Trump and his aides also allegedly carried out a “dress rehearsal” for moving sensitive papers even before his office received the May 2022 subpoena, according to the people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a sensitive ongoing investigation.
Fabulous Friday ReadsPosted: May 26, 2023 Filed under: abortion rights, Donald Trump, SCOTUS | Tags: abortion, books and reading, Caitlin Bernard, Clean Water Act, Espionage Act, Indiana, rape, Samuel Alito, Supreme Court, Trump stolen documents case, wetlands 13 Comments
Good Day, Sky Dancers!!
I am addicted to books. In my adult years, I have bought so many books that I could never read them all; but I can’t stop myself–or maybe I don’t want to. When I moved into the apartment I live in now, I had to leave hundreds of books behind, because I simply didn’t have room for them. I tell myself an addiction to buying books is at least better than addictions to alcohol and drugs. I do much of my reading on my Kindle now, and at least those books don’t take up space. But I still love physical books and I still buy more than I can read. I’m 75 years old now, and I don’t have that much time left; but I still want to read as many books as I can before I “shuffle off this mortal coil.”
Could this be a solution?
Okay, probably not; but it’s an interesting fantasy. And now for some news.
Yesterday The Washington Post broke a story on the investigation into Trump’s theft of, and refusal to return, government documents. A short time later, The New York Times followed up with more details.
Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Spencer S. Hsu, and Perry Stein at The Washington Post: Trump workers moved Mar-a-Lago boxes a day before FBI came for documents.book
Two of Donald Trump’s employees moved boxes of papers the day before an early June visit byFBI agents and a prosecutor to the former president’s Florida home to retrieve classified documents in response to a subpoena — timing that investigators have come to view as suspicious and an indication of possible obstruction, according to people familiar with the matter.
Prosecutors in addition have gathered evidence indicating that Trump at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others, these people said.
Taken together, the new details of the classified-documents investigation suggest a greater breadth and specificity to the instances of possible obstruction found by the FBI and Justice Department than have been previously reported. It also broadens the timeline of possible obstruction episodes that investigators are examining — a period stretching from events at Mar-a-Lago before the subpoena to the period after the FBI search there on Aug. 8.
That timeline may prove crucial as prosecutors seek to determine Trump’s intent in keeping hundreds of classified documents after he left the White House, a key factor in deciding whether to file charges, possibly for obstruction, mishandling national security secrets or both. The Washington Post has previously reported that the boxes were moved out of the storage area after Trump’s office received a subpoena. But the precise timing of that activity is a significant element in the investigation, the people familiar with the matter said.
The WaPo writers focus on obstruction, but if Trump showed documents to other people, that could be espionage. Remember, espionage was one of the crimes listed on the warrant for the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago.
More details from the WaPo story:
Of particular importance to investigators in the classified-documents case, according to people familiar with the probe, is evidence showing that boxes of documents were moved into a storage area on June 2, just before senior Justice Department lawyer Jay Bratt arrived at Mar-a-Lago with agents. The June 3 visit by law enforcement officialswas to collect material in response to the May 2022grand jury subpoena demanding the return of all documents with classified markings.
John Irving, a lawyer representing one of the two employees who moved the boxes, said the worker did not know what was in them and was only trying to help Trump valet Walt Nauta, who was using a dolly or hand truck to move a number of boxes.
“He was seen on Mar-a-Lago security video helping Walt Nauta move boxes into a storage area on June 2, 2022. My client saw Mr. Nauta moving the boxes and volunteered to help him,” Irving said. The next day, he added, the employee helped Nauta pack an SUV “when former president Trump left for Bedminster for the summer.”
The lawyer said his client, a longtime Mar-a-Lago employee whom he declined to identify, has cooperated with the government and did not have “any reason to think that helping to move boxes was at all significant.” Other people familiar with the investigation confirmed the employee’s role and said he has been questioned multiple times by authorities.
Awhile back there was a video circulating on Twitter of people moving boxes out of Mar-a-Lago and loading them onto a truck to be taken to Bedminster. This happened the day before Trump left to spend the summer at his New Jersey golf club. Now it’s being posted again.
This is from Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman at The New York Times: Mar-a-Lago Worker Provided Prosecutors New Details in Trump Documents Case.
The day before a key meeting last year between a lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and officials seeking the return of classified documents in Mr. Trump’s possession, a maintenance worker at the former president’s private club saw an aide moving boxes into a storage room, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The maintenance worker offered to help the aide — Walt Nauta, who was Mr. Trump’s valet in the White House — move the boxes and ended up lending him a hand. But the worker had no idea what was inside the boxes, the person familiar with the matter said. The maintenance worker has shared that account with federal prosecutors, the person said….
Mr. Trump was found to have been keeping some of the documents in the storage room where Mr. Nauta and the maintenance worker were moving boxes on the day before the Justice Department’s top counterintelligence official, Jay Bratt, traveled to Mar-a-Lago last June to seek the return of any government materials being held by the former president.
Mr. Nauta and the worker moved the boxes into the room before a search of the storage room that same day by M. Evan Corcoran, a lawyer for Mr. Trump who was in discussions with Mr. Bratt. Mr. Corcoran called Justice Department officials that night to set up a meeting for the next day. He believed that he did not have a security clearance to transport documents with classified markings, a person briefed on his decision said.
Weeks earlier, the Justice Department had issued a subpoena demanding the return of the documents. Prosecutors have been trying to determine whether Mr. Trump had documents moved around Mar-a-Lago or sought to conceal some of them after the subpoena.
Part of their interest is in trying to determine whether documents were moved before Mr. Corcoran went through the boxes himself ahead of a meeting with Justice Department officials looking to retrieve them. Prosecutors have been asking witnesses about the roles of Mr. Nauta and the maintenance worker, whose name has not been publicly disclosed, in moving documents around that time.
During his trip to Mar-a-Lago on June 3, Mr. Bratt was given a packet of roughly three dozen documents with classified markings by a lawyer for Mr. Trump. Mr. Bratt was also given a letter, drafted by Mr. Corcoran but signed by another lawyer for the former president, attesting that a diligent search had been carried out for any additional material in response to the subpoena and that none had been found. Mr. Bratt was not given access to search the storage room at that point.
The obvious inference is that Trump may have gone through the boxes and removed items that he wanted to keep, concealing them in his private quarters. Remember that classified documents were later found in his office desk and in his bedroom.
Like the WaPo writers, Feuer and Haberman focus their discussion on possible obstruction charges, and ignore the obvious possibility of espionage charges based on the fact that Trump showed documents to people at his private club and left them lying around in plain sight.
The penalties for violating the espionage act are 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
In other news, the Supreme Court yesterday announced another horrific decision. This time they’ve gutted the Clean Water Act.
Timothy Puko and Robert Barnes at The Washington Post: How Supreme Court’s EPA ruling will affect U.S. wetlands, clean water.
