Crime & Legal

House Oversight Committee Calls on Trump’s Business to Prove He’s not Violating the Constitution

by Aaron Rupar – Trump promised to donate profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, but there’s no proof he’s following through. Days after a lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution’s “emoluments clause” added more plaintiffs, the House Oversight Committee is requesting the Trump Organization turn over documents detailing what processes Trump’s business has implemented, if any, to make sure the president isn’t profiting from foreign governments who want to curry favor with him. On Friday, the Oversight Committee sent a letter to Sheri Dillon — the lawyer who detailed how Trump planned to avoid conflicts of interest during a January 11 news conference — asking her to detail how that plan is being implemented by no later than May 12. The Constitution prohibits presidents from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” But the Trump International Hotel has taken money...

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SCOTUS Says States Have No Right to Money Taken Based on Overturned Convictions

by Jacob Sullum – If making people prove their innocence to get their property back violates due process, what about civil forfeiture? This week the Supreme Court ruled that Colorado has no right to keep fines, fees, court costs, and restitution it extracts from criminal defendants whose convictions are later reversed. By forcing people to prove their innocence before they can get back property that is rightly theirs, the Court said, Colorado has been violating the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of due process. The Institute for Justice, which filed a brief in the case emphasizing that the presumption of innocence is an essential aspect of due process, makes a compelling argument that civil asset forfeiture routinely violates that principle. The Court’s decision in Nelson v. Colorado, which was joined by seven justices (Clarence Thomas dissented, and Neil Gorsuch joined the Court too recently to participate), came in response to challenges by Shannon...

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It’s Time to Legalize Marijuana and Abolish the Drug Czar

by Mike Ludwig, Truthout | News Analysis – With its lengthy name and familiar acronym, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is one of the oldest pro-legalization lobbies on Capitol Hill, and the group is tired of waiting for a good drug czar to come around. So, NORML is asking the White House to abolish the position altogether, just as President Trump is reportedly preparing to appoint Rep. Tom Marino of Pennsylvania to the office. Marijuana legalization proponents have plenty of problems with Marino becoming the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the position informally known as “drug czar,” but that’s not the only reason NORML wants the entire “anti-science” agency closed. The ONDCP has long been a center of command for the war on drugs, a bloody and chaotic conflict that is widely seen as a costly failure. Unfortunately for NORML and...

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Jeff Sessions Decries Nonexistent New York Murder Epidemic

by Alan Pyke – A Justice Department press release denounces “gang murder after gang murder” in a city enjoying an historically low murder rate. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has more power over how American law is enforced than any other single living human being, is concerned about New York City. The nation’s largest population center continues to see “gang murder after gang murder,” Sessions’ office said in a statement Friday, attributing the putative murderpocalypse to the city’s commitment to humane treatment of undocumented immigrants: Brad Heath ✔@bradheath DOJ says New York City is “soft on crime.” 2:32 PM – 21 Apr 2017 Eight and a half million people live in New York City. New York City had 335 murders in 2016. That is down from 352 in 2015. It is the second-lowest murder rate in New York City history, tied with 2013 and just behind 2014’s all-time low of 333. Shootings,...

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Cities, States Seek to Protect Immigrants’ Data from Federal Officials

by Jen Fifield – In the face of stepped-up deportation efforts, many unauthorized immigrants worry that state and local programs that are designed to help them could instead be used by federal agents to identify and expel them from the country. About a dozen states have created special driver’s license programs for people who can’t prove U.S. citizenship, and more than a dozen cities have started identification programs so that unauthorized immigrants and others can complete tasks such as opening bank accounts, enrolling their children in school and receiving government services. Under the programs, most of which were created in the last five years, state and local government agencies have reviewed and perhaps retained millions of documents with personal information about the applicants, such as their names, addresses and foreign identification numbers. Although there has always been a risk that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could request the documents, immigration...

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SPLC Sues Nazi Website ‘The Daily Stormer’ For Terrorizing Jewish Woman By Internet Trolls

by ursulafaw – The Nazi movement in this country, since the election of Donald Trump, has gotten completely out of hand. The Southern Poverty Law Center, along with its Montana co-counsel, filed suit in federal court Tuesday against Andrew Anglin,  founder of a major neo-Nazi website, “The Daily Stormer,” for orchestrating a vicious online  harassment campaign that has relentlessly terrorized a Jewish woman and her family with anti-Semitic threats and messages, via an army of online trolls. The harassment of this family is beyond belief and it is sick. Take a look: Thanks for demonstrating why your race needs to be collectively ovened. You have no idea what you are doing, six million are only the beginning. We are going to keep track of you for the rest of your life. You will be driven to the brink of suicide & We will be there to take pleasure in your pain...

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Prosecutors Open Terror Investigation into Paris Attack (VIDEOS)

French decision follows deadly Champs Elysees attack on police, just three days before first round of presidential vote. French prosecutors have opened a terrorism investigation into an attack in the Champs Elysees shopping district in Paris where an armed man killed one policeman and seriously injured two people. President Francois Hollande said he was “convinced” a “terrorism” investigation was the correct approach to the incident before the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group claimed responsibility for Thursday’s attack via its Amaq website. Hollande promised “absolute vigilance, particularly with regard to the electoral process” as France braces itself for the first round of a presidential election on Sunday. French television networks reported that the attacker was a 39-year-old French national and was known to anti-terrorism police. Police said the attacker had been convicted in 2005 of three counts of attempted murder – two of them against police officers. Raids...

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Alex Jones’ Defense

by TODD GITLIN – His lawyer: He’s not a deranged crackpot, he just plays one on the radio. You may have heard of Alex Jones of Austin, Texas — the fellow who markets his own brand of “BRAIN FORCE” and “SUPER MALE VITALITY” pills on the radio. He’s the guy whose Infowars.com website features headlines like “HEAVILY ARMED MUSLIM THREATENS CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVE CONFERENCE.” The one who describes himself on the website with a pithy summary of world history that begins as follows: Since the beginning of time there have been constant attempts to enslave and subdue the spirit of humanity. From barbarian hordes streaming down the mountain to the Stasi secret police torturing those who dreamed to be free. That’s the early Trump supporter Alex Jones who, pushing birtherism one giant step further into the inferno where truth is drawn and quartered, let his listeners know the other day that “the...

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Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly Proposes Fewer Pot Arrests in Drug War

by Esther Yu Hsi Lee – More than 260,000 immigrants were deported for drug offenses in a five-year period. Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday that marijuana is not a “factor in the drug war” and that the solution is “not arresting a lot of users.” The “War on Drugs”— one that has largely focused on the cross-border import of controlled substances such as marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine produced in Latin American countries and transported into the United States — has resulted in the arrests of hundreds of thousands of people for marijuana possession. In turn, these arrests have triggered severe immigration consequences because of the punitive legislation that grew out of this country’s “War on Drugs” policies. During an appearance on Meet The Press with Chuck Todd, Kelly de-emphasized the role marijuana plays in the “drug war,” instead placing the blame on Mexican-produced methamphetamine and heroin, and cocaine...

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The FBI Takes the Steele Dossier of Trump–Russia Connections Seriously, Which is Serious Trouble for Trump

by Mark Sumner – Testimony that FBI Director James Comey delivered in January, information that Harry Reid wanted to make public before the election, and part of the information that led the FBI to get a FISA warrant on Trump adviser Carter Page, all appear to have the same source. The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump’s campaign as part of the justification to win approval to secretly monitor a Trump associate, according to US officials briefed on the investigation. That source is the “dossier” put together by former British intelligence operative Christopher Steele, who originally assembled the information to assist one of Trump’s Republican opponents. President Obama and Donald Trump were briefed on the contents on the memos in January, but it now appears that the FBI took the information seriously enough to use it as the basis of investigation months earlier. The...

