Showing posts with label Dept of Justice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dept of Justice. Show all posts

November 13, 2018

Drafter of Cousel Law: " The installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general isn’t just unconstitutional it is unconstitutional"





 

The installation of Matthew G. Whitaker as acting attorney general isn’t just unconstitutional — although it is unconstitutional. Even if Whitaker’s appointment ever survived a court challenge on constitutional grounds for most of his day-to-day duties at the Justice Department, the fact that he’ll now be performing the sensitive work of supervising Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation raises other deep problems. Putting Whitaker in charge of the inquiry is sharply at odds with the special counsel regulations governing Mueller’s work and with the Justice Department’s rules about who may oversee an investigation.
I had the privilege of drafting the special counsel rules 20 years ago when I was at the Justice Department. Recall the setting: The independent counsel statute was expiring in June 1999, and there was a robust debate about what should take its place. After the multitude of investigations of the Clinton administration, many in Washington clamored for renewal of the supercharged independent prosecutor in the act. Others, seeing what they believed were abuses by then-independent counsel Ken Starr (and prior independent counsel Lawrence Walsh, who oversaw the earlier Iran-contra investigation of the Reagan administration more than a decade before Starr), believed that something more accountable and less independent had to be created instead. 
My Justice Department colleagues and I, along with a bipartisan group on Capitol Hill, worked through many possible scenarios before we settled on the rules that now govern Mueller’s investigation. Everyone in the debate recognized that any enhancement in the special counsel’s accountability had to come from additional supervision by the attorney general. After all, the power to supervise is the power to destroy. The attorney general can stop a special counsel from investigating altogether or stop them from taking a specific step (such as subpoenaing a president). He can read every file of the councel, and he may even attempt to give information about the investigation to the president in real time. And he plays a crucial role in determining what report by Mueller, if any, is given to Congress and ultimately the public.
But no one — and I mean no one — ever thought the regulations we wrote would permit the president to install some staff member of his choice from the Justice Department to serve as acting attorney general and thereby oversee the special counsel. Such a proposal would have been laughed off Capitol Hill within a nanosecond as fundamentally at odds with the most cardinal principle that no one is above the law.
It simply cannot be that the president can name his own temporary attorney general to supervise an investigation in which he and his family have a direct, concrete interest. The Constitution itself underscores this — even assuming Trump’s defenders are right that under the Appointments Clause, an acting attorney general doesn’t always need to be Senate-confirmed. Ordinarily, “Principal Officers,” which Cabinet secretaries undoubtedly are, must have Senate confirmation under Article II of our Constitution. The most eloquent defenders of Trump’s action say that Whitaker is serving in a temporary capacity, as an inferior officer, and therefore he can serve without confirmation. But they cite precedents that do not apply, because they concern emergency situations in which no one else has been confirmed by the Senate in the line of succession. In this case, the Senate has confirmed two officials who could continue to oversee Mueller: Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who has been supervising the case ever since former attorney general Jeff Sessions recused himself, and Solicitor General Noel Francisco. Notably, Congress’s succession statute for the Justice Department lists those people as next in line, not a handpicked mere staff member from the bowels of the department. 
But even if the defenders’ claims were true, all that would mean is that Whitaker is an inferior officer who doesn’t need to be confirmed by the Senate. In that situation, someone else, a principal officer, would still need to be in place to supervise Mueller — who is also an inferior officer. That responsibility would fall once again to Rosenstein under the succession statute Congress authorized. 
