Nel's New Day

April 13, 2019

DDT: Week 116 – Problems Pile Up

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) has told former Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, now acting DHS director, that he would pardon McAleenan for violating the law if he blocks migrants and asylum seekers from coming across the southern border. DDT fired Claire Grady from DHS because she was legally in the line of succession to take over DHS after DHS fired Kirstjen Nielsen. Neo-Nazi Stephen Miller is now in control of the U.S. immigration policy; the Senate has not confirmed officials for seven top DHS officials.

Although White House officials oppose “placing” undocumented immigrants in so-called sanctuary regions, DDT and Miller are determined to retaliate against Democrats. The term is used for places that follow federal law but don’t pursue migrants who have not committed crimes. Matthew Albence, ICE’s new acting deputy director, opposed DDT’s idea last November because transportation would take money and other resources from enforcement. In February, legal experts rejected the idea, and conservatives say that DDT’s idea gives migrants a free ride to their destinations and creates difficulty in deporting them later. Jessica Vaughan, head of the anti-immigration group Center for Immigration Studies, said that the “immigration policy amateurs in senior positions at the White House … should stay in their lane—which is not immigration.”

AG Bill Barr also reinstated an “efficient” judicial process to get rid of migrants. Instead of giving people fair hearings, DOJ will permit cursory opinions without explanation and set precedents with a small minority of appeals judges. For six temporary judicial seats, Barr—and DDT—can pick judges from immigration appellate judges who have the highest deportation rates. Immigration judges lack independence because they are within the executive branch. DDT has a personal lawyer in Barr as Sen. Joe McCarthy (R-WI) had Roy Cohn to destroy thousands of people in the 1950s. With no evidence, the supposed AG dropped the erroneous word “spying” into his testimony to throw red meat to DDT’s base. Over 25 years ago, Barr had no legal basis for sweeping up millions of U.S. residents’ phone calls in the early 1990s for George H.W. Bush.

According to the conservative Wall Street Journal, federal prosecutors in New York have “more evidence than previously known in its criminal investigation” into DDT’s directing Michael Cohen to make illegal payoffs for DDT’s extra-marital affairs. An interview with Hope Hicks, DDT’s former close aide, led to implicating DDT in federal crimes, and Keith Schiller, DDT’s former bodyguard, has calls to David Pecker, CEO of the National Enquirer’s publisher which admitted paying $150,000 on DDT’s behalf to hide his relationship with a former Playboy model. Investigators also have a recorded phone conversation between Cohen and the two women’s lawyer. Information came “weeks before” Cohen testified about the hush-money payoffs in court. Cohen has said that he has 14 million damaging files about DDT that he has not yet released and wants to postpone the May 6 reporting date for going to prison. This evidence may include “possible federal campaign finance violations by the Republican National Committee, including possibly illegal conduiting of illegal substantial donations to the RNC by foreign nationals, including from China.”

AMI is selling the National Enquirer along with tabloids Globe and National Examiner. The decision came after negotiations with Jeff Bezos’ legal team because of the Enquirer’s attempted shakedown in revenge for news about Saudi Arabia published in the Washington Post, especially the murder of U.S. resident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). The blackmail story threatening to publish revealing photos of Bezos and his mistress if the negative articles about Saudis didn’t stop is connected to DDT through AMI CEO David Pecker, close friend of DDT. The Enquirer fingered the brother of Bezos’ mistress as the photos’ source, but Saudis hacked into Bezos’ phone.

Congress wants answers about six secret authorizations from DDT’s Energy Secretary, Rick Perry, to give Saudi Arabia nuclear technology and services with no limits to block their developing weapons. In reference to MBS’s overseeing the torturing and dismemberment of Khashoggi, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said:

“If you cannot trust a regime with a bone saw, you should not trust them with nuclear weapons.”

