Archive | May, 2018

Trump’s Double Standard on Free Speech and the NFL

By David A. Graham

President Trump, who has portrayed himself as a defender of free speech and foe of political correctness, told Fox News’s Brian Kilmeade in an interview aired Thursday that NFL players should be barred from the field—and should perhaps even leave the U.S.—if they seek to protest.

“You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing,” Trump said in the interview. “You shouldn’t be there. Maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.”

Trump was commenting on a new NFL policy, unveiled Wednesday, to handle players who have kneeled, sat, or raised a fist in protest during the playing of the national anthem before football games. Players will no longer be required to be on the field during the anthem, but if they do not stand, they could be fined. The president was generally positive about the policy, but added, “I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms.”

The president’s comments are the latest volley in his war of words with NFL players. The feud burned hottest last September, when he said at a rally in Alabama, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

But Trump’s demand that players be on the field, his suggestion of mandatory standing, and his idea that protesters should leave the country once again spotlights a dissonance in his thinking. Trump has claimed that religious people are not free to speak their minds (including saying “Merry Christmas”), and he decried efforts to prevent speakers like the conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos from addressing students at the University of California, Berkeley. Yet at the same time, the president is infuriated by athletes, most of them black, …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Will Texas Follow Houston’s Lead on Drug-Policy Reform?

By Ronald Brownstein

HOUSTON—It’s hard to top Kim Ogg as a symbol for the rapid pace of political change in urban America, even in states that remain very conservative overall.

Ogg is a left-leaning, openly gay Democratic attorney from this city. In 2016, she routed a Republican incumbent by just over 108,000 votes to win election as the district attorney for Harris County, which includes Houston and surrounding suburbs. Since taking office, Ogg has rapidly engineered changes in criminal-justice policy more familiar in reliably blue cities along the coasts. She’s implemented programs to divert large numbers of low-level drug users into treatment or education programs. She’s supported an ongoing civil-rights lawsuit alleging that the county’s system for setting bail is biased against minorities and poor people, and she’s denounced efforts by the Trump administration and Texas Republicans to toughen enforcement against undocumented immigrants.

Her message is bracingly direct: She intends to build a Democratic model for public safety that challenges the prevailing Republican “tough-on-crime” narrative in the state. “I am confident that not only is reform compatible with public safety, but reform is required to make us safer,” she insisted at an Atlantic forum on criminal-justice reform that I moderated here last week.

Early in the 2000s, Harris County, like many metro areas, shifted slowly toward the Democrats: Barack Obama carried it by about 18,000 votes in his first election and by less than 1,000 votes in 2012. But in 2016, the dam burst. Hillary Clinton beat Trump in the county by more than 160,000 votes, and Democrat Ed Gonzalez ousted a Republican incumbent as county sheriff by 73,000 votes.

Ogg’s victory may have been the most head-turning. It came after Republican incumbent Devon Anderson had tried to rally local conservatives by describing Ogg as “a liberal, pro-choice lesbian.” After the election, Ogg described that moment …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Fifteen Unanswered Criminal-Law Questions About Trump

By David Frum

President Trump speculated on Tuesday that “if” the FBI placed a spy inside his campaign, that would be one of the greatest scandals in U.S. history. On Wednesday morning on Twitter, the “if” dropped away—and Trump asserted yesterday’s wild surmise as today’s fact. By afternoon, a vast claque of pro-Trump talkers will repeat the president’s fantasies and falsehoods in their continuing project to represent Donald Trump as an innocent victim of a malicious conspiracy by the CIA, FBI, and Department of Justice.

The president’s claims are false, but they are not fantasies. They are strategies to fortify the minds of the president’s supporters against the ever-mounting evidence against the president. As Laurence Tribe and Joshua Matz show in their new book about impeachment, an agitated and committed minority can suffice to protect a president from facing justice for even the most strongly proven criminality.

I’ve compiled a short—and by no means exhaustive—list of the open questions about matters potentially involving criminal law swirling around the president, his campaign, his company, and his family.

