Saturday, May 05, 2018
The West Wing shouting match was so loud that more than a dozen staffers heard it. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cursed and yelled at White House Counsel Donald McGahn during the February confrontation, according to two people familiar with the episode. Misleading statements about the domestic abuse scandal that felled staff secretary Rob Porter had dragged the administration into a maelstrom of chaos and contradictory public statements.Exasperated, Sanders told McGahn she would not continue to speak for the administration unless she was provided more information about Porter’s situation.
The dispute, which erupted in a hallway outside Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin’s office, was resolved after Sanders received the clarity she sought, the people familiar with the argument said. Hours later, Sanders returned to her lectern to field queries from a skeptical press corps, though her answers left reporters with more questions.
Sanders was thrust into an especially harsh limelight over the past week. She was the subject of an acerbic broadside about her “bunch of lies” by comedian Michelle Wolf at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. Then she was forced to explain the inconsistent accounts from her,
PresidentTrump and his new personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, about the hush money paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels. The week was punctuated by an onslaught of commentary about Sanders’s character.
Sanders is inextricably bound in the mistruths of the Trump administration. She is a willing warrior for Trump, and her critics say she should be held accountable for his utterances — from the untruthful to the racist to the sexist.
the presidentblithely admits to lying, it makes all those who are paid to repeat and defend his stories liars, as well,” said David Axelrod, who was a senior White House adviser under President Barack Obama. “Their credibility is tied to his. It’s a high price to pay for a job, even in the White House.”
By the time she took over as White House press secretary from Sean Spicer in July, the administration’s penchant for misleading the public at the president’s direction was well established.
Allies of Sanders say that she often pushes back on Trump, who wants her to attack the media even harder and more frequently, and that other administrations have also faced credibility problems, . . .
Fresh trouble for Sanders arose Wednesday night, when Giuliani, in a freewheeling interview with Sean Hannity, told the friendly Fox News host that Trump had reimbursed his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for the $130,000 in hush money he paid to Daniels . . .
Giuliani’s disclosure appeared to be at odds with Sanders’s repeated insistence that Trump was not aware of Cohen’s payment to Daniels. The interview, which Sanders did not coordinate, left her in an untenable position,. . .
Reporters pressed Sanders on Thursday: Was she a liar or simply in the dark? And why was the president’s personal attorney authorized to announce news about sensitive hostage negotiations?
Before most briefings, she meets with Trump in the Oval Office to discuss how he would like her to answer news-of-the-day questions, White House officials said. The president sometimes dictates lines for her to read or orders her to use precise words on particularly sensitive matters.
Sanders routinely dodges questions on hot topics by telling reporters she has not asked the president about it — a deliberate strategy to avoid having to wade into delicate issues, according to a Sanders confidant.
Friday, May 04, 2018
Rudy Giuliani may have just made the case for why Robert Mueller, the special counsel getting to the bottom of Russia’s role in the last presidential election, has a real need to speak with Donald Trump. And it has everything to do with the president’s state of mind during a key moment under the microscope: the firing of James Comey, the former FBI director.
“He fired Comey because he would not, among other things, say that he was not a target of the investigation,” Giuliani told Fox News’ Sean Hannity late on Wednesday. . . . . So he fired him, and he said ‘I’m free of this guy.’”
United States v. Nixon, the landmark Supreme Court case that forced President Richard Nixon to comply with a prosecutorial subpoena to turn over the Watergate tapes, is still good law. And of all the important principles the decision stands for — beyond precipitating the fall of a sitting president — one that rises to the top is the American public’s interest in the fair and impartial administration of justice. The court system must be able to get a full picture of the facts of a criminal investigation. “To ensure that justice is done,” Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote for an 8-to-0 court, “it is imperative to the function of courts that compulsory process be available for the production of evidence needed either by the prosecution or by the defense.”