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Massachusetts: 21,000 Drug Cases Could be Dismissed

Ex-police chemist falsified tests, which could lead to the ‘largest dismissal of criminal convictions in US history’. More than 21,000 convicted drug offenders in Massachusetts may have their cases dismissed because a former police chemist tampered with evidence and falsified tests. If the cases are thrown out, the event would mark the largest dismissal of criminal convictions in US history, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Massachusetts. The state’s highest court had ordered district attorneys in seven counties to produce lists by Tuesday indicating how many of approximately 24,000 cases involving Annie Dookhan they would be unable or unwilling to prosecute if the defendants were granted new trials. The cases would be formally dismissed by court action, expected Thursday, the ACLU said. “Today is a major victory for justice and fairness, and for thousands of people in the commonwealth who were unfairly convicted of drug offences,” Matthew Segal,...

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Bill O’Reilly’s Lawyer Blames ‘Brutal Campaign of Character Assassination’ for His Plight

by Aaron Rupar – The scorched-earth statement comes as Fox News reportedly prepares to cut ties. As numerous reports swirl that Fox News is preparing to cut ties with Bill O’Reilly before he returns from his “vacation,” his attorney signaled that cable news’ top-rated host won’t go down before he scorches the earth behind him. In a statement released Tuesday evening, Marc E. Kasowitz wrote that his client “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America.” O’Reilly, who has spent months battling a wave of sexual harassment allegations, was hit with a fresh harassment claim on Tuesday — the same day a group of protesters delivered 480,000 petitions calling for O’Reilly’s termination to Fox News headquarters. His attorney’s reference to former U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI), whose name has become synonymous with making unfounded accusations, hearkens back to the words President Donald Trump used last month...

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5 Questions the Trump Administration Needs to Answer About the Border Wall

by Jenny Rowland and Philip E. Wolgin – In the U.S.-Mexico border region, an area that stretches nearly 2,000 miles, decisions about border security affect the daily lives of roughly 12 million people. The United States already has 653 miles of border fencing, and much of the rest of the border is comprised of the Rio Grande or located in some of the country’s most inhospitable locations, where a wall would be impractical and unnecessary. In addition to fencing, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, uses an array of surveillance and technology to monitor the border in real time. Yet both as a candidate and as president, Donald Trump has repeatedly called for the construction of a “big, fat, beautiful wall” along the entire U.S.-Mexico border. The administration recently concluded a request for proposals from firms to construct the wall, and it has already started to send out notices...

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This Court Ruling may have Been More Important than the Federal Halt to the Arkansas Executions

by Christian Dem in NC – By now, you know that a federal judge in Little Rock called a halt to Arkansas’ execution marathon. But that may not have been the most important ruling issued in this affair. A day earlier, a state court judge rapped the state Department of Correction hard for tricking a drug distributor into selling it one of the drugs it used in its lethal injection cocktail. Arkansas uses three drugs to carry out executions. Midazolam is intended to sedate the inmate, vecuronium bromide stops his breathing, and potassium chloride stops his heart. While most of the current furor over lethal injections centers around questions about whether midazolam will really knock someone out, Arkansas is under fire for how it obtained its supply of vecuronium bromide from McKesson. Vecuronium bromide is made by Pfizer. As I noted at Liberal America, that drug is one of several Pfizer now monitors all...

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‘New Step in Long Walk to Freedom’: Palestinian Prisoners Launch Mass Hunger Strike

by Deirdre Fulton – As many as 1,500 political detainees are taking part in the demonstration demanding ‘freedom and dignity’. Hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails began a hunger strike on Monday, protesting dismal conditions as well as “Israel’s inhumane system of colonial and military occupation.” Some said as many as 1,500 political prisoners in six jails across Israel were participating in the open-ended strike, commemorating Palestinian Prisoners’ Day and coming ahead of June’s 50-year anniversary of the 1967 Six Day War, when the occupation began. Solidarity rallies were also taking place in the occupied cities of Ramallah, Hebron, and Nablus. According to the human rights and prisoner advocacy organization Addameer, which is urging global solidarity with the detainees, “the hunger striking prisoners’ demands include: family visits, proper medical care, end to Israel’s practice of detaining Palestinians without charge or trial in so-called administrative detention, and stopping the use of...

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Just WTF is “Retroactive Registration” as a Foreign Agent?

by ProudlyLiberal – There have been at least two recent incidents where foreign agents of Russia (who, by law, are required to register with the Attorney General within 10 days of becoming such an agent) have “retroactively registered”.  It must be noted that these registrations have been filed only because each individual’s dealings with Russia have become public and the individuals are under Federal investigation by the FBI, House Permanent Committee on Intelligence and the Senate. Of course the two who have (or will soon) register retroactively are Michael Flynn, the fired National Security Adviser and Paul Manafort, the apparently peripherally-involved chairman of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.  In Flynn’s case, the actions causing registration occurred in 2015 and 2016, and in Manafort’s the activities we know about today that require registration are for his work on lobbying for Putin on the subject of Ukraine from 2012-2014. Carter Page insists he has never been a foreign...

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DHS Secretary John Kelly: A Single DUI Could Lead to Deportation Proceedings

by Esther Yu Hsi Lee – During an interview on Sunday’s Meet the Press with host Chuck Todd, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly affirmed that the Trump administration will aggressively convict immigrants as criminals and deport people previously deemed as non-priorities under the Obama administration. Now, even a single conviction for driving under the influence could be considered a serious enough offense that triggers the deportation proceeding, Kelly said in response to Todd’s question to “define a criminal.” SEC. JOHN KELLY: It is fair to say that the definition of criminal has not changed, but where on the spectrum of criminality we operate has changed. CHUCK TODD: So can you give me an example of somebody that wasn’t deported before that you’re deporting now? SEC. JOHN KELLY: Well, someone, as an example, with multiple DUIs. Even a single DUI, depending on other aspects, would get you into the...

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Drug Makers Join Lawsuit Against Arkansas’ “Conveyor Belt” of Executions

by Nika Knight – “The companies are understandably appalled at the prospect of their medicines being used in America’s largest mass execution since the civil rights era.” As Arkansas moves forward with its brutal plan to execute seven prisoners within 11 days, the makers of the drugs Arkansas plans to use to put the prisoners to death have joined a lawsuit to stop the “conveyor belt of death.” Pharmaceutical manufacturers develop drugs to save and improve lives, and the companies are understandably appalled at the prospect of their medicines being used in America’s largest mass execution since the civil rights era,” said Maya Foa, director of the human rights organization Reprieve, in a statement. In their brief (pdf) filed Thursday, the companies Fresenius Kabi and West-Ward argue that “he use of their medicines for lethal injections violates contractual supply-chain controls that the Manufacturers have implemented” and “he use of their medicines...

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Federal Judge Blocks Arkansas’ Execution Spree

by Lauren McCauley – Judge Kristine G. Baker argued that the state’s reliance on the execution drug midazolam threatens the plaintiffs constitutional rights. A federal judge on Saturday issued an injunction blocking Arkansas from its rush to carry out 6 executions in less than two weeks, siding with the plaintiffs who argued that the “assembly line” killings could subject inmates to a torturous and botched execution. Eight inmates were initially slated for the mass execution, set to begin on Monday, but on Friday the Arkansas Supreme Court granted an emergency stay in the scheduled execution of 60-year-old Bruce Earl Ward. Last week, a federal judge issued a stay on the execution of inmate Jason McGehee after the parole board recommended he be eligible for clemency. Judge Kristine G. Baker of Federal District Court in Little Rock issued the 101-page order on Saturday morning. In her ruling, she argued that the state’s...

