Good Afternoon Sky Dancers!
I’m focusing on the last standing functional branch of our Democracy today. I’ve noticed that some of the court cases recently have shown us that a few of our institutions are still working despite attempts to take them down. I also cover a bit of that because, as you know, “these are the times that try men’s souls”.
The Special Counsel’s Appointment and Authority has been upheld by one of the first Trump Court Appointee’s this morning. This is significant as Mueller’s team takes aim at Roger Stone who dallied with Guccifer 2.0 and may be one of the first of the campaign’s inner circle to be directly indicted for playing footsy with the Russians. This is via CNN:
A federal district judge who was appointed by President Donald Trump has upheld Robert Mueller’s appointment and constitutional authority in the special counsel’s case against Russian social media propagandists.
Judge Dabney Friedrich, who serves at the trial-court level in DC federal court, said Concord Management and Consulting could not have its case tossed on constitutional grounds. The Russian company accused of backing a social media effort to sway voters against Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton claimed Mueller didn’t have power to bring the case because he was not appointment by the President and confirmed by Congress. Mueller was appointed under the authority of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has broad power as the acting head of the Justice Department for the 2016 election probe.
“The appointment does not violate core separation-of-powers principles. Nor has the Special Counsel exceeded his authority under the appointment order by investigating and prosecuting Concord,” Friedrich wrote in an opinion published Monday morning. She was one of the first judges Trump placed into a federal court position.
Friedrich cited opinions by three other federal judges — Amy Berman Jackson, who oversees Paul Manafort’s criminal foreign lobbying case; T.S. Ellis, who oversees Manafort’s financial fraud case; and DC District Court Chief Judge Beryl Howell — to back up her decision.
All three judges also denied requests to invalidate Mueller’s authority, with Howell writing as recently as late July that a witness subpoenaed to turn over documents and to testify before the grand jury about Roger Stone would have to. That witness, Andrew Miller, has been held in contempt of the court and now may appeal.
Both Manafort and Stone and key associates have tried to dart and dodge aspects of their indictments. So far, they’ve failed.
The prosecution is wrapping up its tax- and bank-fraud case against Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman.
After the blistering pace set by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, the trial ground to a sudden halt on Friday for an unexplained reason. The judge and lawyers spent half the day huddled behind closed doors, with the trial not resuming until mid-afternoon.
The star of the trial was Gates, who was depicted by the defense as an unprincipled crook who ripped off Manafort and maybe the Trump campaign, and cheated on his wife to boot. But he also described to prosecutors how he helped Manafort hide millions of dollars that he earned from political consulting work in Ukraine in offshore accounts, and helped forge documents that made it easier for Manafort to defraud banks.
The jury heard from plenty of financial experts who backed up those claims. The professionals who helped Manafort, including his bookkeeper and tax accountant, said Manafort was the one in charge and insisted on giving final approval. The accountant said she was aware that Manafort’s tax returns contained false information. Bankers testified they wouldn’t have approved Manafort’s loan requests had they received the correct information from him about his income and debts.
Stephen Calk, chief executive officer of Federal Savings Bank in Chicago, expedited approval of two loans for Manafort totaling $16 million as he pushed Manafort for help landing a job with the Trump administration soon after the 2016 election, a former bank employee testified.
Manafort’s defense gets a chance to put its case before the jury this week, although it’s not required to do so. It’s unclear whether Manafort plans to testify or when jurors will begin deliberating.
However, the White House continues to skirt laws and ethics guidelines. This one is a whopper of an issue. The Daily Beast has this lede: ‘White House: It’s in ‘Public Interest’ for Staff to Skirt Ethics Rules to Meet With Fox News’ written by Lachlan Markay. No wonder they want to change the way administrative judges are appointed.
It is “in the public interest” for a the White House’s top communicator to be excused from federal ethics laws so he can meet with Fox News, according to President Donald Trump’s top lawyer.
Bill Shine, Trump’s newly minted communications director, and Larry Kudlow, the White House’s top economist, who worked at CNBC before his White House post, have both been excused from provisions of the law, which seeks to prevent administration officials from advancing the financial interests of relatives or former employers.
“The Administration has an interest in you interacting with Covered Organizations such as Fox News,” wrote White House counsel Don McGahn in a July 13 memo granting an ethics waivers to Shine, a former Fox executive. “[T]he need for your services outweighs the concern that a reasonable person may question the integrity of the White House Office’s programs and operations.”
Kudlow, a former CNBC host, received a similar waiver allowing him to communicate with former colleagues.
Including Shine and Kudlow, the White House has granted a total of 20 waivers to provisions of various federal ethics laws and the ethics pledge that President Trump instituted by executive order the week he took office. Federal agencies have granted many more such waivers.
Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearings will start on Sept. 4 and last between three and four days, Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) announced on Friday.
That scheduling tees up the GOP to meet its goal of getting President Donald Trump’s pick seated on the high court by the time its term begins in early October, barring unforeseen obstacles or a breakthrough by Democrats who are pushing to derail Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
The Supreme Court battle so far has focused on documents related to Kavanaugh’s five years in the George W. Bush White House. Democrats have excoriated the GOP for declining to seek records from the nominee’s time as Bush’s staff secretary and condemned the Republican decision to rely on a Bush-driven review process for the early round of vetting, while the majority party hails the vast scope of documents that are set for release.