  1. Trump campaign aides and associates met with Russian agents in advance of the Russian hacks and releases of Democratic internal communications. Did these meetings lead to any form of coordination between the Trump campaign, the Trump family, or Trump supporters on the one hand and Russian intelligence and its proxy, WikiLeaks, on the other?
  2. Russia engaged in large-scale and illegal expenditures on social media to help elect Trump. Did the Trump campaign, the Trump family, or Trump supporters coordinate or assist in any way with these violations of U.S. law?
  3. Trump campaign aides reportedly met with representatives of Persian Gulf governments who offered to violate U.S. law to help elect Trump. What came of those meetings?
  4. How much Russian money has flowed into the Trump family and the Trump Organization since …read more

    Via:: The Atlantic

          

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Trump’s Attacks on Law Enforcement Inflict Enduring Harm

By David Kris

If Donald Trump was elected with any mandate, it was to shake up the orthodoxy—to challenge the establishment and its established ways of operating. To drain the swamp. What he actually delivers, however, may be transformation that even many of his supporters come to regret.

Nowhere has the mandate for change been more forcefully exercised than in the field of criminal and counterintelligence investigations of the president and his closest associates. His last tweet of the day on May 20 sounded more like a proclamation:

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The tweet provoked complaints that the president was breaching norms essential to the functioning of our democracy: As The New York Times wrote, it “ratcheted up his willingness to impose direct political control over the work of law enforcement officials.” And yet it seems that much of America shrugged, apparently either supportive or tolerant of the president’s efforts to stick it to the man. One person’s hallowed tradition is another’s hidebound ritual. Why should they care?

Here’s why you should care. The current tradition of congressional oversight of intelligence is only 40 years old, having started in 1976. Hallowed, perhaps, but too fresh yet to be venerable or invulnerable. And the abuses of Watergate that precipitated the new tradition, including a White House eager for ways to “use the available federal machinery,” like IRS audits, “to screw our political enemies,” are still too recent to be dismissed as ancient history. Keeping the intelligence community operating under the …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Michael Avenatti Is the 1990s-Style Celebrity Lawyer of the Trump Age

By Rosie Gray

On cable news these days, there are very few people who have approached President Trump’s ubiquity. In fact, there is only one, and his name is Michael Avenatti. (Stormy who?)

Avenatti is not the first attorney to understand how the publicity game is played. Litigators are often like this: brash, aggressive, and sophisticated media manipulators. But Avenatti is the first celebrity lawyer of the Trump age, and it’s for that reason that he has become ultra-famous: Everything to do with Trump becomes, for good or ill, a star. And so it is with Avenatti, who in the public imagination has become not just “Stormy Daniels’s lawyer Michael Avenatti,” but simply “Michael Avenatti,” and appears to live inside your TV set.

All of the elements have worked in Avenatti’s favor: the missteps of President Trump’s lawyers and media defenders, the desire in Resistance America for a counterpoint to Trump’s dominance, and the eagerness of cable news to amplify and obsess over people who cause a spectacle. Of course, this has long ceased to be just about Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and her legal dealings with the president with whom she says she had an affair. Daniels says Trump bought her silence—for a while—through his lawyer/fixer Michael Cohen for $130,000. The saga has taken on a life of its own, with Avenatti treating it like an episodic television show, teasing information reveals, getting into all-out scraps with critics, and generally making it a capital-T Thing. The Washington Post has profiled him more than once.

“We are covering this like O.J.,” said one cable-news staffer who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly. “I’ve never been more sure someone is going to get a TV-contributor deal in my life.”

The …read more

Via:: The Atlantic

      

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Volcano Lava Reaches Geothermal Plant and Pacific Ocean in Hawaii, Risking Public Health Disaster

On the Big Island in Hawaii, the Kilauea volcano is continuing to erupt, spewing plumes of ash and lava. Lava is flowing increasingly close to the Puna Geothermal Venture plant, or PGV, which provides 25 percent of the Big Island’s energy. Workers are rushing to shut down the power plant to prevent the uncontrollable release of toxic gases from the site. The PGV came online in 1989 amid controversy over its location on what some residents say is sacred land. Many native Hawaiians believe the volcano is home to Pele, the goddess of fire. Others say that though geothermal energy is renewable, the plant poses risks to the health of residents and the environment. In Honolulu, we speak with Brittany Lyte, a reporter for Honolulu Civil Beat. Her recent article is titled “Workers Scramble to Seal Wells at Geothermal Plant Threatened by Lava.”