These authorizations require congressional approval. A bipartisan bill requires the executive branch to regularly disclose information about allowing permission for nuclear energy cooperation with foreign countries.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin thinks that he doesn’t have to obey a 1924 anti-corruption law requiring him to turn over DDT’s tax returns. Section 6103 of the Tax Code states that Treasury officials “shall,” meaning no choice, turn over the tax returns “upon written request” of the chair of either congressional tax committee or the federal employee who runs Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation. No request has ever been refused. In another potentially illegal act, Mnuchin told Congress that his legal team has consulted with the White House to block DDT’s release of tax returns to House members, in what may be obstruction of justice.

Section 7214(a) requires that DDT, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, IRS director Charles Rettig, and Mnuchin be removed from office if they fail to comply with the request to submit DDT’s tax returns by House Ways and Means Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA). If convicted of this refusal, they “shall be fined not more than $10,000, or imprisoned not more than 5 years of both.” Removal from office can block service on corporate board and require disclosures to lenders. DDT may be busy pardoning himself as well as others. The primary question is how long Mnuchin can stall.

In his pompous appearance before the House Financial Committee this week, Mnuchin complained that the House had not brought NAFTA 2.0 to the floor. There’s a good reason: DDT hasn’t sent the Canada/Mexico/U.S. trade agreement to Congress. He also threatens steep new tariffs of cars imported from Mexico, an act exempted by the agreement. When asked how he could do something the agreement prevents, DDT said, “We haven’t finished our agreement yet.” Yet VP Mike Pence is on the road touting the agreement.

Opposed by top Pentagon leadership, DDT designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corp—which he called Islamic RGC—as a terrorist organization. His unprecedented—and unpresidented—action puts the U.S. at risk of war, and Iran answered by labeling the U.S. military forces also a terrorist organization. The U.S. may no longer be able to successfully negotiate with Iran if U.S. ships just stray into Iran’s waters, as they did in 2016. DDT’s statement read that “if you are doing business with the IRGC, you will be bankrolling terrorism.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that the goal was to force Iran to behave like a “normal” country, perhaps using the “new normal” in the U.S. as an example.

DDT is one of those people who has done “business with the IRGC” in his financial dealings with wealthy oligarch Ziya Mammadov to build a never-opened Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku in Azerbaijan’s capital city. The Mammadov family has strong ties to money laundering with DDT’s so-called “terrorist group,” the IRGC, and some workers were paid in cash—hundreds of thousands of dollars. Between January 2014 and July 15, DDT earned $2.5 million from the project and another $323,000 later, according to his financial disclosure report. A lawyer involved with the project said that the Trump Organization “approved the smallest details. DDT’s business admitted knowledge of developers’ ties to Iranian Revolutionary Guard in 2015 and may have also violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Maryanne Trump Barry, DDT’s older sister, retired as a federal appellate judge to dodge an investigation into her fraudulent tax schemes with DDT and other siblings to greatly increase their wealth. Barry, who will continue to collect a salary of about $200,000 was co-owner of a family-created shell company, All Country, to siphon cash from their father’s empire by marking up purchases already bought by employees in order to avoid gift and estate taxes. By the time of DDT’s father’s death, his children had acquired almost all the father’s estate. Barry also benefited from gross undervaluation of her father’s properties when she and the siblings took ownership. Her share was $182.5 million.

Despite the refusal of Secretary of State Betsy DeVos to protect campus victims of sexual harassment,  the 4th Circuit Court ruled that colleges and universities must take action against targeted violent, sexist cyber abuse including threats of rape and murder. The University of Mary Washington did nothing to stop these actions, and the court ruled court ruled that Title IX and the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause require schools’ addressing cyber harassment and do not permit First Amendment protection for threats to kill or injure others. The decision sets a precedent for legal liability in all universities and colleges.

DDT says he know “nothing” about WikiLeaks after Julian Assauge was arrested, but he’s been praising WikiLeaks for over 30 months. In October 2016, DDT said, “This WikiLeaks is like a treasure trove” and repeated the sentiment many times.

