Thomas did not explain his reasoning. Alito said the administration and the public would not have been harmed by agreeing with the lower court, which wanted to reimpose restrictions loosened by the FDA in recent years.
Lazy Caturday Reads: The Supreme Court’s War on WomenPosted: April 22, 2023 Filed under: abortion rights, cat art, caturday, SCOTUS | Tags: abortion pill, Birth Control, Clarence Thomas, Joyce Vance, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, mifepristone, Samuel Alito, stalking, Supreme Court 16 Comments
Last night the Supreme Court released their decision in the mifepristone case. They stayed–for now–Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s order to ban the abortion pill nationwide. The New York Times reports: Supreme Court Ensures, for Now, Broad Access to Abortion Pill.
The order halted steps that had sought to curb the availability of mifepristone as an appeal moves forward: a ruling from a federal judge in Texas to suspend the drug from the market entirely and another from an appeals court to impose significant barriers on the pill, including blocking access by mail.
The unsigned, one-paragraph order, which came hours before restrictions were set to take effect, marked the second time in a year that the Supreme Court had considered a major effort to sharply curtail access to abortion.
The case could ultimately have profound implications, even for states where abortion is legal, as well as for the F.D.A.’s regulatory authority over other drugs.
If the ruling by the judge in Texas, which revoked the F.D.A.’s approval of the pill after more than two decades, were to stand, it could pave the way for all sorts of challenges to the agency’s approval of other medications and enable medical providers anywhere to contest government policy that might affect a patient.
Judges Alito and Thomas dissented. Only Altio wrote a dissenting opinion. From The Washington Post: Supreme Court preserves access to key abortion drug as appeal proceeds.
In the only noted dissents, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would not have granted the Biden administration’s request for a stay of the decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
“It would simply restore the circumstances that existed (and that the Government defended) from 2000 to 2016 under three Presidential administrations,” Alito wrote. He disputed that the court’s intervention at this time would have sent a signal: “Contrary to the impression that may be held by many, that disposition would not express any view on the merits of the question whether the FDA acted lawfully in any of its actions regarding mifepristone.”
There could have been other dissents; we only know that at least 5 justices voted for the stay. On what happens next:
The 5th Circuit next month will review the merits of the case brought by antiabortion groups against the FDA’s regulation of mifepristone — a review that will be conducted by a separate, and likely different, three-judge panel than the one that made the initial ruling. That merits decision will almost surely be appealed to the Supreme Court no matter the outcome. But until then, the justices’ Friday order says the status quo will remain in place: Mifepristone will be available under existing FDA regulations nationwide.
Joyce Vance wrote a lengthy and detailed discussion of the issues in this case; it’s well worth reading the entire piece at Vance’s Substack page, Civil Discourse: Not Quite Midnight at the Supreme Court. Here is a brief excerpt.
I figured that I’d set my alarm for midnight to see how the Court would rule on the government’s request to stay the Fifth Circuit’s order. That order, you’ll recall, did not side with Texas federal judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s decision to overrule the FDA’s approval of Mifepristone, a drug proven safe and effective for abortions and miscarriage treatment for over 20 years. But it would have permitted the remainder of the restrictions on Mifepristone that Kacsmaryk ordered to remain in place while the litigation proceeded. That includes requiring the drug be obtained in person and not through the mail, necessitating multiple doctor’s office visits and in-office consumption of the medication, and restricting use to prior to the seventh week of pregnancy—while the litigation proceeded.
When the Supreme Court ruled, they stayed all of it. They preserved the status quo, so Mifepristone will remain available up to 10 weeks, and can be obtained via the mail and used at home while the courts are reviewing the case. But that’s a temporary reprieve.
The stay will last while the case is on appeal to the Fifth Circuit. Presumably the party that loses in that court will appeal to the Supreme Court. They are not required to hear an appeal in a civil case like this. If the Court were to refuse to hear it (“certiorari denied”), then the stay would end and the Fifth Circuit’s order would go into effect. If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the appeal (“cert granted”), the stay will continue until the Court enters final judgment. Because the case involves important issues, it’s very likely the Court will take the case.
Vance spends a several paragraphs discussion Altio’s dissent. Not surprisingly, she is quite critical of Alito’s reasoning. Here’s part of it:
Alito rehashed the debate over the use of what has become known as the Court’s “shadow docket”—a docket used for resolving emergency requests. Interestingly, he seemed to take Justice Barrett to task, associating her views with those of progressive justices like Elena Kagan who have objected to the Court’s use of the docket to make decisions without explaining its reasoning (this makes it understandably difficult for lower courts to understand and apply the Court’s logic). Alito notes that Barrett in a 2021 concurrence with a denial of injunctive relief wrote that the Court should not act “on a short fuse without benefit of full briefing and oral argument” in a case that is “first to address the questions presented.” He says that while he agreed with those rulings, if the justices believed that then, they should believe it now. He does not, however, explain why, if he did not believe it back then, it’s okay for him to believe it now. Apparently what’s good for the goose is unnecessary for the gander.
Injunctions present complicated questions, and courts typically, but not always, try to preserve the status quo and protect parties from being harmed or prejudiced while litigation is pending. For instance, in Whole Woman’s Health v. Jackson, one of the cases Justice Alito offered up, Justice Kagan was objecting to the Court’s refusal to keep Texas’s heartbeat law from going into effect while litigation was underway. And that is what the Court ended up doing in this case—preventing any change in the approval status or regulations surrounding Mifepristone’s use while the case is pending. So Justice Alito’s arguments have a tinge of sour grapes, not legal principle.
There’s much more criticism of Alito at the link. Next, Vance addresses the latest news about Judge Kacsmaryk’s bias and dishonesty.
Meanwhile, additional evidence of Judge Kacsmaryk’s anti-abortion bias (there was already plenty) and an improper effort to conceal it has surfaced. In anticipation of his judicial confirmation process in 2019, he requested that his name be removed, pre-publication, from a law journal article he had authored, replacing it with some colleagues from the religious conservative legal group he was working for. The article was critical of legal protections for abortion and transgender people. All federal judicial nominees have to complete a document called a Senate Judicial Questionnaire. The completed application packet is submitted under oath before a nomination can advance. Among other things, it requires nominees to list everything they have published. Kacsmaryk failed to disclose the article and also failed to disclose interviews he gave on Christian talk radio that included his views on abortion and other issues, information the questionnaire calls for.
Again, read more at the Substack link.
Kacsmaryk also has a serious financial conflict of interest. CNN reports: Details about multimillion-dollar stock holding concealed in abortion pill judge’s financial disclosures.
The federal judge who issued a nationwide ruling blocking the approval of a common abortion medication redacted key information on his legally mandated financial disclosures, in what legal experts described as an unusual move that conceals the bulk of his personal fortune.
In his 2020 and 2021 annual disclosures, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk wrote that he held between $5 million and $25 million in “common stock” of a company – a significant majority of the judge’s personal wealth. The name of the company he held stock in is redacted, despite the fact that federal law only allows redactions of information that could “endanger” a judge or their family member.
CNN obtained a previous financial disclosure for Kacsmaryk – which is not available online – from 2017, when he was a judicial nominee.
On that unredacted form, Kacsmaryk reported owning about $2.9 million in stock in the Florida-based supermarket company Publix. It’s not clear whether that’s the same holding as the redacted stock, although Publix’s share price had significantly increased by 2020 and 2021 and the company is no longer listed on his more recent disclosures.
Redactions are approved by a judicial committee. The redacted holding accounted for at least 85% of Kacsmaryk’s total reported wealth in 2021, and potentially more.
“The whole point of a disclosure is to explain where you have conflicts,” said Michael Lissner, the executive director of the Free Law Project, a nonprofit that has published judicial disclosures. “If you have stock and you’re not saying what it’s in and it’s this much of your personal wealth, that’s a conflict you have. The public deserves to know.” [….]
The redaction is the latest example of Kacsmaryk not being fully transparent as a judge and judicial nominee, even as he has become one of the most controversial judges in the country.
That’s in addition to his not be fully forthcoming in his Senate confirmation hearing, as Joyce Vance described above.
Two more articles on the Supreme Court from Slate:
Christina Cauterucci at Slate: Birth Control Is Next. If you look closely, attempts to restrict contraception are already in the works.
At first glance, what’s happening right now in Iowa looks like a rosy vision for the future of reproductive rights.
The Republican-controlled state Senate recently passed a bill that would increase access to certain types of contraception by allowing pharmacists to dispense it to patients without a prescription. Their GOP counterparts in the state House have included a similar provision in a larger health care bill. And Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has indicated that the legislation is one of her top priorities this session.
But look elsewhere in Iowa, and you’ll get a different view. Earlier this month, the state attorney general’s office announced that it would suspend payments for emergency contraception for survivors of sexual assault. The medication had been funded through a program for crime victims, but the Republican attorney general is considering a permanent end to its provision. She is “carefully evaluating whether this is an appropriate use of public funds,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
In other words, counter to a refrain that has taken hold on the left since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, conservatives are not coming for birth control next. They’re coming for birth control now.
Some corners of the right are already in full-blown attack mode. Pulse Life Advocates, one of the Iowa-based anti-abortion groups that is advocating against the over-the-counter contraception bill, states on its website that “contraception kills babies.”
It’s relatively uncommon for an anti-abortion group to state its animus toward birth control so plainly. For years, the major players on the anti-abortion right have claimed to support contraception. They seem to understand that more than 90 percent of Americans are in favor of legal birth control and that most people opposed to abortion likely see contraception as an effective means of reducing demand for it….
Cauterucci writes that it would be foolish to believe Republicans’ reassurances about keeping birth control legal.
Conservatives have tried hard to maintain a veneer of rationality on the issue of contraception. But almost a year into the emboldened post-Dobbs anti-abortion movement, the cracks in that facade are starting to show.
Currently, the right to contraception in the U.S. rests on Griswold v. Connecticut, a landmark 1965 Supreme Court decision that is based, as Roe was, on the right to privacy. In a concurring opinion in Dobbs, Clarence Thomas wrotethat the court “should reconsider” several precedents that concern the right to privacy—including the legality of gay intimacy, the right to gay marriage, and Griswold. And a growing number of Republicans are willing to state that Griswold was wrongly decided, including Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn and former Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters.
But the Supreme Court won’t even have to overturn Griswold for conservatives to curtail access to birth control. Across the country, they are executing a game plan that rests on three strategies: Conflate contraception with abortion, claim that birth control is dangerous to women’s health, and let right-wing judges do their thing.