Nixon is controlling law for the Mueller investigation. And in light of reporting this week that the special counsel still has a keen interest in interviewing Trump — and an apparent willingness to rely on compulsory process — there is a distinct possibility that Mueller may go to court and invoke Nixon if [Trump]
the presidentdoesn’t cooperate, either voluntarily or in the face of a valid subpoena. That’s the kind of momentous confrontation that no doubt would quickly make its way to the Supreme Court, which so far has seemed willing to treat Trump just like any other president, rather than carve out Trumpian exceptions to presidential powers that may bind later chief executives.
Even if he’s not a target, courts may still determine that Trump is required to give the evidence that’s asked of him — especially in a probe where he may hold the key to many of its mysteries. “The need to develop all relevant facts in the adversary system is both fundamental and comprehensive,” the Supreme Court said in Nixon. “The ends of criminal justice would be defeated if judgments were to be founded on a partial or speculative presentation of the facts.”
That’s precisely the state of affairs with a number of unresolved strands of the Russia investigation. We don’t know Trump’s frame of mind or what he knew when he fired Mike Flynn. We don’t know if he ever learned during the campaign that two of his family members and his campaign chairman wanted to obtain “dirt” on his rival from Russians during a meeting in Trump Tower. Or the reason he dictated the White House response to news reports revealing that the meeting took place. Or what he meant when he told NBC News’s Lester Holt that he dismissed Comey on account of “this Russia thing.” And what about his reported comments to Russian officials in the Oval Office, one day after Comey’s firing, that getting rid of the FBI director relieved “great pressure” from his presidency?
These are all open questions that are critical to Mueller and that only Trump can answer. And notice how all of these queries are far more focused than the broad, open-ended questions that Trump’s legal team leaked to the New York Times this week — not even Fox News’ Howard Kurtz buys the spin that these disclosures came from Mueller’s side. . . . .[the] suggestion — that he [Mueller] remains on a never-ending fishing expedition — is just red meat for Trump’s base and a tactic to discredit Mueller’s work. Getting Trump’s direct testimony for a narrower set of interrogatories is Mueller’s way of tying up loose ends.
If Mueller can show that he has, as Nixon observed, a “demonstrated, specific need for evidence,” he’ll get it. The republic, the separation of powers, and the office of the presidency won’t crumble. The opposite may be true if the courts and the office of the special counsel are stonewalled by Trump and aren’t allowed to do their job.
|Accurate History often isn't pretty. 1863
photograph that became known as “The Scourged Back”’|
shows the whipping scars on Gordon, a former slave in Louisiana who escaped to Union lines.
A video of the rapper Kanye West discussing slavery is a sad reminder of America’s historical amnesia about the brutal realities of that institution. “When you hear about slavery for 400 years,” he said in the clip, which was widely circulated on Twitter, “that sounds like a choice.”Mr. West seemed to suggest that enslaved African-Americans were so content that they did not actively resist their bondage, and, as a result, they bear some responsibility for centuries of persecution.
He’s not alone in his thinking. In 2016, the former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly asserted that slaves were “well fed and had decent lodgings.” Last September, the Alabama senatorial candidate Roy Moore deemed the antebellum era the last great period in American history. “I think it was great at the time when families were united,” he declared. “Even though we had slavery, they cared for one another.”
Modern scholarship has debunked such whitewashing, accurately depicting slavery as an inhumane institution rooted in greed and the violent subjugation of millions of African-Americans.
Yet countless Americans have not learned these lessons. They cling, instead, to a romanticized interpretation of slavery, one indebted to a book published 100 years ago.
In the spring of 1918, the historian Ulrich Bonnell Phillips published his seminal study, “American Negro Slavery,” which framed the institution as a benevolent labor agreement between indulgent masters and happy slaves. No other book, no monument, no movie — save, perhaps, for “Gone With the Wind,” itself beholden to Phillips’s work — has been more influential in shaping how many Americans have viewed slavery.
After earning his doctorate in 1902, Phillips set out to correct the slanted picture of the Southern past that he believed prevailed at the time. “The history of the United States has been written by Boston and largely been written wrong,” he lamented. “It must be written anew before it reaches its final form of truth, and for that work, the South must do its part.”