Sometimes, an inferior officer has to supervise other inferior officers with no principal — say, if no one else has been confirmed at the start of an administration. Or in a more hypothetical scenario, imagine a military conflict in which casualties meant there were no Senate-confirmed officials in a department. But fortunately, today’s Justice Department isn’t dealing with challenges anything like those. There are Senate-confirmed officials at the helm.
And regardless of those issues, there is yet another problem, specific to the Mueller investigation. In an emergency situation where an acting head is named, the president is, ultimately, the responsible official who supervises temporary, unconfirmed stand-ins. The idea is that there would at least be someone accountable to the public above the acting officer in those situations — and as Harry Truman put it, the buck always stops with the president. 
Here, though, the idea that the president could be trusted to supervise Whitaker as he oversees Mueller’s work is absurd. The potential for self-dealing, not selfless sacrifice, is rampant. Trump could secretly order Whitaker to do his bidding and terminate an investigation of his or his family’s wrongdoing, and Whitaker would take the blame for it. Trump could shield his actions from public scrutiny, and Whitaker, who depends entirely on the president’s support for his job and later advancement, would have no standing to complain. This is fundamentally at odds with the core principle of American law, going back to the early 1600s, that no one can be a judge in their own case.
The problems don’t end there. Because even if you think that Trump could surmount that obstacle and supervise an investigation of himself, it cannot be that he can install the compromised Whitaker to the task. Justice Department ethics rules forbid someone from participating in a criminal investigation if they have “a personal or political relationship” with “anyperson … which he knows has a specific and substantial interest that would be directly affected by the outcome of the investigation.” That fits this case to a T. Whitaker indeed campaigned for the job, first on TV, and then reportedly with the White House privately, casting aspersions on the Mueller investigation, even saying “the truth is there was no collusion with the Russians and the Trump campaign,” writing an op-ed called “Mueller’s investigation of Trump is going too far” and insinuating that he was part of Trump’s team. He evidently even interviewed for a job to defend Trump against Mueller. And Whitaker ran a past political campaign by Sam Clovis, a Trump confidant who has been subpoenaed by the grand jury as part of the Russia inquiry.
Given all of that, it is no wonder that Trump has told people that Whitaker would be “loyal.” 
In some cases, Justice Department leaders can supervise investigations despite having personal knowledge about the entities involved. After all, the president nominates every senior official there, so relationships will often exist. But there is a big difference between those garden-variety cases and this one. The department’s ethics rules define a “personal relationship” as “a close and substantial connection of the type normally viewed as likely to induce partiality.” And it’s here where the temporary nature of Whitaker’s appointment boomerangs. Like Supreme Court decisions that are tickets “good for one day only,” when an appointment is made for only one reason, it looks more suspect. That suspicion is exacerbated further because Whitaker has not been confirmed by the Senate. No independent body has signed off on his ethics or his integrity — and bypassing the Senate makes his appointment appear to be an attempt to put a Trump lackey in charge of the investigation. And finally, the ethics rules ask whether a substitute official can be found easily. In this situation, two can step in. One, in fact, is already acting as attorney general for the purposes of Mueller’s investigation — yet another reason it looks as though Whitaker has been installed simply to change the way the special counsel’s work is handled.
Our founders recognized that “men were not angels” and that checks and balances in government were critical to avoiding threats to the rule of law. The Whitaker installation does violence to our most basic principles — enshrined in the Constitution, laws enacted by Congress, the ethics rules that govern our prosecutors and the special counsel regulations themselves.
It is lawless and unprincipled.
It must be stopped.
Neal Katyal  is the former acting solicitor general of the United States and presently serves as a partner at Hogan Lovells and the Saunders professor of national security law at Georgetown University.