Read more details at Slate.
This article really shocked me. Mary Anne Franks at Slate: Chief Justice John Roberts’ Mockery of Stalking Victims Points to a Deeper Problem.
Stalking is so closely correlated with lethal violence that experts refer to it as “slow motion homicide”: More than half of all female homicide victims in the U.S. were stalked before they were killed. Despite the terrifying and dangerous consequences, many victims of stalking do not report the abuse to law enforcement for fear they will not be taken seriously.
The reasonableness of that fear was vividly illustrated by the Supreme Court oral arguments in Counterman v. Colorado on Wednesday morning, as members of the highest court of the land joked about messages sent by a stalker to his victim, bemoaned the increasing “hypersensitivity” of society, and brushed aside consideration of the actual harm of stalking to focus on the potential harm of stalking laws.
For nearly two years, Billy Raymond Counterman sent thousands of unsolicited and unwanted Facebook direct messages to C.W., a local musician, ultimately driving her to abandon her career and leave the state. Counterman, who had previously served time in federal prison for making violent threats against his ex-wife and her family, argues that his conduct towards C.W. was free speech protected by the First Amendment. Counterman maintains, supported by amicus briefs from influential civil libertarian organizations such as the ACLU, the EFF, and FIRE, that stalking cannot be criminally prohibited except when the government can prove that the stalker subjectively intended to terrify his victim. The state of Colorado, supported by amicus briefs from First Amendment scholars, stalking experts, and domestic violence victim advocates, argues that it is enough to prove that the stalking would be terrifying to a reasonable person in light of the totality of the circumstances. If the court rules in Counterman’s favor, delusional stalking—no matter how objectively terrifying or threatening—will be transformed into an inviolable constitutional right.
And the ACLU is on the side of the stalkers! The justices got a kick out of the threatening messages sent by the stalker.
During oral argument, Chief Justice John Roberts quoted a handful of the thousands of unsolicited messages Counterman sent to C.W. “Staying in cyber life is going to kill you,’” Roberts read aloud. After a pause, he joked, “I can’t promise I haven’t said that,” prompting laughter from other justices and the audience. Picking out another message, which he described as an “image of liquor bottles” captioned as “a guy’s version of edible arrangements,” Roberts challenged Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser to “say this in a threatening way,” leading to more laughter from the court. And the laughs didn’t stop there: Counterman’s attorney, John Elwood, shared with the court that his mother would routinely tell him to “drop dead” as a child, but “you know, I was never in fear because of that.”
There were more chuckles when Justice Neil Gorsuch returned to Elwood’s anecdote during his questioning of Weiser, but Gorsuch shifted to a more serious tone to express his concern about the reasonable person standard. “We live in a world in which people are sensitive, and maybe increasingly sensitive,” he began. “As a professor, you might have issued a trigger warning from time to time when you had to discuss a bit of history that’s difficult or a case that’s difficult,” Gorsuch continued, a reference to Weiser’s prior experience teaching on a law school faculty. “What do we do in a world in which reasonable people may deem things harmful, hurtful, threatening? And we’re going to hold people liable willy-nilly for that?”
Justice Clarence Thomas echoed the concern, asking whether the reasonable person standard is appropriate given that people are “more hypersensitive about different things now.” [….]
The justices’ message was clear: Stalking is not the problem; sensitivity is. To them, stalking is quite literally a state of mind: If the stalker didn’t mean for his conduct to be frightening, then it isn’t. All the target has to do is understand that; she just needs to lighten up, take a joke, accept the compliment, grasp the lesson. Just because someone has made objectively terrifying statements is no reason to overreact and get law enforcement involved; victims should wait for the stalker to do something really frightening before they jump to conclusions.
That is just plain terrifying! Women’s lives are already in danger in this country; The Supreme Court is making this state of affairs even worse.
More stories to check out, links only:
Heather Cox Richardson on the history of Earth Day, which is today, at Letters from an American.
The New York Times: Airman Shared Sensitive Intelligence More Widely and for Longer Than Previously Known.
The Washington Post: FBI leak investigators home in on members of private Discord server.
The Guardian: A California journalist documents the far-right takeover of her town: ‘We’re a test case.’
Anthony L. Fisher at The Daily Beast: America’s Tragedy Is Its Culture of Fear—Armed With Millions of Guns.
Michelle Goldberg at The New York Times: The Sickening Déjà Vu of Watching Trump Manhandle DeSantis.
The Washington Post: Twitter removes labels from state-controlled media, helping propaganda.
The Washington Post: SpaceX didn’t want to blow up its launchpad. It may have done just that.
Have a great weekend, Sky Dancers!!
Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: April 15, 2023 Filed under: cat art, caturday, FBI, SCOTUS | Tags: Boston bombing 10th anniversary, Clarence Thomas, Dick Durbin, Espionage Act, ethics, handcycle, Harlan Crow, Jack Teixeira, Michael Tomasky, Red Sox, Senate Judiciary Committee, terrorism, Ukraine mothers 11 Comments
Yesterday I told Dakinikat that I wished I had a feel good story for today’s post. I was asleep when she called last night and left a message about a New York Times article that was discussed on Stephanie Ruhl’s MSNBC show. It was about Ukrainian mothers who traveled thousands of miles to recover their children who had been kidnapped and taken to Russian-controlled territory. Of course it’s a heartbreaking story, but it’s also a heartwarming story of the power of a mother’s love. It also includes powerful photos of the women and their children. I hope you’ll go read it. Here’s just a bit of it.
The Russians Took Their Children. These Mothers Went and Got Them Back, bCarlotta Gall and
For weeks after Russian troops forcibly removed Natalya Zhornyk’s teenage son from his school last fall, she had no idea where he was or what had happened to him.
Then came a phone call.
“Mom, come and get me,” said her son, Artem, 15. He had remembered his mother’s phone number and borrowed the school director’s cellphone.
Ms. Zhornyk made him a promise: “When the fighting calms down, I will come.”
Artem and a dozen schoolmates had been loaded up by Russian troops and transferred to a school farther inside Russian-occupied Ukraine.
While Ms. Zhornyk was relieved to know where he was being held, reaching him would not be easy. They were now on different sides of the front line of a full-blown war, and border crossings from Ukraine into Russian-occupied territory were closed.
But months later, when a neighbor brought back one of her son’s schoolmates, she learned about a charity that was helping mothers bring their children home.
Since it is illegal for men of military age to leave Ukraine now, in March Ms. Zhornyk and a group of women assisted by Save Ukraine completed a nerve-wracking, 3,000-mile journey through Poland, Belarus and Russia to gain entry to Russian-occupied territory in eastern Ukraine and Crimea to retrieve Artem and 15 other children.
Then they had to take another circuitous journey back. “Come on, come on,” urged Ms. Zhornyk, as a cluster of children, laden with bags and suitcases, emerged hesitantly through the barriers at a border crossing from Belarus into Ukraine. She had crossed with her son just hours earlier and pushed forward impatiently to embrace the next group.
“There are no words for all the emotions,” Ms. Zhornyk, 31, said, describing her reunion with Artem. “I was full of emotion, and nervous, nervous.”
There are more details about what happened to the children in the article. Some background:
In the 13 months since the invasion, thousands of Ukrainian children have been displaced, moved or forcibly transferred to camps or institutions in Russia or Russian-controlled territory, in what Ukraine and rights advocates have condemned as war crimes.
The fate of those children has become a desperate tug of war between Ukraine and Russia, and formed the basis of an arrest warrant issued last month by the International Criminal Court accusing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Maria Lvova-Belova, his commissioner for children’s rights, of illegally transferring them.
Once under Russian control, the children are subject to re-education, fostering and adoption by Russian families — practices that have touched a particular nerve even amid the carnage that has killed and displaced so many Ukrainians….
No one knows the full number of Ukrainian children who have been transferred to Russia or Russian-occupied Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has identified more than 19,000 children that it says have been forcibly transferred or deported, but those working on the issue say the real number is closer to 150,000.
Again, there is much more at the NYT link.
I hope you’ll forgive me for highlighting a local Boston story today. This weekend marks the 10th anniversary of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The marathon will take place on Monday. Although only three people were killed in the explosions, there were hundreds of horrific injuries–limbs blown off, terrible burns, traumatic brain injuries.
From Boston.com: Mark the 10-year anniversary of the Marathon bombings in Boston One Boston Day is Saturday, April 15.
It has been 10 years since the Boston Marathon bombings killed three people and injured hundreds more during the 2013 Boston Marathon, and the city is hosting several events in remembrance of the day.
The city of Boston and the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) will host remembrance events on Saturday, April 15 — One Boston Day. The events will honor the victims, survivors, and first responders of the 2013 Boston Marathon.
The city will host an early-morning private gathering and wreath laying at the memorial sites for the families who lost loved ones. Honor guards — including the Boston Fire Department, Boston Police Department, Boston Emergency Medical Services, and Suffolk County Sheriff Department — will be present at the memorial sites throughout the day.
At 8 a.m.,the BAA 5K, featuring 10,000 participants, will begin and end in Boston Common. After the B.A.A. 5K race, the city will open Boylston Street between Dartmouth and Fairfield streets so that members of the public can visit the sites.
At 2:30 p.m., the public is invited to a dedication of a new commemorative Boston Marathon finish line, the ringing of bells, and the unveiling of a One Boston Day marker on Boylston Street along with Gov. Maura Healey, Mayor Michelle Wu, B.A.A. leadership, members of the One Fund community, members of the 2013 Red Sox team, first responders, hospital leaders, and local running groups.
“Every year we come together on One Boston Day to remember the courage, strength, and resilience shown by our city’s people in 2013,” Wu said in a statement. “As we mark 10 years, we will gather together in community on April 15 to remember the lives that were lost, the many injured, and the spirit of humanity displayed that day. As we honor those forever impacted, people in all corners of our City will be giving back in a number of ways, and I encourage everyone to get involved.”
There will also be many local and neighborhood events; and of course, the Red Sox will mark the day at their traditional Marathon Day game and will be wearing their bright yellow home uniforms.
The Red Sox will mark the 10 year milestone by partnering with JetBlue to distribute more than 40,000 blue and yellow Red Sox City Connect hats to students and staff at Boston Public Schools on Friday, April 14. Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez will assist with the distribution. The team will then wear blue and yellow City Connect jerseys during Friday night’s game in Fenway Park agains the Angels.
