This Man Has a Plan to “Unpack” the Federal Courts

Glenn Kirschner; image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

Even pre-Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans were focused on reshaping the judiciary in a very partisan, extreme manner. McConnell prevented President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, the highly regarded jurist Merrick Garland, from even receiving a vote, which at that point may well have led to Garland’s confirmation.

But with Trump as his Oval Office rubber stamp, McConnell has kicked this campaign to capture the judiciary into high gear. He’s already placed more than 200 federal judges—roughly one-quarter of the total—with 53 of them on the important Appellate Courts.

And now that the Senate is back in session, McConnell is taking up judicial appointments once again—instead of bothering with the Heroes Act that would provide desperately needed assistance to the states and hungry families devastated by Trump’s non-handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic tidal wave.

The result is that the McConnell-Trump impact on the judiciary may cast a dark shadow upon us all for decades.

But Glenn Kirschner says that need not be the case. A longtime federal prosecutor who now appears as a legal analyst on NBC and MSNBC, Kirschner has a podcast called “Justice Matters” and conducts daily discussions of timely legal issues on YouTube. 

I listened to the second podcast in the series: “Unpacking the Federal Courts,” in which he offers a three-point approach to undo some of the harm done by the Republicans’ ramming through a number of unqualified judges via almost always strictly partisan votes. 

Before anyone pigeonholes Kirschner politically, I want to underscore that his emphasis is on the judges’ suitability for their positions.

“Presidents have the right to seek out those with their world views and judicial philosophies—there’s nothing wrong with that,” he says. “Elections have consequences.” (How well we’ve learned that hard lesson!) 

But, he stresses, that’s different from pushing through people whom the American Bar Association has deemed “not qualified.” And it’s different from picking people solely because of their ideology.

Kirschner states that based on his own experience in the Washington, DC, US Attorney’s Office, he feels he’s knowledgeable about “what it takes to be a good judge.” That office is a very busy place: it’s the only one of the 94 US attorney offices in the country that handles both federal and local criminal prosecutions; the others handle only federal crime violations. 

Thus, he’s appeared before many judges. (In the local DC Court, there are between 60 and 65 judges, who are all Presidential appointees.) He estimates that he’s seen about 200 judges—“the good, bad, ugly—though most were really good.”

Although Kirschner doesn’t mention this development in his podcast, in recent years, Republican administrations have brushed aside the ABA’s special status as the nonpartisan, fair examiner of a prospective judge’s qualifications, relying instead on the clearly conservative Federalist Society. I can see why Kirschner looks to the ABA.

Kirschner points out that Obama’s modus operandi with judicial appointments was to submit the potential nominee’s name to the ABA for qualification. If the ABA found that individual “not qualified,” Obama didn’t nominate him or her. “Isn’t that what we expect?,” asks Kirschner.

In contrast, McConnell—disregarding the ABA entirely—has sought out far right and extremely conservative judges, whose nominations Trump doesn’t question, and then maneuvered them into judgeships. 

In one case, McConnell nominated a young man named Justin Walker of Kentucky, one of those the ABA deemed “not qualified.” In his investiture ceremony, which Kirschner points out is almost invariably the occasion for a new judge to show his apolitical, judicial temperament and speak “fairly, honorably, impartially, and with civility,” Walker said the following: 

“We are winning, but have not yet won,” and warned of “losing our courts to critics who call us terrifying and describe us as deplorable.”

Just months after so clearly demonstrating his judicial restraint and fairness (!), Walker was appointed to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals—a hugely important position. There he wasted no time: he blocked the use of the city of Louisville’s Fairness Ordinance against a photographer who said taking pictures of a gay couple’s wedding was against her religious beliefs.

(It’s worth noting that Walker is 37; McConnell looks for the young’uns for these lifetime appointments. He’s even tried to persuade older judges to retire to give him more firepower.)

So, Kirschner asks,

“How do we unpack? We are heading in the wrong direction. You can be a conservative or a liberal, but you ought to be qualified. And you can’t back discrimination.”

Kirschner’s Three Solutions

First. “Any judge who lied under oath during judicial hearing can be charged with perjury and removed from the bench.” Kirschner is convinced some of them have, including Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“We let the FBI do a full, fair, apolitical investigation.”

You may recall the FBI was not permitted to complete its investigation of Kavanaugh before he was approved. Kirschner cites an issue about which he believes the evidence that Kavanaugh lied warrants further examination. 