April 22, 2018

Rod Rosenstein and The Fights to Protect Mueller~~It Will Get Expensive!



 
 He has a reputation as a principled lawyer. He has worked for both Republican and Democratic attorneys general. He has a jugular instinct in courtroom battles but a distaste for political ones.
Now Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, is confronting the political fight of his career. Amid sustained criticism by President Trump and rumors that he will be fired, Mr. Rosenstein is also maneuvering to defuse demands by Republicans in Congress that Democrats say are aimed at ousting him from his job — and from his role as protector of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
So far, he appears to be succeeding. But in trying to deflect those attacks, some say, Mr. Rosenstein has risked eroding the Justice Department’s historic independence from political meddling. The consequences could persist long after he and the rest of the Trump administration are out of power.
A small but influential group of House Republicans has demanded greater access to sensitive documents related to some of the F.B.I.’s most politically charged investigations into the Trump campaign and Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified emails. Should Mr. Rosenstein fail to comply, they have threatened to subpoena him, hold him in contempt of Congress or even impeach him.
The Republicans complain that Mr. Rosenstein and other Justice Department officials have slow-walked or outright stonewalled their requests for reams of documents and other information they need to conduct oversight. When they do receive documents, they say, too many are showing up with critical content blacked out. 
"This is serious stuff,” said Representative Jim Jordan, a conservative Ohio Republican allied with Mr. Trump who voiced his complaints in a recent meeting with Mr. Rosenstein. “We as a separate and equal branch of government are entitled to get the information.”
Mr. Rosenstein, 53, has staved off his attackers on Capitol Hill largely by appeasing them. Two weeks ago, he allowed key Republican legislators to review an almost completely unredacted F.B.I. memo on the opening of a still active investigation of the Trump campaign, a rare step. He later summoned two other Republicans, Mr. Jordan and Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, to his office to pledge that the Justice Department would be more responsive to their requests.
And on Thursday, threatened with a subpoena, he gave a relatively large group of lawmakers access to memos written by the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey about his interactions with Mr. Trump. The documents are considered to be important evidence in a potential obstruction of justice case against the president being weighed by Mr. Mueller.
But still other Republican demands remain unmet, and Democrats have warned that Mr. Rosenstein is being boxed into a corner where he has to choose between saving his job and setting disturbing precedents that chip away at the independence that the Justice Department has maintained since President Richard M. Nixon tried to thwart the Watergate investigation. “That independence keeps the country from sliding into a banana republic,” said Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman under Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
Stephen E. Boyd, the Justice Department’s assistant attorney general for legislative affairs, said, “The department is responding to what it believes to be good faith requests for information pursuant to Congress’s appropriate oversight function, and the department is doing so in a way that will not have any adverse impact on ongoing investigations.”
Others said they worried that in solving his short-term political problems, Mr. Rosenstein could expose the department to increasingly onerous congressional demands into continuing investigations — an area that has traditionally been off limits.
“It could become an exception that swallows the rule,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and a former federal prosecutor. “Every request by Congress can be made to seem exceptional.”
Resolving such dilemmas is but one of the challenges Mr. Rosenstein faces. Mr. Trump claimed this month, without offering evidence, that he suffers from conflicts of interest and has criticized him for signing a warrant application to eavesdrop on a former Trump campaign aide. Every week seems to bring a new rumor that Mr. Trump plans to fire Mr. Rosenstein, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Mr. Mueller or all three.
In one of Washington’s odder embraces, their strongest defenders are congressional Democrats who abhor the Justice Department’s policies under the Trump administration but see Mr. Rosenstein as a firewall between the president and the special counsel.
Mr. Rosenstein declined requests for an interview, but supporters say he is well positioned to defend himself. A careful and conservative lawyer, he is unlikely to make missteps or overstep boundaries, they say. A high-ranking former Justice Department official described him as “the ultimate survivor.”
Early in his tenure, he stumbled when he wrote a memo to Mr. Sessions castigating Mr. Comey for speaking publicly about the F.B.I. investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s handling of classified information while secretary of state. Although Mr. Trump has repeatedly cited it as justification for firing Mr. Comey, Mr. Rosenstein told Congress that the memo was not meant to “justify a for-cause termination.” Even so, he acknowledged that he knew Mr. Comey’s job was in danger when he wrote it.
“Rod got suckered by the president in writing the memo,” said Philip B. Heymann, a former Justice Department official and one of Mr. Rosenstein’s mentors. “Trump marched his deputy attorney general way out on a limb and then left him there.”
He and others suggest that Mr. Rosenstein appointed Mr. Mueller as special counsel partly to redeem himself. That was “the only way Rod could show he was not a lackey, that he was neutral,” Mr. Heymann said.  
Mr. Sessions has scant ability to provide his deputy cover. If the president is mulling Mr. Rosenstein’s fate, he holds a deeper animus toward Mr. Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
Mr. Rosenstein addresses his own jeopardy with a blend of stoicism and black humor, according to friends. “I may need to talk to you about a job,” he jested to one Washington-area lawyer.