As previously mentioned, the 2013 Red Sox team will join city and state officials and first responders on Saturday, April 15 for the ringing of the bells and the unveiling of the One Boston Day marker. At Saturday’s game, there will be a pre-game ceremony commemorating One Boston Day and the 76th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier. Fans should be in their seats by 3:30 p.m.
On Sunday, April 16, a reunion of members of the 2013 Red Sox World Series Championship team will take place during pregame ceremonies. Fans should be in their seats by 1 p.m.
On Patriots Day, Monday, April 17, Hall of Famer David Ortiz will serve as the Grand Marshal for the 127th Boston Marathon. Players will wear home jerseys that say “Boston” on the front, as they did for the first time during the Marathon tribute at Fenway Park on April 20, 2013. Fans are asked to be in their seats by 10:45 a.m. for the ceremony. All fans will receive a Boston Strong t-shirt.
The FBI is also marking the anniversary. From FBI News: Marathon Bombing Anniversary. FBI Boston marks 10-year-anniversary by honoring victims, recalling responders’ heroic efforts.
Leading up to the 10-year anniversary of the bombing at the Boston Marathon—and the ensuing manhunt and investigation that was the FBI’s largest terrorism case since 9/11—the special agent in charge of FBI Boston asked his entire office to pause and reflect on the crucible of that massive investigation as they prepared for this year’s 127th running.
Leading up to the 10-year anniversary of the bombing at the Boston Marathon—and the ensuing manhunt and investigation that was the FBI’s largest terrorism case since 9/11—the special agent in charge of FBI Boston asked his entire office to pause and reflect on the crucible of that massive investigation as they prepared for this year’s 127th running.
Three people were killed on April 15, 2013, when two pressure-cooker bombs detonated 11 seconds apart on Boylston Street near the finish line of the iconic 26-mile race. More than 500 people were physically injured, including 17 who suffered amputations. The bombers also took the life of Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police officer who was executed while on patrol.
Large images of the victims were arrayed in a conference room last month at the Boston Field Office, along with a whiteboard agents used to sketch out their plans and the wanted posters that helped identify the suspects, brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. A moment of silence preceded the remembrance ceremony….
…[H]e also wanted to enlighten the office’s large cadre of young agents, analysts, and professionals—many not around 10 years ago—who may not fully appreciate the all-hands-on-deck response required in major cases like this.
“Internally, I wanted to give my personnel a real good idea, with some granularity, about what it means when a critical incident occurs,” he said, “what is expected of all of us to step up, and how we work toward a common goal.”
The article reviews the positive steps that made the investigation a model for the future.
Two survivors stories:
CBS News: Marathon bombing survivor Heather Abbott reflects on 10 year anniversary, with focus on foundation’s future.
Ten years after the explosions at the Boston Marathon finish line that forced doctors to amputate part of Heather Abbott’s leg, she says the biggest change in her life is her work with the foundation she built to help other amputees. “If someone had told me that I would be doing this ten years ago, I never would have believed them,” Abbott said. “But it’s been an unexpected blessing, I think, for me.”
The creation of the Heather Abbott Foundation is also a blessing for its beneficiaries. The foundation helps amputees pay for prosthetics that insurance won’t cover-which includes almost anything beyond the most basic option. Running blades, swim legs, high heels-these are all vital to helping people live full lives. But insurance companies don’t consider them “medically necessary.” (Prosthetics typically have to be replaced every three to five years.)
Heather delights in sharing the news with beneficiaries that they have been chosen to receive a special prosthesis. “Not only is it incredibly rewarding to hear somebody on the other end of the phone when you tell them that you’re going to give them this prosthetic device,” Abbott said. “But then to hear about the things they’re able to do with it and how it’s changed their life provides me a huge sense of joy.”
People Magazine: Boston Marathon Bombing Survivor Will Race on the 10th Anniversary: ‘I’m Ready to Move On’ (Exclusive).
Marc Fucarile was supporting a friend at the 2013 Boston Marathon when the second bomb went off and instantly amputated his right leg. Now, ten years later, he’ll return to the marathon to thank the city and the people who have supported him.
“You never want to be on the receiving end of generosity because that means something bad happened, but it’s emotional knowing that complete strangers care about you,” Fucarile tells PEOPLE.
Before the 2013 tragedy, Fucarile was an athlete. “I played football, track, and hockey, and it was my first time at a marathon in 35 years,” he says. “The second bomb was right next to me.”
The bomb blew out Fucarile’s ear drums, burned the majority of his lower body, and forced him to undergo years of surgeries. “I did the remainder of 2013 in and out of hospitals with smaller, different surgeries, monitoring scrap metal that lodged in my heart, that took a ride up to the artery and lodged in my right atrium area.”
Fucarile has “skin grafts all over” the lower half of his body and in his hands from “taking off my belt when I was still on fire,” he explains.
Because he sustained a traumatic brain injury, Fucarile says his tolerance for noise and stimulating environments is low, which has affected his relationship with his 15-year-old son….
On the tenth anniversary, he’ll be riding in honor of the community that supported him through the 2013 tragedy. “I’m riding to show my thanks for all the support we received as survivors of such a horrific event,” he says. “The community outpour of support was amazing.”
When he participates in the marathon on Monday, Fucarile says he’ll be representing more than just his own resilience. “I’m riding in the hand cycle to show people, and to show my son, that you can really accomplish anything you put your mind to,” he explains.
A handcyle is a kind of tricycle that is powered by hands rather than your feet.
In politics news, Clarence Thomas has finally been caught breaking an actual law–as opposed to ethics rules, which he has completely ignored–when he sold property to Harlan Crow and failed to report the transaction. He needs to be called to account and forced off the Supreme Court.
Citizens for Ethics.org: CREW files civil and criminal co,mplaint against Clarence Thomas.
The Department of Justice and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court should investigate Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for failing to disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from and property sales to billionaire donor Harlan Crow, according to a complaint sent today by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to the Department of Justice and Chief Justice John Roberts.
According to reporting by ProPublica, Thomas and his wife have accepted luxury travel and vacations for 20 years from “real estate magnate and Republican megadonor” Crow, who befriended Thomas after he joined the Supreme Court, without disclosing them as gifts or travel reimbursements on his financial disclosures filed under the Ethics in Government Act. Thomas also reportedly sold his and other family members’ properties to Crow in 2014 for more than $100,000 without reporting the sales on his financial disclosure reports.
“Justice Thomas’s acceptance of and failure to disclose these repeated, lavish gifts and shocking real estate sales not only undermines public trust in his ability to serve impartially on the Court, it undermines confidence in the Supreme Court as an institution,” CREW President Noah Bookbinder said.
Under the Ethics in Government Act, Thomas is required to disclose travel and other gifts, with the source and a brief description, including the value. The Guide to Judiciary Policy for Financial Disclosure in effect at the time the trips were taken makes it clear that these trips were covered by the reporting requirements. While Thomas claims a hospitality exemption, that exemption would not apply to a private plane or yacht. Under the EIGA and Guide to Judiciary Policy for Financial Transaction, Thomas was required to report the sale of the properties to Crow and could not claim a personal residence exemption on disclosing them, as they were always referred to as rental properties on his disclosures and never lost their investment nature even when the houses on two of the properties were later torn down.
Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern: Quid Pro Crow. Clarence Thomas’ position toward disclosure is actually clarified by his jurisprudence.
When news broke last week, by way of dogged reporting in ProPublica, that Justice Clarence Thomas had accepted decades’ worth of hospitality from billionaire Republican donor Harlan Crow, that this same donor had funded his wife’s legal and political activities and in fact helped pay her salary, and that Thomas had disclosed none of this, our suggestion that the justice had clearly broken the law was dismissed as left-wing “smear.” ProPublica’s new reporting, dropped on Thursday, showed that the same billionaire donor, Harlan Crow, spent $133,363 purchasing several properties co-owned by Thomas, and that these sales were never disclosed. As our colleagues at Slate confirmed this week, Thomas’ mother actually still lives in the property owned by Crow, to which he has made valuable improvements (in addition to buying the house next door and dispensing with previously troublesome neighbors). Unlike the rules around the undisclosed luxury travel reported last week, ProPublica could not find a single ethics expert willing to squint and hop on one foot in a way that would make the failure to report the real estate transaction seem arguably lawful. The court has not responded in any way to the latest revelations. Defenders of Justice Thomas somehow continue to urge that this is a smear campaign by liberals.
In a way, the fact that money went from Harlan Crow’s pocket to Thomas’ mom’s house seems less horrifying than last week’s superyachts and half-million-dollar luxury air travel. Who among us wouldn’t want a billionaire to evict the noisy neighbors who were keeping our mothers up late? But it helps to parse out what mattered about both Thomas stories and what is mostly a distraction. That Thomas is a “hypocrite” for claiming to like parking outside Walmarts to commune with real people while secretly indulging his taste for luxe global travel? Doesn’t really matter. Harlan Crow’s penchant for cunningly little embroidered Nazi table linens? Weird, surely, but materially inconsequential….
What mattered last week and what still matters this week is whether the Crow/Thomas dealings can be seen as classic quid pro quo (or perhaps quid pro Crow)corruption. We too often think this can only happen in a scene in which cartoon ducks with big sacks of cash pay politicians to do their bidding, which is never how this actually happens. And the longstanding defense to those claims is that Justice Thomas is too independent a thinker and jurist to be influenced by gifts of bibles and vacations and rent-free housing. But what this new reporting shows—and what actually matters—is that Crow and those like him, who have poured billions of dollars into funding cases before the court, campaigns to seat certain justices on the court, and crusades to keep other justices off the court, turn out to just own the whole building. In tandem with the Leonard Leos and Mark Paolettas who have been rendered in art for all eternity, the Harlan Crows are the actual landlords of the houses where the six conservative justices seemingly get to live rent-free.
f you’re defending Thomas’ unlawful refusal to disclose these transactions by saying he’s too famous/powerful/important/busy/put-upon to disclose these transactions, you are missing the point. Disclosure laws aren’t tawdry “gotcha” traps that form the basis of smear campaigns. Disclosure rules are the only means of transparency in a world of increasingly broken democratic systems. Citizens United and its dismantling of campaign finance reform? Justified on the grounds that disclosure rules suffice to ferret out corruption. We don’t demand that public figures deal honestly with the public because we are mean; we do it because law and democracy rise and fall on knowing who paid who for what.
At The New Republic, Michael Tomasky wrote this piece after the first revelations and before we learned about the real estate transactions: The Democrats Need to Destroy Clarence Thomas’s Reputation.
