Nel's New Day

July 25, 2018

Kavanaugh, A Disaster for the United States, Part 1

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 11:59 PM
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On July 9, 2018, Brett Kavanaugh accepted the nomination for Supreme Court Justice to replace Anthony Kennedy whose resignation takes effect on July 31. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has managed to deflect attention away from his nominee with news about the meeting with Vladimir Putin, his attack on Iran, and his trade war. Other events have also distracted the media: DDT’s incessant lies, the release of tapes between DDT and Michael Cohen showing that he was involved in hiding the story about his affair with Karen McDougal, etc. Media about Kavanaugh largely focuses on the losses of people’s rights—especially women’s reproductive rights—if Kavanaugh is approved.

The biggest concern facing the people in the United States with Brett Kavanaugh as a justice on the highest court, however, should be that he could put DDT above the law. In the past, he protected George W. Bush by writing that sitting presidents should not have to concern himself with civil suits, criminal probes, prosecutors’ questioning—any “time-consuming and distracting” lawsuits and investigations.

Worse, Kavanaugh said three times on a panel with other lawyers that the unanimous Supreme Court ruling in 1974 requiring Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes was wrong. Kavanaugh said that Nixon may have had the authority to hide incriminating evidence from federal investigators and that U.S. v. Nixon should perhaps be “overruled.” In 2009, Kavanaugh argued that “Congress might consider a law exempting a President—while in office—from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.”

In addition to making the president above the law—at least a GOP president—Kavanaugh proposed a six-year presidential term by repealing the 23rd Amendment to the constitution. [That would give DDT six years to campaign instead of the four years that he’s using at this time.]

Kavanaugh’s opinion may be for only Republican presidents. He helped author the 1998 Starr Report which gave the case Bill Clinton’s impeachment and removal from office. The document states that a president who lies, whether or not under oath, could be impeached. By 2004, the George W. Bush nominee for a federal judgeship had changed his mind:

“It was not our place to say what the House should do with that or what the Senate should do with that evidence.”

Likely decisions from a Supreme Court with Kavanaugh based on his earlier rulings:

  • Overturning Roe v. Wade, permitting abortions, or at the least allowing states to make the decision and creating inequality for women throughout the nation.
  • Loss of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Establishment of a Christian theocracy for the United States with the distorted view of “religious liberty” that discriminates against all minorities and women.
  • Control by the judiciary over regulations by overturning the Chevron doctrine.
  • Eradication of any agencies independent from executive control.
  • Elimination of the balance of powers. 
  • Almost unlimited ownership of guns, including semi-automatic rifles.
  • Permission for foreigners to donate money for U.S. candidates by allowing them to spend money on independent advocacy campaigns.

The Federalist Society picked Kavanaugh for the nomination—although Kennedy may have leveraged the deal. Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah refused to answer a question about whether DDT told Kennedy he would nominate Kavanaugh if Kennedy retired. Kennedy could be in control of a SCOTUS seat for 60 years—30 years for himself and 30 or more for the 53-year-old Kavanaugh.” Kennedy’s son bailed Jared Kushner out of a nasty loan when rents on Kushner’s $1.8 billion purchase of 666 Fifth Avenue met only 65 percent of his loan payments. Vornado, servicer on the loan from LNR Partners where Kennedy’s son worked, reduced the principal and deferred part of the interest on the interest-only loan until February 2019.

Kavanaugh’s last confirmation took three years for approval. The American Bar downgraded Kavanaugh’s qualification rating judges and colleagues described him as “less than adequate,” “sanctimonious,” “insulated,” and “immovable and very stubborn.”  In 2006, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) complained that Kavanaugh “spoke of making rulings and whatnot that would make President Bush proud.”

Cleared by anti-LGBTQ and anti-choice organizations, Kavanaugh suggested that Roe v. Wade was incorrectly decided and claimed that a president can refuse to enforce a statute that a court has ruled constitutional. He could also vote to overturn Griswold v. Connecticut and Eisenstadt v. Baird, that legalize contraception for unmarried women. One of his dissents was to nullify the ACA preexisting condition coverage, including for people with HIV. His dissent in the decision that a migrant girl could have an abortion claimed that the government created a “new right” for immigrants in custody “to obtain immediate abortion on demand” for “unlawful immigrant minors.”

Comments about Kavanaugh:

Demand Progress: “Trump’s SCOTUS pick Brett Kavanaugh is an enemy of net neutrality and has sided with big cable companies in the lower courts.”

Politico’s Tim Starks: Kavanaugh “has a history of embracing warrantless surveillance and rejecting Fourth Amendment challenges to it.”

Vox’s Dylan Matthews:  “He’s a veteran of every conservative cause you can imagine, from the 2000 Florida recount to the fight against Obamacare.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): “He believes that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is unconstitutional, he tried to strike down net neutrality, and he’s worked to make it harder for federal watchdogs to hold corporate criminals accountable and protect public health, safety, and economic security.”

Chris Murphy: “Brett Kavanaugh is an anti-consumer zealot, an opponent of preexisting condition protections, a critic of abortion rights and access to contraception, a Second Amendment radical, and a bad choice for the Supreme Court.”