This action is designed not to be punitive, Kirschner stresses; its goal is to serve justice.

Second. “We create a Citizens Brigade to be in courtrooms all day every day to keep an eye on the judges. I’ve seen misconduct by judges.” Such judges “will need to be referred and may be sanctioned or removed.” 

He refers to uscourts.gov, where there are FAQs: for Filing a Judicial Conduct or Disability Complaint Against a Federal Judge (when someone believes a federal judge “has committed misconduct or has a disability that interferes with the performance of his or her judicial duties.”)

That would be the mechanism the Citizens Brigade would use.

Third. “We can put more federal court judges on the bench.” The Supreme Court in our history has numbered between five and ten justices, he points out. The current number of nine “is not constitutional mandate or requirement. We can maybe add two justices; that’s something we can consider.”

And if, for example, there are two “not qualified” judges on the 2nd Circuit, “we can raise the number of judges by two; that will help neutralize” the impact.

Kirschner also suggests the establishment of an InterBranch Disputes Court (IBDC), which would handle conflicts between the branches of government. A single nonpartisan judge in a designated courtroom would hear and resolve the types of seemingly intractable problems that have been tying up governmental functioning. “In less than a month, [the issue would be] taken out of delays.”

Considering all the court battles and “running out the clock” during the impeachment hearings and other situations of late, that seems like an intriguing idea.

I suspect Kirschner would never be making these recommendations if it weren’t for what we’ve seen over the past several years. Clearly, post-Trump, there is a greater need for citizen activism and reevaluating our longheld norms than ever before.

“Donald Trump has blown chasms of corruption and crime [into our system],” he says. “Now we know what we need to fix. It’s our responsibility and our honor to fix it.”

I’m sure Kirschner isn’t suggesting that Democrats would be apolitical in selecting judges. Nor am I making that assumption in presenting his views. A President Biden would surely appoint those who are compatible with his world views and judicial philosophies. 

But I feel confident that a Biden-Harris administration would never seek to appoint a judge whom the ABA found “not qualified.” And with the Democratic “big tent” of varying views, I would expect appointees to be more in synch with where most Americans are on the important issues of our day, such as voting rights, health care, and sensible gun legislation.

Glenn Kirschner is a very serious legal voice who has earned numerous awards throughout his career, including several for trial excellence and one for “fairness, ethics, and trial excellence.” (I look forward to listening to his other podcasts, including one on police reform.)

He has clearly been profoundly shaken by the Trump administration, et al, perversions of the law to which he has devoted his career, and has decided, as he says early in the podcast, that it isn’t enough to define and analyze a problem; one must also offer solutions. And so he has.

What do you think of them?

Assuming a Biden-Harris administration in January, would these steps be accepted in our still-highly polarized country? Are you concerned about “not qualified” judges with firm political agendas making the laws that will govern us all for years to come? Can you see yourself volunteering to spend time in a courtroom as part of a Citizens Brigade? Any other thoughts stimulated by this post?

Annie

Continue reading “This Man Has a Plan to “Unpack” the Federal Courts”

Think Trump’s Not Moving Toward Total Autocracy? This International Analyst Knows the Signs Too Well…

Michael McFaul, Stanford University

[Note from Annie: I’ve extracted from Twitter a series of observations made by Michael McFaul last week after viewing the Republican National Convention that I think form a compelling picture of the dangers we’ll face if we don’t remove President Trump from office in November. (The emphases are mine.)

McFaul served as Special Assistant to President Obama and Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House from 2009 to 2012, and then as the United States Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. The author of several books and an academic at Stanford, he cites his research interests as American foreign policy, great power relations, and the relationship between democracy and development.]

—————————————

For those of us who study autocracies, including elections in autocracies, there were a lot of familiar messages, symbols,  and methods on display this week at the Republican National Convention.

1. Cult of the Personality.  This show was all about Trump. (3 years after the death of Stalin, Khrushchev gave his secret speech in 1956, titled “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences.” I wonder if a future GOP leader will give a similar speech someday?)

2. Administrative resources.  Autocrats and semi-autocrats frequently use government resources for personal electoral gain.  We have the Hatch Act to prevent such behavior in the U.S. It’s obviously not working. [McFaul is speaking here of Trump’s illegal use of the White House, its gardens, and its personnel to stage his convention. We all paid for that picture of opulence, folks.]

3. Blatant disregard for the law.  That Trump’s team dared anyone to charge them with violating the Hatch Act is exactly what Putin and other autocrats do all the time. Laws don’t apply to the king & his court, only to the subjects.