ProPublica’s report last week is jaw-dropping. In the end it shows this: Thomas used to report his gifts from right-wing billionaire Harlan Crow. Then they became a little controversial. So what did Thomas do? Stop accepting the gifts? That’s what you or I would do, or at least make them far less frequent and ostentatious. But Thomas doesn’t think like you or I do. He thinks: How I can twist the dagger into the liberal establishment’s flesh even further? So rather than stop accepting the gifts, he just decided to stop reporting them. Which ProPublica says is against the law.
Can he be impeached? Not now, with the GOP in control of the House. If that changes, sure, they can try, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others have suggested. Of course, he would be acquitted in the Senate, where two-thirds are required to convict (indeed, Samuel Chase survived).
But that’s no reason for Democrats not to do it. In fact, as I suspect AOC understands, the way partisanship works today in this country, that’s precisely an excellent reason to do it: Have a long hearing that lays bare every instance of his and his wife’s corrupt activities in a high-profile venue that Americans will watch; make the case to swing-voting Americans that he is dishonoring the court’s name and reputation; drive his approval ratings into the toilet (in a 2022 YouGov poll, Thomas already had the highest “very unfavorable” rating of the nine justices, at 32 percent); and force the Republican senators to vote to keep this clearly undeserving, mediocre, arrogant, unscrupulous hornswoggler on the court.
Make him a political issue (not in time for 2024, alas, but in general). Destroy his reputation. If nothing else, ensure that he goes down in history the way he deserves, as one of the most unqualified Supreme Court justices ever, who has gone on to leave as light an intellectual footprint as someone serving three-plus decades could leave. Make him—and his wife, Ginni, who is also completely without scruples in the way she, as the spouse of a Supreme Court justice, entangles herself in our public life—a metaphor for every insidious thing the far-right wing has done to this country.
It’s really up to the Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin to start the process of investigating Thomas, but does Durbin have the guts to do what needs to be done? I don’t think so. He needs to be forced into it by public outrage. I got a newsletter about this from Tomasky in my email today. I can’t find it online, but here’s some of it:
Earlier this week, I wrote in response to ProPublica’s first report that the Democrats need to destroy Thomas’s reputation by holding hearings on his dealings, which of course is something they’ve never done. “Have a long hearing that lays bare every instance of his and his wife’s corrupt activities in a high-profile venue that Americans will watch,” I wrote. “Make the case to swing-voting Americans that he is dishonoring the court’s name and reputation; drive his approval ratings into the toilet (in a 2022 YouGov poll, Thomas already had the highest ‘very unfavorable’ rating of the nine justices, at 32 percent); and force the Republican senators to vote to keep this clearly undeserving, mediocre, arrogant, unscrupulous hornswoggler on the court.”
Now the case for action is even clearer. But action by whom? There’s only one serious contender: the Senate Judiciary Committee. It’s controlled by the Democrats, and they can do whatever they are prepared to do. But what exactly is that?
Last Monday, after the first ProPublica report, committee Chairman Dick Durbin vowed that the committee “will act.” He did not elaborate on that. Later, he urged Chief Justice John Roberts to investigate Thomas. Then I saw on cable news Thursday night (I can’t find anything online Friday morning) that he called on Merrick Garland to do something.
Mr. Chairman: Stop tossing the football around. You have a gavel, and you have subpoena power. Subpoena Clarence Thomas. Next week.
What? Horrors! Subpoena a Supreme Court justice? Can that even be done?
Yes it can, but only if the Democrats have the guts to do it.
The other big story today is about 21-year-old leaker of top secret documents, Jack Teixeira. Here are the latest stories:
Charlie Savage at The New York Times: Teixeira’s case is unusual even in the small world of leak cases.
It is hard to predict how the case against Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old Air National Guardsman accused of leaking classified documents to friends on a gaming server, will play out — both because the matter is still very preliminary and because the facts are so unusual that there is limited value in comparing it to the general pattern of leak cases.
Based on the charging documents in his case, Airman Teixeira does not appear to have been acting as a foreign agent, differentiating him from classic spying cases. He also does not appear to have been acting as a whistle-blower or otherwise trying to educate the general public by sharing secrets with the news media for publication, making his case different from another sort that has become more common in the 21st century.
He also does not fit a third category of past cases of mishandling classified information: the hoarder. Prosecutors have charged people who are neither spying nor trying to enlighten the public for taking files home and keeping them. But because Airman Teixeira is accused of transmitting large numbers of files to other people who were not authorized to see them, his case is more serious.
These differences show how past cases may be poor guides for how this will play out.
Defendants also have an incentive to make a deal so they can ensure a shorter sentence than the threat they are facing under the Espionage Act, which criminalizes the unauthorized retention and disclosure of national-security secrets. It carries a sentence of up to 10 years per count, and each leaked document could be its own count. Plea deals in leak-related cases have typically resulted in a few years of prison.
But prosecutors may be less willing to offer a relatively attractive prison sentence in a case as serious as Airman Teixeira’s, which involved hundreds of classified documents that revealed sensitive matters, like how extensively the United States has penetrated Russian military communications.
Read more at the NYT and in these articles:
The Washington Post: Leak raises fresh questions about Pentagon’s internal security.
BBC News: Jack Teixeira’s charges in full: ‘Top secret’ access, leak searches and the Espionage Act.
The Wall Street Journal: Airman, Arrested for Leaks, Chatted in Groups Fascinated by Weapons and War.
That’s it for me. I hope you find something here to interest you. Have a great weekend!!
Lazy Caturday ReadsPosted: April 8, 2023 Filed under: cat art, caturday, Donald Trump | Tags: abortion pills, Clarence Thomas, corruption, Elon Musk, Harlan Crow, Hitler artifacts, Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, Kamala Harris, Matthew Kacsmaryk, mifipristone, Nazi memorabilia, release of classified documents, Substack, Tennessee legislature, Tennessee Three, Twitter 18 Comments
This has been one hell of a week. It was just a few days ago that Donald Trump was charged with 34 felony counts and arraigned in a Manhattan court, but that earthshaking event has been eclipsed by subsequent shocking news stories
There was the Tennessee legislature’s racist treatment of two young black representatives–Justin Jones and Justin Pearson–ending in their expulsion from the state legislature for protesting last week’s school shooting in Memphis; the election in Wisconsin that put a Democrat on the state supreme court, giving liberals a majority for the first time in many years; the stunning revelations about Clarence Thomas’s acceptance of millions of dollars worth of gifts from wealthy Republican donor Harlan Crow; and finally the insane ruling by Texas judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk that could ban the abortion pill mifepristone nationwide.
Two more stories to watch broke yesterday: Elon Musk has banned linking to Substack newsletters in a move that could actually kill Twitter, and a number of classified U.S. documents that reveal top secret information have been published on line.
I’ll touch on as many of these stories as I can.
Dan Baltz writes at The Washington Post: A dizzying, divisive week in politics spotlights America’s raging battle.
Few weeks may beas revealing of the current state of American politics as the one that just passed. In New York, Wisconsin and Tennessee, what transpired highlighted the raging battle underway over the direction of the country, a struggle that seems destined only to intensify as the 2024 election approaches.
The action came with such speed and from enough varying angles that, even for those paying close attention, it was sometimes difficult to absorb and process one event before the nexttook precedence. At this week’s end came dueling decisions from two federal judges who issued contradictory rulings late Friday about access to an abortion drug, creating a legal standoff over mifepristone that seemed destined for the Supreme Court.
Americans may be exhausted by the turmoil and chaos of the Trump years, but there seems no slackening or pulling back. Each event in the past week seemed to reinforce the overall stakes. There could be more such weeks ahead. Each iteration of this past dizzying week was a reminder of how much the coming election in 2024matters and how unsettled things remain.
Former president DonaldTrump faces more possible indictments, federally and in Georgia, which could addboth strength and weakness to his political profile while further roiling the electorate. Republican legislatures continue to push boundaries on abortion, with legislation calling for bans after six weeks of pregnancy in contradiction of public sentiment. Racial politics remain at the forefront, and there seems no likelihood of a calming on that front as Republicans attack Democratic “wokeness” and Democrats fight against efforts to minimize the power and voice of Black voters.
For Republicans, last week’snews was almost uniformly bad, although some in the party probably do not see it that way. The damage inflicted by past and present actions continues to define a new Republican Party, one that has been consolidating power in many red states but vulnerable elsewhere — especially in states that could decide the next presidential election.
Read the rest at the WaPo.
The Tennessee Three
Natalie Allison at Politico Magazine: No One Should Be That Shocked by What’s Happening in Tennessee. I covered the statehouse for years. It’s been heading in this direction for a while.
The world of politics experienced a collective shock this week as Tennessee Republicans expelled two young, Black, Democratic House members for protesting gun laws on the chamber floor after a deadly school shooting in Nashville.
But for those who have closely watched the chamber in recent years, the events were of little surprise. The place has been defined by partisan vitriol, pique, scandal, racism and Olympic-level pettiness for years.
I know. I covered it.
The protest and subsequent expulsion over decorum rules took place in a chamber where a GOP member, for years, rang a cowbell every day of session as a raucous, attention-grabbing substitute for applause.
When I covered the Tennessee Capitol from 2018 to 2021, the family-values espousing Republican House speaker had to explain why his text message trail included discussions of pole-dancing women and his chief of staff’s sexual encounters in the bathroom of a hot chicken restaurant.
After a Republican lawmaker was accused of sexually assaulting 15- and 16-year-old girls he had taught and coached, he was made chairman of the House education committee.
Protesters filled the halls week after week, year after year, calling for the removal of the bust of the Ku Klux Klan’s first Grand Wizard, a piece of art featured prominently between the House and Senate chambers. Democrats pushed for its removal, while Republicans resisted.
A Democrat who declined to support the current speaker’s reelection had her office moved into a small, windowless room. In a twist of fate, that same Democrat, Rep. Gloria Johnson, a white woman, narrowly escaped expulsion on Thursday. (Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson fared differently.)
And then, of course, there was the famous peeing incident, where a legislator’s office chair was urinated on in an act of intraparty retribution over shitposting. The actual identity of the Republican urinator is a closely-held secret among a small group of operatives who have bragged about witnessing it. But it’s generally accepted that former state Rep. Rick Tillis, a Republican and the brother of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, did indeed have his chair peed on in the Cordell Hull legislative office building.
Read the rest at Politico.
The Guardian: Kamala Harris praises courage of ‘Tennessee Three’ on visit to Nashville.