He is not, however, trying to whip up political support for himself. He “doesn’t do the self-preservation game,” said James M. Trusty, a friend who worked with him in Maryland. “He’s very grounded and fatalistic. He plays it by the book.”
Mr. Rosenstein is proceeding as though he will not be fired. On Monday, he is arguing a sentencing guidelines case on behalf of the federal government before the Supreme Court.
Mr. Rosenstein grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs, attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1989. He became a trial lawyer in the Justice Department’s public integrity section in Washington and eventually worked with Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton’s business dealings. In 2005, President George W. Bush appointed him the United States attorney for Maryland. President Barack Obama kept him on.
The office he ran had been torn apart by political infighting and had a weak relationship with local law enforcement. In his first few months, Mr. Rosenstein gathered information from employees about what had gone wrong, then restructured the office. He reached out to state prosecutors and encouraged his staff members to work with them to fight violent crime. His ability to transcend politics gave him credibility, according to many who worked with him.
“I never heard a political word escape from his lips,” said Brian E. Frosh, the Democratic Maryland attorney general. “He was smart, honest, fair, tough — everything you want in a prosecutor.”
Mr. Sessions barely knew Mr. Rosenstein when he became his deputy, and Mr. Rosenstein had no obvious political patron. He was not expecting to become a household name: When his daughter asked whether his new job meant that he was now famous, he told her that few people know or care who served as deputy attorney general.
He and Mr. Sessions had little in common beyond their lengthy tenures as federal prosecutors and shared views on gangs, drugs and violent crime. And the tensions that almost always exist between attorneys general and their deputies have been exacerbated by the special counsel investigation and the resulting political pressures.
But associates say the men have bonded in the face of attacks from the White House.
After Mr. Trump publicly exploded against Mr. Rosenstein this month, Mr. Sessions called Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, to warn that firing the deputy attorney general would have damaging consequences, including the possible resignation of Mr. Sessions himself, according to a person briefed on the conversation.
Mr. Sessions told Mr. McGahn that the president needed to know that he believed that firing Mr. Rosenstein would be a misstep and that he had done nothing to justify such an ouster.
Mr. Rosenstein’s oversight of the special counsel’s office gives him broad powers to approve or veto Mr. Mueller’s investigative requests. Democrats and some Republicans worry that the president could fire Mr. Rosenstein and install a replacement who would use that power to narrow the scope of the special counsel’s inquiry.
Democratic senators have circulated a document arguing that a new deputy attorney general could deny Mr. Mueller the power to take investigative steps and decline to sign off on staff or resources, essentially undermining the investigation without officially ending it or prompting the kind of Republican backlash on Capitol Hill that firing Mr. Mueller almost certainly would. A new appointee could also refuse to publicly release a report when Mr. Mueller’s investigation concludes.
Mr. Rosenstein has made efforts to head off conflicts with the White House. Soon after the F.B.I. raided the office, home and hotel room of the president’s lawyer Michael D. Cohen this month, infuriating the president, Mr. Rosenstein, and Mr. Trump met. Mr. Trump emerged telling people that Mr. Rosenstein had said he was not a target of the investigation into Mr. Cohen’s activities, according to two people with knowledge of the president’s account. Justice Department officials declined to comment on the meeting.
At the same time, the president’s staunchest supporters on Capitol Hill have put themselves in one standoff after another with Mr. Rosenstein. Among others, he has faced escalating demands and complaints from three committee chairmen: Representatives Robert W. Goodlatte of the Judiciary Committee, Devin Nunes of the Intelligence Committee and Trey Gowdy of the Oversight Committee.
In an interview this month on Fox News, Mr. Nunes threatened to hold Mr. Rosenstein in contempt or even impeach him if he failed to turn over the complete copy of the F.B.I. memo justifying the initiation of the counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign. Mr. Rosenstein called him to the Justice Department and gave him and other Intelligence Committee members access the next day to a version of the memo that satisfied their concerns.
In a separate request, Mr. Goodlatte and others have issued a subpoena for hundreds of thousands of documents — an extraordinary number even for Congress — related to the Clinton inquiry, the firing of the F.B.I.’s former deputy director and other matters. When the lawmakers began complaining that the documents were coming slowly and with too much content blacked out, the Justice Department appointed a United States attorney in Illinois to oversee document review and production. The F.B.I. doubled the number of employees working on responses to a request for materials the Justice Department’s inspector general was used to 54 people working two shifts a day, from 8 a.m. to midnight.
But some Republicans are still unsatisfied and have said a contempt citation or even impeachment — exceedingly rare steps that would require votes in the House — are still possibilities. Democrats fear that taken together, the Republican requests are meant to offer Mr. Trump cover or even cause to fire Mr. Rosenstein.
In a meeting with Mr. Rosenstein in recent days, Mr. Jordan and Mr. Meadows tried to impress upon him that they needed the documents they sought. Otherwise, Mr. Meadows said later, lawmakers would be left with no choice but to begin building a case to hold Mr. Rosenstein in contempt of Congress or to try to impeach him.
“Contempt is obviously still on the horizon,” Mr. Meadows said, “if there is not a substantial change.”