4. Blatant disregard for facts.  As U.S. ambassador to Russia, I found this Putin regime trait most frustrating. We—the U.S. government—were constrained by facts. They were not. Trump obviously was not constrained by facts last night. He usually isn’t.

5. Us versus Them populism. “Elites” versus “the people” nationalism. Autocratic populists use polarizing identity politics to divide societies all the time. Many populist leaders actually have little in common with the “masses.”  (Putin is very rich.)

6. The opposition is the “enemy of the people.” Putin & other autocratic populists cast their opponents as radicals & revolutionaries. They don’t focus on their own records – often there is little to celebrate – but the horrors that will happen if they lose power. Sound familiar?

6b. There is one difference between Putin and Trump so far. Putin also claims falsely that his political opponents are supported by foreign enemies, the U.S. & the West. Trump has not gone there full-throated yet.  But my guess is it’s coming. “Beijing Biden” is a hint.

7. Law and Order.  Autocratic populists all shout about it, even when the opposite is happening on their watch.

8. The good tsar versus the bad boyars.  Kings and tsars always blamed bad provincial leaders for national ills. Putin blames the governors all the time… just like Trump.

9.  Individual acts of royal kindness.  Putin, like the tsars he emulates, does this all the time. Trump offering a pardon or “granting” citizenship (which of course he didn’t & doesn’t have the power to do) are typical, faux gestures of royal kindness toward his subjects.

10. Homage and fealty. Vassals must signal their complete loyalty and absolute devotion to kings and autocrats. Those that don’t are banished from the royal court or the party. (Where were the Bushes last night?)

11. The royal family.  In this dimension, Trump acts more like a monarch than even Putin. (But watch Lukashenko and his gun-toting teenage son in Belarus) The many Trump family members who performed this week–even a girlfriend got a slot–went beyond even what Putin does.

12. There’s still one big difference. We still don’t know who will win the November election. That uncertainty is a crucial difference between electoral democracies & electoral autocracies. It’s also a difference that has no guarantee of lasting, depending on the outcome this year.

_________________________

The Bottom Line:

FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE–AND THEN VOTE!

Annie

Continue reading “Think Trump’s Not Moving Toward Total Autocracy? This International Analyst Knows the Signs Too Well…”

Fighting Our “What If Trump Won’t Leave?” Paranoia

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Peaceful Transition: Obama to Trump. Image courtesy of flickr.com

I had promised myself—and you—that I would stop talking about the gross elephant trampling through our Constitution (with apologies to real elephants, wonderful creatures that they are!).

My way of dealing with my strong feelings about Trump has been to make him tiny and powerless in my mind—even as I recognize his increasingly dangerous actions and expect them to continue to heighten as Election Day nears.

But then I read an article in The Boston Globe with the scary title “A bipartisan group secretly gathered to game out a contested Trump-Biden election. It wasn’t pretty.” (I’m not linking to it because on the computer it’s behind a paywall. But you can Google it on your phone.)

That article persuaded me that I need both to clarify my thinking about risks and take a steely look at the Mayhem Maker in Chief.

The Globe reports on a June meeting whose attendees included “political operatives, former government and military officials, and academics [who] quietly convened online for what became a disturbing exercise in the fragility of American democracy.”

Comprised of both Democrats and Republicans, they call themselves “The Transition Integrity Project.”

The group was considering questions that are now being asked quite openly, including by the Democratic nominee, former VP Joe Biden:

“What if President Trump refuses to concede a loss, as he publicly hinted recently he might do? How far could he go to preserve his power? And what if Democrats refuse to give in?” (all emphases mine)

Once again, as we have so many times since the beginning of Trump’s chaotic “reign,” we’ve learned that our system of government has functioned since its inception largely by norms, rather than laws.

And now we have a guy in the Oval Office who cares about neither—and repeatedly claims that vote by mail will cause vast fraud that will rig the election. That’s a cause for concern.

Never mind that there’s almost zero evidence to back up his claim, that he, himself votes by mail, and that mail-in ballots have been a staple of red states for years and have been shown to advantage neither political party. He’s simply laying the framework for contesting an election that at this point he seems likely to lose.

When asked by Fox interviewer Chris Wallace a question that should have been easy for any president, “Will you accept the election results?,” Trump answered “I’ll have to see.”

And thus crashed the biggest norm in the life of our democratic republic: casting doubt on the peaceful transition of power from one president to the next.