About 500 people packed the chapel at Fisk University, a historically Black college in Nashville, Tennessee, and sang the civil rights anthem This Little Light of Mine while they waited for US vice-president Kamala Harris to appear. When she did, the crowd erupted in cheers.
Harris and her listeners were there to show support for her fellow Democrats and state lawmakers Justin Jones, Justin Pearson and Gloria Johnson – Jones and Pearson were ousted from the Republican-controlled Tennessee house of representatives after joining a protest in favor of gun control at the capitol in Nashville, and Johnson narrowly survived an expulsion vote.
“We are here because [Jones, Pearson and Johnson] and their colleagues in the Democratic caucus chose to show courage in the face of extreme tragedy,” Harris said, alluding to how the targeted representatives stood with gun control advocates after the killings of three students and three staffers at the Covenant elementary school in Nashville on 27 March. “They chose to lead and show courage and say that a democracy allows for places where the people’s voice will be heard and honored and respected.”
The vice-president said they also added another chapter to a vibrant local history of civil rights activism that previously saw sit-ins at segregated lunch counters led by the late US congressman John Lewis and his movement colleague Diane Nash, saying it was on their “broad shoulders upon which we all stand”.
What the Tennessee Three did:
Harris’s visit punctuated a dramatic week for the so-called “Tennessee Three”, who faced expulsion proceedings after talking without being given the floor by the Republican house speaker Cameron Sexton. Johnson, Jones and Pearson said they spoke out in that manner because capitol staff had cut their microphones off when they attempted to bring up gun control and regulation efforts in response to the shooting deaths at Covenant.
Jones and Pearson led chants from protesters in favor of their proposed measures with a bullhorn while Johnson stood by them silently in solidarity.
Their colleagues then drew up papers to expel all three from the seats in the chamber to which they were democratically elected. Votes on Thursday left Jones and Pearson – two Black men and the house’s youngest members – ousted while Johnson, a 60-year-old white woman, managed to keep her seat by a single vote.
“A democracy says you do not silence the people, you do not stifle the people, you do not turn off their microphones when they are speaking,” Harris said, outraged. “These leaders had to get a bullhorn to be heard.”
Clarence Thomas’ Corruption
Josh Meyer at USA Today: In defending gifts from a GOP billionaire, Clarence Thomas raises more questions among his critics.
After two decades of criticism over the lavish trips and other gifts he’s accepted from billionaire GOP megadonor Harlan Crow, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas finally went public on Friday to defend himself.
In a statement, Thomas said “colleagues and others in the judiciary” not only blessed his cozy relationship with the Texas real estate developer but determined that he didn’t have to publicly disclose the gifts on his annual financial disclosure statements.
Legal experts and Democratic lawmakers, however, said Thomas’ explanation raises a lot more questions than answers.
“And these are questions that he should answer under oath, under penalty of perjury,” said Lisa Graves, the former deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy.
“He needs to name every person he spoke with who gave him such advice, and whether they’re in government or outside the government,” Graves told USA TODAY. “Because I would be shocked if he actually told any official the specifics of what he was doing and that they said it was okay not to disclose it.” [….]
Ethics and legal experts told USA TODAY on Friday that Supreme Court law and policy is indeed vague when it comes to such gifts. While the justices are required to report gifts they have received on their annual financial disclosure reports, an exemption is allowed for hospitality from friends.
Several ethics experts, including Graves, said the hospitality exemption intended for the receipt of small personal gifts from longtime friends, not lavish gifts like weeklong resort stays and international jet and yacht trips….
Late Friday, congressional Democrats responded by calling on Chief Justice John Roberts to launch an investigation into Thomas’ “unethical, and potentially unlawful, conduct at the Supreme Court.”
“We believe that it is your duty as Chief Justice ‘to safeguard public faith in the judiciary,’ and that fulfilling that duty requires swift, thorough, independent and transparent investigation into these allegations,” the lawmakers, led by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), wrote in a letter.
Read more at USA Today. See also ProPublica’s response to Thomas’s weak excuses: Clarence Thomas Defends Undisclosed “Family Trips” with GOP Megadonor. Here Are the Facts.
Interesting story about Thomas’ “dear friend” Harlan Crow at The Washingtonian: Clarence Thomas’s Billionaire Benefactor Collects Hitler Artifacts. Harlan Crow also reportedly has a garden full of dictator statues.
When Republican megadonor Harlan Crow isn’t lavishing Justice Clarence Thomas with free trips on his private plane and yacht (in possible violation of Supreme Court ethics rules), he lives a quiet life in Dallas among his historical collections. These collections include Hitler artifacts—two of his paintings of European cityscapes, a signed copy of Mein Kampf, and assorted Nazi memorabilia—plus a garden full of statues of the 20th century’s worst despots.
Crow, the billionaire heir to a real estate fortune, has said that he’s filled his property with these mementoes because he hates communism and fascism. Nonetheless, his collections caused an uproar back in 2015 when Marco Rubio attended a fundraiser at Crow’s house on the eve of Yom Kippur. Rubio’s critics thought the timing was inappropriate given, you know, the Hitler stuff.
“I still can’t get over the collection of Nazi memorabilia,” says one person who attended an event at Crow’s home a few years ago and asked to remain anonymous. “It would have been helpful to have someone explain the significance of all the items. Without that context, you sort of just gasp when you walk into the room.” One memorable aspect was the paintings: “something done by George W. Bush next to a Norman Rockwell next to one by Hitler.” They also said it was “startling” and “strange” to see the dictator sculptures in the backyard.
In 2014, when Crow’s house was included in a public tour of historic homes, a reporter from the Dallas Morning News visited. Apparently, Crow was visibly uncomfortable with questions about his dictator statues and Hitler memorabilia, preferring to discuss his other historical collections: documents signed by the likes of Christopher Columbus and George Washington; paintings by Renoir and Monet; statues of two of Crow’s heroes, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
But despite Crow’s discomfort, the reporter did manage to see the garden of dictator statues, describing it as a “historical nod to the facts of man’s inhumanity to man.” Among the figures in the “Garden of Evil” are Lenin and Stalin, Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, and Yugoslav dictator Josip Broz Tito.
Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk thinks he knows more than the FDA scientists
The Washington Post: Texas judge suspends FDA approval of abortion pill; second judge protects access.
The status of a key abortion medication was cast into uncertainty Friday night when rulings from two federal judges reached contradictory conclusions, with one jurist blocking U.S. government approval of the drug while the other said the pill should remain available in a swath of states.
The dueling opinions — one from Texas and the other from Washington state — concern access to mifepristone, the medicationused in more than half of all abortions in the United States and follow the Supreme Court’s elimination of the constitutional right to the procedure last year. It appears inevitable the issue will move to the high court, and the conflicting decisions could make that sooner rather than later.
The highly anticipated and unprecedented ruling from Texas puts on hold the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, which was cleared for use in the United States in 2000. It was the first time a judge suspended longtime FDA approval of a medication despite opposition from the agency and the drug’s manufacturer. The ruling will not go into effect for seven days to give the government time to appeal.
U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, a nominee of President Donald Trump with long-held antiabortion views, agreed with the conservative groups seeking to reverse the FDA’s approval of mifepristone as safe and effective, including in states where abortion rights are protected.
“The Court does not second-guess FDA’s decision-making lightly,” Kacsmaryk wrote in the 67-page opinion. “But here, FDA acquiesced on its legitimate safety concerns — in violation of its statutory duty — based on plainly unsound reasoning and studies that did not support its conclusions.” He added that the agency had faced “significant political pressure” to “increase ‘access’ to chemical abortion.”
In a competing opinion late Friday, a federal judge in Washington state ruled in a separate case involving mifepristone that the drug is safe and effective. U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice, who was nominated by President Barack Obama, ordered the FDA to preserve “the status quo” and retain access in the 17 states — along with D.C. — that are behind the second lawsuit, which seeks to protect medication abortion.
Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: The Lawless Ruling Against the Abortion Pill Has Already Prompted a Constitutional Crisis. This unprecedented abuse of judicial power with no basis in law or fact will soon force the Supreme Court’s hand.
On Friday evening, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of Texas issued an unprecedented decision withdrawing the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, the first drug used in medication abortion, 23 years after it was first approved. His order, which applies nationwide, marks the first time in history that a court has claimed the authority to single-handedly pull a drug from the market, a power that courts do not, in fact, have. Kacsmaryk’s ruling is indefensible from top to bottom and will go down in history as one of the judiciary’s most shocking and lawless moments. It goes even further than expected, raising the possibility that he will impose “fetal personhood,” which holds that every state must ban abortion because it murders a human. Within an hour of its release, the decision also spurred the start of a constitutional crisis: A federal judge in Washington swiftly issued a dueling injunction compelling the FDA to continue allowing mifepristone in 17 states and District of Columbia, which brought a separate suit in Washington.
Kacsmaryk stayed his decision for one week to let the Biden administration appeal, but his ruling stands a good chance of being upheld at the radically conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. If his order takes effect, the FDA will be faced with competing, mutually exclusive court orders requiring the agency to simultaneously suspend mifepristone nationwide and preserve access to the drug in 18 blue jurisdictions. The agency cannot comply with both orders at once. And because Kacsmaryk’s is broader, covering all 50 states, it guarantees that mifepristone will be suspended in much of the country. Only the Supreme Court can resolve this looming crisis, and it has a very limited window of time in which to do so. It has been less than a year since the court claimed to rid itself of the abortion issue. Now it must decide whether American patients will lose access to an abortion drug that has been on the market for 23 years and proven safer than Tylenol—on the order of a single, rogue judge.
It is probably impossible to count how many errors, exaggerations, and lies Kacsmaryk, a Donald Trump appointee, put in his decision. The judge appears to have largely copied and pasted the briefs filed by the anti-abortion group that filed the suit, the Alliance Defending Freedom, rephrasing their arguments as his own analysis. (This was predictable—Kacsmaryk himself is a staunch anti-abortion activist—and might be why ADF handpicked him specifically to hear the case for them.) His decision repeats the ridiculous and objectively false conspiracy theory about mifepristone—that the FDA illegally rushed its approval in 2000 at the behest of former President Bill Clinton, the pharmaceutical industry, and population control advocates. Kacsmaryk flyspecked the FDA’s assessment of the drug, concluding that its studies were insufficient and that the agency “acquiesced to the pressure to increase access to chemical abortion at the expense of women’s safety.” And he claimed that he had authority to revisit an FDA approval that occurred 23 years ago because the agency happens to have changed rules around the dispensation of the drug several times since.