February 14, 2018

Sessions Was Denied a Judgeship on Fears of Racism But He Still As Racist





Attorney General Jeff Sessions called sheriffs a "critical part of the Anglo-American heritage of law enforcement" during a speech Monday. 
"We must never erode this historic office," he told the National Sheriffs' Association. "I know this, you know this. We want to be partners, we don’t want to be bosses. We want to strengthen you and help you be more effective in your work." 
Sessions made the comment after praising the 75-year-old law enforcement group and its effort to help the Justice Department and President Donald Trump crackdown on illegal immigration, among other law enforcement issues.  
The "Anglo-American" phrase was not in the prepared remarks released by the Justice Department earlier Monday before his speech. A similarly worded sentence, "The sheriff is a critical part of our legal heritage," does appear. 
The Justice Department defended Sessions' comments as meant to invoke sheriffs' English roots, as well as the debt America's legal system owes to England. 
“As most law students learn in the first week of their first year, Anglo-American law — also known as the common law — is a shared legal heritage between England and America. The sheriff is unique to that shared legal heritage," Ian Prior, a spokesman for the department, said in a statement. "Before reporters sloppily imply nefarious meaning behind the term, we would suggest that they read any number of the Supreme Court opinions that use the term. Or they could simply put ‘Anglo-American law’ into Google.” 
Still, Sessions' apparently unscripted moment did not go unnoticed by critics. 
Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., responded to Sessions' remark by tweeting out an excerpt of the letter her mother, Coretta Scott King, wrote in the 1980s vehemently opposing Sessions' appointment to a federal judgeship, citing a lack of leadership on civil rights.  
"The irony of Mr. Sessions' nomination is that, if confirmed, he will be given a life tenure for doing with a federal prosecution what the local sheriffs accomplished twenty years ago with clubs and cattle prods.” , 1986 https://twitter.com/misstessowen/status/963083927152971776 

