Trump Defends Kavanaugh After NYT Report: ‘Should Start Suing People’ or DOJ ‘Should Come to His Rescue’

President Donald Trump took to Twitter this morning defending Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh after a new report in The New York Times.

The Times reported on another allegation of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh yesterday:

A classmate, Max Stier, saw Mr. Kavanaugh with his pants down at a different drunken dorm party, where friends pushed his penis into the hand of a female student. Mr. Stier, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, notified senators and the F.B.I. about this account, but the F.B.I. did not investigate and Mr. Stier has declined to discuss it publicly. (We corroborated the story with two officials who have communicated with Mr. Stier.)

Mr. Kavanaugh did not speak to us because we could not agree on terms for an interview. But he has denied Dr. Ford’s and Ms. Ramirez’s allegations, and declined to answer our questions about Mr. Stier’s account.

There’s now renewed outcry over Kavanaugh and calls for additional investigation, including from 2020 candidate Julián Castro:

President Trump defended Kavanaugh on Twitter this morning, saying people are lying about him to “scare him into turning Liberal,” even suggesting he “should start suing people for liable [sic], or the Justice Department should come to his rescue.”

Trump previously misspelled “libel”


Brett Kavanaugh should start suing people for liable, or the Justice Department should come to his rescue. The lies being told about him are unbelievable. False Accusations without recrimination. When does it stop? They are trying to influence his opinions. Can’t let that happen!

Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2019

[Mediaite]

Attorney General Barr Gives Award to Lawyers for Backing Brett Kavanaugh

Last year, the Justice Department gave the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service, the second highest honor in the department, to prosecutors who secured the conviction of Ahmed Abu Khattala, a ringleader of the Benghazi terrorist attack.

This year, the New York Times is reporting that Attorney General William Barr is giving the award to DOJ lawyers who worked “to support the nomination” of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Former federal prosecutors blasted the news as an unprecedented perversion of justice. “What a joke,” tweeted Elie Honig, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. “This prestigious award typically goes to prosecutors who make the biggest cases against terrorists, corrupt politicians, drug cartels, organized crime enterprises, etc. And now AG Barr is using it to honor… Team Kavanaugh.”

Kavanaugh was accused of sexual assault during his confirmation process by Christine Blasey Ford. Investigations into her accusations, and Kavanaugh’s response, nearly derailed his nomination. Then Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tapped one hundred Justice Department lawyers to review Kavanaugh’s paper trail, which the Times reported some saw as “an unusual insertion of politics into federal law enforcement.” The FBI did its own investigation of Ford’s accusations, but it was limited in scope by the White House and did not interview key sources, including Ford.

Kavanaugh has been a reliable ally of President Donald Trump on the court, while Barr has emerged as perhaps the president’s most high-profile defender inside the administration, shielding Trump from public criticism and indictment following release of the Mueller report.

[Mother Jones]

Trump Tweets Videos of Fox News Segments Trashing Comey, Decrying ‘Attempted Coup’

President Donald Trump‘s public complaints about Fox News this week have not stopped his his typical social media habit of sharing clips from the network.

Today he posted a number of videos from Fox News trashing former FBI director James Comey after the OIG report released yesterday. Comey was not charged, but he was criticized for setting a “dangerous example” with his actions.

This morning Trump shared a Fox & Friends segment with former CIA officer Bryan Dean Wright saying “in 2016, we had effectively a coup” going on:

This afternoon, he shared clips of both Congressmen Doug CollinsPeter King (who railed against an “attempted coup” too), and Jim Jordan:

[Mediaite]

The DOJ sent immigration court employees a link to a racist and anti-Semitic blog post attacking immigration judges

The Justice Department sent immigration court employees an email this week that linked to an article attacking immigration judges with offensive and anti-Semitic slurs, BuzzFeed News reported on Thursday.

The article was posted on the white nationalist website VDare, which routinely traffics in racist and anti-immigration rhetoric and has explicitly targeted immigration judges in the past.

Ashley Tabbador, the head of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said in a letter to the Justice Department that the email came from the department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR).

Tabbador wrote that the article “directly attacks” immigration judges “with racial and ethnically tinged slurs,” and the label ‘Kritarch,'” according to BuzzFeed. “The reference to Kritarch in a negative tone is deeply offensive and Anti-Semitic,” Tabbador added.

Kritarch is a term derived from the concept of a “kritarchy,” or a society run by judges. It’s referenced in the Old Testament’s Book of Judges as a type of rule in ancient Israel. VDare has repeatedly used the term to pejoratively refer to immigration judges. 

Tabbador called on James McHenry, the head of EOIR, to take action following the dissemination of the article.