Phillips certainly did his. During his 30-year career, he published nine books and close to 60 articles, earning a series of prestigious professorships that culminated in a “very flossy job,” as he put it, at Yale University. This 1930 appointment reflected his stature as the country’s leading historian of slavery and the South, as well as the influence of his most important book, “American Negro Slavery.”
Phillips found evidence in plantation records and Southern travelogues that bolstered the book’s benign interpretation of slavery, while downplaying evidence that did not. In his hands, plantations became idyllic sites where white families had modeled the habits of civilized life for their childlike black charges. “The plantations,” Phillips wrote, “were the best schools yet invented for the mass training of that sort of inert and backward people which the bulk of the American negroes represented.”
According to Phillips, slaveholders provided the enslaved with comfortable living quarters and plentiful rations and eschewed physical discipline. . . . Enslaved African-Americans, in turn, displayed gratitude and loyalty to their masters. Phillips concluded that, while slavery may have been economically inefficient, “the relations on both sides were felt to be based on pleasurable responsibility.”
In the words of the historian John David Smith, an expert on Phillips, the book served as “the definitive account of the peculiar institution” from World War I into the 1950s.
The book set the tone for the treatment of slavery in classrooms and textbooks across the country. “There was much to be said for slavery as a transition status between barbarism and civilization,” maintained a 1930 best seller, echoing Phillips almost verbatim. “The majority of slaves were … apparently happy.”
W.E.B. Du Bois wrote a scathing review of “American Negro Slavery,” observing, “It is a defense of American slavery, a defense of an institution which was at best a mistake and at worst a crime.” Drawing on interviews with ex-slaves, sources Phillips rejected, the historian Frederic Bancroft published a 1931 book that exploded Phillips’s misrepresentations of the domestic slave trade.
Phillips’s critics grew more vocal in the 1950s and 1960s, as a new generation of scholars challenged his benign reading of slavery and the racism that stained almost every page of “American Negro Slavery.”
According to a new Southern Poverty Law Center report on how slavery is taught in public schools, current pedagogy continues to focus on slavery from the perspective of whites, not the enslaved, while failing to connect the institution to the white supremacist beliefs that supported it. Textbooks often ignore slaveholders’ desire to make money and too easily slip into grammatical constructions — Africans “were brought” to America — that absolve enslavers of their actions.
We must confront mischaracterizations of the nature of slavery, whether nurtured in the classroom or broadcast on Twitter. After all, historical accuracy on this topic is not just about getting the past right; it is also about understanding the challenges of the present.
The persistence of racial inequality in America — from police brutality and school segregation to mass incarceration and wealth disparities — reflects, to some degree, the persistence of the Phillipsian take on slavery.
Thursday, May 03, 2018
Until Tuesday, it seemed that Vice President Pence had one primary function within the Trump administration: to be morally offended by everything. There was the time that he walked out of an NFL game because some players took a knee while the national anthem was played.Last month “the vice president walked out of the Summit of the Americas when Cuba’s foreign minister was recognized to speak after him,” according to the Associated Press.
Pence has demonstrated his ability to register his moral disapproval even when he does not leave an event. This was the case at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics, when he refused to stand as the unified Korean team entered the stadium.
Pence’s defenders would argue that being rude to dignitaries from North Korea and Cuba just shows how righteous he really is. His brand is as a man of serious moral values who can serve as Trump’s envoy to people of faith. Pence’s presence in the White House has been a boon for the religious right. Evangelical leaders across the country point to his record on abortion and religious freedom and liken him to a prophet restoring conservative Christianity to its rightful place at the center of American life.So it is worth noting what Pence, the Trump administration’s righteous man, did in Arizona on Tuesday. . . . . Pence praised former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of contempt of court, as a “tireless champion of … the rule of law” during an event in Arizona on Tuesday.
Pence said at the tax event that he was “honored” by the former sheriff’s attendance, and called Arpaio a “great friend of this president and tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law,” to cheers from the crowd.