Once again, DDT bragged about a poll that showed his high level of disapproval, this one from Fox’s Lou Dobbs Tonight. Fox Business reporter Blake Burman had to correct that the 55-percent rate DDT shouted out was actually for the unfavorable impression of him.

February 20, 2019

First Amendment Contorted by Love for Saudi Arabia, Clarence Thomas

Remember Jeff Bezos? For a week, the media focused on his “junk,” his battle with the National Enquirer, and his search for the person who ripped off his photos and documents such as texts and emails. Turns out that the guilty person is Bezos’ girlfriend’s gay brother. Then Bezos generated more media buzz when he pulled the Amazon headquarters from New York City, much to the disgust of some and delight of others.

The Bezos scandal highlighted the tie between the Enquirer and the Saudi government through Bezos’ letter to AMI, the owner of the tabloid. In its mandate that Bezos state he had “no knowledge” that the Enquirer’s coverage of his affair was “politically motivated or influenced by political forces,” people guessed that the issue was Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). David Pecker, AMI’s owner and DDT’s close associate, had an immunity deal with the DOJ for their criminal suppression of stories about DDT during his campaign, paying people for stories and then not printing them. Karen McDougal’s alleged affair with DDT was one of these articles that were killed before the election.

But Pecker may wanted the Washington Post, owned by Bezos, to stop printing negative news about Saudi Arabia. Pecker used his ties with DDT to cultivate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) for business opportunities, including borrowing money to buy major publications such as Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, Fortune, and Money.  magazine. AMI’s 97-page glossy propaganda about Saudi Arabia and featuring MBS on the cover sold at Walmarts across the nation as part of Pecker’s pandering.

Jamal Khashoggi, U.S. resident and journalist, worked for the WaPo, and his writings were highly critical of MBS. Before the Saudis tortured and dismembered Khashoggi, MBS had said that he would use a “bullet” on Khashoggi if he got the chance, according to WaPo reporting. On the same day the Wall Street Journal wrote that MBS was actively enlisting U.S. media outlets to remake his image in the West and met with Vice Media co-founder Shane Smith on a yacht to discuss “an international media empire to combat the kingdom’s rivals and remake its image in the West.”

“For reasons still to be better understood, the Saudi angle seems to hit a particularly sensitive nerve,” Bezos wrote. Former longtime Enquirer editor Jerry George said that Pecker was using Bezo’ damaging photos and documents as bargaining chips. As the story unraveled, Pecker failed because Bezos refused to give into blackmail. George cited AMI’s pro-Saudi propaganda as “suspicious” because the company was “cash poor” and “suddenly” got an “influx of cash.” He suggested that “there’s another shoe to drop,” referring to Robert Mueller’s investigation into “the Saudis’ role in all of this.” A restriction of AMI’s immunity included the company staying out of politics, and WaPo revealed that the company may not have lived up to its promises.

Last year, AMI contacted the DOJ to see if the company should register as a foreign agent but said that it didn’t get any Saudi funding for their Saudi propaganda. The DOJ said probably not, but AMI wrote that a Saudi adviser submitted content for its publication and then made changes to the final version after receiving an early draft. AMI’s extortion of Bezos has brought its relation to the Saudis has brought the issue back into visibility.

DDT, who denied his own intelligence showing that MBS was responsible for Khashoggi, now faces an investigation by House Democrats about DDT’s illegal push to sell nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia over objections by national security officials and attorneys, a plan that may have directly benefited his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Despite warnings of “potential conflicts of interest, national security risks and legal hurdles” in 2017, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and other DDT employees push for the sales. DDT plans to bypass Congress with an illegal technology transfer that can spread nuclear weapons throughout the Middle East.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who pled guilty of lying to the FBI, was an early advocate for these sales after DDT’s inauguration and recommended that Barrack, who raised $107 million for DDT’s corrupt inaugural committee, be a special representative to carry out his nuclear plan. Appearing to be from DDT, a memo told federal agencies to do Barrack’s bidding.