What would happen between November 3 and January 20, 2021, when the newly elected President is to be sworn in?

One of The Transition Project organizers, Rosa Brooks, a law professor at Georgetown and former official at the Defense Department offered this gloomy assessment:

“All of our scenarios ended in both street-level violence and political impasse. The law is…almost helpless against a president who’s willing to ignore it.”

In addition to Trump’s statements, Brooks said that his willingness to use federal forces to confront protesters “has really shaken people” so that ‘What was really a fringe idea has now become an anxiety that’s pretty widely shared.”

Several of their scenarios focused on swing states with divided government (Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina), which might send two different results to Congress. The Globe explained that if there were a dispute in a state’s election, the legislature and governor—of differing parties—could send differing slates of electors.

There have been many similar scare stories in the media, and I’ll acknowledge that I’m unable to totally ignore them. In a discussion yesterday, one of my friends spoke of Trump’s “Fifth Column”—the NRA. If he can’t get the sorry melange of camouflaged Federal agency guys now making things worse in Portland—and possibly soon in a city near you—to defend him, he’s got the militia that gun-toting haters have always dreamed about.

But something inside me said, “Whoa!” And that something was aided by my thoughtful lawyer friend whom I’ve quoted before.

This time he wrote:

“Let me remind everyone that the laws of probability teach us that when a disaster depends on a series of unlikely events, you must multiply to the low probability of those events to determine the likelihood of the outcome.

“If three independent events each have a ten percent chance of occurring, but each is necessary for disaster to happen, the likelihood of the event occurring is one-in-a-thousand. But the coverage on the news media seemed to add the likelihood of the occurrences to make the outcome seem probable.”

Please bear with me now while I explain why I’ve decided not to become deeply troubled by the post-election apocalypse scenarios. My positivity, however, hinges on this not being a close election. The closer to a landslide Biden gets, the better are the chances of avoiding trouble.

That means if you feel as I do, you must do everything in your power to make sure we get out the vote in huge numbers and donate what we can to combat the vast financial resources on the other side.

I’m also putting some faith in Mary Trump. The president’s niece, author of that tell-all best seller about her dysfunctional family’s creating “the most dangerous man in the world,” is a trained psychologist who knows the person in question well.

When she was asked what she felt he would do if he lost, she said if he suffered a big loss, he would flee in embarrassment.

It’s clear that Trump is unhappy; he’s lost control of the narrative, and he can’t campaign or speechify the way he’d like.

His party isn’t moving in lockstep with him at this point; there are dissenters, and they just rejected his absolute, don’t-mess-with-me insistence that a payroll tax be part of the Republicans’ next coronavirus relief package. (That legislation is definitely too late to help many Americans, and will undoubtedly be too little as well. All the more reason that we need Democrats to hold the House and take the Senate!)

Speaking of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she thinks Trump’s ambiguous talk about leaving is designed to make people think there’s no point in voting. In fact, I’ve read some reports that his fraud allegations are actually discouraging his own older white vote-by-mailers, a true irony.

But so many times this strange man has thrown wild ideas into the atmosphere and then backed away from them. He may very well try to contest the election, but since the only person he seems to care about is himself, he may actually be looking for a way to throw in the towel.

And he adores messing with our heads. He has seen, by the media reaction, that casting doubt on his willingness to vacate the Oval Office is a head-messer par excellence.

So to paraphrase the words he used when speaking about why Black Americans should vote for him, he’s probably thinking, “What have I got to lose? I can make these people crazy just by saying ‘I don’t know yet. I’ll have to see.’”

I realize none of this is solid evidence, but I think it’s better if we all focus on what we can control instead of what we can’t. We can do that by playing as big a role as we can to help this tiny man get turned out of the White House by an enormous, unquestionable mandate.

But, you may be thinking: Annie, what if you’re wrong? What if it’s as terrible as all these pundits and reporters are convinced it will be?

Well, Fred Kaplan, writing in Slate, says Trump just wouldn’t get away with it—and even if no one convinced him it was a really terrible idea and “the nightmare happens,” it wouldn’t last long. His article is worth reading, but here’s a summary.

It’s January 20, 2021. Trump says it was a fake election and he’s still president. But, Kaplan writes, “here’s what would happen next.”

*At noon, the nuclear codes expire and the officer who’s been carrying them leaves. “If Trump and whatever lackeys stay with him prevent the officer from leaving, another officer, holding a backup football [name for the code book] would join Biden at the inauguration ceremony.”

