitution.

In the alternative, the plaintiffs argue, allowing citizens of Harris County to vote via drive-through voting in this respect violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, because Harris County has adopted a “manner of voting” not adopted by other counties. Never mind that different counties in Texas have different rules about the number and locations of polling places, their hours of operation during early voting and so on. Indeed, for one night, Harris County also offered 24-hour early-voting centers. Was that likewise unconstitutional entirely because other counties didn’t?

In essence, the plaintiffs are taking the equal protection argument controversially adopted by the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore (which, despite the justices’ specific admonition to the contrary, these plaintiffs cite as authority), and stretching it well beyond its breaking point. In Bush v. Gore, the equal protection violation the justices identified was that different counties were using different standards to evaluate the intent of voters for ballots that had “hanging” or “dimpled” chads. If the same two voters indented their ballots in the exact same way, it was possible that the vote would count in one jurisdiction but not in another.

Today, the argument is not about the same two voters having the same ballot counted differently; it’s about access to voting. And if what Harris County did violates equal protection, then unless every single voter in a state has the exact same access to a polling place in every single respect, the state law is unconstitutional. Were that so, then a host of state election laws would have to be struck down. States would have to ensure a comparable number of polling places per capita; that polling places were roughly the same location from voters in every jurisdiction; that the voting hours and staffing for polling places were uniform; and any number of other technical requirements that rather miss the point — which, in case we need to be reminded, is to enable eligible voters to vote.

The absurd legal theory conservative judges are using to restrict voting

Galling, also, is that like other recent election lawsuits, the plaintiffs (and some courts) completely fail to acknowledge the other side of the equation — the 100,000-plus Harris County voters who stand to have their votes invalidated — having voted under rules announced in advance, approved by local officials, and left intact during weeks of early voting, potentially too late for them to do anything about it. Just like Minnesota voters whose otherwise valid mail-in ballots may be tossed because a federal appeals court suggested that the state may have erroneously extended the receipt deadline for such ballots, the mind-set appears to be that no cost is too high, and no amount of disenfranchised voters too large, in cases where, at most, local election officials erred on the side of counting more legal votes from eligible voters. What some courts forget is that these citizens who voted in good faith, before these suits were filed, also have 14th Amendment rights.

That’s perhaps the most stunning feature of this latest suit. When courts consider whether to enjoin government action, they’re supposed to consider more than just the merits of the case. Among the traditional factors in such cases are whether the plaintiffs have suffered an irreparable injury; whether that injury has no other remedy; whether the balance of hardships weighs more strongly in favor of the plaintiffs or the defendant; and whether the public interest would be served by injunctive relief.

ny times logoNew York Times, ‘Presidents Don’t Determine Who Gets to Vote,’ Biden Says, Katie Glueck, Nov. 2, 2020. Joseph R. Biden Jr. kicked off the final day before the election with a foray into a state that for four years has been a symbol of Democratic disappointment: Ohio.

“Ohio: One more day!” Mr. Biden said at a drive-in rally at an airport hangar in Cleveland. “Tomorrow we have an opportunity to put an end to a presidency that’s divided this nation. Tomorrow we can put an end to a presidency that has failed to protect this nation. And tomorrow we can put an end to a presidency that’s fanned the flames of hate all across this country.”

“My message is simple,” Mr. Biden said. “The power to change the country is in your hands.”

His remarks there come amid record-setting early in-person voting in Cuyahoga County, a major Democratic county in a Trump-friendly state that his team has watched closely. Ohio, which helped deliver the presidency to Donald J. Trump in 2016, is still seen by many Democrats as a reach for Mr. Biden, who is otherwise expected to spend the day campaigning in nearby western Pennsylvania.

But his campaign is seeking to create as many pathways to 270 electoral votes as possible, and a number of officials on Mr. Biden’s team have personal connections to the state, including Steve Ricchetti, a top Biden adviser and Ohio native.

“Ohio is like Iowa, is like Texas,” said Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, Mr. Biden’s campaign manager, in a briefing later Monday. “These expansion states on both sides that, you know, frankly, are in play. And what we’ve seen coming into this final stretch is that more states are in play than less.”

“They’re in play even further,” she added, “if we keep pushing on turnout.”

At the rally, Mr. Biden also referenced the electoral success of Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio, in a state that has become increasingly challenging for Democrats. “So when Sherrod tells me to come to Ohio the day before, I come to Ohio,” Mr. Biden said.

Ohio twice voted for the Obama-Biden ticket, Mr. Biden reminded voters on Monday.

“In 2008, 2012, you placed your trust in me and Barack,” Mr. Biden said. “In 2020 I’m asking you to trust me again. I’m proud of the coalition this campaign has built. We welcome Democrats, Republicans and independents.”

In his remarks, Mr. Biden took aim at Mr. Trump’s remarks on Sunday in which he appeared to entertain the idea of firing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert.

“Elect me and I’m going to hire Dr. Fauci,” Mr. Biden said. “We’re going to fire Donald Trump.”

In his address in Ohio, Mr. Biden hit many of the same things he has been stressing for months, even years in some cases: that Mr. Trump’s divisive presidency poses a unique threat to the nation’s character, that he does not respect even members of the military, that he does not grasp the threat of climate change and that he has mishandled the pandemic at every turn.

“The first step to beating the virus,” Mr. Biden said, “is beating Donald Trump.”

Mr. Biden then headed to Pennsylvania, where he, Senator Kamala Harris and their spouses, Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff, are fanning out across the state, seeking to promote his message to a broad coalition of voters and, in some cases, also targeting their message toward key House districts.

 

October

Oct. 30

amy coney barrett djt white house swearing in

Buzzflash, Investigation: Amy Coney Barrett Got Thousands of Tainted GOP Mail-In Ballots Counted in Florida in 2000, Invaluably Helping Bush to Steal Election, Staff report, Oct. 30, 2020. Amy Coney Barrett set the tone for her role as a party hack on the Supreme Court as she willingly posed maskless with Donald j. Trump for campaign photo-ops on the night of her nomination on Monday (shown above in a White House photo).

Amy Coney Barrett set the tone for her role as a party hack on the Supreme Court as she willingly posed maskless with Donald j. Trump for campaign photo-ops on the night of her nomination on Monday. (The White House)

Amy Coney Barrett, that icon of judicial integrity — as Trump and the DC Republicans would have you believe — may soon commit gross hypocrisy if she rules on Team Trump’s efforts to have Democratic votes invalidated in the 2020 election. In fact, the SCOTUS dissenters in allowing Pennsylvania to allow three extra days for the state to count ballots postmarked by November 3 but delivered up to three days later, indicate they may consider retroactively tossing out the votes.

Barrett didn’t vote on the Florida and North Carolina cases because, according to the Court, she did not have the time to read up on them, but she will likely rule on Trump retroactive voter suppression and theft of the election legal efforts after the election unless Biden wins with an irreversible lead.

A clear argument can be made that she allowed herself to be used as a pawn for Trump’s reelection with two White House appearances and a photo-op on the Truman balcony. A stronger case can be made because she helped implement a legal strategy in 2000, working through a law firm for the Bush campaign, that allowed the counting of thousands of Republican absentee ballot requests with missing information to be taken out of a Republican-run county election office and filled out by local Republican operatives at another location.

As Mother Jones on October 11:

Republicans sought to count mail ballots that were disputed by Democrats because of evidence that Republican operatives had altered incomplete absentee ballot request forms. That position stands in sharp contrast to Trump’s current assault on mail voting. But there’s a certain consistency here: Republicans will take whatever stance on mail ballots maximizes their electoral chances. And Barrett’s work in 2000 suggests she might be willing to play along.

Election Law Blog added:

After county officials allowed the GOP to take the forms back and fill in the missing information, a Democratic voter sued, saying ballots cast by those voters should be tossed out. The county canvassing board, the Florida Republican Party and the Bush campaign argued that the votes should still count.

Barrett’s work on the case serves as a reminder of how aggressively the Republican Party has sought to harness mail voting for years, in contrast to President Trump’s relentless attacks on the practice….

Request forms sent by the party to Republican voters mistakenly omitted their voter registration numbers, leading those requests to be set aside by the Martin County elections office. The county elections supervisor allowed a local Republican Party official to take the incomplete request forms [out of the office], add the missing numbers and return them the following day, according to court filings. GOP voters who had used the request forms to seek absentee ballots were then able to receive them….

Democrats sued that neither the Marin County or nearby Seminole County, which had up to 25,000 absentee ballot irregularities “corrected,” should not have these “tainted” votes counted, which Barrett and her legal colleague argued for the counting of the ballots. A state court ruled with Barrett’s argument and the Bush Campaign, and Bush “won” Florida by 537 votes until the Supreme Court anointed him president by a 5-4 vote, while it forbade a recount that would have made Al Gore president.

The state and county Democrats said that the process had been so tainted and in violation of Florida Election law (Democrats absentee ballot requests were not corrected and the Democrats were not notified that their absentee ballot requests were not processed), including allowing Republican operatives to break the chain of vote custody by taking the ballot requests out of the election office. But the Gore campaign curiously did not join the suit, and so the state Democrats lost the case.

An October 10 Washington Post article confirms these details of Barrett’s role in an article entitled, “How Amy Coney Barrett Played a Role in Bush v. Gore — and Helped the Republican Party Defend Mail Ballots.”

Meanwhile, just recently in Iowa, according to CBS News:

Iowa's highest court upheld a state directive Wednesday that was used to invalidate tens of thousands of absentee ballot requests mailed to voters pre-filled with their personal information.

The Iowa Supreme Court issued its ruling in favor of President Donald Trump's campaign and Republican groups as Trump held an evening rally in Des Moines.

The court rejected a Democratic challenge that argued the directive issued by Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate was unconstitutional.

In a similar vein, Brett Kavanaugh, who was coming off his recent role as top aide to the Ken Starr inquisition of Bill Clinton, was also aiding the Bush Campaign in 2000 to argue for what Trump would call fraudulent mail-in votes to be counted. According to The Intellectualist:

However, in Bush v. Gore — the Supreme Court decision that handed the presidency to a man who lost the popular vote — a younger Kavanaugh argued it would be unfair if ballots received after election day were not counted.

Kavanaugh was on the legal team that “argued during that contested election that ballots arriving late and without postmarks, which were thought to benefit Bush, must be counted in Florida,” Salon noted on Tuesday.

In 2001, The New York Times laid out how Bush’s team went about ensuring his presidential win….

Now, Kavanaugh — as well as a slew of Republicans, including President Donald Trump — argue that ballots received after Election Day should not be counted, claiming it opens the door to fraud and will cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election results.

As Salon noted,

Whatever the reasons behind Kavanaugh’s performance on Monday, he has given the nation another legitimate reason to fear that this election may end with a Bush v. Gore–like disaster for American democracy, but even worse than the original.

On Monday night, Kavanaugh debased the dignity of the Supreme Court in parroting Trump in claiming a presidential winner should be announced on November 3, because it would be unfair to count votes, even if they arrived before that day, because it would be unfair to the candidate leading on November 3. These were the ludicrous claims of a party hack, not a Supreme Court justice.

Justice Elena Kagan took snarling Kavanaugh to the woodshed:

Justice Kagan: Justice Kavanaugh alleges that “suspicions of impropriety” will result if “absentee ballots flow in after election day and potentially flip the results of an election.” Ante, at 7. But there are no results to “flip” until all valid votes are counted. And nothing could be more “suspicio[us]” or“improp[er]” than refusing to tally votes once the clock strikes 12 on election night. To suggest otherwise, especially in these fractious times, is to disserve the electoral process.

Finally, remember that John Roberts is a third lawyer on the Supreme Court who worked on legal strategy for the theft of the 2000 election by George W. Bush.

Oct. 29

amy coney barrett cnbc

ny times logoNew York Times, How to Fix the Supreme Court (Opinion Forum): Pack the Courts, Larry Kramer (right, former dean of Stanford Law School), Oct. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Democracy depends on norms as well as law, and respecting established norms is essential in a diverse society. The norms that get layered on top of laws are what enable groups with fundamentally different ideas and larry kramer stanfordobjectives to live and work together. And if the past decade has taught us anything, it is that a politics of abandoning norms to win today’s battle is mutilating our democracy.

So, yes, Republicans had the legal power to refuse a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland even though he was nominated nearly eight months before the 2016 election, just as they had the legal power to ram Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination through the Senate Judiciary Committee two weeks before the Nov. 3 election.

And yes, they had the legal power to do so even while offering disgracefully hypocritical justifications: denying Judge Garland a hearing because, they said, legitimacy required waiting for an election that was close in time, while rushing through a last-minute appointment for Judge Barrett lest they lose an election that’s much, much closer.

But both acts betrayed a ruthless willingness to politicize judicial selection in extreme ways that upended long-established norms.

Liberals say that if Joe Biden wins the election, Democrats should answer by adding justices to the Supreme Court. Republicans respond with faux outrage that this would politicize the judiciary.

But they have already politicized the judiciary. The question is whether only one side should play that game. Besides, not only is enlarging the Supreme Court legal, its size has changed seven times over its history.

Adding judges would be a political response to a political act. But the extreme

s to which Republicans have been willing to go leave the Democrats no other choice. Not for revenge or because turnabout is fair play, but as the only way back to a less politicized process.

This is a lesson we learned decades ago from economists and game theorists: Once cooperation breaks down, the only play to restore it is tit-for-tat. It’s the only way both sides can learn that neither side wins unless they cooperate.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: In Voting Cases, Chief Justice Roberts Is Alone but in Control, Adam Liptak, right, Oct. 29, 2020. In a little over a week, the Supreme adam liptakCourt issued five sets of orders in election cases. In three of them, Democrats prevailed.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote an opinion in only one of the cases, and it was only a paragraph long. It sketched out a distinction that no other justice endorsed. But that distinction can explain every one of the court’s orders.

The distinction pressed by the chief justice was this: Federal courts should not change voting procedures enacted by state legislatures, and they also should not step in when state courts or agencies change those procedures.

The something-for-both-sides approach is broadly similar to Chief Justice Roberts’s recent record, in which he voted with the court’s liberals in cases on gay rights, immigration and abortion; joined the court’s conservatives in major cases on religion; and wrote the majority opinions in cases on subpoenas seeking President Trump’s financial records that rejected his broadest claims but did not require immediate disclosures.
Chief Justice Roberts’s deft judicial work last term meant that he was in the majority in divided decisions at a higher rate than any chief justice since at least 1953. Scholars debated whether that was evidence of principle or pragmatism, noting that the chief justice has tried hard to shield the court from charges that it is a political body.

In the election cases, too, the chief justice’s rationale staked out a middle ground, one that was consistent with conservative ideas about federalism even as the court’s other members seemed to take all-or-nothing approaches. The court’s more liberal members said the right to vote was important enough to justify letting federal judges alter state election rules. And its more conservative ones said the Constitution prohibits all changes to voting rules enacted by state legislatures, even ones supported by state courts or state officials.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court Should Stay Out of State Election Law, Akhil Reed Amar, Vikram David Amar and Neal Kumar Katyal, right (The neal katyal oauthors are law professors), Oct. 29, 2020 (print ed.). Allowing federal courts to muck around with state election laws is dangerous and destabilizing.

Just as they did in the infamous Bush v. Gore litigation in 2000, Republican lawyers are trying to get the Supreme Court to undermine state court rulings protecting voting rights under state law. Their theory? That state courts, by relying in part on state constitutions, are wrongly exercising power that belongs to state legislatures.

This idea that state constitutions are irrelevant, and that all that matters is what state legislatures say, is preposterous. Yet recent events suggest this wrongheaded theory may have some traction among the justices.

And this theory has huge consequences. It would mean that many of the decisions you are reading about, where state judges are applying state constitutions to protect the right to vote (say, by finding that ballots postmarked by Election Day will be counted, or that onerous witness requirements will be relaxed because of Covid-19) would now be fair game for the Supreme Court to reverse — even though these decisions are interpretations of state law by state courts.

So far, partisan attempts to involve the federal judiciary have failed, and rightly so. Early last week, the Supreme Court rejected an effort by Pennsylvania Republicans to overturn a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that votes postmarked by Election Day but received a few days later must be counted. The court deadlocked 4-4, letting the state court decision stand, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s three Democratic appointees in voting to leave undisturbed what the state court had done.

Now the Republican challengers are trying to bring the case back before the court, hoping to win support from its newest member, Amy Coney Barrett. We may see a similar push to overturn a second Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling issued last Friday, also protecting state voters’ rights — this time to have their votes counted notwithstanding technical signature glitches in mail-in or absentee ballots.

Federal courts have no business interfering in state-law matters. As the three of us wrote back in 2000, the effort of several justices to hijack state law in Bush v. Gore was a disgrace. These justices asserted that the “Florida Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Florida election laws impermissibly distorted them beyond what a fair reading required.” Of course, “fair reading” meant how these justices read state law, not how Florida’s expert judges saw the matter.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Vermont Secretary of State goes after Brett Kavanaugh, Bill Palmer, Oct. 29, 2020. When the Supreme Court ruled against extending the period for counting mail-in ballots in Wisconsin, Brett Kavanaugh tacked on an opinion that read like a series of Trump tweets strung together. He falsely claimed that states want to know the results on election night, and he also made a bizarre number of factually false statements which read like he’d been drinking too much beer.

bill palmer report logo headerThe Vermont Secretary of State isn’t too happy with one of Brett Kavanaugh’s errors in particular:

It’s almost like Kavanaugh isn’t even trying at this point. If he was hoping to get his stance adopted by the other conservative justices, he should have at least written something coherent enough to give them cover. Instead Kavanaugh appears to be solely trying to make Donald Trump happy – which makes you wonder if he’s trying to get Trump to pardon him for perjury on his way out the door.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kavanaugh Fixes Error in Election Opinion After Vermont Complaint, Maria Cramer, Oct. 29, 2020. Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh on Wednesday corrected an error in an opinion issued as part of a Supreme Court ruling that barred Wisconsin from counting mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day.

Though not unheard-of, such revisions are rare, experts said, adding that Justice Kavanaugh’s change highlighted the court’s fast pace in handling recent challenges to voting rules.

In the opinion, which was issued on Monday and alarmed Democrats worried about mail ballots being counted, Justice Kavanaugh wrote that while some states had changed their rules around voting in response to the pandemic, others had not.

“States such as Vermont, by contrast, have decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules, including to the election-day deadline for receipt of absentee ballots,” he wrote in his original concurring opinion, which was attached to the 5-to-3 ruling against the deadline extension in Wisconsin.

Oct. 28  djt amy coney barrett resized white house 10 26 20

President Trump and Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the White House on Monday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Daily Howler, Opinion: Who is Associate Justice Barrett? Bob Somerby, Oct. 28, 2020. Who is Amy Coney Barrett? And why didn't anyone ask? Barrett, of course, is now an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court. She'll be on the Court for the next thirty years—but who was Amy Coney Barrett in the 48 years before that?

ap logoThe question arises because of an AP news report which only broke last week. As it appeared in the Washington Post, the AP report started like this, headline included:

SMITH AND BIESECKER (10/21/20): Barrett was trustee at private school with anti-gay policies:

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett served for nearly three years on the board of private Christian schools that effectively barred admission to children of same-sex parents and made it plain that openly gay and lesbian teachers weren’t welcome in the classroom.

The policies that discriminated against LGBTQ people and their children were in place for years at Trinity Schools Inc., both before Barrett joined the board in 2015 and during the time she served.

The three schools, in Indiana, Minnesota and Virginia, are affiliated with People of Praise, an insular community rooted in its own interpretation of the Bible, of which Barrett and her husband have been longtime members. At least three of the couple’s seven children have attended the Trinity School at Greenlawn, in South Bend, Indiana.

The AP spoke with more than two dozen people who attended or worked at Trinity Schools, or former members of People of Praise. They said the community’s teachings have been consistent for decades: Homosexuality is an abomination against God, sex should occur only within marriage and marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

The AP report continued from there. We remain puzzled by the (extremely) late emergence of this information.

Barrett testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 13 and 14. She was never asked about this matter, possibly because no one knew about it.

Arguably, it was an abomination against democratic procedure when Barrett received a lifetime appointment to the nation's highest court without this matter being reported or discussed. One wonders where Democrats were in recent years, but also the national press.

Has opposition research suddenly ceased to exist? Barrett was known to (possibly) be "next in line" for at least the past three years. It's hard to know how a matter like this could come to light only after it was too late to make any conceivable difference in any conceivable way.

The AP report on this matter came and went last week. Perhaps understandably at this juncture, it provoked very little discussion.

That said, the chronology of this revelation remains a mystery to us. Who is Associate Justice Barrett? And why was no one able to ask her about this part of her personal history?

As we mentioned in real time, we spent two full days watching Barrett testify. As we mentioned, we were struck by how amazingly little we knew about her by the time the two days were done.

Democrats insisted on asking the types of questions they knew she wouldn't answer. A week later, we learned that no one had asked her about this part of her past.

Today, warnings are emerging across the press about the ways the Supreme Court could intervene in the aftermath of an apparent win by Candidate Biden. Was Barrett a "Manchurian nominee," one who might tip the balance toward a judicial assault on the electoral process?

We don't know how the Court might handle legal challenges to an apparent Biden win. But who is Amy Coney Barrett, and why didn't anyone ask?

We had two major reactions to Barrett's two days of testimony:

First, we noted the fact that Barrett was amazingly telegenic. Also, Democratic questioning struck us as amazingly pointless and daft.

One week later, up jumped the AP report. In our view, the fire trucks had arrived at the scene puzzlingly late.

What the heck ever happened to oppo? We can't answer that question.

miles taylor screenshot

ny times logoNew York Times, Miles Taylor, a Former Homeland Security Official, Reveals He Was ‘Anonymous,’ Michael D. Shear, Oct. 28, 2020. Mr. Taylor’s criticisms of President Trump in a New York Times Op-Ed article and subsequent book roiled Washington. He resigned from the administration last year.

Miles Taylor, shown above in a screenshot, the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, was the anonymous author of The New York Times Op-Ed article in 2018 whose description of President Trump as “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective” roiled Washington and set off a hunt for his identity, Mr. Taylor confirmed Wednesday.

Mr. Taylor was also the anonymous author of A Warning, a book he wrote the following year that described the president as an “undisciplined” and “amoral” leader whose abuse of power threatened the foundations of American democracy. He acknowledged that he was the author of both the book and the opinion article in an interview and in a three-page statement he posted online.

us dhs big eagle logo4Mr. Taylor resigned from the Department of Homeland Security in June 2019, and went public with his criticism of Mr. Trump this past summer. He released a video just before the start of the Republican National Convention declaring that the president was unfit for office and endorsed Joseph R. Biden Jr., the Democratic presidential nominee.

But Mr. Taylor, who had repeatedly denied being Anonymous, did not reveal himself to be the author of the opinion article and book at the time. Confronted with Mr. Taylor’s public criticism in August, the president wrote on Twitter that he was a “DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE named Miles Taylor, who I do not know (never heard of him).”

The Op-Ed pages of The Times are managed separately from the news department, which was never told of Anonymous’s identity.

Mr. Taylor served for two years as a top aide to Kirstjen Nielsen, Mr. Trump’s third homeland security secretary, and wrote in The Times that he was part of a cadre of officials around Mr. Trump who were quietly working to “frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.”

As a senior administration official, Mr. Taylor often interacted with the president at the White House, particularly on issues related to immigration, cybersecurity and terrorism. He left government after Ms. Nielsen was fired and later became the head of national security relations for Google. He has been on personal leave from the company for the past several months after endorsing Mr. Biden and has been organizing other Republicans to campaign against Mr. Trump’s re-election.

The disclosure of Mr. Taylor’s identity is likely to renew the debate over his motives and raise questions about whether his position in the Trump administration was senior enough to justify the decisions by The Times’s Opinion desk and the book’s publisher to keep his identity secret.

Mr. Taylor’s essay has had less impact over time as an array of onetime Trump administration officials have come forward with names attached to publicly criticize the president’s leadership and character, among them the former defense secretary, Jim Mattis, and Mr. Trump’s third national security adviser, John R. Bolton.

In the book, Mr. Taylor said he decided to remain anonymous because he believed revealing his identity would have allowed Mr. Trump and his allies to distract attention from the substance of the critique he leveled against the president.

 

david correia djt

Law & Crime, Lev Parnas’s Business Associate David Correia, Fraud Guarantee Co-Founder with Giuliani Ties, Will Plead Guilty, Adam Klasfeld, Oct 28, 2020. David Correia, above left, a business associate of impeachment figure Lev Parnas who did business with Rudy Giuliani in the company Fraud Guarantee, plans to plead guilty on Thursday morning on unspecified charges.

Federal prosecutors declined to comment on what counts of his indictment Correia plans to plead guilty to or whether he intends to cooperate in the prosecution of Parnas, his co-defendants, or potentially others who have not been named. Correia, however, has been charged with the two key conspiracies that prosecutors hope to prove at trial next year: illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. elections and duping people to invest in Fraud Guarantee, a company that reportedly paid $500,000 to Giuliani.

At least seven alleged victims invested in Fraud Guarantee, putting in hundreds of thousands of dollars for a total of more than $2 million. Prosecutors say that’s because Parnas and Correia misled them about how much they had contributed to the company and how much money the company had raised overall.

“We couldn’t say it better ourselves — the behavior alleged today is indeed fraudulent — guaranteed,” FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney said when prosecutors unveiled those charges in September.

Parnas’s attorney Joseph Bondy declined to comment. Correia’s attorney William Harrington, from the firm Goodwin Procter, did not immediately respond to phone and emails requests for comment. Neither did Giuliani through his spokeswoman Christianné Allen.

A South Florida man who had partnered with Parnas on a marijuana business, Correia has been an ancillary figure in a case tied to President Trump’s impeachment. He kept a low profile as his co-defendant Parnas shared thousands of files that the House Intelligence Committee used to build a case that Trump abused his office to manufacture dirt on his political rival, former vice president Joseph Biden. Parnas’s name appeared in the House Impeachment Report more than 100 times. His associate Igor Fruman’s popped up more than a dozen times. Correia’s name did not come up once on the document.

If Correia becomes the government’s first cooperating witness, his public profile could rise in this closely watched prosecution. He is charged with six of seven counts of the indictment, including falsifying records, soliciting campaign contributions from a foreign national, conspiring to defraud the United States, and attempting to commit wire fraud. Prosecutors claim Correia was involved in a $325,000 contribution that Parnas and Fruman made to the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action via their company Global Energy Producers. The indictment also places Correia inside an alleged conspiracy to funnel money from the still-unidentified “Foreign National-1,” with whom prosecutors claim Parnas, Fruman, Correia and a fourth man Andrey Kukushkin planned to open a marijuana business in the fall of 2018.

Related story below: Igor Fruman, top left, and Lev Parnas, two Soviet-born associates of Rudy Giuliani, President Trump’s personal attorney at bottom of a Wall Street Journal graphic above by Laura Kammermann, appear to be deeply involved in the Ukraine scandal.

Trump Counsel Rudolph Giuliani, left, with businessman Lev Parnas last month at the Trump International Hotel shortly before the arrest of Parnas and his colleague Igor Fruman while boarding a flight to Vienna from Dulles International Airport.

Bloomberg, Giuliani Associates’ Co-Defendant to Enter New Plea Thursday, Christian Berthelsen, Oct. 28, 2020. A co-defendant of two associates of Rudy Giuliani who has denied laundering foreign money into U.S. political campaigns is scheduled to change his plea in the case, according to a court filing.

The co-defendant, David Correia, was charged along with Giuliani associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman in 2019 with a wide-ranging scheme to solicit campaign donations from foreign investors and use them to advance business ventures in the U.S.

While most of the focus has been on the role Parnas and Fruman played in helping Giuliani and President Donald Trump in Ukraine, which figured in Trump’s impeachment, other charges involving Correia included laundering donations from a foreign backer to launch a marijuana business in Nevada.

If Correia pleads guilty to any of the charges, it would constitute the first admission of guilt by any of the defendants in the case.

djt resized joe biden

More On U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

washington post logoWashington Post, Former U.S. attorneys — all Republicans — back Biden, saying Trump threatens ‘the rule of law,’ Tom Hamburger and Devlin Barrett, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Twenty former U.S. attorneys — all of them Republicans — on Tuesday publicly called President Trump “a threat to the rule of law in our country,” and urged that he be replaced in November with his Democratic opponent, former vice president Joe Biden.

“The President has clearly conveyed that he expects his Justice Department appointees and prosecutors to serve his personal and political interests,” said the former prosecutors in an open letter. They accused Trump of taking “action against those who have stood up for the interests of justice.”

The letter, signed by prosecutors appointed by every GOP president from Eisenhower to Trump, is the latest instance of Republicans backing Biden. In August, dozens of GOP national security experts signed a full-page newspaper ad endorsing Biden over Trump.

“He has politicized the Justice Department, dictating its priorities along political lines and breaking down the barrier that prior administrations had maintained between political and prosecutorial decision-making,” their letter says.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Rejects Bid to Shield Trump From Carroll Lawsuit, Alan Feuer and Benjamin Weiser, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that President Trump can be personally sued for defamation in connection with his denial while in office of a decades-old rape allegation.

The judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan, rejected the Justice Department’s attempt to step into the case and defend the president, and his ruling means that, for the moment, a lawsuit by the writer E. Jean Carroll can move forward against Mr. Trump, in his capacity as a private citizen.

e jean carrollMs. Carroll (shown at left and in a file photo below right) has accused Mr. Trump of raping her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s. Her lawsuit claims he harmed her reputation when he denied the attack last year and branded her a liar.

Last month, the Justice Department abruptly intervened on Mr. Trump’s behalf in the suit, which had been filed in state court in New York, citing a law designed to protect federal employees against litigation stemming from the performance of their duties.

e jean carroll twitterUnder that law, the Federal Tort Claims Act, the department sought to move Ms. Carroll’s suit to federal court and to substitute the United States for Mr. Trump as the defendant — a move that would have likely led to the dismissal of the charges.

While the Justice Department has used the law to shield members of Congress from being sued for defamation over things they have said, the department has rarely, if ever, used it to grant immunity to a president.

Judge Kaplan, however, ruled against the department’s maneuver, saying Mr. Trump was not acting in his official capacity when he denied the accusation. “His comments concerned an alleged sexual assault that took place several decades before he took office, and the allegations have no relationship to the official business of the United States,” the judge wrote.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kavanaugh’s Opinion in Wisconsin Voting Case Raises Alarms Among Democrats, Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). The Supreme Court justice’s suggestion that ballots arriving after Election Day could “flip the results” left voting rights activists concerned about how the court might rule in postelection fights.

The Supreme Court decision on Monday barring the counting of mail-in ballots in Wisconsin that arrive after Election Day was not a surprise for many Democrats, who had pressed for it but expected to lose.

But a concurring opinion by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh set off alarms among civil rights and Democratic Party lawyers, who viewed it as giving public support to President Trump’s arguments that any results counted after Nov. 3 could be riddled with fraudulent votes — an assertion unsupported by the history of elections in the United States.

The decision also unnerved Democrats and local election officials in Pennsylvania, where Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to weigh in again on whether the state can accept ballots received up to three days after Election Day. While Democrats in Wisconsin had been appealing for an extension, the current rules in Pennsylvania allow for ballots to arrive three days after the election. Any change could threaten the more than 1.4 million absentee ballots not yet returned.

In his opinion, attached to the 5-to-3 ruling against the deadline extension in Wisconsin, Justice Kavanaugh wrote that Election Day mail-in deadlines were devised “to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after Election Day and potentially flip the results of an election.”

He added, “Those states also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter.”

Justice Kavanaugh’s statement mirrored in some ways Mr. Trump’s efforts to suggest that only ballots counted by Election Day should decide the result, and more generally to push unfounded claims about widespread voter fraud.

Earlier on Monday, the president had posted on Twitter that election officials “must have final total on November 3rd,” alleging without evidence that there are “big problems” with mail-in ballots. Twitter labeled the tweet “misleading.”

The Wisconsin ruling was the latest in a series of court decisions setting the rules for how voters in different states can cast their ballots during the coronavirus pandemic and when the cutoff is for receiving them.

The Wisconsin ruling revealed a stark divide among the justices in their understanding of the role of the courts in protecting the right to vote during a pandemic and left voting rights activists concerned about how the court’s conservative majority would rule in any postelection fights.

Law, Politics, Threats

ny times logoNew York Times, How to Fix the Supreme Court (Opinion Forum): Pack the Courts, Larry Kramer (former dean of Stanford Law School), Oct. 28, 2020. Democracy depends on norms as well as law, and respecting established norms is essential in a diverse society. The norms that get layered on top of laws are what enable groups with fundamentally different ideas and objectives to live and work together. And if the past decade has taught us anything, it is that a politics of abandoning norms to win today’s battle is mutilating our democracy.

So, yes, Republicans had the legal power to refuse a hearing to Judge Merrick Garland even though he was nominated nearly eight months before the 2016 election, just as they had the legal power to ram Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination through the Senate Judiciary Committee two weeks before the Nov. 3 election.

And yes, they had the legal power to do so even while offering disgracefully hypocritical justifications: denying Judge Garland a hearing because, they said, legitimacy required waiting for an election that was close in time, while rushing through a last-minute appointment for Judge Barrett lest they lose an election that’s much, much closer.

But both acts betrayed a ruthless willingness to politicize judicial selection in extreme ways that upended long-established norms.

Liberals say that if Joe Biden wins the election, Democrats should answer by adding justices to the Supreme Court. Republicans respond with faux outrage that this would politicize the judiciary.

But they have already politicized the judiciary. The question is whether only one side should play that game. Besides, not only is enlarging the Supreme Court legal, its size has changed seven times over its history.

Adding judges would be a political response to a political act. But the extreme

s to which Republicans have been willing to go leave the Democrats no other choice. Not for revenge or because turnabout is fair play, but as the only way back to a less politicized process.

This is a lesson we learned decades ago from economists and game theorists: Once cooperation breaks down, the only play to restore it is tit-for-tat. It’s the only way both sides can learn that neither side wins unless they cooperate.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Supreme Court Should Stay Out of State Election Law, Akhil Reed Amar, Vikram David Amar and Neal Kumar Katyal, right (The neal katyal oauthors are law professors), Oct. 28, 2020. Allowing federal courts to muck around with state election laws is dangerous and destabilizing.

Just as they did in the infamous Bush v. Gore litigation in 2000, Republican lawyers are trying to get the Supreme Court to undermine state court rulings protecting voting rights under state law. Their theory? That state courts, by relying in part on state constitutions, are wrongly exercising power that belongs to state legislatures.

This idea that state constitutions are irrelevant, and that all that matters is what state legislatures say, is preposterous. Yet recent events suggest this wrongheaded theory may have some traction among the justices.

And this theory has huge consequences. It would mean that many of the decisions you are reading about, where state judges are applying state constitutions to protect the right to vote (say, by finding that ballots postmarked by Election Day will be counted, or that onerous witness requirements will be relaxed because of Covid-19) would now be fair game for the Supreme Court to reverse — even though these decisions are interpretations of state law by state courts.

So far, partisan attempts to involve the federal judiciary have failed, and rightly so. Early last week, the Supreme Court rejected an effort by Pennsylvania Republicans to overturn a Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision that votes postmarked by Election Day but received a few days later must be counted. The court deadlocked 4-4, letting the state court decision stand, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s three Democratic appointees in voting to leave undisturbed what the state court had done.

Now the Republican challengers are trying to bring the case back before the court, hoping to win support from its newest member, Amy Coney Barrett. We may see a similar push to overturn a second Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling issued last Friday, also protecting state voters’ rights — this time to have their votes counted notwithstanding technical signature glitches in mail-in or absentee ballots.

Federal courts have no business interfering in state-law matters. As the three of us wrote back in 2000, the effort of several justices to hijack state law in Bush v. Gore was a disgrace. These justices asserted that the “Florida Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Florida election laws impermissibly distorted them beyond what a fair reading required.” Of course, “fair reading” meant how these justices read state law, not how Florida’s expert judges saw the matter.

ny times logoNew York Times, Justices Decline to Hear Pennsylvania Ballot Case Before Election Day, Adam Liptak, Oct. 28, 2020. The Supreme Court refused a plea from the state’s Republicans to expedite a ruling on their request to halt an extension of the absentee-ballot deadline. The court deadlocked last week in the same case, but Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in the second request for review.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused a plea from Pennsylvania Republicans to put their request to halt a three-day extension of the deadline for receiving absentee ballots on an extraordinarily fast track.

The move meant that the court would not consider the case, which could have yielded a major ruling on voting procedure, until after Election Day.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who joined the court on Tuesday and who might have broken an earlier deadlock in the case, did not cast a vote. A court spokeswoman said Justice Barrett “did not participate in the consideration of this motion because of the need for a prompt resolution of it and because she has not had time to fully review the parties’ filings.”

The court’s brief order gave no reasons for declining to expedite consideration of the case. In a separate statement, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil M. Gorsuch, said the court may still consider the case after the election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s attacks on adversaries often followed by threats to their safety, Greg Miller and Isaac Stanley-Becker, Oct. 28, 2020. Public officials are increasingly forced to take extraordinary security precautions after vitriolic words by the president.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Jeering sign-wavers. Caravans of honking trucks. Voter intimidation or free speech? Abigail Hauslohner, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). Amid the charged political rhetoric ahead of Election Day, some confrontations at polling sites seem on the cusp of violence. But much of it is protected campaigning, and legal.

Some of the loud displays, often from supporters of President Trump and particularly frustrating to Democrats, have prompted local law enforcement agencies to station officers near polling places to keep the peace. In some locations, they have sparked allegations of voter intimidation and fears of tinderbox confrontations on the cusp of escalation in the run-up to Election Day next week.

 

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: ‘Fat and Happy’ With the Court, Did Republicans Lose Their Winning Issue? Jeremy W. Peters, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump and his party pushed Justice Barrett’s confirmation through in record time. But they could find that satisfied voters, who no longer fear the specter of a liberal court, are also complacent.

The confirmation on Monday of Justice Amy Coney Barrett all but ensures a durable conservative majority on the Supreme Court for years to come and provides the capstone on the Trump administration’s broader effort to push the entire federal judiciary solidly to the right.

Its work has been so fast and so effective that there is only one vacancy now in the appellate courts: the seat left open by Justice Barrett’s promotion.

But President Trump and Republicans risk becoming victims of their own success. Without the specter of a liberal court to motivate conservative voters anymore, they may find themselves without the issue that played a crucial role in Mr. Trump’s unexpected victory four years ago and has fortified his political base throughout a tumultuous first term.

“It’s like the dog catching the car,” said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which handicaps elections and is forecasting a difficult environment for Republicans up and down the ballot.

U.S. Crime, Cults

Law & Crime, Therapist Shot Her Twin 7-Year-Old Daughters While They Were Sleeping, Then Killed Herself: Deputies, Alberto Luperon, Oct 28, 2020. A therapist in Washington state shot and killed her twin 7-year-old daughters while they were sleeping, said the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office on Monday. The woman, 55-year-old Michele Boudreau Deegan, then died by suicide, according to authorities.

Authorities said that a roommate at the multi-level home reported finding his landlord and her children dead in an upstairs bedroom.

Investigators suggested this crime happened on Friday evening. They say preliminary findings show that the suspect was in a custody dispute in connection to the children. That looks like the primary motive, deputies said.

The girls were identified as Mairy Anneleise Deegan and Katie Elizabeth Deegan, according to The Bellingham Herald.

Boudreau was a psychotherapist. Posts on her Facebook page often concerned abuse. A spate of these were put up on Friday, with headlines “Why Survivors of Malignant Narcissists Don’t Get the Justice They Deserve,” and “Depression and Suicidal Thoughts Caused by Narcissistic Relationships.” In one post Friday morning, the post author wrote, “Abuse is forever,” over a link that featured the headline, “The Narcissist – From Abuse to Suicide.”

A sheriff’s office spokesperson told the Herald that deputies had not responded to the residence within a year for 911 calls in connection to matters including domestic violence or mental health. A source, described as a “a person who knows the family situation,” told KIRO7 that others looked out for the girls, and contacted child welfare. This individual said the mother was troubled.

keith raniere hbo

ny times logoNew York Times, Leader of Nxivm Sex Cult Is Sentenced to 120 Years in Prison, Nicole Hong and Sean Piccoli, Oct. 28, 2020 (print ed.). In the courtroom, more than a dozen victims gave wrenching testimony about how the group’s leader, Keith Raniere, shown above in an HBO documentary, manipulated and sexually abused them.

Keith Raniere promised a path to happiness, seducing wealthy people who felt they lacked a higher purpose in life. His company, Nxivm, offered self-improvement workshops that became popular in Hollywood and business circles.

But beneath the surface, Mr. Raniere was a puppet master controlling a cultlike criminal enterprise, prosecutors revealed at his trial. Some women in Nxivm were sexually abused by Mr. Raniere, and even branded with his initials in a secret ceremony.

On Tuesday, Mr. Raniere, 60, was sentenced to 120 years in prison for sex trafficking and other crimes, effectively a life sentence. The judge also ordered him to pay a $1.75 million fine.

The sentencing capped a remarkable downfall for a man who was once idolized by his followers, but has since been exposed as a fraudster who exploited Nxivm’s adherents for money, sex and power.

Judge Nicholas G. Garaufis of Federal District Court in Brooklyn determined the punishment after hearing hours of wrenching testimony from 15 victims, many of whom described how Mr. Raniere had left them traumatized and brainwashed from his pseudoscientific teachings.

Mr. Raniere’s lawyer, Marc Agnifilo, said he would appeal the sentence. “I salute the people who came in and spoke,” he said.

The first to speak was a woman identified only as Camila, who in a trembling voice recalled that Mr. Raniere started sexually abusing her when she was 15 and he was 45. She had previously declined to cooperate with prosecutors on the advice of a lawyer who was recommended to her by Mr. Raniere’s counsel.

During their 12-year relationship, Camila said, Mr. Raniere expected her to be available for sex at all hours. He ordered her to weigh less than 100 pounds and directed her to get an abortion. She said she attempted suicide once.

“I want to move on, but he has damaged me in so many ways,” Camila said.

When he wanted to replace Camila, prosecutors have said, he directed his inner circle to find another “young virgin successor” for him.

Camila’s mother, brother and a sister also spoke on Tuesday, telling the judge that Mr. Raniere destroyed their once close-knit family. The father and oldest daughter in the family — who had a child with Mr. Raniere — are still supporters of him. Mr. Raniere had a sexual relationship with all three sisters in the family.