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AP Confirms Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort’s ‘Shadow Ledger’ of Secret Payments

by Mark Sumner – Reports first emerged last summer that Paul Manafort was paid over $12 million dollars in under-the-table funds from pro-Russian forces in Ukraine. Funds may have still been flowing to Donald Trump’s campaign chairman even as he was working to put Trump in the White House. It is not clear that Mr. Manafort’s work in Ukraine ended with his work with Mr. Trump’s campaign. A communications aide for Mr. Lyovochkin, who financed Mr. Manafort’s work, declined to say whether he was still on retainer or how much he had been paid. Manafort’s secret finances were revealed in a “shadow ledger” found by Ukrainian officials last August, just before Manafort was forced to depart from the Trump campaign. Though Manafort has disputed the authenticity of the ledger, the Associated Press has now obtained financial records that show at least $1.2 million of the payments recorded were very real. The two...

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Oregon Responds to Sessions’ Threat by Creating a Bill to Protect Marijuana Customers

by Walter Einenkel – With new Attorney General Jeff Sessions trying to strum up the old-timey, racist, and not true idea that violence surrounding marijuana use has risen over the past decades, the states that allow legal recreational marijuana use have begun to make sure their citizens’ privacy is being protected. Alaska and Colorado already have laws that do not allow for marijuana retail stores to maintain a digital “paper trail” of customers’ private and personal information. Oregon state lawmakers who fear heightened marijuana enforcement by federal agents overwhelmingly approved Monday a proposal to protect pot users from having their identities or cannabis-buying habits from being divulged by the shops that make buying pre-rolled joints and “magic” brownies as easy as grabbing a bottle of whiskey from the liquor store. The measure passed easily and now waits for Democratic Gov. Kate Brown’s signature. This bill has bipartisan support which is a...

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‘F-ing Horrifying’: Sessions Outlines Immigration Crackdown in ‘Trump Era’

by Deirdre Fulton – Meanwhile, Trump appoints immigration hardliners to key agency posts. In “the Trump era,” as Attorney General Jeff Sessions called it on Tuesday, immigration officials will undertake a harsh crackdown on undocumented migrants—a campaign one veteran federal prosecutor described as “fucking horrifying.” In his speech at a border port of entry in Nogales, Arizona, “he nation’s top law enforcement official outlined a series of changes that he said mark the start of a new push to rid American cities and the border of what he described as ‘filth’ brought on by drug cartels and criminal organizations,” the Associated Press reported. “This is a new era,” the immigration hardliner told Customs and Border Protection personnel. “This is the Trump era. The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws, and the catch-and-release practices of old are over.” Mother Jones reported: In his remarks, Sessions said nonviolent immigrants...

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Bill O’Reilly is Going on Vacation and He may Never Come Back

by Judd Legum – On Tuesday night’s O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly announced he was taking a vacation. The announcement comes in the midst of a massive advertiser exodus following revelations that he and Fox News paid millions of dollars to five women who said they were sexually harassed by O’Reilly. O’Reilly said that he booked this vacation “last fall” and that he often takes vacation “around this time of the year.” He is reportedly scheduled to return in on April 24. But Gabriel Sherman, a journalist for New York Magazine who literally wrote the book on Fox News, reports that “tonight’s show could be his last.” According to Sherman’s sources, lawyers for Fox News “are currently doing a ‘deep dive’ investigation into O’Reilly’s behavior.” Sherman also reports that James Murdoch, the CEO of 21st Century Fox, wants O’Reilly gone. Murdoch forced out longtime Fox News CEO Roger Ailes last summer over...

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FBI Obtained FISA Warrant to Monitor Trump Adviser Carter Page Communications with Russia

by First Amendment – This is not going away, folks. No matter how many times the media wants this guy to be President, something about Russia and this administration will drop. Expect more. Ted Lieu pretty much summed up this latest revelation. Ted Lieu ✔@tedlieu Russians tried to recruit Carter Page! Waiting for @POTUS to say this is coincidence number 97 in #TrumpRussia story https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/04/04/us/politics/carter-page-trump-russia.html … 4:44 PM – 4 Apr 2017 Russian Spies Tried to Recruit Carter Page Before He Advised Trump www.washingtonpost.com/… The FBI obtained a secret court order last summer to monitor the communications of an adviser to presidential candidate Donald Trump, part of an investigation into possible links between Russia and the campaign, law enforcement and other U.S. officials said. The FBI and the Justice Department obtained the warrant targeting Carter Page’s communications after convincing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge that there was probable cause to believe Page...

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China, Iran, Saudi Arabia Executed the Most People in 2016

Number of executions drop worldwide, Amnesty International says, attributing decrease mainly to fewer hangings in Iran. The number of executions worldwide dropped by 37 percent in 2016 compared to the year before, mainly because Iran hanged fewer people, Amnesty International said in its 2016 global review of the death penalty published on Tuesday. China executed more people than all other countries in the world put together, Amnesty said. But it is difficult to get a clear number as Beijing classifies most information related to the death penalty as “state secrets”. It is estimated to be in the 1,000’s each year. “China wants to be a leader on the world stage, but when it comes to the death penalty it is leading in the worst possible way – executing more people annually than any other country in the world,” said Salil Shetty, secretary-general of Amnesty International. “The Chinese government has...

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Federal Court to Texas: Yup, Your Voter ID Law is Racist

by Ian Millhiser – Also, water is wet. In a brief order handed down Monday evening, a federal district court held that Texas’ voter ID law was “passed, at least in part, with a discriminatory intent in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.” Voter ID laws are a common method of voter suppression that disproportionately target voters of color. According to data cited by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which will hear any appeal of Monday’s order, in Texas “Blacks were 1.78 times more likely than Whites, and Latinos 2.42 times more likely, to lack” voter ID. The Fifth Circuit previously held that Texas’ law had a greater impact on minority voters than on whites, a fact that in and of itself makes the law illegal under the Voting Rights Act. Nevertheless, the district court’s Monday order is significant for two reasons. First, as voting...

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Florida Sheriff Produces Absurd, Threatening Video over Small Number of Drug-Related Deaths

by Scott Shackford – You’d think Lake County must be some sort of trafficking hotbed. It’s not. A group of armed, masked men brazenly posted a video on Facebook recently threatening to violently bust down the doors of American citizens and invade their homes. It’s okay, though. They’re law enforcement! Lake County, Florida, Sheriff Peyton Grinnell has put out a video where he, surrounded by masked men, threaten drug dealers in the county that his officers are tracking them down and plan to send SWAT teams into their houses at some undefined time and “blow front doors off the hinges.” Watch the video below: Well, one only hopes those masks they’re wearing don’t obscure their ability to read addresses properly. We would hate for a poorly organized SWAT raid at the wrong home to run smack into the state’s “Stand Your Ground” gun laws. Grinnell claims this over-the-top video, which...

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Alabama Gov. Bentley Expected to Resign this Week to Avoid Felony Charges

by Laura Clawson – The sordid saga of Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley appears to be coming to an end … at least the governor part. Sources in Montgomery say his lawyers have been involved in negotiations to step down from the governorship and plead to lesser charges, allowing Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey to step up as governor. Sources believe he will resign the governorship by Wednesday. The Alabama Ethics Commission last week found reason to believe he committed four crimes, all of them felonies. If he agrees to a deal it is thought he will have to plead to at least a misdemeanor. And with details like this coming out, Wednesday probably can’t come soon enough for the state of Alabama: Later that evening, Mason told people in a Washington, D.C. bar that Gov. Bentley had opened the hotel room door to hotel staff while wearing only boxer shorts, expecting Mason to be...

