Saturday, March 31, 2018

Walker To Schedule WI Special Elections After Deciding Against Appeal To Delay

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker issued an executive order scheduling special elections to fill two vacant legislative seats Thursday, as Senate Republicans abandoned their efforts to pass a bill blocking the contests amid intense criticism that the GOP was trying to avoid adding to string of losses.

The seats have been vacant since December, when Walker appointed two Republican legislators to his administration. Walker has said the special elections would be a waste of taxpayer money with the seats coming up for election in the fall. Democrats have argued that Walker wants to avoid losing the seats to their party in a year that appears to favor Democrats.

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The constitutional debate around protecting Robert Mueller’s job, explained

Why congressional Republicans say they can’t protect Mueller from Trump.

By Tara Golshan  Mar 29, 2018, 11:00am EDT

Senators, both Republican and Democratic, overwhelmingly say they want special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s alleged election meddling to continue without any intrusions.

Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) put out a statement earlier this week urging “President Trump to allow the Special Counsel to complete his work without impediment.” A group of Senate Democrats also sent the Department of Justice a letter on Tuesday asking it to “publicly commit to refuse any order or request — whether express or implied — to interfere in the Special Counsel’s investigation.”

But when it comes to actually protecting Mueller, congressional Republicans are quick to come up with excuses. There are currently two bipartisan proposals — one from Tillis and Coons and another from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) — that would check President Trump’s power to fire Mueller by putting the decision in front of a three-judge panel in federal courts. Both pieces of legislation look unlikely to go anywhere.

Asked if Congress should act, Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) told Vox recently he is “not sure it’s constitutional for us to tell the president who he can fire and can’t fire.”

Even Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a perennial Trump critic, said he is “not convinced” the two proposals are constitutional and that any congressional push to protect Mueller would intrude on executive authority. But conversations with legal experts show it’s not that simple.

“It is exasperating that lawmakers rely on such easily debunked constitutional concerns for political cover,” Steve Vladeck, a constitutional law expert with the University of Texas Austin’s law school, said.

The disagreement comes down to a longstanding scholarly debate about the constitutional separation of powers, a Supreme Court case from the 1980s, and a political environment that leaves Republicans reticent to involve themselves in anything Russia-related.

There are two bills to protect Mueller. Neither would actually prevent Trump from firing him.
Two bills have been proposed in the House and Senate to protect Mueller’s investigation — the Special Counsel Independence Protection Act, from Graham and Booker, and the Special Counsel Integrity Act, from Tillis and Coons — that follow roughly the same framework: They would allow the White House’s decision to fire the special counsel to be put under judicial review.

Currently, the US attorney general can remove the special counsel “for misconduct, dereliction of duty, incapacity, conflict of interest, or for other good cause, including violation of departmental policies.” Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation, in Mueller’s case, the power falls in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. There is no way for a special counsel to challenge that decision, even if there’s a case for wrongful termination.

These two bills try to fill that gap, establishing some oversight with a three-judge panel (made up of two District of Columbia district court judges and one US Court of Appeals judge). Neither proposal establishes the special counsel as an un-fireable position, nor does either even limit the White House’s power to fire Mueller.

The difference between the bills is when the judicial branch would get involved in the process of firing the special counsel. In the Graham-Booker bill, a special counsel “may only be removed if the Attorney General files an action in the United States District Court” and notifies relevant Senate and House Judiciary committees. In the Tillis-Coons bill, the special counsel must be informed in writing of the specific reason for being fired and is given a course of action to appeal the decision after the fact.

Whoever loses in court could then appeal to the Supreme Court. In practice, both proposals would actually be extremely modest measures, as Jonathan Turley, a legal scholar with George Washington University Law School, points out.

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Judge Denies Stormy Daniels' Motion To Depose Trump And Cohen

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A California judge on Thursday denied Stormy Daniels’ request to depose President Donald Trump and his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, for her lawsuit arguing that the hush agreement barring her from discussing her alleged relationship with Trump is invalid.

In the ruling, the judge wrote that Daniels’ motion to depose Trump and Cohen was “premature,” suggesting that her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, could refile the motion at a later date. The judge wrote that Daniels cannot seek to depose Trump and Cohen until Cohen files a petition to move the case to arbitration. Lawyers representing Trump and Cohen have said that they will push to move the case to private arbitration, but have not yet submitted the filing.

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ICE: Trump’s Immigration Policy Means We'll Jail More Pregnant Women 4 hours ago

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement has acknowledged a new policy, implemented late last year, that allows for the increased detainment of pregnant women.

The agency confirmed the change in an email to TPM Thursday. It reverses ICE’s previous policy of releasing of pregnant women from custody “absent extraordinary circumstances.”

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Report: Mueller Investigating 2016 Republican Convention In Russia Probe 2 hours ago

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking into Russia-related events that occurred during the 2016 Republican Convention in Cleveland, Reuters reported Thursday. 

Anonymous sources told Reuters that Mueller is primarily investigating a meeting between then-Sen. and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Russia’s U.S. then-Ambassador Sergei Kislyak at a convention event, as well as the softening of platform language supportive of Ukraine after Russia’s invasion.

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NBC News: Trump Told Aides Not To Publicize Weapons Sales To Ukraine 10 minutes ago

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President Donald Trump told aides not to publicize his decision to allow the sale of U.S. weapons to Ukraine, NBC News reported Thursday, so as to avoid agitating Russian President Vladimir Putin.

NBC News reported the development based on the accounts of multiple unnamed senior U.S. officials.

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Religiously speaking

Our well regulated militia hard at work - GUNFAIL

News, opinions, tweets and more 3.31.2018 #2

News, opinions, tweets and more 3.31.2018 #1