“Publication and dissemination of a white supremacist, anti-semitic website throughout the EOIR is antithetical to the goals and ideals of the Department of Justice,” she wrote. She added that the court should withdraw the email and issue an apology to immigration judges.

“Separately, EOIR should take all appropriate safety and security measures for all judges given the tone and tenor of this posting,” she wrote.

The post was sent to immigration court employees as part of a daily briefing that usually includes links to news reports about immigration, BuzzFeed reported.

EOIR Assistant Press Secretary Kathryn Mattingly told Insider in a statement, “The daily EOIR morning news briefings are compiled by a contractor and the blog post should not have been included. The Department of Justice condemns Anti-Semitism in the strongest terms.”

[Business Insider]

Trump admin argues transgender workers aren’t protected by civil rights law in new Supreme Court filing

The Trump administration on Friday filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that federal civil rights laws do not protect transgender workers.

The filing relates to the case of Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who was fired as the funeral director of R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. in Detroit after she told owner Thomas Rost that she planned to transition from male to female and would be representing herself as a woman while at work.

In March 2018, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the funeral home had violated Title VII anti-discrimination laws in the decision, with the court ruling that “discrimination on the basis of transgender and transitioning status is necessarily discrimination on the basis of sex” and therefore protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

However, in their court filing submitted Friday, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco and Department of Justice attorneys argued that the specific Civil Rights Act provision “does not bar discrimination because of transgender status,” meaning the Michigan funeral home was within its right to fire Stephens.

“In 1964, the ordinary public meaning of ‘sex’ was biological sex. It did not encompass transgender status,” the brief reads. “In the particular context of Title VII — legislation originally designed to eliminate employment discrimination against racial and other minorities — it was especially clear that the prohibition on discrimination because of ‘sex’ referred to unequal treatment of men and women in the workplace.”

If the Supreme Court sides with the Trump administration, it would overturn the previous ruling by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, and mark a major blow to LGBT rights. 

The move comes hours after the Log Cabin Republicans endorsed President Trump‘s 2020 reelection bid, reversing its decision four years ago when the conservative LGBT organization declined to endorse then-candidate Trump in 2016.  

The group said Friday in its decision that Trump has helped advance LGBT rights through policies seeking to end the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as his push to get other countries to conform to modern human rights standards.

Trump has referred to himself as the “most pro-LGBT presidential nominee in the history of the Republican Party,” but has come under fire for his transgender military ban, which reversed the Obama-era policy of allowing transgender individuals to openly serve in the military.

The ban was formally upheld by the Supreme Court earlier this year after facing multiple legal challenges.

[The Hill]

State Department watchdog details political retaliation against ‘disloyal’ staffers

Top officials in the State Department bureau that deals with international organizations engaged in “disrespectful and hostile treatment” of staffers, including harassing some over suspicions that they were “disloyal” due to their perceived political views, a federal watchdog says.

The findings were contained in a report soon-to-be published by the State Department inspector general’s office.

The report, obtained Thursday by POLITICO, is one of two reports that explore allegations that President Donald Trump’s political appointees retaliated against career State Department employees.

The report singles out the assistant secretary in the international organizations bureau, Kevin Moley, as failing to stop the misbehavior despite numerous complaints. It also contains numerous examples of alleged actions taken by Mari Stull, another senior political appointee in the bureau, who has since left.

Stull and Moley were said to have “frequently berated employees, raised their voices, and generally engaged in unprofessional behavior toward staff,” according to the report.

The majority of the employees the inspector general’s office interviewed “either directly experienced hostile treatment or witnessed such treatment directed at others. In fact, one IO employee told OIG that working with Ms. Stull involved ‘six to eight hostile interactions per day.’ 

Stull, who was known to describe herself as “the Vino Vixen” due to her past keeping of a wine blog, was also alleged in past media reports as having tried to keep lists of career government staffers she considered disloyal or loyal to the president.

According to the inspector general’s report, many staffers said Moley and Stull “made positive or negative comments about employees based on perceived political views. For example, several career employees reported that throughout her tenure at the Department, Ms. Stull referred to them or to other career employees as ‘Obama holdovers,’ ‘traitors,’ or ‘disloyal.'”

Moley, however, insisted to the inspector general’s office that “the only occasion on which he heard Ms. Stull make such remarks was in reference to former political appointees whom she believed were converted to career employees.”

Career government staffers are sworn to serve in government in a non-partisan fashion, no matter who or which party controls the White House. But many of Trump’s political appointees believe there exists a “deep state” among the career staffers determined to thwart the president’s agenda.