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Trump Administration’s War on Science Reaches Justice Department

by Deirdre Fulton – ‘Hard to overstate how backward and misguided this is,’ says one observer. The Trump administration’s anti-science bent has reached the Department of Justice (DOJ), with Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying Monday that the department is ending the National Commission on Forensic Science. The 30-member panel was described by ThinkProgress as “a group of scientists, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and other experts tasked by the Obama administration in 2013 with raising standards for the use of forensic evidence in criminal proceedings.” In its place, a senior forensic advisor will be appointed “to interface with forensic science stakeholders and advise department leadership,” Sessions’ statement said. Members of the commission—experts from major institutions and universities—wrote to Sessions (pdf) just last week, urging that the panel’s charter be renewed. The commission, they wrote, “has made a positive and indelible impact on the criminal justice system” and “has facilitated an important discussion...

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With Gorsuch Sworn In as Supreme Court Justice, a New Conservative Era Begins

by Deirdre Fulton – Neil Gorsuch could immediately make an impact on cases dealing with religious freedom, gun rights, and immigration. After a bruising Senate confirmation battle, former federal judge Neil Gorsuch was sworn in Monday as the 113th Supreme Court justice, restoring a 5-4 conservative balance to the nation’s high court. Chief Justice John Roberts administered the constitutional oath at 9:00am in a private ceremony; later Monday, Justice Anthony Kennedy—for whom Gorsuch formerly clerked—will ask his new colleague to take a second oath in a public ceremony at the White House. Watch below: Gorsuch “is widely expected to shift the ideological balance of the court to the right,” wrote Lydia Wheeler for The Hill, “with his views seen as mostly in line with the man he is replacing: the late Justice Antonin Scalia.” However, she continued, “some court watchers say Gorsuch may be even more conservative than Scalia, his mentor...

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Bill O’Reilly’s Survival Strategy

by Judd Legum – How O’Reilly is trying to weather a sexual harassment scandal. The O’Reilly Factor, which has aired for 20 years, is the highest-rated and most profitable show in cable news. But in just a week, the show has become a shell of itself. On April 1, the New York Times reported that host Bill O’Reilly had paid $13 million to five women to settle claims of sexual harassment. That O’Reilly had an issue with his treatment of women wasn’t a shock. It was already public that, in 2009, O’Reilly had paid $9 million to one woman who says he sexually harassed her. But the additional allegations come after Fox News ousted its chairman, Roger Ailes, over charges of serial sexual harassment and has pledged to clean up its act. In the week that followed, advertisers have left the show in droves. At the beginning of the week, the...

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Six States Leading the Charge on Second-Chance Policies

by Eliza Schultz and Rebecca Vallas – Bipartisan criminal justice reform efforts in Congress may be on ice for now, but red, blue, and purple states alike are moving full speed ahead with their own reforms. In particular, state policymakers are leading the way when it comes to second-chance policies. These measures give people with criminal records a fair shot at making a decent living and providing for their families—a recipe for cutting poverty, boosting public safety, and saving taxpayer dollars through reduced recidivism. Following decades of mass incarceration and overcriminalization, as many as 1 in 3 Americans now have some type of criminal record. Having even a minor record—such as a misdemeanor or even an arrest that never led to conviction—can stand in the way of getting a job, securing stable housing, and more. As a result, millions of people with records face bleak prospects for moving on with...

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Court Slams Policy Banning Gay Foster Parents: Indistinguishable From a Sign Reading “Whites Only”

by First Amendment – Strong words from Nebraska’s Supreme Court affirming a Judge’s 2015 ruling striking down discriminatory policy against prospective Gay foster parents. Of course, Nebraska’s Republican Attorney General’s Office was appealing the initial 2015 ruling. Republicans couldn’t explain why they were appealing it, if they weren’t seeking to reinstate the policy. Let me answer that for them, they wanted to reinstate it. They are always seeking to infringe on the rights of Americans. The Judge also upheld that the state has to pay plaintiffs’ legal fees. The Nebraska Attorney General’s Office defending discriminatory policy cost Nebraska taxpayers $174,000. The policy that was akin to a discriminatory “White’s Only” sign. Great victory for equal rights! apnews.com/… OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Nebraska Supreme Court says a former state policy banning same-sex couples from serving as foster parents or adopting wards of the state was akin to hanging a “Whites Only” sign on a hiring-office door. The court on Friday ruled that a...

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Federal Judge Just Gave Attorney General Jeff Sessions A Huge Fuck You

by April Hamlin – A federal judge just proudly gave Jeff Sessions the middle finger by approving Baltimore’s police reforms even after the attorney general had voiced his opposition. The Justice Department began investigating the Baltimore Police Department in 2014 after news reports that they had paid out millions to settle upwards of 100 lawsuits over police brutality and misconduct. Following the death of Freddie Gray in 2015, the investigation intensified. The DOJ, which was still under former President Obama at the time, found widespread unconstitutional and discriminatory practices. Mother Jones reports: “Earlier this week, Sessions ordered a review of all consent decrees between police departments and the Justice Department. Department lawyers asked the US district court in Baltimore to put off approving the consent decree for at least 30 days so the new administration could review it.” “I have grave concerns that some provisions of this decree will reduce the lawful powers...

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Like Father Like Daughter: Ivanka Trump’s Failed Planned Parenthood ‘Outreach’

by Joan McCarter – You can’t run a government like a business. You can’t expect someone with no policy experience to be able to translate “deal-making” to governing. The Trump regime is demonstrating, though, that you can expect inexperienced business people to completely fuck up when they try to venture into policy. Case in point, Ivanka Trump toddling off in secret to make nice with Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards, not understanding that PP would then be pissed off when her father betrayed them. Their under-the-radar meeting—a rarity between a well-known Democratic activist and a close adviser to a Republican president—has not been previously reported.“The purpose of the meeting, from Cecile’s point of view, was to make sure that Ivanka fully understood what Planned Parenthood does, how it is funded, and why it would be a terrible idea for Planned Parenthood to be removed from being able to see Medicaid patients,” said...

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Federal Judge Blocks Indiana Law that Pence Signed Mandating Ultrasounds 18 Hours Before an Abortion

by Meteor Blades – A federal judge has blocked an Indiana law signed by Mike Pence in 2016 when he was still governor to force women to obtain an ultrasound at least 18 hours before getting an abortion. Judge Tanya Walton Pratt, the first African American ever appointed to the federal court in Indiana, ruled in the case that the state made no compelling argument that requiring an ultrasound “makes it any more likely that a woman will choose not to have an abortion.” As in many cases where new restrictions are placed on abortion, the defenders of this law claim it protects women’s health. Foes argue that this is bunk and that this law, like others, places an “undue burden” on women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. That’s language from the Supreme Court ruling in (Pennsylvania) Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and elaborated upon in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016). The case was filed by Planned Parenthood...

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Texas Rep’s Bill to Fine Men for Masturbatory Emissions has Made its Way up the Legislative Ladder

by Walter Einenkel – Texas’ House Bill 4260, which relates “to the regulation of men’s health and safety; creating civil penalty for unregulated masturbatory emissions,” has moved from being filed to being handled by the Texas State Affairs Committee. Written by Houston Democrat state Rep. Jessica Farrar in response to the slew of anti-women’s rights bills regarding medical choice, the bill is in the perfect place for discussion. The committee is typically the panel that hears abortion-related legislation and it will now address Farrar’s House Bill 4620, which is named the “Men’s Right to Know Act.” The bill was filed about three weeks ago and at the time state Rep. Farrar had this to say: “A lot of people find the bill funny,” Farrar said in a phone interview. “What’s not funny are the obstacles that Texas women face every day, that were placed there by legislatures making it very difficult for them to access...