In a speech before the court, Mr. Raniere, wearing blue prisoner clothes, maintained his innocence and said some of the victims were lying. He said he was “deeply sorry,” arguing that he did not mean to cause so much pain and anger.

“Where I am is caused by me,” Mr. Raniere said. “This is all my doing.”

As Mr. Raniere waffled between apologizing and blaming the women, one of his victims and ex-girlfriends, Toni Natalie, buried her head in her hands.

After the victims’ statements, Mr. Raniere’s lawyer, Mr. Agnifilo, argued that his client never intended to hurt any women, saying he was in love with them and simply had trouble dealing with breakups. In a stunning moment, Judge Garaufis interrupted Mr. Agnifilo in the middle of his speech, yelling, “No!”

During a back-and-forth in which the two men shouted through face masks, Judge Garaufis spoke forcefully about how intent did not matter when a 45-year-old man sexually abuses a child.

“It’s an insult to the intelligence of anyone who listens,” the judge said.

Mr. Agnifilo did seem to acknowledge tensions with his client, saying that he had refused to file a motion claiming evidence tampering by the government even though Mr. Raniere asked him to. In recent months, Mr. Raniere has spearheaded a campaign to overturn his conviction, directing his supporters to create a podcast about his case and set up a contest to find errors in his prosecution in exchange for a $25,000 cash prize.

Another victim, India Oxenberg, told the court that Mr. Raniere tried to poison her relationship with her mother, the actress Catherine Oxenberg, whose efforts to extricate her daughter from the organization were part of a recent HBO documentary series about Nxivm called “The Vow.”

India Oxenberg said Mr. Raniere expected her to wait naked for him, like a piece of meat. She became so thin under his manipulation that she stopped getting her period, she said.

“You are a sexual predator, and you raped me,” India Oxenberg said. “When you touched me, I recoiled.”

Former Nxivm (pronounced NEX-ee-um) members said Mr. Raniere preyed on insecure people who hoped that immersing themselves in expensive self-help classes would unlock the key to fulfillment. Even highly educated people became trapped inside Mr. Raniere’s system, which he sold as the only way to overcome their fears, shaming anyone who tried to quit.

At Mr. Raniere’s trial, a primary focus was a secretive women-only group inside Nxivm. During a videotaped initiation ceremony, the women lay naked on a table, saying, “Master, please brand me,” as a cauterizing pen seared their skin without anesthesia.

Some of those women testified that they thought they were joining a women’s mentorship group, only to discover that they were directed to have sex with Mr. Raniere.

The women, referred to as “slaves,” were regularly required to hand over collateral like sexually explicit videos, which they constantly feared would be released. Prosecutors called it extortion.

Oct. 27

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate confirms Barrett to Supreme Court, cementing its conservative majority, Seung Min Kim, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The U.S. Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Oct. 26. (The Washington Post)

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoA bitterly divided Senate confirmed Amy Coney Barrett as the 115th justice to the Supreme Court on Monday, elevating just the fifth woman to the court in its 231-year history and one who further cements its conservative shift — a legacy that will last even if Republicans lose power in next week’s elections.

The vote was 52-48 for Barrett, President Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court. The 48-year-old jurist solidifies a judicial legacy for the White House and Senate Republicans that also includes dozens of younger and more ideologically conservative judges to the federal appeals courts. An acolyte of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett is certain to diverge dramatically from the woman she will succeed: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18 and was for decades an enduring icon for liberals.

The battle to confirm Barrett — whose installation occurred as more than 60 million people had already cast their ballots for president — also plunged a Senate already bruised by years of tit-for-tat skirmishes in the judicial wars into deeper partisan acrimony. Incensed Democrats charged Republicans with hypocrisy for blocking President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for eight months in 2016 and repeatedly pointed out that no justice has been confirmed this close to a presidential election.

supreme court buildingBut Republicans asserted their raw power, muscling Barrett’s nomination through in just over four weeks and with no bipartisan support — the first time that has occurred for a Supreme Court nominee in generations and a reflection of the politicized atmosphere around judicial fights.

“The reason we were able to do what we did in 2016, 2018 and 2020 is because we had the majority,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday shortly before the Senate confirmed Barrett. “No rules were broken whatsoever. So all of these outlandish claims are utterly absurd, and the louder they scream, the more inaccurate they are.”

The White House planned an outdoor ceremony after the vote Monday to celebrate her confirmation and Justice Clarence Thomas was expected to administer the constitutional oath. Supreme Court justices take two oaths — one to protect and uphold the Constitution, and another about judicial conduct.

The battle to confirm Barrett — whose installation occurred as more than 60 million people had already cast their ballots for president — also plunged a Senate already bruised by years of tit-for-tat skirmishes in the judicial wars into deeper partisan acrimony. Incensed Democrats charged Republicans with hypocrisy for blocking President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for eight months in 2016 and repeatedly pointed out that no justice has been confirmed this close to a presidential election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Missing From Supreme Court’s Election Cases: Reasons for Its Rulings, Adam Liptak, right, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). In a series of unsigned adam liptakorders, the court has been deciding many election disputes on its “shadow docket” without a murmur of explanation, our correspondent writes.

At least nine times since April, the Supreme Court has issued rulings in election disputes. Or perhaps “rulings” is too generous a word for those unsigned orders, which addressed matters as consequential as absentee voting during the pandemic in Alabama, South Carolina and Texas, and the potential disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of people with felony convictions in Florida.

Most of the orders, issued on what scholars call the court’s “shadow docket,” did not bother to supply even a whisper of reasoning.

“This idea of unexplained, unreasoned court orders seems so contrary to what courts are supposed to be all about,” said Nicholas Stephanopoulos, a law professor at Harvard. “If courts don’t have to defend their decisions, then they’re just acts of will, of power. They’re not even pretending to be legal decisions.”

The orders were responses to emergency applications, and they were issued quickly, without full briefing or oral arguments (hence the “shadow docket”).

 ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Defiantly Mimics Rose Garden Ceremony, With More Masks, Peter Baker, Updated Oct. 27, 2020. President Trump hosted a nighttime event on the White House lawn to swear in Amy Coney Barrett as the next Supreme Court justice.

President Trump, who loves to boast of doing anything his predecessors have never done, pulled off such a historic first on Monday. He won confirmation of a Supreme Court justice only eight days before a presidential election, rushing his choice through the Senate before voters decide whether to give him four more years or kick him out of office.

Mr. Trump then did something else no other president has done. He hosted a nighttime ceremony on the White House lawn to swear in Justice Amy Coney Barrett in a virtual do-over of the superspreader event blamed for infecting multiple people with the coronavirus a month ago to the day, including the president himself, who was forced to spend three nights in the hospital.

To Mr. Trump, the first history-maker outweighed the second, a chance to celebrate a landmark political victory regardless of the risk. It was, in effect, the triumph of defiance over experience, a stubborn gesture by a president who refuses to acknowledge the continuing threat of a pandemic that has killed more than 225,000 people in the United States even after it has swept through his own circle of aides, advisers and allies. Undaunted and unbowed, Mr. Trump hosted the event even as five people working for Vice President Mike Pence have tested positive in recent days.

This time, at least, the White House made some concessions to the virus. Unlike the Rose Garden event on Sept. 26 when Mr. Trump announced his nomination of Justice Barrett, apparently leading to a raft of infections, the ceremony on Monday night marking her confirmation was held on the roomier South Lawn, with folding chairs seated several feet apart and guests required to wear masks.

  djt amy coney barrett resized white house 10 26 20

President Trump and Justice Amy Coney Barrett at the White House on Monday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: There’s no more doubt: Democrats have to expand the Supreme Court, Paul Waldman, Oct. 27, 2020. Keep this image in your mind: Justice Amy Coney Barrett, standing with President Trump on a balcony at the White House, smiling in satisfaction as the crowd below them whoops and hollers with joy after Barrett was sworn in to the Supreme Court.

Barrett no longer needs to pretend that she’s anything other than what she is: a far-right judge, installed on the Supreme Court by a president who got fewer votes than his opponent and confirmed by a Republican majority that represents fewer voters than their Democratic colleagues, whose job it will be to do everything in her power to maintain minority GOP rule while carrying out a conservative judicial revolution.

That picture of Barrett and Trump reveling in their mutual triumph was so vivid that the Trump campaign literally turned it into an ad for the president’s reelection. A different person might have said, “Mr. President, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to participate in such a nakedly political event.” But Barrett wasn’t concerned. She didn’t shout “MAGA 2020!” but she might as well have.

So now it is up to Democrats to recalibrate their understanding of just what is and isn’t appropriate — starting with expanding the Supreme Court as soon as they have the opportunity, which could come in January 2021.

This may be the single most important thing they have to remember: Their actions must not be determined by whether Republicans will complain.

Unfortunately, that’s how Democrats usually see things. If Republicans raise a stink — or even if they just assume Republicans might raise a stink — then Democrats shrink back in fear, lest the action they’re contemplating be considered inappropriate.

But by now they should understand that Republicans will say that everything they do, no matter how by-the-book it might be, is an egregious violation of propriety and good conduct. That’s how Republicans operate, precisely because they know Democrats are deeply concerned with whether processes are conducted in fair and reasonable ways.

But Democrats should listen to Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Here’s part of what the Senate Majority Leader said Monday during the floor debate on Barrett’s nomination:

Our colleagues cannot point to a single Senate rule that’s been broken. They made one false claim about committee procedure which the parliamentarian dismissed.

The process comports entirely with the Constitution.

We don't have any doubt, do we, that if the shoe was on the other foot, they would be confirming this nominee. And have no doubt if the shoe was on the other foot in 2016, they would have done the same thing. Why? Because they had the elections that made those decisions possible. The reason we were able to make the decision we did in 2016 is because we had become the majority in 2014.

The reason we were able to do what we did in 2016, 2018, and 2020 is because we had the majority. No rules were broken whatsoever.

To clarify, the dates McConnell refers to are when he and Republicans refused to hear President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland (2016), changing the size of the court from nine to eight justices and then back again; the nomination of Brett M. Kavanaugh (2018); and Barrett’s nomination (2020).

“The reason we were able to do what we did … is because we had the majority.” It’s the rule McConnell has lived by: Whatever Republicans can do, they will do, if it gives them an advantage.

And he’s right that neither the Constitution nor the rules of the Senate were violated in any of those cases. Nor would it violate the Constitution for Democrats to say that just as Republicans changed the size of the court in 2016 (and as happened many times in the country’s early years), Democrats will now change the size of the court again.

They should do this not only to restore balance after the extraordinary actions McConnell and Republicans undertook, but also as part of a desperately needed effort to stop America’s slide into minority rule and restore something resembling democratic responsiveness to the entire system.

That goes along with eliminating the filibuster so the majority of senators can pass the agenda voters elected them to enact; granting statehood to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico so the millions of Americans who live in those places can have representation in Congress; and passing a new Voting Rights Act that prevents GOP efforts to disenfranchise voters.

Whenever Democrats waver in their willingness to do what needs to be done to safeguard democracy, they should remember that McConnell is almost daring them to do it, precisely because he thinks they don’t have the guts.

“A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone, sooner or later, by the next election,” he said Sunday about Barrett’s nomination. “But they won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

But they can, and they should, no matter how much Republicans whine about it. If voters give them the White House and the Senate, they’ll have the legal right and the moral obligation to do so. Without it we won’t have a real democracy.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s conservative imprint on the judiciary gives Democrats a playbook — if they win, Seung Min Kim, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s first-term judicial legacy, primarily engineered by Sen. Mitch McConnell and his singular focus on the courts, culminates Monday with the expected confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

President Trump’s first-term record on the federal judiciary — which will reach its apex Monday with the expected confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as his third Supreme Court justice — will be difficult to roll back even if Democrats win both the White House and the Senate majority.

But the pipeline of conservative judges and the fast-track procedures used by Republicans to confirm them gives a potential President Joe Biden and a Democratic-led Senate a rough playbook to try to install their own stream of liberal nominees.

The judicial legacy set by Trump but engineered primarily by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) includes several significant milestones, including the trio on the Supreme Court and the fact that for the first time in 40 years, there are no openings on the circuit courts. That has been a monumental achievement for a majority leader whose mantra has been “leave no vacancy behind” and a president who simply just likes to win.

For the first time in more than four decades, there are no vacancies on the circuit court level, where approximately 30 percent of those sitting on the bench have been nominated by Trump. Only President Jimmy Carter had more circuit court judges, as well as a larger share of the entire federal appellate bench, confirmed in his first term, and that was before the number of seats in the circuit courts was expanded.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans have already packed state supreme courts, Marin K. Levy, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Norms against changing the size of courts for partisan reasons are selectively upheld.

The Senate’s bare Republican majority is poised to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to a seat on the Supreme Court. But the controversy sparked by her nomination will continue, and Democrats are already discussing whether and how to “pack” the court by creating new seats. That debate, though, and especially the Republican rhetoric against court-packing, is missing an important development: numerous recent efforts across the country, the majority of them spearheaded by Republicans, to pack (and unpack) state courts.

Republican leaders have consistently described changing the size of the Supreme Court (which varied until 1869, when it reached its modern total of nine seats) in dire terms. At the Barrett hearings, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said such a move would “do great political harm to our government.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) stated that expanding the court would be "an abuse of power.” And Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) went one step further, calling court-packing a “partisan suicide bombing.”

But such “bombings” have frequently been attempted at the state level, where courts collectively decide the vast majority of the country’s civil and criminal cases. In 2018, more than 33 million such cases were initiated in state courts, compared with 376,000 in federal district courts. State courts decide cases with at least as much importance to individual lives and national policies alike as federal courts do, including crucial matters, such as partisan gerrymandering, that the federal courts have tended to avoid.

That makes the attempts to pack — or unpack — state courts especially important. In the past decade alone, lawmakers in 11 states have introduced at least 20 bills to expand or contract the size of their state supreme courts. The vast majority of these efforts were made by Republicans, often for apparent partisan advantage. That is, many of these lawmakers appear to have attempted to change the size of their highest state court to affect its ideological composition — and two of these attempts have succeeded.

Marin K. Levy is a professor of law at Duke Law School and author of "Packing and Unpacking State Courts," published in the William & Mary Law Review earlier this year.

ny times logoNew York Times, Judge Rejects Bid to Shield Trump From Carroll Lawsuit, Alan Feuer and Benjamin Weiser, Oct. 27, 2020. A federal judge ruled on Tuesday that President Trump can be personally sued for defamation in connection with his denial while in office of a decades-old rape allegation.

The judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court in Manhattan, rejected the Justice Department’s attempt to step into the case and defend the president, and his ruling means that, for the moment, a lawsuit by the writer E. Jean Carroll can move forward against Mr. Trump, in his capacity as a private citizen.

e jean carrollMs. Carroll (shown at left and in a file photo below right) has accused Mr. Trump of raping her in a department store dressing room in the 1990s. Her lawsuit claims he harmed her reputation when he denied the attack last year and branded her a liar.

Last month, the Justice Department abruptly intervened on Mr. Trump’s behalf in the suit, which had been filed in state court in New York, citing a law designed to protect federal employees against litigation stemming from the performance of their duties.

e jean carroll twitterUnder that law, the Federal Tort Claims Act, the department sought to move Ms. Carroll’s suit to federal court and to substitute the United States for Mr. Trump as the defendant — a move that would have likely led to the dismissal of the charges.

While the Justice Department has used the law to shield members of Congress from being sued for defamation over things they have said, the department has rarely, if ever, used it to grant immunity to a president.

Judge Kaplan, however, ruled against the department’s maneuver, saying Mr. Trump was not acting in his official capacity when he denied the accusation. “His comments concerned an alleged sexual assault that took place several decades before he took office, and the allegations have no relationship to the official business of the United States,” the judge wrote.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: ‘Fat and Happy’ With the Court, Did Republicans Lose Their Winning Issue? Jeremy W. Peters, Oct. 27, 2020. President Trump and his party pushed Justice Barrett’s confirmation through in record time. But they could find that satisfied voters, who no longer fear the specter of a liberal court, are also complacent.

The confirmation on Monday of Justice Amy Coney Barrett all but ensures a durable conservative majority on the Supreme Court for years to come and provides the capstone on the Trump administration’s broader effort to push the entire federal judiciary solidly to the right.

Its work has been so fast and so effective that there is only one vacancy now in the appellate courts: the seat left open by Justice Barrett’s promotion.

But President Trump and Republicans risk becoming victims of their own success. Without the specter of a liberal court to motivate conservative voters anymore, they may find themselves without the issue that played a crucial role in Mr. Trump’s unexpected victory four years ago and has fortified his political base throughout a tumultuous first term.

“It’s like the dog catching the car,” said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which handicaps elections and is forecasting a difficult environment for Republicans up and down the ballot.

ny times logoNew York Times, The Supreme Court ruled that Wisconsin could not extend its deadline for mailed ballots, Adam Liptak, Oct. 27, 2020 (print ed.). In April, the court had assumed an extension was permissible, though it insisted that ballots be mailed and postmarked before Election Day.

The Supreme Court refused on Monday to revive a trial court ruling that would have extended Wisconsin’s deadline for receiving absentee ballots to six days after the election.

The vote was 5 to 3, with the court’s more conservative justices in the majority. As is typical, the court’s brief, unsigned order gave no reasons. But several justices filed concurring and dissenting opinions that spanned 35 pages and revealed a stark divide in their understanding of the role of the courts in protecting the right to vote during a pandemic.

The ruling was considered a victory for Republicans in a crucial swing state, which polls have shown Mr. Trump trailing in after winning by about 23,000 votes in 2016.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin immediately announced a voter education project to alert voters that absentee ballots have to be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 3. “We’re dialing up a huge voter education campaign,” Ben Wikler, the state party chairman, said on Twitter. The U.S. Postal Service has recommended that voters mail their ballots by Oct. 27 to ensure that they are counted.

ny times logoNew York Times, Kavanaugh’s Opinion in Wisconsin Voting Case Raises Alarms Among Democrats, Jim Rutenberg and Nick Corasaniti, Oct. 27, 2020. The Supreme Court justice’s suggestion that ballots arriving after Election Day could “flip the results” left voting rights activists concerned about how the court might rule in postelection fights.

The Supreme Court decision on Monday barring the counting of mail-in ballots in Wisconsin that arrive after Election Day was not a surprise for many Democrats, who had pressed for it but expected to lose.

But a concurring opinion by Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh set off alarms among civil rights and Democratic Party lawyers, who viewed it as giving public support to President Trump’s arguments that any results counted after Nov. 3 could be riddled with fraudulent votes — an assertion unsupported by the history of elections in the United States.

The decision also unnerved Democrats and local election officials in Pennsylvania, where Republicans are asking the Supreme Court to weigh in again on whether the state can accept ballots received up to three days after Election Day. While Democrats in Wisconsin had been appealing for an extension, the current rules in Pennsylvania allow for ballots to arrive three days after the election. Any change could threaten the more than 1.4 million absentee ballots not yet returned.

In his opinion, attached to the 5-to-3 ruling against the deadline extension in Wisconsin, Justice Kavanaugh wrote that Election Day mail-in deadlines were devised “to avoid the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after Election Day and potentially flip the results of an election.”

He added, “Those states also want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter.”

Justice Kavanaugh’s statement mirrored in some ways Mr. Trump’s efforts to suggest that only ballots counted by Election Day should decide the result, and more generally to push unfounded claims about widespread voter fraud.

Earlier on Monday, the president had posted on Twitter that election officials “must have final total on November 3rd,” alleging without evidence that there are “big problems” with mail-in ballots. Twitter labeled the tweet “misleading.”

The Wisconsin ruling was the latest in a series of court decisions setting the rules for how voters in different states can cast their ballots during the coronavirus pandemic and when the cutoff is for receiving them.

The Wisconsin ruling revealed a stark divide among the justices in their understanding of the role of the courts in protecting the right to vote during a pandemic and left voting rights activists concerned about how the court’s conservative majority would rule in any postelection fights.

Oct. 26

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate confirms Barrett to Supreme Court, cementing its conservative majority, Seung Min Kim, Oct. 26, 2020 at 8:54 p.m. The U.S. Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court on Oct. 26.

American System Radio, Opinion: Barrett Confirmed for Supreme Court by 52-48 Vote in Senate, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 26, 2020. Ultra-Reactionary webster tarpley 2007Majority of Republican Legal Positivists Takes Shape on High Court; GOP Orgy of Rule Breaking Must Set Stage for Reform of Hijacked Court, Adding Justices; New Extremist Majority Is Designed to Enable a Trump November Coup and Resulting Dictatorship; Perversion of Judiciary Was Key Feature of Fascist Regimes Like Italy in 1920s and Germany in 1930s; Expect Atrocities against Constitution and General Welfare within Days!

More Plans for Second Term Dictatorship: Trump Wants to Fire Esper of Pentagon, Wray of FBI, and Haspel of CIA; Replacements Are Guaranteed to Be Worse; Don Plans Purge of Federal Civil Service and Removal of Safeguards against Partisan Thuggery; Ronald Sanders, a Trump Appointee on Civil Service Commission, Resigns in Protest

FBI logoEurope and US Face Exponential Growth of Pandemic, as Spain and Italy Implement New Countermeasures; White House Chief of Staff Meadows Admits US Defeat in Pandemic That Trump Cannot Control; Herd Immunity Rules; On Campaign Trail, Trump Again Suggests that Contagion Is Political Hoax against Him That Will Disappear on November 4; US Deaths Pass 225,000.

Biden to Campaign in Georgia, Visiting Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Polio Treatment Center at Warm Springs.

Note to Media: Stop Helping GOP by Calling Them Conservatives! Most Are Reactionaries, with Not a Few Fascists! Breaking: In Harbinger of Horrors to Come, pre-Barrett Supreme Court Stops Wisconsin from Counting Mail-In Ballots Arriving after Election Day.

 djt brett kavanaugh amy coney barrett

ny times logoNew York Times, Barrett Set to Be Confirmed to the Supreme Court, Neil Vigdor, Nicholas Fandos and Sydney Ember, Oct. 26, 2020 (print ed.). Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation today will give conservatives six of the court’s nine seats, and reverberations will be felt far and wide. The vote comes a day after Democrats in the Senate unsuccessfully tried to filibuster the nomination in protest.

As the presidential race enters its final week — the stakes of which have been magnified by a Supreme Court vacancy — Republicans in the Senate are poised on Monday to bring to a quick close their hastened confirmation of President Trump’s nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

The vote, expected in the evening, comes a day after Democrats in the chamber unsuccessfully tried to filibuster the nomination to protest a decision they say should be left to the winner of the presidential election.

The addition of Judge Barrett to the court would give conservatives six of the court’s nine seats, which Democrats have made a focus of the campaign this fall after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They say it threatens women’s reproductive rights and protections for millions of Americans under the Affordable Care Act.

It also immediately calls into question whether Judge Barrett would recuse herself from ruling on lawsuits over the election, a scenario that has seemingly become more likely each time Mr. Trump has tried to cast aspersions on the integrity of voting.

“We’ve made an important contribution to the future of this country,” Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, said in a speech just after the filibuster vote on Sunday. “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Enlarging the Supreme Court is the only answer to the right’s judicial radicalism, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, Oct. 25, 2020. There is only one good thing ej dionne w open neckthat can come from the power-mad Republican rush to jam Amy Coney Barrett onto the Supreme Court before Election Day: Of a sudden, as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to say, Americans in the tens of millions now know that our country faces a crisis of democracy triggered by the right wing’s quest for unchecked judicial dominance.

Barrett’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, and President Trump’s comments before nominating her, brought home just how dangerously disrespectful of democratic norms the enlarged conservative majority on the court threatens to be.

Amy Coney Barrett (2018 photo via Rachel Malehorn via Creative Commons and Wikimedia)Her silence on the most basic issues of republican self-rule tells us to be ready for the worst. She wouldn’t say if voter intimidation is illegal, even though it plainly is. She wouldn’t say if a president has the power to postpone an election, even though he doesn’t.

She wouldn’t even say that a president should commit himself to a peaceful transfer of power, telling Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) that “to the extent that this is a political controversy right now, as a judge I want to stay out of it.”

What, pray, is controversial in a democratic republic about the peaceful transfer of power? It’s hard to escape the conclusion that she was nodding to the president who nominated her. He said he wanted a friendly judge on the court to deal with electoral matters, and he continues to signal that one the most hallowed concepts of a free republic is inoperative when it comes to himself.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Right-wing SCOTUS justices: Impeach them, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 26, 2020. There is a constitutional method for ridding wayne madesen report logothe U.S. Supreme Court of its two far-right justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. It borrows a page from the right-wing in the 1960s. C

If a serious and concerted effort to impeach and remove Kavanaugh and Barrett is launched, along with an ethics probe of Clarence Thomas's blatant political activity and conflicts-of-interest involving his far-right wife, the progressives could be looking at six seats on the court, matching the number enjoyed by the Warren Court.

washington post logojennifer rubin new headshotWashington Post, Opinion: Four big constitutional fixes we need, thanks to Trump, Jennifer Rubin,Oct. 26, 2020. If eight days from now former vice president Joe Biden wins the White House and Democrats secure House and Senate majorities, a plethora of reforms will come front and center — from depoliticization of the Justice Department to restoration of the pre-clearance function in the Voting Rights Act to statehood for Washington, D.C.

For now, however, let’s consider four issues that reveal gaps in our constitutional structure regarding presidential power and transparency.

Oct. 25

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Barrett nomination clears Senate hurdle, putting her on course to confirmation to Supreme Court, Seung Min Kim, Oct. 25, 2020. The Senate is poised to vote on the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett on Monday night. Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court broke through djt smiling fileone more hurdle ahead of her all-but-assured confirmation to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as Democratic senators ramped up their criticism of the conservative judge.

The vote to end a filibuster on her nomination, which occurred around 1:30 p.m. Sunday, was 51-48. Two GOP senators — Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — voted with Democrats to oppose Barrett’s nomination from advancing, although Murkowski plans to support the federal appeals court judge on the confirmation vote on Barrett’s merits.Democratic-Republican Campaign logos

The final confirmation vote for Barrett is expected sometime Monday night, putting her in position for a first full day as a justice as early as Tuesday and as the court continues to hear election-related legal challenges ahead of Nov. 3.

Oct. 23

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Investigation: $80 million dark money group tied to Trump Supreme Court advisor, Leonard Leo, Robert Maguire, Oct. 23, 2020. A close informal advisor to President Trump who has been deeply involved in all three of his Supreme Court nomination battles is the sole trustee of a mysterious group that brought in more than $80 million in 2018, according to a previously unreported tax return uncovered by CREW. The filing vastly expands the amount of money known to be flowing into the growing constellation of dark money groups tied to Federalist Society co-chairman Leonard Leo and provides new details about his role in a secretive firm that was responsible for one of the largest donations received by President Trump’s inaugural committee.

What makes Rule of Law Trust (RLT) particularly interesting is that despite its $80 million haul, the group seems remarkably hollow. It claimed it had no employees and no volunteers in its first year and listed what appears to be a virtual office in Virginia as its main address. Its stated mission is “to advance conservative principles and causes through communications, research, strategy and assistance to other organizations,” but there’s no apparent public information to demonstrate what that work entails, not even a website.

In an unusual financial arrangement, the group also appears to have channeled nearly all of its $2.7 million in expenditures through the BH Group — an enigmatic firm that, the filing reveals, is partly owned by Leo. The company has long been known to be tied to Leo, but the nature of his role was unknown until now. Just months after it was formed in 2016, the BH Group gave $1 million to President Trump’s inaugural committee — though the only known funds that it has received during that time came from other dark money groups allied with Leo. The ultimate source of the money remains unknown to this day.

“The filing vastly expands the amount of money known to be flowing into the growing constellation of dark money groups tied to Federalist Society co-chairman Leonard Leo.”

The only other people linked to RLT in the sparse filing are either longtime Federalist Society officials-turned-consultants like Leo, or operatives with a long history working behind the scenes on dark money groups tied to Leo. For example, RLT’s single largest payment in 2018 was a $1.5 million consulting fee paid to Jonathan Bunch, a former vice president of the Federalist Society who has been involved in a number of entities tied to Leo. Bunch is now the president of CRC Advisors, a firm formed by Leo this past January. RLT paid an additional $300,004 to a firm called YAS, LLC for consulting. According to DC government records, the firm is registered to Maria Marshall, a former director of operations at the Federalist Society who currently serves as the vice president of CRC Advisors.

The records for RLT are maintained by Neil Corkery — who, along with his wife, Ann, is a longtime ally of Leo’s and has been tied to some of the largest conservative dark money groups in the country for more than a decade. Neil Corkery’s most notable connection is to two groups called the Wellspring Committee and Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), both 501(c)(4) social welfare groups like RLT. For ten years, from 2008 until its termination in 2018, Wellspring served as little more than a passthrough for anonymous money into politically active nonprofits that spent tens of millions of dollars on elections around the country and, in the case of JCN, judicial nominations. Leo has never personally held a formal position at either group, but he is reportedly closely involved in the fundraising for both groups.

As of last year, JCN operated out of an office on the same hallway as the Federalist Society in downtown Washington, DC. For years, JCN has been funded almost entirely by the Wellspring Committee — which was in turn funded by massive seven- and eight-figure contributions from anonymous donors. In 2016, JCN spent millions to pressure senators to not consider President Obama’s last Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. The following year, it poured millions into the fight to confirm President Trump’s first nominee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, to fill the same seat on the bench. The group’s president, Carrie Severino, tweeted a picture from Gorsuch’s swearing-in in the White House Rose Garden.

In 2018, the cycle repeated for Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination, and now JCN is pouring millions into the fight to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to fill the seat opened by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Throughout these confirmation contests, Wellspring and JCN have funneled millions of dollars into the BH Group. Leo’s ties to the firm were first identified after he listed it as his employer on a contribution reported to the Federal Election Commission, but the nature of his role in the BH Group has been unclear for years. The Rule of Law Trust filing offers some new details, though. In a note buried deep in the return, RLT reports having reimbursed the BH Group for more than $4.3 million in expenditures that it describes as “independent contractor expenses incurred on behalf of Rule of Law Trust” and notes that BH Group is “more than 35% owned by Leonard Leo.”

But even as the note provides new details, it raises new questions. In particular, it explains that the more than $2.7 million that RLT spent in 2018 was funneled through the BH Group. In other words, it appears that a firm partly owned by the sole trustee of RLT paid all of RLT’s expenses, including $1.8 million in consulting payments to two former Federalist Society associates who now work at a consulting firm founded by the trustee, and then RLT reimbursed that firm for the expenses.

Another question looms even larger, though, stemming from the fact that RLT ended 2018 with more than $78.2 million on hand. What did it actually do with all its money? It’s not clear, and because of the lag in filings for nonprofit groups like this, no 2019 tax return is currently available. The group likely won’t file a 2020 tax return until late 2021. The same goes for the growing number of dark money groups tied to Leo in recent years.

A picture is emerging, but it will take years to sort out. One thing is clear, though: Leo and his allies have amassed a massive war chest of anonymous donations for their fight to remake the federal judiciary.

Oct. 22

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump weighs firing FBI director after election as frustration with Wray, Barr grows, Devlin Barrett and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 22, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump and his senior aides have been disappointed that FBI DIrector Christopher A. Wray and Attorney General William P. Barr have not done what Trump had hoped — indicate that Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden, or other Biden associates are under investigation.

WrayPresident Trump and his advisers have repeatedly discussed whether to fire FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, right, after Election Day — a scenario that also could imperil the tenure of Attorney General William P. Barr as the president grows increasingly frustrated that federal law enforcement has not delivered his campaign the kind of last-minute boost that the FBI provided in 2016, according to people familiar with the matter.

The conversations among the president and senior aides stem in part from their disappointment that Wray in particular but Barr as well have not done what Trump had hoped — indicate that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden or other Biden associates are under investigation, these people say. Like others, they spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal discussions.

In the campaign’s closing weeks, the president has intensified public calls for jailing his challenger, much as he did for Hillary Clinton, his opponent in 2016. Trump has called Biden a “criminal” without articulating what laws he believes the former vice president has broken.

Government Executive, ‘Stunning’ Executive Order Would Politicize Civil Service, Erich Wagner, Oct. 22, 2020. President Trump signs directive that would potentially pull thousands of federal employees in "policy-making" positions out of the competitive service, making them at-will employees.

President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order creating a new classification of “policy-making” federal employees that could strip swaths of the federal workforce of civil service protections just before the next president is sworn into office.

The order would create a new Schedule F within the excepted service of the federal government, to be composed of “employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions,” and instructs agency heads to determine which current employees fit this definition and move them—whether they are members of the competitive service or other schedules within the excepted service—into this new classification. Federal regulations stating that employees hired into the competitive service retain that status even if their position is moved to the excepted service will not apply to Schedule F transfers.

Positions in the new Schedule F would effectively constitute at-will employment, without any of the protections against adverse personnel actions that most federal workers currently enjoy, although individual agencies are tasked with establishing “rules to prohibit the same personnel practices prohibited” by Title 5 of the U.S. Code. The order also instructs the Federal Labor Relations Authority to examine whether Schedule F employees should be removed from their bargaining units, a move that would bar them from being represented by federal employee unions.

cdc logo Custom“The [1883] Pendleton Act is clearly in the sights of this executive order,” said Donald Kettl, the Sid Richardson professor at the University of Texas at Austin’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs. “It wants to undo what the Pendleton Act and subsequent civil service laws tried to accomplish, which was to create a career civil service with expertise that is both accountable to elected officials but also a repository of expertise in government. The argument here is that anyone involved in policymaking can be swept into this new classification, and once they’re in they’re subject to political review and dismissal for any reason.”

Kettl said that the order could be far reaching in scope. Not only would high profile employees who publicly disagree with a president be targeted for removal, but lower level employees tasked with collecting the data and evidence underlying much of what the federal government does could be affected.

“If you think about examples of how this could play out, Dr. [Anthony] Fauci (left) could be fired, as well as individuals at the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] anthony fauci Customwho are producing analysis about the spread of the coronavirus, social distancing and the importance of masks,” Kettl said.

“You could have people within the State Department raising questions about the administration’s expansion of efforts to engage in crackdowns and change other policies who could be fired," Kettl continued. "The people counting the number of immigrant children who cannot be reunited with their parents could be fired. There’s no end to it because the biggest risk is that anyone who says anything that would be in opposition to the administration’s policy could be viewed as in a policy-making position, put in Schedule F and fired.”

“Except as required by statute, the civil service rules and regulations shall not apply to removals from positions listed in Schedules A, C, D, E, or F, or from positions excepted from the competitive service by statute,” the order states.

The order sets a swift timetable for implementation: Agencies have 90 days to conduct a “preliminary” review of their workforces to determine who should be moved into the new employee classification—a deadline that coincides with Jan. 19, the day before the next presidential inauguration.

The White House argued that the executive order is a necessary reform to ensure that federal officials can more efficiently remove “poor performers.”

But federal employee groups and government observers described the executive order as a “stunning” attempt to politicize the civil service and undermine more than a century of laws aimed at preventing corruption and cronyism in the federal government.

American Federation of Government Employees National President Everett Kelley said in a statement on Thursday that the executive order is “the most profound undermining of the civil service system in our lifetimes.”

“This executive order strips due process rights and protections from perhaps hundreds of thousands of federal employees and will enable political appointees and other officials to hire and fire these workers at will,” Kelley said. “Through this order, President Trump has declared war on the professional civil service by giving himself the authority to fill the government with his political cronies who will pledge their unwavering loyalty to him — not to America.”

American System Network, Opinion: Clumsy Pro-Trump October Surprise Ploy via New York Post Slanders Falling Flat, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 22, 2020. ; webster tarpley 2007NY Times Reports Fox News Refused to Serve as Vehicle for Unproven Stories about Mystery Laptop; NY Post Reporter Who Finally Wrote Story Allegedly Refused to Let His Name Be Used in Byline; Leading True Believer Is Notorious Stooge Ratcliffe of ONI.

On Fox, Dana Perino Repeats Warning to Campaign Spokesman Murtaugh That Trump in Any Case Cannot Hope to Build Election Momentum Based on Totally Unsubstantiated Allegations against Hunter Biden; But Trump Keeps Trying Anyway.

John john brennan twitterBrennan (left), James Clapper, Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and Other Intelligence Veterans Condemn New York Post’s Alleged Hunter Biden Email Revelations as Having “All the Classic Earmarks of a Russian Disinformation Operation” and Being “Consistent with Russian Objectives” of Creating Political Chaos in the US, Deepening Political Decisions, Undermining Biden Campaign, and Helping Trump Get Elected.

Reports Surface of Months of Preparation for Current Phony Laptop Op; Key Role of Giuliani Points to Dirty Pro-Trump Faction of FBI; Where, Finally, Are Supposedly Incriminating Tapes?

washington post logoWashington Post, OxyContin maker pleads guilty to criminal charges, agrees to $8.3 billion settlement, Meryl Kornfield, Oct. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The Justice Department said in a news release that its resolution of the case “includes the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer.”

The Justice Department announced Wednesday it reached an $8.3 billion settlement with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, as a result of criminal and civil investigations by federal prosecutors into the company’s marketing and distribution of opioid painkillers.

The Justice Department said in a news release that its resolution of the case “includes the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer.”

purdue pharma logoPurdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty in federal court in New Jersey to three felony counts for defrauding the United States and violating the anti-kickback statute from 2009 to 2017.

Federal prosecutors alleged the company, which manufactured millions of opioid pills during the height of the epidemic, marketed and offered incentives to doctors who prescribed the painkillers.

“The kickback effectively put Purdue marketing department in the exam room with their thumb on the scale at precisely the moment doctors were making critical decisions about patient health,” District of Vermont U.S. Attorney Christina E. Nolan said at the Justice Department briefing.

 

ICE logowashington post logoWashington Post, Editorial: Let’s not mince words. The Trump administration kidnapped children, Editorial Board, Oct. 22, 2020 (print ed.). The Trump administration’s immorality, cruelty and bureaucratic malpractice in tearing migrant toddlers, tweens and teens away from their parents in 2017 and 2018 were the work of many co-conspirators, most of them faithfully carrying out the wishes of the president himself.

A draft report by the Justice Department’s inspector general has made that clear. Perhaps even more shocking is that policy’s present-day legacy: More than 500 children who, having been wrenched from their families by U.S. government officials with no plan or mechanism ever to reunite them, remain separated.

President Donald Trump officialThat is the case despite years of efforts to track down parents who were, in many cases, deported after their children were seized and placed with family sponsors in the United States. For all intents and purposes, these children were kidnapped by the U.S. government.

In fact, it has not even been the U.S. government that has tried to reunite these sundered families. That has been the work of a court-appointed body organized by the American Civil Liberties Union, a nongovernmental organization. The ACLU, in effect, was put in charge of trying to fix what the Trump administration shattered — the lives of hundreds of children and families. Even now, the parents of 545 separated children cannot be located, despite the efforts of lawyers and advocates, according to a new court filing.

washington post logoWashington Post, Judiciary Committee approves Trump’s pick for Supreme Court, Seung Min Kim, Paulina Firozi and Donna Cassata, Oct. 22, 2020. The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, clearing the way for the full Senate to vote next week on President Trump’s choice.

us senate logoDemocratic senators boycotted the committee proceedings to protest Republicans’ fast-tracking the nomination of the 48-year-old amy coney barrett resized headshotconservative jurist, right, within days of the Nov. 3 election. They argue that the president elected next month should fill the court vacancy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the full Senate will vote Monday on the Barrett nomination. Republicans have the votes to install her on the court.

Amy Coney Barrett secured committee approval with only Republican votes, as Democratic senators boycotted the proceedings. The approval clears the way for Senate confirmation next week.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: What Does Amy Coney Barrett Mean for the Supreme Court? Linda Greenhouse, Oct. 22, 2020. We know who her allies are, and we know how to read what she’s written or signed.

ny times logoNew York Times, Goldman Sachs Malaysia Arm Pleads Guilty in 1MDB Fraud, Matthew Goldstein and Emily Flitter, Oct. 22, 2020. Goldman Sachs admitted its Malaysian subsidiary “knowingly and willingly” conspired to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act because some former employees paid bribes to officials in connection with the looting of a sovereign wealth fund, a scandal that toppled that country’s leader and triggered criminal cases that spanned the globe.

The subsidiary pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge on Thursday in Brooklyn federal court, and the bank itself entered into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement to resolve one of the biggest scandals in the Wall Street giant’s long history.

Separate from the penalties the bank will pay, the board of Goldman Sachs said it was taking steps to withhold or recoup $174 million in compensation from current and former executives — including its chief executive, David Solomon, and his predecessor, Lloyd Blankfein — either in lost pay or the return of money already paid.

In a statement, Mr. Solomon said Goldman “fell short” in overseeing its employees.

All told, Goldman will pay billions in penalties and disgorgement in Malaysia, the United States and Hong Kong for its role in the looting of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad fund. The scandal ultimately brought down the government of Malaysia’s prime minister at the time, Najib Razak, and turned a financier with expensive tastes named Jho Low into an international fugitive.

More than $2.7 billion raised for the fund in bond offerings arranged by Goldman financed lavish lifestyles for powerful Malaysians, including friends and family of Mr. Najib. The money bought paintings by van Gogh and Monet, a mega-yacht docked in Bali, a grand piano made of clear acrylic that was given to a supermodel as a gift, and a king’s ransom in jewelry. Pilfered money also financed a boutique hotel in Beverly Hills, a share of the EMI music publishing portfolio and the Hollywood movie “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

Goldman Sachs earned $600 million in fees to arrange the bond sales.

ny times logoNew York Times, Election Live Updates: On Court Packing, Biden Would Create a Panel to Study Changes, Staff reports, Oct. 22, 2020. Joe Biden said in a new interview that if elected, he would establish a bipartisan commission of scholars to study overhauling courts. Here’s the latest. Joseph R. Biden Jr., who for weeks has declined to clarify his position on expanding the Supreme Court, said in an interview that if elected, he would establish a bipartisan commission of scholars to study a possible court overhaul more broadly.

“I will ask them to, over 180 days, come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it’s getting out of whack,” the Democratic presidential nominee told CBS News’s Norah O’Donnell, according to an interview excerpt that is expected to be broadcast in full Sunday on “60 Minutes.”

“The way in which it’s being handled, and it’s not about court packing, there’s a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated and I’ve looked to see what recommendations that commission might make.”

Mr. Biden, the former vice president who served for decades as a U.S. senator from Delaware, has previously opposed expanding the Supreme Court.

But amid the current battle over Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination by President Trump just before the election — and calls from some Democrats to expand the court to counteract the last-minute addition of a conservative justice — Mr. Biden has declined to take a clear position, though he acknowledged earlier this month that he was “not a fan” of court packing.