This is all completely absurd, an outrageous abuse of power that no judge has ever even attempted before. Challenges to agency actions have a six-year statute of limitations. That means plaintiffs get a full six years to file a lawsuit, after which point they’ve waited too long. It has, just to reiterate, been more than two decades since the FDA approved mifepristone. Kascmaryk ignored that limitation in his quest to block the drug because, he insisted, the agency hadn’t responded quickly enough to citizen petitions opposing the drug. That is not the law.
Read the rest at Slate.
Classified Documents Released
The New York Times: New Batch of Classified Documents Appears on Social Media Sites.
A new batch of classified documents that appear to detail American national security secrets from Ukraine to the Middle East to China surfaced on social media sites on Friday, alarming the Pentagon and adding turmoil to a situation that seemed to have caught the Biden administration off guard.
The scale of the leak — analysts say more than 100 documents may have been obtained — along with the sensitivity of the documents themselves, could be hugely damaging, U.S. officials said. A senior intelligence official called the leak “a nightmare for the Five Eyes,” in a reference to the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the so-called Five Eyes nations that broadly share intelligence.
The latest documents were found on Twitter and other sites on Friday, a day after senior Biden administration officials said they were investigating a potential leak of classified Ukrainian war plans, include an alarming assessment of Ukraine’s faltering air defense capabilities. One slide, dated Feb. 23, is labeled “Secret/NoForn,” meaning it was not meant to be shared with foreign countries.
The Justice Department said it had opened an investigation into the leaks and was in communication with the Defense Department but declined to comment further.
A bit more:
Early Friday, senior national security officials dealing with the initial leak, which was first reported by The New York Times, said a new worry had arisen: Was that information the only intelligence that was leaked?
By Friday afternoon, they had their answer. Even as officials at the Pentagon and national security agencies were investigating the source of documents that had appeared on Twitter and on Telegram, another surfaced on 4chan, an anonymous, fringe message board. The 4chan document is a map that purports to show the status of the war in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, the scene of a fierce, monthslong battle.
But the leaked documents appear to go well beyond highly classified material on Ukraine war plans. Security analysts who have reviewed the documents tumbling onto social media sites say the increasing trove also includes sensitive briefing slides on China, the Indo-Pacific military theater, the Middle East and terrorism.
Read more at the NYT.
Reuters: Russia likely behind U.S. military document leak, U.S. officials say.
Russia or pro-Russian elements are likely behind the leak of several classified U.S. military documents posted on social media that offer a partial, month-old snapshot of the war in Ukraine, three U.S. officials told Reuters on Friday, while the Justice Department said separately it was probing the leak.
The documents appear to have been altered to lower the number of casualties suffered by Russian forces, the U.S. officials said, adding their assessments were informal and separate from the investigation into the leak itself….
An initial batch of documents circulated on sites including Twitter and Telegram, dated March 1 and bearing markings showing them classified as “Secret” and “Top Secret.”
Later on Friday, an additional batch appearing to detail U.S. national security secrets pertaining to areas including Ukraine, the Middle East and China surfaced on social media, the New York Times reported….
The U.S. Justice Department said late on Friday it was in touch with the Defense Department and began a probe into the leak. It declined further comment.
A leak of such sensitive documents is highly unusual.
“We are aware of the reports of social media posts and the Department (of Defense) is reviewing the matter,” Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said.
A CIA spokesperson said the agency was also aware of the posts and was looking into the claims.
The New York Times: Twitter Takes Aim at Posts That Link to Its Rival Substack.
On Wednesday, the newsletter service Substack announced that it had built a Twitter competitor. On Thursday, Twitter prevented Substack writers from sharing tweets in their newsletters. And on Friday, Twitter took steps to block Substack newsletters from circulating on the platform.
Twitter’s move to swat an upstart was an abrupt deviation from normal behavior among internet companies and publishers. It also provided more grist for critics who say that while Elon Musk, Twitter’s new owner, has often hailed the importance of free speech, he has not shied from restricting competitors and content that he doesn’t like.
The new fight with a young company is the latest controversy in MTr. Musk’s chaotic ownership of Twitter, which he acquired about six months ago. He has laid off more than 75 percent of its employees, has been sued by commercial landlords for failing to pay office rent and has lost advertisers.
While Mr. Musk has long clashed with mainstream news outlets, targeting Substack largely affects independent writers, some of whom depend on Twitter to drive readers to their work….
Substack’s founders, Chris Best, Hamish McKenzie and Jairaj Sethi, said in a statement that they were “disappointed” by Twitter’s decision to stifle engagement with any tweets that featured a Substack link.
“Writers deserve the freedom to share links to Substack or anywhere else,” they said. “This abrupt change is a reminder of why writers deserve a model that puts them in charge, that rewards great work with money and that protects the free press and free speech.”
Read more at the NYT.
One hilarious result of this decision by Musk is that Matt Taibbi–Musk’s chosen “Twitter Files” propaganda author–has left Twitter because his mainly uses it to drive readers to his Substack page. Musk responded by unfollowing Taibbi. This guy really is worse than Trump.
Ars Technica: Twitter lawyer quits as Musk’s legal woes expand, report says.
After the Federal Trade Commission launched a probe into Twitter over privacy concerns, Twitter’s negotiations with the FTC do not seem to be going very well. Last week, it was revealed that Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s request last year for a meeting with FTC Chair Lina Khan was rebuffed. Now, a senior Twitter lawyer, Christian Dowell—who was closely involved in those FTC talks—has resigned, several people familiar with the matter told The New York Times.
Dowell joined Twitter in 2020 and rose in the ranks after several of Twitter’s top lawyers exited or were fired once Musk took over the platform in the fall of 2022, Bloomberg reported. Most recently, Dowell—who has not yet confirmed his resignation—oversaw Twitter’s product legal counsel. In that role, he was “intimately involved” in the FTC negotiations, sources told the Times, including coordinating Twitter’s responses to FTC inquiries.
The FTC has overseen Twitter’s privacy practices for more than a decade after it found that the platform failed to safeguard personal information and issued a consent order in 2011. The agency launched its current probe into Twitter’s operations after Musk began mass layoffs that seemed to introduce new security concerns, AP News reported. The Times reported that the FTC’s investigation intensified after security executives quit Twitter over concerns that Musk might be violating the FTC’s privacy decree….
If the Times’ report is accurate, it’s unclear who will replace Dowell as Twitter’s senior product counsel overseeing FTC negotiations. Musk recently stopped relying on his personal lawyer to chip in at Twitter, but the Times reported that he has seemingly continued to seek guidance from lawyers at SpaceX, one of his other companies.
While the FTC probe remains ongoing, Musk’s layoffs have seemingly ensured that Twitter’s legal woes will continue compounding. Not only is Twitter seeking legal action against the suspected ex-employee who leaked Twitter source code on Github, but Twitter is also currently involved in individual arbitration with hundreds, if not thousands, of ex-employees who were not allowed to join a class-action lawsuit over allegedly missing severance payments and lost wages.
Click the link to read the rest.
I know I’ve given you a lot of reading material, so take what you want and leave the rest. I hope you all have a nice Easter weekend, however you choose to celebrate or not celebrate. The good news is that Spring is on the way.
Thursday ReadsPosted: April 6, 2023 Filed under: corruption, Donald Trump, morning reads, SCOTUS | Tags: Alvin Bragg, Bohemian Grove, Clarence Thomas, Ginni Thomas, Gloria Johnson, Harlan Crow, Harry Litman, Jed Shugerman, Justin Jones, Justin Pearson, Manhattan DA, Margaret Renkl, Tennessee House of Representatives 24 Comments
Everyone is talking about the shocking story about Clarence Thomas published early this morning at ProPublica. We knew that Thomas was corrupt, but the scale of the corruption revealed by authors Joshua Kaplan, Justin Elliott, and Alex Mierjeski is beyond mind-boggling. And they provide plenty of photos of Thomas enjoying luxury accommodations alongside the wealthy and powerful. Thomas never reported any of these gifts.
IN LATE JUNE 2019, right after the U.S. Supreme Court released its final opinion of the term, Justice Clarence Thomas boarded a large private jet headed to Indonesia. He and his wife were going on vacation: nine days of island-hopping in a volcanic archipelago on a superyacht staffed by a coterie of attendants and a private chef.
If Thomas had chartered the plane and the 162-foot yacht himself, the total cost of the trip could have exceeded $500,000. Fortunately for him, that wasn’t necessary: He was on vacation with real estate magnate and Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, who owned the jet — and the yacht, too.
For more than two decades, Thomas has accepted luxury trips virtually every year from the Dallas businessman without disclosing them, documents and interviews show. A public servant who has a salary of $285,000, he has vacationed on Crow’s superyacht around the globe. He flies on Crow’s Bombardier Global 5000 jet. He has gone with Crow to the Bohemian Grove, the exclusive California all-male retreat, and to Crow’s sprawling ranch in East Texas. And Thomas typically spends about a week every summer at Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks.
The extent and frequency of Crow’s apparent gifts to Thomas have no known precedent in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court.
These trips appeared nowhere on Thomas’ financial disclosures. His failure to report the flights appears to violate a law passed after Watergate that requires justices, judges, members of Congress and federal officials to disclose most gifts, two ethics law experts said. He also should have disclosed his trips on the yacht, these experts said.
Get this: Thomas even went with Crow to the legendary Bohemian Grove.
More from the ProPublica article:
In a statement, Crow acknowledged that he’d extended “hospitality” to the Thomases “over the years,” but said that Thomas never asked for any of it and it was “no different from the hospitality we have extended to our many other dear friends.”
Through his largesse, Crow has gained a unique form of access, spending days in private with one of the most powerful people in the country. By accepting the trips, Thomas has broken long-standing norms for judges’ conduct, ethics experts and four current or retired federal judges said.
“It’s incomprehensible to me that someone would do this,” said Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton. When she was on the bench, Gertner said, she was so cautious about appearances that she wouldn’t mention her title when making dinner reservations: “It was a question of not wanting to use the office for anything other than what it was intended.”
Virginia Canter, a former government ethics lawyer who served in administrations of both parties, said Thomas “seems to have completely disregarded his higher ethical obligations.”
“When a justice’s lifestyle is being subsidized by the rich and famous, it absolutely corrodes public trust,” said Canter, now at the watchdog group CREW. “Quite frankly, it makes my heart sink.”