The House reports Flynn’s working with retired military officers to circumvent U.S. law. After he resigned, the National Security Council continued with its plan in opposition to advice from its own ethics counsel. The next adviser, H.R. McMaster, said that the illegal work must stop, but McMaster left almost two months ago. Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation has examined the possibility of Middle Eastern monarchies financially influencing DDT’s political activities, starting with his presidential campaign. Congress has not look at claims about the nuclear sales until this year because of GOP control.

In more First Amendment issues, the Covington Catholic High School (KY) teenager who appeared to harass Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder and veteran, is suing WaPo for $250 million. The defamation lawsuit alleges that the newspaper “engaged in a modern-day form of McCarthyism” and “wrongfully targeted and bullied” the “innocent child” Nick Sandmann. According to his lawyers, Sandmann is suffering from “the pain and destruction its attacks would cause to his life.”

The lawsuit reads like a political polemic:

“[The Post wanted to advance its well-known and easily documented, biased agenda against President Donald J. Trump (“the President”) by impugning individuals perceived to be supporters of the President…. [The Post’s coverage was] in furtherance of its political agenda … carried out by using its vast financial resources to enter the bully pulpit by publishing a series of false and defamatory print and online articles which effectively provided a worldwide megaphone to Phillips and other anti-Trump individuals and entities to smear a young boy who was in its view an acceptable casualty in their war against the President.”

Earlier this month, the Sandmann lawyers sent letters warning litigation to over 50 media organizations, celebrities, and politicians. As the wealthiest man in the world, WaPo owner Jeff Bezos has the most money and is considered DDT’s biggest media enemy, and the $250 million is the same amount that Bezos paid for the Post in 2013. Nick’s parents, Ted and Julie Sandmanns, say they want to “teach the Post a lesson it will never forget.” They argue that Nick is not a public figure, lowering the bar for winning their lawsuit.

While Nick was described as a “child,” the lawsuit calls Nathan Phillips “a phony war hero” who “targeted and bullied” Sandmann. Phillips said that Sandmann and his peers from Covington surrounded him after he tried to stop possible violence between them and a few Hebrew Israelites. About Sandmann’s comment on the Today show, Phillips used the terms “insincerity, lack of responsibility”—“coached and written up for him.” About the encounter, Phillips said that he was trying to get out of an ugly situation. “That guy in the hat [Sandmann] stood in my way, and we were at an impasse.” Phillips added, “Then I went to go pray about it …. I forgive him.”

The Sandmanns may find support in their war on freedom of the press from Supreme Court Clarence Thomas. He hopes to attack the media through his proposal to reconsider the 1964 case New York Times v. Sullivan which determined that public figures must have greater proof to claim libel. Thomas’ “roadmap” to  helping DDT’s change in libel laws permitting him to sue news organizations came after Thomas and his far-right activist wife Ginni Thomas had dinner with DDT and his wife Melania Trump. Trump’s pledge to change libel laws so he can sue news organizations for their reporting.

Last Tuesday, Thomas expressed concern about the high court’s refusal to hear an appeal from Katherine McKee, who claimed Bill Cosby’s lawyer leaked a letter that distorted her background and damaged her reputation after she claimed that Cosby raped her. Lower courts cited the Times v. Sullivan precedent in dismissing her case with the justification that disclosing her accusation required her to meet a higher libel standard of malice that applies to public figures. The decision to not take the case was unanimous, but Thomas wrote a sole opinion that the 1964 case was wrongly decided.

Since 1964, public officials can sue for libel only if the person responsible for the statement knows that the statement is false or if the person recklessly disregarded its falsehood. Subsequent Supreme Court cases have added all public figures to public officials to protect journalists and media organizations from intimidation by wealthy and/or powerful public figures wishing to exploit minor errors in reporting. That Supreme Court decision protect the media reporting on Thomas sexual harassment by Anita Hill. Thomas, who claims to be an originalist, following only the word of the U.S. Constitution and not its meaning, said, “We should carefully examine the original meaning [of the First Amendment.]” An early interpretation of this right, as shown by the first Sedition Act in 1798, was that the government could punish any published story, and the Sedition Act still exists. If the Supreme Court supports Thomas, the First Amendment could disappear.