Oct. 21

Guardian, Revealed: ex-members of Amy Coney Barrett faith group tell of trauma and sexual abuse, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Oct, 21, 2020. People of Praise hire lawyers to investigate historical sexual abuse allegations as former members speak of ‘emotional torment.’ 

Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination to the supreme court has prompted former members of her secretive faith group, the People of Praise, to come forward and share stories about emotional trauma and – in at least one case – sexual abuse they claim to have suffered at the hands of members of the Christian group.
'It instilled such problems': ex-member of Amy Coney Barrett's faith group speaks out.

In the wake of the allegations, the Guardian has learned that the charismatic Christian organization, which is based in Indiana, has hired the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan to conduct an “independent investigation” into sexual abuse claims on behalf of People of Praise.

The historic sexual abuse allegations and claims of emotional trauma do not pertain specifically to Barrett, who has been a lifelong member of the charismatic group, or her family.

But some former members who spoke to the Guardian said they were deeply concerned that too little was understood about the “community” of People of Praise ahead of Barrett’s expected confirmation by the Senate next week, after which she will hold the seat formerly held by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Two people familiar with the matter say that more than two dozen former members of the faith group, many of whom say they felt “triggered” by Barrett’s nomination, are participating in a support group to discuss how the faith group affected their lives.

“The basic premise of everything at the People of Praise was that the devil controlled everything outside of the community, and you were ‘walking out from under the umbrella of protection’ if you ever left,” said one former member who called herself Esther, who had to join the group as a child but then left the organization. “I was OK with it being in a tiny little corner of Indiana, because a lot of weird stuff happens in tiny little corners in this country. But it’s just unfathomable to me – I can’t even explain just how unfathomable it is – that you would have a supreme court justice who is a card-carrying member of this community.”

Barrett was not asked about her involvement in People of Praise during her confirmation hearings last week, and has never included her involvement with the group in Senate disclosure forms, but has in the past emphasized that her religious faith as a devout Catholic would not interfere with her impartiality.

People of Praise is rooted in the rise of charismatic Christian communities in the late 1960s and 1970s, which blended Pentecostal traditions like speaking in tongues and prophecy with Catholicism. It is an ecumenical group – meaning it accepts members of different Christian churches – though its members are mostly Catholic. Proponents say charismatic Christians are bound together by members’ shared personal presence of Christ, and “empowerment through the Holy Spirit.”

Its handbook emphasizes an insular view of the world, stressing obedience and devotion to other members, and communal living.

Barrett’s father has served as a leader in the community. Barrett was also listed as a “handmaid” in a 2010 directory, or female leader, served as a trustee at a school associated with the group, and has been featured in People of Praise magazines that were removed from the group’s website following her appointment as an appeals court judge in 2017.

The Guardian has confirmed that Barrett lived in a household led by one of the founders of the People of Praise, Kevin Ranaghan, while she was a law student at Notre Dame, and lived with another People of Praise family – Barbette and William Brophy – in Virginia after she graduated.

Proponents of the faith community have said in other press reports that they are misunderstood, and that it is a close-knit community that seeks to support other members “financially and materially and spiritually”.

But former members paint a different picture. Allegations and concerns center on claims of the intense subjugation of women by the community leaders; control of members’ lives and decisions, including marriage, living arrangements, and child rearing; and in one case, the mishandling of allegations of sexual abuse. Members who admit to having gay sex are expelled from the group, which staunchly opposes same-sex marriage.

For Sarah (Mitchell) Kuehl, a 48-year-old former member who grew up in the community, discussions about Barrett’s possible nomination prompted her – after years of trying to figure out how to address it – to send an email on 23 September to Craig Lent, the current head of People of Praise who also works as a professor at Notre Dame. In it, Kuehl claimed she had been sexually abused decades earlier by a “household member”, a male member of “the community” who had lived with the Mitchell family as part of the group’s communal living practices. Single people were expected to be celibate and live in family households which were expected to provide an example of married life, former members say.

After her alleged abuser – who along with her family was technically a member of a precursor group called Servants of the Light/Lord that merged in 1984 with People of Praise – admitted to her father that he had been molesting Kuehl, he was moved to another household and eventually had a marriage “arranged” for him, she said. She was four years old when the abuse began and it lasted for two years. At the time, her family also lived with other single men and women.

“I have struggled for years on whether to hold PoP accountable for what they knew, when they knew it and their attempt to hide and cover up. Like the Catholic church, who covered up and moved priests around, PoP has had a history of these same behaviors,” Kuehl alleged in her email to Lent.

Letters provided to the Guardian by Kuehl dating back to the late 1980s and early 1990s substantiate claims of abuse and attempts by her parents to address the issue with senior leaders of People of Praise. The documents include references to a psychological evaluation of the alleged abuser and confirmation that he did abuse Kuehl. The documents also revealed there were additional victims and that other minors were at risk.

Years later, when Kuehl sought to discuss the issue with her “handmaid” – a female guide and senior member of the organization, when she was at college – she said she was discouraged from talking about it.

“She told me NOT to talk about it with anyone because it could ‘hurt the reputation of the community’,” Kuehl wrote in her letter to Lent.

Weeks later, on 5 October, Lent responded to Kuehl’s email. He wrote: “I am just reaching out to you to let you know that we take this matter very seriously.”

He added: “We very much want to look into this. To that end we have contracted with Diane Doolittle of Quinn Emanuel, who specializes in exactly this sort of investigation. (This took some time to arrange.) I want to stress that, although she is a lawyer, her role is not to defend PoP, but rather she is very much in the role of an independent investigator. We thought that better than trying to investigate it directly ourselves. We want to know the truth of the matter. She will be talking to other people as well.”

Doolittle’s online bio states that she is a Silicon Valley-based trial lawyer who is involved in “high-stakes complex commercial, intellectual property and white collar cases”. She is also listed as having been engaged in “sensitive #MeToo cases, including by conducting corporate internal investigations”.

But People of Praise’s choice is also noteworthy because of Quinn Emanuel’s ties to the White House. William Burck, who serves as Quinn Emanuel’s co-managing partner in Washington DC, has counted Steve Bannon as a client, among others, and was a friend and associate of supreme court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. During Kavanaugh’s controversial confirmation hearings, it was Burck – a “Washington super-lawyer” – who was charged with culling Kavanaugh’s documents for review before the Senate hearing.

There is no evidence that Burck has been personally engaged in the People of Praise investigation.

Oct. 20

New York Times, Justice Department Files Antitrust Suit Against Google, David McCabe and Cecilia Kang, Oct. 20, 2020. Most Aggressive Move Against Tech Giants in Decades

The Justice Department accused Google of maintaining an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising, in the government’s most significant legal challenge to a tech company’s market power in a generation.

google logo customIn a lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, the agency accused Google, a unit of Alphabet, of using several exclusive business contracts and agreements to lock out competition.

Such contracts include Google’s payment of billions of dollars to Apple to place the Google search engine as the default for iPhones. By using contracts to maintain its monopoly, the suit says, competition and innovation has suffered.

Attorney General William P. Barr, who was appointed by Mr. Trump, has played an unusually active role in the investigation. He pushed career Justice Department attorneys to bring the case by the end of September, prompting pushback from lawyers who wanted more time and complained of political influence. Mr. Barr has spoken publicly about the inquiry for months and set tight deadlines for the prosecutors leading the effort.

The lawsuit may stretch on for years and could set off a cascade of other antitrust lawsuits from state attorneys general. About four dozen states and jurisdictions have conducted parallel investigations and are expected to bring separate complaints against the company’s grip on technology for online advertising.

A victory for the government could remake one of America’s most recognizable companies and the internet economy that it has helped define since it was founded by two Stanford University graduate students in 1998.

But Google has long denied accusations of antitrust violations and is expected to fight the government’s efforts by using a global network of lawyers, economists and lobbyists. Alphabet, valued at $1.04 trillion and with cash reserves of $120 billion, has fought similar antitrust lawsuits in Europe.

ny times logoNew York Times, New Yorker Suspends Jeffrey Toobin After Zoom Incident, Johnny Diaz and Azi Paybarah, Oct. 20, 2020. In a statement, the magazine said it was investigating a matter involving the author and CNN legal analyst.

jeffrey toobinnew yorker logoThe New Yorker said on Monday that it had suspended the staff writer Jeffrey Toobin after he exposed himself during a Zoom call last week with employees of the magazine and WNYC radio, according to two people familiar with the call.

Staff writers at The New Yorker and employees from WNYC, which jointly produce the magazine’s podcast, were on a video call prepping for election night coverage, according to Vice, which first reported the episode.

During a pause in the call for breakout discussions, Mr. Toobin switched to a second call that was the video-call equivalent cnn logoof phone sex, according to the two people familiar with the call, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Asked Monday afternoon about reports that he had exposed himself, Mr. Toobin said in a statement: “I made an embarrassingly stupid mistake, believing I was off-camera. I apologize to my wife, family, friends and co-workers.”

Oct. 17

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: How Trump’s Drive to Fill Appeals Courts Is Shaping the Vote, Jim Rutenberg and Rebecca R. Ruiz, Oct. 17, 2020. Appeals courts, stocked with President Trump’s nominees, are blocking federal district court rulings that typically favor Democrats in election disputes.
This month, a federal judge struck down a decree from Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas limiting each county in the state to a single drop box to handle the surge in absentee ballots this election season, rejecting Mr. Abbott’s argument that the limit was necessary to combat fraud.

Days later, an appellate panel of three judges appointed by President Trump froze the lower court order, keeping Mr. Abbott’s new policy in place — meaning Harris County, with more than two million voters, and Wheeler County, with well under 4,000, would both be allowed only one drop box for voters who want to hand-deliver their absentee ballots and avoid reliance on the Postal Service.

The Texas case is one of at least eight major election disputes around the country in which Federal District Court judges sided with civil rights groups and Democrats in voting cases only to be stayed by the federal appeals courts, whose ranks Mr. Trump has done more to populate than any president in more than 40 years.

The rulings highlight how Mr. Trump’s drive to fill empty judgeships is yielding benefits to his re-election campaign even before any major dispute about the outcome may make it to the Supreme Court. He made clear the political advantages he derives from his power to appoint judges when he explained last month that he was moving fast to name a successor to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg so the Supreme Court would have a full contingent to handle any election challenges, which he has indicated he might bring in the event of a loss.

OpEdNews, Opinion: Barrett Is Poised to Become the Most Radical Right-Wing Member of Supreme Court, Marjory Cohn, right, Oct. 17, 2020. During her oenearthlogoSupreme marjorie cohnCourt confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Amy Coney Barrett refused to say that voter intimidation is illegal, that armed poll watchers are intimidating, that voter discrimination exists, whether the president could deny someone the right to vote based on race or that Congress has a constitutional duty to protect the right to vote.

She refused to affirm that Medicare is constitutional; that married couples should not lose their right to contraceptives; that a Black worker repeatedly called the N-word was subjected to a hostile work environment; that it's wrong to separate children from their parents at the border; or that marriage equality, the right to consensual gay sex and LGBTQ workers' rights should be protected. Barrett would not say that human beings are responsible for climate change or that the Constitution requires a peaceful transfer of power.

Barrett's answers and refusals to answer confirm that she will be the most radical right-wing member of the Court.

Even Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which struck down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), noted, "Voting discrimination still exists. No one doubts that." Apparently, Barrett does. Roberts also said at his confirmation hearing, "I agree with the Griswold court's conclusion that marital privacy extends to contraception and availability of that."

When Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) asked Barrett whether a president could refuse to comply with a court order, she refused to answer. Even Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch "made it clear [during their confirmation hearings] that a president cannot refuse to comply with a court order and the Supreme Court's word is the final word on that matter," Leahy told Barrett.

Even Kavanaugh wrote in a court of appeals opinion that, "being called the N-word by a supervisor suffices by itself to establish a racially hostile work environment," Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) told Barrett.

Barrett's Confirmation Threatens Voting Rights

Barrett was asked whether she agreed with her mentor Antonin Scalia's characterization of the Voting Rights Act as "a perpetuation of racial entitlement." Barrett refused to answer. "This should sound an alarm for anyone in our country who cares about protecting voting rights for all Americans," Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, testified at Barrett's hearing.

An Arizona case on the Court's docket will test another anti-discrimination provision of the VRA, Section 2, which prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race. "Given Judge Barrett's unwillingness to recognize the threats that Black people and communities of color face in voting, I'm deeply concerned about how she would handle this case and many other such cases that will come before the Court," Clarke told the committee.

Barrett's Confirmation Threatens the Affordable Care Act

Barrett admitted to Leahy that she didn't know how many people are covered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), how many people under age 26 have health insurance under their parents' plans thanks to the ACA, or how many Americans have tested positive for coronavirus.

If she was being straight with Leahy, Barrett is a judge wildly out of touch with the people of this country.

Barrett also refused to tell Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota) that she was aware Donald Trump had opposed the ACA before he nominated her. When Sen. Kamala Harris (D-California) asked Barrett whether she had heard Trump's statement committing to nominate judges who would strike down the ACA, the judge replied, "I don't recall hearing about or seeing such statements."

washington post logoWashington Post, U.S. judge: Do Trump’s tweets or White House lawyers speak for president on declassifying entire Russia probe? Spencer S. Hsu, Oct. 17, 2020 (print ed.). A federal judge criticized the Justice Department’s claim that the president’s words are not to be believed.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton, right, reggie b walton rebuked the Justice Department and the White House Counsel’s Office on Friday for dismissing without explanation President Trump’s “emphatic and unambiguous” tweets ordering the declassification of all documents in the government’s probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

“I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to the single greatest political CRIME in American History, the Russia Hoax,” the president tweeted Oct. 6. “Likewise, the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal. No redactions!”

Trump’s blanket statement came the day after he returned to the White House from three days of treatment for the novel coronavirus at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. The tweet has since created a headache for government lawyers in pending open-records lawsuits filed by news organizations seeking fuller disclosure of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report and investigative materials.

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court to review Trump plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from census calculations, Robert Barnes, Oct. 17, 2020 (print ed.). A lower court blocked the plan, which would have the effect of shifting political power and federal funds away from urban states with large immigrant populations.

The Supreme Court announced Friday that it will review President Trump’s attempt to exclude undocumented immigrants when calculating how congressional seats are apportioned among the states.

The unprecedented proposal could have the effect of shifting both political power and billions of dollars in federal funds away from urban states with large immigrant populations and toward rural and more Republican interests.

A three-judge panel in New York said that Trump’s July 21 memorandum on the matter was “an unlawful exercise of the authority granted to” him by Congress. It blocked the Commerce Department and the Census Bureau from including information about the number of undocumented immigrants — it is unclear how those numbers would be generated — in their reports to the president after this year’s census is completed.

The justices put the case on a fast-track, and said they will hold a hearing Nov. 30. By then, it will likely be a nine-member court again, if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed, giving the court a 6 to 3 conservative majority. The administration says timing matters, because it must present the plan to Congress in January.

It is unclear whether the matter would divide the court along ideological lines, but the issue is another mark of how the once-a-decade census has been transformed from a largely bureaucratic exercise into the centerpiece of a partisan battle.

The Supreme Court earlier this week agreed with the Trump administration that it could stop the count of Americans, despite fears that the coronavirus and other problems will lead to an undercount of minorities and those in hard-to-reach communities. Lower courts had said the count should continue until the end of the month. But that might have made it heard to get the information to Trump by year’s end — a timetable that carries additional importance in an election year.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecuting Park Police officers in Bijan Ghaisar slaying faces significant legal hurdle, Tom Jackman, Oct 17, 2020 (print ed.). Was the shooting of the unarmed motorist ‘necessary and proper’? A federal judge will likely decide, and that will probably be appealed.

Two U.S. Park Police officers fired 10 shots in a span of 25 seconds when they killed unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar,left, in 2017. But whether they can be prosecuted in state court, as Fairfax County is now seeking to do, will likely involve convincing a federal judge that the shooting was not “necessary and proper,” a standard few state prosecutors have ever met.

bijan ghaisar headOn Thursday, Officers Lucas Vinyard and Alejandro Amaya were indicted by a Fairfax County grand jury on one count each of involuntary manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm. In November 2017, they shot and killed Ghaisar, 25, as he slowly drove away from them during a traffic stop in the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax. Last year, federal authorities declined to file federal civil rights charges, so Fairfax Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano picked up the case and obtained state criminal charges.

Park Police officers charged with manslaughter in 2017 slaying of unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar

But federal officers are largely exempt from state jurisdiction under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which says that states must defer to federal law. Descano said Thursday that he anticipated the officers’ lawyers would remove the case to federal court, and then invoke the Supremacy Clause in a motion to have the case dismissed. He requested help from Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring to argue against the motion, and Herring’s office agreed to take the case on. No matter which side prevails in the officers’ case, an appeal is likely.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Washington cheerleaders shaken by lewd videos: ‘I don’t think they viewed us as people,’ Beth Reinhard, Liz Clarke, Alice Crites and Will Hobson, Oct 17, 2020 (print ed.). The contracts for the Washington Football Team’s cheerleaders held them to a strict moral code. “Inappropriate” conduct or online content, including nude or seminude appearances in “tasteless” films, videos or photographs, could trigger immediate dismissal.

“Each cheerleader must at all times conduct herself with due regard to public conventions and morals,” read two contracts obtained by The Washington Post, covering 2008 and 2010.

nfl logoSuch provisions are not unusual in the NFL, according to lawyers familiar with such contracts, and ex-Washington cheerleaders say that, while they took the policy seriously, it didn’t bother them — until recently.

In August, The Post reported that the team had produced lewd videos out of outtakes from the cheerleaders’ 2008 and 2010 swimsuit calendar shoots that include partial nudity. Now in their 30s and 40s, with careers and children, the dozens of ex-cheerleaders who appear in the videos are terrified the footage will appear online and are coping with a painful reckoning about their seasons with the NFL franchise.

“I would have hoped the team, because they held us to these high standards, would treat us with respect and uphold the same standards. Instead they violated our trust with what sounds like a soft porn video,” said Chastity Evans, who appears in the unofficial 2008 video and, like other cheerleaders, was afraid of getting fired just for being photographed with a drink in hand or being in the same restaurant as a player.

A love of dance drew them to the cheerleading squad, and the bonds forged with teammates they still consider sisters kept them coming back. But the meager pay, demands that they socialize with male suite holders and sponsors, and other indignities — what they then viewed as a reasonable exchange for the chance of a lifetime — loom larger knowing what they know now.

“I didn’t see it when I was younger, because I loved what I did,” said Evans, now 40, who cheered for five seasons. “I don’t think they viewed us as people. They viewed us as replaceable objects.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Man Sentenced to Life Over Theft of Hedge Clippers Is Granted Parole, Allyson Waller, Oct. 17, 2020. Before 2017, a person in Louisiana could be sentenced to life in prison after receiving a fourth nonviolent conviction under the state’s habitual offender law.

A Louisiana man whose life sentence for attempting to steal hedge clippers in 1997 drew a national spotlight to the state’s habitual offender law has been granted parole, according to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

The Louisiana Committee on Parole voted 3-0 on Thursday to release Fair Wayne Bryant, 63, who was convicted on a felony count of attempted simple burglary of an inhabited dwelling in a storeroom at a home in Shreveport, La.

Under a state law that penalizes offenders with previous convictions, Mr. Bryant was sentenced to life in prison for the conviction.

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Twilight of Trump: Don Was Warned by US Intelligence and NSC Director That Scandal Materials Against Hunter Biden Dished Up by webster tarpley 2007Bannon and Giuliani Were Likely Russian Intelligence Fabrications, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 17, 2020. First Time as Tragedy, Second Time as Farce: Crude Attempt by Trump Gang to Repeat the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal of 2016 Is Failing to Gain Traction, NY Post Exposé Going over Like Lead Balloon; Scant Interest for Umpteenth Warmed-Over Ukrainian Scandal as October Surprise

Another 900,000 First-Time Jobless Claims; Widespread Immiseration Looms for Holiday Season, as Moscow Mitch’s Sabotage of Pandemic Relief Bills Continues; Joni Ernst of Iowa Still Does Not Know the Price of Corn and Soy Beans!

Nightmare Winter of 2020-2021 Now Clearly Visible; Center of Contagion Shifts to Europe; France Hits 32,000 New Cases in One Day; Virus Making Comeback in Italy; Field Hospital Goes Up in Prague, Czech Republic; US Experiences Biggest Flare-Up Since August; Trump Still Catatonic.

Absolute Majority for New Zealand’s Labour Party PM Ardern Running on Platform of Compassion and Successful Measures against Pandemic Is Bad Omen for Trump, Who Utterly Lacks These Capabilities Much in Demand among Voters Everywhere.

Nausea: Low Ratings for Trump’s Town Hall on NBC-CNBC-MSNBC Compared to Biden’s ABC Appearance Point To Widespread Boredom and Disgust For Don’s Macabre and Mendacious Road Show among Beleaguered Voters Who Need Effective Help, Not His Whining and Self-Pity; With His Treatment Cocktail Costing about $140,000, Don’s Promise to Deliver It for Free to Those in Need Is the Hollowest Demagogy Yet; Trump Talks of Fleeing Abroad, but Most Americans Cannot Not Afford the Trip; Biden on Trump: He Has Gone Around the Bend, Is Living in a Dream World.

Oct. 16

Down With Tyranny! Opinion: Greasing the Bench, Skip Kaltenheuser, Oct. 16, 2020. John Grisham, meister of legal thrillers, must look at the Dark Money flying about Supreme Court nominees and think, “You stinking thieves, give me my book plots back!”

In a logical world, in a sane U.S/ Senate resistant to corruption, Senators would give the bum's rush to nominees to the Supreme Court who are being promoted with millions, tens of millions, in dark money.

Dark money, funding not readily traced to the actual donors, slithering through a labyrinth of shell corporations, donor trusts and 501(c)(4) organizations. And slithering around Senators voting on judicial nominee confirmations, not just for the Supreme Court but all Federal judges, whispering rewards and threats when they’re up for re-election. Dark Money groups like the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, flowing into groups like the Federalist Society, which Trump brags picks his judges, and the closely connected Judicial Crisis Network.

sheldon whitehouseDuring Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings for the Supremes, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), right, asked Gorsuch who his angels were who provided seven million dollars to first deny Obama nominee Merrick Garland and then later drop ten million promoting Gorsuch to the bench.

Gorsuch’s reply was that if Whitehouse wanted to know who they were, he should ask them. As if Gorsuch had no idea. And no idea of exactly what his hooded benefactors want from courts.

In backing Brett Kavanaugh, one dark donation alone provided seventeen million.

Many millions are now swirling to promote Amy Coney Barrett. Not to play down the importance of issues like reproductive rights, or the emphasis on preserving even the most meager opportunities for medical coverage, but it’s not hot-button issues that attract the incognito Big Money to such legal eagles of the Ayn Rand brotherhood.

It’s their pro-corporate, anti-regulatory, anti-labor and anti-consumer histories. It’s their willingness to pay close attention to the Amicus briefs from the Big Money’s minions. It’s about suppressing the vote, rigging democracy with gerrymandering, etc.... It’s about insulating industries like fossil fuels, and their Wall Street investors, from accountability for the myriad pollution they knowingly cause. It’s about protecting the interests of those at the top.

And when the banks start making wholesale property grabs again, it’ll be about ushering them along as they ride roughshod over people, as the floodgates open for those tumbling into a fractured, pro-creditor bankruptcy system, peppered with self-serving “trustees”. Wait and see.

As Tom Neuburger recently detailed, Barrett has rung one alarm bell after another that she will be a grim reaper of the rights and protections of workers when they conflict with the Big Money, and injured consumers have little to rejoice about. In her brief time on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Barrett quickly joined the ilk of judges who are black-robed crowbars for prying wide the wealth gap via a legal assembly line of pro-corporate decisions.

David Sirota recently revealed an important case coming before the Supreme Court involving state and municipal government lawsuits against Shell Oil, for which Barrett’s father was a lawyer for decades. Oil companies want the Court to require climate cases be heard in the more corporate-friendly federal courts. Asked about climate change during her hearings, Barrett’s reply was that she does not have “firm views”, “...I’m not really in a position to offer any kind of informed opinion on what I think causes global warming.” How convenient. Isn’t that special? Cue the Church Lady.

During Barrett’s confirmation hearings, Senator Whitehouse schooled the Senate with

.be" target="_blank" rel="noopener">this riveting presentation. Some of it drew from this 29-page treatise he published in the Harvard Law School Journal on Legislation. Both are worth the time.

Whitehouse revealed 80 cases at the Supreme Court involving an identifiable Republican donor. Astoundingly, damningly, all were decided in the right-wing’s favor in 5-4 decisions. Many whittle down the concept of civil juries. Because why would fat cats suffer standing before a jury not of their board members?

Eighty five-four partisan decisions. People with track records of defying odds like that wouldn’t be allowed through the door of a casino. What the hell are they doing on the Supreme Court?

Oct. 14

American System Network, Opinion: Judge Barrett Discredits Herself with Fantastic Claim She Did Not Know about Trump’s Pledge to Destroy webster tarpley 2007Obamacare/Affordable Care Act, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 14, 2020. She Also Failed to Mention Her Signature on Strident Anti-Roe Petition in Original Questionnaire She Submitted to the Senate;

Many of Her Answers Suggest She Will Function as Handmaid for Trump’s Expected Coup d’État; Moscow Mitch Might Attempt to Pass a Placebo Covid Relief Bill with Minimal Benefits to Relieve Political Pressure on His Beleaguered Members as Collapse of the GOP Senate Majority Looms.

Oct. 13

American System Network, Opinion: In Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Whitehouse and Dem Members Slam “Slap Dash” Hearings Called in Obedience to webster tarpley 2007GOP Megadonors Despite Pandemic, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 13, 2020. Extremist Ideologue Amy Barrett: “Judicial Torpedo” to Destroy the Affordable Care Act; Her Protestations of Impartiality Reek of Hypocrisy; Dems Seek to Flip One Seat on Committee or Two Seats for Floor Vote to Stop Barrett Nomination.

sheldon whitehouseSen. Whitehouse, left, Exposes Sinister Machinery Which Has Produced Trump’s Judicial Nominees; The Federalist Society Has Been Decisive in Picking Judges, with Judicial Crisis Network Campaigning to Get Them Confirmed, with the Creation of Desired Case Opportunities and Orchestration of Phalanxes of Friend of the Court Briefs Telling Judges How to Vote in Key Cases; Goals of This Apparatus Include Allowing Unlimited Anonymous Dark Money in Campaigns; Marginalizing the Jury in Civil Cases; Weakening Regulation and Regulatory Agencies; and Relentlessly Eroding Voting Rights; Supremes Give Trump Permission to Halt Census at Once; Sotomayor Dissents, Citing Irreparable Harm Involved.

The Defeat of Trump and the Extinction of the Republican Party Loom Closer: Carville Argues That Democrats May Capture Georgia Legislature, Creating a Blue State on the Eve of Re-Apportionment; Cornyn in Trouble in Texas; Alaska Seen as Longshot Possibility for Dems; Veteran Operative Forecasts Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Ohio Results Will Be Known by 10:30 PM Eastern on Election Day, Eliminating Trump from Contention with No Chance to Game the Courts!

Oct. 12

American System Network, Opinion: Barrett’s Fanatical Hostility to Affordable Care Act/Obamacare Is Threat to Lives and Health of 20 Million Who Are Insured webster tarpley 2007through Exchanges, Webster G. Tarpley, Oct. 12, 2020. 17 Million Insured under Medicaid Expansion, and 129 Million Who Need Protection for Pre-Existing Conditions, GOP Senators Attempt Diversions by Railing at Non-Existent Anti-Catholic Campaign.

Biden Leads Trump by 12 Points in ABC-WaPo Poll; Trump Behind by 8 in Michigan; Biden Ahead by 10 in Wisconsin; Trump’s Itinerary Shows His Weak Points of Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Iowa; Biden on the Offensive, Campaigns among Workers in Ohio; Former Trump Voter: “He Lies Like a Rug”

Barrett’s Doctrines of Originalism and Textualism Are Varieties of Bankrupt Legal Positivism and the Rejection of Natural Law as Summarized in Preamble; Her Preference for Formalism and Contempt for Outcomes, Results and Justice Are an Open Door for Dismantling Health Care and Roe, after Rubber-Stamping Trump’s November Coup!

Oct. 16

Down With Tyranny! Opinion: Greasing the Bench, Skip Kaltenheuser, Oct. 16, 2020. John Grisham, meister of legal thrillers, must look at the Dark Money flying about Supreme Court nominees and think, “You stinking thieves, give me my book plots back!”

In a logical world, in a sane U.S. Senate resistant to corruption, Senators would give the bum's rush to nominees to the Supreme Court who are being promoted with millions, tens of millions, in dark money.

Dark money, funding not readily traced to the actual donors, slithering through a labyrinth of shell corporations, donor trusts and 501(c)(4) organizations. And slithering around Senators voting on judicial nominee confirmations, not just for the Supreme Court but all Federal judges, whispering rewards and threats when they’re up for re-election. Dark Money groups like the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, flowing into groups like the Federalist Society, which Trump brags picks his judges, and the closely connected Judicial Crisis Network.

sheldon whitehouseDuring Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings for the Supremes, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), right, asked Gorsuch who his angels were who provided seven million dollars to first deny Obama nominee Merrick Garland and then later drop ten million promoting Gorsuch to the bench.

Gorsuch’s reply was that if Whitehouse wanted to know who they were, he should ask them. As if Gorsuch had no idea. And no idea of exactly what his hooded benefactors want from courts.

In backing Brett Kavanaugh, one dark donation alone provided seventeen million.

Many millions are now swirling to promote Amy Coney Barrett, left. Not to play down the importance of issues like reproductive rights, or the amy coney barrett resized headshotemphasis on preserving even the most meager opportunities for medical coverage, but it’s not hot-button issues that attract the incognito Big Money to such legal eagles of the Ayn Rand brotherhood.

It’s their pro-corporate, anti-regulatory, anti-labor and anti-consumer histories. It’s their willingness to pay close attention to the Amicus briefs from the Big Money’s minions. It’s about suppressing the vote, rigging democracy with gerrymandering, etc.... It’s about insulating industries like fossil fuels, and their Wall Street investors, from accountability for the myriad pollution they knowingly cause. It’s about protecting the interests of those at the top.

And when the banks start making wholesale property grabs again, it’ll be about ushering them along as they ride roughshod over people, as the floodgates open for those tumbling into a fractured, pro-creditor bankruptcy system, peppered with self-serving “trustees”. Wait and see.

As Tom Neuburger recently detailed, Barrett has rung one alarm bell after another that she will be a grim reaper of the rights and protections of workers when they conflict with the Big Money, and injured consumers have little to rejoice about. In her brief time on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Barrett quickly joined the ilk of judges who are black-robed crowbars for prying wide the wealth gap via a legal assembly line of pro-corporate decisions.

David Sirota recently revealed an important case coming before the Supreme Court involving state and municipal government lawsuits against Shell Oil, for which Barrett’s father was a lawyer for decades. Oil companies want the Court to require climate cases be heard in the more corporate-friendly federal courts. Asked about climate change during her hearings, Barrett’s reply was that she does not have “firm views”, “...I’m not really in a position to offer any kind of informed opinion on what I think causes global warming.” How convenient. Isn’t that special? Cue the Church Lady.

During Barrett’s confirmation hearings, Senator Whitehouse schooled the Senate with

.be" target="_blank" rel="noopener">this riveting presentation. Some of it drew from this 29-page treatise he published in the Harvard Law School Journal on Legislation. Both are worth the time.

Whitehouse revealed 80 cases at the Supreme Court involving an identifiable Republican donor. Astoundingly, damningly, all were decided in the right-wing’s favor in 5-4 decisions. Many whittle down the concept of civil juries. Because why would fat cats suffer standing before a jury not of their board members?

Eighty five-four partisan decisions. People with track records of defying odds like that wouldn’t be allowed through the door of a casino. What the hell are they doing on the Supreme Court?

djt rudy giuliani

washington post logoWashington Post, White House was warned Giuliani was target of Russian intelligence operation to misinform Trump, Shane Harris, Ellen Nakashima, Greg Miller and Josh Dawsey, Oct. 16, 2020 (print ed.). U.S. intelligence agencies believed Russian agents were "working" President Trump’s personal lawyer to disseminate misinformation about the Bidens.

U.S. intelligence agencies warned the White House last year that President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani was the target of an influence operation by Russian intelligence, according to four former officials familiar with the matter.

The warnings were based on multiple sources, including intercepted communications, that showed Giuliani was interacting with people tied to Russian intelligence during a December 2019 trip to Ukraine, where he was gathering information that he thought would expose corrupt acts by former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

The intelligence raised concerns that Giuliani was being used to feed Russian misinformation to the president, the former officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information and conversations.

ny times logoNew York Times, G.O.P.-Appointed Judges Threaten Democracy, Liberals Seeking Court Expansion Say, Charlie Savage, Oct. 16, 2020. A new study found a partisan pattern in rulings that could make it easier or harder to vote, fueling a debate among Democrats over court packing.

Progressive activists who want Democrats to expand the Supreme Court and pack it with additional liberal justices are mustering a new argument: Republican-appointed jurists, they say, keep using their power to make it harder for Americans to vote.

Backed by a new study of how federal judges and justices have ruled in election-related cases this year, the activists are building on their case for why mainstream Democrats should see their idea as a justified way to restore and protect democracy, rather than as a radical and destabilizing escalation of partisan warfare over the judiciary.

The study, the “Anti-Democracy Scorecard,” was commissioned by the group Take Back the Court, which supports expanding the judiciary. It identified 309 votes by judges and justices in 175 election-related decisions and found a partisan pattern: Republican appointees interpreted the law in a way that impeded ballot access 80 percent of the time, versus 37 percent for Democratic ones.

The numbers were even more stark when limited to judges appointed by President Trump, who has had tremendous success at rapidly reshaping the judiciary. Of 60 rulings in election-related cases, 85 percent were “anti-democracy” according to the analysis.

“There is a systematic pattern of Republican-appointed judges and justices tipping the scales in favor of the G.O.P. by making voting harder,” said Aaron Belkin, a political-science professor and the director of Take Back the Court.

Edward Whelan, president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center, questioned the value of reducing judicial decisions to statistics. Noting that many of the cases this year come from the aberrational circumstances of the pandemic — litigants are trying to get judges to relax local restrictions in light of the need for social distancing — he argued that showing deference to established rules does not necessarily mean hostility to voting.

Mr. Belkin, who also runs the Palm Center, a social science research institute that focuses on gay, lesbian and transgender rights, said law students at Yale and Stanford checked the data set for accuracy under the oversight of a University of Michigan law professor, Leah Litman, who wrote an essay in The Atlantic last month discussing the partisan pattern in election-litigation cases.

washington post logo'Washington Post, Feinstein hugs and praises Lindsey Graham, sparking an outcry from liberals: ‘Time to retire,’ Teo Armus, Oct. 16, 2020. As a contentious week of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett wrapped up Thursday, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee had little to offer but praise.

“This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). “It leaves one with a lot of hopes, a lot of questions and even some ideas perhaps of good bipartisan legislation we can put together."

If that wasn’t enough to anger Democrats — who have spent this week trying to paint Barrett’s nomination process as a sham — Feinstein also thanked the committee’s chair, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), right, and then walked across the room to wrap him in a hug.

Never mind that neither senator was wearing a face mask. Many Democrats were so much more incensed about what that hug symbolized — a final white flag, a compliment for Graham after a comparatively tame week of questioning — that, hours later, at least two liberal activist groups called for Feinstein to go.

“It’s time for Sen. Feinstein to step down from her leadership position on the Senate Judiciary Committee,” Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, said in a statement. “If she won’t, her colleagues need to intervene.”

 washington post logoWashington Post, A Texas billionaire evaded $2 billion in taxes, feds say. Now he’s charged in the ‘largest-ever’ tax fraud case, Jaclyn Peiser, Oct. 16, 2020. Robert T. Brockman was so paranoid that the Internal Revenue Service would catch on to his scheme, prosecutors said, that in June 2016 the Texas billionaire allegedly ordered his offshore money handler to travel the United States destroying paper evidence and “electronic media” with shredders and hammers.

robert brockman riceBut on Thursday, prosecutors alleged that his decades-long tax fraud scheme, the largest in American history, had finally caught up to him. A federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted Brockman, 79, on 39 charges, including tax fraud, wire fraud, evidence tampering and money laundering, authorities said.

“The allegation of a $2 billion tax fraud is the largest ever tax charge against an individual in the United States,” David L. Anderson, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of California, said at a news conference.

An indictment filed earlier this month alleges that Brockman, the chief executive of Reynolds and Reynolds, an Ohio-based company that makes software for car dealerships, used a network of entities in Bermuda and Nevis to hide investment income from the IRS. He also allegedly had secret bank accounts in Bermuda and Switzerland, where he funneled untaxed profits from selling assets.

To keep up the scheme, Brockman used secret, encrypted email systems to coordinate with offshore money handlers, according to the indictment. Brockman, who seemed to have a penchant for assigning monikers to people and places, called himself “Permit,” the IRS “the house,” and assigned his handlers fish-themed code names like, “Redfish, “Bonefish” and “Snapper.” He also named his $29 million luxury yacht — allegedly paid for with the hidden funds — “Turmoil.”

Brockman, who lives in Houston and Pitkin County, Colo., is a Marine veteran who started out in marketing at Ford Motor Company. He later worked as a salesman at IBM before founding Universal Computer Services in the 1970, leading the company through its acquisition by Reynolds and Reynolds in 2006.

But starting in 1999, prosecutors say, Brockman began carefully stashing money overseas and covering his tracks to avoid investigators.

Brockman was adept at evading fees and covering up suspicious activity, prosecutors allege. He told his main handler, who is unnamed in the indictment, to “operate as much as possible in a paperless manner” so that everything was “in encrypted digital form,” the indictment said.

Investigators also said that Brockman backdated documents to cover up his alleged crimes. In an email from July 2008, Brockman notified his handler to avoid using copy machines and laser printer paper because it “has encoded into it the manufacturer of that paper as well as the year and month of manufacture,” Brockman wrote, according to the indictment. “For that reason I always set aside some packets of copy paper with dates on them — for potential future use.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Two U.S. Park Police officers indicted on manslaughter charge in 2017 shooting of unarmed motorist, Tom Jackman, Oct. 16, 2020 (print ed.). Park Police officers charged with manslaughter in 2017 slaying of unarmed motorist Bijan Ghaisar.

Two U.S. Park Police officers were charged Thursday by a Fairfax County special grand jury with manslaughter in the November 2017 shooting of unarmed bijan ghaisar headmotorist Bijan Ghaisar, right, marking the latest dramatic twist in a saga that has featured protests, congressional inquiries, an FBI investigation, civil suits and little official explanation for the man’s violent death.

Officers Alejandro Amaya, 41, and Lucas W. Vinyard, 39, have been on paid administrative duty with the Park Police since shortly after the shooting. The Park Police have not yet begun an internal investigation, waiting instead for criminal charging decisions to be made by federal and local prosecutors. The officers were not taken into custody Thursday and prosecutors expected them to make arrangements to surrender.

The officers have claimed that Ghaisar drove his Jeep Grand Cherokee at Amaya while attempting to pull away from them, and that they shot him both in self-defense and to protect public safety.

The fatal shooting of Ghaisar, a 25-year-old accountant and Northern Virginia native, was captured on video by cameras inside two Fairfax County police cruisers that followed the Park Police officers to the intersection of Fort Hunt Road and Alexandria Avenue. The video shows Ghaisar slowly driving around the Park Police SUV, and the officers firing 10 times into Ghaisar’s Jeep Grand Cherokee, striking him four times in the head, federal authorities have said.

Oct. 15

amy coney barrett ap resized oct 12 2020

ny times logoNew York Times, Amy Coney Barrett Confirmation Hearings: Highlights From Day 4, Nicholas Fandos and Luke Broadwater, Oct. 15, 2020. Flouting committee rules, Republicans pushed ahead without Democrats present to schedule a vote on Oct. 22. Republicans blocked a Democratic move in the Senate Judiciary Committee to delay the confirmation process, as their leader declared, “We have the votes” to prevail.

The final day of Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett began with a partisan brawl as Senate Republicans, plowing past Democratic objections, forced through a motion to schedule a committee vote on her nomination next week.

That meant ignoring committee rules that require at least two members of the minority party to be present to conduct business. When the hearing began and Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman, called the vote, only one Democrat, Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, was present.

“I want to take official note of the fact that I am the only member of the minority that is here, and so we cannot conduct business until that second member of the minority arrives,” Mr. Durbin said.

Mr. Graham rejected his claim and proceeded anyway, saying Democrats would do the same if they were in his position.

“It’s clear to me from reading in the paper that we are going to be denied the ability to operate as normal,” Mr. Graham said, referring to Democrats’ public pledge to disrupt “business as usual” around a nomination they view as rushed and deeply unfair.

Democrats appeared to be trying to goad him into violating the rule, with several waiting just outside the committee room as Mr. Durbin sat alone on their side of the dais. As the vote commenced, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut walked in and was present to cast his “no” vote, while others voted by proxy to block the move.

Still, with Republicans in the majority, the panel approved Mr. Graham’s motion, setting its vote on the nomination for Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. If the committee approves the nomination at that point, the full Senate would vote a few days later, as soon as Oct. 26 — one week and a day before Election Day.

Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, told reporters in Kentucky that Republicans “have the votes” to confirm her, and the Senate would begin considering the nomination on Oct. 23.

Outraged Democrats then moved to shut down the hearing, with Mr. Blumenthal asking to suspend it “indefinitely.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Takeaways from Barrett’s final day of questioning: Conservatives are playing up her gender, and Democrats aren't letting her distance herself from President Trump, Amber Phillips, Oct. 15, 2020 (print ed.). Wednesday was the final day of questioning in the confirmation hearing for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

amy coney barrett resized headshotRepublicans have the votes to approve her nomination out of the Judiciary Committee and onto the Senate floor, where it’s likely she could be confirmed by a Republican-only vote before the election — and be on the court in time to hear a case this November on the Affordable Care Act, as well as any election-related cases.