Needless to say, most observers do not view Joe Arpaio as a real big fan of the rule of law. Indeed, Arpaio probably would have fit right into either the Cuban or North Korean regimes.It is not just Arpaio’s victims who feel moral outage. The National Review editorialized in January: Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt last summer for willfully violating a federal court order. Specifically, he was convicted of violating an order that he cease arresting and detaining people for whom there was no plausible criminal charge — i.e., the court asked him, pretty please, to stop detaining Mexicans for publicity purposes.But Sheriff Joe has a thing for arresting people who haven’t committed any crime. He arrested a Republican critic — the county supervisor — on trumped-up charges in 2008 and ended up handing over $3.5 million of taxpayers’ money in a wrongful-arrest settlement.Red State’s Sarah Quinlan offers up a detailed list of Arpaio’s abuses of the rule of law while he was the former sheriff, concluding: “Nothing about Sheriff Joe Arpaio resembles any sort of justice or law and order under the United States Constitution, and it is disgraceful for Pence to pretend otherwise.”
Note who I’m quoting here. These are conservative outlets one would expect to be in lockstep with a good Christian conservative like Pence. But they are appalled — and they are not the only conservatives to react this way. In these politically polarized times, Mike Pence has managed to appall just about everyone across the political spectrum. That takes some doing.[T]he number of officials in the Trump administration who can claim to have preserved their moral bearings in this administration keeps shrinking by the day.
It is possible that the vice president reads this and cancels his Washington Post subscription in a fake moral outrage. It would be on brand for him. It would not change the fact that he has sullied his standing with this act of moral appeasement.
Paul Ryan appeared at a financial conference to warn that, if Democrats win control of either the House or the Senate in the November elections, “you’ll have gridlock, you’ll have subpoenas.” The gridlock part is true, but it is basically the case already.
What really would change with Democratic control of a chamber is the subpoena part. But it’s worth spelling out just what it is Ryan is warning will happen — and what, by implication, he is confessing.
Ryan’s House has been run essentially as a subordinate arm of the Trump administration. Ryan and his party have quashed votes to compel release of Donald Trump’s tax returns, and they have used their investigative power not to oversee the presidency but to harass and intimidate the Department of Justice into falling into line behind the president’s whims, to the point where the acting attorney general had to bluntly accuse House Republicans of trying to “extort” him. Trump and his family have used their power to enrich themselves personally, with no hearings or oversight whatsoever from the House. His Cabinet members have likewise misspent funds and abused their authority without any accountability from the committees that are putatively tasked with the job.
Ryan has played an invaluable role covering up and enabling Trump administration scandals. When he says his party needs to keep control of the House to prevent subpoenas, he is both promising the cover-ups will continue if his party keeps its control of government, and expressing his clear belief that he opposes any level of independent oversight of the Executive branch.
Wednesday, May 02, 2018
|Image credit: Jasjyot Singh Hans|
The 49 questions that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, hopes to ask President Trump as part of the yearlong Russia investigation suggest that Mr. Mueller knows a great deal more than he’s letting on — and he hasn’t even gotten to the follow-ups yet.
After the questions, which were published by The Times on Monday, were provided to Mr. Trump’s legal team in March, John Dowd, the president’s lead personal lawyer at the time, urged him to avoid sitting for an interview with Mr. Mueller. When Mr. Trump said he intended to anyway, Mr. Dowd resigned.
Reading through the list, it’s clear why Mr. Dowd was so concerned. Federal investigators don’t like being lied to, and Mr. Trump has a marked tendency to say things that aren’t true. If he agrees to speak with Mr. Mueller’s team, he will have to answer some very basic questions about what he knew, when he knew it and what motivated some of his most shocking and inexplicable actions over the past year.
To name just a few: When and why did you decide to fire James Comey, the F.B.I. director, who was leading the Russia investigation at the time? What did you mean when you told NBC’s Lester Holt that you fired Mr. Comey because “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story”? Did you try to persuade the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, to protect you from the investigation? Did you secretly promise to pardon Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who has pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his communications with the Russian ambassador?
The questions are a reminder of just how aberrant this White House has been. No prior president so openly assaulted the rule of law or undermined the integrity of the law enforcement community.