Sessions faced accusations of racism during his 1986 Senate confirmation process for the judgeship — allegations that resurfaced during his confirmation battle to become attorney general last January. Thomas Figures, a black former assistant U.S. attorney who worked under Sessions, testified during the 1986 hearing that Sessions called him "boy" several times and joked about the Ku Klux Klan. 
This prompted a vigorous denial of Sessions at the time. “I am not a racist, I am not insensitive to blacks. I have supported civil rights activity in my state. I have done my job with integrity, equality, and fairness for all,” he said at the time. 
Sessions were denied the judgeship.
by 


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September 19, 2017

Trump's "Idiot" AG Wants to Terminate a Project That Builds Trust Between Cops-Community




"Idiot" is what Trump called Sessions when he was about to fire him but was convinced not to do it since he (Trump)
 had just fired the FBI Chief who also worked for Sessions.





The US Justice Department said Friday it is significantly repurposing a program that was designed to help local police departments rebuild trust with their communities after controversial incidents — particularly in cases where officers had shot black civilians.

Instead of investigating police departments and offering suggestions for reforms, the Justice Department will provide technical assistance grants for more traditional law enforcement tactics: arresting violent criminals, breaking up gangs, and making drug busts.

“This is a course correction to ensure that resources go to agencies that require assistance rather than expensive wide-ranging investigative assessments that go beyond the scope of technical assistance and support,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. A background document supplied by the Justice Department on Friday claimed the collaborative reform efforts created an adversarial relationship with local officials.

But Ron Davis, a former Justice Department official who had overseen the program during the Obama administration, rebuffed Sessions' comments, arguing that the collaborations were voluntary and that some tensions are inevitable when fixing entrenched problems.

"The hard truth tells you how to improve community relations and make departments great," Davis, a former police chief, told BuzzFeed News. “It is counter-productive to say you will focus on crime reduction and think it would not include building trust and systemic reforms — these are the foundations of public safety."

Under former president Obama, the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office (COPS Office) started the Collaborative Reform program in 2011.

Entirely voluntary, the partnerships with local jurisdictions typically began with a one-year investigation by federal officials, punctuated by an assessment that gave police departments pointers — such as how to de-escalate confrontations and when to use force. Those assessments were followed by two progress reports. Local leaders, meanwhile, would furnish records and hold town halls in an effort to mend frayed communities relationships.

But Sessions halted part of the program's progress when he issued a March 31 memorandum that called on officials to review the federal government’s relationship with state, local, and tribal law enforcement.

The announcement Friday cemented that the review was complete and the COPS Office would abandon efforts toward the collaborative investigations, accountability, and systemic changes.

As BuzzFeed News reported in August, the COPS Office hasn't published a single assessment or follow-up report for any of the police departments it agreed to help with its collaborative reform program since President Trump took office. Several jurisdictions appear overdue for reports — including Calexico, California; Chester, Pennsylvania; Milwaukee; Salinas, California; St. Anthony, Minnesota; and St. Louis County.

City leaders in North Charleston, South Carolina, have become particularly frustrated this year that the COPS Office failed to issue an assessment report, which would provide a guide to enact reforms. That city initiated the collaboration in 2016 after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man — and city leaders looked for outside help.

“Our city needs to hear from DOJ as promised. I hope with the new administration that it was not pulled.” Virginia Jamison, a city council member, told BuzzFeed News at the time, saying she was concerned with the dead air.

As envisioned on its website, the Collaborative Reform project said it endeavored to “improve trust between police agencies and the communities they serve” using a “long-term, holistic strategy that identifies issues within an agency that may affect public trust.”

But the Justice Department's background document on Friday said federal officials now want to focus on technical grants to improve best practices, crime reduction, officer training, and outreach.

Kanya Bennett, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement that "ending the program is a big mistake that will adversely impact communities of color.”

The move Friday reflects a broader trend of destroying chunks of Obama's legacy in the Justice Department, including avoiding court-supervised settlements to stop alleged civil rights violations.

Sessions have also reinstated certain property forfeitures and enacted a policy to once again seek long mandatory prison terms.