Live blog updates: Barrett declines to say whether the president has power to pardon herself

Here are four takeaways from Wednesday’s segment of her confirmation hearing. And here are takeaways from the first two days of her nomination hearing — opening statements and questioning.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Pro-Trump militia plot against two governors places the U.S. into banana republic status, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 15, 2020. A plot by pro-Trump militia members to kidnap the Democratic Governors of Michigan and Virginia, Gretchen Whitmer and Ralph Northam, respectively, points out the degree to which the United States has fallen into Latin American "banana republic" status. The assassination of state governors and other local leaders in Latin America have become so commonplace, the actions receive barely a mention in the U.S. media.

gretchen whitmer o smile CustomThe FBI and state law enforcement recently charged 13 members of a group called the Wolverine Watchmen and charged them with crimes under terrorism, criminal conspiracy, and weapons statutes. Six of the thirteen men were criminally charged under federal and Michigan law for plotting to kidnap Whitmer, left, from her vacation home on Lake Michigan, place her before a vigilante "tribunal" at a "secure" location in Wisconsin, try her for "treason," and execute her. The plotters also spoke about "taking" Northam. These militia actions were coupled with a plot to storm the State Capitol building in Lansing and foment a "civil war."

In addition to Wisconsin, the Michigan plot also extended to participants in Ohio, Delaware, and as subsequently reported, Virginia. Some of those arrested were spotted in May among a large group of armed anti-Covid lockdown protesters inside the Lansing State Capitol during sessions of the Senate and House of Representatives. Many legislators said they feared for their lives at the time.

Whitmer and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel linked the plot to incendiary comments made by Donald Trump, who refused to condemn the plot against Whitmer and Northam. In fact, Trump had sent tweets with the messages "LIBERATE MICHIGAN!" and "LIBERATE VIRGINIA!" Trump also referred to the Michigan governor as "HALF-WHITMER," a derogatory play on words.

Other Democratic governors who have received death threats from right-wing quarters include Kate Brown of Oregon, Andy Beshear of Kentucky, Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, Janet Mills of Maine, Jay Inslee of Washington, Roy Cooper of North Carolina, Steve Sisolak of Nevada, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Gavin Newsom of California, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Tim Walz of Minnesota, and Jared Polis of Colorado.

Plots against state governors have been the rule of the day for decades in Latin America and the Middle East and South Asia. Such assassinations were emblematic of the breakdown in the rule of law and stable government in the countries where they occurred.

Daily Howler, Opinion: Who is Amy Coney Barrett? Bob Somerby, Oct. 15, 2020. We have no idea. We thought Democratic questioning of Barrett was stunningly ineffectual these past two days Today, we're running into commentaries that seem to make little sense.

Concerning the questioning: Much of the time was devoted to the repetitive presentation of questions the nominee wasn't going to answer. We refer to questions about various issues which might conceivably come before the Court.

This refusal to answer didn't seem especially new to us. Indeed, Barrett kept quoting bromides from Justices Kagan and Ginsburg designed to convey the impression that she was following past practice in refusing to answer.

daily howler headlineMeanwhile, at New York magazine, Charlotte Klein offered this near the start of a snarky review: "A judge on the D.C. appeals court, Barrett was noncommittal when asked if she would weigh in on possible election dispute."

"A judge on the D.C. appeals court?" [It's the Chicago appeals court.] Even now, one day later, the passage hasn't been corrected. Truly, our tribe is less than impressive.

Is everything artifice now? At hearings of this type, we start with the questions which won't be answered, then proceed directly to reviews which place the subject on the wrong court and assail her for performing like the earlier nominees we regard as saints.

Full disclosure: The liberal world lost this seat when it stared into air, for twenty-five years, as Hillary Clinton was accused of multiple murders and was called every misogynist name in the book by high-profile media stars on our own corporate side. In the end, this trashing let Donald J. Trump squeeze into the White House. To this day, you aren't even encouraged to know that this trashing ever occurred!

That's the way we lost three seats. Barrett didn't do that.

ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Senators Spar Over Committee Rules and Timetable on Barrett Vote, Nicholas Fandos and Luke Broadwater, Oct. 15, 2020. Democrats moved to shut down the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination. The action was in protest of Republicans’ decision to schedule an Oct. 22 vote on it over their objections.

ny times logoNew York Times, With Nomination, a D.C. Conservative Power Couple Nears Its Dream, Elizabeth Williamson, Oct. 15, 2020. Carrie and Roger Severino have worked to reshape social policy and the courts they need to uphold it.

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee debates approving the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

Last July, Carrie Severino, a leader among social conservatives dedicated to filling the courts with like-minded judges, appeared on a prominent Catholic television station to slam a 5-to-4 Supreme Court decision that turned back the most recent effort to weaken abortion rights.

During the on-air exchange between Mrs. Severino and an anti-abortion activist, Dorinda Bordlee, Ms. Bordlee made a plea: To “get to our ultimate goal,” she said, “we are going to, in the end, need one more justice.”

Three months later Mrs. Severino, the president of the Judicial Crisis Network, and her equally conservative husband, Roger Severino, who heads the Department of Health and Human Services’s Office for Civil Rights, are right where they have hoped to be. The looming confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court could usher in a new era of socially conservative jurisprudence — on abortion, health care, gay and transgender rights, and other issues long embraced by the Severinos.

And Washington’s conservative power couple could rightfully claim more than a modicum of credit.

“Professionally we’re hitting on all cylinders, and we’re accomplishing many of our lives’ ambitions,” Mr. Severino said in an interview.

Oct. 14

djt william barr doj photo march 2019

daily beast logoDaily Beast, Trump Won’t Say if Barr Will Stay on as Attorney General, Oct. 14, 2020. The day before Trump’s comments, reports emerged of the Justice Department declining to file charges in its probe of “unmasking” officials in classified documents.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday declined to answer whether he would keep William Barr, shown above with Trump in 2018, on as attorney general for a potential second term, saying only that he is “not happy.”

Trump was quoted telling Newsmax, “Can’t comment on that, it’s too early. I’m not happy, with all of the evidence I had, I can tell you that. I am not happy.” The day before, reports emerged of the Justice Department concluding a probe commissioned by Barr into the Obama-era “unmasking” of individuals named in national security documents, a practice Trump and other conservatives painted as a malignant political conspiracy. However, the Justice Department found no evidence of wrongdoing and declined to release its report publicly or file any charges.

Oct. 17

World Crisis Radio, Opinion: Twilight of Trump: Don Was Warned by US Intelligence and NSC Director That Scandal Materials Against Hunter Biden Dished Up by webster tarpley 2007Bannon and Giuliani Were Likely Russian Intelligence Fabrications, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 17, 2020. First Time as Tragedy, Second Time as Farce: Crude Attempt by Trump Gang to Repeat the Hillary Clinton Email Scandal of 2016 Is Failing to Gain Traction, NY Post Exposé Going over Like Lead Balloon; Scant Interest for Umpteenth Warmed-Over Ukrainian Scandal as October Surprise

Another 900,000 First-Time Jobless Claims; Widespread Immiseration Looms for Holiday Season, as Moscow Mitch’s Sabotage of Pandemic Relief Bills Continues; Joni Ernst of Iowa Still Does Not Know the Price of Corn and Soy Beans!

Nightmare Winter of 2020-2021 Now Clearly Visible; Center of Contagion Shifts to Europe; France Hits 32,000 New Cases in One Day; Virus Making Comeback in Italy; Field Hospital Goes Up in Prague, Czech Republic; US Experiences Biggest Flare-Up Since August; Trump Still Catatonic.

Absolute Majority for New Zealand’s Labour Party PM Ardern Running on Platform of Compassion and Successful Measures against Pandemic Is Bad Omen for Trump, Who Utterly Lacks These Capabilities Much in Demand among Voters Everywhere.

Nausea: Low Ratings for Trump’s Town Hall on NBC-CNBC-MSNBC Compared to Biden’s ABC Appearance Point To Widespread Boredom and Disgust For Don’s Macabre and Mendacious Road Show among Beleaguered Voters Who Need Effective Help, Not His Whining and Self-Pity; With His Treatment Cocktail Costing about $140,000, Don’s Promise to Deliver It for Free to Those in Need Is the Hollowest Demagogy Yet; Trump Talks of Fleeing Abroad, but Most Americans Cannot Not Afford the Trip; Biden on Trump: He Has Gone Around the Bend, Is Living in a Dream World.

Oct. 16

Down With Tyranny! Opinion: Greasing the Bench, Skip Kaltenheuser, Oct. 16, 2020. John Grisham, meister of legal thrillers, must look at the Dark Money flying about Supreme Court nominees and think, “You stinking thieves, give me my book plots back!”

In a logical world, in a sane U.S/ Senate resistant to corruption, Senators would give the bum's rush to nominees to the Supreme Court who are being promoted with millions, tens of millions, in dark money.

Dark money, funding not readily traced to the actual donors, slithering through a labyrinth of shell corporations, donor trusts and 501(c)(4) organizations. And slithering around Senators voting on judicial nominee confirmations, not just for the Supreme Court but all Federal judges, whispering rewards and threats when they’re up for re-election. Dark Money groups like the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund, flowing into groups like the Federalist Society, which Trump brags picks his judges, and the closely connected Judicial Crisis Network.

sheldon whitehouseDuring Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearings for the Supremes, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), right, asked Gorsuch who his angels were who provided seven million dollars to first deny Obama nominee Merrick Garland and then later drop ten million promoting Gorsuch to the bench.

Gorsuch’s reply was that if Whitehouse wanted to know who they were, he should ask them. As if Gorsuch had no idea. And no idea of exactly what his hooded benefactors want from courts.

In backing Brett Kavanaugh, one dark donation alone provided seventeen million.

Many millions are now swirling to promote Amy Coney Barrett. Not to play down the importance of issues like reproductive rights, or the emphasis on preserving even the most meager opportunities for medical coverage, but it’s not hot-button issues that attract the incognito Big Money to such legal eagles of the Ayn Rand brotherhood.

It’s their pro-corporate, anti-regulatory, anti-labor and anti-consumer histories. It’s their willingness to pay close attention to the Amicus briefs from the Big Money’s minions. It’s about suppressing the vote, rigging democracy with gerrymandering, etc.... It’s about insulating industries like fossil fuels, and their Wall Street investors, from accountability for the myriad pollution they knowingly cause. It’s about protecting the interests of those at the top.

And when the banks start making wholesale property grabs again, it’ll be about ushering them along as they ride roughshod over people, as the floodgates open for those tumbling into a fractured, pro-creditor bankruptcy system, peppered with self-serving “trustees”. Wait and see.

As Tom Neuburger recently detailed, Barrett has rung one alarm bell after another that she will be a grim reaper of the rights and protections of workers when they conflict with the Big Money, and injured consumers have little to rejoice about. In her brief time on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit Barrett quickly joined the ilk of judges who are black-robed crowbars for prying wide the wealth gap via a legal assembly line of pro-corporate decisions.

David Sirota recently revealed an important case coming before the Supreme Court involving state and municipal government lawsuits against Shell Oil, for which Barrett’s father was a lawyer for decades. Oil companies want the Court to require climate cases be heard in the more corporate-friendly federal courts. Asked about climate change during her hearings, Barrett’s reply was that she does not have “firm views”, “...I’m not really in a position to offer any kind of informed opinion on what I think causes global warming.” How convenient. Isn’t that special? Cue the Church Lady.

During Barrett’s confirmation hearings, Senator Whitehouse schooled the Senate with

.be" target="_blank" rel="noopener">this riveting presentation. Some of it drew from this 29-page treatise he published in the Harvard Law School Journal on Legislation. Both are worth the time.

Whitehouse revealed 80 cases at the Supreme Court involving an identifiable Republican donor. Astoundingly, damningly, all were decided in the right-wing’s favor in 5-4 decisions. Many whittle down the concept of civil juries. Because why would fat cats suffer standing before a jury not of their board members?

Eighty five-four partisan decisions. People with track records of defying odds like that wouldn’t be allowed through the door of a casino. What the hell are they doing on the Supreme Court?

Oct. 14

American System Network, Opinion: Judge Barrett Discredits Herself with Fantastic Claim She Did Not Know about Trump’s Pledge to Destroy webster tarpley 2007Obamacare/Affordable Care Act, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 14, 2020. She Also Failed to Mention Her Signature on Strident Anti-Roe Petition in Original Questionnaire She Submitted to the Senate;

Many of Her Answers Suggest She Will Function as Handmaid for Trump’s Expected Coup d’État; Moscow Mitch Might Attempt to Pass a Placebo Covid Relief Bill with Minimal Benefits to Relieve Political Pressure on His Beleaguered Members as Collapse of the GOP Senate Majority Looms.

Oct. 13

washington post logoWashington Post, FBI: Whitmer plotters also discussed kidnapping Va. governor, Kayla Ruble and Devlin Barrett, Oct. 13, 2020. The disclosure by an FBI came at a hearing in Grand Rapids on Tuesday for six men arrested last week and accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Witmer.

ralph northam file headshotFBI logoAccused conspirators charged in a plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also discussed "taking" Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, right, an FBI agent testified at a court hearing Tuesday.

During the hearing here in Grand Rapids to discuss the charges filed last week against members of a self-proclaimed militia accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor, FBI Special Agent Richard Trask revealed that months ago some of the suspects met in Dublin, Ohio, where Northam, also a Democrat, was discussed as a potential target.

“At this meeting they discussed possible targets, taking a sitting governor, specifically issues with the governors of Michigan and Virginia, based upon the gretchen whitmer o smile Customlockdown orders,” Trask told the court, referring to state-mandated restrictions implemented to combat the spread of coronavirus.

FBI charges six who it says plotted to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, as seven more who wanted to ignite civil war face state charges

No one has been charged with plotting to kidnap Northam, but like Whitmer, Virginia’s governor was the target of intense criticism from some conservatives over the summer. President Trump has been sharply critical of both governors, tweeting all-caps demands that their states be “liberated.”

washington post logoWashington Post, ‘Unmasking’ probe commissioned by Barr quietly concludes without charges or any public report, Matt Zapotosky and Shane Harris, Oct. 13, 2020. The federal prosecutor appointed by Attorney General William P. Barr to review whether Obama-era officials improperly requested the identities of individuals whose names were redacted in intelligence documents has completed his work without finding any substantive wrongdoing, according to people familiar with the matter.

The revelation that U.S. Attorney John Bash, who left the department last week, had concluded his review without criminal charges or any public report will rankle President Trump at a moment when he is particularly upset at the Justice Department. The department has so far declined to release the results of Bash’s work, though people familiar with his findings say they would likely disappoint conservatives who have tried to paint the “unmasking” of names — a common practice in government to help understand classified documents — as a political conspiracy.

The president in recent days has pressed federal law enforcement to move against his political adversaries and complained that a different prosecutor tapped by Barr to investigate the FBI’s 2016 investigation of his campaign will not be issuing any public findings before the election.

Legal analysts feared Bash’s review was yet another attempt by Trump’s Justice Department to target political opponents of the president. Even if it ultimately produced no results of consequence, legal analysts said, it allowed Trump and other conservatives to say Obama-era officials were under scrutiny, as long as the case stayed active.

The department — both under Barr and Trump’s previous attorney general, Jeff Sessions — has repeatedly turned to U.S. Attorneys across the country to investigate matters of Republican concern, distressing current and former Justice Department officials, who fear department leaders are repeatedly caving to Trump’s pressure to benefit his allies and target those he perceives as political enemies.

Kerri Kupec, the Justice Department’s top spokeswoman, had first revealed Bash’s review in May, after Republican senators made public a declassified list of U.S. officials, including former vice president Joe Biden, who made requests that would ultimately reveal the name of Trump adviser Michael Flynn in intelligence documents in late 2016 and early 2017.

Bash’s team was focused not just on unmasking, but also whether Obama-era officials provided information to reporters, according to people familiar with the probe. But the findings ultimately turned over to Barr fell short of what Trump and others might have hoped, and the attorney general’s office elected not to release them publicly, according to the people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive investigation. The Washington Post was unable to review the full results of what Bash found.

Bash announced last week that he was leaving the department — surprising many in the Justice Department because it came so close to the election — though he made no mention of the unmasking review. He said in a statement that he had informed the attorney general of the decision a month earlier and had “accepted an offer for a position in the private sector.” He gave formal resignation letters to the president and the attorney general on October 5, and his last day was Friday.

washington post logoWashington Post, Barrett says she has made ‘no commitment’ on election cases, abortion, ACA, Derek Hawkins, Seung Min Kim and Ann E. Marimo, Oct. 13, 2020. Barrett pressed on views in gun rights decision; Barrett discusses reaction to George Floyd video; Barrett says preexisting conditions aren’t at issue in upcoming ACA case. The reality is more complex.

us senate logoJudge Amy Coney Barrett told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that she has made “no commitment” to the White House or senators on how she would rule on major cases on the health-care law, abortion and election disputes.

Barrett was pressed on the Affordable Care Act — the court will consider its fate next month — as well as on abortion rights, gun control and same-sex marriage. The panel’s chairman, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), has signaled that the committee will probably vote Oct. 22 on her nomination.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: GOP has been aggressively trying to pack supreme courts at state level, study says, Christopher Ingraham, Oct. 13, 2020. Court-packing has a surprisingly rich recent history, with efforts documented in 11 states, including two that succeeded; Biden says he’s ‘not a fan of court-packing.’

Democratic lawmakers and their allies increasingly see a Joe Biden victory in November as an opening to expand and rebalance the Supreme Court.

Republicans cast “court packing” as a radical change that would politicize the court, while many Democrats counter that it’s a proportionate response to GOP refusals to confirm former president Barack Obama’s federal court picks, particularly his Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. Biden himself hasn’t been eager to discuss the issue but recently said he’s “not a fan” of court packing. Either way, the issue takes center stage in the midst of confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, whose selection would cement a 6-3 conservative majority on the nation’s highest court.

Marin Levy, a law professor at Duke University, says there’s important context missing from the discussion: the recent partisan attempts to pack state supreme courts.

n a study published earlier this year, well before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Levy documented court-packing attempts in at least 11 states in recent years. Most of those efforts were initiated by Republicans, including the two that succeeded. Moreover, compared to earlier decades court packing attempts are now more common and more explicitly partisan.

“The norm against court packing might be more vulnerable than some have thought — at least as it concerns the state courts,” Levy wrote. “If court packing and unpacking were considered strictly verboten, one would not expect to see over twenty different bills to pack and unpack the highest court in eleven different states.”

Here’s a state-by-state rundown of the court packing attempts Levy documented.

washington post logoWashington Post, Courts aren’t meant to ‘right every wrong’ Barrett says in opening, Derek Hawkins, Seung Min Kim, Rachael Bade, Karoun Demirjian and Ann E. Marimow, Oct.13, 2020 (print ed.). Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett introduced herself to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoafternoon, vowing to apply the law “as written” and telling lawmakers she believed courts were not “designed to solve every problem or right every wrong in our public life.”

“The policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people,” Barrett said in her opening statement. “The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try.”

Earlier in the day, senators clashed over the nominee. Democrats stuck to a tight script, telling personal stories about constituents who benefited from the Affordable Care Act and warning that Barrett’s ascendance to the high court could spell the end for the landmark health-care law. Republicans called on Democrats to focus on what they said were Barrett’s exceptional qualifications for the job, not how she might rule on key cases.

GOP senators defend Barrett, reject assumption she would vote to gut Obamacare.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Trump admits it: The intervention he desperately needs isn’t going to come, Greg Sargent, Oct. 13, 2020. At his Florida rally, the president makes an inadvertent concession.

President Trump has been reliving the glory days of 2016 a lot lately.

At a rally in Florida on Monday night, Trump waxed nostalgic: “Did we win Florida last time? Was that beautiful?” He railed about “globalists” bleeding the country dry, robotically mimicking his last campaign’s closing argument as if playacting his way through 2016’s final surge. And he reminisced about the wrongness of the polls, predicting another major upset.

But there’s a crucial difference this time around, which is taking shape in a variety of ways: The sort of 11th-hour intervention that drove that glorious 2016 upset — something like those newly discovered Hillary Clinton emails — does not seem to be materializing.

And Trump appears to know it.

In a little-noticed aside in Florida, Trump again railed about the fake “Obamagate” scandal, which holds that the previous administration supposedly spied on his campaign and that Clinton invented the widely documented fact that Russia sabotaged the election on his behalf.

But notably, Trump said Clinton and Barack Obama and Joe Biden would get their comeuppance only at some future date.

"We'll take care of it all after the election,” Trump said. “We caught 'em cold. Bad people. Crooked Hillary. And by the way, Obama and Biden knew everything that was happening. We'll take care of it after the election.”

After the election, you say? 

That’s surprising, because Trump has spent months promising his base major revelations about those senior Democrats, which were supposed to be generated by the “review” of the origins of the Russia investigation launched by Attorney General William P. Barr.

 wayne madesen report logo

mike pompeo portraitWayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Pompeo releases Clinton's emails: Nada, Wayne Madsen, Oct. 13, 2020. Many of the classified emails were wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallheavily redacted by the intelligence community stakeholders, so what Trump and the far-right wing Judicial Watch -- which sued for the emails -- obtained was a large cache of newspaper and magazine clippings, letters, foreign policy thoughts contained in emails from U.S. diplomats and other parties, scheduling and travel matters, speech preparation, Sunday talk show comments, United Nations votes, and generally, the same type of information contained in State Department cables released by WikiLeaks' Julian Assange.

Ironically, some of the Clinton emails released by Pompeo refer to the angst among State Department employees caused by Assange's release of State Department cables, many of which were classified.

Hillary ClintonThere are no "smoking guns" in the Clinton emails and, once again, Trump has been proven to be an exaggerator and confabulator of the highest degree.

While the emails indicate that Clinton was uncomfortably friendly with the likes of disgraced General and former Central Intelligence Agency director David Petraeus (who she referred to as "Dave"), there is nothing in the emails that suggests any criminal wrongdoing on her part or that of her staff.

state dept map logo Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Perspective: In a stunning rebuke, a federal judge hammers the Trump administration for snatching back stimulus payments from incarcerated individuals, Michelle Singletary, Oct. 13, 2020 (print ed.). While millions of Americans wait anxiously to see if another stimulus package will ever see the light of day, a federal judge in California has rapped the knuckles of Treasury and the IRS for withholding and requiring the return of relief money from incarcerated people.

A class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of incarcerated individuals argued that the decision to deny the payments was arbitrary and against the law.

djt quizzical uncredited palmer CustomJudge Phyllis Hamilton of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California agreed and ordered the Treasury Department and the IRS to reverse their decision to disallow stimulus funds to prisoners solely based on their incarcerated status. The government has filed an appeal.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (Cares) Act provides economic impact payments or stimulus payments of up to $1,200 for individuals and up to $2,400 for taxpayers filing a joint tax return.

The Cares Act specifically excluded some people: nonresident aliens, an estate or trust and people who are dependents on someone else’s tax return. The law did not exclude payments to incarcerated individuals.

Initially, the IRS sent nearly 85,000 payments totaling $100 million to incarcerated people, according to a June report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). After TIGTA raised concerns about the payments to prisoners, the IRS reversed course, declaring in an FAQ on irs.gov that such payments to people in local, state and federal correctional facilities were not allowed under the Cares Act.

 

More On U.S. Supreme Court

supreme court Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: This isn’t a confirmation. It’s a referendum on the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, Dana Milbank, right, Oct.13, 2020 (print ed.). dana milbank CustomDemocrats weren’t talking about Barrett because this confirmation isn’t about Barrett; Republicans have already declared they have the votes to ram her through, without hearings if necessary. The confirmation, rather, is to be a decisive vote about the future of the Supreme Court, and whether that august body will shed its last vestige of legitimacy and credibility.

As Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings begin and the 2020 presidential election enters its final stretches, Republicans are accusing Democrats of wanting to manipulate the size of the Supreme Court to achieve political ends. Let's be clear about one thing, though: It is Republicans who have tried to warp the court's dimensions in recent years. And they're doing it again right now.

Whether Democrats would consider returning the favor at some point in the future is entirely hypothetical and depends on a host of unknowable variables. Joe Biden and Kamala D. Harris are right not to be baited into answering a question — "Will you or won't you?" — that presently has no meaning.

Ask them again if and when Biden is president and Democrats control both houses of Congress. Then, and only then, will Biden's view on expanding the number of Supreme Court justices be meaningful — because then, and only then, will court-packing be an actual possibility.

Confidence in the Supreme Court has fallen dramatically since Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation. Fifty-six percent of Americans had high confidence in the high court back in 1985, according to Gallup. That figure has averaged in the high 30s lately. Views are overwhelmingly partisan: Fifty-three percent of Republicans have confidence, compared with 33 percent of Democrats.

And that was before President Trump proposed, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg lay in state, to replace the liberal icon with her jurisprudential opposite, forming the most right-wing court in 70 years. On top of this is the rank hypocrisy of Republicans breaking their promises not to hold confirmation hearings so close to an election; their haste to do so even as they resist passing covid-19 relief; and the naked political maneuver of making sure Barrett, openly hostile to Obamacare, is seated on the court before it hears arguments on the law on Nov. 10.

This is why Republicans would rather pretend it’s a fight about Barrett’s character and credentials.

washington post logoWashington Post, Senate Democrats push Barrett to recuse herself from a potential presidential election case, Tom Hamburger, Oct. 13, 2020.  Republicans reject the argument that President Trump’s comments about the need for her confirmation before the election creates a disqualifying conflict.
As the confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett proceed this week, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are pushing the Supreme Court nominee to answer whether she would recuse herself from considering cases related to this fall’s presidential election.

Pointing to President Trump’s comments linking her confirmation with the need for nine justices in case of a contested White House race, Senate Democrats said his remarks raise serious concern about public perception of her impartiality.

“Your participation ... in any case involving Donald Trump’s election would immediately do explosive enduring harm to the court’s legitimacy and to your own credibility,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), left, said in his opening statement Monday at Barrett’s confirmation hearing. “You must recuse yourself.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Democrats’ previous confirmation hearing flubs loom over the Barrett proceedings, Aaron Blake, Oct. 13, 2020. The first day of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearings is in the books. And in their prepared opening statements, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee stuck to the plan: They pitched Barrett as a threat to Obamacare, first and foremost, while also raising procedural objections to her nomination, given the GOP’s refusal to consider Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016.

The proving ground, though, lies ahead, as the same Democrats try to make the case against Barrett in their question-and-answer sessions. The implications of that bear not just on the Supreme Court, but also in the 2020 election.

Two points are worth making in this moment:

Democrats’ recent past in such situations isn’t terribly confidence-inspiring, and
Their strategy of focusing on the Affordable Care Act much more than abortion and Roe v. Wade is both an unhappy consequence of that and a questionable tactic.

Being in the minority party during such nominations is always going to be difficult. But Democrats have shown an aptitude for playing a bad hand poorly.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Live Updates: Senators Question Barrett on Her Views and Qualifications, Staff reports, Oct. 13, 2020. All 22 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will have a chance to direct questions to Judge Amy Coney Barrett for 30 minutes at a time. Democrats plan to ask her about the Affordable Care Act and abortion rights. Republicans are likely to promote her profile as an accomplished legal scholar.

As questioning got underway, Judge Barrett described her judicial philosophy, calling herself a strict textualist and originalist in the tradition of her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

“In English, that means I interpret the Constitution as a law,” said Judge Barrett. “The text is text, and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. It does not change over time, and it is not up to me to update it or infuse my own views into it.”

Asked by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the Judiciary Committee chairman, if it would be accurate to call her a “female Scalia,” Judge Barrett said that he had been a mentor. But she added: “I want to be careful to say if I am confirmed, you would not be getting Justice Scalia. You would be getting Justice Barrett, and that is because not all originalists agree.”

The exchange came as Mr. Graham and Judge Barrett sought to push back on Democrats’ portrayal of the nominee as a right-wing activist chosen to undermine civil rights, the Affordable Care Act and environmental law. Republicans have instead worked to focus on her qualifications and emphasize her status as an accomplished working mother of seven.

Justices do not set an agenda, Judge Barrett said, they respond to the cases that come before them. The description of the process was accurate, but also largely irrelevant in today’s legal world, where interest groups seek out and advance cases to come to the Supreme Court for the express purpose of getting justices to rule on policies to match their political beliefs.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Republicans’ Galling Bad Faith About the Supreme Court, Michelle Goldberg, right, Oct. 13, 2020 (print ed.). It’s way too late for the michelle goldberg thumbright to pretend to care about civic norms. Four years ago, when many Republicans believed that Hillary Clinton was about to be elected president, conservatives plotted to stop her from reshaping the Supreme Court.

“The Senate should decline to confirm any nominee, regardless of who is elected,” Michael Stokes Paulsen wrote in National Review. “More than that, it is time to shrink the size of the Supreme Court.” Paulsen proposed that Congress reduce the court to six justices, its original size. “It is entirely proper for Congress to adjust the size of the court either to check judicial power or to check executive appointments,” he wrote.

This was not, at the time, an outré position on the right. In October 2016, Senator Ted Cruz suggested that the Senate, which had refused to even consider Barack Obama’s nominee to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat, wouldn’t move on a Clinton nominee either, essentially reducing the court to eight judges. “There is certainly long historical precedent for a Supreme Court with fewer justices,” he said. Senator John McCain, now remembered as an icon of bipartisan institutionalism, said that if Republicans held the Senate, they might not let Hillary Clinton fill any Supreme Court seats, though he later tempered his stance.

Now, facing another presidential election that they expect to lose, Republicans are caterwauling about Democratic calls to expand the court. As they prepare to jam through Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, Republicans are shocked — shocked! — that Democrats would contemplate playing constitutional hardball just as Republicans do. If Democrats jettison the Senate filibuster and add judges to the Supreme Court, Senator Ben Sasse said on “Fox News Sunday,” they’d be “suicide bombing” American institutions.

American System Network, Opinion: In Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Whitehouse and Dem Members Slam “Slap Dash” Hearings Called in Obedience to webster tarpley 2007GOP Megadonors Despite Pandemic, Webster G. Tarpley, right, Oct. 13, 2020. Extremist Ideologue Amy Barrett: “Judicial Torpedo” to Destroy the Affordable Care Act; Her Protestations of Impartiality Reek of Hypocrisy; Dems Seek to Flip One Seat on Committee or Two Seats for Floor Vote to Stop Barrett Nomination.

sheldon whitehouseSen. Whitehouse, left, Exposes Sinister Machinery Which Has Produced Trump’s Judicial Nominees; The Federalist Society Has Been Decisive in Picking Judges, with Judicial Crisis Network Campaigning to Get Them Confirmed, with the Creation of Desired Case Opportunities and Orchestration of Phalanxes of Friend of the Court Briefs Telling Judges How to Vote in Key Cases; Goals of This Apparatus Include Allowing Unlimited Anonymous Dark Money in Campaigns; Marginalizing the Jury in Civil Cases; Weakening Regulation and Regulatory Agencies; and Relentlessly Eroding Voting Rights; Supremes Give Trump Permission to Halt Census at Once; Sotomayor Dissents, Citing Irreparable Harm Involved.

The Defeat of Trump and the Extinction of the Republican Party Loom Closer: Carville Argues That Democrats May Capture Georgia Legislature, Creating a Blue State on the Eve of Re-Apportionment; Cornyn in Trouble in Texas; Alaska Seen as Longshot Possibility for Dems; Veteran Operative Forecasts Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Ohio Results Will Be Known by 10:30 PM Eastern on Election Day, Eliminating Trump from Contention with No Chance to Game the Courts!

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Oh, Now You Believe in Norms, Jamelle Bouie, Oct. 13, 2020. The G.O.P. blocked Obama and quick-pitched Amy Coney Barrett. Democrats must fight fire with fire. Neither Joe Biden nor Kamala Harris has made a clear statement in favor of expanding the Supreme Court beyond its current size. But that hasn’t stopped conservatives and Republicans from denouncing — perhaps with a hint of fear — their as-yet unarticulated plan to do so.

Amazingly, this particular argument against expanding the Supreme Court hinges on preserving the norms of American democracy. Having torched those norms in pursuit of a conservative judiciary, Republicans want their opponents to play by the old rules, as if the game is theirs alone to shape. A typical response comes from Rich Lowry of National Review magazine who, in a comment on Twitter directed at Biden’s reluctance to answer a question about court expansion, declared,

You can’t be the candidate of norms and refuse to say whether or not you are going to undertake a truly radical attempt to destroy the legitimacy of one of our key governing institutions.

All of this comes as Republicans begin the confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

ny times logoNew York Times, Commentary: Showtime in a Potential Petri Dish, Mark Leibovich Oct. 13, 2020 (print ed.). Monday’s hearing was not so much a deliberation as it was a spectacle convened amid potentially lethal virus particles, our correspondent writes in a memo.

There is, traditionally, a predictable rhythm to the start of a “much-awaited hearing” on Capitol Hill.

There are protesters and counterprotesters, enhanced police and news media presences, insufferable opening statements and an overall sense that something more momentous than usual might be going on.

The start of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Monday had all of that. But like everything else in Washington these days, this was an entirely different kind of pinstripe rodeo.

Start with the hazmat suits.

“We are making a point,” said Jennie Spector, one of a few dozen demonstrators dressed in white hazmat suits convened outside the Hart Senate Office Building.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Republicans give away their game, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 13, 2020. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey O. Graham (R-jennifer rubin new headshotS.C.) showed some candor for once. Instead of denying that he wanted to use the Supreme Court to achieve what President Trump and Republicans could not — repealing the Affordable Care Act — he started out Tuesday’s hearing on Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation with a confession, of sorts.

“All of my colleagues on the other side had emotional pleas about Obamacare,” Graham said. “Obamacare has been a disaster for the state of South Carolina. All of you over there want to impose Obamacare on South Carolina. We don’t want it. We want something better.”

The American people have plainly said otherwise, having flipped the House in 2018 to Democratic control, largely on the issue of health care. We are also in the middle of an election, during which voters can once again make their voices heard. But Graham and his colleagues, surely sensing a massive defeat ahead, figure Barrett will be the ticket to dismantling the popular health-care statute. Clarity is refreshing.

As Trump’s prospects look bleaker by the day (he trails by more than 10 points in FiveThirtyEight’s average, and credible pollsters give former vice president Joe Biden more than the required 270 electoral votes) and Senate Republicans look headed for the minority, Republicans now take to railing against majority rule. The party that used to see the Supreme Court as interlopers into the political process now looks to “originalists” to create a pathway to right-wing outcomes.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Amy Coney Barrett just blew it, Bill Palmer, Oct. 13, 2020. Amy Coney Barrett’s extremist and deranged views on society, coupled with her creepy and perverted desire to control other people’s bodies, disqualified her from being a judge a long time ago. But during this week’s hearings, she’s been trying hard to pretend she’s a normal person with sane views, so Senate Republicans can get away with confirming her.

bill palmer report logo headerThe trouble is, bigots are going to bigot. When Amy Coney Barrett was asked today about whether she agreed with Antonin Scalia’s vote against gay marriage, she tried to dodge the question before ultimately saying what she thought people wanted to hear: she doesn’t discriminate based on “sexual preference.”

This is a highly offensive term that falsely implies being gay is a choice. It would be one thing for the average person off the street to use this term; that could come down to unfortunate ignorance. But when a federal judge uses a term like “sexual preference” instead of “sexual orientation,” she definitely knows better.

Separately, the Washington Post later reported:

Barrett apologized for using the phrase “sexual preference” in reference to the LGBTQ community, following criticism from Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who noted that the term was widely regarded as offensive.

“I certainly didn’t mean and would never mean to use a term that would cause any offense in the LGBT community,” Barrett said. “So if I did, I greatly apologize for that.”

The phrase is often deployed by anti-LGBTQ activists seeking to characterize sexual orientation as a choice rather than something people are born with.

The issue first arose in the morning when Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked the nominee about her views on LGBTQ discrimination.

“I have no agenda, and I want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference,” Barrett said.

Later, Hirono scolded her for her answer, saying she didn’t believe it was an “accident” that Barrett had used the phrase.

“If it is your view that sexual orientation is merely a preference, then the LGBTQ community should be rightly concerned about whether you would uphold their constitutional right to marry,” Hirono said.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump lawyers return to Supreme Court to fight financial records subpoena, Robert Barnes, Oct. 13, 2020. President Trump’s personal lawyers returned to the Supreme Court Tuesday, asking the justices to stop lower court rulings that allow Manhattan’s district attorney to enforce his subpoena for the president’s financial records.

District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. has won every round of the legal fight Trump has waged to keep his records private. But Vance agreed not to try to get the records from Trump’s longtime accountants while the president asked the Supreme Court for another intervention.

The legal wrangling is a follow-up to this summer’s decision by the court that the president is not immune from a criminal investigation while he holds office. But the justices said Trump could challenge the specific subpoena, as every citizen may, for being overbroad.

Supreme Court says Manhattan prosecutor may pursue Trump’s financial records, denies Congress access for now

Vance is seeking eight years of the president’s tax returns and related documents as part of his investigation into alleged hush-money payments made ahead of the 2016 election to two women who said they had affairs with Trump years before. Trump denies the claims.

Oct. 12

supreme court Custom

FiveThirtyEight, Analysis: Why The Supreme Court’s Reputation Is At Stake, Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, Oct. 12, 2020. Four planned days of Senate confirmation hearings for President Trump’s latest Supreme Court nominee, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, begin today. And they are going to be a doozy.

Confirmation proceedings have generally gotten much more contentious over the years. But the fight over Barrett could be among the most rancorous yet. The presidential election is only three weeks away, yet Republicans are pushing ahead with the confirmation even though most Americans think they should wait; Trump and two Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee have tested positive for COVID-19, throwing the whole timeline into jeopardy; and Barrett, if confirmed, would replace a justice who was in many respects her polar opposite, making the court the most conservative it’s been in 70 years.

Even in a moment of deep partisan hatred, this is a particularly explosive brew.

But the ideological fate of the Supreme Court isn’t the only thing on the line this week. The Supreme Court’s reputation as an apolitical, independent branch of government is also at stake.

During their confirmation hearings, would-be Supreme Court justices usually present themselves as neutral arbiters of law who make their decisions above the political fray. And that’s for good reason, since they’re unelected officials who would serve lifetime appointments on the most powerful court in the country. But faith in the Supreme Court is lower than it used to be, and confirmation hearings have been getting more and more partisan.

A bruising confirmation process will still likely result in Barrett’s ascension to the court, but that doesn’t mean its reputation as an institution isn’t at risk. If Americans become convinced that Barrett and the other justices are brazen political actors, public confidence in the court could erode further, opening the door to radical changes to the court, including the possibility that Democrats will try to add justices if they win the White House and Senate in November.
Faith in the Supreme Court has been waning

The Supreme Court is the branch of government Americans trust most. But at a moment when trust in most parts of government is at an all-time low, that isn’t saying much. According to polling by Gallup, Americans’ confidence in the Supreme Court has fallen significantly over the past two decades. A 2020 poll conducted before Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death found that only 40 percent of Americans said they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the Supreme Court, down from a two-decade high of 50 percent in 2002.

amy coney barrett ap oct 12 2020

washington post logoWashington Post, Live Supreme Court updates: Graham introduces Barrett at hearing, Derek Hawkins, Seung Min Kim and Rachael Bade, Oct. 12, 2020. Grassley invokes Ginsburg’s words to argue against her dying wish; American Bar Association rates Barrett as ‘well qualified;’ Feinstein highlights potential risk to Obamacare in Barrett nomination.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is beginning four days of confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court. The hearings come 22 days before the election, with Senate Republicans intent on installing the conservative judge on the court.

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photo“The world is watching,” said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who acknowledged his reversal on confirming a nominee in an election year. The proceedings take place amid the coronavirus pandemic: Two members of the committee have tested positive for the deadly disease, and several senators were participating remotely.

If confirmed, Barrett, right, would replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wasted no time painting the GOP’s move to quickly confirm Barrett as an attempt to upend the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with preexisting medical conditions.

Democrats over the past several days have agreed to hammer the health-care issue over and over during the Barrett hearings, convinced they could turn voters away from the GOP and Trump simultaneously.

ny times logoNew York Times, Divergent Portraits of the Nominee, Nicholas Fandos, Oct. 12, 2020 (print ed.). In Monday’s hearings, Democrats will portray Judge Amy Coney Barrett as an ideologue, while Republicans will paint her as an accomplished working mother.

ny times logoNew York Times, Rooted in Faith, Amy Coney Barrett Represents a New Conservatism, Elizabeth Dias, Rebecca R. Ruiz and Sharon LaFraniere, Updated Oct. 12, 2020. As Judge Barrett’s confirmation hearings begin today, her résumé is in the spotlight. She is a stark departure from traditional Supreme Court nominees. To critics, she is the antithesis of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s liberal values; to supporters, she is an outsider with deep convictions on social issues.

On a winter afternoon in 2018, Judge Amy Coney Barrett rose to speak in Notre Dame Law School’s wood-paneled courtroom and thanked the people gathered there for joining her for her official investiture as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

In the audience were her parents, in town from her childhood home in New Orleans, and her husband, who had described her as a kind of superwoman, along with six of their seven children, who led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance. And there were many friends — from law school, her Supreme Court clerkship and her Catholic parish in South Bend, Ind.

Also in attendance were a number of prominent conservative legal figures, mentors who had helped make this moment happen. But perhaps the most important was a Notre Dame graduate whose eyes were on the future, not the past.

dan mcgahn screenshotThat graduate, Donald F. McGahn II, right, President Trump’s White House counsel, was known for his single-minded focus on remaking the federal judiciary according to his own conservative views. Contacts at his alma mater had lauded Ms. Barrett, then a professor, and even before Mr. Trump’s inauguration he had envisioned someone like her as a new kind of powerhouse on the Supreme Court — an outsider of unbending conviction on social issues.

washington post logoWashington Post, Slim majority of voters oppose Barrett confirmation hearings, Post-ABC poll finds, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin, Oct. 12, 2020. A slight majority of American voters oppose the Senate holding confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett that begin Monday, though opposition has eased since President Trump announced his choice to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The national poll finds 44 percent of registered voters say the U.S. Senate should hold hearings and vote on Barrett’s nomination, while 52 percent say filling this Supreme Court seat should be left to the winner of the presidential election and a Senate vote next year. Support for leaving the decision to the next president is down from 57 percent in a Post-ABC poll last month that asked whether the Senate should confirm Trump’s nominee, who had not yet been named.

Voters hold more lopsided views on the court’s ruling in the 1973 landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade, with 62 percent saying the Supreme Court should uphold the decision that guarantees a woman’s right to abortion, while 24 percent say it should be overturned and a sizable 14 percent have no opinion.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Mary Trump just nailed it, Bill Palmer, Oct. 12, 2020. Large chunks of the mainstream media have become obsessed with the question of whether Joe Biden will expand the Supreme Court, and whether it would be appropriate. That’s rich, considering the Republican Senate is trying to pack the court bill palmer report logo headermary trumpwith an illegitimate nominee as we speak.