It may unnerve Mr. Trump, who has spent his life skirting the law and avoiding full accountability, but this is how the law works. Without saying a word publicly, Mr. Mueller and his team of experienced investigators are showing America how a government premised on the rule of law is supposed to function. The process may seem slow, but that is out of diligence and caution. Its fundamental purpose is truth-seeking — unlike, say, the embarrassing obfuscations of the Republican leaders of the House Intelligence Committee, who last week absolved Mr. Trump and his campaign of any wrongdoing in a 250-page report that reads more like a work of fantasy than a government investigation.
Obstruction of justice is itself a federal crime — see, for example, Section 1505 of Title 18 of the United States Code — regardless of whether prosecutors can establish an underlying offense. Mr. Trump and his defenders mock it as a “process crime,” but the rule of law breaks down if people can interfere, with impunity, in law enforcement’s efforts to do justice. Don’t forget that both presidents who have faced impeachment proceedings in the past few decades, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, were accused of obstructing justice.
Mr. Mueller appears to have at least some evidence of an underlying offense. That is the implication of about a dozen of his questions, including the most surprising of all: Was Mr. Trump aware of any efforts by his campaign, and specifically by his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, to seek Russia’s help in winning the 2016 election?
[I]t’s worth noting that as far back as August 2017, CNN reported that American intelligence services had intercepted communications among suspected Russian operatives discussing conversations they claimed to have had with Mr. Manafort, in which he requested their help in damaging Hillary Clinton’s election prospects.
Whatever information he has, Mr. Mueller, like any seasoned prosecutor, does not ask questions unless he already knows the answers. Whether or not Mr. Trump decides to talk to him, the rest of us will know, too, soon enough.
|click image to enlarge|
Since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same sex couples have a constitutional right to marry, support for same-sex marriage has increased substantially. Currently, more than six in ten (61%) Americans say gay and lesbian couples should be able to marry legally, while only about half as many (30%) are opposed.
Strength of support for same-sex marriage has increased dramatically over the past decade, while strength of opposition has fallen in nearly equal measure. Today, Americans who strongly favor same-sex marriage outnumber those who strongly oppose it by more than a two-to-one margin (30% vs. 14%).
Today a majority of all racial and ethnic groups favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. Between 2013 and 2017, we have seen a double-digit increase in support for same-sex marriage among white (53% vs. 63%), black (41% vs. 52%), and Hispanic (51% vs. 61%) Americans.
Majorities of smaller racial and ethnic groups also support same-sex marriage today, including Asian-Pacific Islander Americans (72 percent), Native Americans (56 percent), and those identifying as multiracial or with another racial and ethnic group (66 percent).
Most religious groups in the U.S. now support same-sex marriage, including overwhelming majorities of Unitarians (97%), Buddhists (80%), the religiously unaffiliated (80%), Jewish Americans (77%), and Hindus (75%). Roughly two-thirds of white mainline Protestants (67%), white Catholics (66%), Orthodox Christians (66%), and Hispanic Catholics (65%) also favor same-sex marriage. A slim majority of Muslims (51%) favor same-sex marriage, but only 34% are opposed; . . .
Opposition to same-sex marriage is now confined to a few of the most conservative Christian religious traditions. Only about one-third (34%) of white evangelical Protestants support same-sex marriage today, while nearly six in ten (58%) are opposed, including 30% who are strongly opposed. And just 40% of Mormons support same-sex marriage, compared to 53% who are opposed.
The generational divide cuts through every demographic group in the U.S. Even in groups most opposed to same-sex marriage, a majority of young adults favor this policy. A majority (53%) of young white evangelical Protestants favor legalizing same-sex marriage, compared to just one-quarter (25%) of white evangelical seniors. A majority (52%) of young Mormons also believe same-sex marriage should be legal, while only about one-third (32%) of Mormon seniors agree.
Today, majorities in 44 states believe gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to legally marry, compared to only 30 states in 2014.9 In only six states does the issue of same-sex marriage garner less than majority support: Alabama (41%), Mississippi (42%), Tennessee (46%), West Virginia (48%), Louisiana (48%), and North Carolina (49%). But notably, only one state, Alabama, has a majority of residents who oppose same-sex marriage.
