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273 posts
  • Opinion
  • The Witch Hunt
Former FBI Director James Comey
Former FBI Director James Comey (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

As predicted, the inspector general of the Justice Department has come down hard on former FBI Director James B. Comey for the way he handled the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.

In a report released Thursday, Justice Department Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz concludes that Comey behaved in an “insubordinate” fashion in withholding from the department his plan to hold a news conference to announce that he was recommending that Clinton not be charged.

But for all its criticism of Comey — whose firing by President Trump precipitated the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the investigation Trump has derided as a “witch hunt” —  Horowitz’s report is probably not going to be the public-relations victory for Trump his supporters had hoped for.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
  • Rich Dudes
Draining the swamp? No, President Trump is making himself right at home.
Draining the swamp? No, President Trump is making himself right at home. (Brynn Anderson)

Sometime in the next few weeks a federal judge will determine whether Maryland and the District of Columbia may move forward with a lawsuit that accuses President Trump of violating the Constitution’s “emoluments clause,” which bars top government officials from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

It's a largely untested issue — the Supreme Court has never addressed it — and exactly what the clause means is subject to debate. But the plaintiffs argue that the president has violated the Constitution because foreign government officials have been making a beeline for his Trump International Hotel just blocks from the White House. Each transaction benefits the business and, by extension, Trump.

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
President Trump blows out a birthday candle earlier this week in Singapore.
President Trump blows out a birthday candle earlier this week in Singapore. (Singapore Ministry of Communications and Information)

Happy birthday, Mr. President! — said the state of New York on Thursday as it filed suit against the Trump Foundation and its board of directors for what New York Atty. Gen. Barbara Underwood described as "extensive and persistent violations of federal law."

She further labeled the Donald J. Trump Foundation as “little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality.”

The suit alleges, among other things, that Trump used charitable donations to decorate one of his golf resorts and to pay back his company’s creditors. Trump and three of his kids — Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric — were all personally named as defendants.

  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion in the political clothing case.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote the majority opinion in the political clothing case. (Timothy D. Easley / Associated Press)

It doesn’t always happen, but the Supreme Court on Thursday followed the advice of the Los Angeles Times editorial board. By a 7-2 vote, the court struck down a Minnesota law that prohibited the wearing of political clothing at polling places.

The case was brought by Andrew Cilek, a Minnesota man who showed up to vote in 2010 and was asked to remove or cover up a tea party shirt, as well as a button that was deemed too political under state law.

Writing for the court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that the state’s ban on political messages at polling sites was too broad. The free-floating nature of the term, combined with “haphazard interpretations the state has provided in official guidance and representations to this court,” caused the law to fail the test of “distinguishing what may come in from what must stay out.”

  • Opinion
Border Patrol agents take a father and son into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday near Mission, Texas.
Border Patrol agents take a father and son into custody near the U.S.-Mexico border on Tuesday near Mission, Texas. (John Moore / AFP-Getty Images)

Could a Catholic Border Patrol agent who separated a migrant mother from her children be denied Holy Communion – or even be excommunicated?

That scenario is being spun after a Catholic bishop raised the possibility of imposing “canonical penalties” on church members who implement the Trump administration’s practice of separating families seeking to enter the United States, including (according to the ACLU) those seeking political asylum at a port of entry.

According to Religion News Service, the idea arose at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Fort Lauderdale. Early in the session, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the conference president, criticized the administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, under which all those who cross the border illegally are criminally prosecuted. That means separating adults from their children.

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  • The Golden State
  • Election 2018
  • Rich Dudes
Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper is back. Only this time, he wants to break the state into three pieces, instead of six.
Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper is back. Only this time, he wants to break the state into three pieces, instead of six. (cal3.com)

Not only will the balance of power in Congress depend on how Californians vote in the November election, so will the fate of their own state. Among the other weighty issues expected to be on the state ballot, voters will be asked whether to break California into three separate states.

The so-called Cal3 proposition, thought up and funded by Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, officially qualified for the November ballot late Tuesday. While this proposal is not quite as revolutionary as the as-yet-unsuccessful Calexit proposals that a few diehards keep trying to put on the state ballot, it’s still pretty out there and, if it passes, will cause more than a little upheaval.

Angelenos who lived through the 2002 attempts by community activists in the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood to break off from the city of Los Angeles may remember that it turned out that breaking up an established government is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Just contemplating the reallocation of California’s many shared assets — schools, roads, aqueducts, prisons, etc. — is enough to make one’s head explode.

The world, as we all know, is filled with violence. But since the end of World War II, the international community has come to recognize that people subject to certain types of violence or persecution in specific circumstances deserve special protections — in the form of asylum from countries willing to take them in.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

In evaluating President Trump’s dramatic meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, it’s important to remember that less than a year ago many Americans were concerned that the president’s bellicose rhetoric — including threats to rain “fire and fury” on the North if it continued to menace the United States — might lead to war.

Trump’s decision to respond to an overture from Kim — initially conveyed through South Korea — de-escalated the rhetoric dramatically. It also may have begun a process that will succeed in reining in North Korea’s nuclear ambitions where past efforts failed.

For that reason, the summit in Singapore can be justified, despite the chaos and confusion that preceded it. But Trump was characteristically exaggerating when he boasted at a news conference that his meeting with Kim proved that “real change is indeed possible.” For all the spectacle, the meeting was at best a down payment on that change.

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  • Trump
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  • We're All Doomed
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

In reporting on Monday’s summit in Singapore, the Washington Post noted that President Trump did not approach Kim Jong Un as a pariah, but showered him with respect. “Trump turned a blind eye to differences of principle and history – refusing to directly confront the reality that Kim oversees a vast police state, starves his citizens and assassinates his rivals – in the interest of completing a transaction.”

That is, of course, correct. Kim, despite his goofy smile and funny haircut, is a monstrous figure at the helm of one of the world’s most repressive nations, where thousands of citizens have been murdered, tortured, imprisoned or raped, and where roughly 18 million people don’t get enough food, according to the United Nations. Kim is widely believed to have ordered the execution of his own uncle and half-brother.

But let’s not fool ourselves: This is hardly the first time an American president has agreed to turn a blind eye to such massive violations of human rights in the pursuit of some other perceived goal.

  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
If President Trump sticks with the demand for his border wall, don't expect Congress to help the "Dreamers."
If President Trump sticks with the demand for his border wall, don't expect Congress to help the "Dreamers." (Los Angeles Times)

The House today hits a deadline of sorts set by members intent on forcing Congress to take action on immigration reform aimed at protecting the so-called Dreamers — people who have lived in the United States illegally after having been brought to the country as children. But even if the members can force the issue to a vote, the path after that is murky at best. In the end, this seems to be more about relative Republican centrists trying to make it look like they’re doing something because they’re facing reelection in districts where immigration is a strong issue.

This all began, of course, with President Trump, who ordered the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program phased out, and then told members of Congress it was up to them to fix it by converting DACA from a program into a law. (Trump and immigration hardliners argued that Obama had exceeded U.S. law and executive authority in granting the protections; that’s still the subject of legal challenges from both sides).