The Senate confirmed Steven Menashi to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday by a vote of 51–41. Every Republican present except Sen. Susan Collins supported Menashi; every Democrat present opposed him. With this confirmation, Donald Trump has flipped the 2nd Circuit to a majority of Republican appointees—a momentous shift in the balance of power that could help the president shield himself from criminal liability and congressional scrutiny in a jurisdiction, New York, which he previously called home.
A purge is currently underway in the Department of Homeland Security. In the wake of Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen’s resignation Sunday, a slew of top DHS officials appear headed for the exits as President Trump and his dead-eyed policy adviser Stephen Miller look to ram their immigration priorities through no matter the cost or consequence.
Special counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his report on the Russia investigation, and Republicans are gloating. They claim a four-page letter from Attorney General William Barr, purporting to summarize the report, exonerates President Donald Trump. They’re wrong. The letter says the Justice Department won’t prosecute Trump, but it reaches that conclusion by tailoring legal standards to protect the president. Here’s a list of Barr’s weasel words and what they’re hiding.
Thomas Hardiman, a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, made what should have been viewed as a shocking declaration for a federal judge. Hardiman told the crowd at the 2018 Federalist Society Convention: “If I were able to do something unilaterally, I would probably institute a new federal rule that said that all cases worth less than $500,000 will be tried without any discovery.” The audience applauded. A fellow panelist, Judge Amul Thapar of the 6th Circuit, chimed in, “Can I say amen?” Thapar later repeated his endorsement of the idea.
On Wednesday afternoon, Apple posted a press release. The primary purpose of this statement, it seems, was to tell investors exactly how much money the company would have to pay in taxes on the profits it’s now repatriating from overseas. Instead of simply reporting this information, conservative media decided to drop it in the middle of a long missive titled “Apple Accelerates U.S. Investment and Job Creation.”
The Senate Judiciary Committee seemed to prove this week that it will rubberstamp any judicial nominee President Donald Trump sends over, no matter how unqualified. On a party-line vote, the panel said this past week that Brett J. Talley should have a lifetime appointment to the federal bench in Alabama. It apparently made no difference to the Republicans on the panel that Talley, 36, never tried a single case and has been a lawyer for only three years.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit had a burning question for Donald Trump’s Department of Justice on Tuesday: What are you doing in our courthouse? By the end of the day, the answer still wasn’t clear. Something else was, though: The DOJ’s new anti-gay legal posture is not going to be received with open arms by the federal judiciary.
Donald Trump’s frothing critique of Colin Kaepernick and the players, coaches, and teammates who have come to his side has garnered many revelatory reactions. Some of these responses tell us more about ourselves as Americans than do Trump’s initial description of any athlete who chooses to protest systemic racism and police brutality as being a “son of a bitch.”
Many Republicans have made clear in recent weeks that they favor the basic policy DACA enshrined, and merely oppose its executive implementation. Sessions, who helped persuade Trump to kill the program, is not one of those Republicans. In his remarks, he directly denounced the very idea of granting any kind of amnesty to undocumented individuals brought to the U.S. as children through no fault of their own. At the heart of his speech were two lies, straight from Breitbart, explaining why DACA must end:
The Chaldeans of Michigan have a conservative history, consistently supporting the Republican Party with votes and donations, and they voted heavily for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, helping him win Michigan by fewer than 11,000 votes. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence inspired many Chaldeans to show up at voting booths with unprecedented enthusiasm by promising to protect persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
Ten days before Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to speed up the pipeline for federal infrastructure projects. One component of that Aug. 15 order? Eliminating an Obama-era rule called the federal flood risk management standard that asked agencies to account for climate change projections when they approved projects. That drew condemnation from an odd coalition of scientists, civil engineers, and fiscal conservatives concerned about reversion to the old ways: pouring money into projects that would soon be washed away.
On Saturday afternoon, neo-Nazis; white nationalists; and open-carrying, camo-wearing militia members combined forces at a Charlottesville, Virginia, rally to “Unite the Right.” This congregation of white people who love the president of the United States and hate racial, ethnic, and religious minorities chanted “blood and soil” and extended their arms in stiff salutes. The rally culminated in the death of at least one person when the driver of a gray Dodge Challenger plowed through a crowd of counter-protesters, seemingly with the intent to maim and injure.