Mary Trump, right, nailed it when she tweeted this: “The republicans stole a Supreme Court seat from President Obama in order to install Gorsuch. They are again corrupting the process in order to install Barrett. Expanding the court to right those wrongs wouldn’t be court-packing, it would be justice.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: What you need to know about Amy Coney Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing, Aaron Blake, Oct. 12, 2020. Amy Coney Barrett's 2017 clash with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been circulating anew, but it's hardly the only one from Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing that could be at issue in the weeks to come.

This will be the second time Barrett has faced confirmation since 2017, when the Senate approved her for a federal appeals court. And ever since she became the favorite for this nomination, her 2017 clash with Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been front-and-center; specifically, Feinstein told Barrett the “dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern." It’s something Barrett’s supporters have used to suggest her critics applied an unconstitutional religious test on Barrett, and one of the major subplots this week is how much Democrats go down a similar path, particularly with regard to Roe v. Wade.

But that exchange is hardly the only one from Barrett’s 2017 confirmation hearing that could be at issue this week — nor is it the only interesting one from that hearing.

American System Network, Opinion: Barrett’s Fanatical Hostility to Affordable Care Act/Obamacare Is Threat to Lives and Health of 20 Million Who Are Insured webster tarpley 2007through Exchanges, Webster G. Tarpley, Oct. 12, 2020. 17 Million Insured under Medicaid Expansion, and 129 Million Who Need Protection for Pre-Existing Conditions, GOP Senators Attempt Diversions by Railing at Non-Existent Anti-Catholic Campaign.

Biden Leads Trump by 12 Points in ABC-WaPo Poll; Trump Behind by 8 in Michigan; Biden Ahead by 10 in Wisconsin; Trump’s Itinerary Shows His Weak Points of Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Iowa; Biden on the Offensive, Campaigns among Workers in Ohio; Former Trump Voter: “He Lies Like a Rug”

Barrett’s Doctrines of Originalism and Textualism Are Varieties of Bankrupt Legal Positivism and the Rejection of Natural Law as Summarized in Preamble; Her Preference for Formalism and Contempt for Outcomes, Results and Justice Are an Open Door for Dismantling Health Care and Roe, after Rubber-Stamping Trump’s November Coup!

Oct. 11

Top Headlines

Oct. 11

Top Stories

dar leaf william null fox 17 

Dar Leaf, far right, sheriff of Barry County in Michigan, praises right-wing militia member William Null, at left, and his armed cohorts at a rally in May. Null was arrested last week in what federal and state authorities described as a plot to kidnap and murder Michigan Gov. Gretchen Witmar (D) for their claims she had committed "treason" by ordering safeguards against the pandemic virus. Leaf says he did not know about any plan for kidnap and murder.

washington post logoWashington Post, Arrests in alleged plot against Mich. governor bring new attention to state’s history of extremist groups, Abigail Hauslohner, Matt Zapotosky, Kayla Ruble and Devlin Barrett, Oct. 11, 2020 (print ed.). Michigan has a unique history as a hotbed for self-proclaimed militia groups that blend a variety of ideologies and grievances but share an overarching antipathy toward the government, a sentiment that is sometimes shared even by local law enforcement.

Speaking to a crowd gathered in Grand Rapids, Mich., in May to protest coronavirus restrictions, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf pointed to William Null, a beefy man in tactical gear carrying a big gun, and declared, “This is our last home defense right here, ladies and gentlemen.”

Leaf’s declaration, which drew chants of “USA! USA!” from the crowd of hundreds that day, highlights Michigan’s unique history as a hotbed for self-proclaimed militia groups that blend a variety of ideologies and grievances but share an overarching antipathy toward the government, a sentiment that is sometimes shared even by local law enforcement.

This past week, Null and a dozen other men were arrested on a variety of charges ranging from supporting terrorist acts to plotting to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) — bringing new attention to such groups of well-armed men.

According to court papers, Null was part of a group that called itself the Wolverine Watchmen, and they engaged in regular firearms training and discussed a variety of potential attacks on law enforcement, the state capital complex, and the governor.

dar leaf oAccused leader of governor kidnap plot was struggling financially, living in basement storage space

Leaf,shown in an official photo — who knew Null to be the founder of a different group called the Michigan Liberty Militia — said he was generally supportive of self-styled militias, which he said often grow in numbers when people feel their rights are threatened. He sought to distinguish what such groups do from the allegations against Null and the others.

“There’s your militia duties, and if they did what they’re accused of doing, those are not militia duties,” said the sheriff, adding he was shocked by the charges. “I did not see this coming. Had I caught wind they were even talking about this, I would have stopped it immediately.”

Amy Coney Barrett (2018 photo via Rachel Malehorn via Creative Commons and Wikimedia)Judge Amy Coney Barrett (shown at right in a 2018 photo by Rachel Malehorn via Creative Commons and Wikimedia)

washington post logoWashington Post, How Amy Coney Barrett played a role in Bush v. Gore — and helped the GOP defend mail ballots, Beth Reinhard and Tom Hamburger, Oct. 11, 2020 (print ed.). Amy Coney Barrett was just three years out of law school, a 28-year-old associate at a boutique Washington law firm, when she was dispatched to Florida to help George W. Bush’s legal team rescue thousands of Republican absentee ballots.

The litigation was a sidebar to the central drama of the 2000 presidential contest, but a loss in the case could have cost Bush the presidency.

At issue were thousands of absentee ballot request forms in Martin County — just north of Palm Beach County, home of the notorious “butterfly ballot” — that had missing voter registration information.

After county officials allowed the GOP to take the forms back and fill in the missing information, a Democratic voter sued, saying ballots cast by those voters should be tossed out. The county canvassing board, the Florida Republican Party and the Bush campaign argued that the votes should still count.

Barrett’s work on the case serves as a reminder of how aggressively the Republican Party has sought to harness mail voting for years, in contrast to President Trump’s relentless attacks on the practice.

This year, the Trump campaign and Republicans in Iowa have pushed to invalidate tens of thousands of absentee ballot applications with missing information that had been filled in by county officials.

“It’s the very antithesis of what we were arguing to the courts back then,” said Daryl Bristow, who represented the Bush campaign in the Martin County absentee ballot case and a related suit in nearby Seminole County. “We were trying to keep voters from being disenfranchised.”

As both parties brace for the possibility of another contested election that Trump has suggested could go to the high court, the previously unreported role of his Supreme Court nominee in the absentee ballot fight is more than a historical footnote. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh also played a role in Bush v. Gore — meaning that if Barrett is confirmed, three of the nine justices will have participated in litigation related to the only presidential contest to be decided by the high court.

“Here we are, two decades after Bush v. Gore, and it’s as if it was yesterday,” said Daniel Smith, a University of Florida political science professor. “It divided the nation 20 years ago, and it’s amazing how it continues to be a specter in national politics.”

supreme court building

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: The Senate Judiciary Committee dynamics that will shape Amy Coney Barrett’s hearings, Amber Phillips, Oct. 11, 2020 (print ed.).  Before the Senate votes on whether to confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, she has to undergo public vetting before 22 senators. They make up the Senate Judiciary Committee, which must approve her nomination so it can go to the Senate floor.

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoBarrett, right, will testify before them committee starting Monday. Her confirmation hearings are going ahead despite concerns about the coronavirus outbreak that has infected many Trump administration officials and allies, including a couple committee members. Republicans are also speeding ahead despite public opinion polls that show Americans would rather let the winner of the November election pick the next Supreme Court justice. Barrett could be confirmed by Election Day.

Barrett is likely to face a friendly audience of Judiciary Committee Republicans and extremely critical Democrats. Here are six things to know about the committee. 1. There are politically vulnerable Republicans on the committee.

washington post logoWashington Post, Appeals court allows Texas governor’s mail ballot drop-off restrictions to stay in place, Devlin Barrett, Oct. 11, 2020 (print ed.). A limitation on the number of ballot drop-off locations in Texas will stay in place while a federal appeals court weighs a lower-court ruling that the decision by Greg Abbott CustomGov. Greg Abbott, right, probably violated voting rights, particularly for the elderly and disabled.

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman ruled against the Republican governor Friday in a 46-page decision that included an injunction barring the state from restricting each county in the state to a single drop-off location for ballots before Election Day.

Pitman called the governor’s decree “perplexing,” particularly because there will be multiple drop-off points per county on Election Day and because the state had already opened satellite drop-off locations within counties before the governor’s Oct. 1 proclamation.

The state immediately filed an appeal of the injunction, and the appeals court temporarily stayed the judge’s ruling, meaning the governor’s limitation on ballot drop-off sites will stay in effect until the higher court rules.

OpEdNews, Opinion: A horror story in 2 parts (Part II): A Travesty of Justice as UK Caters to US Desire to Crush Assange, Ron Ridenour, Oct. oenearthlogo11, 2020. The second indictment of alleged violations of the Espionage Act belatedly filed by the US against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange actually should not include him since there is no contention that he spied for any warring enemy, nor is he a U.S. citizen or resident, which the 1917 law targeted.

The original indictment focused on allegations that Assange had criminally aided Chelsea Manning in "hacking" into and downloading secret documents that show U.S. war crimes. That case went sour when the government prosecutors could not find any evidence. Furthermore, Manning (at that time while known as Bradley Manning) was a private in the US Army working in Iraq as an intelligence analyst and was authorized to download those documents so she had no need of assistance from Assange.

Hence the second indictment admitted Assange is a publisher, but claimed he had put government informant lives in danger - a different crime. Ample defense evidence was presented showing how Assange had carefully redacted the names of informants. Some names were mentioned by The Guardian and other mass media, but that was because of a choice by those editors who chose not redact their names.

Part of the prosecution's case was now built on Assange's ordering 18-year-old Sigurdur Thordarson to hack into Iceland politicians' phone conversations. Even if earlier charges fell apart, the new allegation could still form grounds for extradition. The new charges included using FBI informant Thordarson, but he had been convicted in Iceland for fraud, embezzlement, and impersonating Assange. He served time in an Icelandic prison, and was diagnosed as a sociopath. Significantly, Iceland has not sought to prosecute Assange or Wikileaks for any crime.

In 2010-11, Thordarson worked with Wikileaks first as a volunteer and for some months on staff. In August, 2011, he contacted the U.S. embassy in Reykjavik to give them information about Assange and Wikileaks. Eight FBI agents and a prosecutor flew to Iceland in a private jet to interview him. The Icelandic government had the courage to tell them to leave, fearing that the FBI and a mole sought to frame Assange. The FBI took their pigeon to ever-compliant Denmark to interview him. They did this several times.

In 2013-5, Thordarson was also tried for various sexual offenses, promising boys from 15-20 years of age cars and money in exchange for sex. This is the man whom the U.S. government had as its key witness in the new indictment. The UK hearing judge appeared to have no problem with that.

Another problem with the government's admitting that Assange is a publisher is that under the US Constitution's First Amendment journalist-publishers have special protection against prosecution for engaging in free-speech and press activities. So, in another change of tactic, the US government now interprets the Espionage Act to mean that anyone, journalists and publishers alike, can be charged with crimes of violating the Espionage Act. That includes any and all media personnel in the entire world - perhaps ordinary citizens too, who simply access Wikileaks materials. It's a fact that journalists and editors and publishers the world over who have been ignoring or misreporting on this case should be paying close heed to because of the dangerous precedent it is setting.

Edward Snowden wrote about reading former British ambassador Craig Murray's daily accounts of court proceedings: "Read this and tell me the show trial of Assange doesn't read like something from Kafka. The judge permits the charges to be changed so frequently the defense doesn't know what they are. The most basic needs are denied. No one can hear what the defendant says-a farce."

Oct. 9

OpEdNews, Opinion: A horror story in two parts -- Part I: Will England Send Assange-the-Messenger to America's Dungeons? Ron Ridenour, Oct. 9, 2020.  Most oenearthlogopeople might be excused for not knowing it, because the story is mainly ignored, or is shamelessly misreported in the corporate media when it does get any attention. A courageous Australian journalist, abandoned by his own country, is being railroaded by a British court towards extradition to the US where he could face life in prison in solitary confinement for the "crime of espionage"-exposing US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

What Julian Assange and his organization Wikileaks have revealed for the whole world to see is the systematic devastation of peoples, of lands, and perennial military pollution of planet earth. The main perpetrator is the most powerful and self-declared "greatest democratic nation" in the world, the United States of America-accompanied by its European and Commonwealth vassal states, plus proxy allies in the Middle East and Zionist Israel.

The villainous perpetrators are the prosecutors. The truth-telling hero is their prisoner.

That is what the British extradition hearing holding Julian Assange's fate in its hands is all about. The testimony aspect of the court case has ended after four grueling weeks. While awaiting closing arguments and the judge's decision, the truth-teller is forced to deteriorate in a prison cell where he has been languishing for 18 months.

The defense and prosecution are now preparing for closing arguments, which, however, will not be held orally. The public will be denied court interaction. The extradition judge, Vanessa Baraitser, will take only written arguments on November 16. She will make her ruling on extradition January 4, 2021.

Magistrate Baraitser noted in this purportedly "non-political" court case that the election might have an impact on the hearing. She said, "I agree that one way or the other my decision will come after an election in the United States. For that reason, I find no reason not to give you the four weeks," to prepare closing arguments, she told the arguing parties.

Assange and his publication Wikileaks have not murdered anyone. Nevertheless, Assange is treated as a dangerous criminal, because he and his staff have published well over 10 million government/military secret documents showing crimes and corruption of scores of governments, above all how the United States, with its always faithful "United" Kingdom, have committed massive war crimes during their "war on terror". This three-decade-long war has resulted in the deaths of three to five million humans, and forced between 37 and 58 million to flee their bombed out countries seeking refuge in neighboring countries and in Europe.

Wikileaks' disclosures are clearly in the "public interest". Yet the public's interest is not allowed as evidence in United States grand jury courts nor in the British courts created as part of the Magna Carta-heralded by "Lord" "Baron" "King's Counsel" Alfred Thompson Denning as "the greatest constitutional document of all times - the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot". The Magna Carta is a forbearer to the U.S. Constitution.

Julian Assange has been held in isolation 23 hours every day at Belmarsh high-security prison since he was dragged out of the Ecuadorian embassy, in London, on April 11, 2019. This was just the beginning of a "charade of justice", as former British ambassador Craig Murray has called court proceedings against Julian. (1)

President Donald Trump successfully pressured, or to put it more accurately bribed, Ecuador's new president, Lenin Moreno, to expel Assange from its embassy in London. Moreno also expunged Assange's Ecuadoran citizenship. In return, the U.S. saw to it that Ecuador got a much-needed loan from the International Monetary Fund, and improved trade deals. Ecuador would realign its foreign policy to meet U.S. terms, such as recognizing Juan Guadió as the self-declared president of Venezuela, and have Ecuador's troops trained by the U.S.

Moreno also met with Trump in Washington D.C. Trump and about what he termed this "great meeting," said, "We're working on military options including the purchase of a lot of our military equipment."

Upon expulsion (actually more of a kidnapping by British Metropolitan police) from Ecuador's embassy, Assange was immediately convicted of jumping bail. He had been given 15 minutes with his lawyer before the hearing. A judge called him a narcissist. He was sentenced to 50 weeks in the country's hardest prison.

Oct. 8

ny times logoNew York Times, Manhattan D.A. Can Obtain Trump’s Tax Returns, Judges Rule, Benjamin Weiser and William K. Rashbaum, Oct. 7, 2020. The bitterly contested fight over the president’s tax returns will now likely head to the Supreme Court for a second time.

irs logoThe Manhattan district attorney can enforce a subpoena seeking President Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, a federal appeals panel ruled on Wednesday, dealing another blow to the president’s yearlong battle to keep his financial records out of the hands of state prosecutors.

The ruling by a three-judge panel in New York rejected the president’s argument that the subpoena should be blocked because it was too broad and amounted to political harassment from the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat.

Mr. Trump is expected to try to appeal the decision in the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Vance has said that his office will not enforce the subpoena for 12 days in exchange for the president’s lawyers agreeing to move quickly.

The president and Mr. Vance have been locked in a bitterly contested legal dispute since August 2019, when Mr. Vance’s office first subpoenaed eight years of Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial records from his accounting firm, Mazars USA. The subpoena is part of an investigation into Mr. Trump and his business practices.

Mr. Vance has not revealed the scope of his office’s criminal inquiry, citing grand jury secrecy. But prosecutors have suggested in court papers that they are looking at a range of potential crimes, including tax and insurance fraud and falsification of business records. They have said that the tax records are central to the investigation.

The decision marks the fifth time courts have rebuffed the president’s attempts to block the subpoena.

Mr. Trump has tried several arguments, first asserting last year that as a sitting president, he was immune from criminal investigation.

That question, which had never been tested in the courts, eventually ended up in the Supreme Court. In July, the justices issued a landmark decision rejecting the president’s immunity claim but saying he could challenge the subpoena on other grounds, such as its scope and relevance.

Mr. Trump did just that. But after losing again in the lower court in August, the president appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which typically hears cases before three-judge panels.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Here’s What I’d Ask Amy Coney Barrett, Linda Greenhouse, right, Oct. 8, 2020. Here are some suggestions for senators considering her nomination to the Supreme Court.

linda greenhouse thumb CustomJudge Barrett, in your remarks in the Rose Garden after the president introduced you to the public, you had this to say about Justice Antonin Scalia, whom you regarded as a mentor: “His judicial philosophy is mine, too. A judge must apply the law as written.”

You clerked for Justice Scalia 20 years ago. From the end of your clerkship until his death in 2016, was there ever a Scalia opinion with which you disagreed? If not, why not? If yes, please explain.

In those remarks, you identified yourself as a textualist, an approach championed by Justice Scalia, who maintained that the only thing that counted was the words on the page of the statute. The most prominent textualist on the Supreme Court today is Justice Neil Gorsuch, like you a Trump appointee. This past summer, he wrote the court’s majority opinion in Bostock v. Clayton County, holding that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects L.G.B.T.Q. and transgender people against employment discrimination. Justice Gorsuch’s opinion turned on his interpretation of the word “sex” in the statute’s prohibition against sex discrimination in employment. Do you agree with the outcome in this case?

Oct. 2

washington post logoWashington Post, Supreme Court nominee tested positive for coronavirus this summer, has since recovered, Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey and Robert Barnes, Oct. 2, 2020. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this year but has since recovered, three officials familiar with her diagnosis told The Washington Post.

amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoTwo of the officials said she tested positive for the virus in the summer. All of the people spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose her medical condition.

As the Supreme Court nominee, Barrett, right, is now tested daily and most recently had a negative test for covid-19 Friday morning, according to deputy White House press secretary Judd Deere.

Deere said she was last with President Trump, who has tested positive for the virus, on Saturday, at her Rose Garden ceremony announcing her nomination to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Barrett has been on the Hill at least three times this week, meeting with roughly 30 senators in one-on-one meetings to discuss her nomination.

TheHill.com, Notre Dame president, who attended Supreme Court announcement, tests positive for COVID-19, J. Edward Moreno, Oct. 2, 2020. The University of Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, who was present at Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination ceremony at the White House on Saturday, has tested positive for the coronavirus, a university spokesperson confirmed to The Hill on Friday.

Barrett, a law professor at Notre Dame, tested negative for the virus Friday after news of President Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis broke.

Jenkins, 66, had apologized to the Notre Dame community after complaints were raised that he attended the White House event without wearing a mask. He has been self-quarantining since his visit to Washington.

“My symptoms are mild and I will continue work from home,” Jenkins said in a statement. “The positive test is a good reminder for me and perhaps for all of how vigilant we need to be.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept., FBI plan for possibility of Election Day violence, disruptions, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett, Oct. 2, 2020. The Justice Department intends to station officials in a command center at FBI headquarters to coordinate the federal response to any disturbances or other problems with voting that may arise across the country, officials familiar with the matter said.

washington post logoWashington Post, In a new ruling, judge says census count must continue through October, In a new ruling, judge says census count must continue through October, Tara Bahrampour, Oct. 2, 2020. The decision follows a tense week in which the government appeared to try to circumvent a preliminary injunction against ending the count early.

john bolton djt palmer images Custom

 washington post logoWashington Post, Judge rejects John Bolton bid to dismiss government lawsuit seeking book proceeds, Spencer S. Hsu, Oct. 2, 2020 (print ed.). A federal judge on Thursday rejected John Bolton’s bid to dismiss a government lawsuit seeking the proceeds of his memoir, ruling that the former Trump national security adviser was required to let the White House complete a prepublication review.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Washington, D.C., said the government had sufficiently alleged that Bolton violated a nondisclosure agreement by not waiting for written White House authorization before giving his publisher a manuscript for “The Room Where It Happened,” an explosive account of his 17 months at Trump’s top security adviser that was published in June.

“The government has the power to prevent harm to the national security,” Lamberth wrote in a 26-page opinion. “While the government may not prevent Bolton from publishing unclassified materials, it may require him to undergo a reasonable prepublication review process. The . . . agreements are thus consistent with the First Amendment.”

john bolton room where cover CustomBolton’s memoir, The Room Where It Happened, was published in June.

In a statement, lead Bolton attorney Charles J. Cooper said, “The Court’s decision, which we are still studying, means that the case will now move forward to the phase in which the parties will develop and present their evidence to the Court.”

Legal analysts said Lamberth’s opinion underscored that Bolton is in serious legal jeopardy and made it more difficult for other national security professionals to publish without risk of being sued by the government.

“This is a horrible new precedent,” Mark S. Zaid, a lawyer who specializes in national security and whistleblower cases, said in an email. “Before this case the U.S. Government had never pursued anyone for simply sharing a draft manuscript with lawyers, literary agents or publishers, even though by law it was improper to do so. As long as the manuscript was approved before actual publication, the U.S. Government was satisfied. But now the rules have changed, and any dissemination can create liability. “

Bolton has alleged that Trump appointees took unprecedented steps to hijack the prepublication review by erroneously claiming the book contained classified information after the National Security Council’s career senior director for information security told Bolton she had finished her own months-long review and declared it did not.

Bolton asserted that the White House sought to block the book to protect Trump from political embarrassment before November’s election.

Lamberth’s opinion gave a close reading to the terms of agreement Bolton signed. The opinion rejected Bolton’s assertion that the government had to prove he knowingly disclosed materials that “are, relate to, or purport to be” Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information — the highest level of classification, concerning intelligence sources and methods — “or describe activities that produce or relate to SCI.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Federal judge orders Edward Snowden to forfeit book, speech proceeds totaling more than $5 million, Ellen Nakashima, Oct. 2, 2020 (print ed.). A federal court issued a final judgment this week ordering former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to forfeit all proceeds from his memoir and paid speeches, totaling at least $5.2 million so far.

The ruling Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady in Alexandria follows a December opinion by O’Grady that Snow­den violated his obligations, under secrecy agreements he signed, to clear any book containing intelligence-related information with the government before publication.

edward snowden twitter“Intelligence information should protect our nation, not provide personal profit,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “This judgment will ensure that Edward Snowden receives no monetary benefits from breaching the trust placed in him.”

Snowden may appeal the December ruling on his liability. His attorney, Lawrence Lustberg, said Snowden “is still in the process of deciding on next steps.” Lustberg said the judgment allows Snowden “to take all lawful steps” to resist government efforts to collect the moneys at issue.

Snowden separately has been facing espionage charges since 2013, when he exposed top-secret NSA programs that touched off a global debate about the proper scope of U.S. surveillance but also drew condemnation from two successive U.S. administrations as harming national security.

Judge grants government proceeds from Snowden’s book

Snowden, who lives in Russia, where he initially received asylum and now has residency, published an autobiography in September 2019 explaining his motives for leaking material that revealed sensitive surveillance programs. The NSA eventually ended its mass collection of data about Americans’ phone calls after one of his leaks forced the government to confirm the program’s existence.

Snowden did not seek pre-publication approval from the CIA, a previous employer, or the NSA as required under the secrecy agreements he signed as a contractor. Snowden acknowledged breaking the rules in a “Daily Show” interview, saying he didn’t want to “let the CIA edit [my] life story.”

The Justice Department last year sued to cut off his profits from the book, “Permanent Record,” as well as from his paid speeches.

Snowden’s attorneys argued last year that Snowden preferred to risk future royalties rather than subject his work to government censorship. They also said nothing in his public talks revealed new information.

Snowden has said he would like to return to the United States, but only if he would be allowed to defend himself at trial by asserting his actions were in the public interest. That type of defense does not exist under U.S. law.

 

Jacob Wohl, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshot)

Jacob Wohl, above, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshots). Separate from his investment activities, Wohl has become known as a promoter of scandal allegations against perceived opponents of Donald Trump and other Republicans. On May 7, Diana Andrade and Jacob Wohl (Andrade photo via Reason.com)2020, Reason Magazine published a column quoting Diana Andrade, shown below right in a photo with Wohl when she said they were dating, in a story headlined as follows: Reason, She Said Anthony Fauci Sexually Assaulted Her. Now She Says Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman Paid Her to Lie.

washington post logoWashington Post, Conservative operatives face felony charges in connection with robocalls seeking to mislead voters, Meryl Kornfield, Oct. 2, 2020 (print ed.). Two right-wing operatives infamous for inventing outlandish conspiracy theories face felony charges in Michigan for allegedly intimidating voters with inaccurate robocalls that discouraged residents in urban areas from casting their ballots by mail.

Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were charged with four felonies of intimidating voters, conspiring to violate election law and using a computer to commit a crime, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Thursday. Thousands of residents from at least five states received the robocall aimed at discouraging absentee voting at a time when many Americans are expected to vote by mail rather than in person during the coronavirus pandemic.

Each charge against the pair carries a five- or seven-year sentence if they are convicted in Michigan — adding up to a maximum 12 years as some sentences for the charges would be concurrent. Wohl and Burkman, who live in Los Angeles and Arlington, Va., respectively, have not yet been arraigned, Nessel’s office said, adding that it is “too early to say if formal extradition will be necessary or if they will present themselves here voluntarily in the very near future.”

Nearly 12,000 residents with phone numbers from the 313 area code in Detroit were targeted, Nessel’s office said. Attorneys general in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois reported similar robocalls made to urban residents, amounting to an estimated 85,000 calls nationally, according to the Michigan office.

The caller, who claims to work for a civil rights organization founded by Wohl and Burkman, falsely says personal information for those who vote by mail will be shared with police tracking down warrants, credit card companies collecting outstanding debt, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requiring mandatory vaccinations. The caller tells voters to not be “finessed into giving your private information to the man.” Officials said the call exploited “racially-charged stereotypes.”

Robocall targets battleground states with falsehoods about mail-in voting

“Any effort to interfere with, intimidate or intentionally mislead Michigan voters will be met with swift and severe consequences,” Nessel said in a statement. “This effort specifically targeted minority voters in an attempt to deter them from voting in the November election. We’re all well aware of the frustrations caused by the millions of nuisance robocalls flooding our cell phones and landlines each day, but this particular message poses grave consequences for our democracy and the principles upon which it was built. Michigan voters are entitled to a full, free and fair election in November and my office will not hesitate to pursue those who jeopardize that.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: To the Fox News reporter who’s ‘tired of it’: Clean up your own house, Jennifer Rubin, right, Oct. 2, 2020. John Roberts, Fox News’s jennifer rubin new headshotchief White House correspondent, grew frustrated with White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Thursday when she would not give a definitive statement that President Trump denounces white supremacists after he refused to do so in the presidential debate Tuesday. He later lost patience, saying: “Stop deflecting. Stop blaming the media,” Roberts declared. “I’m tired of it!” Really?

Let’s stipulate that Roberts is not akin to the “Fox & Friends” hosts or Fox’s evening lineup of Trump sycophants when it comes to distorting reality and cheerleading Trump. (Disclosure: I am an MSNBC contributor.) However, the White House has been deflecting like this for nearly four years. It has refused to fox news logo Smallanswer all sorts of questions about Russian President Vladimir Putin, about Trump’s finances, about Trump’s embrace of racists and about any topic that would reveal Trump to be clueless or malicious. McEnany is just the most egregious practitioner of the non-response or the out-and-out falsehood. Roberts cannot possibly have just figured this out.

Roberts should look closer to home, if he’s “tired of it.” It is his network that allows Trump on air to spin bizarre conspiracy theories and blatant lies about his opponent. It is Fox News that has become a cesspool of anti-democratic (small “d”) and racist tropes. It is Fox News that tries to avoid — or to borrow a word, “deflects” — topics injurious to Trump, such as the New York Times bombshell about his taxes.

It would be hard to find one entity on the planet more responsible than John Roberts’s employer for enabling Trump, keeping his base in line, misleading the public about Trump’s corruption, excusing his culpability and giving him a sense of invincibility. It is not the only one, but it certainly leads the pack of Pravda-like outlets whose job is to defend Trump by deceiving viewers and readers if need be.

 

September

Sept. 29

 

us dc federal courthouse Small

cnn logoCNN, Analysis: Michael Flynn and DOJ return to court to argue his case should be dismissed, Katelyn Polantz, Sept. 29, 2020. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the Justice Department and US District Judge Emmet Sullivan meet for the first time in months Tuesday, as the judge weighs their attempts to exonerate the former top Trump official for lying to the FBI about conversations with Russia during the presidential transition.

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014But dismissing the politically charged case, as Flynn and the DOJ have sought, may not be that easy.

Sullivan has made clear he might consider sentencing Flynn for his lies, which he pleaded guilty to under oath almost three years ago. A third-party lawyer, former federal judge John Gleeson, will be in court as well to argue the legal path Sullivan could take to keep the case alive and sentence Flynn.

It's the latest round -- and potentially the final act -- in a saga for Flynn in court that began with him flipping on President Donald Trump during the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. At that time and in a second court hearing, Flynn admitted to misleading the FBI in the early days of the Trump administration.

emmet sullivan 2012In the three years since, Flynn has narrowly avoiding being sentenced. He's also become an emblem of the Trump's persistent efforts to undermine the Russia investigation and a conduit for testing the separation of powers between judges and prosecutors. The Justice Department has argued Flynn never should have been questioned by the FBI in January 2017 and put in the position where he lied.

Sullivan, a sometimes unpredictable judge with a history of posing tough questions in heated cases, hasn't indicated how he may approach the long-awaited hearing. Flynn had even tried to avoid the hearing altogether, by unsuccessfully appealing the judge's authority to hold one.

But both Republican supporters and critics of Attorney General William Barr and Trump have hoped for some sort of comeuppance through the case. Tuesday's hearing gives Sullivan an opening to press Flynn's lawyers on his change of heart, probe Barr's controversial decision to unravel the plea deal cut by Mueller's team, and comment on the lawyering in the case in recent months.

Sept. 27

 

djt cpac 2017 gage skidmore

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Facing possible defeat, Trump threatens the integrity of the election, Dan Balz, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). His relentless campaign against mail-in ballots seeds the ground for chaos or worse when votes are still being counted in the days after Nov. 3. Each week has brought evidence of the damage President Trump has done during his nearly four years in office. According to his own words, he is not finished. This past week brought a renewed warning of a harm he could yet inflict on the integrity of elections.

The president did more than simply refuse to pledge that he would facilitate a peaceful transfer of power if he loses to former vice president Joe Biden, though that in itself was a step no previous president has taken. In doing so, he escalated his ongoing attack on mail-in ballots, seeding the ground to contest the election as rigged or fraudulent if he is not the winner and to propel the country into chaos.

Perhaps what Trump said merely reflected the mind-set of a president who knows he is running behind in his bid for a second term, one more rhetorical flailing to somehow throw the opposition off balance and to distract from the real reasons for Biden’s lead in the polls. But this close to the election, anything Trump does to question the validity of the count should be regarded as serious and treated as such.

Republicans who normally stand by idle when the president says or does something outrageous pushed back against his words — though, notably, nearly all were careful neither to rebuke nor condemn the president personally. They simply pointed to a long history of peaceful transfers from one presidency to the next and stood up for the Constitution, which is the minimum expected of elected officials who have sworn an oath to defend that document.

ny times logoNew York Times, President Trump stoked more doubt on mail-in ballots and raised the prospect of Congress deciding a disputed election, Michael D. Shear and Michael Crowley, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump sought again on Saturday night to cast doubt on the integrity of the presidential election, telling supporters that the only way Democrats can win in Pennsylvania is to “cheat on the ballots” and raising the prospect that a disputed election could be decided by Congress.

djt pence yard sign logoPressing his baseless case that the election in November will be a “disaster,” Mr. Trump said at a rally just outside a hangar at the Harrisburg airport that he would have “an advantage” if Congress were to decide.

The comments, delivered in drizzling rain, were part of the president’s continuing effort to discredit the United States’ election process as he trails former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic rival.

“I don’t want to end up in the Supreme Court, and I don’t want to go back to Congress, even though we have an advantage if we go back to Congress. Does everyone understand that?” Mr. Trump told supporters. “I think it’s 26 to 22 or something.”

ny times logoNew York Times, U.S. Voters Believe Winner of Election Should Fill Court Vacancy, Poll Shows, Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, Sept. 27, 2020. A clear majority of voters believes the next president should fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll; Joe Biden retained a lead over President Trump, 49 to 41 percent.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosMore striking, the voters Mr. Trump and endangered Senate Republicans must reclaim to close the gap in the polls are even more opposed to a hasty pick: 62 percent of women, 63 percent of independents and 60 percent of college-educated white voters said they wanted the winner of the campaign to fill the seat.

washington post logoamy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoWashington Post, Amy Coney Barrett, a disciple of Justice Scalia, is poised to push the Supreme Court further right, Michael Kranish, Robert Barnes, Shawn Boburg and Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). If Barrett is confirmed, her vote on cases involving health care, abortion, immigration, gun control and many other issues could prove decisive.

washington post logoWashington Post, Democrats debate whether to engage — or withdraw — in Supreme Court fight, Seung Min Kim and Paul Kane, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). The Senate minority is grappling with how much legitimacy to give to the GOP drive to rapidly confirm Trump’s expected nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, before the November election.

As Democratic senators begin mapping out how they will wield their limited procedural weapons in the fight over President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, they are grappling with a central question: How much legitimacy do they give his candidate?

With little power to actually derail Trump’s pick, Democrats are coming under considerable pressure from their activist base to use every tactic at their disposal to not just throw sand in the gears of the confirmation fight, but to portray the consideration of expected nominee Amy Coney Barrett as a farce that shouldn’t even occur.

In a sense, they are playing the role of the GOP in 2016, when most Republicans outright ignored Merrick Garland — declining to meet with Barack Obama’s final Supreme Court pick as Democrats staged events, showed off the paperwork filed by Garland and even held a semi-mock confirmation hearing in an effort to move his nomination process along.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: This is not a drill. The Reichstag is burning, Dana Milbank, right, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). For five years, my colleagues and I have taken pains dana milbank Customto avoid Nazi comparisons. It is usually hyperbolic, and counterproductive, to label the right “fascists” in the way those on the right reflexively label the left “socialists.” But this is no longer a matter of name-calling.

With his repeated refusals this week to accept the peaceful transfer of power — the bedrock principle that has sustained American democracy for 228 years — President Trump has put the United States, in some ways, where Germany was in 1933, when Adolf Hitler used the suspicious burning of the German parliament to turn a democracy into a totalitarian state.

Overwrought, you say? Then ask Yale historian Timothy Snyder, a top authority on Nazism and Stalinism. “The Reichstag has been on a slow burn since June,” he told me. “The language Trump uses to talk about Black Lives Matter and the protests is very similar to the language Hitler used — that there’s some vague left-wing conspiracy based in the cities that is destroying the country.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Amy Coney Barrett and the New, Old Anti-Catholicism, Elizabeth Bruenig, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Critics of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee argue that pious Catholics are a problem for liberalism. They have a point.

In 2017, when Judge Barrett was appointed as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, she faced a tense confirmation hearing in which Senator Dianne Feinstein infamously remarked that “the dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.” A mother of seven and a devoted Roman Catholic, Judge Barrett has continued to field concerns about whether she will be able or willing to resist the expectations of her church when it comes to cases involving relevant moral issues, and whether she will cater to the wishes of People of Praise, a mostly Catholic ecumenical organization with a distinctly traditional bent, of which she is a member.

The scrutiny focused on Judge Barrett’s beliefs has provoked allegations of old-fashioned anti-Catholicism on behalf of her Democratic critics.

But the animosity faced by Catholics in today’s America has little in common with its direct predecessor. Real sex-abuse scandals have replaced the imaginary ones circulated in the lurid tracts of yesteryear. White Catholics are no longer subject to the religious bigotry that once animated vicious rumors and, occasionally, violent attacks on Catholics and their places of learning and worship. Rather than regenerating a long-vanquished prejudice, Judge Barrett’s nomination has merely renewed attention to a fundamental conflict, centuries underway, between Catholicism and the American ethos.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s pick for high court could be seated before election day, Anne Gearan, Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Judge Amy Coney Barrett is expected to be confirmed swiftly by the Republican-majority Senate to fill the vacancy left by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

President Trump announced Saturday that he will nominate federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, a choice that would lock a conservative majority on the high court and that could help turn out Republican voters in the election less than six weeks away.

Barrett, 48, would fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, preserving the court’s gender balance of three women and six men while potentially tipping its ideological balance for decades.

Trump introduced Barrett in a Rose Garden ceremony attended by a who’s who of Republicans and conservative activists, a reminder that shifting the Supreme Court to the ideological right has been a decades-long focus for Republicans.

Neither Trump nor Barrett wore face masks as recommended by public health officials to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, and few in the crowd did either. Guests were seated close together, rather than the recommended six feet apart, and hugged and kissed one another.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prayer march draws thousands to the Mall seeking healing for the nation, Michelle Boorstein and and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Sept. 27, 2020 (print ed.). Thousands of Christians gathered on the Mall in Washington on Saturday, waving U.S. flags, kneeling in small prayer circles alongside monuments, singing and listening to speakers who called on the nation to come together and heal.

Two groups — one organized by New Jersey-based pastor and popular author Jonathan Cahn, the other led by Evangelist Franklin Graham — emphasized slightly different objectives but came with a shared focus central to many millions of Christian conservatives: repairing a country they say is in the midst of a spiritual crisis.

Sept. 26

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump Selects Amy Coney Barrett to Fill Ginsburg’s Seat on the Supreme Court, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman, Updated Sept. 26, 2020. President Trump has selected Judge Amy Coney Barrett, the favorite candidate of conservatives, to succeed Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and will try amy coney barrett headshot notre dame phototo force Senate confirmation before Election Day in a move that would significantly alter the ideological makeup of the Supreme Court for years.

Mr. Trump plans to announce on Saturday that she is his choice, according to six people close to the process who asked not to be identified disclosing the decision in advance. As they often do, aides cautioned that Mr. Trump sometimes upends his own plans.

But he is not known to have interviewed any other candidates and came away from two days of meetings with Judge Barrett this week impressed with a jurist he was told would be a female Antonin Scalia, referring to the justice she once clerked for. On Friday night, Judge Barrett was photographed getting out of her car outside her home in South Bend, Ind.

The president’s political advisers hope the selection will energize his conservative political base in the thick of an election campaign in which he has for months been trailing former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic challenger. But it could also rouse liberal voters afraid that her confirmation could spell the end of Roe v. Wade, the decision legalizing abortion, as well as other rulings popular with the political left and center.

The nomination will kick off an extraordinary scramble by Senate Republicans to confirm her for the court in the 38 days before the election on Nov. 3, a scenario unlike any in American history. While other justices have been approved in presidential election years, none has been voted on after July. Four years ago, Senate Republicans refused to even consider President Barack Obama’s nomination to replace Justice Scalia with Judge Merrick B. Garland, announced 237 days before Election Day, on the grounds that it should be left to whoever was chosen as the next president.

 Amy Coney Barrett (2018 photo via Rachel Malehorn via Creative Commons and Wikimedia)

Judge Amy Coney Barrett (2018 photo via Rachel Malehorn via Creative Commons and Wikimedia)

The Guardian via Yahoo, Analysis: Amy Coney Barrett: spotlight falls on secretive Catholic group People of Praise, Stephanie Kirchgaessner, Sept. 26, 2020. Donald Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court, to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has drawn attention to a secretive Catholic “covenant community” called People of Praise that counts Barrett as a member and faces claims of adhering to a “highly authoritarian” structure.

The 48-year-old appellate court judge has said she is a “faithful Catholic” but that her religious beliefs would not “bear in the discharge of my duties as a judge”.

At the same time, the Louisiana native and Notre Dame Law graduate, a favorite among Trump’s evangelical Christian base, has said legal careers ought not to be seen as means of gaining satisfaction, prestige or money, but rather “as a means to the end of serving God”.

Interviews with experts who have studied charismatic Christian groups such as People of Praise, and with former members of the group, plus a review of the group’s own literature, reveal an organization that appears to dominate some members’ everyday lives, in which so-called “heads” – or spiritual advisers – make big life decisions, and in which members are expected to financially support one another.

Married women – such as Barrett – count their husbands as their “heads” and all members are expected to donate 5% of their income to the organization.

Some conservative and progressive activists have said any discussion of Barrett’s faith is inappropriate in the context of a Senate confirmation to assess her judicial qualifications, and potentially reflects anti-Catholic bigotry.

Other Catholic writers have said it is fair to scrutinize People of Praise because the group falls far outside mainstream Catholicism.

Barrett has not publicly discussed her affiliation but her connection was reported in multiple media accounts at the time of her confirmation to an appellate court in 2017.

Her picture appears in a May 2006 edition of People of Praise’s magazine, which documents her participation in a Leaders’ Conference for Women. Her father and her husband, Jesse Barrett, are also known members.

The group emerged out of the Catholic charismatic movement of the late 1960s, which blended Catholicism and Protestant Pentecostalism – Catholics and Protestants are both members – and adopted practices like speaking in tongues. The group’s literature shows communal living is also encouraged, at least among unmarried members, as is the sharing of finances between households.

A July 2007 “our money our selves” edition of People of Praise’s Vine & Branch magazine included an article about a 17-member group of women described as “single for the Lord” and living together in South Bend, Indiana. The women shared a “sisterhood budget”, which involved them pooling their paychecks while a “head of the sisterhood” determined, with the sisters’ input, how the money was spent.

washington post logoWashington Post, Politics Live Update: Justice Ginsburg becomes first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, John Wagner, Sept. 25, 2020. Democratic nominee Joe Biden is paying his respects Friday to the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she becomes the first woman to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, while President Trump puts in ruth bader ginsburg scotusa full day on the campaign trail with stops in Florida, Georgia and Virginia and a fundraiser at his hotel in Washington.