"They want to round people up in mass arrests and put them in jail or deport them," said Davis, who was a police chief East Palo Alto, California, and spent 20 years in the Oakland Police Department. 

"This is a dramatic turn that will not be beneficial in the field. It’s a disservice to the entire law enforcement profession that will compromise public safety.”

Dominic Holden
Dominic Holden


September 15, 2017

DOJ Wants Protections For Cakes While Curtailing LGBT Protections




 Cake for Reception for gay couples at the Abbey in W.Hollywood, Ca., July 1, 2013





A wedding cake at a reception for same sex couples is seen at The Abbey in West Hollywood, California, July 1, 2013. © 2013 Reuters
For the second time in less than two months, the US Justice Department (DOJ) has bent over backward to undermine LGBT rights in pending lawsuits.

In July, the DOJ unexpectedly filed an amicus brief in Zarda v. Altitude Express, arguing that LGBT people are not protected from workplace discrimination under federal law. The case is a dispute about whether the prohibition on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 encompasses discrimination against LGBT people.

Last week, the DOJ filed another brief in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, a case pending before the Supreme Court. The department defended a baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, arguing that his right to free expression would be violated if the state enforced a law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation against him.

These filings look like the start of a worrying pattern. The DOJ isn’t a party to either case and there was no need for it to intervene. And in Zarda, the department attacked the position of another federal agency, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which had argued that Title VII does protect lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers. 

In both cases, the DOJ seems to be looking for opportunities to whittle away at current interpretations of non-discrimination laws that shield LGBT people from prejudice in employment, housing, healthcare, and access to goods and services. This stance marks a sharp departure from years of civil rights enforcement that sought to expand these laws and promote equality.

These DOJ moves come at a perilous time for LGBT equality. In recent years, opponents of LGBT equality have sought religious exemptions for healthcare facilities and adoption and foster care agencies funded or licensed by the state. These laws have been enacted in several US states, including South Dakota, Alabama, and Texas.

The DOJ’s recent filings seem to display great concern for the rights of those who seek to discriminate against LGBT people, and little interest in protecting LGBT people from hate and prejudice. If the DOJ is going to be an effective champion of civil rights for all people, it needs to meaningfully stand up for LGBT equality, and do it now.

Ryan Thoreson

August 18, 2017

Is The Little Man Trump Hates Going Too far in Trying to Impress The Boss?



 I live to make you happy, gave me the job I always wanted. Iam sorry I followed the law before but I didn't know you then. I know you now and it wont ever happen again. I follow you Mr.President.
In the same week that white supremacists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis were on the march in Charlottesville and Attorney General Jeff Sessions vowed "vigorous" action, the Department of Justice has also been investigating another demonstration -- of protesters who exercised their First Amendment rights of free assembly at Donald Trump's inauguration in January. The Justice Department has demanded the company DreamHost turn over some 1.3 million IP addresses of people who visited a website coordinating Inauguration Day protests. 

So far the company has refused, and is challenging the subpoena in court. DreamHost is doing the right thing by refusing the department's demands and making those demands public.
But the broad request is itself a frightening insight into this administration's law enforcement priorities, and the chilling tactics it's willing to use to execute them.

The Justice Department claims it needs the information stored by DreamHost because of a "violent riot" on Inauguration Day. There was of course no such thing. 

It is true that some out-of-control troublemakers damaged property, and six police officers were injured in the fray; that's unacceptable, and the idiots who used the day's protests as a pretext for violence or window-breaking should face penalties for any crimes they committed. But that's not in the same universe as the suggestion that an anti-Trump protest attended by thousands was a "violent riot" meriting the disclosure of private information of anyone who so much as clicked a link or expressed an interest in attending a protest.

The goal here seems bigger than just figuring out who busted some windows. It's an attempt on the part of the Trump administration to stymie dissent. This isn't about enforcing the law; it's about making people afraid to publicly oppose this President, who craves adoration and throws tantrums when he doesn't get it.