April 12, 2018

The Judicial Branch, Sometimes on the People’s Side

Filed under: Judiciary — trp2011 @ 11:42 PM
Tags: , , ,

 

As the executive and legislative branches bring gloomy news into our homes, the judiciary branch sometimes provides for the rights of the people. From the past two weeks:

Lawsuits:

A federal judge upheld the Massachusetts law banning assault weapons because the U.S. Constitution does not cover military guns. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Second Amendment right for individuals to “bear arms” only for firearms kept in the home for self-defense. Last November the high court refused to hear a challenge to Maryland’s 2013 state ban on assault weapons.

A Montana judge determined that a properly trained advanced practice registered nurse and a certified nurse midwife may provide abortions in the state during the challenge of a state law allowing only physicians and physician assistants to perform abortions. Only the two plaintiffs in the lawsuit are covered by the injunction.

A federal court ruled that the EPA violated the Civil Rights Act by delaying investigations into environmental discrimination complaints for decades. The Flint (MI) case became a symbol of environmental racism from the 1990s when a black neighborhood fought a permit for a nearby scrap wood incinerator and were surrounded by armed guards at a hearing about the issue. The hearing was adjourned before community members could testify, and the incinerator spewed tons of lead into the air every year. The complaint was not resolved until the state caused lead from corroding pipes to spread throughout the city. Flint is not unique.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused an Arizona appeal regarding a 9th Circuit Court decision allowing DACA recipients to get driver’s licenses. Arizona is the only state, after Nebraska rescinded its policy, to attempt a law preventing DACA youth from obtaining these licenses.

Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment settlements of $45 million to at least six women have been unsealed after a New York court decision that ruled them judicial documents subject to public disclosure. The settlement required one accuser to lie under oath if necessary to hide information. The decision is part of an ongoing defamation suit.

A federal judge redrew boundaries in San Juan County (UT) that gave majorities to Navajo Indians in two of three commission districts and three of five school board seat, and Anglos say they feel “disenfranchised.” The county’s population of almost 17,000 has a minority of whites who complain that Navajo commissions won’t show up for meetings or know how to govern the county.

Filings:

China is suing the United States in a World Trade Organization court because of DDT’s proposed tariffs. The claim is discrimination against Chinese goods and violation of Washington’s commitment of tariff limits. If the situation isn’t solved by both parties within 60 days, China can ask for adjudication.

After a judge called Stormy Daniels’ filing to avoid arbitration “premature” because DDT has not filed a petition to compel arbitration, DDT’s lawyers filed the petition. Michael Cohen’s story about paying Daniels out of his own pocket leaves him open to charges such as defamation, professional malfeasance, fraud, and illegal contribution as well as Treasury Department investigation. DDT spent over $27,000 of taxpayer monies for TVEyes to track media the day after Stormy Daniels’ interview on 60 Minutes, “by far” the greatest amount DDT has paid the company and the highest payment by the Executive Office to the company since it began working with TVEyes in 2011.

Karen McDougal is suing the National Enquirer for buying her story about her affair with DDT and then suppressing it. This act led Robert Mueller to investigate the tabloid for protecting Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) while publishing negative propaganda about Hillary and Bill Clinton. his act could constitute an illegal campaign contribution. David J. Pecker, chair of the tabloid’s publisher, American Media Inc., is DDT’s close friend who worked with DDT’s lawyer Michael Cohen to protect DDT. The search warrant served on Cohen this past week included communications between him, Pecker, and Dylan Howard, the business’s chief content officer. The National Enquirer also suppressed a tip for a former doorman at one of DDT’s New York City buildings. He was given $30,000 for a story about DDT having an illegitimate child to the tabloid with the threat of charging him $1 million if he talked to anyone about the information.