Bogs. Marshes. Swamps. Fens. All are examples of wetlands.
But the type of wetland that gets protection under federal law is a matter of wide dispute, one reset by a sweeping ruling Thursday from the U.S. Supreme Court.
At issue is the reach of the 51-year-old Clean Water Act and how courts should determine what count as “waters of the United States” under that law. Nearly two decades ago, the court ruled that wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act if they have a “significant nexus” to regulated waters.
The Supreme Court decided that rule no longer applies and said the Environmental Protection Agency’s interpretation of its powers went too far, giving it regulatory power beyond what Congress had authorized….
Writing for five justices of the court, Justice Samuel A. Alito ruled that the Clean Water Act extends only to “those wetlands with a continuous surface connection to bodies that are ‘waters of the United States’ in their own right, so that they are ‘indistinguishable’ from those waters.” He was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil M. Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett….
Some environmental groups and legal experts estimate that the decision will remove federal protection from half of all wetlands in the continental United States. According to estimates from Earthjustice, an environmental law firm, the decision will prevent the EPA from placing federal protections on as many as 118 million acres of wetlands, an area larger than the landmass of California. Those estimates could not be immediately confirmed, but the ruling is expected to give farmers, home builders and other developers far more latitude to disturb lands previously regulated under the Clean Water Act….
The ruling affects one of the EPA’s most fundamental authorities — its ability to protect upstream waters in order to protect downstream water quality for drinking supplies and wildlife. Experts say greater development upstream could result in silt and pollutants damaging downstream waters and habitat, and reduce the flood control and groundwater-recharge benefits of protected wetlands.
Read all the gory details at the WaPo link.
Commentary by Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: Samuel Alito’s Assault on Wetlands Is So Indefensible That He Lost Brett Kavanaugh.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court dealt a devastating blow to the nation’s wetlands by rewriting a statute the court does not like to mean something it does not mean. The court’s decision in Sackett v. EPAis one of the its most egregious betrayals of textualism in memory. Put simply: The Clean Water Act protects wetlands that are “adjacent” to larger bodies of water. Five justices, however, do not think the federal government should be able to stop landowners from destroying wetlands on their property. To close this gap between what the majority wants and what the statute says, the majority crossed through the word “adjacent” and replaced it with a new test that’s designed to give landowners maximum latitude to fill in, build upon, or otherwise obliterate some of the most valuable ecosystems on earth.
Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion for the court is remarkably brazen about this approach—so brazen that Justice Brett Kavanaugh (of all people!) authored a sharp opinion accusing him of failing to “stick to the text.” Alito began with a long history of the Supreme Court’s struggles to identify the “outer boundaries” of the Clean Water Act, as if to explain why the time had come for the court to give up wrestling with the text and just impose whatever standard it prefers. The law expressly protects “waters of the United States” (like rivers and lakes) as well as “wetlands adjacent” to these waters. Congress added the wetlands provision in 1977 to codify the EPA’s definition of “adjacent,” which also happens to be the actual definition: “bordering, contiguous, or neighboring.” Under that interpretation—the one Congress adopted—wetlands that neighbor a larger body of water remain protected, even if they aren’t directly connected.
Why did Congress make that choice? Because wetlands provide immense environmental benefits: They filter and purify water draining into nearby streams, rivers, and lakes. They slow down runoff into these larger bodies. And they serve as vital flood control. In other words, the Clean Water Act has to protect “adjacent” wetlands to serve its overarching goal of safeguarding the broader “waters of the United States” from pollution.
Too bad, Alito wrote: We don’t like the definition that Congress used. It could lead to “crushing” fines for landowners and interfere with “mundane” activities like “moving dirt.” It interferes with “traditional state authority.” And it could give the EPA “truly staggering” regulatory authority. Five justices on the Supreme Court think all of that is very bad. So they declared that, instead of applying the statute’s words, the court would impose a different standard: Only wetlands with “a continuous surface connection” to larger bodies of water merit protection under the Clean Water Act.
This definition—which, it just can’t be stressed enough, appears nowhere in the law—is a crushing defeat for wetlands and their protectors. These ecosystems, as Kavanaugh pointed out, are frequently separated from larger bodies of water by “man-made dikes or barriers” as well as “natural river berms, beach dunes, or the like.” Such wetlands “play an important role in protecting neighboring and downstream waters,” which is why Congress included them in the statute. But under the majority’s new test, they are stripped of federal protection.
Sam Alito: the same asshole who overturned Roe v. Wade while citing a 17th century judge who presided over a witch trial.
I’ll wrap up this post with an abortion horror story at The Washington Post: Indiana board fines doctor for discussing rape victim’s abortion.
Indiana’s medical licensing board decided late Thursday to discipline a doctor who made headlines last year for performing an abortion for a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim. The board gave the doctor a letter of reprimand and ordered her to pay a $3,000 fine for violating ethical standards and state laws by discussing the case with a reporter.
For nearly a year, Indiana’s Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) pursued punishment for Caitlin Bernard, an OB/GYN and an assistant professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine who carried out the abortion in June 2022, less than a week after Roe v. Wade was struck down, enacting trigger laws.
Bernard broke patient privacy laws by telling an Indianapolis Star reporter about the patient’s care, the board decided Thursday night after a roughly 14-hour hearing that ended shortly after 11:30 p.m. Bernard’s lawyers argued she properly reported the incident to an Indiana University Health social worker and did not run afoul of privacy laws when she discussed the patient’s case in a general and “deidentified” manner that is typical for doctors.
Records obtained by The Washington Post last year show that Bernard reported the girl’s abortion to the relevant state agencies ahead of the legally mandated deadline, which the board agreed with Thursday night, clearing her of a charge related to that issue.
These assholes are supposedly doing this in order to “protect” the patient–a 10-year-old child who was impregnated by a rapist in Ohio and had to travel to Indiana because her Ohio politicians determined that she should be forced to bear her rapist’s child even though that could be life-threatening for her.
Bernard’s lawyers rejected Rokita’s allegations as baseless and politically motivated. The seven-member board of governor appointees could, by a majority vote, have either taken no action against Bernard or imposed a range of disciplinary measures up to and including the immediate termination of Bernard’s medical license.
Throughout the lengthy hearing, Bernard faced at times pointed questions about her decisions.
She explained how, as a doctor, she felt she had “an obligation” to ensure Hoosiers understood how abortion bans were affecting people across the country — and could eventually affect them.
Bernard was also asked whether she thought she would have “gotten as much attention” if she had not mentioned the 10-year-old patient’s case to a reporter.
“I don’t think that anybody would have been looking into this story as any different than any other interview that I’ve ever given if it was not politicized the way that it was by public figures in our state and in Ohio,” Bernard said.
That’s my contribution for today. What stories have you been following lately?
