U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan performed a public service Tuesday when he got former national security advisor Michael Flynn to acknowledge that he knew he was committing a crime when he lied to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s ambassador during the presidential transition.
In recent days, Flynn’s lawyers and some conservative commentators have pushed the idea that the FBI had taken advantage of Flynn by not warning him in advance that lying to agents would be a crime. The Wall Street Journal published an editorial with the over-the-top title “The Flynn Entrapment.”
Sullivan took a lot of air out of that theory at Tuesday’s sentencing hearing for the retired general.
Who knew that Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey was a feminist?
For today, at least, he is. By appointing outgoing Republican Rep. Martha McSally to the U.S. Senate to replace retiring Republican Jon Kyl (who had been appointed in September to fill the seat vacated when John McCain died), Ducey has increased the female representation from Arizona in the Senate by 100%.
Good for him! McSally’s appointment also means that in a few short weeks, she will join Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in the Senate (which might be a tad uncomfortable, given that Sinema beat McSally on Nov. 6 after a brutal campaign for the seat held by retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake).
New York Atty. Gen. Barbara D. Underwood announced Tuesday that President Trump and his family had agreed to dissolve his charitable foundation, which the state alleges served as a piggy bank for Trump’s personal and campaign needs.
Naturally, this prompted a slate of stories rehashing the juiciest allegations in the state’s lawsuit, which will move forward. A personal favorite: The foundation gave $7 to the Boy Scouts of America in 1989, which the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold observed “matched the amount required to enroll a boy in the Scouts the year that [Trump’s] son Donald Trump Jr. was 11.”
Underwood summarized the allegations this way: “Our petition detailed a shocking pattern of illegality involving the Trump Foundation – including unlawful coordination with the Trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing, and much more.” Ouch.
The recent death of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl in Border Patrol custody was tragic, and I hope the inspector general’s investigation into what happened is both comprehensive and fast. Especially since the father of Jakelin Caal Maquin disputes some basic elements of the Border Patrol’s version of events.
But the death also spotlights the broader issue of the U.S. government making prisoners of migrant children in astonishing numbers. As of last week, the government was holding 15,000 minors – mostly teenage boys – in various detention centers around the country.
Let that sink in: The U.S. government is jailing children who, in most cases, arrived at the southwest border seeking asylum. Do they all qualify for sanctuary? Probably not, but we have a system for making such decisions, and at the moment, that system is imprisoning an entire village’s worth of minors.
The announced departure of Ryan Zinke as Interior secretary was both expected and overdue – even in this scandal-plagued administration, Zinke stood out as the object of at least 17 investigations (several of which closed without finding fault), and whose involvement in a real estate project in his hometown of Whitefish, Mont., has been referred to federal prosecutors. And with Democrats taking over the House next month, Zinke was sure to face some serious grilling time in committee hearings.
Then there are Zinke’s atrocious environmental policies, in which he has happily done President Trump’s bidding in trying to open as much federal land to oil and gas drilling and other extractive industries as quickly as the administration can. He also led the charge in shrinking the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Bears Ears National Monument in Utah, among others — actions that environmental groups have challenged in court.
So good riddance, for the sake of both ethics and the environment.
The Republican Party can count another notable defection this week: California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who told reporters this week that she decided to dump her affiliation with the GOP after the Brett M. Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings. She reregistered as having no party preference.
This was news to me in part because I didn’t realize Cantil-Sakauye was a Republican, though I knew she had been appointed by one, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact, I never gave much thought about her political affiliation, which is exactly what you want in a chief justice.
I can’t believe the Republican Party wants to chase away smart people, especially women. But as long as the party’s leadership continues to cover for the toxic president, more are likely to leave. (If this were a novel, it would soon be revealed that the Trump presidency was an elaborate plot cooked up by foreign agents in order to destroy the Republican Party from within.)
The death last week of a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl hours after Border Patrol agents took her and her father into custody is a tragic turn of events that engenders no small amount of finger-pointing and recriminations. Someone must be to blame, but who?
White House spokesman Hogan Gridley told reporters Friday morning that the death was “a horrific, tragic situation. Obviously, our hearts go out to the family and to anyone who's suffered any type of danger and peril that they see so often when they make that trek up from the southern border.”
He then turned political: “It's a needless death and it's 100% preventable. If we could just come together and pass some common sense laws to disincentivize people from coming up from the border and encourage them to do it the right way, the legal way, then those types of deaths, those types of assaults, those types of rapes, the child smuggling, the human trafficking that would all come to an end. And we hope Democrats join the president.”
It’s been apparent for years that the American death penalty system is so deeply and irredeemably flawed that it should not be used to determine whether someone should die for a crime. It’s prone to manipulation by prosecutors and police, witnesses get details wrong (intentionally and not), and the penalty is applied disproportionately on minorities and the poor.
But a new report by the Death Penalty Information Center also argues that the death penalty is also disproportionately applied on people with mental illness and brain traumas.
The organization, which released its annual year-end overview early Friday morning, reports that of 25 executions in 2018 — a near-record low for the modern era — at least 11 of the condemned displayed “significant evidence of mental illness.” Further, at least nine showed “evidence of brain injury, developmental brain damage, or an IQ in the intellectually disabled range” and at least 11 had suffered “chronic serious childhood trauma, neglect, and/or abuse.” Many of the executed fell into more than one category.
Some things are just too good to be true, yet it’s hard to resist believing them. That story about Miley Cyrus telling fans to worship Satan if they wanted to be rich and famous like her? Ummm, no. Or the new PlayStation 4 for $89 on Black Friday? Sorry.
This next news tidbit probably falls into that category:
I’ve now heard from two different sources that @newtgingrich (who was at the White House today) is currently topping the list for the next @realDonaldTrump administration White House Chief of Staff.
This would be a Washington reporter’s dream. Gingrich can’t help himself — he is a chaos machine. Yes, so is the man who might employ him; both seem to jump from one idea to the next, regardless of how big a gap there might be between the two concepts. But Gingrich is cerebral, and President Trump is … not.
When Canadian authorities arrested Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou last week at the request of the U.S. government, questions immediately surfaced over whether the American arrest warrant was an independent act of the Justice Department seeking to enforce sanctions against Iran, as it claimed, or whether Meng was just a bargaining chip in Trump’s trade battles with China, as Beijing officials claimed.
The president seemed to erase any doubt earlier this week when he told Reuters that he “would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” which converted Meng from a suspected felon into an apparent hostage.
That’s dangerous ground, as the world learned with news that China has detained two Canadian citizens on unspecified national security charges, a clear response to Meng’s arrest. One, Michael Kovrig, is a former Canadian diplomat on leave from his government job as he works as a respected international analyst for the International Crisis Group; the other, Michael Spavor, runs cultural exchange programs with North Korea.