ProPublica uncovered the details of Thomas’ travel by drawing from flight records, internal documents distributed to Crow’s employees and interviews with dozens of people ranging from his superyacht’s staff to members of the secretive Bohemian Club to an Indonesian scuba diving instructor.
I haven’t finished reading the article yet, but I definitely will go back to it today.
This is from John Wagner at The Washington Post: Justice Thomas accepted luxury travel for years from GOP donor, report says.
Federal law mandates that top officials from the three branches of government, including the Supreme Court, file annual forms detailing their finances, outside income and spouses’ sources of income, with each branch determining its own reporting standards.
Judges are prohibited from accepting gifts from anyone with business before the court. Until recently, however, the judicial branch had not clearly defined an exemption for gifts considered “personal hospitality.”
Revised rules adopted by a committee of the Judicial Conference, the courts’ policymaking body, seek to provide a fuller accounting. The rules took effect March 14.
Gifts such as an overnight stay at a personal vacation home owned by a friend remain exempt from reporting requirements. But the revised rules require disclosure when judges are treated to stays at commercial properties, such as hotels, ski resorts or corporate hunting lodges. The changes also clarify that judges must report travel by private jet….
While the wide scope of Crow’s funding of Thomas’s travel has not been previously reported, the largesse of the billionaire donor directed at the justice has provoked controversy previously.
In 2011, the New York Times reported that Crow had done many favors for Thomas and his wife, notably financing the multimillion-dollar purchase and restoration of a cannery in Pin Point, Ga., that was a pet project of the justice.
The Times also reported that Crow helped finance a Savannah, Ga., library project dedicated to Thomas, presented him with a Bible that belonged to Frederick Douglass and reportedly provided $500,000 for Ginni Thomas to start a tea-party-related group.
Thomas, who joined the court in 1991, has drawn scrutiny on other ethical issues in recent years, several related to the political activism of his wife. She has been allied with numerous people and groups that have interests before the court, and she has dedicated herself to right-wing causes involving some of the most polarizing issues in the country.
In other news, reporters and legal experts are busy critiquing Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case against Donald Trump. Here’s one of the worst:
Shugerman writes: The Trump Indictment Is a Legal Embarrassment.
Tuesday was historic for the rule of law in America, but not in the way Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, would have imagined. The 34-count indictment — which more accurately could be described as 34 half-indictments — was a disaster. It was a setback for the rule of law and established a dangerous precedent for prosecutors.
This legal embarrassment reveals new layers of Trumpian damage to the legal foundations of the United States: Mr. Trump’s opponents react to his provocations and norms violations by escalating and accelerating the erosion of legal norms.
The case appears so weak on its legal and jurisdictional basis that a state judge might dismiss the case and mitigate that damage. More likely, the case is headed to federal court for a year, where it could lose on the grounds of federal pre-emption — only federal courts have jurisdiction over campaign finance and filing requirements. Even if it survives a challenge that could reach the Supreme Court, a trial would most likely not start until at least mid-2024, possibly even after the 2024 election.
Instead of the rule of law, it would be the rule of the circus.
Let’s start with the obvious problem that the payments at issue were made around six years ago. The basic facts have been public for five years. There are undoubtedly complicated political reasons for the delay, but regardless, Mr. Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance Jr., had almost a year to bring this case after Mr. Trump left office, but did not do so, and Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department also declined. To address the perception of a reversal and questions of legitimacy, Mr. Bragg had a duty to explain more about the case and its legal basis in what’s known as a “speaking indictment,” which the team of former counsel Robert Mueller made famous in its filings.
Legal experts have been speculating about the core criminal allegation in this case, because the expected charge for “falsifying business records” becomes a felony only “when his intent to defraud includes an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof.”
Astonishingly, the district attorney’s filings do not make clear the core crime that would turn a filing misdemeanor into a felony. Neither the 16-page indictment nor the accompanying statement of facts specifies, though the statement of facts does drop hints about campaign laws. In a news conference, Mr. Bragg answered that he did not specify because he was not required to by law. His answer was oblivious to how law requires more than doing the minimum to the letter — it demands fairness, notice and taking public legitimacy seriously.
Phew! Now that’s a smackdown!
Here’s different point of view from high profile attorney Harry Litman:
From the Los Angeles Times: Column: Don’t underestimate the strengths of Alvin Bragg’s case against Donald Trump.
Manhattan Dist. Atty. Alvin Bragg’s indictment of former President Trump takes an open-ended approach to the charges that some critics of the unprecedented prosecution see as a weakness. What the detractors have overlooked are the substantial and unanticipated legal and factual strengths in the case Bragg outlined.
A key question in advance of Tuesday’s unsealing of the indictment concerned how Bragg would augment the easily proven misdemeanor charges of falsifying business records. Under New York law, those offenses become felonies only if they’re in furtherance of another crime. Many theories were circulating as to what second crime Bragg would allege, and most of the possibilities had noteworthy shortcomings.
Bragg’s answer was essentially “I’ll tell you later.” He took advantage of the wording of the state law, which requires only that the misdemeanor be done in service of “a crime,” to buy himself maximum time and flexibility.
Bragg may have to pick his crime down the line, perhaps in answer to an expected defense motion for a “bill of particulars” — that is, a fleshing out of the Delphic indictment to enable Trump’s team to prepare an appropriate defense.
On the other hand, the prosecutor may not have to specify a second crime. The jury instructions on falsification of business records say it’s a felony if the defendant acted “with intent to defraud that included an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof.” It’s therefore not clear that they require the jury even to agree on what the augmenting crime is.
But Bragg this week also added a potent possible second crime beyond what many observers expected. It emerges from the fact that in making his lawyer Michael Cohen “whole” for the hush money he paid to Stormy Daniels, Trump included enough to compensate Cohen for the taxes he would have to pay on the “income” — that is, on the phony legal retainer that camouflaged the hush money.
It’s not clear whether Cohen in fact declared and paid taxes on the reimbursement or whether the Trump Organization declared it as a business expense. The Bragg team’s insight is that it doesn’t matter: The language that elevates business record falsification to a felony only requires “an intent to commit another crime or to aid or conceal the commission thereof.”
That purposely encompasses what lawyers call “inchoate” crimes. The law would plainly be satisfied by the inclusion of money intended to commit or conceal another crime — namely, a false tax filing — whether or not that crime occurred.
Importantly, this theory could be a way around the legal questions inherent in alleging that the second crime was a state or federal campaign finance violation.
Read the rest at the LA Times.
Another big and disturbing story is happening in Tennessee.
From Reuters: Tennessee Republicans likely to expel three Democratic lawmakers from statehouse.
Republicans who control the Tennessee House of Representatives will vote on Thursday on whether to expel three Democratic members for their role in a gun control demonstration at the statehouse last week.
Last Friday’s protest saw hundreds of demonstrators flood into the statehouse, four days after a Nashville school shooting ended with three 9-year-old children and three school staff members dead.
Three Democratic lawmakers stood on the House floor and used a bullhorn to lead protesters in chanting demands for stricter gun laws. In the resolutions calling for their expulsion, Republicans accused the three of engaging in “disorderly behavior” and said they “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives through their individual and collective actions.”
The expulsion vote is likely to easily pass in the Republican-dominated House and lead to the ouster of Rep. Gloria Johnson, Rep. Justin Jones and Rep. Justin Pearson. They say they were within their First Amendment rights to take part in the protest.
“It’s morally insane that a week after a mass shooting took six lives in our community, House Republicans only response is to expel us for standing with our constituents to call for gun control,” Jones wrote on Twitter this week. “What’s happening in Tennessee is a clear danger to democracy all across this nation.
Republicans Rep. Andrew Farmer, Rep. Gino Bulso, and Rep. Bud Hulsey filed three resolutions on Monday to expel their Democratic colleagues. The resolutions on Monday passed in a preliminary vote along party lines, 72-23.
Imagine if this insanity spreads to other Republican-controlled legislatures–and it very likely will, if it’s successful.
Commentary from Margaret Renkl at The New York Times: As Young People March for Their Lives, Tennessee Crushes Dissent and Overrides Democracy.
NASHVILLE — Yesterday the eyes of the country were on the indictment of a former president, along with the all too real possibility that political or public chaos would erupt as a result. Here in Tennessee, we were watching a different kind of chaos unfold as our state government doubled down on its love affair with guns, even in the immediate aftermath of a horrific school shooting. I wish I could tell you that guns were the worst of it.
Last Thursday, in the wake of the shooting, peaceful protesters at the Tennessee State Capitol rallied for gun reform. Activists waved signs in the statehouse gallery, and Representatives Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson and Justin J. Pearson, all Democrats, led them in chants from the House floor during breaks. Between bills, the lawmakers also approached the podium to speak. They did not wait to be formally recognized.
On Monday, statehouse Republicans stripped all three of their committee memberships and deactivated their ID badges. The Democrats “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives,” the formal resolutions against them read. Tomorrow, the House will vote on whether to expel the three lawmakers for talking out of turn.
Expulsion is extremely rare in Tennessee history. As the Politico reporter Natalie Allison pointed out on Twitter, the Tennessee House didn’t even vote to expel a Republican legislator who had been accused of sexually assaulting three teenage girls.
The resolutions against Mr. Jones, Ms. Johnson and Mr. Pearson were filed against a backdrop that highlights the absurdity of the actions Republicans have taken against them.
On Monday at 10:13 a.m., one week to the minute after a shooter armed with military-style weapons entered the church-affiliated Covenant School and murdered three children and three adults, more than 7,000 Nashville students staged a walkout to demand gun reform. It was a sight to behold: Vanderbilt University students marching down one street, Belmont University students marching down another, all of them joining a large crowd of high school and college students from around town. They were determined to speak as one voice directly to their government — to the only people with any power to reduce the risks they take just by going to class.
No place in this firearm-besotted country is safe from gun violence, but Tennessee students are at particular risk, and not just in school. They live in a state with some of the nation’s most permissive gun laws, as well as the highest rate of gun theft — and perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the highest rates of gun deaths.
Read the rest at the NYT.
Those are the top stories today, as I see it. I’ll add a few more in the comment thread. What do you think? What other stories have captured your interest?
Thursday Reads: A Reckoning is Coming for TrumpPosted: November 3, 2022 Filed under: 2021 Insurrection, Afternoon Reads, Donald Trump | Tags: Clarence Thomas, Department of Justice, executive privilege, January 6 investigation, John Eastman, Kash Patel, Kenneth Chesebro, Mar-a-Lago documents investigation, Merrick Garland, use immunity, Walt Nauta 16 Comments
It’s really happening, folks. Last night we got another sign that Merrick Garland’s DOJ is likely to indict Donald Trump. The news broke around 9PM Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal that Trump insider Kash Patel has been given limited use immunity and will now have to testify to the grand jury in the stolen documents case. This means he won’t be prosecuted for anything he testifies to truthfully, but he can be prosecuted if he lies.