Thursday ReadsPosted: April 27, 2023 Filed under: Donald Trump, ethics, SCOTUS | Tags: Background Checks, defamation, E. Jean Carroll, Jack Teixeira, January 6 grand jury, John Roberts, mass shootings, Mike Pence, Pentagon documents, rape, security clearances, Senate Judiciary Committee, Supreme Court ethics 19 Comments
Once again the news is coming fast and furious today, but the top story has to be the latest about Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old air national guardsman who leaked classified documents on Discord.
The story is getting worse with each passing day. This kid not only had access to secret government documents, but also he stockpiled weapons in his parents’ home and fantasized about being a mass murderer.
NPR: The suspected leaker of Pentagon documents is due back in federal court.
The air national guardsman accused of leaking U.S. government secrets is due back in federal court in Worcester, Mass., at 1 p.m. on Thursday. Federal prosecutors are urging that the defendant, Jack Teixeira, 21, a member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, remain in jail pending trial.
In a new court filing, federal prosecutors say Teixeira faces significant prison time, if convicted, and poses a serious flight risk. They say he took steps to obstruct the investigation into the leak of U.S. intelligence documents, many of which were about Ukraine’s war against Russia.
According to court papers, investigators found a tablet, a laptop and a gaming console — all of them smashed — in a dumpster at Teixeira’s house after his arrest. Teixeira also allegedly told an associate online to delete all messages with him and that if anyone came asking questions about him, not to tell them anything. Prosecutors also say Teixeira began in February 2022 to access classified national defense information that had no bearing on his job. Not all of those materials have publicly surfaced yet.
NBC News: Intel leaks suspect is a flight risk and could have access to more classified docs, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors will urge a judge Thursday to keep Jack Teixeira, 21, behind bars, arguing he poses “a serious flight risk,” and that a “foreign adversary” could try to help him escape the United States and give him safe haven.
“The information to which the Defendant had access — and did access — far exceeds what has been publicly disclosed on the Internet to date,” the document said. The leaks “have the capacity to cause additional exceptionally grave damage to the U.S. national security if disclosed.”
The 18-page memo said Teixeira had a history of making violent and racist remarks — including posting on social media about wanting to carry out a mass shooting — keeping “an arsenal of weapons”and tactical gear at his house, and trying to thwart federal investigators by apparently destroying evidence.
The filing comes ahead of a detention hearing Thursday in Massachusetts federal court. Teixeira, who has not entered a plea, has been in jail since his arrest earlier this month in a case that represents one of the most significant intelligence leaks in years. The saga has fueled global uproar and doubts over America’s ability to guard its secrets….
“The damage the Defendant has already caused to the U.S. national security is immense. The damage the Defendant is still capable of causing is extraordinary,” prosecutors wrote. “If the Defendant were released, it would be all too easy for him to further disseminate classified information and would create the unacceptable risk that he would flee the United States and take refuge with a foreign adversary to avoid the reach of U.S. law.”
On Teixeira’s fascination with mass shootings:
Teixeira also used his government computer to search for information on previous mass shootings, including “Uvalde” and “Mandalay Bay shooting,” the filing said. Media reports have suggested these searches may have been related to Teixeira’s belief in conspiracy theories that the government had prior knowledge of these shootings, it added. But prosecutors said that coupled with his social media posts and weapons cache these searches were “troubling.”
Teixeira lives in his mother and stepfather’s house in North Dighton, Massachusetts, and in his bedroom keeps a gun locker stocked with handguns, bolt-action rifles, shotguns, and an AK-style high-capacity weapon, prosecutors said.
His “arsenal of weapons” also included a bazooka, and a “silencer-style accessory,” according to investigators, who found a tactical helmet with a GoPro camera and mount in the dumpster outside, according to the filing.
BBC News: Jack Teixeira: Suspected leaker made threats and researched shootings, US says.
Jack Teixeira wrote on social media that he wanted to kill a “ton of people” as a way of “culling the weak minded”, according to a court filing.
The 18-page document also claimed the 21-year-old asked what type of rifle would be easy to operate from an SUV.
According to the prosecutors, he posted repeatedly about “troubling” violent acts including a potential mass shooting. He allegedly described building an “assassination van” and driving around shooting people in a “crowded urban or suburban environment”.
He also allegedly searched for multiple recent mass shootings on his government computer, including Uvalde and the Las Vegas shooting.
The filing also said a search of Mr Teixeira’s home had uncovered “a virtual arsenal of weapons, including bolt-action rifles, rifles, AR and AK-style weapons, and a bazooka” that were kept “just feet from his bed”.
It added that he was suspended from high school when a classmate overheard him making threats and discussing Molotov cocktails as well as other weapons.
How the hell did this kid get a top secret security clearance from the Pentagon? Here’s a clue:
In other news, E. Jean Carroll testified in her civil case against Donald Trump yesterday, and it was powerful. Trump didn’t have the guts to show up in court, and that probably didn’t make a good impression on the jury.
Mitchell Epner at The Daily Beast: Jury Has Likely Decided Trump’s Fate in Rape Case Already.
On the first day of trial testimony Wednesday, E. Jean Carroll took the witness stand and provided unvarnished testimony that she was raped by Donald Trump in the 1990s. She testified: “I’m here because Donald Trump raped me, and when I wrote about it, he said it did not happen.”
She testified that she and Trump went together to the lingerie department on the sixth floor of Bergdorf Goodman, flirting. When they got there, Trump followed her into the dressing room and pushed her against the wall, knocking her head and disorienting her. He also pulled down her tights, stuck his fingers inside of her vagina—causing her great pain—and stuck his penis inside of her vagina, for a period of time, while she struggled against him.
This testimony is the key to the case. If the jury believes it, they will find Trump liable for the rape of E. Jean Carroll, and likely award her significant damages. If the jury does not believe it, they will return a verdict in favor of the former president.
Based upon more than 25 years of experience as a trial attorney, including service as an Assistant United States Attorney prosecuting sex crimes, I believe that it is highly likely that the jurors have already made up their minds about whether Carroll is telling the truth—before she has completed her direct testimony and long before Donald Trump’s attorneys have the opportunity to cross-examine her.
On Trump absenting himself:
This case won’t be a “he said, she said” case—because Trump is unlikely to testify.
In fact, Trump has not attended the trial at all so far. During opening statements, his attorney, Joe Tacopina, appeared to indicate that the trend would continue, saying that Trump’s testimony would only occur in deposition excerpts. Trump’s witness list consists of only two people, Donald Trump and Dr. Edgar Nace, a psychiatric expert witness.
Trump also is not presenting any exhibits, other than excerpts from depositions. If he does not testify, the only way he will get facts into evidence will be through cross-examination of Ms. Carroll’s witnesses.