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Six Weeks Later, Trump Refuses to Denounce Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theorists

by Nika Knight – Six weeks after Newtown school board asked President Donald Trump to denounce Alex Jones and his conspiracy theory about deadly 2012 school shooting, the president remains silent. President Donald Trump has remained silent about his relationship with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, refusing to denounce the right-wing radio show host who has used his popular platform InfoWars to push the theory that the deadly 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Newton, Conn., was a vast government plot to enact stricter gun control laws. Trump’s silence comes despite a letter sent by the Newton School Board six weeks ago requesting that the president publicly denounce Jones and the conspiracy theory that has resulted in stalking, death threats, and harassment of victims’ families, the Hartford Courant reported Tuesday. “We are asking you to intervene to try to stop Jones and other hoaxers like him,” the board wrote in its...

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Devin Nunes is Even Lying About the Reason He’s Stepping Aside

by Mark Sumner – The words “tangled web” might have been coined to describe the mixture of contradictory claims, vague statements, unrelated issues, and plain old lies that have defined Devin Nunes’ public appearances over the last month. That was true even before he jumped from a car, paid a secret visit to the White House, and held a late night confab White House officials about the best way to derail the intelligence committee’s Russia investigation. In his snarly statement on Thursday morning, Nunes opened with a claim about why he was giving up his role as the biggest roadblock to making progress in the investigation. “Several left-wing activist groups have filed accusations against me with the Office of Congressional Ethics.” Yeah. About that. The Office of Congressional Ethics, which Republicans attempted to eliminate earlier in the year, does accept complaints from outside groups—and some have certainly been filed about Nunes’ actions. But...

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Republicans Nuke Senate, Clearing the Way for Gorsuch Confirmation

by Ian Millhiser – It’s official. Late Thursday morning, Senate Democrats opposed to Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court successfully filibustered his confirmation vote. That victory proved short-lived, however, after Senate Republicans invoked a little-used procedure to change the Senate’s rules. Under the rules that existed prior to Thursday, Supreme Court nominees needed 60 votes in order to overcome a filibuster. Under the rules change enacted today, such nominees may now be confirmed with a simple majority (other nominees could already be confirmed by a majority vote under a rules change pushed by Senate Democrats in 2013). Because Senate rules regarding the timing of votes after a filibuster remain in place, the final vote to confirm Gorsuch is likely to come on Friday. Although the 44 senators who supported the filibuster are a minority in the Senate, they represent well over half of the nation. This is because the...

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Trump says Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Bill O’Reilly are all Lies

by Zack Ford – Happy National Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month! In a new interview with the so-called “failing” New York Times, President Trump came to the defense of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. According to an investigation by the Times, Fox News and O’Reilly have paid at least five women a total of about $13 million to quell sexual harassment claims. Though dozens of advertisers have abandoned the his show over the claims, Trump apparently has his back. “I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” Trump told the Times. O’Reilly has interviewed Trump many times over the years. The President went on to say, “I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.” It’s unclear whether Trump has ever discussed the accusations with O’Reilly...

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The Supreme Court Decision to Protect People with Intellectually Disabilities from Execution Was Long Overdue

by Brian Stull – \In 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that the government could no longer execute people with an intellectual disability, then called “mental retardation,” because the practice violated the Eighth Amendment. Texas skirted the ruling by creating wholly unscientific criteria to determine intellectual disability, based on, of all things, the fictional character Lennie from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. A new ruling last week by the court in Moore v. Texas should put an end to that and other unscientific measures states have used to execute people with intellectual disabilities. This is a victory. But as with many victories in modern Supreme Court jurisprudence, they come after many defeats that saw a great human toll. I think of my executed client, Robert Ladd. He had an IQ of 67, and had been identified by the Texas Youth Commission as “fairly obviously” intellectually disabled. As...

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Trump Claims, with Zero Evidence, that Susan Rice Committed a Crime

by Kira Lerner – He called it “one of the big stories of our time.” During an interview with the New York Times on Wednesday, President Trump claimed that former National Security Adviser Susan Rice committed a crime when she requested the identity of anonymous people named in intelligence reports. When reporters asked if Rice committed a crime, Trump responded: “Do I think? Yes, I think.” But when asked for evidence, the president came up empty, just as he has been unable to produce credible evidence to support his claim that the Obama administration wiretapped Trump Tower. “I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” Trump said about Rice during an interview in the Oval Office with the paper he often claims is failing and dishonest. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time.” Rice has denied any...

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The Dallas Cowboys’ Owner Is Right: NFL Should Change its Nonsensical Marijuana Prohibition

by Eric Boehm – Jerry Jones is as unlikeable as an NFL owner could be, but he’s right about this. Football’s prohibition on weed makes no sense for players or teams. If a recent lawsuit filed by former National Football League players is to be believed, professional football teams hand out powerful painkillers by the handful on the sidelines before games, after practices, during halftimes, and just about any time a player complains of any injury or nagging pain. But while America’s most popular sports league is awash in opioids, the NFL maintains a strict rule against players’ use of marijuana—either for recreational purposes or as an alternative way to treat aches and pains. Sports are a mirror for the culture that watches them, and the NFL’s contradictory positions on those two types of pain treatments certainly reflects both the rising opioid crisis in America and the ongoing effort to come...

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The Totally Phony Susan Rice Story Explained

by Kira Lerner – The former national security advisor’s surveillance activity is neither illegal or unethical. Conservatives are seizing on a report that former national security advisor Susan Rice requested the identity of anonymous people named in intelligence reports, claiming that it provides evidence for President Trump’s false claim that Trump Tower was wiretapped. Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reported Monday that Rice requested the “unmasking” of third parties whose information is collected during targeted surveillance of other individuals. Conservative media jumped on the claim and reported that it corroborates Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee’s allegation that information about Trump’s transition team had been “incidentally collected” during U.S. government surveillance of foreign officials. But the reports, which originated from the far-right, fringe corners of the internet, do not reveal any illegal activity or violation of privacy laws. They also provide no support for President Trump’s still entirely-unsubstantiated claim...

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Congressman on Intelligence Committee Predicts Trump Aides Will ‘End up in Jail’ Over Russia

by Kiley Kroh – “That’s pretty shocking to hear.” Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, appeared on CNN on Tuesday to discuss the ongoing investigation of possible collusion between associates of President Donald Trump and Russia intended to influence the 2016 presidential election. Castro told host Wolf Blitzer that based on what he has seen, “my impression is, I wouldn’t be surprised, after all of this is said and done, that some people end up in jail.” As a member of the intelligence committee, Castro has seen more evidence associated with the issue than most members of Congress. Pressed by Blitzer as to whether he has seen “hard evidence of collusion” or could confirm the people in question advised Trump during the campaign or currently work for the administration, Castro said he couldn’t comment further, but reiterated his previous prediction. “As you can imagine, Wolf, I’ll have...

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Federal Appeals Court Holds Workers can’t be Fired for Being Gay

by Ian Millhiser – Onward to the Supreme Court! With a lopsided majority joined by a bipartisan coalition of judges, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held on Tuesday that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation violates federal civil rights law, at least in the context of the workplace. The court telegraphed in an order last October that Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College was likely to be a victory for victims of discrimination in the workplace. The final vote in the case, however, is a bit more surprising. Eight of the Seventh Circuit’s judges joined Tuesday’s opinion, including Republican appointees Richard Posner, Joel Flaum, Frank Easterbrook, Ilana Rovner, and Kenneth Ripple. Only three judges dissented. The case involves Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of an employee’s “sex.” Though Title VII contains no explicit statement that discrimination...

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‘Chemical Attack’ in Syria Draws International Outrage (VIDEO) GRAPHIC !