Grassley said earlier this month that he anticipates being able to complete Kavanaugh’s consideration by the Judiciary panel within about two weeks after the close of the confirmation hearings, which will feature questioning of the nominee beginning on Sept. 5. After the Judiciary panel clears Kavanaugh, Grassley added, the nomination is expected to reach the Senate floor within days.
“At this current pace, we have plenty of time to review the rest of emails and other records that we will receive from President Bush and the National Archives,” Grassley said in a Friday statement setting the hearing dates. “It’s time for the American people to hear directly from Judge Kavanaugh at his public hearing.”
The FBI has overridden its normal process of employee discipline to fire Agent Peter Strzok who basically was exercising his first amendment rights to criticize D’oh Hair Furor. I’m wondering how long it will take to fire up a law suit on this one. This is from Matt Zapotosky at WAPO.
The FBI has fired agent Peter Strzok, who helped lead the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election until officials discovered he had been sending anti-Trump texts.
Aitan Goelman, Strzok’s lawyer, said FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich ordered the firing on Friday — even though the director of the FBI office that normally handles employee discipline had decided Strzok should face only a demotion and 60-day suspension. Goelman said the move undercuts the FBI’s repeated assurances that Strzok would be afforded the normal disciplinary process.
“This isn’t the normal process in any way more than name,” Goelman said, adding in a statement, “This decision should be deeply troubling to all Americans.”
The FBI declined to comment.
The termination marks a remarkable downfall for Strzok, a 22-year veteran of the bureau who investigated Russian spies, defense officials accused of selling secrets to China and myriad other important cases. In the twilight of his career, Strzok was integral to two of the bureau’s most high-profile investigations: the Russia case; and the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.
Welp, now we’ve at least closed the circle on Betsy DeVos and for-profit colleges. She’s gone from evading questions about whether she would regulate these fraud machines to disbanding the team charged with investigating them. Now, she flat out withdrew the gainful employment rule, signaling to all that under her watchful eye, the DeVrys, the Trump Universities, and the Corinthian Colleges are free to flourish – while unwitting students and their families can simply eat cake.
The “gainful employment rule,” you may remember, is the one adopted in 2016 under the Obamaadministration, after several cash-cow diploma mills found themselves defending fraud lawsuits brought by swindled students. The rule prohibited these businesses from using deceptive practices to entice customers to plunk down thousands in student loan money when the corresponding “degree” wasn’t worth the expensive paper on which it was printed. Or in other words, exactly what Trump University was accused of doing. It was also the rule Senator Elizabeth Warren skeweredDeVos on at DeVos’ confirmation hearing.
Well, as they say “No justice, No Peace”.
This is pretty outrageous.
The Clearwater man who shot and killed a father of three outside a convenience store in a parking dispute last month — setting off a stand your ground debate that has swept Florida and the nation — has a history of road rage.
Since 2012, according to records and interviews, 47-year-old Michael Drejka has been the accused aggressor in four incidents. Investigators documented three cases in police reports.
The other was not shared with authorities at the time but involved the same handicap-reserved parking spot outside the Circle A Food Store near Clearwater and another shooting threat.
Two involved allegations of Drejka showing a gun. In another, a trooper accused him of aggressive driving and cited him after a crash when Drejka braked hard in front of a woman driving with two children.
Drejka has not spoken publicly in the weeks since he shot and killed 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton. No one has spoken much about him, either. Not family. Not neighbors. Not lawyers. Several alleged victims in previous incidents either declined to comment or could not be reached. Drejka remains, in many ways, an enigma to the public. He has not been arrested.
The shooter was white and the victim was black. Just an hour ago, however, we got this lede from the Tampy Bay Times: “Shooter charged with manslaughter in Clearwater stand your ground case”.
Prosecutors charged Michael Drejka, the man accused of killing Markeis McGlockton in a shooting that has reignited a debate around Florida’s stand your ground law, with manslaughter Monday.
According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Drejka was taken into custody Monday morning. He is being booked into the Pinellas County Jail, where he will be held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Drejka, 47, has avoided arrest since he shot 28-year-old McGlockton on July 19 because of the controversial self-defense law that eliminated one’s duty to retreat before resorting to force.
Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri announced July 20 that his agency was precluded from arresting Drejka because evidence showed it was “within the bookends of stand your ground and within the bookends of force being justified,” which provides immunity from arrest, the sheriff said. He forwarded the case Aug. 1 to the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office to make a final charging determination.
So, I have ignored Omarossa today but I will pass this bit of sad news on about our country’s Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin.
Music legend Aretha Franklin is “gravely ill,” her family told WDIV-TV (Channel 4) on Monday.
Channel 4 anchor Evrod Cassimy said this morning in a tweet: “I spoke with her family members this morning. She is asking for your prayers at this time.”
She is said to be dying at this time so we’re losing a great voice and person again.
So that’s a little this and that on what may be our last functional branch of government. Pray it stands its ground.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?