*As for fears that Trump would seize control of the military, Kaplan says forget that: they’ll immediately turn to salute now-President Biden.

“The principle of civilian control is hammered into American officers from the time they’re cadets—and the 20th Amendment of the Constitution states, “The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January’—no ifs, ands, or buts.’”

*If Trump gives the military an order, they’ll refuse it.

“If any officers obey his order—say, to circle the White House to keep him in power—they would certainly be tried and convicted on charges of mutiny and sedition, and they would know this before taking the leap.”

It’s worth emphasizing that the motley crew in cities now, unidentified and in camouflage, are not the military per se: they are a combo of Homeland Security agents, Border Patrol people, and Federal property protectors.

*The Secret Service will leave except for the small contingent who will protect him for the rest of his life.

Kaplan then states that Biden’s acting attorney general will by this time have drawn up arrest warrants for Trump and whoever remains with him for criminal trespassing, at the very least—and if he calls for armed forces or militia to defend him, he could be charged with incitement or insurrection.

And if the worst case scenario were to occur,

“a few M1 tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue should make the would-be rebels flee. It would be terrible if the standoff came to this, but Commander in Chief Biden would have this option available, if necessary.”

I don’t know about you, but I now feel so much better! Of course, we still have to be wary of voter suppression, Russian disinformation, and the Post Office (USPS).

I recently commented on another blog that now that Trump’s guy is heading the Post Office, we have to worry about vote-by-mail ballots being tossed into the incinerator. And I stated that I hate the fact that I’m entertaining conspiracy theories—except that Trump’s people probably thought about them first.

Then, unfortunately, I received some unwanted validation. A major slowdown of mail delivery is now under way, with postal workers being told to leave mail that hasn’t been delivered for the next day and to go home—something that was once anathema to their responsibilities.

That may explain why I was advised when returning a package this week that I use an alternate to the USPS because returns have been delayed and lost. This is a bad self-fulfilling prophecy, but I needed to ensure I got a timely refund, so I complied.

This Washington Post  article about the planned reconfiguration of the post office to make it a profitable business observes:

“The changes also worry vote-by-mail advocates, who insist that any policy that slows delivery could imperil access to mailed and absentee ballots. It reinforces the need, they say, for Congress to provide the agency emergency coronavirus funding.

“Attacks on USPS not only threaten our economy and the jobs of 600,000 workers. With our states now reliant on mail voting to continue elections during the pandemic, the destabilizing of the post office is a direct attack on American democracy itself,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.). “It has been 59 days since the House passed $25 billion to keep USPS alive. The Senate must pass it now. Democracy hangs in the balance.”

So please consider contacting your elected officials to insist that the Post Office must function appropriately—and Congress must pass the emergency assistance that the House has demanded to keep the Post Office open at this critical time.

Eventually, Trump will no longer be in power. I expect his next gig will be on right-wing media—possibly One America News Network (OANN), which has been the source of many of the conspiracies he’s echoed and is more reliably pro-Trump than Fox these days. At one point there were stories that Don Jr. had invested in the company. The owners denied that, but a Trump-OANN relationship would be beneficial for all involved.

Except for the rest of us, who would be continually showered by off-the-wall racist and white supremacist conspiracies.

But it would be far better to have him there, speaking not all that differently from the way he does now, than anywhere near the White House.

Annie

Continue reading “Fighting Our “What If Trump Won’t Leave?” Paranoia”

Barr’s Army: The Slender Legal Reed for Overtaking American Cities

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Wall of Moms, Portland. Photo credit: Reuters/Caitlin Ochs

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and other elected officials in Oregon have been telling Washington in no uncertain terms: “Take your troops out of Portland.”

Wheeler has referred to the unidentified federal individuals dressed in camouflage and driving unmarked vans as President Trump’s “personal army.” You’ve no doubt heard that there have already been casualties in this foray.

But it would be more appropriate to call them “Barr’s army.” Our quite-recent history includes Attorney General Barr’s giving the orders for the attack on nonviolent protesters outside of the White House to facilitate Trump’s photo op holding a Bible.

That episode, which generated anger and ridicule for the President, led General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to apologize and say he should not have been there.

Using federal forces against an unwilling state or municipality has apparently been a work-in-progress for Barr for decades, according to an article in justsecurity.org, an organization based at the Reiss Center on Law and Security,  New York University School of Law.