Ms. Carroll, on the other hand, will present a number of corroborating witnesses:
- Lisa Birnbaum: The bestselling author will testify that Carroll told her immediately after the incident what Trump had done to her. She will also testify that she told Carroll that she had been “raped.”
- Carol Martin: The first African-American anchor on local news in New York City (for over two decade) will likewise testify that Carroll told her immediately of the rape by Trump. Martin will testify that she told Carroll not to pursue the case, because he had “200 lawyers” and would destroy her.
- Jessica Leeds: Another of Trump’s alleged victims, she will testify that she was sexually assaulted by Donald Trump when she sat next to him on a flight in the 1970s, when he attempted to place his fingers inside of her vagina.
- Natasha Stoynoff: Then a reporter for People magazine, she will testify that Donald Trump sexually assaulted her when she was at Mar-A-Lago in the early 2000s, working on a story.
Carroll is also set to present the infamous Access Hollywood video, in which Donald Trump bragged that he could grab women “by the pussy” without consent, because he was “a star.”
Perhaps even more importantly, Carroll already addressed most of the points that Trump’s attorneys wanted to make on cross-examination.
Read more at the link.
In addition to all this, Trump posted about the case on Truth Social yesterday, and the judge was not happy. He suggested that Trump could get himself in further trouble by trying to influence the jury.
The Guardian: Judge rebukes Trump for ‘entirely inappropriate’ post before E Jean Carroll testimony.
Before Carroll took the stand…the judge in the case, Lewis A Kaplan, rebuked Trump for an “entirely inappropriate” statement on his social media platform, Truth Social, shortly before proceedings began.
Kaplan warned the former president’s lawyers that such statements about the case could bring more legal problems upon himself.
Trump, who has not attended so far, called the case “a made-up scam”. He also called Carroll’s lawyer “a political operative” and alluded to a DNA issue Kaplan has ruled cannot be part of the case.
“This is a fraudulent and false story – Witch Hunt!” Trump wrote….
The judge told Trump’s lawyers: “What seems to be the case is that your client is basically endeavoring, certainly, to speak to his quote-unquote public, but, more troubling, the jury in this case about stuff that has no business being spoken about.”
He also called Trump’s post “a public statement that, on the face of it, seems entirely inappropriate”.
The Trump attorney Joe Tacopina noted that jurors are told not to follow any news or online commentary about the case. But he said he would ask Trump “to refrain from any further posts about this case”.
“I hope you’re more successful,” Kaplan said, adding that Trump “may or may not be tampering with a new source of potential liability”.
This morning Carroll testified that she has been receiving threats, following Trump’s postings.
Another big story broke late yesterday. Trump has lost high fight to keep Mike Pence from testifying to the January 6 grand jury.
CNN: Trump loses appeal to block Pence from testifying about direct communications.
Former President Donald Trump has lost an emergency attempt to block former Vice President Mike Pence from testifying about their direct conversations, in the latest boost to a federal criminal investigation examining Trump’s and others’ actions after the 2020 election.
The former president has repeatedly tried and failed to close off some answers from witnesses close to him in the special counsel’s investigation. This latest order from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals likely will usher in Pence’s grand jury testimony quickly – an unprecedented development in modern presidential history.
The decision, from Judges Patricia Millett, Robert Wilkins and Greg Katsas on the DC Circuit, came in a sealed case on Wednesday night that CNN previously identified as Trump’s executive privilege challenge to Pence. No dissents were noted on the public docket.
Trump has tried to block Pence from testifying about their direct communications, even after the former vice president wrote about some of those exchanges and a lower-court judge had ruled against him.
Trump asked the DC Circuit for emergency intervention weeks ago. The court refused to put on hold Pence’s subpoena and to override the lower-court ruling, flatly denying Trump’s requests.
Trump could try to appeal again and even press the issue at the Supreme Court. Yet he gave up pushing several past executive privilege challenges to special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation after similar rulings from this court of appeals.
One more important story–on the latest developments in the Supreme Court ethics scandal.
Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Joseph Stern at Slate: King Roberts: The chief justice’s latest trick to ward off oversight is the ploy of a royal, not a judge.
Last Thursday, Sen. Dick Durbin invited Chief Justice John Roberts to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about, well, to put it directly—the Supreme Court’s diaphanous ethics regime. On Tuesday evening, in his letter to Durbin in which he declined the invitation, Roberts finally named the problem: “Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by the Chief Justice of the United States is exceedingly rare, as one might expect in light of separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence,” he wrote. In other words, the justices can enforce checks and balances on the other branches, but the other branches can enforce no checks or balances upon the justices. Which is precisely the problem the Senate Judiciary Committee is attempting to solve.
In an accompanying “Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices,” presumably released for the public, the chief justice laid out the web of laws and practices and guidelines used voluntarily by each justice to determine their individual ethics obligations. Perhaps he was attempting to clarify things, but instead the document illuminates the problem. These obligations and commitments are advisory, unenforceable, and subjective. In response to the widespread concern that no person should be a judge in their own cause, the court has confirmed that it shall continue to be the sole judge of that. (Meanwhile, it will enforce this principle against other courts—which is great, but also … come on!)
Put aside for a moment Politico’s new report that Justice Neil Gorsuch failed to disclose that he’d sold his valuable Colorado property to a prominent lawyer with multiple cases before the court only nine days after he was confirmed, or Bloomberg’s new revelations that Harlan Crow, Justice Clarence Thomas’ GOP-megadonor billionaire friend, also had business before the court, yet his lavish gifts to Thomas were not disclosed because the justice said Crow had no business before the court. Note also that Gorsuch’s failure to disclose has been defended on the grounds that the justice was not friends with the purchaser of his land, whereas Thomas’ failure to disclose Crow’s gifts has been defended on the grounds that the justice was close friends with him. Which “friend” rule wins? Who can possibly know.
The justices themselves are wholly responsible for this high-octane ethics quagmire, which now drags into its fourth week. Any sane institution that relies wholly on public approval, when faced with multiple irrefutable reports of distortions and deception, would respond with a plan to do better. It speaks volumes that the Imperial Court’s response is a promise to simply continue to do the same. Why? Because it thinks the other branches won’t do anything about it. As Ian Millhiser noted in Vox this week, the Constitution makes it extraordinarily difficult to remove a justice, or diminish the court’s power. The reason it is set up this way, believe it or not, is because the framers thought the judiciary would rise above the partisan fray. In practice, however, the Supreme Court has proven remarkably easy for one political party to capture. Its members are selected through a flagrantly political process. It is formed by political imperatives. And yet the court pretends—and demands we all pretend—that it’s magically purified of politics as soon as its justices are seated.
Read the rest at Slate.
That’s all I have for you today. Have a great Thursday, everyone!