UN to investigate potential war crimes after dozens were killed in Idlib attack US says ‘cannot be ignored’. WARNING: The below report contains images some may find distressing. A suspected chemical attack in Syria has drawn international condemnation, with the United States, France and Britain all pointing the finger at President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. At least 58 people, including 11 children, were killed in the rebel-held Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province on Tuesday, doctors and a monitor said. The United Nations said it would investigate the bombing raid as a possible war crime, and an emergency Security Council meeting was scheduled for Wednesday . The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack caused many people to choke or faint, and some to foam from the mouth, citing medical sources who described the symptoms as signs that gas was used. Local health workers said the death toll could rise...

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Spicer Won’t Give Straight Answer on Reported Changes to Trump Trust

by Deirdre Fulton – White House press secretary Sean Spicer claims “the entire point” of setting up such a trust “is so somebody can withdraw money”. White House press secretary Sean Spicer didn’t offer a clear explanation or response to questions on Monday about new reporting showing that President Donald Trump can withdraw funds at any time from any of his businesses—without telling the American people. Citing a trust document signed on February 10, online outlet ProPublica reported Monday: “Trump can draw money from his more than 400 businesses, at any time, without disclosing it.” According to ProPublica reporters Derek Kravitz and Al Shaw: The previously unreported changes to a trust document, signed on Feb. 10, stipulates that it “shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request” or whenever his son and longtime attorney “deem appropriate.” That can include everything from profits to the underlying assets,...

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Jeff Sessions Moves to Freeze Barack Obama’s Legacy on Police Accountability

by Alan Pyke – Accountability for abusive and racist police conduct is now at the whim of Sessions. After months of hints, Attorney General Jeff Sessions unveiled the first concrete action to roll back Obama-era oversight of local police forces on Monday. Sessions’ team will review each of the 14 active legal agreements between the federal government and city police departments, known as “consent decrees,” with an eye to tweaking the hard-won deals to fit the new administration’s more militant approach to law enforcement. As part of that review, civil rights lawyers from the Justice Department also asked the judge in charge of enforcing a consent decree in Baltimore to delay the next hearing on that agreement indefinitely. Baltimore’s deal, the product of nearly two years of investigation, consultation, and broad community engagement, was the final consent decree completed before President Donald Trump was sworn in. Sessions’ memo announcing the review...

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New Questions as ‘Notorious Mercenary’ Erik Prince Re-emerges in Trump Storyline

by Lauren McCauley – Washington Post reports that Blackwater founder Erik Prince attempted to establish ‘back-channel line of communication’ between Moscow and the White House. The scandal surrounding President Donald Trump’s alleged ties to Russia thickened a bit Monday after the Washington Post reported that “notorious mercenary” Erik Prince took part in a clandestine meeting with a confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin “as part of an apparent effort to establish a back-channel line of communication” between Moscow and the White House. U.S., European, and Arab officials confirmed to the Post that the United Arab Emirates brokered the January 11 tête-à-tête between the unidentified Russian and Prince, brother of Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos who founded the private security firm Blackwater—which rose to infamy after the 2007 Nisour Square massacre of 17 Iraqi civilians. “Though the full agenda remains unclear, the UAE agreed to broker the meeting in part to...

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Advertisers Flee The O’Reilly Factor en Masse

by Judd Legum – Latest sexual harassment claims has corporations rethinking their association with Bill O’Reilly. At least eleven companies have announced they are ending advertising on The O’Reilly Factor. The news comes in the wake of a New York Times story which reveals that O’Reilly and Fox News have paid five women who accused the top-rated cable host of sexual harassment. At least three of those companies, Sanofi, Untuckit, and Allstate, advertised on the show last night, when O’Reilly did not mention the controversy. “In light of the disturbing allegations, we instructed our media buyer this morning to reallocate our ad dollars to other shows effective immediately,” a spokesperson for Untuckit said. Allstate in a statement wrote that “inclusivity & support for women are important to us. We are concerned about the issues surrounding the program & have suspended our ads.” Other companies pulling their spots include Mercedes, Mitsubishi, BMW, Hyundai,...

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UN: Americans’ Right to Protest is in Grave Danger Under Trump

by Common Dreams staff – At least 19 U.S. states have introduced bills that attacks the right to protest since Donald Trump’s election as president. At least 19 U.S. states have introduced bills that attacks the right to protest since Donald Trump’s election as president, an “alarming and undemocratic” trend, U.N. human rights investigators said this week. Maina Kiai and David Kaye, independent U.N. experts on freedom of peaceful assembly and expression respectively, are calling on lawmakers in the United States to stop the “alarming” trend of “undemocratic” anti-protest bills designed to criminalize or impede the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression. “The trend also threatens to jeopardize one of the United States’ constitutional pillars: free speech,” they said in a statement, calling for action to reverse such legislation. “From the Black Lives Matter movement, to the environmental and Native American movements in opposition to the Dakota Access oil...

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Trump Builds a Watergate All His Own

by MICHAEL WINSHIP – Like the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, the attempted cover-up of the president’s relationship with Russia is slowly falling apart. It’s déjà vu all over again. As the Trump Russia story continues to stutter forward, comparisons to Watergate are everywhere — and justifiably so. The revelations and denials, the slow unraveling of deception, the critical role of a free and independent press challenging the cover-up and digging for the truth are all very familiar, especially to those of us who actually were in Washington back during those peculiar days and nights of Richard Nixon. But another inside-the-Beltway, historic parallel struck me last week when reports emerged of House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) suddenly jumping from his Uber car into another and covertly racing to the White House grounds, where he met with who-knows-who about who-knows-what. (The New York Times reported on Thursday that White...

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Crimes and Punishments

by DONALD W. SHRIVER – Given our current mass incarceration crisis, one scholar wonders whether we need to reconsider the principle upon which our criminal justice system is founded on in order to make things right. Editor’s Note If you have been following any Washington news other than the debacle over health care and the intrigues surrounding The Russian Connection, you may have heard Attorney General Jeff Sessions talking tough about crime. Sessions is a “lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key” kind of guy in the mold of Richard Nixon, who as president decided that one way to deal with “the racial problem” was to throw as many black Americans as he could into jail on drug charges. As Eric Tucker wrote earlier this year, the US prison population swelled as prosecutions increased and the convicted received longer sentences. And it ballooned even more when Congress abolished parole in the 1980s as Ronald Reagan escalated the...

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New York Times Exposes Bill O’Reilly’s Pattern of Sexual Harassment and Cover Ups by Fox

by News Corpse – The New York Times published an article online that is certain to rattle the executive suites at Fox News. It revealed new information about Bill O’Reilly’s long history of sexual harassment and abusive behavior. The hostile work environment at Fox has been the subject of recent news reports due primarily to the scandals surrounding its now ex-CEO, Roger Ailes. Following allegations from several female Fox employees Ailes was forced to resign. But Ailes was not alone. Bill O’Reilly has had his own problems with accusations of harassment. One of the more infamous involved a producer who accepted a multimillion dollar settlement to end her legal proceedings. But that didn’t end the boorish behavior by O’Reilly toward the women with whom he worked. While rumors of promises and threats were rampant, details were often hard to nail down. And that’s where the new investigation by the Times comes in....

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So Much for Masterminds and Up Guys

by Murfster35 – You know, for all of the striking similarities between Trump and Nixon, and the similarities between Watergate, and the current monster scandal, there are two striking differences, both coming into clearer focus more and more every day. First of all, The Watergate break in occurred in June of 1972, but Nixon was already almost done with his first term, he was cruising to reelection. And the scandal didn’t really break wide open until June of 1973 when John Dean spilled the beans that he had discussed the coverup 35 times with Nixon. With Trump, we’re already talking about immunity and it’s been what? Seventy days now? The second difference is the cast of characters. Nixon was surrounded by loyal aides. Dean only flipped on him when he came to realize that he was being set up by the White House to be the fall guy. And two of...