Religiously based refusals of service to gay and lesbian people are relatively unpopular among the American public. Six in ten (60%) Americans oppose allowing a small business owner in their state to refuse products or services to gay or lesbian people if providing them would violate their religious beliefs.
Black Americans are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group to oppose religiously based service refusals. Nearly two-thirds (66%) of black Americans oppose them, compared to roughly six in ten Hispanic (61%), Asian-Pacific Islander (60%), and white (58%) Americans.
Only two major religious groups believe small business owners in their state should be allowed to refuse service to gay or lesbian people on religious grounds—white evangelical Protestants and Mormons. Notably, they support this position at the same rate—53%.
A majority of Americans in nearly every state believe small business owners in their state should not be allowed to refuse service to gay and lesbian people.Let's hope the United States Supreme Court is aware of these findings as it prepares to rule on the suit brought by a "Christian" baker who wants to be exempt from state public accommodation and non-discrimination laws. On a different note, with my large Hindu client base, it was comforting to see that 75% of Hindus support same sex marriage.
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
We might as well impeach Trump. That was the sentiment of a sitting Republican member of Congress confiding in conservative blogger and radio host Erick Erickson. The anonymous member said [Trump]
the presidentwas an “idiot,” “evil,” “stupid.”It was hardly the first time: During the later stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, GOP strategists anonymously expressed concern that Trump might win. In 2017, Sen. Susan Collins, seemingly unaware that she was on a hot microphone, acknowledged that she was “worried” about the administration. Still others have reportedly suggested that they think the president should be removed from office, though they, too, have almost always done so on background.[T]he one consistent refrain I hear is, “I’m just keeping my head down, trying not to get noticed.” Some have privately described to me that serving in Congress during the Trump administration is “miserable.” Moreover, a colleague who has decided to call it quits confessed he was doing so to try to salvage his political career by not being forever branded a “Trump Republican.”
Like Erickson’s anonymous interlocutor, these politicians are engaging in what can only be considered a personal catharsis of sorts, not an act of political courage. A meaningful political statement would have been on the record, direct to voters, and would have substantively contributed to the national debate in which we remain engaged regarding [Trump's]
this president’sfitness for office. This wasn’t that.
Few Republican officials today are willing to openly criticize [Trump]
the president,even if they have deeply held reservations about Donald Trump’s ability to govern. They instead keep their lament private, their panic measured and their comments off the record. It’s a situation that needs to change. If you believe in serving your constituents, you are obliged to speak up and speak publicly.
This is Trump’s Republican Party, and his approval numbers among Republican voters sit at close to 90 percent. Cross him and you risk not only the wrath of the president himself but also the electoral base that he has cultivated to wrestle control of the party.
Knowingly or not, members of Congress choose one of two approaches to serving. Many strictly embrace their partisan identity, believing with honest conviction that they promised to uphold a party platform that voters back home both affirmed and expected their representative to enforce. A smaller minority of members of Congress embraces the notion that though elected in partisan races, they hold a greater responsibility — that upon taking the oath of office they hold a public trust and are called upon to advance the nation’s broader interests, even if that means at times going against their party. This latter approach was the very essence of James Madison’s embrace of a republican form of government. As he puts it in Federalist 10, a chosen representative may “best discern the true interest of their country” and may provide a voice “more consonant to the greater good.”
During my years in the House of Representatives, I witnessed members on the Democrats’ side of the aisle publicly vote on the House floor against Nancy Pelosi to be their leader, just as GOP members coordinated to stop the coronation of Kevin McCarthy following the resignation of Speaker John A. Boehner. These members largely lost the support of their party’s fundraising arms, suffered through immense criticism from their base and were often relegated to inconsequential committee work in the Congress.
I, for my own part, called on Trump to drop out of the presidential race from the House floor in December 2015. I was also a Republican advocate for marriage equality; I embraced the science behind climate change; I voted against the Planned Parenthood investigation; I advocated for reasonable gun control measures; I pushed radical campaign finance reform. The result? The party apparatus that spent millions on my behalf in my first run for Congress happily spent zero in my last. I lost my race, and now I’m a political commentator rather than an elected official.