Tuesday ReadsPosted: April 25, 2023 Filed under: Donald Trump, SCOTUS | Tags: E. Jean Carroll, Fani Willis, Harry Belafonte, Joe Biden, Neil Gorsuch, rape, Tucker Carlson 15 Comments
Lots of news is happening this morning. We lost another great American, Harry Belafonte; another Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, is revealed to be corrupt; E. Jean Carroll’s civil case accusing Trump of raping her years ago and defaming her by calling her a liar goes to trial in New York today; shock waves from the Tucker Carlson firing are still being felt; Atlanta DA Fani Willis reveals that that she will announce significant indictments this summer. Finally, President Biden announced his bid for reelection in a video.
The New York Times: Harry Belafonte, 96, Dies; Barrier-Breaking Singer, Actor and Activist.
Harry Belafonte, who stormed the pop charts and smashed racial barriers in the 1950s with his highly personal brand of folk music, and who went on to become a dynamic force in the civil rights movement, died on Tuesday at his home on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He was 96.
The cause was congestive heart failure, said Ken Sunshine, his longtime spokesman.
At a time when segregation was still widespread and Black faces were still a rarity on screens large and small, Mr. Belafonte’s ascent to the upper echelon of show business was historic. He was not the first Black entertainer to transcend racial boundaries; Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and others had achieved stardom before him. But none had made as much of a splash as he did, and for a few years no one in music, Black or white, was bigger.
Born in Harlem to West Indian immigrants, he almost single-handedly ignited a craze for Caribbean music with hit records like “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.” His album “Calypso,” which included both those songs, reached the top of the Billboard album chart shortly after its release in 1956 and stayed there for 31 weeks. Coming just before the breakthrough of Elvis Presley, it was said to be the first album by a single artist to sell more than a million copies.
Mr. Belafonte was equally successful as a concert attraction: Handsome and charismatic, he held audiences spellbound with dramatic interpretations of a repertoire that encompassed folk traditions from all over the world — rollicking calypsos like “Matilda,” work songs like “Lead Man Holler,” tender ballads like “Scarlet Ribbons.” By 1959 he was the most highly paid Black performer in history, with fat contracts for appearances in Las Vegas, at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles and at the Palace in New York.
Belafonte also attracted Hollywood, “the first Black actor to achieve major success in Hollywood as a leading man.” But movies and music weren’t as important to him as his work for Civil Rights.
More from the NYT obituary:
Early in his career, he befriended the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and became not just a lifelong friend but also an ardent supporter of Dr. King and the quest for racial equality he personified. He put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
He provided money to bail Dr. King and other civil rights activists out of jail. He took part in the March on Washington in 1963. His spacious apartment on West End Avenue in Manhattan became Dr. King’s home away from home. And he quietly maintained an insurance policy on Dr. King’s life, with the King family as the beneficiary, and donated his own money to make sure that the family was taken care of after Dr. King was assassinated in 1968….
In an interview with The Washington Post a few months after Dr. King’s death, Mr. Belafonte expressed ambivalence about his high profile in the civil rights movement. He would like to “be able to stop answering questions as though I were a spokesman for my people,” he said, adding, “I hate marching, and getting called at 3 a.m. to bail some cats out of jail.” But, he said, he accepted his role.
In the same interview, he noted ruefully that although he sang music with “roots in the Black culture of American Negroes, Africa and the West Indies,” most of his fans were white. As frustrating as that may have been, he was much more upset by the racism that he confronted even at the height of his fame.
His role in the 1957 movie “Island in the Sun,” which contained the suggestion of a romance between his character and a white woman played by Joan Fontaine, generated outrage in the South; a bill was even introduced in the South Carolina Legislature that would have fined any theater showing the film. In Atlanta for a benefit concert for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1962, Mr. Belafonte was twice refused service in the same restaurant. Television appearances with white female singers — Petula Clark in 1968, Julie Andrews in 1969 — angered many viewers and, in the case of Ms. Clark, threatened to cost him a sponsor.
There’s much more fascinating history at the NYT link.
Next the Gorsuch corruption story:
Politico’s Heidi Przybyla reported that Neil Gorsuch concealed a relationship with a law firm with frequent appearances before the Supreme Court: Law firm head bought Gorsuch-owned property.
For nearly two years beginning in 2015, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch sought a buyer for a 40-acre tract of property he co-owned in rural Granby, Colo.
Nine days after he was confirmed by the Senate for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, the then-circuit court judge got one: The chief executive of Greenberg Traurig, one of the nation’s biggest law firms with a robust practice before the high court. Gorsuch owned the property with two other individuals.
On April 16 of 2017, Greenberg’s Brian Duffy put under contract the 3,000-square foot log home on the Colorado River and nestled in the mountains northwest of Denver, according to real estate records.
He and his wife closed on the house a month later, paying $1.825 million, according to a deed in the county’s record system. Gorsuch, who held a 20 percent stake, reported making between $250,001 and $500,000 from the sale on his federal disclosure forms.
Gorsuch did not disclose the identity of the purchaser. That box was left blank.
Since then, Greenberg Traurig has been involved in at least 22 cases before or presented to the court, according to a POLITICO review of the court’s docket.
They include cases in which Greenberg either filed amicus briefs or represented parties. In the 12 cases where Gorsuch’s opinion is recorded, he sided with Greenberg Traurig clients eight times and against them four times.
In addition, a Denver-based lawyer for Greenberg represented North Dakota in what became one of the more highly publicized rulings in recent years, a multistate suit which reversed former President Barack Obama’s plan to fight climate change through the Clean Air Act.
Gorsuch joined the court’s other five conservative judges in agreeing with the plaintiffs — including Greenberg’s client — that the Environmental Protection Agency had overstepped its authority by regulating carbon emissions from power plants in the decision that makes it more difficult for the executive branch to regulate emissions without express authorization from Congress.
Read the rest at the link. It’s time for Dick Durbin to investigate the lack of ethics on the Supreme Court or step down as Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
On to Trump’s rape trial, where jury selection has begun.
NBC News: Writer E. Jean Carroll’s rape allegation against Trump goes to trial in New York.
A trial is set to begin Tuesday on E. Jean Carroll’s civil claim that Donald Trump raped her in a New York City department store in the 1990s — but it’s unclear whether the former president will show up to testify in his defense.
Carroll, a magazine writer and columnist, alleges the attack took place in a Bergdorf Goodman department store on Fifth Avenue in New York City, when the “playful banter” she’d been engaged with the businessman took a “dark turn.” She alleges in her lawsuit that Trump “seized” her, “forced her up against a dressing room wall, pinned her in place with his shoulder, and raped her.”
Trump has called her allegations “a con job,” a “hoax” and “a complete scam,” which led Carroll to sue him for defamation. Trump maintains his comments aren’t defamatory and are the truth.