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The Possible Reasons Flynn was Refused Immunity are all Good for the Blue Team

by TrueBlueMajority – Is it wrong that I am smiling? When I saw that the Senate Intelligence Committee rejected Michael Flynn’s immunity request, I grinned from ear to ear. For hours. In fact, I think I am still smiling now. Let me look in the mirror… yes!  That *is* a smile I see! Because every single thing about this development is good for the Blue Team. It’s a clear sign that the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence intends to demonstrate how men who know what they are doing handle this kind of thing. Mark Warner and Richard Burr (sir) may as well have said to Devin Nunes: “Serious people play this game a different way.  Watch and learn, kid.  This is how we do it.” The same crystal clear message has been sent to DJT/Bannon, neither of whom has any idea how Congress works, how investigations work, or what a starship...

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Environmental Assault Met with Immediate Legal Challenges

by Natasha Geiling – After failing to pass the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act last week, the Trump administration looked to get its agenda back on track on Tuesday, releasing a long-awaited executive order that directs federal agencies to begin dismantling the domestic and international climate policies of the Obama administration. While the order itself represents a dramatic reversal in U.S. climate policy, the fight to implement its directives has just begun. Environmental groups responded almost immediately, filing a number of legal challenges aimed at slowing — or stopping altogether — Trump’s attempts to roll back climate action. The first, filed the day after Trump released his executive order, was in response to the Interior Department’s decision to restart the federal coal leasing process without concluding a review of the program begun by the Obama administration. In the lawsuit, a coalition of environmental groups, along with the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, challenged that decision,...

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Coalition Takes Trump’s Order to Pillage Public Lands for Coal to Court

by Andrea Germanos – “This isn’t putting Americans first, this is putting corporate polluters first.” A day after President Donald Trump “took a wrecking ball to U.S. action on climate change” with an executive order that included lifting his predecessor’s pause on new federal coal leases, a coalition of groups has filed a legal challenge to stop the widespread damage the rescission would bring about. Opening public lands to coal leasing, say the groups, which include Citizens for Clean Energy, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife, serves only to fatten the coffers of coal executives, rip off taxpayers, befoul the air and water, threaten wildlife, and fuel climate change. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday by Earthjustice. The pause, which the Obama administration put in place in 2016, was to conduct a review of the program to ensure that it offers “a fair return to taxpayers and reflect...

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Oklahoma Bar Launches Investigation to Determine if Trump’s EPA Chief Lied Under Oath

by Nadia Prupis – EPA chief told Congress he only conducted official attorney general business on professional email account, but document dump showed otherwise. The Oklahoma Bar Association on Thursday opened an investigation into whether Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt lied to Congress under oath. Pruitt has been asked to respond to the inquiry, which will look into possible ethics violations stemming from his confirmation hearing in January, when he testified that he only ever used his professional email account to conduct official business while serving as Oklahoma attorney general. Following the investigation, the association’s Professional Responsibility Commission will determine whether to take disciplinary action against Pruitt. The probe was launched in response to a formal ethics complaint (pdf) filed by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and University of Oklahoma law professor Kristen van de Biezenbos. Pruitt’s testimony was proven false after a lawsuit filed in February by...

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DEA Seized $4 Billion From People Since 2007. Most Were Never Charged with a Crime

by C.J. Ciaramella – A new government watchdog report finds the DEA grabs cash just for the sake of grabbing cash, raising civil liberties concerns. The Drug Enforcement Administration seized more than $4 billion in cash from people suspected of drug activity over the last decade, but $3.2 billion of those seizures were never connected to any criminal charges. A report by the Justice Department Inspector General released Wednesday found that the DEA’s gargantuan amount of cash seizures often didn’t relate to any ongoing criminal investigations, and 82 percent of seizures it reviewed ended up being settled administratively—that is, without any judicial review—raising civil liberties concerns. In total, the Inspector General reports the DEA seized $4.15 billion in cash since 2007, accounting for 80 percent of all Justice Department cash seizures. Those figures do not include other property, such as cars and electronics, which are favorite targets for seizure by...

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Arkansas Sued Over Plan to Execute 8 Men in 10 Days Using a Drug that Doesn’t Work

by Kira Lerner – An attorney says we’re likely to see botched executions. Eight men are set to be executed during a ten-day period next month before Arkansas’ supply of an ineffective sedative expires. Arkansas has not gone through with capital punishment in 12 years, despite having 34 inmates waiting on death row. But after courts cleared the way last summer for the state to keep hidden its sources for execution drugs, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said recently he is ready to move forward. It will be the busiest month for the death penalty in a single state since the United States reinstated capital punishment in 1977. But this week, inmates filed two separate lawsuits against the state, arguing that the execution plan is “cruel and unusual.” In a complaint filed Monday, the eight men claimed that the compact schedule threatens their right to effective counsel. According to the lawsuit, Hutchinson...

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Inside the Rotten Repeal of HB2

by Lindsay Gibbs – HB2 is dead, but its anti-LGBT legacy lives on in North Carolina. On Thursday, the North Carolina Senate voted 35–12 to repeal House Bill 2, the anti-LGBT legislation that most notably banned transgender individuals from using the bathroom corresponding with their gender identity. Hours later, after a rousing debate, the House of Representatives also confirmed the repeal by 70–48; hours later, it landed on Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) desk, and the simple stroke of a pen, the controversial legislation that had cost North Carolina millions of dollars, made it one of the most anti-LGBT states in the country, and directly led to the demise of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, was dead at long last. But notably, none of the legislators or advocacy groups that had been fighting for the bill’s repeal for over a year were celebrating. “It’s a disappointing day,” Rep. Price Harrison (D) told ThinkProgress....

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Checkpoints Now Include Mouth Swabs To Check If You’ve Smoked Weed Days Ago

by: Justin Gardner / The Free Thought Project – The mouth swab test can give positive results even if the person did not use cannabis that day, but this “evidence” is still admissible in court. San Diego, CA – On St. Patrick’s Day, California’s southernmost metropolis decided to debut a roadside test for those suspected of driving under the influence of cannabis. Several “sobriety checkpoints” were set up throughout the city with the standard invasions of privacy, but this time they added a mouth swab test known as the Drager 5000. If a cop suspects a driver of being high, they request that he or she take the mouth swab test, and perhaps a field sobriety test as well. They’re trying to gather evidence to incriminate you, although the mouth swab test is not mandatory. The Drager 5000, already in use in other countries and cities such as Los Angeles and...

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Paul Manafort, Former Trump Chairman, Under Investigation for Money Laundering

by Mark Sumner – Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort provides a wide range of services to his clients. For Vladimir Putin, Manafort put together a $10 million-a-year plan to influence American politics and slant news coverage. For Viktor Yanukovych’s pro-Russian Party of Regions, Manafort landed both the presidency of Ukraine and arranged protests that provided an excuse for the invasion of Crimea. He also lobbied for his clients in the United States while failing to register as a foreign agent. For Manafort, at home in Trump Tower, it’s built up a nice pile of what his daughter called blood money. Apparently among the services that Manafort offered his clients was laundering money looted from Ukraine through accounts in notoriously shady Cypriot banks.  And it’s this last “service” that’s getting some fresh scrutiny. Banking sources said some transactions on Manafort-associated accounts raised sufficient concern to trigger an internal investigation at a Cypriot bank into...