But losing your office doesn’t mean you have to lose your voice. My wife and I call it the “sleep well at night test.” There’s something Margolies-Mezvinsky, McCain and these other outspoken members have that too many of today’s Republican leaders don’t: courage. These members each went on the record, stood on principle and accepted the political consequences of doing what they believed reflected the right direction for the country.
Today we have [Trump]
a presidentwho continually undermines our most basic institutions, from attacking an independent judiciary and law enforcement agents, to belittling a free press that has been a bedrock of our nation since its founding, to normalizing an invective form of politics while injecting increasing volatility into both our economic and national security, to flirting with the onset of a constitutional crisis caused by his own actions.
[F]or the 535 men and women on Capitol Hill, there lies a greater responsibility — a responsibility envisioned when our founders drafted the Constitution and a responsibility knowingly accepted by the members of Congress, all of whom owe to us true faith and allegiance to the same.
Which is why the casual supermarket conversation between a congressman and a journalist on background isn’t funny. It’s scandalous.
The silence of these members of Congress is both a violation of the public trust and a reflection of their own lack of personal and political mettle.
Refusing to publicly acknowledge your convictions simply affirms your unwillingness to act on them. And that is an indictment of you, not [Trump]
Sadly, I think it is too late to save the Republican Party. The only way forward is to defeat Republicans in every election possible, from local school board elections to the race for the White House. The GOP as it now exists needs to die.History rightfully discards those unwilling to take a stand, those who, in the face of a divided nation, shrink from controversy and seek refuge in the shadows of their own indecision. Conversely, history memorializes those who speak with courage, those who, at defining national moments, put country over party.
|Cardinal George Pell has been committed to stand trial on multiple|
charges related to historical sexual assault.
Photo: Jason South
George Pell will be the most senior Catholic leader to face a jury after being committed to stand trial on multiple historic sexual assault charges.
In a decision that will ring loud through the Vatican and around the religious world, Australia's most senior Catholic and the man who a year ago oversaw management of the Vatican's finances was on Tuesday committed to stand trial on half the charges he faced, involving multiple accusers.
[M]agistrate Belinda Wallington . . . committed the 76-year-old on charges against multiple complainants, involving alleged sexual offending at a swimming pool in the 1970s in Ballarat, where the accused man was then working as a priest; and at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1990s, when he was the then Archbishop of Melbourne.
Asked to enter a plea, Cardinal Pell sat seated in a packed Melbourne Magistrates Court but said in a loud, clear voice: "Not guilty."
Magistrate Belinda Wallington said there was no evidence the two Ballarat accusers had colluded in their evidence.
Flanked by up to 40 police officers, Cardinal Pell arrived at the court in a white sedan just after 9am. He wore a dark coloured suit and white shirt.
The police separated the Cardinal’s path from the public as protesters arrived with laminated signs reading “every child deserves a safe and happy childhood”.
In addition, ABC News Australia has these highlights:Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart released a statement saying he declined to make any comment about the decision to commit Cardinal Pell to face trial in the County Court.
A number of onlookers applauded as the magistrate left the court room after delivering her 70-minute ruling.Defence barrister Robert Richter QC said the most "vile" of the charges had been dismissed.
Cardinal Pell will face a directions hearing in the County Court tomorrow morning, when it's expected a date will be set for a trial before a jury. He is on bail and has already handed in his passport, the court heard. He is unable to leave Australia as a condition of his bail.
Today's ruling follows a month-long committal hearing in March.
Among the allegations, he is accused of sexual offending at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral in the late 1990s when he was Archbishop of Melbourne. Cardinal Pell is also accused of committing sexual offences at a Ballarat pool during the 1970s, when he was a priest in the area.
Ms Wallington told an earlier hearing she believed an accused person should be committed to stand trial unless there was a "fundamental defect" in the evidence. "I think issues of credibility and reliability are matters for a jury, except where you get to a point where [a complainant's] credibility is effectively annihilated," she said.