“It’s ridiculous” to think an incident like that could happen in a department store, he said at his deposition in the case, according to court filings. “So I say that sometimes to people. And I say can you imagine this? The concept of this? And it’s me. I — you know, a very famous person. It’s a disgrace. Frankly it’s a disgrace that something like that can be brought.”
Jury selection is set to begin Tuesday morning in federal court in lower Manhattan — just blocks from where Trump was arraigned earlier this month on criminal charges of falsifying business records in a separate case involving hush money payments to women alleging affairs with him; Trump has pleaded not guilty to those charges and has denied those affairs and any wrongdoing….
The judge presiding over the case, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, is using an anonymous jury for the trial, an unusual move for a civil trial but one he said is necessary.
“If jurors’ identities were disclosed, there would be a strong likelihood of unwanted media attention to the jurors, influence attempts, and/or of harassment or worse of jurors by supporters of Mr. Trump,” the judge wrote in a decision last month.
The judge is allowing other women who have claimed sexual assaults by Trump to testify and the “grab them by the pussy” tape will also be introduced. There much more to read at the NBC link.
People are still discussing Fox News’ firing of their biggest star, Tucker Carlson and trying to figure out why they did it. The best thing I’ve read about it this morning is by Charlie Sykes at the The Bulwark. It’s a long and detailed article, so I recommend reading the whole thing.
Charlie Sykes at The Bulwark: Tucker’s Demise. Fox “parts ways” with a uniquely toxic voice.
It wouldn’t have been especially surprising if the head on the spike had been Maria Bartiromo, or Judge Jeanine, or even Laura Ingraham. But it was Tucker whose body was tossed from the ramparts — and the media/political universe reeled.
Coming less than a week after Fox settled Dominion’s lawsuit for $787.5 million, the timing of Tucker’s defenestration is suggestive, but it’s still not clear exactly what happened. Tucker was actually not among the worst of the election deniers, and had carefully distanced himself from the most toxic lies pushed by Trump World figures like Sidney Powell.
I wish I could tell you that Tucker’s demise was the result of a sudden spasm of decency at Fox; that he was sacked because of his open bigotry and embrace of the racist Great Replacement Theory; or because of Fox’s revulsion over his Putinism; or a belated recognition of the human cost of his vaccine denialism.
I would love to think that Paul Ryan rolled out of bed Sunday morning, got Rupert on the phone, and said that his conscience simply wouldn’t allow him to stay on the Fox board if Tucker was allowed to continue dumping his toxic sludge into the body politic….
I would like to think that the trauma of the Dominion case finally forced Ryan & co. to confront Tucker’s blatant revisionism of the January 6th insurrection, or that the company was repulsed by his deeply dishonest faux documentary, Patriot Purge, his weird obsession with blaming a Trump supporter named Ray Epps for being an FBI agent who provoked the insurrection; or his cynical manipulation of January 6th footage to downplay the violence aimed at Capitol police.
It would be somewhat reassuring to think he was fired over the rank hypocrisy — of saying one thing in public and quite another in private— that was exposed in his text messages.
I would like to think all of that led to a dramatic pivot at Fox.
But that’s probably not what happened.
Sykes then recounts a number of theories (with links) about why Tucker was unceremoniously shown the door. Check them out at the The Bulwark link. It could have been the lawsuit by former Fox producer Abby Grossberg; the misogynistic atmosphere in Tucker’s workplace, including referring to women with the “c” word; or his criticisms of Fox upper management in texts and emails revealed in the Dominion lawsuit.
The Wall Street Journal reports: “The company took issue with remarks Mr. Carlson made that were derogatory toward the network, people familiar with the matter said. Much of the communications were redacted in court documents but became known internally to senior Fox management, the people said.”
In other words, Tucker’s arrogance, chronic assh*lery, and hubris may finally have caught up with him.
Tucker had come to think of himself as bigger than Fox. The Murdochs begged to differ.
Byers speculates that “late-stage Murdoch, perhaps chastened by his Dominion headache, and all the future litigation to come, may be more focused on enjoying his own twilight days rather than ceding his platform to a born-on-third-base narcissist who privately behaves like he’s bigger than the Fox brand. In the end, as the events of Monday reminded us, there’s still only one guy in charge at Fox.”
A couple more Tucker pieces to check out:
Brian Stelter at Vanity Fair: Why Tucker Carlson’s Exit From Fox News Looks Like an Execution.
Max Tani at Semafor: Rupert Murdoch’s management grows erratic.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: EXCLUSIVE: DA says indictment announcement coming this summer in Trump probe.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Monday said she would announce this summer whether former President Donald Trump and his allies would be charged with crimes related to alleged interference in Georgia’s 2020 election.
Willis revealed the timetable in a letter to local law enforcement in which she asked them to be ready for “heightened security and preparedness”because she predicted her announcement “may provoke a significant public reaction.”
In the letters, Willis said she willannounce possible criminal indictments between July 11 and Sept. 1, sending one of the strongest signals yet that she’s on the verge of trying to obtain an indictment against Trump and his supporters.
“Please accept this correspondence as notice to allow you sufficient time to prepare the Sheriff’s Office and coordinate with local, state and federal agencies to ensure that our law enforcement community is ready to protect the public,” Willis wrote to Fulton Sheriff Patrick Labat.
Similar letters were hand delivered to Darin Schierbaum, Atlanta’s chief of police, and Matthew Kallmyer, director of the Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency.
“We have seen in recent years that some may go outside of public expressions of opinion that are protected by the First Amendment to engage in acts of violence that will endanger the safety of those we are sworn to protect,” Willis wrote. “As leaders, it is incumbent upon us to prepare.”
Trump has called for mass demonstrations in response to overreach from prosecutors — triggering concerns about violent unrest not unlike the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection he promoted.
Finally here is Biden’s reelection announcement video:
Whew! That’s a lot of news. I hope you’ll find something here to interest you.
Tuesday Reads: The News Is SurrealPosted: October 19, 2021 Filed under: morning reads | Tags: Bill Cassidy, Capitol insurrection, Colin Powell, Donald Trump, January 6 Committee, rape, Steve Bannon, surrealism, violence against women 11 Comments
Today the House January 6 Committee will vote to find Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress, and Trump has of course filed a lawsuit to prevent them getting documents related to his attempted coup. The Washington Post reports:
On the Bannon contempt vote:
Bannon was a private citizen when he spoke to Trump ahead of the attack, the committee said, and Trump has not asserted any such executive privilege claims to the panel itself.
“Mr. Bannon appears to have played a multi-faceted role in the events of January 6th, and the American people are entitled to hear his first-hand testimony regarding his actions,” the committee wrote in the resolution.
The resolution lists many ways in which Bannon was involved in the leadup to the insurrection, including reports that he encouraged Trump to focus on Jan. 6, the day Congress certified the presidential vote, and his comments on Jan. 5 that “all hell is going to break loose” the next day.