State Department Inspector General Steve Linick’s next report on the broader topic of alleged political retaliation is expected to focus on staffers who worked directly for the secretary of state’s office. It’s not clear when that report will be published.

Moley did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but in a response to the investigation, which the inspector general included in his report, he said the misbehavior attributed to him “does not represent the person I am or have ever been.”

Stull could not immediately be reached for comment. She declined the inspector general’s interview request during the investigation

[Politico]

Trump Administration Seeks Decertification Of Immigration Judges’ Union

The Justice Department late last week moved to seek the decertification of the union representing hundreds of U.S. immigration judges, ratcheting up a simmering battle over the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies.

The department filed a petition Friday asking the Federal Labor Relations Authority to determine whether the certification of National Association of Immigration Judges as the union representing some 440 immigration judges should be revoked “because the bargaining unit members are management officials under the statutory definition,” according to a Justice Department spokesperson.

“This is nothing more than a desperate attempt by the DOJ to evade transparency and accountability, and undermine the decisional independence of the nation’s 440 Immigration Judges,” Judge Ashley Tabaddor, speaking in her capacity as president of the National Association of Immigration Judges, said in an emailed statement. “We are trial court judges who make decisions on the basis of case specific facts and the nation’s immigration laws. We do not set policies, and we don’t manage staff.”

The administration and the immigration judges union have been at loggerheads over a variety of issues, including the judges’ status as employees of the Justice Department. Judges are appointed by the attorney general and they are not part of the independent judiciary. They have publicly argued for their separation from the Justice Department.

Last year, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions took the unusual step of reviewingsome judicial decisions in the name of reducing the backlog of hundreds of thousands of cases clogging the courts.

Sessions also ordered judges to end the practice of temporarily removing cases from their dockets without issuing decisions, a move known as “administrative closure.”

The Justice Department also imposed a quotasystem on judges, linking the number of cleared cases to their performance evaluations. The judges’ union said the courts need more immigration judges, not assembly-line proceedings.

President Trump has appointed 190immigration judges since taking office. As of June 2019, there are more than 900,000 pending cases in immigration courts, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

The move to decertify the immigration judges’ union comes as no surprise to many judges.

“Clearly they want to use the judges to ramrod through cases and ramp up deportation regardless of any due process defects their policies have,” said one judge who isn’t authorized to speak for the union and requested anonymity. Without the union, judges would be effectively muzzled and unable to publicly share their views about the courts, the judge added.

This is not the first time the Justice Department has tried to decertify the immigration judges’ union. The Clinton administration sought decertification, but the Federal Labor Relations Authority rejectedthe notion that judges are managers who make policy. But some judges are concerned that the FLRA under the Trump administration would be less sympathetic to the union. 

“It’s absurd that anyone would consider us managers,” said Tabaddor, a judge based in Los Angeles. “We don’t even have the authority to order pencils.”

[NPR]

The Trump Administration Is Bringing Back Federal Executions After 16 Years

The Trump Administration plans to resume federal executions, reversing a 16-year-long de facto moratorium on the death penalty within the Department of Justice.

Attorney General William Barr instructed the Bureau of Prisons on Thursday to schedule executions of five death-row inmates, who he said were convicted of “murdering, and in some cases torturing and raping, the most vulnerable in our society — children and the elderly.” The federal government has carried out three executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1988: two in 2001 and one in 2003. 

But it’s not clear whether the federal government has successfully obtained the drugs required to perform lethal injections in the midst of a nationwide shortage.

“Congress has expressly authorized the death penalty through legislation adopted by the people’s representatives in both houses of Congress and signed by the president,” Barr said in a statement. “The Department of Justice has sought the death penalty against the worst criminals, including these five murderers, each of whom was convicted by a jury of his peers after a full and fair proceeding.”

Thursday’s announcement bucks a national trend toward phasing out the death penalty entirely. Faced with a shortage of lethal injection drugs, states have tried to experiment with untested cocktails of chemicals — and even kept some of the details secret. But trying to circumvent the shortage has led to botched executions in some instances and lawsuits questioning the humanity of new protocols. 

As a result, the number of annual executions has declined in recent years — and public opinion has increasingly swung in favor of doing away with capital punishment entirely. 

Some states have even adjusted their protocols to allow death row inmates to choose alternate methods of execution. Last December, an inmate in Tennessee died by electric chair at his request.