If a protest with fairly limited acts of violence -- violence the overwhelming majority of protesters did not partake in -- means that federal law enforcement can cast a wide dragnet to scoop up the information of more than 1 million people, then fewer people will protest (or even discuss doing so online). Perhaps that's what this President wants. But that's fundamentally un-American, and our courts shouldn't enable him. 

While all of this is going on, the Justice Department is also not sleeping on other opportunities to pursue authoritarian priorities in its law enforcement efforts. It is rolling back Obama-era leniency efforts for nonviolent drug offenders, many of whom are not violent criminals but often addicts, or simply desperate. It is trying to undercut liberal cities' efforts to be safe sanctuaries for undocumented people. This latest move for IP addresses and other online information about protesters isn't a one-time misjudgment; it's part of a broad effort to squelch opposition and scapegoat minority groups in a bid to please the President.

Donald Trump gets a lot of attention for his poor judgment, lack of impulse control and willingness to use his position to punish or humiliate perceived enemies. But he's not the only bad actor here. And when the institution charged with upholding the law is happily carrying out a deluded man's revenge fantasies against all those who question him, it's time to question -- and replace -- all of them.

Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and Nairobi, Kenya, and the author of the book "The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness." Follow her on Twitter. 
CNN

August 10, 2017

A.G. Sessions Using Phony Science to Back up His Hatred of Weed




According to two elected officials from Washington state have a bone to pick with Attorney General Jeff Sessions—namely this succinct headline: “Jeff Sessions Using Fake Stats for Anti-Weed Agenda.” Yep, that’s right. Sessions, one of the Trump administration’s more notable henchmen, is using fake statistics and data for his personal anti-weed agenda.
Both Washington Governor Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson released statements to the public last week respectively in reaction to the AG’s erroneous blabber. Or rather, specifically to commentary Sessions made in July concerning falsified information he used to note the influence of cannabis legalization in the state. 
So what exactly is going on?

Sessions’ Myths Versus Actual Facts

Officials Say Jeff Sessions Is Using Fake Stats for Anti-Weed Agenda

The issue seems to stem from a letter on safety regulations and Washington’s legal cannabis industry at large. In the notice, Sessions attacked local lawmakers with a report from the Northwest High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, which argues that legalization has led to an increase in illegal trafficking. As Inslee cited, however, this claim is probably more false than not. (It should be noted that NHIDTA is notorious for producing sketchy data.)
“It is clear that our goals regarding health and safety are in step with the goals Attorney General Sessions has articulated,” Inslee’s statement said. “Unfortunately, he is referring to incomplete and unreliable data that does not provide the most accurate snapshot of our efforts since the marketplace opened in 2014.”
Despite the fact that a 140-page report written by Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper repudiated the idea of an uptickregarding drug abuse or delinquency among adolescents. The study, which was published in 2012 included data from agencies in six different states. 
This isn’t the first time Sessions has cried wolf over cannabis legalization and decriminalization. His anti-cannabis prerogatives can be traced back as far as February of this year. The root of the matter?  The attorney general’s assemblage of the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. The task force has been called a harbinger for a Draconian clamp down on legalization in the U.S since his inauguration.

Final Hit: Jeff Sessions Using Fake Stats for Anti-Weed Agenda

What it boils down to in the end is policy based on fact. Even more so, it comes to policy based on the wants of the constituency—not unsupported opinion. (Or a biased sense of morality, for that matter.)
“Misleading information does not produce good policy,” Ferguson told VICE News in an interview. “If Attorney General Sessions is willing to review the complete, current, and accurate data, he will see Washington state’s system is meeting federal priorities.”
As of the publication of this article, the Department of Justice has not issued a statement on the issue. But feel free to spread our headline to him, and say it once again with us now: “Jeff Sessions Using Fake Stats for Anti-Weed Agenda.”
by J.E.Reich





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