Once the committee votes on the Bannon contempt measure, it will go to the full House for a vote and then on to the Justice Department, which would decide whether to prosecute.
Trump has also found time to weigh in on Colin Powell’s death. The Hill: Trump criticizes media for treating Powell ‘beautifully’ in death.
Former President Trump lambasted the media on Tuesday for what he said was too-favorable coverage of former Secretary of State Colin Powell after his death on Monday.
“Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media. Hope that happens to me someday,” Trump said in a statement.
Trump called Powell “a classic RINO,” an acronym for “Republican in name only.”
“He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!” Trump added.
Trump also attacked Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy. The Hill: Trump goes after Cassidy after senator says he wouldn’t support him for president in 2024.
Former President Trump blasted Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) on Monday after the senator said in an interview he would not vote for the real estate mogul if he ran for president again in 2024.
Cassidy during an interview that aired Sunday on “Axios on HBO” said that he did not believe Trump would be the GOP presidential nominee again.
“President Trump is the first president, in the Republican side at least, to lose the House, the Senate and the presidency in four years. Elections are about winning,” Cassidy told Axios’s Mike Allen….
In a statement on Monday, Trump called Cassidy a “RINO,” an acronym for “Republican in name only,” and reiterated a notion he had hoisted on other Republicans that Cassidy had “begged” for his endorsement in 2020 “and used it all over the place to win re-election.”
“Now, Wacky Bill Cassidy can’t walk down the street in Louisiana, a State I won by almost 20 points,” the Trump statement read. “He could not even be elected dog catcher today, the great people curse him.”
Trump did defeat President Biden by nearly 20 points in 2020 in Louisiana, winning about 58.5 percent of the vote. Cassidy did even better, winning 59.3 percent of the vote.
“Wacky Bill is a totally ineffective Senator, but Louisiana does have a great Senator in John Kennedy,” Trump said, referring to the state’s other GOP senator, whom he endorsed over the summer soon after Kennedy indicated he would run for reelection.
Cassidy was among the seven Republican senators who voted to convict Trump for inciting an insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, though Trump was ultimately acquitted after leaving office later that month.
It’s still very difficult for me to believe that this moron was actually president.
According to historians Thomas Lecaque and J.L. Tomlin at The Bulwark, Bannon is setting the stage for another insurrection: Steve Bannon Out in the Open. The erstwhile Trump adviser is refusing to talk to the Jan. 6 committee, but most of his energetic anti-democratic activities are in plain sight.
…Bannon’s troubling activities did not stop after January 6. Far from it. He is still out in the streets, at rallies, on conference calls, and on his podcast trumpeting it to the heavens: The insurrection isn’t over, it’s only just begun.
On September 22, the day before the committee issued its subpoena, Bannon more or less confirmed his involvement with January 6th. He has continued to push the idea that the Biden administration is illegitimate—“We told you from the very beginning, just expose it, just expose it, never back down, never give up and this thing will implode”—and said that he wanted to help “kill this [Biden] administration in the crib.”
Bannon is neither hiding nor defensively trying to justify his past actions. Rather, he is continuing to push the Big Lie and all of its permutations, tying together a web of far-right ideas and allies. Like most good propagandists, he knows that the veil between fact and belief is very thin in a highly partisan political environment. What pushes an overt lie into semi-gospel is sometimes merely it’s repetition. Bannon’s podcast, “War Room,” continues to promote conspiracy theories about the 2020 election—the day after his subpoena running a segment titled “50k Illegal Ballots in One County Alone.” His guests have included Trumpist members of Congress, like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene; conspiracy theorists Jack Posobiec and Mike Lindell; anti-vaxers; and other subpoenaed Trump administration figures. Topics run the gamut from the border to the debt ceiling to “how schools are indoctrinating kids” to “the battle of Lepanto” (sure to appeal to far-right Crusade-cosplaying insurrectionists and mass murderers alike). Perhaps most provokingly given his subpoena defiance, an episode on October 13 was entitled “The Continued Search for the Truth of January 6th.”
f Bannon were only a podcaster, were only pushing his ideas on one of the many far-right channels that have popped up in the last half-decade, that would be bad enough. But Bannon is incredibly active in person as well—a natural organizer and demagogue. It’s worth taking a look at just three of the events at which he has recently spoken.
Read all the details at the link.
At the Washington Post, authoritarianism expert Brian Klaas wrote about the history of election audits: Opinion: Republican ‘election audits’ have been used before — by dictators.
Tuesday Reads: Last Words on Kobe BryantPosted: January 28, 2020 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Alyssa Altobelli, Ara Zobayan, Bernie Sanders, Christina Mauser, Donald Trump, Felicia Sonmez, Gianna Bryant, impeachment, Joe Biden, John Altobelli, John Bolton, Kobe Bryant, Marty Baron, Payton Chester, Pete Buttigieg, rape, Sarah Chester, Washington Post 36 Comments
Two days after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, there has been almost no attention paid to the other 7 people who died in the tragic accident. Read about them at Buzzfeed News: Teenage Girls And Beloved Coaches Were Among The 9 Victims Of The Helicopter Crash That Killed Kobe Bryant.
John Altobelli, a 56-year-old head baseball coach at Orange Coast College, along with his wife, Keri, and youngest daughter, Alyssa, 13, were among those who died.
Alyssa and Gianna were teammates at Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy. The team was set to play against a Fresno youth team on Sunday afternoon, the Fresno Bee reported.
John Altobelli had been a coach and mentor at Orange Coast College (OCC) for 27 years, helping many student-athletes earn scholarships so they could play at the four-year level, the college said in a statement.
“Coach Alto,” the college said, helped lead the Pirates to more than 700 wins and four state championships. He was named the National Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2019.
The Altobelli’s are survived by two other children, a son JJ and daughter Lexi, now orphans.
Christina Mauser, 38, was the assistant coach for the Mamba Academy basketball team.
“My kids and I are devastated,” her husband, Matt Mauser, wrote in a Facebook post. “We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash.”
The couple has three children, ages 11, 9, and 3….
Sarah Chester and her 13-year-old daughter, Payton, also died in the crash. Payton was a basketball player, NBC News reported.…
Todd Schmidt, the former principal at Harbor View Elementary School, wrote a heartfelt tribute to Payton, his former student, and her mother, calling them “two gorgeous human beings.”
“While the world mourns the loss of a dynamic athlete and humanitarian, I mourn the loss of two people just as important…their impact was just as meaningful, their loss will be just as keenly felt, and our hearts are just as broken,” Schmidt wrote in a Facebook post.
Chester leaves behind a husband Chris and two 16-year-old sons Hayden and Riley.
Ara Zobayan, the pilot of the helicopter, was a beloved figure in the aviation community. He was “instrument-rated” which meant he was able to fly in fog and clouds, KTLA reporter Christina Pascucci said.