Meanwhile, controversy continues over Trump’s refusal to commit to the peaceful transition of power and his repeated attempts to undermine the legitimacy of mail-in ballots, even as he urges his own supporters to take advantage of absentee voting ahead of Election Day.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows lashed out at FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, a Trump appointee, for his assessment during congressional testimony that the United States has not experienced large-scale voter fraud by mail or other means.

Sept. 25

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump’s attacks on election prompt fears of a constitutional crisis, Philip Rucker, Amy Gardner and Annie Linskey, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). The president’s continuing threats have prompted election and law enforcement authorities nationwide to prepare for an unprecedented clash.

President Trump reiterated Thursday that he may not honor the results should he lose reelection, reaffirming his extraordinary refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power and prompting election and law enforcement authorities nationwide to prepare for an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

Trump escalated his months-long campaign to undermine the legitimacy of the Nov. 3 election with comments Wednesday that, taken together and at face value, pose his most substantial threat yet to the nation’s history of free and fair elections.

In recent days, the president cast doubt on the integrity of vote totals. He said he might not accept the results if they show him losing to Democratic nominee Joe Biden. He said it was imperative to quickly fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg because the nation’s high court could determine the winner of the election.

washington post logorepublican elephant logoWashington Post, GOP senators reject Trump’s assertion about transfer of power — with no direct criticism of the president, Paul Kane and Rachael Bade, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). Republicans, with almost no direct criticism of Trump’s statements, uniformly asserted that if Joe Biden wins the election, they will support a peaceful transition to the Democrat’s inauguration in January.

ny times logoNew York Times, At Pentagon, Fears Grow That Trump Will Pull Military Into Election Unrest, Jennifer Steinhauer and Helene Cooper, Sept. 25, 2020.  Defense Department officials said top generals could resign if President Trump ordered the active-duty military to quell election protests.

President Trump gave officials no solace on Wednesday and Thursday when he again refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power no matter who wins the election, and on Thursday, he doubled down by saying he was not sure the election could be “honest.” His hedging, along with his expressed desire in June to invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act to send active-duty troops onto American streets to quell protests over the killing of George Floyd, has incited deep anxiety among senior military and Defense Department leaders, who insist they will do all they can to keep the armed forces out of the elections.

“I believe deeply in the principle of an apolitical U.S. military,” General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in written answers to questions from House lawmakers released last month. “In the event of a dispute over some aspect of the elections, by law, U.S. courts and the U.S. Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the U.S. military. I foresee no role for the U.S. armed forces in this process.”

But that has not stopped an intensifying debate in the military about its role should a disputed election lead to civil unrest.

washington post logoamy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoWashington Post, Trump expected to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to fill Ginsburg seat, Anne Gearan, Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 25, 2020. Senate Republicans, kicking off a Supreme Court fight, plan to move the nomination quickly and Democrats have little chance to block the nominee, who would cement a conservative majority on the court for years. Barrett is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and a favorite of conservatives.

washington post logoWashington Post, Politics Live Update: Justice Ginsburg becomes first woman and first Jewish person to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, John Wagner, ruth bader ginsburg scotusSept. 25, 2020. Democratic nominee Joe Biden is paying his respects Friday to the late justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as she becomes the first woman to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol, while President Trump puts in a full day on the campaign trail with stops in Florida, Georgia and Virginia and a fundraiser at his hotel in Washington.

Meanwhile, controversy continues over Trump’s refusal to commit to the peaceful transition of power and his repeated attempts to undermine the legitimacy of mail-in ballots, even as he urges his own supporters to take advantage of absentee voting ahead of Election Day.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows lashed out at FBI Director Christopher A. Wray, a Trump appointee, for his assessment during congressional testimony that the United States has not experienced large-scale voter fraud by mail or other means.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigative Opinion: To what lengths will Trump go to serve his needs? Include murder, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 25, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Small2020. Taking into consideration what Donald Trump's business associates and members of his family have said about wayne madesen report logohim -- that Trump is vain, basically illiterate, coarse, misogynistic, racist, and power hungry -- that leaves one thing unsaid.

Based on Trump's record in the casino business in Atlantic City, a willingness to conspire to commit murder should be added to Trump's list of transgressions.

FiveThirtyEight, Analysis: How Amy Coney Barrett Could Change the Supreme Court, Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux, Sept. 25, 2020. Tomorrow will mark the start of amy coney barrett headshot notre dame photowhat could be one of the swiftest Supreme Court fights in modern history. On Saturday, just a week after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, President Trump is expected to announce his nominee for her replacement: Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who is currently serving on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The nomination battle over Barrett will be bitter. If she is confirmed — and right now, Republicans have the votes — her presence on the court will give the conservative wing a solid 6-3 majority, allowing the other conservative justices to bypass Chief Justice John Roberts. Or, put another way, Roberts will no longer be the court’s median. (He has cast several pivotal votes with the liberal justices over the years, often out of apparent concern for the court’s institutional legitimacy.)

Barrett’s appointment marks an enormous shift in the Supreme Court’s center of gravity. According to one estimate of her ideological leanings, Barrett will be the third-most conservative justice on the court, just to the left of Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, and to the right of Trump’s two previous nominees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. That’s a best-case scenario for liberals, too. Several experts told me that based on Barrett’s previous rulings as a federal judge and writings as a law professor, she could end up to the right of Alito — or even Thomas.

But even in that third-place slot, Barrett replacing Ginsburg is one of the largest swings on the modern court since 1953.

That means the confirmation hearings, which are likely to start around October 12, will probably be extremely rancorous. But it’s doubtful that would stop the GOP from steaming ahead with a vote on Barrett’s nomination after only a few weeks of deliberation. An ambitious timeline like that seems very possible, since Senate Republicans currently have a solid majority willing to vote on Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court even before Barrett was named. And several Republicans, including Trump, have indicated that they want to make sure the vote happens before Election Day so that the new justice is seated in time to resolve any election-related disputes — potentially giving Trump’s new nominee enormous power over the result of the election.

washington post logoWashington Post, Investigation: Barbara Lagoa refused to recuse herself from Florida felons’ voting case, creating controversy, Aaron C. Davis and Ann E. barbara lagoaMarimow, Sept. 25, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump’s potential Supreme Court pick, right, could face scrutiny for staying on — and becoming a key voice — in a federal court decision expected to limit voting by poor former inmates.

washington post logoWashington Post, Court sides with House Democrats in challenge to Trump’s border wall spending, Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 25, 2020. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously backed Congress’s power of the purse and said House lawmakers could proceed with their lawsuit alleging it was illegal for President Trump to transfer the money for the wall.

A federal appeals court in Washington sided with House Democrats on Friday in their effort to block the Trump administration’s diversion of billions of dollars to build the president’s signature southern border wall.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously backed Congress’s power of the purse and said House lawmakers could proceed with their lawsuit alleging it was illegal for President Trump to transfer the money for the wall.

The Constitution gives Congress spending authority, the court said, and it “requires two keys to unlock the Treasury, and the House holds one of those keys. The Executive Branch has, in a word, snatched the House’s key out of its hands,” according to the opinion from Judge David B. Sentelle, who was joined by Judges Patricia A. Millett and Robert L. Wilkins. Sentelle was nominated by President Ronald Reagan. Millett and Wilkins were nominated by President Barack Obama.

House Democrats went to court claiming Trump violated the Constitution by ignoring congressional spending limits and diverting more than $6 billion allocated for other purposes to fund the wall at the border with Mexico. The administration invoked statutes it said allowed the president to repurpose appropriations.

The D.C. Circuit panel on Friday said the Trump administration had essentially cut the House out of the appropriations process “rendering for naught” its vote to withhold border wall funding. The judges also rejected the Justice Department’s argument that the House cannot go to court to protect its interests without consent of the Senate.

“The ironclad constitutional rule is that the Executive Branch cannot spend until both the House and the Senate say so,” according to Sentelle’s opinion. “Unlike the affirmative power to pass legislation, the House can wield its appropriations veto fully and effectively all by itself, without any coordination with or cooperation from the Senate.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr is throwing things at the wall, Bill Palmer, Sept. 25, 2020. Even though the media keeps inexplicably hyping him as an immortal villain with a magic wand who can accomplish any evil thing he wants to, the reality is that Bill Barr strikes out most of the time. For instance, he tried and failed to intervene in the Flynn, Stone, Cohen, Lev, Igor, and Bannon cases. Now Barr’s Durham stunt has apparently failed as well.

bill palmer report logo headerThis has left Bill Barr in the position of having to throw something at the wall, if only to convince Donald Trump that he still has some kind william barr resized donald trumpof secret evil genius plan up his sleeve. But instead of rolling out one concrete con game, Barr, shown at right, is rolling out all kinds of piddly nonsense at once.

Take a look at this fascinating list assembled by Politico’s Kyle Cheney:

In the last 36 hours, DOJ has:

    • Declassified a doc GOP lawmakers sought about the Steele Dossier
    • Provided internal FBI messages to Flynn legal team
    • Released an interview with one of the Flynn case agents
    • Released questionable evidence of ballot irregularities in Pa.

To be clear, none of these things are anything. None of them will have any impact on the election. They’re all just smoke and mirrors. The fact that Barr is throwing so many “nothings” at the wall at once is a sign that even he knows none of this is going anywhere. Bill Barr has reached the point of desperation.

 ny times logoNew York Times, Less Than Six Weeks to Election Day, and Voting Rules Remain in Flux, Nick Corasaniti and Kenneth P. Vogel, Updated Sept. 25, 2020. The two parties are locked in fights over laws in many battleground states, creating uncertainty that is being fanned by President Trump.

With less than six weeks until Election Day, laws governing how Americans vote remain in flux in many battleground states, with the two parties locked in an intensive fight over the rules as President Trump continues to suggest he will challenge any outcome unfavorable to him.

djt biden smiles resizedThe combination of the pandemic, doubts about the capacity of the Postal Service to handle a flood of mail ballots and an aggressive push by Democrats to expand access to voting rights and counter Republican efforts to limit them has fueled litigation and legislative battles across the country that have not been resolved even as early voting has gotten underway.

The result is uncertainty that Mr. Trump is already seizing on in his extraordinary campaign to cast doubt on the election system and the result. In the latest of a string of remarks on the issue, the president refused on Wednesday to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, igniting new concern about his commitment to the Constitution and drawing pushback on Thursday from prominent members of his party.

Sept. 24

washington post logoWashington Post, Nearly 500 former senior military, civilian leaders sign letter backing Biden, Karen DeYoung, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). Nearly 500 retired senior military officers, as well as former Cabinet secretaries, service chiefs and other officials, have signed an open letter in support of former vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, saying that he has “the character, principles, wisdom and leadership necessary to address a world on fire.”

The letter, published Thursday morning by National Security Leaders for Biden, is the latest in a series of calls for President Trump’s defeat in the November election.

“We are former public servants who have devoted our careers, and in many cases risked our lives, for the United States,” it says. “We are generals, admirals, senior noncommissioned officers, ambassadors and senior civilian national security leaders. We are Republicans and Democrats, and Independents. We love our country.

“Unfortunately, we also fear for it.”

The letter has been signed by 489 people.

Not all of those Republicans who previously have broken ranks with Trump have called for Biden’s election, although the numbers are growing. Last month, more than 60 former national security officials who served in Republican administrations, including Trump’s, signed a statement calling him “unfit to serve as President.” Noting that some of them held different policy positions from Biden, they nonetheless called for his election, saying it was “imperative that we stop Trump’s assault on our nation’s values and institutions and reinstate the moral foundations of our democracy.”

bernie sanders des moines gage skidmore flickr aug 10 2019 Custom

CBS News logoCBS News, Bernie Sanders says Trump is ready "to undermine American democracy in order to stay in power," Grace Segers, Sept. 24, 2020.
Senator Bernie Sanders argued in an impassioned speech Thursday that President Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power is a threat to American democracy.

"What I am going to talk about is something that, in my wildest dreams, I never thought I would be discussing," Sanders (shown in a Gage Skidmore file photo) said. "And that is the need to make certain that the president of the United States, if he loses this election, will abide by the will of the voters and leave office peacefully."

djt impeachment graphic"This is not just an election between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. This is an election between Donald Trump and democracy – and democracy must win," Sanders said in an address at George Washington University. He referred to Mr. Trump as a "pathological liar" with "strong authoritarian tendencies," and accused him of being "prepared to undermine American democracy in order to stay in power."

On Wednesday evening, Mr. Trump declined to commit to a peaceful transition of power if Biden wins the election in November. Sanders also quoted Mr. Trump's remarks at the Republican National Convention last month, in which he declared that "the only way they can take this election away from us is if this is a rigged election."

"I think it is terribly important that we actually listen to, and take seriously, what Donald Trump is saying," Sanders said. "There is nothing in our Constitution or in our laws that give Donald Trump the privilege of deciding whether or not he will step aside if he loses. In the United States, the president does not determine who can or cannot vote and what ballots will be counted."

He went on to criticize Mr. Trump for continuing "to be obsessed with the belief that there is massive voter fraud in this country," even though instances of voter fraud are extremely rare. The president has repeatedly claimed, without evidence, that mail-in voting leads to widespread voter fraud, even as he urges supporters to vote by mail in critical swing states like Florida.

"Trump's strategy to delegitimize this election and to stay in office if he loses is not complicated. Finding himself behind in many polls, he is attempting massive voter suppression," Sanders said. "He and his Republican colleagues are doing everything they can to make it harder and harder for people to vote. In addition, he is sowing the seeds of chaos, confusion and conspiracy theories by casting doubt on the integrity of this election and, if he loses, justifying why he should remain in office."

Sanders noted that this election will see an influx of mail-in ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic, and brought up a scenario under which Mr. Trump could claim victory on election night before all the mail-in ballots are counted.

He also worries that states controlled by Republican legislatures will ignore election results "because of false accusations of voter fraud," and predicted that if this happened, "the legislature itself will use its power to appoint electors pledged to vote for Trump, overriding the will of the people."

"And, in the midst of all of this, with the death of Justice Ginsburg, Trump is attempting to push through a Supreme Court Justice who may very well cast a vote in a case that will determine the outcome of this election," Sanders continued. There are enough Republican senators who have said they would vote to confirm Mr. Trump's nominee to the court before the election, despite Democrats' argument that the vacancy has opened so close to November 3 that it should be the winner of the election who selects the next justice.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump won’t commit to a ‘peaceful transfer of power’ if he loses, Colby Itkowitz, Sept. 24, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump refused Wednesday to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, asserting that if he doesn’t win, it will be because of fraudulent mail-in voting and not because more Americans voted against him.

djt handwave fileHis latest comments came after he has spent months making unsubstantiated claims that voting by mail is corrupt and will lead to a “rigged” election. In fact, states that have embraced universal mail voting have documented tiny rates of possible ballot fraud, data shows.

“Well, we’re going to have to see what happens. You know that I’ve been complaining very strongly about the ballots and the ballots are a disaster —” Trump (shown in a file photo) began when asked during a White House press briefing if he would ensure a peaceful transition.

“I understand that, but people are rioting; do you commit to making sure that there’s a peaceful transferral of power?” the reporter pressed, appearing to refer to incidents of violence that have broken out during some protests.

The president seems to be referring to, as he has for months now, the massive uptick in people voting by mail this fall rather than in person amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Trump continues to claim, with no evidence, that Democrats are supporting widespread mail-in voting not for public health reasons but to corrupt or commit fraud in the results.

Trump has previously been asked whether he would accept the results of the election if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden wins. Asked by Fox News’s Chris Wallace in July, Trump said, “I have to see. Look, you — I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time, either.”

 

ruth bader ginsburg high school

Ruth Bader, reared in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, NY, is shown above in her high school yearbook photo with a list of her activities before she attended Cornell University, from which she graduating in 1954 with a bachelor's degree. She then attended Harvard Law School and Columbia Law School. She married Martin Ginsburg, a contemporary at Columbia who became a longtime law professor, primarily at Georgetown Law Center before his death.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: The Power of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Imagination, Linda Greenhouse (shown at right on the cover of her memoir), Sept. 24, 2020. She was able to see a world where men linda greenhouse cover just a journalistand women would be treated equally.

What she had, in addition to passion, skill and a field marshal’s sense of strategy, was imagination.

She envisioned a world different from the one she had grown up in, a better world in which gender was no obstacle to women’s achievement, to their ability to dream big and to realize their aspirations. Then she set out to use the law to usher that world into existence.

Sept. 21

Palmer Report, Opinion: The increasingly ugly story behind Robert Mueller’s miserable failure and Rod Rosenstein’s treason, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 21, 2020. When bill palmerSpecial Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate an obviously guilty Donald Trump, he started off with a bang. He quickly got Michael Flynn to flip on Trump. He arrested George Papadopoulos and Paul Manafort. There was every reason to expect that Mueller would continue on that path and take Trump down. But somewhere along the way Mueller stopped doing his job, and in the end he simply gave up and went home. So what happened?

bill palmer report logo headerNow the details of the ugliest and most damaging failure in U.S. prosecutorial history are starting to pour out – and some of it’s even uglier than we thought. Robert Mueller’s former top deputy, Andrew Weissmann, is now flat out admitting that Team Mueller failed to do its job, partly due to fear and intimidation. While Weissmann doesn’t attack Mueller personally, he makes clear that Mueller screwed up by failing to subpoena Trump, and by failing to admit that Trump obstructed justice.

Rod Rosenstein Deputyty Atttorney GeneralThis comes on the heels of recent reporting that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, right, had been secretly sabotaging Robert Mueller’s investigation from the very start, going so far as to block Mueller from investigating Trump’s financial ties to Russia, while tricking the FBI into thinking that Mueller was following the money.

Robert Mueller (FBI Official Photo)If Robert Mueller, left, had done his job, and if Rod Rosenstein hadn’t tried too hard to prevent Mueller from doing his job, there’s a good chance Donald Trump would be in prison by now instead of still being in the White House.

At the least, Mueller’s reputation should be destroyed by his cowardly refusal to do his job – unless he really did go senile during his investigation.

And Rosenstein, by illegally obstructing an investigation into whether Trump was conspiring with the Russian government against the United States, is guilty of some form of treason. Rosenstein must be put on criminal trial when this over.

 

Sept. 20

Top Headlines

 

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

 

Top Stories

supreme court Custom

washington post logoWashington Post, Ferocious political battle to fill Supreme Court vacancy has begun, Robert Barnes, Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 20, 2020 (print ed.). President Trump said Saturday that he will nominate a woman in the next week to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court, opening a ferocious political battle that could transform the nation’s highest court and alter the presidential election.

At a rally Saturday night in Fayetteville, N.C., Trump told supporters that he had not yet chosen a nominee, but “it will be a woman, a very talented, very brilliant woman.” The crowd chanted “Fill that seat!”

Even as flags were lowered to half-staff and mourners filled the plaza of the Supreme Court where Ginsburg served for 27 years as a liberal icon, the president and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) contemplated her successor.

As he was leaving the White House on Saturday evening, Trump said that an announcement could come within a week and that he prefers a Senate vote before the election.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Plans to Use the Pandemic to Frame Supreme Court Fight, Shane Goldmacher, Katie Glueck and Thomas Kaplan, Sept. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Joe Biden will seek to link the Supreme Court vacancy created after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the coronavirus pandemic and the future of health care.

joe biden kamala harris campaign shotThe Biden campaign plans to chiefly focus on protecting the Affordable Care Act’s guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

For months Joseph R. Biden Jr. has condemned President Trump as a failed steward of the nation’s well-being, relentlessly framing the 2020 election as a referendum on the president’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Now, confronted with a moment that many believe will upend the 2020 election — the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the prospect of a bitter Supreme Court confirmation battle — Mr. Biden’s campaign is sticking to what it believes is a winning strategy. Campaign aides said Saturday they would seek to link the court vacancy to the health emergency gripping the country and the future of health care in America.

djt biden smiles resizedWhile confirmation fights have long centered on hot-button cultural divides such as guns and especially abortion, the Biden campaign, at least at the start, plans to chiefly focus on protecting the Affordable Care Act and its popular guarantee of coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

Arguments in a seminal case that could determine the future of the health care law are set for a week after Election Day, with the administration supporting a Republican effort to overturn it. Mr. Biden will accuse the president, as he already has, of trying to eliminate protections for pre-existing conditions during a pandemic, aides said, with the stakes heightened by a Supreme Court now short one of the liberal justices who had previously voted to keep the law in place.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Ginsburg’s death crystallizes the choice in November as no other issue can, Dan Balz, Sept. 20, 2020 (print ed.). The issues that surround the vacancy encompass the broader culture war that divides red and blue America.

Roll Call, Supreme Court’s legitimacy at stake in wake of Ginsburg’s death, Todd Ruger, Sept. 20, 2020. Justices' actions could fuel calls to revamp the high court.

For a Supreme Court that seeks to defend the legitimacy of its rulings as rooted in the law and not political ideology, what unfolds over the next few months is poised to be a historic test of its reputation.

The Senate will hold a contentious confirmation vote to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a reliably conservative President Donald Trump appointee.

supreme court buildingThe appointee, who Trump says will be a woman announced this week, would deepen the court’s conservative tilt potentially with immediate consequences for divisive areas such as abortion, gun control and more.

A case set for argument Nov. 10, just days after the election, threatens the whole 2010 health care law known as Obamacare, which the court has upheld in previous challenges.

And the justices could be called on to decide the heated presidential election, where Trump already has challenged the integrity of the outcome if he loses to Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

How the justices act in those situations — and how much the public retains confidence in them throughout — could wind up galvanizing calls from some Democratic lawmakers and their allies to change Senate rules to remake the high court in the coming years.

The Supreme Court plays a key role in the government because it makes many difficult decisions the political branches are unable to make, said Paul Smith of the Campaign Legal Center, a veteran litigator before the court.

The public accepts those Supreme Court decisions “because they view the court as something other than a purely political institution,” Smith said. “At the court, if it loses that completely, it will cease to function in the way it needs to.”

A move by Senate Republicans to confirm a third Trump appointee to the court in a presidential election year, when four years earlier they blocked President Barack Obama’s nominee ahead of the election, already drew calls for changes to the structure of the court such as additional justices or eliminating their lifetime tenure.

washington post logoamy coney barrett headshot notre dame photoWashington Post, Who is Amy Coney Barrett, the judge at the top of Trump’s list? Colby Itkowitz, Sept. 20, 2020 (print ed.). At the top of President Trump’s list to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court is U.S. Circuit Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett, right, a jurist in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia who fulfills nearly all criteria on conservatives’ wish list.

At 48 years old, Barrett could hold the lifetime seat for several decades. Trump’s first two nominees to the nation’s highest court, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh, are in their 50s. Trump’s justices will potentially represent one-third of the Supreme Court for generations.

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoruth bader ginsburg scotusNew York Times, Analysis: Justice Ginsburg’s Death Upends the 2020 Race, Alexander Burns and Adam Nagourney, Sept. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Democrats warned Republicans to follow the precedent they set in 2016, when they refused to consider President Barack Obama’s choice for the court.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Who Trump might nominate for the Supreme Court, Aaron Blake, Sept. 20, 2020 (print ed.). Given President Trump has already filled two vacancies — and released lists of potential nominees both in 2016 and earlier this month — we have a very good idea as to who is in play. That starts with the finalists who weren’t picked.

In 2017, when Neil M. Gorsuch was the pick, his fellow finalists were federal judges Thomas Hardiman, William H. Pryor Jr., Diane S. Sykes, Amul R. Thapar and Don R. Willett. Trump personally interviewed three of them: Hardiman, Pryor and Thapar.

In 2018, when Brett M. Kavanaugh was the pick, the finalists were a little less clear. But his top competitors were thought to be Hardiman and two other federal judges: Raymond Kethledge and Amy ­Coney Barrett.

The fact that Hardiman was in play both times would suggest he might be again. But given the finalists shifted so much from 2017 to 2018, it is possible that will be the case again. It also seems more likely the 2018 finalists would be in play today, given many of the 2017 finalists did not make the cut in 2018.

ny times logoNew York Times, Democrats See a Glimmer of Hope Over Supreme Court Fight in Arizona’s Senate Race, Hank Stephenson and Glenn Thrush, Sept. 20, 2020. If Mark Kelly wins a special election, he could end up casting a crucial vote on President Trump’s nominee.

Democrats have almost no power to stop a pre-election vote on President Trump’s nominee to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, but they see a glimmer of hope in a bank-shot scenario if they capture a Senate seat in Arizona in the November election.

mark kelly senateIf Mark Kelly, right, the Democratic nominee, wins, he could be seated in the Senate as early as Nov. 30, six weeks before the other winners are sworn in, according to elections experts from both parties. Mr. Kelly currently leads Senator Martha McSally, a Republican, in the polls.

There are many ifs: If the Arizona results can be rapidly certified, and if Senate Republicans hold a confirmation vote in the postelection lame-duck session and if three Republicans defect, Mr. Kelly could cast the deciding vote to defeat Mr. Trump’s as-yet unnamed pick to the high court.

Such a scenario is possible (if not probable) because Ms. McSally, who was sworn in in 2019, was appointed, not elected. The Arizona Senate race this year is a special election, and under state law the winner can be seated pending a final review of the election results, known as a canvass, completed at the end of November.

Julian Assange IndicterJulian Assange (Photo by The Indicter Magazine).

CraigMurrayBlog, Your Man in the Public Gallery: Assange Hearing Day 13, Craig Murray, right, Sept. 20, 2020. Friday gave us the most emotionally charged craig murray newermoments yet at the Assange hearing, showed that strange and sharp twists in the story are still arriving at the Old Bailey, and brought into sharp focus some questions about the handling and validity of evidence, which I will address in comment.

The first witness of the day was Nicky Hager, the veteran New Zealand investigative journalist. Hager’s co-authored book “Hit and Run” detailed a disastrous New Zealand SAS raid in Afghanistan, “Operation Burnham”, that achieved nothing but the deaths of civilians, including a child. Hager was the object of much calumny and insult, and even of police raids on his home, but in July an official government report found that all the major facts of his book were correct, and the New Zealand military had run dangerously out of control: “Ministers were not able to exercise the democratic control of the military. The military do not exist for their own purpose, they are meant to be controlled by their minister who is accountable to Parliament.”

Edward Fitzgerald took Hager through his evidence. Hager stated that journalists had a duty to serve the public, and that they could not do this without access to secret sources of classified information. This was even more necessary for the public good in time of war. Claims of harm are always made by governments against any such disclosures. It is always stated. Such claims had been frequently made against him throughout his career. No evidence had ever emerged to back up any of these claims that anybody had been harmed as a result of his journalism.

When Wikileaks had released the Afghan War Logs, they had been an invaluable source to journalists. They showed details of regular patrols, CIA financed local forces, aid and reconstruction ops, technical intelligence ops, special ops and psychological ops, among others. They had contributed much to his books on Afghanistan. Information marked as confidential is essential to public understanding of the war. He freqently used leaked material. You had to judge whether it was in the higher public interest to inform the public. Decisions of war and peace were of the very highest public interest. If the public were being misled about the conduct and course of the war, how could democratic choices be made?

United Kingdom flagEdward Fitzgerald then asked about the collateral murder video and what they revealed about the rules of engagement. Hager said that the Collateral Murder video had “the most profound effect throughout the world”. The publication of that video and the words “”Look at those dead bastards” had changed world opinion on the subject of civilian casualties. In fact the Rules of Engagement had been changed to put more emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties, as a direct result.

Historian, human rights activist and former UK ambassador Craign Murray has been covering the Assange extradition hearings in London. About Craig Murray.

Sept. 19

 washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87, Robert Barnes and Michael A. Fletcher, Sept. 19, 2020. Second woman to serve on the high court was a role model for female lawyers; Leading the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc, Ginsburg was a legal pioneer who backed affirmative action and defended abortion rights.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, right, the second woman to serve on the high court and a legal pioneer for gender equality whose fierce ruth bader ginsburg scotusopinions as a justice made her a hero to the left, died Sept. 18 at her home in Washington. She was 87.

The death was announced in a statement by the U.S. Supreme Court. She had recently been treated for pancreatic cancer.

Born in Depression-era Brooklyn, Justice Ginsburg excelled academically and went to the top of her law school class at a time when women were still called upon to justify taking a man’s place. She earned a reputation as the legal embodiment of the women’s liberation movement and as a widely admired role model for generations of female lawyers.

Working in the 1970s with the American Civil Liberties Union, Justice Ginsburg successfully argued a series of cases before the high court that strategically chipped away at the legal wall of gender discrimination, eventually causing it to topple. Later, as a member of the court’s liberal bloc, she was a reliable vote to enhance the rights of women, protect affirmative action and minority voting rights and defend a woman’s right to choose an abortion.

The Justice Integrity Project joins in mourning her passing and celebrating her achievements.

washington post logoWashington Post, Trump signals swift nomination to replace Ginsburg as tributes continue to pour in, John Wagner and Derek Hawkins, Sept. 19, 2020.  President Trump signaled Saturday that he will move quickly to nominate a successor to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Friday night at age 87, as tributes continued to pour in for the liberal icon.

djt biden smiles resizedA fierce political battle is unfolding over her replacement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that a Trump nominee would get a vote in his Chamber, while leading Democrats, including the party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden, said consideration of a successor should not take place until the next president takes office.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that a nominee from President Trump would get a vote in his chamber, while leading Democrats, including the party’s presidential nominee, Joe Biden, said a vote should not take place until the next president takes office.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) on Saturday announced that he would support a Trump nominee to replace Ginsburg before the election, becoming the latest GOP senator to speak on why the Senate should move forward with a confirmation this election year when it didn’t in 2016.

washington post logoWashington Post, McConnell vows Trump’s Supreme Court nominee will get a Senate vote, Seung Min Kim, Sept. 19, 2020. The Senate leader, who blocked former president Barack Obama’s nominee for much of 2016, is pressing ahead within weeks of the Nov. 3 election.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has made judicial confirmations a hallmark of his legacy, is now confronting an extremely fraught Supreme Court fight that will challenge his pledge to leave no vacancy behind amid charges of hypocrisy and as his party’s control of the Senate hangs in the balance.

mitch mcconnellMcConnell (R-Ky.), left, who blocked President Barack Obama’s final nominee to the Supreme Court for the near entirety of 2016, said Friday that President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court will get a vote on the floor of the Senate, although he did not say when that vote would be held.

“Americans reelected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary,” McConnell said in a statement Friday following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He added: “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

In early 2016, McConnell said he would not give Merrick Garland, right, then chief judge of the federal appellate court based in Washington, D.C., his confirmation proceedings because, he argued, voters should get to decide through the merrick garlandpresidential election. He has repeatedly reversed his own standard and said he would fill a vacancy under Trump, even in an election year.

His intent to move ahead came despite Ginsburg’s dying wish. In a posthumous statement released to NPR, Ginsburg said: “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

McConnell has rationalized his decision by saying the standards were different because the White House and the Senate were controlled by different parties in 2016, which is not the case this year.

But at least two GOP senators indicated in interviews before Ginsburg’s death that they would not support filling a Supreme Court vacancy so close to Election Day, pledging to uphold the standard crafted by McConnell that most Senate Republicans adhered to in 2016.

And in Arizona, where Democrat Mark Kelly has consistently been favored over incumbent GOP Sen. Martha McSally, the winner may be sworn into his or her term during the lame-duck session, altering the current 53-47 Republican control of the Senate if Kelly does prevail on Nov. 3.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: A conservative replacement for Ginsburg could shift court to the right for generations, Robert Barnes, Sept. 19, 2020. For now, the Supreme Court has only eight members to confront potentially history-shaping issues resulting from one of the nation’s most contentious presidential elections.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Democratic Senator vows to expand the Supreme Court if Mitch McConnell fills Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat, Bill Palmer, Sept. 19, 2020.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is already publicly vowing to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat before the election – a reminder of just how soulless and corrupt he truly is. Senate Democrats have a number of ways of stalling and slowing such a nomination, and they’ll use everything they have, but as the minority party their available toolset is somewhat limited.

bill palmer report logo headerAs it turns out, the strongest leverage Senate Democrats have going for them is the fact that they could very well be in the majority just a few months from now, thus giving them all kinds of power to undo anything that Mitch McConnell might do in these final weeks. Democratic Senator Ed Markey, right, just tweeted this:

edward markey resized o“Mitch McConnell set the precedent. No Supreme Court vacancies filled in an election year. If he violates it, when Democrats control the Senate in the next Congress, we must abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court.”

So there you have it. Here’s a Senate Democrat openly vowing to pack the Supreme Court if McConnell goes through with his dire plan to fill RBG’s seat.

This is a big deal. Ed Markey is influential. We doubt he’d be tweeting something like this unless Chuck Schumer is at least tacitly on board with it. McConnell could face a tough decision about whether filling that seat now is worth the ugly consequences for him and his party in the new year.

 us dc federal courthouse Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Judges in D.C. threatened, harassed after high-profile, political legal battles, Ann E. Marimow, Sept. 18, 2020. After a recent court hearing in a high-profile, politically charged case, judges on the powerful federal appeals court in Washington received an onslaught of harassing, profane phone calls to their chambers. The angry calls from citizens unhappy with the views judges expressed during oral argument prompted some on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to remove their direct office phone numbers from the court’s website, two officials said.

The threats also hit home.

The animosity directed at judges is particularly persistent in Washington with legal battles over President Trump’s financial records and access to secret material from Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation.

District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, left, began receiving hundreds of calls, emails and letters in May after he refused to go along with the Justice emmet sullivan 2012Department’s unusual request to immediately drop the prosecution of Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, below right. The vast majority of the messages, according to another official who also spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the threats, were hostile. Many were laced with race-based profanity toward the judge, who is Black.

In August, a New York man was arrested after threatening to assault and murder a district court judge in Washington on or about May 14, when Sullivan put Flynn’s case on hold, according to a grand jury indictment unsealed this week in Washington.

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014The indictment of Frank J. Caporusso does not name Sullivan. But the dates align with Sullivan’s actions in court. The threat came in a voice-mail message left on the targeted judge’s office line, according to a detention memo filed in court.

“We are professionals. We are trained military people. We will be on rooftops. You will not be safe,” the message said. “Back out of this bullshit before it’s too late, or we’ll start cutting down your staff.”

The Marshals Service is responsible for protecting about 2,700 federal judges nationwide, in addition to 30,300 prosecutors and court officials at more than 800 locations. Supreme Court justices have a separate police department in Washington.

In fiscal 2019, investigators reviewed more than a million derogatory social media posts. Deputies recorded about 4,500 “inappropriate” communications or threats directed a judges and other court officials, an increase of 40 percent from fiscal 2016.

It is a crime to threaten a federal judge, but not every nasty message or social media post is considered a threat and deputies must balance free speech considerations.

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Justice Ginsburg’s Judicial Legacy of Striking Dissents, Adam Liptak, right, Sept. 19, 2020 (print ed.). She was part of the Supreme adam liptakCourt’s 4-member liberal wing throughout her 27-year tenure and led it in her last decade.

There was a framed copy of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 on the wall of the chambers of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on Friday. She counted the law among her proudest achievements, even as it illustrated her limited power. As part of the Supreme Court’s four-member liberal wing, she did her most memorable work in dissent.

The law was a reaction to her minority opinion in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, the 2007 ruling that said Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 imposed strict time limits for bringing workplace discrimination suits. She called on Congress to overturn the decision, and it did.

On the court, however, her notable victories were few. As she put it in a 2013 interview in her chambers, she was fully engaged in her work as the leader of the liberal opposition on what she called “one of the most activist courts in history.”

There were exceptions, of course. One of her favorite majority opinions, she often said, ruled that the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admissions policy violated the Equal Protection clause.

U.S. 2020 Elections, Politics

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: Justice Ginsburg’s Death Upends the 2020 Race, Alexander Burns and Adam Nagourney, Sept. 19, 2020. Democrats warned Republicans to follow the precedent they set in 2016, when they refused to consider President Barack Obama’s choice for the court.

ny times logojoe biden 2020 button CustomNew York Times, Recent polls showed that voters preferred for Joe Biden to pick the next Supreme Court justice, Staff reports, Sept. 19, 2020. In surveys before Justice Ginsburg’s death, he led by a slightly wider margin on choosing the next justice than he did over all against President Trump.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Can Mitch McConnell Be Stopped? Michelle Goldberg, below right, Sept. 19, 2020. If Republicans give Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat to some Federalist Society fanatic, Democrats should pack the court.

michelle goldberg thumbTwo years ago at The Atlantic Festival, Senator Lindsey Graham defended the Republican decision to block President Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland. “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process is started, we’ll wait to the next election,” Graham said.

Now that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has died, only a month and a half before the 2020 election, the chance that the senator keeps his word seems infinitesimal. (He has already said that after Brett Kavanaugh, “the rules have changed.”)

Replacing a progressive icon on the Supreme Court with a hard-core reactionary — one who will overturn Roe v. Wade, decimate civil rights law and fully unshackle big business — is an existential matter for the right. It is both the culmination of decades of conservative activism and perhaps an insurance policy in case the 2020 election itself ends up being decided by the court, like Bush v. Gore.

The question now is whether Trump and McConnell can be stopped, and what Democrats should do if they aren’t.

 

Sept. 18

Breaking News: Washington Post, Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87; McConnell says Trump’s court pick will get Senate vote despite Ginsburg’s dying wish, Derek Hawkins, Darren Sands and Meryl Kornfield, Sept. 18, 2020. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg became the second woman on the high court in 1993 and legal pioneer for gender equality.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who refused to consider President Obama’s choice months before the 2016 election, said in a statement Friday hours after Ginsburg’s death: “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

ruth bader ginsburg scotusThe death of Ginsburg, right, sent shock waves through the country Friday, igniting debate about the future of the high court and President Trump’s role in choosing a successor to the 87-year-old jurist.

Ginsburg died in her home in Washington, where she was surrounded by family, the Supreme Court said in a statement announcing her death. The cause was complications of metastatic pancreas cancer, according to the court.

A trailblazer for gender equality, Ginsburg was the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court and served there for more than 27 years.

She rose to the top of her class at Columbia Law School in the 1950s, helped battle gender discrimination as a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union and, in 1993, became the second woman on the high court. Her fierce opinions as a justice made her a hero to the left.

On the court, she became an iconic figure to a new wave of young feminists, and her regal image as the “Notorious RBG” graced T-shirts and coffee mugs. She also was the subject of a popular film documentary, RBG, in 2018.

Her death sets up what is all but certain to be a fierce political fight over whether Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate will decide her replacement.

The Justice Integrity Project joins in mourning her passing and celebrating her achievements.

Other Sept. 18 News:

 

DJT May 10, 2017

Donald Trump welcomes two top Russian foreign ministry officials to the White House for  2017 ceremony that only Russian media were permitted to attend (TASS Photo on May 10, 2017).

Politico, Wray says Russia engaged in 'very active efforts' to interfere in election, damage Biden, Kyle Cheney, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). The FBI director also broke with Trump’s claim that antifa is a terrorist organization.

FBI logoFBI Director Christopher Wray on Thursday described “very active efforts” by Russia to interfere in the 2020 election, primarily by working to damage former Vice President and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Wray said Russians have been using social media, as well as “proxies, state media, online journals" and other vehicles to hurt Biden and what it views as anti-Russian factions in U.S. politics.

Wray’s assessment affirms the findings of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which last month described Russia’s efforts to damage Biden and specifically identified Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian Ukrainian lawmaker who has met with President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as an agent of Russia’s influence operations.

Wray’s testimony to the House Homeland Security Committee affirmed that Russia is continuing to take an active role in the 2020 campaign with less than 50 days until Election Day. He offered no new specifics in the early-going of the hearing, but emphasized that the intelligence community has not seen evidence that Russia is reprising its 2016 attempt to target election infrastructure, such as voter databases.

In testimony to the Homeland Security Committee, Wray also diverged from Trump’s claim that “antifa” is a terrorist organization. Rather, Wray said antifa is “more of an ideology or a movement than an organization” and though there has been violence by some who self-identify as antifa, it has not appeared to be part of a central organization.

“Antifa is a real thing,” Wray said. “But it’s not an organization or a structure.”

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Opinion: Barr is now the worst Attorney General of the U.S., trailing Palmer and Mitchell, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 18, 2020.  Trump wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallAttorney General William Barr now ranks last among U.S. Attorneys General, placing behind Woodrow Wilson's extreme right-wing Attorney Genral A. Mitchell Palmer of "Palmer Raids" infamy and John Mitchell, Richard Nixon's Attorney General who helped cover up the Watergate scandal.

On September 16, Barr disgraced himself in comments made at an Arlington, Virginia event hosted by the conservative Christian Hillsdale College of Michigan. Barr, who may be the most political Attorney General in U.S. history, made several statements on the occasion of Constitution Day that rattled employees of the Justice Department and startled the public.

In addition to equating Covid-19 lockdowns with slavery, Barr also likened Justice Department career line prosecutors to Montessori preschoolers. He also accused Barack Obama administration officials, who began an investigation of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign for its links to Russian government and mob interests, of acting like the murderous Roman emperor Caligula.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: William Barr has gone too far before, but never this far, Ruth Marcus, right, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Attorney General William P. Barr’s recent ruth marcus twitter Customcomments, in public and private, are so alarming, it’s hard to know where to begin. Barr has gone too far before, but never this far.

He compared pandemic restrictions to slavery. “You know, putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders, is like house arrest,” Barr said during a speech Wednesday night at Hillsdale College. “Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest william barr new ointrusion on civil liberties in American history.”

Barr, left, was discussing limitations on religious services during the pandemic, and there are legitimate questions about whether some restrictions on worship have gone too far. But the slavery comparison is beyond offensive. Slavery was evil. Pandemic rules are grounded in concerns for public health.

And even if the two phenomena were somehow legitimately considered along the same continuum, there is no way that the covid-19 lockdown could be accurately labeled “the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Giuliani associate Parnas faces new criminal charges, Shayna Jacobs, Sept. 18, 2020 (print ed.). Lev Parnas is accused of defrauding investors in a fraud-protection company he founded — an entity used to pay Rudy Giuliani $500,000 to investigate Democrats.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan on Thursday filed new charges against Lev Parnas, an associate of President Trump's personal attorney Rudolph W. Giuliani, accusing the Soviet emigre of defrauding investors in a fraud-protection company he founded — an entity used to pay Giuliani $500,000 to investigate Democrats.

Parnas already faced charges of campaign finance fraud, for allegedly filtering political donations on behalf of foreign nationals via a shell organization. The superseding indictment filed Thursday in the Southern District of New York appears to move the case closer to Giuliani, who has been under investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office here. The status of that probe is unknown.

