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426 posts
  • Opinion
  • The Witch Hunt
Paul Manafort arrives for Friday's hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington.
Paul Manafort arrives for Friday's hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

If you’re Paul Manafort, and a judge has just thrown you into jail for alleged witness tampering, and you have already been indicted on several counts of money laundering, fraud and tax evasion, there’s an awful lot of pressure on you to make your prosecutors happy. Clearly they’re not messing around anymore and are perfectly willing to destroy your life if you don’t give them what they want: testimony about what really happened during the Trump campaign, when you were campaign chairman.

Given the possibility of spending your life in prison if you’re convicted on all charges, it would not be at all stupid to start thinking, as you waste away in your cell, about how you can save yourself, even if it means throwing some old buddies and colleagues under the bus.

In any case, that’s what special counsel Robert S. Mueller III hopes you’re thinking. He hopes that, like many jailed witnesses before you, you’re thinking about a negotiated plea agreement and a reduced sentence in return for an offer to cooperate.

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A member of the Central American migrant caravan, holding a child, looks through the border wall in Tijuana in April.
A member of the Central American migrant caravan, holding a child, looks through the border wall in Tijuana in April. (Hans-Maximo Musielik/Associated Press)

In the name of the law, the Bible and, when they’re being honest, deterring future immigrants from coming, the Trump administration has been ripping children from their parents when the families try to cross the border illegally —even when they have arrived seeking asylum. 

This is heartless and inhumane. It’s also, potentially, causing irreparable physical and mental harm to children, who are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of trauma.

Two months after the Trump administration began its new “zero-tolerance” policy, which requires the criminal prosecution of adults arriving illegally at the border, youth detention centers are now packed with children. The Department of Homeland Security will soon build a “tent city” in Texas to handle the growing number of kids in government custody.

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Republican strategist Karl Rove with Democratic campaign consultant David Axelrod on the television screen in 2008.
Republican strategist Karl Rove with Democratic campaign consultant David Axelrod on the television screen in 2008. (Lauren Victoria Burke/ABC News via Getty Images)

I’ve read many stories in recent days about suicide, prompted by the tragic, self-inflicted deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade. But I was particularly surprised and moved on Thursday to learn of a friendship – or at least a connection – forged across a great political divide by two survivors of suicide in the family: Karl Rove and David Axelrod.

I don’t know how I missed this story before; it’s been several years since Rove, the political consultant who was the architect of George W. Bush’s campaigns and worked in his White House, and Axelrod, who did the same for Barack Obama, struck up a relationship based on their shared proximity to tragedy. As Rove described it in the Wall Street Journal Thursday, Axelrod emailed Rove out of the blue – the two had never met – when he read of Rove’s mother’s suicide. Axelrod told Rove that his own father had committed suicide when he was 19. Police came to his college dorm room to ask him to identify the body.

“David later wrote a beautiful tribute to his father, offering the insight that his dad ‘was impacted by the sense so prevalent in our society that depression is somehow a character flaw rather than an illness,’” Rove wrote. As for his own mother, Rove says that she wrote in her suicide note that she was “very tired, deep inside tired.”  

  • 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.

  • 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.