Lawrence Tribe predicted this last month when The New York Times published a story about the DOJ trying to get testimony from Patel and another Trump aide Walt Nauta, who was involved in moving boxes of documents out of the storage area at Mar-a-Lago.
Here’s the Wall Street Journal article from last night: Trump Aide, Granted Immunity, Set to Testify at Grand Jury Probing Mar-a-Lago Documents.
Kash Patel, a close associate of former President Donald Trump, is set to soon testify before a federal grand jury probing the handling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago after receiving immunity for his information, people familiar with the matter said.
A federal judge recently decided the Justice Department couldn’t force Mr. Patel to testify without such protection against his statements being used against him in some future prosecution. That ruling, the people said, opens the door for Mr. Patel, who says Mr. Trump broadly declassified White House documents while still president, to answer questions.
Mr. Patel appeared before the grand jury last month and refused to provide information by repeatedly invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, The Wall Street Journal reported.
In response, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to compel him to testify. Prosecutors argued Mr. Patel had no reasonable expectation that he would be prosecuted based on the kinds of questions they were asking, one of the people said, an argument the judge didn’t accept.
The immunity grant leaves the government only able to charge Mr. Patel, if at all, using information obtained independently of his immunized testimony.
That’s because Patel is just a small fish, and the DOJ is going after a much bigger fish–Trump himself.
Other Trump associates involved in the Mar-a-Lago documents matter also have been offered some form of immunity, people familiar with the matter said, including one of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, Christina Bobb, who declined, saying she didn’t need it.
Mr. Patel, a former White House and Pentagon aide whom Mr. Trump late in his term considered naming to top positions at the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI, has asserted publicly since May that Mr. Trump broadly declassified documents when he left the White House in January 2021. His comments first came as the Justice Department’s efforts to retrieve the documents from Mar-a-Lago were intensifying and the same month prosecutors issued a grand jury subpoena for their return.
Prosecutors asked Mr. Patel about that claim and an array of other topics, including some that had nothing to do with Mr. Trump or the material discovered at Mar-a-Lago, one of the people said.
Investigators have spoken to a number of other people, including close aides to the former president, since the probe began.
I didn’t encounter a paywall when I opened this WSJ story from a link on Memeorandum.
This is from a New York Times article on this new development:
The disclosure that Mr. Patel has received immunity for his testimony comes as prosecutors have increased their pressure on recalcitrant witnesses who have declined to answer investigators’ questions or have provided them with potentially misleading accounts about Mr. Trump’s handling of documents.
Prosecutors have indicated they are skeptical of the level of cooperation they have gotten from a little-known Trump aide named Walt Nauta, who has provided the authorities with different accounts about whether he moved documents stored at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The authorities are using the specter of charges against him for misleading investigators to persuade him to sit again for questioning.
The prosecutors want to question Mr. Patel about an array of matters related to the documents. Among them is an unsubstantiated claim Mr. Patel has publicly made in recent months that Mr. Trump had declassified national security documents he took when he left the White House….
Mr. Patel has long been a part of efforts to fight off the Justice Department investigations into Mr. Trump and his allies. Earlier this year, as officials were pushing Mr. Trump to return records he had taken to Mar-a-Lago when he left office, Mr. Trump made him one of his representatives to the National Archives and Records Administration to deal with his records.
Legal experts say prosecutors try to avoid giving witnesses immunity, especially in high-profile cases, because it makes it much more difficult to prosecute the individual who received it. But prosecutors often ask a judge to grant it when they are confronted with a witness who has information that they believe is essential to completing the investigation….
Mr. Patel has increased his influence with Mr. Trump since the end of the presidency, maintaining his criticisms of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in the 2016 campaign.
Earlier this year, Mr. Patel told associates that he was expected to take on an even more central role in Mr. Trump’s legal defenses, currently coordinated by another Trump adviser, Boris Epshteyn, according to a person familiar with his comments.
There’s also big news on the investigation of Trump’s involvement in the investigation of efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Yesterday Politico obtained the 8 emails that Trump attorney John Eastman has been fighting to keep from the January 6 Committee and they are damning.
From the Politico article: Trump lawyers saw Justice Thomas as ‘only chance’ to stop 2020 election certification.
Donald Trump’s attorneys saw a direct appeal to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas as their best hope of derailing Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election, according to emails newly disclosed to congressional investigators.
“We want to frame things so that Thomas could be the one to issue some sort of stay or other circuit justice opinion saying Georgia is in legitimate doubt,” Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro wrote in a Dec. 31, 2020, email to Trump’s legal team. Chesebro contended that Thomas would be “our only chance to get a favorable judicial opinion by Jan. 6, which might hold up the Georgia count in Congress.”
“I think I agree with this,” attorney John Eastman replied later that morning, suggesting that a favorable move by Thomas or other justices would “kick the Georgia legislature into gear” to help overturn the election results.
The messages were part of a batch of eight emails — obtained by POLITICO — that Eastman had sought to withhold from the Jan. 6 select committee but that a judge ordered turned over anyway, describing them as evidence of likely crimes committed by Eastman and Trump. They were transmitted to the select committee by Eastman’s attorneys last week, but remained largely under wraps until early Wednesday morning….
Thomas is the justice assigned to handle emergency matters arising out of Georgia and would have been the one to receive any urgent appeal of Trump’s lawsuit to the Supreme Court — a fact that seemed to be part of the Trump legal team’s calculus.
Rulings from so-called circuit justices are typically stopgap measures aimed at preserving the status quo until the full Supreme Court weighs in, but the Trump lawyers hoped a favorable order from Thomas would embolden state GOP-controlled legislatures, Congress — or then-Vice President Mike Pence — to block final certification of Joe Biden’s victory.
“[I]f we can just get this case pending before the Supreme Court by Jan. 5, ideally with something positive written by a judge or justice, hopefully Thomas, I think it’s our best shot at holding up the count of a state in Congress,” Chesebro said.
There’s even more crazy stuff from Chesebro:
In one scenario, Chesebro proposed encouraging Senate Republicans to filibuster long enough to delay the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, ignoring limitations on the length of debate. He also described how Trump allies could use inaction by the courts to build political pressure against Biden’s inauguration.
“Hard to have enormous optimism about what will happen on Jan. 6, but a lot can happen in the 13 days left until then, and I think having as many states still under review (both judicially and in state legislatures) as possible is ideal,” Chesebro wrote Trump campaign attorney Justin Clark on Dec. 24, 2020. It’s unclear how or whether Clark responded to Chesebro’s message.
The New York-based lawyer has been scrutinized by the Jan. 6 select committee, as well as prosecutors in Fulton County, Ga., who are investigating Trump’s efforts to subvert the election there.
Read more and see the emails at Politico.
There’s a very interesting piece at New York Magazine today by Ankush Khardori: The Secret Court Battle That Threatens Trump After Election Day. Prosecutors are obtaining potentially crucial testimony about January 6.
As the midterm campaigns draw to a close, so too may an informal détente between Donald Trump and federal prosecutors since the search of Mar-a-Lago in August. While both sides fight in court, the Justice Department has probably refrained from taking major steps in the key investigations into his possession of classified documents and the attack on the U.S. Capitol in order to avoid influencing the elections.
During this relative down period, however, the department has reportedly been fighting an opaque and largely secret legal battle in the January 6 investigation that could constitute its most significant development to date. It could open a floodgate of damaging information about Trump or provide the department with crucial clarity about his conduct with respect to the riot and the effort to overturn the election results beyond what the public has learned so far. Like the search at Mar-a-Lago, this reflects an apparent change in posture at the Justice Department in recent months under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who chose not to focus on Trump’s potential criminal misconduct when he took office last year despite ample reason to do so.
And thus far, the Justice Department appears to be winning.
In recent weeks, according to a variety of news reports, prosecutors successfully compelled grand-jury testimony in Washington, D.C., from two key witnesses over the objections of Trump — Greg Jacob, a onetime lawyer for former vice-president Mike Pence who blamed the shoddy legal arguments advanced by Trump lawyer John Eastman for the outrageous violence at the Capitol, and Marc Short, Pence’s former chief of staff. The proceedings are under seal for the moment, but they are being handled at the district-court level by Chief Judge Beryl Howell, who has so far rejected Trump’s legal challenges. In at least Short’s case, Trump’s lawyers reportedly sought an expedited appeal to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rebuffed them. The Justice Department is now reportedly seeking a similar ruling from Howell that would force testimony — again over Trump’s objections — from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his deputy Patrick Philbin.
All of the court disputes appear to center on Trump’s effort to invoke executive privilege to block top officials in his White House from providing testimony that might incriminate him. As CNN noted, the recent testimony from Jacob was “the first identifiable time when the confidentiality Trump had tried to maintain around the West Wing after the 2020 election has been pierced in the criminal probe following a court battle.” The fight is not over: There is apparently still a pending appeal at the D.C. Circuit and likely more litigation before Howell as things continue to play out and additional witnesses are called in, and at some point, Trump could seek the involvement of the Supreme Court to try to bail him out.
At first blush, this may seem like a fight among lawyers with esoteric stakes concerning the scope of executive privilege, but there are significant consequences if the Justice Department successfully continues down this path. Prosecutors could obtain fulsome information about what Trump himself (as opposed to the people around him) was actually saying and doing in the run-up to and during the January 6 siege.
Read the rest at the link. The gist is that prosecutors are moving closer to actually holding Trump accountable.
More interesting stories to check out, links only:
The Washington Post: Biden warns GOP could set nation on ‘path to chaos’ as democratic system faces strain.
The Washington Post: Oath Keeper Rhodes had violent message for Trump after Jan. 6, witness says.
Reuters: U.S. Capitol Police to conduct internal review over missed camera images of Pelosi attack.
Will Oremus at The Washington Post: Musk’s Trump-style management rattles Twitter workers awaiting layoffs.
Insider: Elon Musk’s Twitter has identified thousands of employees who will be laid off, representing about 50% of the company’s workforce.
The Guardian: Twitter exodus: company faces murky future as top managers flee the nest.
Please share your thoughts on these stories and anything else you’re interested in and have a great Thursday!