Giuliani has said that there was nothing improper about the money he received while looking for information in Ukraine that may prove damaging to Trump’s political opponents, namely former vice president Joe Biden. Giuliani’s activities factored prominently in the president’s impeachment proceedings.

Parnas and another man, David Correia, are accused of using their company, Florida-based Fraud Guarantee, to cover personal expenses. The pair “made materially false representations concerning, among other things, how much money Parnas had contributed to the company and how much money the company had raised overall,” the new indictment says.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan telegraphed several months ago that additional counts were expected in the case.

Prosecutors say there are at least seven victims who believed they were financing Fraud Guarantee, a company that claimed to be in the business of fighting against corporate fraud.

 

Sept. 17

washington post logoWashington Post, Whistleblower: Federal officials stockpiled munitions, sought ‘heat ray’ device before clearing park near White House, Marissa J. Lang, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). Hours before law enforcement forcibly cleared protesters from Lafayette Square in early June, federal officials began to stockpile ammunition and seek devices that could emit deafening sounds and make anyone within range feel like their skin is on fire, according to an Army National Guard major who was there.

D.C. National Guard Maj. Adam D. DeMarco told lawmakers that defense officials were searching for crowd control technology deemed too unpredictable to use in war zones and had authorized the transfer of about 7,000 rounds of ammunition to the D.C. Armory as protests against police use of force and racial injustice roiled Washington.

In sworn testimony, shared this week with The Washington Post, DeMarco provided his account as part of an ongoing investigation into law enforcement and military officers’ use of force against D.C. protesters.

DeMarco, who provided his account as a whistleblower, was the senior-most D.C. National Guard officer on the ground that day and served as a liaison between the National Guard and U.S. Park Police.

Just before noon on June 1, the Defense Department’s top military police officer in the Washington region sent an email to officers in the D.C. National Guard. It asked whether the unit had a Long Range Acoustic Device, also known as an LRAD, or a microwave-like weapon called the Active Denial System, which was designed by the military to make people feel like their skin is burning when in range of its invisible rays.

The technology, also called a “heat ray,” was developed to disperse large crowds in the early 2000s but was shelved amid concerns about its effectiveness, safety and the ethics of using it on human beings.

Pentagon officials were reluctant to use the device in Iraq. In late 2018, the New York Times reported, the Trump administration had weighed using the device on migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border — an idea shot down by Kirstjen Nielsen, then the Homeland Security secretary, citing humanitarian concerns.

He told lawmakers he felt compelled to come forward as a witness because he found the events at Lafayette Square “deeply disturbing.” His attorney, David Laufman, said DeMarco hopes lawmakers will continue to investigate the federal response.

He told lawmakers he felt compelled to come forward as a witness because he found the events at Lafayette Square “deeply disturbing.” His attorney, David Laufman, said DeMarco hopes lawmakers will continue to investigate the federal response.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pennsylvania Supreme Court strikes Green Party presidential ticket from ballot, clearing the way for mail ballots to be sent out, Amy Gardner, Sept. 17, 2020. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Green Party presidential ticket from state ballots, allowing state and local election officials to resume preparations for Nov. 3 and begin mailing ballots to voters.

The court ruled that presidential contender Howie Hawkins, right, and his running mate, Angela Walker, did not qualify for the ballot because the party did not howie hawkins 2010submit signed filing papers in person, as required by state rules.

It’s the second such ruling in a week. On Monday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found deficiencies in the Green Party’s ballot petition in that state, excluding the party from the ballot.

The decision is a blow to the third-party ticket and a win for Democrats, who worried that the Green Party could siphon votes from presidential nominee Joe Biden in the key battleground state.

In Wisconsin, the Green Party effort to get on the ballot was boosted by help from some Republicans and a prominent law firm that does work for the GOP. In Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court voted on a strict party line, with the court’s two Republicans partially dissenting, writing in a separate opinion that the Green Party ticket should have been given a chance to fix its paperwork.

Wisconsin Supreme Court rules Green Party presidential ticket is ineligible for state ballot

In 2016, Donald Trump won both Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by fewer votes than the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, collected in each state. This year, the Green Party has qualified for the ballot in more than two dozen states, including such battlegrounds as Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, Maine, Minnesota and Texas.

The Pennsylvania court’s decision came after it paused election preparations last week and blocked the secretary of state’s certification of the candidate list, rattling election officials who were ready to start mailing ballots to voters in response to a huge demand because of the coronavirus pandemic. Had the court ruled for the Green Party, officials would have had to scrap millions of ballots already printed and ready to be mailed out.

The Hawkins-Walker ticket was not the original slate that filed for candidacy in Pennsylvania; their names were substituted to replace Elizabeth Scroggin and Neal Gale. But the court found that the paperwork for the original slate was insufficient, requiring Hawkins and Walker to be disqualified. Specifically, the party failed to submit affidavits in person signed by Scroggin and Gale, according to the court.

“That defect was fatal to Scroggin’s nomination and, therefore, to Hawkins’ substitution,” the court ruled.

 us bureau of prisons logo

washington post logoWashington Post, More than half of all wrongful criminal convictions are caused by government misconduct, study finds, Tom Jackman, right, Sept. 17, 2020 (print ed.). The tom jackmanstudy also found that police and prosecutors are rarely disciplined for actions that lead to a wrongful conviction; Misconduct can be intentional or unintentional, but either way innocent people are found guilty.

When a prisoner is granted their freedom because they were wrongly convicted of a crime, the focus turns to the years — or decades — they spent behind bars, their feelings upon release and their hopes for the future. But a new study digs into the reasons people are wrongly convicted, and it has found that 54 percent of those defendants are victimized by official misconduct, with police involved in 34 percent of cases, prosecutors in 30 percent, and some cases involving both police and prosecutors.

The study by the National Registry of Exonerations reviewed 2,400 exonerations it has logged between 1989 and 2019, nearly 80 percent of which were for violent felonies. Of the 2,400, 93 innocent defendants were sentenced to death and later cleared before they were executed.

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Barr sought to undermine the Church Committee investigation of the CIA, Wayne Madsen, below at left, Sept. 17, 2020. While wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallwilliam barr o 1992Left, serving in the Central Intelligence Agency's Office of Legislative Affairs from 1973 to 1977, Attorney General William Barr (shown in a 1980s photo at right, attempted to interfere with the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities, otherwise known as the Church Committee.

The committee chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-ID) revealed that the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies had systematically violated the U.S. Constitution with respect to civil liberties of U.S. citizens and conducted assassinations of foreign leaders.

CIA LogoOn May 20, 1976, Barr penned a memo attached to a draft CIA director's letter on requesting the Senate to lift the moratorium imposed by the Senate on the CIA on the destruction of CIA records.

Barr was involved in a CIA attempt to curtail the destruction of CIA documents spelled out in the bi-partisan Senate Resolution 21, in which the CIA was requested to "not destroy, remove from {its] possession or control, or otherwise dispose or permit the disposal of any records or documents which might have a bearing on the subjects under investigation."

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: This Is How Bad It’s Gotten at the Justice Department, Neal K. Katyal and Joshua A. Geltzer ( law professors at Georgetown), Sept. 17, 2020. Skeptics often ask what difference one person really can make by leaving. The answer is: a lot.

In his time as the head of the Justice Department, Attorney General William Barr has alienated many federal prosecutors. The latest appears to be Nora Dannehy, a longtime prosecutor who has resigned from the department, where she was part of a team looking into the Russia investigation.

We don’t know for sure exactly what happened; she isn’t talking, nor is Mr. Barr. But The Hartford Courant, which broke the story, reported that Ms. Dannehy’s colleagues said that she departed because of Mr. Barr’s politicization — in particular, because Mr. Barr is evidently eager to break drastically with past practice and issue an incomplete report intended to help President Trump in his re-election efforts.

Her resignation looks like part of an extremely troubling pattern. Earlier this year, highly respected prosecutors in the Michael Flynn and Roger Stone cases dramatically resigned or withdrew. One of them testified to Congress that the Justice Department under Mr. Barr was treating Mr. Stone “differently from any other defendant because of his relationship to the president.” The Justice Department inspector general has opened an investigation.

When civil servants resign, skeptics often ask what difference one person really can make by leaving. The answer is simple: a lot. Ms. Dannehy’s departure isn’t just likely a major assertion of integrity by her; it’s also a big problem for Mr. Barr — and therefore for Mr. Trump.

The resignations are a forceful public signal that something is seriously awry with the Justice Department under Mr. Barr. A hallmark of the department, where both of us worked, is its tradition of political independence, forged over decades since its creation in 1870. Neither of us ever heard of career civil servants resigning because they believed the attorney general was acting politically. Never — and that’s even accounting for the department’s strong conservatives and liberals in its career ranks.

Mr. Barr’s bizarre project, headed by John Durham, the U.S. attorney for Connecticut, was created to reinvestigate the investigators of Russian election interference and to cover ground already explored in detail by the department’s inspector general. Ms. Dennehy’s departure casts real doubt on Mr. Barr’s design to try to vindicate Mr. Trump’s narrative that he was targeted in 2016 by the “deep state.”

Ms. Dannehy poses a looming further threat to Mr. Barr. She didn’t just withdraw from the investigation; she resigned from the department entirely. That means Mr. Barr can’t muzzle her — and, in turn, she can warn Congress and the rest of us about what prompted such a dramatic move by a highly regarded career public servant who had previously managed to oversee the investigation into the politically fraught firings of seven U.S. attorneys in the George W. Bush administration.

She will have constraints like attorney-client privilege and classification. But that still leaves plenty of room to unmask Mr. Barr’s shenanigans. That should happen immediately in testimony before the House of Representatives. To lay bare Mr. Barr’s mischief is, in significant part, to defang it. This, not Mr. Durham’s unfinished report, is what needs to happen before the election.

Sept. 16

ny times logoNew York Times, Barr Told Prosecutors to Consider Sedition Charges for Protest Violence, Katie Benner, Sept. 16, 2020. Attorney General William P. Barr told federal prosecutors in a call last week that they should consider charging rioters and others who had committed violent crimes at protests in recent months with sedition, according to two people familiar with the call.

The highly unusual suggestion to charge people with insurrection against lawful authority alarmed some on the call, which included U.S. attorneys around the country, said the people, who spoke on the condition they not be named describing Mr. Barr’s comments because they feared retribution.

william barr new oThe attorney general, left, has also asked prosecutors in the Justice Department’s civil rights division to explore whether they could bring criminal charges against Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle for allowing some residents to establish a police-free protest zone near the city’s downtown for weeks this summer, according to two people briefed on those discussions.

The directives are in keeping with Mr. Barr’s approach to prosecute crimes as aggressively as possible in cities where protests have given way to violence. But in suggesting possible prosecution of Ms. Durkan, a Democrat, Mr. Barr also took aim at an elected official whom President Trump has repeatedly attacked.

washington post logoWashington Post, More than half of all wrongful criminal convictions are caused by government misconduct, study finds, Tom Jackman, right, Sept. 16, 2020. The tom jackmanstudy also found that police and prosecutors are rarely disciplined for actions that lead to a wrongful conviction; Misconduct can be intentional or unintentional, but either way innocent people are found guilty.

When a prisoner is granted their freedom because they were wrongly convicted of a crime, the focus turns to the years — or decades — they spent behind bars, their feelings upon release and their hopes for the future. But a new study digs into the reasons people are wrongly convicted, and it has found that 54 percent of those defendants are victimized by official misconduct, with police involved in 34 percent of cases, prosecutors in 30 percent, and some cases involving both police and prosecutors.

The study by the National Registry of Exonerations reviewed 2,400 exonerations it has logged between 1989 and 2019, nearly 80 percent of which were for violent felonies. Of the 2,400, 93 innocent defendants were sentenced to death and later cleared before they were executed.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomCraig Murray Blog via Information Clearing House, Commentary: Assange Hearing Day 9, Craig Murray, right, craig murray uk ambassadorSept. 15, 2020. Things became not merely dramatic in the Assange courtroom today, but spiteful and nasty.

There were two real issues, the evidence and the procedure. On the evidence, there were stark details of the dreadful regime Assange will face in US jails if extradited. On the procedure, we saw behaviour from the prosecution QC that went well beyond normal cross examination and was a real attempt to denigrate and even humiliate the witness. I hope to prove that to you by a straightforward exposition of what happened today in court, after which I shall add further comment.

Today’s witness was Eric Lewis. A practicing US attorney for 35 years, Eric Lewis has a doctorate in law from Yale and a masters in criminology from Cambridge. He is former professor in law at Georgetown University, an elected member of both the American Law Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He is Chairman of Reprieve. He has represented high profile clients in national security and terrorism cases, including Seymour Hersh and Guantanamo Bay internees.

Trial coverage continued below under "Section U.S. Law, Courts, Investigations"

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: Senate GOP’s efforts to boost Trump’s reelection hopes are too ham-handed to work, Paul Waldman, Sept. 16, 2020. The first ron johnson orule of media manipulation is not to announce that you’re trying to manipulate the media. Doing so changes how journalists will receive and characterize the information you’re giving them and ultimately reduce the chance that the public will be swayed by your scheme.

Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.), right, and the other Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee don’t seem to understand that; in fact, Johnson keeps blurting out that his farcical investigations into Hunter Biden and the Obama administration are indeed for the purpose of damaging Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy.

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: War Crime Risk Grows for U.S. Over Saudi Strikes in Yemen, Michael LaForgia and Edward Wong, Updated Sept. 16, 2020, 6 State Department officials have raised alarms about airstrikes that kill civilians. The Trump administration recently suppressed findings as it sold more weapons to Gulf nations.

The civilian death toll from Saudi Arabia’s disastrous air war over Yemen was steadily rising in 2016 when the State Department’s legal office in the Obama administration reached a startling conclusion: Top American officials could be charged with war crimes for approving bomb sales to the Saudis and their partners.

Four years later, more than a dozen current and former U.S. officials say the legal risks have only grown as President Trump has made selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other Middle East nations a cornerstone of his foreign policy.

Yet rather than taking steps to address the legal issues, State Department leaders have gone to great lengths to conceal them. Even after a State Department inspector general investigation this year revealed that the department had failed to address the legal risks of selling bombs to the Saudis, agency officials ensured that details of the finding were put in a classified part of the public report released in August, and then so heavily redacted that lawmakers with security clearances could not see them.

The concerns will be the subject of a congressional hearing on Wednesday. House lawmakers are expected to question senior State Department officials, including the agency’s top lawyer and the assistant secretary overseeing weapons sales.

Wayne Madsen Report wayne madesen report logo(WMR), Opinion: William Barr is worse as AG than Nazi Germany's first Justice Minister, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 17, 2020. Attorney wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallGeneral William Barr is less independent of aspirant dictator Donald Trump than Nazi Germany's first Justice Minister, Franz Gurtner, was of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Barr has systematically turned the Justice Department into a political weapon designed to protect Trump from the Congress, the courts, and individual U.S. citizens exercising their rights under the Constitution. Barr has trashed the rule of law that has ensured that America's system of democracy has prevailed since the birth of constitutional government. 

washington post logoWashington Post, DHS says it won’t make officials available for questioning in House probe of Portland protests, Shane Harris, Sept. 16, 2020 (print ed.). The Department of Homeland Security has said it will not agree to a congressional panel’s request to interview official witnesses as part of an investigation of the department’s response to protests in Portland, Ore.

us dhs big eagle logo4The congressional investigation has been fueled by allegations from a top DHS official, who has accused the White House of trying to skew intelligence reports to match President Trump’s claims that far-left extremist groups are behind nationwide protests against police violence.

The House Intelligence Committee’s request to interview several DHS officials “will not be accommodated at this time,” Assistant Secretary Beth Spivey wrote to the committee chairman Monday, arguing that the committee had unreasonably broadened its scope after receiving a whistleblower complaint from Brian Murphy, who until recently was in charge of the department’s intelligence office.

Murphy has alleged that senior DHS officials, acting on orders from the White House, have tried to color intelligence reports in ways that favor Trump’s chad wolfcampaign rhetoric.

Murphy claimed in a complaint filed last week with the DHS inspector general that the department’s acting secretary, Chad Wolf, right, instructed him in May to stop reporting Russian interference in the election and to focus his office’s efforts on China and Iran, two countries Democratic lawmakers briefed on intelligence say are not engaged in the same aggressive attempts to influence the elections as Russia.

washington post logoWashington Post, Because of pandemic, Supreme Court will begin new term with teleconference arguments, Robert Barnes, Sept. 16, 2020. The justices, six of whom are at special risk because of age, have not held arguments in person since March.

washington post logoWashington Post, Louisville agrees to $12 million settlement with family of Breonna Taylor, Tim Craig and Marisa Iati, Sept. 16, 2020 (print ed.). In addition to the cash payout, the settlement includes a number of changes in how local officers obtain and execute search warrants.

The city of Louisville announced on Tuesday a $12 million settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor and a number of changes in how local officers obtain and execute search warrants, among the largest payouts for a police killing in the nation’s history, according to a Taylor family attorney.

Louisville police killed Breonna Taylor, 26, while executing a “no-knock” search warrant at her apartment during a drug raid in March that uncovered no illegal substances and has become a driving symbol in the Black Lives Matter movement.

The settlement, which follows a wrongful-death lawsuit that Taylor’s family filed in May, requires police commanders to approve all search warrant applications that are submitted to a judge, said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer (D) during a news conference Tuesday afternoon. Louisville police will also have to conduct extensive risk assessments before applying for a warrant.

Jacob Wohl, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshot)

Jacob Wohl, whose supposed investment acumen as a 17-year-old, was featured by Fox Business News (screenshot above). Separate from his investment activities, Wohl has become known as a promoter of scandal allegations against perceived opponents of Donald Trump and other Republicans. On May 7, Diana Andrade and Jacob Wohl (Andrade photo via Reason.com)2020, Reason Magazine published a column quoting Diana Andrade, shown below right in a photo with Wohl when she said they were dating, in a story headlined as follows: Reason, She Said Anthony Fauci Sexually Assaulted Her. Now She Says Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman Paid Her to Lie.

washington post logoWashington Post, Fake FBI raid staged by right-wing activists dupes The Post, Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi, Sept. 16, 2020 (print ed.). It appears that Jacob Wohl used photos of the event in Arlington to trick a reporter into believing that Wohl’s longtime associate Jack Burkman was being targeted by law enforcement officials.

american flag upside down distressA fake FBI raid staged Monday by a notorious right-wing activist and conspiracist turned into an embarrassment for The Washington Post, which briefly reported the faux-event as if it were the real deal.

The “raid” on a house in Arlington, Va., actually involved actors recruited by Jacob Wohl, who has a history of making false accusations and has orchestrated dubious events in an effort to smear perceived opponents of President Trump.

This time, Wohl recruited actors to pose as FBI agents, telling them they would be participating in a scene for a “TV pilot,” one of the actors involved told the Daily Beast. The actors donned FBI-style windbreakers and pretended they were raiding a house during early-morning hours.

FBI logoIt appears Wohl used photos of the event to trick a reporter into believing that Wohl’s longtime associate, Jack Burkman, was being targeted by law enforcement officials. The intended purpose of the deception was not clear.

In a story written by Metro reporter Rachel Weiner, The Post briefly reported Monday that a real FBI raid had taken place. The story was updated about two hours later to note that the raid was a fabrication and later taken down entirely with an editor’s note in its place saying it “was published because The Post failed to obtain appropriate confirmation.”

Burkman is longtime conservative lobbyist and recent conspiracist. Together with Wohl, a 22-year-old former hedge fund manager with a history of investment scandals, the pair have mounted several failed media stunts. Among others, the pair hosted a “news” conference in late 2018 to lay out alleged sexual assault claims against special counselor Robert Mueller; Mueller’s supposed accuser never materialized. They also tried in 2019 to paint then-Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg as a sexual predator; that stunt blew up when the supposed accuser said the allegations were entirely made up and that he had been paid to make them.

julian assange facts wikileaks CustomCraig Murray Blog via Information Clearing House, Commentary: Assange Hearing Day 9, Craig Murray, right, craig murray uk ambassadorSept. 15, 2020. Things became not merely dramatic in the Assange courtroom today, but spiteful and nasty.

There were two real issues, the evidence and the procedure. On the evidence, there were stark details of the dreadful regime Assange will face in US jails if extradited. On the procedure, we saw behaviour from the prosecution QC that went well beyond normal cross examination and was a real attempt to denigrate and even humiliate the witness. I hope to prove that to you by a straightforward exposition of what happened today in court, after which I shall add further comment.

Today’s witness was Eric Lewis. A practicing US attorney for 35 years, Eric Lewis has a doctorate in law from Yale and a masters in criminology from Cambridge. He is former professor in law at Georgetown University, an elected member of both the American Law Institute and the Council on Foreign Relations and a fellow of the American Bar Foundation. He is Chairman of Reprieve. He has represented high profile clients in national security and terrorism cases, including Seymour Hersh and Guantanamo Bay internees.

Lewis had submitted five statements to the court, between October 2019 and August 2020, addressing the ever-changing indictments and charges brought by the prosecution. He was initially led through the permitted brief half-hour summary of his statements by defence QC Edward Fitzgerald. (I am told I am not currently allowed to publish the defence statements or links to them. I shall try to clarify this tomorrow.)

Eric Lewis testified that no publisher had ever been successfully prosecuted for publishing national security information in the USA. Following the Wikileaks publications including the diplomatic cables and the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs, Assange had not been prosecuted because the First Amendment was considered insuperable and because of the New York Times problem – there was no way just to prosecute Assange without prosecuting the New York Times for publishing the same material. The New York Times had successfully pleaded the First Amendment for its publication of the Pentagon Papers, which had been upheld in a landmark Supreme Court judgment.

Lewis here gave evidence that mirrored that already reported of Prof Feldstein, Trevor Timm and Prof Rogers, so I shall not repeat all of it. He said that credible sources had stated the Obama administration had decided not to prosecute Assange, notably Matthew Miller, a highly respected Justice Department figure who had been close to Attorney General Holder and would have been unlikely to brief the media without Holder’s knowledge and approval.

Eric Lewis then gave testimony on the change of policy towards prosecuting Assange from the Trump administration. Again this mostly mirrored the earlier witnesses. He added detail of Mike Pompeo stating the free speech argument for Wikileaks was “a perversion of what our great country stands for”, and claiming that the First Amendment did not apply to foreigners.

Attorney General Sessions had accordingly stated that it was “a priority for the Justice Department” to arrest Julian Assange. He had pressured prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia to bring a case. In December 2017 an arrest warrant had been issued, with the indictment to be filled in later. The first indictment of a single count had been launched in March 2018, its timing possibly dictated by a limitation deadline.

In May 2019 a new superseding indictment increased the counts from one to eighteen, seventeen of which related to espionage. This tougher stance followed the appointment of William Barr as Attorney General just four months previously. The plain intention of the first superseding indictment was to get round the New York Times problem by trying to differentiate Assange’s actions with Manning from those of other journalists. It showed that the Justice Department was very serious and very aggressive in acting on the statements of Trump administration officials. Barr was plainly acting at the behest of Trump. This represented a clear abuse of the criminal enforcement power of the state.

The prosecution of a publisher in this way was unprecedented. Yet the facts were the same in 2018 as they had been in 2012 and 13; there was no new evidence behind the decision to prosecute. Crucially, the affidavits of US Assistant Attorney Gordon Kromberg present no legal basis for the taking of a different decision to that of 2013. There is no explanation of why the dossier was lying around with no action for five or six years.

The Trump administration had in fact taken a different political decision through the Presidential spokesperson Sarah Sanders who had boasted that only this administration had acted against Assange and “taken this process seriously.”

Edward Fitzgerald QC then turned to the question of probable sentencing and led Lewis through his evidence on this point. Eric Lewis confirmed that if Julian Assange were convicted he could very probably spend the rest of his life in prison. The charges had not been pleaded as one count, which it had been open to the prosecution to do. The judge would have discretion to sentence the counts either concurrently or consecutively. Under current sentencing guidelines, Assange’s sentence if convicted could range from “best case” 20 years to a maximum of 175 years. It was disingenuous of Gordon Kromberg to suggest a minimal sentence, given that Chelsea Manning had been sentenced to 35 years and the prosecution had requested 60.

It had been a government choice to charge the alleged offences as espionage. The history of espionage convictions in the USA had generally resulted in whole life sentences. 20 to 30 years had been lighter sentences for espionage. The multiple charges approach of the indictment showed a government intention to obtain a very lengthy sentence. Of course the final decision would lay with the judge, but it would be decades.

Edward Fitzgerald then led on to the question of detention conditions. On the question of remand, Gordon Kromberg had agreed that Julian Assange would be placed in the Alexandria City Jail, and there was a “risk” that he would be held there under Special Administrative Measures. In fact this was a near certainty. Assange faced serious charges related to national security, and had seen millions of items of classified information which the authorities would be concerned he might pass on to other prisoners. He would be subject to Special Administrative Measures both pre- and post-conviction.

After conviction Julian Assange would be held in the supermax prison ADX Florence, Colorado. There were at least four national security prisoners currently there in the H block. Under SAMS Assange would be kept in a small cell for 22 or 23 hours a day and not allowed to meet any other prisoners. He would be allowed out once a day for brief exercise or recreation excluded from other prisoners, but shackled.

Fitzgerald then led Lewis to the 2017 decision by the International Criminal Court to open an investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan, in which the evidence provided by the Wikileaks release of US war logs and diplomatic cables provided essential evidence. This had been denounced by Trump, John Bolton and Pompeo. The ICC prosecutor’s US visa had been cancelled to hinder his investigation. An Executive Order had been issued imposing financial sanctions and blocking the banking access of any non US national who assisted the ICC investigation into crimes alleged against any US citizen. This would affect Julian Assange.

Coverage continued in much greater detail on the Craig Murray Blog. Craig John Murray is a British former diplomat turned political activist, human rights campaigner, blogger and whistleblower. Between 2002 and 2004, he was the British ambassador to Uzbekistan during which time he exposed the violations of human rights in Uzbekistan by the Karimov administration.

 

Sept. 11

Top Headlines

More On U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

U.S. 2020 Politics, Elections

 

Top Stories michael flynn arms folded

washington post logoWashington Post, Court-appointed adviser in Michael Flynn case says Justice Dept. yielded to corrupt ‘pressure campaign’ led by Trump, Spencer S. Hsu, Sept. 11, 2020. A retired federal judge accused the Justice Department on Friday of yielding to a pressure campaign led by President Trump in its bid to dismiss the prosecution of former national security adviser Michael Flynn for lying to federal investigators.

john gleeson CustomIn a 30-page court filing in Washington, former New York federal judge John Gleeson, right, called Attorney General William P. Barr’s request to drop Flynn’s case a “corrupt and politically motivated favor unworthy of our justice system.”

“In the United States, Presidents do not orchestrate pressure campaigns to get the Justice Department to drop charges against defendants who have pleaded guilty — twice, before two different judges — and whose guilt is obvious,” said Gleeson, who was appointed by the court to argue against the government’s request to dismiss the case.

Gleeson’s filing set the stage for a potentially dramatic courtroom confrontation Sept. 29 with the Justice Department and Flynn’s defense over the fate of the highest-ranking Trump adviser to plead guilty in special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia investigation. Friday’s filings echo earlier arguments from Gleeson, who called the Justice Department’s attempt to undo Flynn’s conviction a politically motivated and “a gross abuse of prosecutorial power.”

emmet sullivan 2012U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, left, of the District of Columbia set the hearing date after a federal appeals court upheld his authority to review and rule on the government’s dismissal request on Aug. 31. The hearing before Sullivan was selected from three dates proposed by the parties and is scheduled the same day as the first presidential debate between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Flynn, 61, awaits sentencing after pleading guilty in December 2017 to lying in an FBI interview on Jan. 24 that year to conceal conversations during the presidential transition with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador to the United States. The conversations related to securing potential relief from U.S. sanctions once Trump took office.

washington post logoWashington Post, ICE transferred detainees so it could also deploy agents to D.C. protests, Antonio Olivo and Nick Miroff, Sept. 11, 2020. After the transfer, dozens of the new arrivals tested positive for the novel coronavirus, fueling an outbreak at the Farmville, Va., immigration jail that infected more than 300 inmates, one of whom died.

us dhs big eagle logo4U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency moved the detainees on “ICE Air” charter flights to avoid overcrowding at detention facilities in Arizona and Florida, a precaution they said was taken because of the pandemic.

chad wolfBut a Department of Homeland Security official with direct knowledge of the operation, and a former ICE official who learned about it from other personnel, said the primary reason for the June 2 transfers was to skirt rules that bar ICE employees from traveling on the charter flights unless detainees are also aboard.

Acting Homeland Secretary Chad Wolf, a former lobbyist whose appointment has been disputed as illegal by critics because he has served more than 10 months in an acting capacity , is shown at left.

The transfers took place over the objections of ICE officials in the Washington field office, according to testimony at a Farmville town council meeting in August, and at a time when immigration jails elsewhere in the country had plenty of beds available because of a dramatic decrease in border crossings and in-country arrests.

djt meltdown chyron cnn april 13 2020 Custom

 Donald Trump, shown during an angry meltdown at an April 13, 2020 news conference at the White House.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump says he misled on virus to instill calm. But he governs with scare tactics, Philip Rucker, Sept. 11, 2020 (print ed.).  Throughout his five years on the national political stage, Trump has used fear to acquire and keep power. Scare tactics are the hammer and screwdriver of his tool kit.

washington post logodavid ignatiusWashington Post, Opinion: Bob Woodward gave Trump every chance to prove himself, David Ignatius, right, Sept. 11, 2020 (print ed.).It’s a testimony to Donald Trump’s measureless ego that he thought he could charm Bob Woodward (and his tape recorder) into producing a positive book about his presidency. But you know that’s not how it’s going to turn out.

bob woodward rage“If I have a fair book, it’s going to be a great book,” Trump enthuses. Woodward gives Trump every chance to make his case during the 18 on-the-record interviews he conducted for “Rage,” his latest mega-blockbuster. He gives Trump credit for matters large and small. He coaxes, teases, almost pleads with Trump to say the right thing. In the end, Trump is damned by his own words.

Trump confirms the worst charges made by his critics, on tape: “I always wanted to play it down,” he says of the coronavirus pandemic that has now cost nearly 200,000 lives. Talking about the military, the president says he would never call them stupid, and then calls them “stupid,” and says “we’re suckers” for funding allies’ defense.

washington post logoWashington Post, GOP worries as Trump campaign pulls back from TV ads to save cash, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey, Sept. 11, 2020 (print ed.). Republican officials have been inundated with calls from activists and donors complaining about constant ads for Joe Biden in their local markets, with very few paid responses for President Trump, according to people familiar with the conversations.

More On U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

Hartford Courant, Nora Dannehy, Connecticut prosecutor who was top aide to John Durham’s Trump-Russia investigation, resigns amid concern about pressure from Attorney General William Barr, Edmund H. Mahony, Sept. 11, 2020. Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, a top aide to U.S. Attorney John H. Durham in his Russia investigation, has quietly resigned -- at least partly out of concern that the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done, colleagues said.

nora dannehy doj photoDannehy, right, a highly regarded prosecutor who has worked with or for Durham for decades, informed colleagues in the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Haven of her resignation from the Department of Justice by email Thursday evening. The short email was a brief farewell message and said nothing about political pressure, her work for Durham or what the Durham team has produced, according to people who received it.

Durham, who has never even acknowledged that Dannehy was in Washington working for him, had no immediate comment on the resignation. (Related news below in U.S. Law, Crime Courts section.).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Trump’s Coronavirus Response Was Beyond Incompetent, Paul Krugman, right, Sept. 11, 2020 (print ed.). He wasn’t oblivious to the paul krugmandanger. He just didn’t care.

Until this week I thought that Donald Trump’s disastrous mishandling of Covid-19 was basically negligence, even if that negligence was willful — that is, that he failed to understand the gravity of the threat because he didn’t want to hear about it and refused to take actions that could have saved thousands of American lives because actually doing effective policy isn’t his kind of thing.

But I was wrong. According to Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, Trump wasn’t oblivious; he knew by early February that Covid-19 was both deadly and airborne. And this isn’t a case of conflicting recollections: Woodward has Trump on tape. Yet T

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Commentary: Covid death count deniers are also Holocaust deniers, Wayne Madsen, left, Sept. 11, 2020. The far-right rarely deviates wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallfrom their usual playbooks. Donald Trump recently re-tweeted two Twitter postings that claimed only a "minuscule" number of Americans have died from Covid-19, not the nearly 200,000 who have actually succumbed to the highly-contagious pathogen.

The source for Trump's medical genocide denial is "Gateway Pundit," a White House-credentialed website that traffics in bogus click-bait items masquerading as legitimate news stories.

washington post logoWashington Post, High numbers of Los Angeles patients complained about coughs as early as December, study says, Ben Guarino, Sept. 11, 2020 (print ed.). The number of patients complaining of coughs and respiratory illnesses surged at a sprawling Los Angeles medical system from late December through February, raising questions about whether the novel coronavirus was spreading earlier than thought, according to a study of electronic medical records.

The authors of the report, published Thursday in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, suggested that coronavirus infections may have caused this rise weeks before U.S. officials began warning the public about an outbreak. But the researchers cautioned that the results cannot prove that the pathogen reached California so soon, and other disease trackers expressed skepticism that the findings signaled an early arrival.

washington post logoWashington Post, Ruling blocks thousands of felons in Fla. who still owe fines from registering to vote, Lori Rozsa, Sept. 11, 2020.  The decision from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has possible implications for the presidential election, as the deadline to register to vote in this swing state is Oct. 5.

A federal appeals court on Friday blocked hundreds of thousands of felons in Florida who still owe fines and fees from registering to vote, putting a halt to what was potentially the nation’s largest re-enfranchisement of voters in more than 50 years.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta agreed with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) that the payment of fines and fees by ex-felons is part of their “terms of sentence” and must be satisfied before they can register.

The decision comes less than a month before the presidential swing state’s Oct. 5 deadline to register to vote for November’s general election.

“This is a deeply disappointing decision,” said Paul Smith, vice president at the Campaign Legal Center. Smith’s group and others sued DeSantis after he signed a law that put the payment conditions on a widely supported state constitutional amendment. In 2018, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed an amendment that allowed felons to register to vote, overturning decades of practice in which felons had to petition the governor to have their rights restored.

“Nobody should ever be denied their constitutional rights because they can’t afford to pay fines and fees,” Smith said.

U.S. Law, Crime, Courts

nora dannehy doj photoHartford Courant, Nora Dannehy, Connecticut prosecutor who was top aide to John Durham’s Trump-Russia investigation, resigns amid concern about pressure from Attorney General William Barr, Edmund H. Mahony, Sept. 11, 2020. Continued from above. Federal prosecutor Nora Dannehy, right, a top aide to U.S. Attorney John H. Durham in his Russia investigation, has quietly resigned -- at least partly out of concern that the investigative team is being pressed for political reasons to produce a report before its work is done, colleagues said.

Durham recruited Dannehy to join his team after he was appointed by Attorney General William Barr more than a year and a half ago to examine the the FBI’s legal justification for a disputed counterintelligence investigation that looked for ties between President Donald J. Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russian efforts to meddle in the election.

Dannehy is a career prosecutor who worked closely with Durham before leaving the U.S. Attorney’s office about a decade ago for a corporate position in the defense industry. Durham persuaded her to return to the justice department and, within weeks, join his team in Washington in the spring of 2019.

Colleagues said Dannehy is not a supporter of President Donald J. Trump and has been concerned in recent weeks by what she believed was pressure from Barr - who appointed Durham - to produce results before the election. They said she has been considering resignation for weeks, conflicted by loyalty to Durham and concern about politics.

john durhamDurham, left, is notoriously circumspect and neither he nor members of his team have revealed anything about the direction of their work. But Durham associates, none of whom have specific knowledge of the investigation, have said recently that it is their belief he is under pressure to produce something - perhaps some sort of report - before the presidential election in November.

The thinking of the associates, all Durham allies, is that the Russia investigation group will be disbanded and its work lost if Trump loses.

Dannehy was told to expect an assignment of from six months to a year when she agreed to join Durham’s team in Washington, colleagues said. The work has taken far longer than expected, in part because of complications caused by the corona virus pandemic. In the meantime, team members - some of whom are current or former federal investigators or prosecutors with homes in Connecticut - have been working long hours in Washington under pressure to produce results, associates said.

As a assistant U.S. Attorney in Connecticut, Dannehy was known for building complex corruption cases against high-profile politicians. Among others, she convicted former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland and former state Treasurer Paul Silvester. In 2008, she was assigned to Washington to investigate whether prosecutors in the President George W. Bush justice department had been fired for political reasons.

The Durham investigation produced its first public result in August with the arrest or former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith, who is accused of doctoring email from the CIA about a former Trump campaign adviser who was a target of secret FBI surveillance, according to documents filed in Washington’s federal court.

The altered memo concerned former low level Trump campaign volunteer Carter Page, who years earlier had agreed to act as a source for the CIA and provide information to the agency about Russians he met in the course of business. The CIA wrote in the memo to the FBI that Page was a source. Clinesmith altered the memo to say that he was not, a change that arguably allowed the FBI to extend a wiretap order that it had for Page.

Trump and his supporters have pointed to the Clinesmith arrest and conviction as evidence for the President’s contention that political opponents - including top figures in the FBI and intelligence services - have been trying to hamstring his presidency or force him from office with contrived claims that he or members of his campaign colluded with Russia to win the election.

william barr new oBarr, left, has dropped hints in public that Durham’s investigation will produce something more significant - before the election - than the arrest of Clinesmith, who was charged with making a false statement.

Critics of the administration have accused it of trying to manipulate the Durham investigation to shore up the President’s poll numbers.

Ed Mahony has covered Connecticut for more than three decades, mostly for the Hartford Courant. Over the last decade, he has covered some of the country’s biggest political and mob trials. He is the recipient of numerous journalistic awards, including the Pulitzer Prize and the George Polk award, which he has won twice.

Related stories below:

ny times logoNew York Times, Top Aide in Review of Russia Inquiry Resigns From Justice Dept., Charlie Savage, Katie Benner, Adam Goldman and Neil Vigdor, Sept. 11, 2020. The resignation came amid increasing expectations that the department may disclose partial results from the review before it is completed but ahead of the presidential election.

A top aide to the criminal prosecutor whom Attorney General William P. Barr assigned to scrutinize the Trump-Russia investigation has resigned unexpectedly from the Justice Department, a spokesman said Friday.

It was not immediately clear why the official, Nora R. Dannehy — a trusted assistant to John H. Durham, the prosecutor leading the investigation and the U.S. attorney in Connecticut — stepped down.

But The Hartford Courant, which first reported her departure, cited unidentified colleagues in Mr. Durham’s office as saying that she had expressed concerns in recent weeks about pressure from Mr. Barr to deliver results ahead of the presidential election in November.

Ms. Dannehy did not respond to a voice mail message seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Mr. Barr, Kerri Kupec, referred questions to Mr. Durham’s office in Connecticut. His spokesman, Thomas Carson, said: “We can confirm that Nora Dannehy has left the Department of Justice. No further comment from us.”

Palmer Report, Opinion: Bill Barr’s Durham stunt unravels as key prosecutor resigns, Bill Palmer, Sept. 11, 2020. For months, Donald Trump’s fans have been john durham o portrait 2 croppedhanging their fading election hopes on the notion that U.S Attorney John Durha, right, is going to take action against the people who investigated Trump’s crimes, and that this turn of events is somehow magically going to hand the election to Trump. This was never likely to go anywhere, and it’s now unraveling.

bill palmer report logo headerIt turns out Donald Trump and Bill Barr have been putting so much inappropriate pressure on Durham’s team, Durham’s top aide Nora Dannehy has resigned in protest, according to the Hartford Courant newspaper. Some folks will insist that this means Trump and Barr are now winning, because someone resigned. But the entire point of Barr’s scheme was to try to get Durham’s team to put their names on false accusations against Trump’s adversaries, not to push Durham’s team out the door.

This has to be taken as a sign that Bill Barr’s Durham stunt is unraveling. We still don’t know for certain what John Durham will do in the end. But since there’s no “there” there, we don’t expect Durham to announce anything beneficial to Donald Trump before the election. We do expect that Barr will flat-out lie and claim that Durham did find something when he didn’t. But we don’t expect that to have any impact, because no one outside Trump’s existing base will believe it or care.

washington post logoWashington Post, Prosecutor resigns from U.S. attorney’s investigation into origins of Trump-Russia probe, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 11, 2020. Nora Dannehy’s departure is likely to raise questions among Democrats about whether Attorney General William P. Barr is pushing the case in a way to benefit President Trump

George Floyd, left, and Derek Chauvin

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-officers charged in George Floyd killing blame each other, Holly Bailey, Sept. 11, 2020 (print ed.). The four former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd's killing appear to be turning on each other, with each offering significantly different versions of the infamous arrest that acknowledge Floyd should not have been allowed to die that day but also deflect the blame to others.

The four men have said in court documents that they all thought someone else was in charge of the scene on May 25 — with rookie officers arguing they were deferring to a veteran, and the veteran saying he was simply assisting in an arrest that was in progress.

derek chauvin mug CustomAll have said in court documents that the relationship between the veteran officer — Derek Chauvin, left, — and the others is at the heart of the issue, as each officer perceived their role, and who was in charge, quite differently. Chauvin was the officer shown with his knee on Floyd’s neck as he struggled to breathe in videos of the ill-fated arrest.

washington post logoWashington Post, Analysis: Trump goes all in on mixing ‘protesters’ and ‘criminals,’ Philip Bump, Sept. 11, 2020 (print ed.). Two videos shared by the president and his campaign lean heavily on an increasingly common conflation, blending Joe Biden’s stated support for peaceful protests with scenes of turmoil, violence and vandalism.

A pair of videos shared by the campaign and the president on Thursday offer a preview of coming attractions: rampant violence and danger under a djt pence yard sign logoprospective Joe Biden presidency. And each leans heavily on an increasingly common conflation, blending the former vice president’s stated support for peaceful protests with scenes of turmoil, violence and vandalism.

Even simply considered on their own merits, each of the ads is a bit odd.

One shared by the president’s social media team concludes by juxtaposing an image of Biden kneeling in front of a group of Black men with a call to “stop Joe Biden and his rioters.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Court blocks Trump’s order to exclude undocumented immigrants from census count, Tara Bahrampour, Sept. 11, 2020 (print ed.). A three-judge panel out of New York ruled that the Census requires a count of every person residing in the United States and the president’s memorandum would violate a statute governing apportionment.