Although Yale Law School’s press release about Kavanaugh sang his virtues, over 600 of the school’s students, staff members, and alumni signed a letter calling for the school to rescind this support citing Kavanaugh’s rulings to show that his conservative bias could place SCOTUS rulings at risk. The letter also stated that Kavanaugh would act as a “rubber stamp for President Trump’s fraud and abuse.” It added:

“At a time when the President and his associates are under investigation for various serious crimes, including colluding with the Russian government and obstructing justice, Judge Kavanaugh’s extreme deference to the Executive poses a direct threat to our democracy.”

Democrats have asked for hundreds of thousands of pages to examine Kavanaugh’s history. One black mark against him may be his testimony that he knew nothing about the George W. Bush administration torture of detainees. Senators had earlier confirmed Jay Bybee to the 9th Circuit Court before they discovered his part in writing the memos justifying this torture. Kavanaugh may not have directly lied, but he waffled enough to mislead the senators. He was asked to recuse himself from any cases dealing with detainee-related issues but refused. The person who signed his letter of exoneration is Brian Benczkowski who was confirmed to lead DOJ’s criminal division after he worked for the largest Russian bank with ties to Vladimir Putin. Two members who felt misled by Kavanaugh still sit on the Judiciary Committee.

One oddity about Kavanaugh is his large decade-long credit card debt—between $60,000 and $200,000—to buy Washington Nationals’ season tickets and baseball playoff games for himself and a “handful” of friends. Shah claimed that some of his debts during the past decade were for home improvement and that Kavanaugh’s friends reimbursed him for their share of the baseball tickets later. Kavanaugh’s only listed assets are his home with a $865,000 mortgage, his wife’s retirement fund between $15,000 and $65,000, and his own retirement fund. His wife annually makes $66,000 as town manager for Chevy Chase; their daughters’ annual tuition is $20,050.

A minority of people in the U.S. will determine the direction of the United States for decades: a president elected by a minority of voters has nominated another white Catholic male for the U.S. Supreme Court, and senators elected by a minority of the voters will in most likelihood confirm the nominee. And the situation will get only worse in the future. By 2040, 70 percent of people will live in 15 states, leaving the 70 senators from the remaining 30 percent—older, whiter, more rural, and more male—will be able to confirm—or not confirm—the president’s nominees. That’s the conclusion of conservative Norm Ornstein based on population estimates. With almost half the population in only eight states by 2040, half the U.S. population will control 84 percent of the Senate.

[To be continued with Kavanaugh’s major cases.]

July 9, 2018

New SCOTUS Justice Nominee, Continuing Lawsuits

The suspense is over, and the work begins. Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has nominated Brett Kavanaugh, anti-abortion activist, as his choice for a Supreme Court Justice, perhaps because the sitting judge on the D.C. Circuit Court believes that a sitting president should not be indicted. I will write more about him later. In the meantime, U.S. courts keep chewing away at federal injustices:

The U.S. Supreme Court, soon to be reconfigured to the right, delivered a final statement for 2018 on gerrymandering when it kept the redrawn legislative districts by returning the case to a North Carolina court that tried to reduce racial gerrymandering. Democrats are the majority voting bloc in the state, but the GOP controls ten of the 13 seats in the House of Representatives and a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly. The Supreme Court could still hear the case again if an appeal from Republicans returns the issue to the higher court. Legislators are also trying to move the court to the right by increasing the number of judges. But they can’t finish this process by the fall election—I hope!

Today DDT lost another round in the separation of children and families when a judge refused long-term detention of migrant families except in cases when parents are detained on criminal charges. Judge Molly M. Gee said the administration’s attempt to change the 1997 Flores agreement requiring the release of children within 20 days was “a cynical attempt” to shift immigration policymaking to the courts in the wake of “over 20 years of congressional inaction and ill-considered executive action that have led to the current stalemate.” In another federal case, 54 migrants under the age of six, scattered from California to New York, will be secretly returned to their parents tomorrow, half the number who were removed from their parents. Tomorrow is the court’s deadline for all the youngest migrants to be returned to their parents. The court has mandated that the remainder of children over five years old, perhaps 2,900, must be reunited by July 27.

The DOJ dropped charges against the last 38 protesters of the 200 arrested at the inauguration of DDT. Prosecutors managed to get one guilty plea to a felony and another 20 to misdemeanors in 18 months after turning the lives of hundreds of people upside down.

A federal judge has ruled against a Tennessee law that suspends or revokes driver’s licenses of people too poor to pay court costs or traffic fines because the law violates constitutional due process and equal protection clauses. The ruling does not affect other states, but it sets a precedent for other similar rulings. Over four million drivers have lost their licenses for failure to pay these charges in only five states—Texas, Michigan, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.

A judge in the Southern District of New York ruled that the lawsuit opposing the citizenship question in the 2020 census can go forward amid “strong” evidence DDT acted in bad faith. Also granted was the request for discovery that will bring to light the background for this decision. Judge Barbara Underwood wrote:

“By demanding the citizenship status of each resident, the Trump administration is breaking with decades of policy and potentially causing a major undercount that would threaten billions in federal funds and New York’s fair representation in Congress and the Electoral College.”