Monday, April 30, 2018
Dear Justice Kennedy,
As you have no doubt heard, rumors of your impending retirement are, for the second year in a row, echoing around Washington and across America. While you and your colleagues on the Supreme Court were listening to the final oral arguments of the term in recent days, those rumors were only growing more insistent.
How can we put this the right way? Please don’t go.
Sitting between the four liberal justices and the four conservatives, you are the most powerful member of the most powerful court in the country, as you have been for at least a decade. Your vote, more than that of any other justice, has delivered landmark legal victories for Americans of all political stripes, from gays and lesbians seeking equal rights to African-American college students seeking a better education to deep-pocketed corporations seeking to spend more money influencing politics.
You have sent mixed signals about your intentions, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans in Congress from referring to your departure as a done deal.
[T]his moment is about so much more than partisan jockeying. We can’t know what is in your heart, Your Honor, but we do know what your departure right now would mean for the court, and for the nation. It would not be good.
[H]ere are two ways to think about this decision: The safeguarding of your legacy, and the safeguarding of the Supreme Court itself.
Start with the legacy. Across your 30 years on the court, your most important opinions — and there are many — have altered not just the lives of millions of Americans but the course of the nation’s history. A sampling: Protecting reproductive rights, and saving Roe v. Wade from being essentially overturned, in 1992. Recognizing the equality and dignity of gays and lesbians multiple times since 1996 and, in 2015, granting same-sex couples the constitutional right to marry. . . . You’ve also recognized the continuing travesty of the nation’s broken criminal justice system, voting to strike down excessive sentences for juveniles and the intellectually disabled and forcing states to shrink their overcrowded prisons.
Your record is more conservative than liberal, but there’s no question that you are less of an ideologue than anyone President Trump would pick. How do we know? Look at his first nominee, Justice Gorsuch. Perhaps you were comforted by this choice — a well-qualified judge who clerked for you, and who would have been on any Republican’s short list. But Justice Gorsuch has already made it clear that while he’s a fan of individual liberty, at least in some cases, he is unlikely to go to great pains to protect your most cherished values — equality and human dignity.
Justice Gorsuch replaced Antonin Scalia, a move that didn’t disrupt the balance of the court. Replacing you with a hard-line conservative, in contrast, would have enormous consequences for the nation’s laws and Constitution for decades to come. Just ask Sandra Day O’Connor, your onetime fellow swing justice who left the court in 2006 and now watches helplessly as her replacement, the arch-conservative Samuel Alito Jr., votes to tear down her legacy.
[D]id you spend a lifetime honoring and upholding the Constitution and the values of civility and decency in American public life only to have your replacement chosen by Donald Trump?
Do you want to give your seat to a president whose campaign and administration are under criminal investigation, whose closest aides have been indicted or have pleaded guilty to federal crimes?
There is also the institutional legitimacy of and public respect for the nation’s highest court, which we know you cherish even beyond your own legacy. Right now that legitimacy is eroding. The audacious decision by the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, to hold a court seat hostage and use it as an electoral tool “places the court in a position of real institutional peril, . . . .
You know as well as anyone that the Supreme Court’s authority depends on public confidence. When that fails, the consequences can be dire.
This is where you come in, Justice Kennedy. You’re a conservative from a time when conservatism was a more or less coherent political philosophy, not a tribal identity. You’re a believer in free markets and individual liberty, and also in human rights and equal justice. A defender of the rule of law, of civility and decorum — those time-honored values now desecrated daily by the current inhabitant of the Oval Office.
The American people are desperate for someone who is not polarizing, and your continued service would be an encouraging sign to them that the court can still operate outside politics. It could also be a model for future justices, though we’re not holding our breath. If you leave, the dam breaks.
We realize this isn’t an entirely fair request. Every 81-year-old, especially those who have devoted their lives to the service of their country, should have the freedom to retire without worrying that the nation’s future may hang in the balance. But this is the world we live in.
By stealing the seat [of Merrick Garland] for short-term political advantage, Mr. McConnell has inflicted institutional damage from which the court, and the Senate, may never fully recover.
This is your court, Justice Kennedy. It is facing an institutional crisis, and it needs you.