Originally Published: 9/29/2018
Kavanaugh Hearing: Christine Blasey Ford, her attorney, and Senator Chuck Grassley (R, IA) spent last weekend negotiating the details of Ford’s appearance in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (NY Times) A tentative agreement was reached on Saturday (NY Times) and by Sunday it was determined that Ford would testify on Thursday. (NY Times) Then, late Sunday and continuing all week, more women came forward with accusations about Kavanaugh. If you’re having trouble following all of the accusations, the Washington Post has a summary of the accusers and witnesses. In order to defend himself, Kavanaugh and his wife appeared on Fox News. (CNN) Now, right there is a problem. The greatest thing that Supreme Court nominees promote is their lack of bias. And he goes on Republican TV? Republicans, knowing how bad it would look for 11 old, white men to be asking a sexual assault victim personal questions (remember Anita Hill?) hired Rachel Mitchell, a Republican attorney, to ask the questions that committee members wanted asked. She’s from the Maricopa County (Arizona) County Attorney’s Office where she is the chief of the special victims division. (NY Times) At Kavanaugh’s hearing, Senator Lindsay Graham (R, SC) had a meltdown (You Tube) and Kavanaugh slammed Democrats. That alone should disqualify him. The Intercept put up a summary of the key moments from Ford and Kavanaugh’s testimony. The American Bar Association (ABA) is calling for a halt to the confirmation process, “saying it should not move forward until an FBI investigation” has been completed. (Chicago Tribune) And, finally, we need some levity. Listen to Randy Rainbow.
Crazy Friday: The Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination to the floor, but Senator Jeff Flake (R, AZ), in order to get his vote, extracted a promise to reopen the background investigation by the FBI before the floor vote. So, Trump ordered the FBI to reopen the background investigation. (NY Times) Senator Lisa Murkowski (R, AK) also said she’d consider a “no” vote on the floor without further investigation. (Washington Post) The supplemental FBI background investigation will be limited “to current credible allegations against the nominee and must be completed no later than one week from today.” (Roll Call) Flake and Grassley, chair of the Judiciary Committee, received threats and have been assigned security. (Roll Call) And then this surprise: Legal analyst Stuart Taylor - who is a critic of rape investigations saying that aren’t fair to the accused - came out and said that Ford’s testimony was credible and Kavanaugh’s was evasive and, therefore, senators should vote against confirming him. (Roll Call)
Why Hurry?: Given that Republicans held a seat on the Supreme Court open for a year, what is the hurry now? There are a lot of ideas floating around, and any or all of them may be the case. But, I am of the opinion that the big rush is due to the case of Gamble v. United States. This case is scheduled for oral arguments shortly after the Supreme Court’s session begins on October 1st. Kavanaugh must be seated and hear oral arguments or he’ll have to recuse himself from the decision process. So, why is Gamble so important?
Gamble v. U.S.: In this case the Supreme Court will be considering whether the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits any person from being prosecuted for the same offense more than once, “bars a federal prosecution for a criminal offense when the defendant has already been prosecuted for the same offense in state court.” You can read a summary at the Constitutional Accountability Center. If the Supremes decide this in favor of the appellant, then if Trump pardons anyone from a federal conviction that person will no longer be able to be prosecuted in a state. E.g., if the feds prosecute for tax fraud, a state cannot prosecute for tax fraud in the state. The appropriate decision will give Trump a lot of clout to control the witnesses against him by promising pardons and not having to worry about state prosecutions.
Sexual Harassment: Garrett Ventry, a communications adviser to Senator Grassley during the Kavanaugh confirmation events, abruptly resigned “after an accusation of sexual harassment.” Of course, he denies it. (Washington Post)
Trump at UN: Trump appeared at the United Nations and “thrust” his commitment to an “America First” foreign policy upon the attendees. The NY Times noted that Trump’s audience was different from the one that greeted him before. They are “no longer as daunted by the insurgent figure who left them slack-jawed last year when he vowed to ‘crush loser terrorists,’ mocked North Korea’s leader as ‘Rocket Man,’ and declared that parts of the world are ‘going to hell.’” But the most embarrassing moment for him and us was when he boasted: “My administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.” I guess he was expecting a response like he gets from his rightwing base. This time, however, the audience laughed. Trump responded by saying he “didn’t expect that reaction.” (Think Progress) Fox edited the laughter out before airing it. You can watch clips of his performance at You Tube. The next day he held his second solo press conference as president. You can read “the 10 most astonishing moments” in The Atlantic.