Sixty-two inmates currently wait on federal death row. Among them is Dylann Roof, a white supremacist who killed nine black parishioners when he opened fire on a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015

Only 25 states still have the death penalty on the books, but just eight states carried out executions in 2018. So far this year, governors in four states — California, Colorado, Oregon and Pennsylvania — have placed moratoriums on their state’s death penalty. New Hampshire also abolished the death penalty entirely in 2019, just months after Washington, which scrapped capital punishment last October

[Vice]

DOJ Says It’s Been ‘Instructed’ By Trump To Try To Get Citizenship Question Back On Census

The Justice Department told a federal judge on Wednesday that it had been “instructed” to try to find a way to get the citizenship question back on the 2020 census, after the Supreme Court blocked its previous effort to do so last month.

The update came after President Trump tweeted Wednesday that previous government statements that the administration was backing down from its census citizenship fight were incorrect. U.S. District Judge George Hazel convened a teleconference hearing on Wednesday as confusion swirled around the issue. Both the Justice Department and the Commerce Department had said on Tuesday that the forms had been sent off to printers without the question on it.

Jody Hunt, a top DOJ official, told the judge that the administration believed there may be a “legally available” path to getting the question re-added while still complying with the Supreme Court’s ruling, according to a transcript of the hearing obtained by TPM (see below).

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1M3Y6vj3QlQpSdlYcCdq3BkbnnWIrEPlf/view

Hunt said the plan, if the government goes down that route, is to go directly to the Supreme Court to get instructions on how to streamline future proceedings over its efforts to re-add the question.

A couple of hours after the hearing, the Justice Department filed an update (see below) in a separate census case in New York reaffirming that the administration had reversed course and was looking for a way to add the citizenship question.

“In the event that the Commerce Department adopts a new rationale for including the citizenship question on the 2020 Decennial Census consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court, the Government will immediately notify this Court,” the DOJ filing said.

[Talking Points Memo]

Trump calls into Sean Hannity’s show, revives debunked wiretapping claim

Fox News host Sean Hannity dedicated most of his show on Wednesday night to another phone interview with President Donald Trump.

While most of the talking points were familiar to anyone who bothered to tune into Trump’s reelection kickoff speech Tuesday night or any of his other recent interviews on Fox News, Trump did let slip that he still believes his phones were wiretapped during the 2016 campaign.

Repeating his claim that intelligence agencies were “spying” on his campaign, Trump said, “We will have to find out if they were listening on my calls, that would be the ultimate. If they spied on my campaign, and they may have, it will be one of the great revelations in history of this country.”

Trump assured Hannity, who often pushes baseless conspiracy theories himself, that Attorney General William Barr was working very hard to investigate whether there was any wrongdoing during the lengthy investigations into Trump’s campaign. At no point did the conversation address the fact that six Trump campaign officials were indicted as a result of the special counsel Robert Mueller’s nearly two-year long investigation, five of whom pleaded guilty, nor did it address the many outside investigations referred by the special counsel’s office.

Two months into Trump’s administration, he declared on Twitter, without any evidence, that “Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower just before the victory.” Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer even suggested at the time that British intelligence may have wiretapped the Trump Tower phones at President Barack Obama’s request.

Since then, the Department of Justice has said on at least two different occasions that it has no records of such wiretapping while Trump was a candidate.

Trump said earlier this year that his 2017 wiretapping claim was based “just on a little bit of a hunch and a little bit of wisdom maybe.” He appeared to believe that because the brazen accusation received so much attention, that actually proved that he was onto something.

“It blew up because they thought maybe I was wise to them,” he said, speaking to Hannity at the time, once again without presenting any evidence to back his claim. “Or they were caught. And that’s why. If they weren’t doing anything wrong it would’ve just gotten by, nobody would’ve cared about it.”

In his interview with Hannity, Trump reiterated Spicer’s claim that “other countries were involved.” Admitting it was pure speculation, he said, “I think perhaps, just based on what I’m seeing, they used other countries because they didn’t want to get caught doing what they were doing in this country.”

It is true that U.S. investigators wiretapped Carter Page and Paul Manafort, former officials on Trump’s campaign, to investigate potential wrongdoing and their connections with foreign governments. But Trump seems to think that there was some greater conspiracy that targeted him directly, and he expects Barr to find proof that he was the real victim.

“I think he’s a very honorable gentleman who wants to do the right thing,” Trump said Wednesday night.

[ThinkProgress]

Reality

Trump’s DOJ admitted in a “court filing notes two separate instances in which the Trump administration has rubbished the claims made by its own executive.”

The DOJ also admitted it has “no records related to wiretaps as described by the March 4, 2017 tweets” in a September 2017 court filing.

Trump said earlier this year that his 2017 wiretapping claim was based “just on a little bit of a hunch and a little bit of wisdom maybe.” He appeared to believe that because the brazen accusation received so much attention, that actually proved that he was onto something.

Media

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