As Mueller investigates Trump's business, new reporting ties the key players in the infamous Don Jr. meeting to money laundering cases. "The roots of Mueller’s follow-the-money investigation lie in a wide-ranging money laundering probe launched by then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara last year," the Bloomberg story says, attributing this information to "someone familiar with the developing inquiry but not authorized to speak publicly." (Bharara was fired from his job in March.)
On Friday NBC News reported—and the Associated Press confirmed firsthand—that Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was also attended by a Russian lobbyist formerly employed by Soviet counter-intelligence who some U.S. officials reportedly say has “ongoing ties to Russian intelligence.”
As has been previously reported, President Obama and others in the administration were deeply wary of creating the impression that responses to Russia’s actions were motivated by a desire to aid Hillary Clinton’s election. The administration assumed that a highly likely Clinton victory in November would give the new administration ample time to pursue aggressive counteraction. Trump’s election, of course, upended things:
Former New York U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who led several high-profile corruption cases until President Donald Trump fired him in March, said there is “absolutely” enough evidence to launch an obstruction of justice case against President Trump for his firing of FBI chief James Comey. “No one knows right now whether there is a provable case of obstruction," Bharara said. “[But] there's no basis to say there's no obstruction.”
Whether or not the president’s actions ultimately rise to “obstruction” according to Mueller’s investigation, however, it’s clear these are serious allegations that suggest a kind of lawlessness in the White House, from a president with little regard for the norms that govern conduct in the Oval Office. Trump’s alleged demand for Comey’s personal loyalty—in a government where officials pledge allegiance to the Constitution, not the president—would itself be a profound attack on the rule of law. In an ideal world, or at least a more functional one, lawmakers on both sides would see and treat this as a crisis that demands resolution, lest it corrode American democracy.
The U.S. is failing at both symbolism and action. We are the only country led by someone who does not think climate change poses a real threat, and our problems go beyond the president. Our Republican-led Congress prevented the Paris Agreement from asking countries to make stronger initial pledges in the first place: World leaders knew the American Republicans would never ratify a binding agreement, so they settled for the softer one. More recently, 22 Republicans in Congress have written a letter to Trump imploring him to withdraw even from that. Attorneys general from 10 Republican-led states have done the same. We were never going to lead the way on climate change, even under Obama, because we are held hostage by a GOP that refuses to acknowledge the reality of the threat.
Donald Trump announced Friday that he is appointing an opponent of abortion, science, contraception, same-sex marriage, and common sense to the Department of Health and Human Services. Charmaine Yoest, who was until recently president of the radical anti-abortion group Americans United for Life, will serve as the agency’s assistant secretary for public affairs.
On Thursday night, Arkansas executed Ledell Lee—the state’s first execution in 12 years. Lee’s final plea to the U.S. Supreme Court was rejected by a 5–4 vote. Justice Neil Gorsuch cast the deciding vote allowing Lee to die. It was his first recorded vote cast as a justice of the court. Lee insisted upon his innocence from the day of his arrest through the night of his execution. He implored Arkansas to let him take a DNA test and compare the results to DNA collected at the scene of the murder he allegedly committed, but the state refused.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been sending some chilling signals lately about how she plans to deal with America’s $1.3 trillion student debt burden. On at least two separate ocassions now, her department has scrapped Obama-era reforms that were designed to protect borrowers from being gouged or misled by the companies responsible for collecting their loans. All told, DeVos seems less interested in protecting former students than in protecting the predators that have fleeced them for profit.
Buried in the last paragraph of a Guardian story about British intelligence alerting the U.S. to contact between Trump advisers and Russian officials is this sort-of bombshell: One source suggested the official [American] investigation was making progress. “They now have specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion,” the source said. “This is between people in the Trump campaign and agents of [Russian] influence relating to the use of hacked material.”
Security experts claims that a preponderance of evidence (but no smoking gun) points to secret communication between Trump organization and Russians. An email server that was setup for mass email was now receiving strangely small loads of traffic and communicating in secretive fashion and designed to obscure its own existence. Furthermore the Trump campaign had ordered its campaign to rewrite its position on Ukraine, maneuvering GOP toward a policy preferred by Russia.
So it’s come to this. Now Donald Trump seems to have come up with a new excuse as to why Hillary Clinton won the last debate: she had an unfair advantage. The Republican presidential candidate pretty much accused his opponent on Saturday of having taken drugs before the last debate and said it was only fair for the two of them to do drug tests prior to the third presidential debate. “I think she’s actually getting pumped up, she’s getting pumped up, you understand, she’s getting pumped up for Wednesday night,” Trump said.