A third woman, a campaign staffer, is suing DDT’s campaign for being forced to sign a non-disclosure agreement because it keeps her from telling about being subjected to a superior’s harassing comments and behavior.

Three weeks ago, the Center for Reproductive Rights received a temporary injunction stopping Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban that contravenes a Supreme Court ruling in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016). A new complaint against Mississippi law challenges the ban punishing doctors for providing care after 15 weeks, a restrictive licensing system that singles out clinics providing abortions, the 24-hour mandatory delay and two-trip requirement, physician-only mandate, and the telemedicine ban. Mississippi has only one remaining clinic that provides abortions.

Daily Beast contributor and radio host Dean Obeidallah is suing Andrew Anglin after neo-Nazi The Daily Stormer accused Obeidallah of orchestrating the 2017 Ariana Grande concert bombing. The Daily Stormer may be forced to reveal its financial transactions through its shell company Moonbase Holdings because Anglin is in default by not responding to the first lawsuit.

After Juli Briskman gave a third-finger salute to the presidential motorcade passing her on her bicycle, she was fired because she posted a photograph of her action on her Facebook page. The contractor Akima cited a social media policy barring obscenity but admitted fear of federal retaliation. Briskman wants $2,692 for two weeks of promised severance pay and compensation for legal fees. Akima kept an employee who posted, “You’re a fucking Libtard asshole” in response to discussion of Black Lives Matter. Legal superstar Laurence Tribe explained that the firing undermines freedom of speech and Akima must be held accountable for its unlawful action.

California’s Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye has called for more specific rules that require state courts to disclose judges who settled resolutions regarding sexual harassment and discrimination. Documents show that the state’s court system paid over $500,000 in seven years to resolve sexual harassment complaints against judges and staff. California’s legislature already identified the name of lawmakers and staff in 18 cases of sexual harassment.

Elections:

The judicial system is looking up in Wisconsin after Progressive Judge Rebecca Dallet was elected to the state Supreme Court; she defeated Michael Screnock 56.5-43.5 percent for the ten-year term. Dallet’s election moves the state’s high court to a four-to-three conservative majority from the past five-to-two, and six of the seven justices are now women. The Walker-appointed state court judge forced him to hold a special election for empty legislative seats according to law, and the legislature wouldn’t support Walker in reversing the law.

In the executive branch, the DOJ has established a quota system for U.S. immigration judges to speed up their processing cases. The mandate to clear at least 700 cases a year for a “satisfactory” performance rating will be connected to annual performance reviews. The system also penalizes judges who refer more than 15 percent of certain cases to high courts or schedule hearing dates too far apart. Judges must complete 85 percent of removal cases within three days of a merit hearing to be considered “satisfactory.” Immigration judges complete 678 cases in an average year, but some clear far over 1,000, sometimes spending only a minute on a case. Although immigrations judges are supposed to have full independence, they are part of the executive branch, not the judicial branch, because they function as part of U.S. law enforcement.

The new mandates fail to recognize not only the supposed independence of judges but also the conditions of immigration court that deals with small children, people who don’t speak English, and those with extremely limited education. The evidence needed for court cases, such as medical records to prove they fled from persecution, can take time to obtain. Doctors performing an independent mental health evaluation may not get timely clearance into detention centers. With judges’ ratings based on how fast they finish a case, all final rulings will be suspect and therefore liable to appeals.

In an 18-minute episode on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver presented a type of “Immigration Courts for Dummies” as he walked his audience through the absurdities of deportation hearings. Most horrifying is that everyone— including three- and four-year-old children—who cannot afford a lawyer will not have one and thus required to represent themselves. A judge talked about teaching toddlers how to be their own lawyers. Watch the segment if you have the stomach for it.

If speed were of the essence, the government could provide an electronic filing system and more court clerks. Many times three judges are forced to share one clerk. Instead Sessions has eliminated the requirement that asylum seekers may have a full hearing before a judge.

Maybe all judges should be put into the judiciary branch.

 

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