Rod Rosenstein: He apparently still has a job after last week’s revelation. (TWW, Rod Rosenstein, 9/22/18) Early Monday the Washington Post reported that he had offered to resign. Apparently Rosenstein headed to the White House Monday morning, “ready to resign” and convinced that Trump was about to fire him. But, by afternoon, he was back in his office. He was scheduled to meet with Trump on Thursday (NY Times) but later Trump postponed the meeting until next week. (Roll Call)
Emoluments Lawsuit: U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the lawsuit filed by 200 congressional Democrats against Trump “alleging he has violated the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments while in office” can proceed. (Washington Post) Another suit is already moving ahead. (TWW, Emoluments Lawsuit, 7/28/18)
K.T. McFarland: The former top White House official who “briefly” served as former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s deputy (TWW, Trump Appointments, 11/26/16), has “revised” her statement to investigators. She originally told FBI investigators that she never talked to Flynn about his having discussions about the Russian sanctions with Ambassador Sergy Kislyak. Flynn’s guilty plea contradicted her statement so now she says she may have known about it. (Washington Post)
Arizona: Rep. Paul Gosar (R) is running for the 4th Congressional District. However, 6 of his siblings endorsed his opponent, David Brill (D). (Washington Post)
Minnesota: State Rep. Jim Knoblach of St. Cloud ended his reelection campaign “after his daughter alleged that the Republican lawmaker touched her inappropriately for more than 10 years, beginning when she was 9.” (Washington Post)
New York & New Jersey: The Port Authority Board unanimously approved an increase in the 40,000 airport workers’ wages to at least $19 an hour, “the highest minimum wage target set by any public agency in the country.” The increases will be phased in over the next 5 years. (NY Times)
Immigration: Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen is proposing that people applying for migration into the U.S., or those already in the country wishing to remain, be held back “if they use or are likely to use housing vouchers, food subsidies, and other ‘non-cash’ forms of public assistance.” (Washington Post)
Congressional Travel: Kevin (Kemal) Oksuz, who runs a Houston-based nonprofit, took a bunch of congress critters to Azerbaijan in 2013. When he filed his disclosure forms with the House of Representatives Committee on Ethics he lied about how the trip was being financed. Apparently the Azerbaijan government funneled money into his organization which paid for the trip. The Justice Department has indicted him. (Roll Call)
Transgender Procedures: 2 different federal courts last week granted rulings in favor of “allowing transgender people to access the medically necessary care prescribed to them by their doctors.” (Think Progress)
ACA: Judge Elaine Kaplan of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that a Montana insurer “is entitled to federal compensation for subsidy payments under the Affordable Care Act that President Trump abruptly ended last October, a ruling that could reverberate through insurance markets and cost the government hundreds of millions of dollars.” (NY Times)
Science Advisor: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is going to dissolve its Office of the Science Advisor, a “senior post” that counsels the EPA administrator on the scientific research “underpinning health and environmental regulations.” (NY Times)
Offshore Drilling: The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which was established after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to regulate offshore oil and gas drilling, “has finalized a proposal for loosening the regulations” as part of Trump’s efforts “to ease restrictions on fossil fuel companies and encourage domestic energy production.” (NY Times)
National Parks: A new study by the University of California at Berkeley and University of Wisconsin warns that climate change has adversely and uniquely affected many of the 417 national parks across the U.S. and its territories. “Human-caused climate change exposes the U.S. national parks to severely hotter and drier conditions than the U.S. as a whole.” (Environmental Research Letters)
Environmental Impact: A draft statement issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), written to justify Trump’s decision “to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020,” incidentally exposed his environmental assumptions. The 500-page impact statement assumes that, on its current course, the planet will warm by 7 degrees Fahrenheit (about 4 degrees Celsius) by the end of the century and, therefore, the planet’s fate “is already sealed.” (Washington Post)
Interest Rates: The Federal Reserve, ignoring Trump’s criticism (TWW, Interest Rates, 8/25/18), raised interest rates a quarter point. They also indicated that they may raise them again in December and “3 more times next year.” (Washington Post)
Tesla: The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is suing Tesla chief Elon Musk and “is seeking to ban him from corporate leadership, saying he lied to investors when he claimed he had secured the funding to take the automaker private.” (Washington Post)