Please check back later for full transcript.

…read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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While Few Notice, the Supreme Court Is Making Corporate Human Rights Abuses Easier

In our current news environment, any news that’s not about President Trump gets short shrift, even if it’s news emanating from the Supreme Court. On April 24, 2018, the Supreme Court decided the case of Jesner v. Arab Bank. The Court ruled that foreign corporations cannot be brought into US federal courts to stand trial for human rights abuses that happen abroad.

The facts in Jesner v. Arab Bank could not have been more gut wrenching. The plaintiffs were victims or families of victims of suicide bombings in the Middle East, mostly in the West Bank. The bank in the case is a Jordanian bank with a branch in the city of New York. The plaintiffs alleged that the bank was holding accounts used to pay “martyrs” for the families of the individuals who carried out the attacks. Put another way, these accounts are meant to incentivize suicide bombings because the bomber would know that his or her family will be financially taken care of after death. And the plaintiffs argued that because some of these transactions were cleared through the bank’s New York branch, the entire scheme of payments to the bombers “touched and concerned the United States” and thus it was case was properly brought in a New York federal district court.

But for the Supreme Court, the Jesner case was not really about the victims and their families. Instead, the Justices saw Jesner as a case that raised issues about the role of the judiciary, the scope of jurisdictions, international relations, and when it is appropriate to hale a foreign corporation into an American court to face responsibility for the most grievous torts. In the end, the Supreme Court ruled in favor the Arab Bank’s position that foreign corporations cannot be sued using …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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Trump Cancels North Korea Summit, Citing “Open Hostility”

A man watches a television news showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump, at a railway station in Seoul on May 24, 2018. (Photo: Jung Yeon-Je / AFP / Getty Images)

A man watches a television news showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump, at a railway station in Seoul on May 24, 2018. (Photo: Jung Yeon-Je / AFP / Getty Images)

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Citing what he calls the “tremendous anger” and “open hostility” in Pyongyang’s most recent public statement, President Donald Trump on Thursday cancelled the planned summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that was set to take place next month.

“You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used,” Trump wrote in a letter to Kim.

Read the full letter:

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Reacting to Trump’s letter on Twitter, independent journalist and Korea expert Tim Shorrock noted that the statement on Thursday by North Korea vice-minister of foreign affairs Choe Son Hui — in which she referred to Vice President Mike Pence as a “political dummy” — appears to be “what set Trump off.”

But, Shorrock added, Trump has no grounds to complain about “open hostility” given “the hatred and military threats spewing from his vice president and national security adviser” John Bolton.

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“North Korea always said the US must end its hostile policy for it to negotiate on nukes,” Shorrock notes. “But there’s no sign of that.”

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The Surprising List of Democrats Who Just — Gratuitously — Bowed to Big Finance

In a win for amnesia, Congress advanced a bipartisan bill on Tuesday deregulating the banking industry, just a decade after Wall Street triggered a financial crisis that caused millions to lose their jobs and their homes. S.2155, known as the Crapo bill both for its co-author, Senate Banking Committee chair Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and its general quality, was pitched as a narrow measure to provide relief for salt-of-the-earth community banks and credit unions. But anyone making that claim is either misinformed or trying to spin the truth.

In reality, the Crapo bill will deregulate 25 of the 38 largest banks in America, weaken capital requirements that force banks to pay for their own mistakes, free some lenders from disclosing data used to detect lending discrimination and largely handcuff the Federal Reserve’s ability to apply special regulations to the biggest banks, to name just a few provisions. Plus, the changes have already begun to consolidate the banking sector, with the very community banks the bill was intended to help being scooped up by larger rivals. Combined with efforts inside the agencies that regulate banks to weaken rules, it represents a pendulum shift away from safety and toward another financial crisis.

Who would agree to such bleak legislation, and why? Well, it fits with the Republican project of impeding government’s ability to protect the public; out of 276 GOP members of Congress voting on the Crapo bill, 275 voted in favor (Walter Jones, an apostate House member from North Carolina, was the only one to oppose it). A bigger surprise came in how many Democrats were willing to sign on: 16 Senators and 33 House members.

Senate Democrats like Jon Tester (Mont.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) …read more

Via:: Truthout

      

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