Palmer Report, Opinion: Now that he’s been nailed, Rudy Giuliani WANTS us to believe he’s senile, Bill Palmer, Sept. 11, 2020. For a few years now, it’s been clear that Rudy Giuliani is suffering from some sort of cognitive decline. His television interviews and public appearances have been increasingly erratic and clueless. Even the criminal schemes he’s gotten involved in, such as the Ukraine plot to frame Joe Biden, have been completely incoherent to the point of almost being pitiable.

Now Rudy Giuliani has finally been nailed, so to speak. He’s been caught conspiring against the United States with a Russian agent named Andriy Derkach, whose criminal antics are so severe that even Donald Trump’s federal government is now sanctioning him. This suggests that as soon as Trump is gone from office, the DOJ will indict Rudy for his participation in Derkach’s crimes. Rudy was already likely facing charges for his Ukraine conspiracy against Biden, but this should seal it.

So now Rudy Giuliani is trying to lay the groundwork for his defense at his eventual criminal trial, by essentially making the case that he’s too senile to have known that he was conspiring with a Kremlin agent. Rudy said this: “I have no reason to believe he is a Russian agent. There is nothing I saw that said he was a Russian agent. There is nothing he gave me that seemed to come from Russia at all. How the hell would I know?”

That’s right, Rudy is going for the “How the hell would I know?” defense. He’s arguing that, sure, he conspired with a Russian agent against the United States – but that he didn’t know the person he was conspiring with was a Russian agent. Fine. Save it for the jury, Rudy.

Sept. 8

ny times logoNew York Times, Justice Dept. Intervenes to Help Trump in E. Jean Carroll Lawsuit, Alan Feuer, Sept. 8, 2020. Government lawyers sought to take over President Trump’s defense in a defamation suit from Ms. Carroll, who said he raped her in the 1990s.

e jean carrollE. Jean Carroll, a writer shown at left and below right in a file photo from earlier in her career, sued President Trump last November, claiming that he lied by publicly denying he had ever met her. The Justice Department moved on Tuesday to replace President Trump’s private legal team with government lawyers to defend him against a defamation lawsuit by the author E. Jean Carroll, who has accused him of raping her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.

In a highly unusual legal move, lawyers for the Justice Department said in court papers that Mr. Trump was acting in his official capacity as president when he denied ever knowing Ms. Carroll and thus could be defended by government lawyers — in effect underwritten by taxpayer money.

e jean carroll twitterThough the law gives employees of the federal government immunity from most defamation lawsuits, legal experts said it has rarely, if ever, been used before to protect a president, especially for actions taken before he entered office.

“The question is,” said Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, “is it really within the scope of the law for government lawyers to defend someone accused of lying about a rape when he wasn’t even president yet?” Related story below.

The motion also effectively protects Mr. Trump from any embarrassing disclosures in the middle of his campaign for re-election. A state judge issued a ruling last month that potentially opened the door to Mr. Trump being deposed in the case before the election in November, and Ms. Carroll’s lawyers have also requested that he provide a DNA sample to determine whether his genetic material is on a dress that Ms. Carroll said she was wearing at the time of the encounter.

Ms. Carroll’s lawyer said in a statement issued Tuesday evening that the Justice Department’s move to intervene in the case was a “shocking” attempt to bring the resources of the United States government to bear on a private legal matter.

  donald trump ny daily pussy

New allegations echo Trump's words in "Hollywood Access" videotape, reported upon above, that arose during the 2016 presidential campaign. Then and Now: The front page of a 2016 New York Daily News edition contrasts with President Trump's claimed innocence.

washington post logoWashington Post, Justice Dept. moves to take over defamation case against Trump, Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 8, 2020. Justice Dept. moves to take over defamation case against Trump, Matt Zapotosky, Sept. 8, 2020. The Justice Department sought to move the matter to federal court and signaled it wants to make the U.S. government — rather than President Trump himself — the defendant in the case brought by E. Jean Carroll, right, who has accused Trump of raping her.

e jean carroll headshotJustice Department log circularThe Justice Department on Tuesday intervened in the defamation lawsuit brought by a woman who says President Trump raped her years ago, moving the matter to federal court and signaling it wants to make the U.S. government — rather than Trump himself — the defendant in the case.

In filings in federal court in Manhattan, the Justice Department asserted that Trump was “acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States” when he denied during interviews in 2019 that he had raped journalist E. Jean Carroll more than two decades ago in a New York City department store. Carroll sued Trump over that denial in November.

The maneuver removes the case — at least for now — from state court in New York, where a judge last month had rejected Trump’s bid for a delay and put e jean carroll cover new york magazineCarroll’s team back on course to seek a DNA sample and an under-oath interview from the president. It also means that Justice Department lawyers will be essentially aiding Trump’s defense, and taxpayers could be on the hook for any potential damages, if the U.S. government is allowed to stand in for Trump. Winning damages against the government, though, would be more unlikely than in donald trump monster abananapeeledcom dcmaa suit against Trump, as the notion of “sovereign immunity” gives the government and its employees broad protection from lawsuits.

In a statement, Roberta Kaplan, Carroll’s lawyer, blasted the department’s filing. She noted that because a New York state court had rejected Trump’s bid for a delay, he was “soon going to be required to produce documents, provide a DNA sample, and sit for a deposition.”

“Realizing that there was no valid basis to appeal that decision in the New York courts, on the very day that he would have been required to appeal, Trump instead enlisted the U.S. Department of Justice to replace his private lawyers and argue that when he lied about sexually assaulting our client, explaining that she ‘wasn’t his type,’ he was acting in his official capacity as President of the United States,” Kaplan said.

Carroll said in a statement that the Justice Department’s actions “demonstrate that Trump will do everything possible, including using the full powers of the federal government, to block discovery from going forward in my case before the upcoming election to try to prevent a jury from ever deciding which one of us is lying.”

“But Trump underestimates me, and he also has underestimated the American people,” Carroll said.

Probes Of Trump, Family

Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Investigation: Donald, Donald Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and Ivana Trump bear all the markings of a Warsaw Pact wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallintelligence sleeper family, Wayne Madsen, left,Sept. 8, 2020. "The Americans," a highly acclaimed FX television series, was a fictionalized account of a married couple and their two children living in Falls Church, Virginia during the Cold War years of the 1980s.

But the suburban Washington family, Philip and Elizabeth Jennings and their two children, Paige and Henry, were no ordinary family. The four were Soviet KGB sleeper agents, whose mission was to penetrate the highest circles of the U.S. government.

wayne madesen report logoEspionage tradecraft during and after the Cold War included the placement of such "sleepers" in targeted nations. There is a growing realization that the Trump family may be a real life version of the fictional Jennings family on TV.

WMR's recently-published analysis of declassified Eastern European intelligence files — The Axis Reconstituted: An Analysis of Neo-Fascism — provide details that, as early as 1976, Donald Trump was targeted by the KGB and Czechoslovak State Security (Státní bezpečnost-StB) as a sleeper agent. StB and KGB files show that both intelligence agencies had placed a great deal of stock in Trump and his StB informant wife, Ivana Zelníčková, cozying up to various U.S. presidential candidates.

In his new book, Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump, Peter Strzok, former Assistant Director of the FBI for Counterintelligence, states that it was his belief when running the bureau's operation CROSSFIRE HURRICANE -- the investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign, that Trump is an espionage threat to the United States.

WMR's own analysis of declassified StB; KGB; and East German Ministry of State Security (Stasi) and East German foreign intelligence, Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (HVA)(Main Reconnaissance Administration) files agrees with Strzok's contention.

djt michael cohen disloyal

Palmer Report, Opinion: Michael Cohen just destroyed Donald Trump, Bill Palmer, right, Sept. 8, 2020. Donald Trump is facing a list of crises a mile long. His 2020 bill palmercampaign is by all accounts flat broke, and he’s talking about putting $100 million of his own cash into the campaign – but we all know the debt-laden Trump doesn’t have $100 million cash. And of course if Trump loses the election he goes to prison.

So where is Trump’s focus right now? It’s certainly not on winning. Instead he’s focused on trying to spin up a conspiracy theory involving his former fixer Michael Cohen and, bizarrely, CNN host Chris Cuomo. Trump has even decided that Cohen is now Cuomo’s lawyer.

Trump posted this tweet today, complete with an ethnic slur against Italians: “Fredo’s got a convicted lier for a lawyer, who may be going bill palmer report logo headerback to jail for an even longer time – additional lies to Congress. Many more tapes of him with Fredo and other media scum reporters. Reveals how deranged & sick they all are!”

That’s right, Donald Trump just vowed to put Michael Cohen back in prison. This tweet alone represents felony obstruction of justice on Trump’s part. But to give you an idea of how little Cohen is worried right now, he replied to Trump’s tweet and simply pointed out that Trump spelled “liar” incorrectly. We’re giving the win to Michael Cohen, on the day of his book launch no less.

Sept. 1

U.S. Law, Courts, Trump Taxes

washington post logoWashington Post, Court temporarily blocks enforcement of subpoena for Trump’s tax records, Shayna Jacobs, Sept. 1, 2020. A federal appeals court on Tuesday blocked the release of President Trump's tax returns and other financial records to the Manhattan District Attorney's Office — a temporary win for the president in his protracted battle to keep the local prosecutor's office from obtaining the trove of documents in conjunction with an ongoing criminal probe.

irs logoThe ruling came as one judge on the three-member panel pressed the district attorney's team about the scope of its grand jury probe, saying the request seems "really very broad" as the president's lawyers have argued.

Judge John Walker Jr., one of three justices hearing arguments at the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals over whether to prevent the subpoena from being enforced while further litigation in the case continues, asked a lawyer for the district attorney’s office how one would determine whether its request for Trump’s records is, in fact, “very broad and might engage in some fishing.”

“It seems to me it’s really very broad when you’re asking for activities in New York, Dubai and so forth,” the judge said.

cyrus vance jrCarey Dunne, general counsel for Cyrus Vance Jr., right, said the district attorney’s grand jury investigation of Trump’s business activities is secret and should remain so, but suggested it was common for Vance’s team to make such wide-reaching requests.

“There’s nothing unusual about an office like ours asking for information about out-of-state or foreign transactions,” Dunne told the panel, noting that many major banks and financial institutions are located in New York. “The company at the center has headquarters in Manhattan; that’s why we have jurisdiction,” he added, apparently referring to the Trump Organization.

Trump's appeal will be resolved relatively quickly, with arguments set for Sept. 25, according to Tuesday's order. The stay is active pending the outcome of that hearing and written briefs that will be filed in advance.

Vance’s office is investigating hush-money payments made ahead of the 2016 election to two women who alleged having affairs with Trump several years ago, claims the president has denied. The district attorney’s team, buoyed by the Supreme Court’s July ruling rejecting Trump’s initial argument for seeking to shield his financial records, has suggested it is also looking at potential bank and insurance fraud related to Trump’s company.

Trump first sought to have Vance’s subpoena tossed on the grounds that, as president, he had immunity from such investigations — an argument the Supreme Court shot down in a major decision earlier this summer. The high court’s ruling, however, invited Trump to challenge the formal request for records on other grounds.

His legal team’s new position is that Vance’s request amounts to politically motivated harassment and reaches too far, rendering it legally invalid. In arguments Tuesday morning, the president’s lawyer William Consovoy said “irreparable harm” for Trump would result should the subpoena be enforced before the case is fully litigated and the appeals process is exhausted.

The case landed before the appeals court in August, after another judge once again ruled in favor of Vance. U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero said that the law presumes subpoenas are issued for a valid purpose, unless proved otherwise. “Justice,” Marrero wrote, “requires an end to this controversy.”

August

Aug. 31

nancy pelosi djt 2 older

washington post logoWashington Post, Court dismisses House lawsuit seeking to enforce Donald McGahn subpoena, Spencer S. Hsu and Ann E. Marimow, Aug. 31, 2020. A federal appeals court dismissed a House lawsuit Monday seeking to force President Trump’s former White House counsel Donald McGahn to comply with a congressional subpoena, saying that Congress has not passed a law expressly U.S. House logoauthorizing it to sue to enforce its subpoenas.

The divided 2-to-1 ruling dealt a blow to congressional oversight powers and came three weeks after the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit affirmed that Congress had standing to sue — that is, it had shown that the Trump administration’s refusal to allow McGahn to testify harmed the House’s long-standing right to compel testimony from government officials.

The full panel’s ruling returned the case to a three-judge panel of the court to consider other challenges in a historic clash between the branches of government.

In Monday’s opinion, two judges said that despite the injury to Congress, there was no statute by which it could seek a remedy, ending the case.

“This decision does not preclude Congress (or one of its chambers) from ever enforcing a subpoena in federal court; it simply precludes it from doing so without first enacting a statute authorizing such a suit,” wrote Judge Thomas Griffith for the majority, who was joined by Judge Karen Henderson.

djt impeachment graphicJudge Judith Rogers dissented, saying the Supreme Court has found that Congress’s investigative power includes the authority to compel testimony and enforce a subpoena in federal court.

Congressional power, she wrote, includes “not only a right to information but also a right to seek judicial enforcement of its subpoena.” The Supreme Court has long “held that each House has power to secure needed information” through its constitutional “power of inquiry,” Rogers said. The power is an implicit guarantee of access to the courts for enforcement in addition to the usual ability of parties to seek declaratory court judgments in matters of controversy.

Rogers also rejected McGahn’s contention that he is entitled to “absolute immunity,” a claim the majority did not reach before tossing the case.

“The President does not have absolute, unreviewable discretion to determine what information will be disclosed in response to a subpoena,” Rogers wrote. “Yet that is exactly the nature of McGahn’s dan mcgahn djtabsolute immunity claim. By asserting that he need not even appear in response to the Committee’s duly issued subpoena, he in essence contends that the President may unilaterally determine that no information will be disclosed in response to the subpoena.”

The decision marked the second time a circuit court panel has voided a House subpoena issued last year to McGahn (shown at right) for his testimony regarding the Trump administration’s alleged obstruction of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.

Monday’s ruling also may not be the final word.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, shown at top, announced plans to seek immediate review by the full D.C. Circuit.

“If allowed to stand, this wrong-headed Court of Appeals panel ruling threatens to strike a grave blow to one of the most fundamental Constitutional roles of the Congress: to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people, including by issuing our lawful and legitimate subpoenas,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The ruling represents a flawed judicial attack on the entire House of Representatives; in the past, both Republicans and Democrats have successfully sought to enforce House subpoenas in court.”

us dc federal courthouse Small

washington post logoWashington Post, Flynn case does not have to be immediately dismissed, court rules, Ann E. Marimow, Aug. 31, 2020. The decision means a judge can scrutinize the Justice Department’s request to drop the politically charged case against President Trump’s former national security adviser.

Michael Flynn Harvard 2014A federal judge can scrutinize the Justice Department’s decision to drop the criminal case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, right, a federal appeals court in Washington ruled Monday, allowing the legal saga to continue.

emmet sullivan 2012The divided decision from the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit gives U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan (left, a Republican nominee based in the courthouse shown above), the go ahead to question prosecutors’ unusual move to dismiss Flynn’s case ahead of sentencing.

The retired general twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his Russian contacts before Trump took office in 2017.

In an 8-to-2 ruling, the court denied Flynn’s request, backed by the Justice Department, to shutdown Sullivan’s planned review and appointment of a retired federal judge to argue against the government’s position. [Editor's note: the only judges that ruled to dismiss, both Republicans, were the same two that ruled to dismiss in the earlier case.]

Aug. 30

ny times logoNew York Times, Investigation: Justice Dept. Never Fully Examined Trump’s Ties to Russia, Ex-Officials Say, Michael S. Schmidt, Aug. 30, 2020. The former deputy attorney general maneuvered to keep investigators from completing an inquiry into whether the president’s personal and financial links to Russia posed a national security threat. President Trump has long called investigations into his 2016 campaign’s ties with Russia a “hoax.”

robert mueller full face fileThe Justice Department secretly took steps in 2017 to narrow the investigation into Russian election interference and any links to the Trump campaign, according to former law enforcement officials, keeping investigators from completing an examination of President Trump’s decades-long personal and business ties to Russia.

The special counsel who finished the investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, right, secured three dozen indictments and convictions of some top Trump advisers, and he produced a report that outlined Russia’s wide-ranging operations to help get Mr. Trump elected and the president’s efforts to impede the inquiry.

Justice Department log circularBut law enforcement officials never fully investigated Mr. Trump’s own relationship with Russia, even though some career F.B.I. counterintelligence investigators thought his ties posed such a national security threat that they took the extraordinary step of opening an inquiry into them. Within days, the former deputy attorney general Rod J. Rosenstein, below at right, curtailed the investigation without telling the bureau, all but ensuring it would go nowhere.

Rod Rosenstein Deputyty Atttorney GeneralA bipartisan report by the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee released this month came the closest to an examination of the president’s links to Russia.

Senators depicted extensive ties between Trump associates and Russia, identified a close associate of a former Trump campaign chairman as a Russian intelligence officer and outlined how allegations about Mr. Trump’s encounters with women during trips to Moscow could be used to compromise him. But the senators acknowledged they lacked access to the full picture, particularly any insight into Mr. Trump’s finances.

Now, as Mr. Trump seeks re-election, major questions about his approach to Russia remain unanswered. He has repeatedly shown an openness to Russia, an adversary that attacked American democracy in 2016, and refused to criticize or challenge the Kremlin’s increasing aggressions toward the West. The president has also rejected the intelligence community’s finding that Russia interfered in 2016 to bolster his candidacy and the spy agencies’ assessment that Russia is trying to sabotage this year’s election again on his behalf.

Mr. Rosenstein concluded the F.B.I. lacked sufficient reason to conduct an investigation into the president’s links to a foreign adversary. Mr. Rosenstein determined that the investigators were acting too hastily in response to the firing days earlier of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, and he suspected that the acting bureau director who approved the opening of the inquiry, Andrew G. McCabe, had conflicts of interest.

djt impeachment graphicMr. Rosenstein never told Mr. McCabe about his decision, leaving the F.B.I. with the impression that the special counsel would take on the investigation into the president as part of his broader duties. Mr. McCabe said in an interview that had he known Mr. Mueller would not continue the inquiry, he would have had the F.B.I. perform it.

“We opened this case in May 2017 because we had information that indicated a national security threat might exist, specifically a counterintelligence threat involving the president and Russia,” Mr. McCabe said. “I expected that issue and issues related to it would be fully examined by the special counsel team. If a decision was made not to investigate those issues, I am surprised and disappointed. I was not aware of that.”

The disclosure about the counterintelligence investigation is based on interviews with former Justice Department and F.B.I. officials.

Aug. 9

Substack, Personal Opinion: The Spies Who Hijacked America, Steven P. Schrage, Ph.D., shown at right, as told to Matt Taibbi, Aug. 9, 2020. As a doctoral candidate at Cambridge steven schrage harvardworking under "FBI Informant" Stefan Halper, I had a front-row seat for Russiagate

Global scandals now labeled Russiagate, Spygate, and what President Trump calls “Obamagate” shook the political world, but hit me closer to home. I’m the reason the so-called FBI “spy” at the center of Spygate, Stefan Halper, met Carter Page, the alleged “Russian Asset” in Russiagate’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation.

On May 19, 2018, this realization blindsided me in London as I was about to fly out for my wedding. The New York Times, NBC News and other sources had outed my Ph.D. supervisor, Stefan Halper, as a spy known to the UK’s MI6 intelligence service as “The Walrus.”

It didn’t seem real. Could a former professor I once trusted as a mentor have betrayed his word, profession, and country to start these disasters? I had moved to England to pursue an academic career and leave DC’s politics behind, only to have my Ph.D. supervisor throw me back into the most outrageous political firestorms I could imagine. Just my luck. Then an even worse question began nagging at me. Did I unintentionally light the match that started it all?

As I started to piece together what happened over the next few months, I realized something. The stories that The New York Times, Washington Post,and others were pushing didn’t add up. Many seemed planted to cover up or advance the agendas of several individuals whose tentacles secretly ran through these scandals, and who each had longstanding ties to intelligence services like the FBI, CIA, and MI6. I call these individuals the Cambridge Four.

Strangely, all four were linked through that sleepy British academic town thousands of miles from the alleged “ground zeroes” of Russiagate’s conspiracies, Moscow and DC. In addition to the central “Spygate” figure Halper, they include the central source of “Russiagate’s” fake conspiracy theories, Christopher Steele; former MI6 Director Sir Richard Dearlove; and Halper’s and Dearlove’s partner in a Cambridge Intelligence Seminar linked to titillating — but false — tales of a “Russian spy” seducing Trump’s top national security advisor. My years of work with Halper provided an inside view of how their four networks interconnected.

The more I dug up new pieces of this puzzle, the more I saw how these individuals’ seemingly separate acts might fit together in an absurd picture of how these scandals really started.

Armed with first-hand knowledge and evidence, I quietly sought to help federal investigators uncover these scandals’ mysteries. It wasn’t my first rodeo. After witnessing the plane that hit the Pentagon on 9/11, I led G8 and State Department international crime and terrorism efforts with Department of Justice (DOJ), FBI, and intelligence officials and had worked for decades in White House, Congressional, and presidential campaign roles.

This helped me keep a stiff upper lip when I was falsely accused in 2019 by the House Intelligence Committee’s Ranking Republican and others on television as being part of a secret anti-Trump cabal. As much as I wanted to defend myself, I knew our best shot of exposing the real forces behind these scandals was for me to remain publicly silent and not let those under investigation know what I knew or was willing to say.

Yet a few weeks ago, I asked to speak to the DOJ lead investigator John Durham to give his team a heads up. I would continue to offer help, but my time for waiting for government to act was over. Recently, I had discovered and flagged for Durham disturbing recordings. One involved one of the Cambridge Four, Halper, and raised michael flynn arms foldedserious questions about the origins of what has been called the “kill shot” against Trump’s first national security advisor, General Michael Flynn, shown at left.

On January 12, 2017 a felony leak about phone calls between the Russian Ambassador and General Flynn was published by The Washington Post. This led to Flynn’s downfall and reignited the Trump-Russia investigations still tearing our nation apart. 48 hours before the leak was published, my former supervisor Halper eerily laid out what was about to happen to Flynn, something he had no independent reason to know. Halper described how Flynn’s “so called enemies” would make Flynn “blow up…he’s really fucked.”

The next legal hearing on Flynn’s prosecution is this Tuesday [ABC News, Michael Flynn's criminal case to be reheard by full appeals court]. Yet for four years government officials have withheld key materials and blocked individuals like Halper from testifying about the real genesis of these scandals and the felony leak on Flynn. While I once worked in Republican politics, I know Americans of every affiliation believe citizens deserve a fair trial without the government concealing evidence.

The remaining mysteries of Russiagate are too important to be turned into a game of political football, or buried until after the election when unsubstantiated allegations could be dug up to sabotage Vice President Biden if he is elected president — as I believe was done to President Trump.

Nor should they be used as a cynical, last-minute Republican “October Surprise” to disrupt the election. Nothing excuses foreign meddling in U.S. elections. Yet it is hypocritical and absurd to use that as an excuse to hide abuses by U.S. intelligence, law enforcement, and political officials against our own citizens.

I know the consequences of my speaking out. America is now in a political “UnCivil War” where individuals—even at outlets like The New York Times and Washington Post that profess objective journalism—are personally attacked if their facts don’t fit entrenched narratives.

Key politicians and intelligence figures would like the facts surrounding Russiagate’s origins classified and buried for decades, as with past U.S./MI6 intelligence scandals. I can’t let that happen. After all, I inadvertently helped jump-start it. Even if this story is hidden now, it will ultimately impact Trump, Biden, the 2020 election, and our country for years.

There is far too much to tell in a single article. In the next several weeks I plan to reveal what I know, including: the comedy of errors leading to a Cambridge Four member meeting and targeting the FBI’s main surveillance excuse Carter Page; the information given to an FBI source in August 2016 should have immediately ended their investigation alleging Page was a master spy linking top Trump officials to Putin; how a secret anti-Trump source sought one of the world’s most powerful positions that could undermine the president; and how official statements by FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane officials to the DOJ Inspector General were factually inaccurate or wildly inconsistent with other evidence, raising the question of if those officials risked criminal prosecution to conceal their acts.

This is not a position I ever sought. As I worked with government investigators it seemed inconceivable that key facts could be covered up until now. Yet with both Flynn’s hearing and the election approaching, whatever the consequences, everyone impacted deserves to know the truth.

Aug. 6

Just Security, An Open Letter to Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham, Fred Wertheimer (right, founder and president of Democracy 21, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, fred wertheimer democracy 21organization that works to strengthen our democracy, to ensure the integrity of our elections and government decisions and to engage and empower citizens in the political process), Aug. 6, 2020.

Dear U.S. Attorney Durham:

On May 13, 2019, Attorney General William Barr appointed you to review the origins of the 2016 Justice Department investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. At some point, this review turned into a criminal investigation of the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s efforts to undermine our democracy.

The need for your appointment was hard to understand at the time it was made, since the Justice Department’s independent Inspector General was already conducting a similar investigation that began in March 2018 into the same issues. On December 9, 2019, the Inspector General issued his report and concluded that the 2016 Russia investigation had had a legitimate purpose and that there was no evidence of political bias against President Trump in how the investigation had been initiated or undertaken.

We are now in the closing stages of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Longstanding Department policies issued by the past three Attorneys General who served during an election year make plain that Department actions should not be taken in an election year that could influence or affect an election. George J. Terwilliger III, who served as deputy attorney general under Attorney General William Barr in the administration of President George H.W. Bush, said in 2016, “There’s a longstanding policy of not doing anything that could influence an election.”

I strongly urge you to follow this policy and not to issue any report, or bring any indictments, resulting from your investigation in these closing weeks of the 2020 presidential election.

Any public action by the Justice Department in this pre-election period that is associated with your investigation – which by its very nature involves actions taken during the Obama-Biden Administration – is bound to be used by President Trump for partisan political purposes to promote his re-election effort against Vice President Biden.

In testifying during his Senate confirmation hearings, Mr. Barr was asked whether there are “policies in place that try to insulate the investigations and the decisions of the Department of Justice and FBI from getting involved in elections?” Barr said yes and explained that the party in power has “their hands on the levers of the law enforcement apparatus of the country, and you do not want it used against the opposing political party.” But that is precisely what would occur here if a report is issued on your investigation of the Russia investigation or if indictments are brought at this critical stage of the presidential election.

You should not permit your long and distinguished career in the Justice Department to be permanently tainted, or your personal integrity to be irreparably impugned, by what would plainly be an effort to use your investigation to influence or affect the 2020 presidential election.

Obviously, there is no reason for either a report to be issued or criminal indictments to be brought before the presidential election, other than to influence that election. If the conclusion is reached by you or others at the Justice Department that a report on your investigation should be issued, or that criminal indictments are warranted, these actions should be deferred until after the 2020 presidential election.

The Department’s long established non-interference policy is intended to provide the American people credible assurance that the Department is not being misused for partisan political purposes and that DOJ is carrying out its core mission “to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”

This policy is most critical in the middle of a presidential election and has long been spelled out in Department policy positions.

In March 2008, President George W. Bush’s then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey issued a memorandum to Justice Department employees entitled “Election Year Sensitivities.” The Mukasey Memorandum states:

Department of Justice employees are entrusted with the authority to enforce the laws of the United States and with the responsibility to do so in a neutral and impartial manner. This is particularly important in an election year.

The Memorandum further states (emphasis added):

As Department employees . . . we must be particularly sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality and nonpartisanship.

Simply put, politics must play no role in the decisions of federal investigators or prosecutors regarding any investigations or criminal charges. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party.

The same Memorandum was issued in March 2012 by then-Attorney General Eric Holder, a Democratic appointee, and again in April 2016 by then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch, also a Democratic appointee.

This longstanding Justice Department policy against interference in electoral matters, as set forth in the Mukasey, Lynch and Holder memoranda, is intended to prevent the reality or appearance of the Justice Department’s investigative and prosecutorial powers being misused to influence or affect an election. Both Democratic and Republican administrations reportedly have interpreted this policy broadly to cover any steps that might give even the appearance of partisanship in actions or decisions by the Department.

Indeed, in his own memorandum issued in February 2020, Attorney General Barr said that the Department “must be sensitive to safeguarding the Department’s reputation for fairness, neutrality and nonpartisanship.” For this reason, and specifically citing the Mukasey, Lynch and Holder memoranda, Barr said, “the Department has long recognized that it must exercise particular care regarding sensitive investigations and prosecutions that relate to political candidates, campaigns, and other politically sensitive individuals and organizations – especially in an election year.” (emphasis added).

The Department’s policy as set forth in the prior memoranda, and even as described by Barr, is broad, covering not just the filing of indictments of candidates but all “decisions of federal investigators or prosecutors” affecting an election. And the bottom line is clear: “simply put” politics must play “no role” in the Department’s actions.

It is essential that you be guided by this policy in your decisions between now and the November election. There is a growing public belief that Attorney General Barr is intending to release the results of your investigation later this summer or in the early fall, and that indictments may possibly be brought. When asked about this at a House Judiciary Committee hearing last week, the Attorney General did not deny this intent. According to a report in The Washington Post:

Attorney General William P. Barr reiterated this week that he will not wait until after November’s election to release whatever U.S. Attorney John Durham finds in his examination of the FBI’s 2016 investigation into President Trump’s campaign, raising fears among Democrats that Barr and Durham could upend the presidential race with a late revelation.

Any public release of your report in the current closing stage of the presidential election, or any indictments issued during this period as a result of your investigation, clearly will become a major campaign issue and will have political consequences. The longstanding Department policy to avoid such politicization of the Department’s work compels you to prevent this from happening.

If your investigation is not complete, you should not complete it until after the election. If the report is complete, you should publicly oppose any release of your report before the election. The same holds true regarding any indictment made in the closing weeks of the election.

Attorney General Barr was widely criticized, including by a federal judge, for mischaracterizing the findings of Special Counsel Mueller’s report in the period before it was released to the public. You have an obligation to take all possible steps to prevent your investigation from being similarly mischaracterized or misused for partisan political purposes in contravention of the Department’s policy.

As a prominent Department official who has been assigned an investigation of high political sensitivity, with all due respect, your professional reputation and personal integrity are on the line here.

There is no ambiguity about the mandate that “politics must play no role in the decisions of federal investigators or prosecutors regarding any investigations or criminal charges.” There is no ambiguity about the fact that this policy was established to protect the integrity of the Justice Department and the integrity of our elections. There is no ambiguity about the fact that the release of your investigative work in this pre-election period would violate this policy.

I urge you to comply with the Department’s longstanding policy to ensure that the findings of your investigation are not used to affect or influence the 2020 presidential election.

In the event that decisions about issuing a report or bringing criminal indictments are made at higher levels of the Justice Department, you should promptly withdraw your name and publicly disassociate yourself from such actions. It would abandon your own professional duty and responsibility in this matter to allow superiors to direct you to take actions that contravene a Departmental policy designed to protect the integrity of both the Justice Department and the electoral process. Nor should you defer to any implausibly narrow or strained interpretations of the policy that might be made by the Attorney General or others.

I strongly urge you not to participate in, and to disassociate yourself from, any announcement, report release, issuance of indictments, or other public statements or actions prior to the 2020 presidential election relating to the criminal investigation you have been conducting into the origins of the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election or any other related matters in which you are directly involved.

Sincerely,
Fred Wertheimer

ny times logoNew York Times, Trump’s Bank Was Subpoenaed by N.Y. Prosecutors in Criminal Inquiry, David Enrich, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum and Benjamin Weiser, Aug. 6, 2020 (print ed.). The subpoena, sent to Deutsche Bank, suggests that the inquiry into President Trump’s business practices is more wide-ranging than previously known.

The New York prosecutors who are seeking President Trump’s tax records have also subpoenaed his longtime lender, a sign that their criminal investigation into Mr. Trump’s business practices is more wide-ranging than previously known.

deutsche bank logocyrus vance jrThe Manhattan district attorney’s office, led by Cyrus Vance, Jr., left,. issued the subpoena last year to Deutsche Bank, which has been Mr. Trump’s primary lender since the late 1990s, seeking financial records that he and his company provided to the bank, according to four people familiar with the inquiry.

The criminal investigation initially appeared to be focused on hush-money payments made in 2016 to two women who have said they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

But in a court filing this week, prosecutors with the district attorney’s office cited “public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization” and suggested that they were also investigating possible crimes involving bank and insurance fraud.

Deutsche Bank complied with the subpoena. Over a period of months last year, it provided Mr. Vance’s office with detailed records, including financial statements and other materials that Mr. Trump had provided to the bank as he sought loans, according to two of the people familiar with the inquiry.

The bank’s response to the subpoena reinforces the seriousness of the legal threat the district attorney’s investigation poses for Mr. Trump, his family and his company, which in recent years have faced — and for the most part fended off — an onslaught of regulatory, congressional and criminal inquiries.

djt michael cohen

Palmer Report, Opinion: Revealed: New York grand jury has evidence against Donald Trump from Deutsche Bank, Bill Palmer, Aug. 5-6, 2020. When it was first reported that a New York grand jury had subpoenaed Donald Trump’s tax returns, this meant by definition that the prosecutors in the case were targeting Trump for criminal indictment. Grand juries only exist to indict people, and the subpoena was proof that Trump was the target. Palmer Report shouted rather loudly about this fact, but most news outlets missed or ignored it, even as the case played out in front of the Supreme Court.

bill palmer report logo headerThen came a bombshell court filing last week from the Manhattan District Attorney, which confirmed that Donald Trump is indeed being targeted for financial crimes and “protracted criminal conduct.” Now it appears the mainstream media is finally ready to dig into the story and tell us what those crimes are.

For instance, the New York Times is reporting tonight that the New York grand jury didn’t just subpoena Trump’s tax returns from his accounting firm; it also subpoenaed Trump’s bank records from Deutsche Bank. This was to be expected. But here’s the crucial part of the NYT report: Deutsche Bank complied with the subpoena awhile back and turned over deutsche bank logoTrump’s records, “including financial statements and other materials that Mr. Trump had provided to the bank as he sought loans.”

This suggests that New York prosecutors are zeroing in on Donald Trump’s mortgage fraud, which Michael Cohen, above left, alluded to during his public testimony last year. When you throw in the earlier widespread reports about Cohen having cooperated with New York prosecutors, it all starts to come together.

Again, the key takeaway here is that even as the New York grand jury still works its way through the final stages of obtaining Donald Trump’s tax returns from his accounting firm, the grand jury already has Trump’s mortgage papers and other financial records from the shady bank that helped Trump pull off his decades of financial fraud. Now more than ever, it’s abundantly clear that Trump is going to prison if he loses the election – and state charges can’t be pardoned by any President. We’re pleased to see that the mainstream media has finally caught up with Palmer Report on this one.

washington post logoWashington Post, New York attorney general seeks to dissolve NRA in suit accusing gun rights group of wide-ranging fraud and self-dealing, Carol D. Leonnig, Aug. 6, 2020. The chief executive of the National Rifle Association and several top lieutenants engaged in a decades-long pattern of fraud to raid the coffers of the powerful gun rights group for personal gain, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the New York attorney general, draining $64 million from the nonprofit in just three years.

Letitia James 150x150In her lawsuit, Attorney General Letitia James, right, called for the dissolution of the NRA and the removal of CEO Wayne LaPierre from the leadership post he has held for the past 39 years, saying he and others used the group’s funds to finance a luxury lifestyle.

She also asked a New York court to force LaPierre and three key deputies to repay NRA members for the ill-gotten funds and inflated salaries that her investigation found they took.

nra logo CustomJames accused the NRA leaders of flouting state and federal laws and signing off on reports and statements they knew were fraudulent, while diverting millions of dollars away from the NRA’s charitable mission to benefit themselves and their allies.

The attorney general requested that the court bar the four men — LaPierre, general counsel John Frazer, former treasurer Woody Phillips and former chief of staff Josh Powell — from ever serving in a leadership position for a New York charity in the future.

“The NRA’s influence has been so powerful that the organization went unchecked for decades while top executives funneled millions into their own pockets,” James, a Democrat, said in a statement.

ny times logoNew York Times, Book Review: Review: Why the Mueller Investigation Failed, Katie Benner, Aug. 6, 2020 (print ed.). Jeffrey Toobin’s “True Crimes and Misdemeanors” examines the battle over Robert Mueller’s report and how President Trump prevailed.

Thanks to Robert S. Mueller’s Russia investigation, we know that the Kremlin used underhanded tactics to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election, that the Trump campaign tacitly welcomed those efforts and that Trump ultimately attempted to end the Mueller inquiry itself. But in what passes for political discourse today, the report’s damning examples of presidential abuse of power were spun as anti-Trump propaganda. Mueller himself, a once-revered law enforcement official and rock-ribbed Republican, was smeared and diminished by the president’s allies as a left-leaning hack.

jeffrey toobinIn his latest book, True Crimes and Misdemeanors, Jeffrey Toobin seeks to explain why Trump came out basically unscathed, despite the fact that, as he writes, the president “never really pretended to be anything other than what he was — a narcissistic scoundrel.” He rightly argues that the investigation was an utter political failure.

Mueller ran a by-the-book, narrow inquiry and adhered to Justice Department rules that bar comment about ongoing investigations. He provided ample evidence that the president broke the law, but in the end he would not clearly say as much. His equivocation provided the president room to declare that Mueller found “no collusion and no obstruction.” Toobin says that this half-truth and falsehood, respectively, were a rhetorical success because “simplicity rarely loses to complexity in battles in the public square.”

Trump, bound by very little, used his pulpit to misrepresent the investigation as an out-of-control witch hunt and the investigators as partisan liars and leakers. Neither Mueller nor the Justice Department fought back, which Toobin says let Trump publicly define the special counsel’s work.

Toobin’s narrative unfolds like a tragedy. Before and after the tumult of the 2016 election, the Justice Department investigated the Trump campaign for ties to Russia; once in office the president opposed their work. As Trump pressured department officials to protect his associates, Mueller was quietly tapped in May 2017 to serve as special counsel and take over the investigation.

That Trump would eventually undermine Mueller seemed absurd on its face. Their résumés paint them as nearly caricatures of a hero and a villain: Mueller a decorated Vietnam War veteran and devoted civil servant who led the F.B.I. in the aftermath of 9/11; Trump a dishonest businessman and D-list reality show star who once described dodging sexually transmitted diseases as his “personal Vietnam.” Simply presenting them side by side “is to challenge the conventions of journalistic balance,” Toobin writes.

washington post logoWashington Post, Pence calls Chief Justice John Roberts a ‘disappointment to conservatives,’ John Wagner, Aug. 6, 2020. Vice President Pence said in an interview scheduled to be broadcast Thursday that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has been a “disappointment to conservatives,” as he sought to elevate the importance of the high court in the coming presidential election.

mike pence oPence issued his rebuke in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, pointing to recent decisions in which Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2005, has sided with the court’s more liberal justices.

“Look, we have great respect for the institution of the Supreme Court of the United States, but Chief Justice John Roberts has been a disappointment to conservatives,” Pence said. He cited Roberts’s role in upholding the Affordable Care Act and “a spate” of more recent decisions, including one last month in which the court rejected a Nevada church’s request to block the state’s cap on attendees for religious services amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With abortion ruling, Roberts reasserts his role and Supreme Court’s independence

“I think several cases out of the Supreme Court are a reminder of just how important this election is for the future of the Supreme Court,” Pence said. “We remember the issue back in 2016, which I believe loomed large in voters’ decisions between Hillary Clinton and the man who became president of the United States.”

Aug. 5

Newly installed U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak to the White House in a convivial meeting on May 10, 2017. American media were banned but Moscow-controlled media were invited (Tass photo).

Newly installed U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, and Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak to the White House in a convivial meeting on May 10, 2017. American media were banned but Moscow-controlled media were invited (Tass photo).

washington post logoWashington Post, Ex-Justice Dept. official says Flynn secretly ‘neutered’ Obama’s moves on Russia, Devlin Barrett, Aug. 5, 2020. Republican senators called former deputy attorney general Sally Yates to testify about the Russia investigation.

Former deputy attorney general Sally Q. Yates told Congress on Wednesday that President Trump’s incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn in late 2016 had secretly “neutered” Obama administration actions toward Russia, prompting an investigation that consumed the early days of Trump’s presidency.

sally yates oYates,left, has been a target of Trump and many Republicans for her brief oversight of the investigation of Russia’s election interference and possible conspiracy with the Trump campaign four years ago. She testified via video before the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman, Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), has been highly critical of the FBI’s handling of that case.

Trump attacked Yates before the hearing began, tweeting that she “has zero credibility” and declaring her “part of the greatest political crime of the Century, and ObamaBiden knew EVERYTHING!”

Justice Department log circularBarr says he won’t wait until after election to reveal Durham’s findings. Democrats fear a campaign-altering surprise.

Graham’s review of the Russia investigation is one of two in the Republican-controlled Senate focused on reviewing the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign. The president’s allies leading those reviews say they are focused on exposing misconduct and working to restore public confidence in federal law enforcement. Critics, including congressional Democrats, say they are a politically motivated attempt to rewrite history and help the incumbent in an election year.

Seeking to use Yates to discredit the FBI’s investigations around the 2016 Trump campaign, Republicans instead got a spirited defense of that work as ethical and necessary, even though she was critical of some of the FBI’s moves at the time.

michael flynn arms foldedGraham pressed Yates in depth about a White House meeting on Jan. 5, 2017, in which then-President Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden and then-national security adviser Susan E. Rice met with her and then-FBI Director James B. Comey to talk about Flynn’s recent phone conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s ambassador to the United States at that time.

The Obama administration had just expelled dozens of suspected Russian intelligence agents in response to the election interference. Obama and his aides expected Russia to retaliate, but they did not. FBI agents quickly learned the reason why: Flynn, left, had called Kislyak and asked them not to.

“General Flynn had essentially neutered the U.S. government’s message of deterrence,” Yates said. Instead of rebuking the Russian government, she said, Flynn had been “conciliatory.”

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: If Biden wins, the post-Trump corruption purge will have to be epic, Greg Sargent, Aug. 5, 2020. It’s widely understood that if Joe Biden wins the White House, he’ll face monumental tasks in digging us out of our spiraling public health crisis and the economic catastrophe it has unleashed, which could get far worse if Congress’ next rescue package falls short, as it likely will.

But an incoming Biden administration will also face another mission: undertaking a full accounting of the Trump administration’s corruption and the damage it has done to our government and institutions.

That is, if the new administration chooses to accept that mission.

A new report (How a Future President Can Hold the Trump Administration Accountable) from the Democratic-allied Center for American Progress both lays out an argument for why Biden should indeed take on that mission and offers a suggested road map on how to do that.