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White House’s Explanation for Kushner’s Secret Meeting with a Russian Banker Unravels

by Aaron Rupar – The White House says it was about diplomacy. The bank says it was all business. On Monday, the New York Times broke news about a previously undisclosed December meeting between Jared Kushner and Sergey Gorkov, head of Vnesheconombank, a state-owned Russian bank that is still under American sanctions placed on it by the Obama administration in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. The meeting occurred as Kushner, who was still head of Kushner Companies at the time, was looking for investors to redevelop the Manhattan office building he paid $1.8 billion to purchase in 2007. But White House spokesperson Hope Hicks told the Times that Kushner, who now serves as President Trump’s senior adviser, met with Gorkov to talk diplomacy — not to try and strike a business deal. “Members of presidential transition teams routinely meet with foreign officials,” the Times reported, paraphrasing an interview with Hicks. “Part of...

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Nunes’ Sources Revealed: White House Lawyer and Michael Flynn Flunkie who Trump Kept in Place

by Mark Sumner – The New York Times has tracked down the people who slipped info to Devin Nunes, and the reason he was never, ever going to reveal his sources seems clear enough. A pair of White House officials played a role in providing Representative Devin Nunes of California, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, with the intelligence reports that showed President Trump and his associates were incidentally swept up in foreign surveillance by American spy agencies. The two sources turn out to be Michael Ellis, a lawyer in the White House Counsel’s office who used to work with Nunes at the House Intelligence Committee, and Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who is the Senior Director for Intelligence at the National Security Council. If you’re thinking that Cohen-Watnick’s name in this pairing redeems Nunes’ statement that he had gathered his secret info from an intelligence official, note that Cohen-Watnick is in his...

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2 Former Christie Aides Sentenced to Jail time for Their Role in Bridgegate

by Adam Peck – One chapter closes, but the story is still unfolding almost four years later. Bill Baroni and Bridget Anne Kelly, two former senior officials in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration, were given 24 and 18 month jail sentences respectively for their roles in the 2013 Bridgegate saga. The shutdown of several lanes leading onto the George Washington Bridge, the most heavily trafficked bridge in the United States connecting Manhattan to northern New Jersey, was allegedly an act of political retribution against the city’s mayor Mark Sokolich for failing to endorse Christie’s reelection bid. Kelly was the author of an infamous email that triggered the closures. “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” Kelly wrote, just before the shutdown caused a week of chaos on the surface roads of Fort Lee. Baroni was appointed by Christie to serve as deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New...

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MoveOn.org Files Complaint Against Rep. Nunes for Violation of the Espionage Act

by mlarson59 – Anna Galland, Executive Director of MoveOn.org, submitted a complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics on Tuesday, stating: THE UNAUTHORIZED DISCLOSURE OF CLASSIFIED INFORMATION BY CHAIRMAN NUNES FOR WHAT APPEAR TO BE BLATANTLY POLITICAL PURPOSES IS NOT MERELY A POLICY MATTER OR A MATTER ABOUT THE CHAIRMAN’S IMPARTIALITY IN CONDUCTING THE BUSINESS OF HIS COMMITTEE. IT IS A MATTER THAT IMPLICATES THE INTEGRITY OF THE HOUSE AND ITS PROCEDURES AND ROLE IN THE PROPER HANDLING OF CLASSIFIED INFORMATION THAT IS, OF COURSE, CRITICAL TO ENABLE THE HOUSE AND ITS COMMITTEES TO PERFORM THEIR LEGISLATING AND OVERSIGHT FUNCTIONS IN NATIONAL SECURITY. The essence of the complaint is the following sequence: THE EXISTENCE OF AN APPLICATION FOR FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE UNDER THE FOREIGN INTELLIGENCE SURVEILLANCE ACT, 50 U.S.C. §§1801 ET SEQ.—WHAT CHAIRMAN NUNES REFERRED TO AS “WARRANTS”—IS, OF COURSE, CLASSIFIED, AND DISCLOSURE OF THE INFORMATION ITSELF CAN BE MADE ONLY...

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Trump Administration Decides Trump isn’t Violating His Government Lease. They’re Wrong

by Laurel Raymond – “It is harmful to the integrity — and thus credibility — of GSA, the Presidency, and federal procurement process.” Trump’s downtown DC hotel has emerged as one of the starkest symbols of his conflicts of interest, a literal landmark to Trump’s kleptocracy and a central property in Trump’s violation of the emoluments clause. And, shortly after the election, government ethics experts pointed out one even more basic way Trump’s ownership of the hotel poses a problem: he appears to be in clear violation of the terms of the lease itself. The Trump organization, which Trump still owns, leased the Old Post Office building from the government in 2012. Included in that lease is a standard provision against corruption that stipulates that no “elected official” can be part of the lease or reap any benefit from it. With his election, Trump became both the owner of the hotel and the highest elected...

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Sanctuary Cities ‘Stand Resolute’ in Face of Threatened Funding Cut-Off

by Nadia Prupis – Officials from country’s largest urban centers strategized on sheltering undocumented immigrants after White House announced plan to withhold federal aid. Sanctuary cities are refusing to back down in the face of the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration, which was codified on Monday after Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to cut off funding for states and cities that shelter undocumented residents. Officials from many of those jurisdictions met in New York on Tuesday to discuss how to fight the plan—the second consecutive day of brainstorming from leaders of some of the country’s biggest urban centers, as Reuters noted. The strategy session brought in attendees from California, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington state, Wisconsin, and elsewhere. It was preceded by the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), a left-leaning advocacy group, releasing a guide and toolkit on protecting undocumented immigrants. The blueprint, published last week, aims to help local-level policymakers “create...

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Makers of Fake Planned Parenthood Baby Parts Video Slapped With 15 Felony Charges

by April Hamlin – Two anti-abortion activists are facing 15 felony charges after they secretly filmed themselves trying to buy aborted fetal tissue from Planned Parenthood. (In case you missed it, these attempts were unsuccessful because, duh. But that didn’t stop them from editing this video footage and then using it to claim that the women’s health provider was selling baby parts. They weren’t.) State Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the charges against David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt on Tuesday. The Associated Press reports: The allegations say the pair filmed 14 people without permission between October 2013 and July 2015 in Los Angeles, San Francisco and El Dorado counties. One felony count was filed for each person. The 15th was for criminal conspiracy to invade privacy. According to Becerra, Daleiden and Merritt created a fictitious biomedical research company, which they then lied about in order to convince representatives of Planned Parenthood to meet with them...

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13 More Editorials Calling for a Special Prosecutor

by RandomNonviolence – As of March 7, there had been 20 editorial calls for a special prosecutor. Here are 13 more editorials since then: The Fresno Bee: Russia-Trump probe is in chaos, and Rep. Devin Nunes is to blame By our yardstick, Rep. Devin Nunes had a terrible week fulfilling his duties as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. In fact, the performance of the Tulare Republican was so inept and bewildering that a fellow Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, told MSNBC’s Greta Van Susteren on Wednesday that a bipartisan special select committee should investigate Russia’s meddling into the 2016 presidential campaign. … … Bring on the bipartisan special select committee – as was done with Benghazi – and a special prosecutor. Merced (CA) Sun-Star: Schiff rises, Nunes falters in Russia probe … It’s more proof that to get to the bottom of possible links between Trump associates and...

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Michael Flynn Discussed Illegal Kidnapping of Exiled Turkish Dissident

by Alan Pyke – Flynn was one of Trump’s key advisers when he talked about “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away.” President Donald Trump’s messy pile of international relations scandals and conflicts of interest gained a salacious new development straight out of a novel on Friday. Former Trump national security aide Michael Flynn discussed the hypothetical kidnapping of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen from his Pennsylvania home with senior Turkish government officials in September, the Wall Street Journal reports. Word of the conversation comes from former CIA head James Woolsey, who told the Journal he was alarmed by the brainstorming around “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away,” an operation which would violate U.S. law. Flynn, through a spokesman, denied ever discussing such a plan. The conversation was “open-ended thinking on the subject” rather than a detailed tactical discussion...

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