ICE cannot systematically detain migrants fleeing persecution from their home countries, according to a judge in the Federal District Court of D.C. who pointed out that the U.S. government requires these applicants to be freed when appropriate. Under DDT, parole rates have gone from over 90 percent to “nearly zero.” Judge James Boasberg has ordered individualized reviews for all asylum seekers before denying parole in a case affecting over 1,000 asylum seekers denied parole in Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Newark, and Philadelphia. ICE has held one of the plaintiffs for over 18 months after he fled Haiti and passed his credible fear interview and then a judge granted him asylum in April 2017.

A ballot initiative already passing review for the fall ballot by the Michigan Court of Appeals will go to the state’s Supreme Court. A Republican and business-backed group are challenging the initiative to create an independent commission to draw legislative districts with advice of consultants and public hearings. Gerrymandering in Michigan, as in a majority of other states, has caused Republicans to take over state legislatures despite a majority of Democrat voters in some states.

A federal judge blocked Kentucky’s Medicaid work requirements because they did not consider whether these would violate the provision of health care to the most vulnerable people. The disagreement comes from whether the requirement furthers the program’s goals. Up to 95,000 people could lose Medicaid coverage within five years with these requirements. Kentucky was the first state to create these work requirements, and three other states—Indiana, Arkansas, and New Hampshire—had received federal approval. Seven other states have submitted proposals.

Gov. Matt Bevin retaliated against people on Medicaid by cutting Medicaid dental and vision benefits to almost 500,000 people, some of them children. In Kentucky, Medicaid covers about 1.4 million people, almost half of them children. Federal funding provides for 80 percent of the $11 billion dollars for the program. Bevins’ order may violate the judge’s ruling about Medicaid.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been named as a possible witness in the federal corruption trial of an Alabama coal executive and two politically connected attorneys in Alabama. The case is about an alleged conspiracy to bribe a state legislator to limit the EPA’s cleaning up a Superfund site. The legislator, Oliver Robinson, has already pled guilty to taking bribes from Drummond Coal that were facilitated by the two attorneys at a major Birmingham law firm. Other witnesses include several state legislators as well as Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), recently returned from a PR trip to Russia, and Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL). As a senator, Sessions tried to intervene with the EPA to stop the cleanup at the Superfund site after conferring with the Drummond lawyers; the law firm and coal company were Sessions second- and third-largest contributors to his senate campaign, a great deal after Sessions intervened. The DOJ has been overseeing the case while Sessions is AG.

After a number of losses in court, including being sent to take remedial law classes, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will no longer represent himself in court during his appeal for contempt in court and a ruling of unconstitutional for requiring people to show proof of citizenship in voter registration. Kobach’s office will be lead counsel. Furious because he lost a straw vote to gubernatorial competitor Gov. Jeff Colyer, Kobach accused his opponent of voter fraud by paying 106 people to vote.

A federal judge issued an injunction against a 2015 Arkansas law that bans abortion pills. Earlier the U.S. Supreme Court had refused to hear a case against the law. After Planned Parenthood presented new evidence, the judge indicated that it may prevail in the case. A federal judge also blocked Indiana’s new requirement that medical providers report patient information to the state after treating women for complications from abortions.

Last week, people celebrated the separation of the United States from the reign of George III. In another eight years, the U.S.—if it still exists—will celebrate the 250th anniversary of this document. Until then, consider the similarity between the actions of George III and DDT:

  • DDT ignores laws and court decisions he doesn’t like—anti-nepotism, Russia sanctions, emoluments clause, the Affordable Care Act—the list goes on.
  • DDT blocks laws in the Congress, such as ones about immigration, if he disapproves.
  • DDT wants to be a dictator like China’s Xi Jinping, while a majority of Republicans want to postpone the next presidential election.
  • DDT demonizes immigrants with extreme punishment. Consider the Declaration’s complaint about George III: “he has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither….”
  • DDT tries to prevent a legal investigation into ties between Russia and his campaign through attempts to weaken U.S. confidence in the FBI, the intelligence services, and the justice system as a whole.
  • DDT “has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.”
  • DDT has ordered “Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures” by sending National Guard troops to the border with Mexico.
  • DDT is stopping “Trade with all parts of the world” and “imposing Taxes on us without our Consent” with tariffs and alienation of allies.
  • DDT “has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people” through expanding offshore drilling, risking wildlife and oceans, and destroying economies of states bordering oceans.
  • George III also suffered from a mental illness.

DDT has just nominated a Supreme Court justice while he is being investigated not only for his involvement in Russian election meddling but also for illegal payoffs to women with whom he had affairs, defamation, and his illegal activities with his personal charitable foundation. He might also be charged, both civilly and criminally, with perjury by signing at least four annual federal tax returns swearing that the organization wasn’t used for political and/or business purposes although evidence shows that he lied. Yet DDT thinks he’s above the law, and his new Supreme Court justice may agree with him.

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