Zobayan was Bryant’s private pilot, according to one of his flight students, Darren Kemp.
So many people–including young children–are devastated by these deaths, but all the attention has gone to the former basketball player. I still can’t get past my anger at the lionizing of Bryant, who was credibly accused of rape and never publicly dealt with the damage he did to the life of a 19-year-old woman. Ever since I saw the way the basketball stars were treated as if they could do no wrong in my high school, I’ve resented the way athletes are allowed to get away with almost anything, especially violence against women.
Somewhere the woman that Bryant raped is watching the coverage of his death and most likely reliving the trauma she experienced as she sees so much praise heaped upon her abuser.
On Sunday, Jill Filipovic wrote that Bryant has a “complicated legacy.” No, it’s not really complicated. He was a huge basketball star with a giant ego and he got away with rape. He’s certainly not alone in that. Gavin Polone at the Hollywood Reporter:
I guess our society thinks that certain transgressions by celebrities can be forgiven. What’s perplexing is the contrast between which wrongs are and aren’t forgivable. Based on what I’ve read, I believe Kobe most probably raped a woman and still was paid $26 million in 2015 by Nike, Hublot, Panini Authentic, Turkish Airlines and others to endorse their products; Ben Roethlisberger was accused of raping two women and still made more than $35 million for one year as an NFL quarterback; Greg Hardy certainly beat the shit out of his ex-girlfriend and was signed to play defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys; Jameis Winston was sued for the rape of a student at FSU and didn’t even break stride to the NFL (having watched the victim’s recounting of events, I believe her). Both R. Kelly and Michael Jackson were accused of sexual misconduct, yet the former still is performing and the latter practically has been deified.
But what isn’t forgiven? Killing someone? Nope, Ray Lewis was accused of that, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and now is an NFL analyst for ESPN. Donte Stallworth killed a pedestrian while driving drunk and played the next year. So violence, especially against women, can be excused.
Here’s a piece at Vice by Albert Berneko that counters Filipovic’s “complicated legacy” notion: Kobe Bryant Was No More Complicated Than Anyone Else.
Maybe the actual very last thing the world needs or ever will need, ever again, is for one more man’s power or fame or brilliance or death to be used as a reason to throw the word “complicated” over his abuses like an obscuring blanket. It’s a dishonest sidestep, anyway. Everyone is complicated. You can be a tortured mass of endless complications and still never sexually assault anyone.
What the fact of having committed, or having credibly been accused of committing, sexual assault complicates for an acclaimed celebrity is the feelings—or maybe, at most, the immediate social situation—of those who’d like to go right on celebrating him. Ironically, or maybe not ironically, nothing smooths this complication more easily than the word “complicated”: Be sure to include it in your hosannas. It is a way to skip past the discomfort and ambiguity of actually grappling with the acclaimed celebrity’s monstrousness straight to the part where you congratulate yourself for having done so. I have integrated the fullness of this imperfect person; when I now return to praising him, be sure that it is with the appropriate level of personal internal conflicted feeling.
It seems reasonable to guess that former Los Angeles Laker star Kobe Bryant was a complicated person, because he was a person and not the Archangel Gabriel. More relevant to a summation of his life, he was also a great and spectacular basketball player, one of the biggest stars in the history of the sport, and a powerful man who, in 2003 and at the height of his celebrity, was credibly accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee and then avoided a trial by leaking his accuser’s identity and shaming her into silence. I don’t think these things complicate each other, unless you happen to believe there’s a personal moral component to being good at making contested jump-shots.
To top off the protect-Kobe hysteria, Marty Baron, editor of the Washington Post–who was editor of the Boston Globe when the Spotlight team exposed sexual abuse in the Catholic Church–publicly shamed one of his reporters, Felicia Sonmez who is a survivor of sexual assault.
Vanity Fair: “There’s Incredible Outrage”: Washington Post Newsroom Revolts after Reporter Suspended for Kobe Bryant Tweets.
As the collective grief crested on Twitter following TMZ’s shocking scoop that Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash, Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez had a different idea. She shared a 2016 Daily Beast story detailing a rape allegation made against the NBA legend more than a decade earlier. “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality,” she tweeted Sunday, “even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling.”
Vitriol and threats streamed into Sonmez’s inbox, which she relayed on Twitter, along with screenshots of the attacks. The Bryant-related tweets have since been deleted. By Sunday afternoon, Somnez had been suspended—placed on “administrative leave”—a move that’s prompted anger and confusion inside the Post newsroom. “There’s incredible outrage. The outrage is like nothing I’ve ever seen here,” one Post source told us. “People just feel like it was way over the top.”
The Daily Beast article was an exhaustive chronicle of the allegations against Bryant and his response to them. While far from flattering to Bryant, it described an inescapable part of his history, and, fraught as social media can be in the current world of journalism, it was difficult for many to see how posting it was out of bounds. Post staffers were looking for clarity Monday after managing editor Tracy Grant said in a statement that Sonmez violated the newsroom’s social media policy and “displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”
I hope you’ll go read the rest. Sonmez spent the night in a hotel after her address was posted on-line by outraged Kobe fans. I’d also suggest reading this piece in the Post by Eric Wemple: The Post’s misguided suspension of Felicia Sonmez over Kobe Bryant tweets.
I’ll be quiet about this now, but I just had to get it off my chest. I can acknowledge that millions of people are sad about the death of their idol. I just think there should be some recognition that the way we treat (male) athletes in our culture means that the people who dare to say no to their desires are publicly shamed and punished.
Some other news stories to check out today:
On the Bolton revelations:
NYT: Bolton Was Concerned That Trump Did Favors for Autocratic Leaders, Book Says.
WaPo: Bolton book roils Washington as onetime allies turn on Trump’s former national security adviser.
Barbara McQuade at WaPo: Trump waived executive privilege when he called Bolton a liar.
Daily Beast: Top Ukraine Official: I Trusted Bolton More Than Anyone.
Other impeachment news and comment:
Axios: Republicans brace for domino effect on witnesses.
Impeachment expert Frank Bowman at The Atlantic: Trump’s Defense Against Subpoenas Makes No Legal Sense.
WaPo: Trump’s impeachment defense: Who is paying the president’s lawyers?
Jamelle Bouie at NYT: Mitch McConnell’s Complicity Has Deep Roots.
Vetting Bernie Sanders (finally)
NYT: Bernie Sanders and His Internet Army.
David Frum at the Atlantic: Bernie Can’t Win.
Richard North Patterson at the Bulwark: This Is How Trump Would Destroy Bernie Sanders.
Jonathan Chait at NY Mag: Running Bernie Sanders Against Trump Would Be an Act of Insanity.
Other campaign news:
NYT: How Some People of Color Feel Inside the Buttigieg Campaign.
Politico: Why Biden scaled back in New Hampshire.
What stories are you following today?