The article is titled “Portland’s Pretext: Barr’s Long History Manipulating Law to Put Federal Forces on US Streets.” (all emphases mine)

Since the President has already announced his plans to have counterparts to the forces now in Portland readied for “deployment” wherever and wherever the Attorney General and or the President chooses—specifically, Chicago, New York, and any other city run by Democrats that they deem “out of control,” it seems useful to look closely at Barr’s well-formed plan.

It can be traced back to the Virgin Islands, where there were civil disturbances following a large hurricane (Hugo) in 1989. Barr was then an assistant attorney general, leading the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

According to the authors of the justsecurity piece, in a 2001 interview Barr “boasted that during this time he found a way to deploy federal forces based on a legal justification that appears to now being played out in Portland:

“Barr: We started quickly looking at the legal books. What authority do we have to go in there and start enforcing the law in St. Croix? We looked at some statutes, and we finally decided that without Presidential authority we could send down law enforcement people to defend the federal function.

“That is, we said, ‘People are interfering with the operation of our courts’ and so on. I said, ‘We can send people down to defend the federal function, keep our courts open, and if they see any crime being committed in front of them, then, as law enforcement officers, they can make the arrest.’ Our object was just to get federal law enforcement down there and play it by ear. Technically, we couldn’t send them down to—

“Question: Did you consider interference with the mail as a basis?

“Barr: Yes, we had a whole list of things like that, interference with the mail, interference with the courts. But basically we were claiming that there was breakdown, civil unrest that was interfering with the federal function. We found these old cases that said the federal government could go in there. This was without declaring martial law.”

So he claimed they used the purported—and false—need to defend the federal function of the courts to put down the looting and unrest in the Virgin Islands.

“Barr bragged in his 2001 interview that he had found a way to get the federal forces ‘down there and then play it by ear’ without having to declare martial law.”

The authors note that he said in the same interview that he could, similarly, deploy military forces abroad—without Congressional approval—by, in the authors’ words, “changing the facts on the ground.”

The implications of that view are rather harrowing, don’t you think?

But it gets worse.

In fact, as the authors describe in a subsequent article, Barr’s use of the Virgin Islands situation was based on historical revisionism: in 1989, the governor of the Virgin Islands had requested military help—entirely the opposite of the Portland situation.

That episode and California governor Pete Wilson’s request for federal assistance to control the rioting following the beating of Rodney King in 1992 are the only recent instances when the Insurrection Act was invoked—and both times were at the request of the governors involved.

And, the authors note, “the only modern precedents in which governors’ consent were overridden was under a section of the Insurrection Act purposefully established to implement the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee to equal protection.”  [Used during the Reconstruction and Civil Rights eras.]

So Barr’s slender legal reed—based on a false revision of the historical record—snaps in two. You can understand that invoking the Insurrection Act would not be deemed a wise political move so close to the election. Better to weasel around it.

In the Portland mess, the President signed an executive order that directed federal agencies to send personnel to protect monuments, statues, and federal property.

The Department of Homeland Security,  now headed by an Acting Security, a former lobbyist with no relevant credentials,  then formed “rapid deployment teams” that consist of officers from Customs and Border Protection, the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to support the Federal Protective Service, which is responsible for protecting public property.

Portland state and local officials, the US attorney, and the ACLU are filing lawsuits, and other mayors, such as Chicago’s Lori Lightfoot, have said they will fight these unwanted incursions with whatever means they have.

But Washington also claims that the Homeland Security Act of 2002 permits the Department’s Acting Secretary, Chad Wolf, to deputize others to help the Federal Protective Service.

Such newly minted, untrained agents of the law can be armed, make warrantless arrests, and conduct investigations “on and off the property in question,” notes The New York Times.

Garrett Graff, a historian who’s been studying the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told the Times:

“An interpretation of that authority so broadly seems to undermine all the other careful checks and balances on DHS’s power because the officers’ power is effectively limitless and all encompassing.”

And does that give you chills?

We talk a lot about this administration’s breaking norms. Here’s another. Prior DHS officials, the Times reports, said the agency would “normally only dispatch agents to assist with local incidents if the state or municipal governments asked for help and deputized that responsibility.

“In Portland, local leaders have done the opposite.”

What happens now? As is often the case with the Trump administration’s moves—usually with Barr at the helm—the damage proceeds while the parties wrangle in court. Meanwhile, this lawless President, tanking in the polls, bored and helpless to seek remedies for the pandemic that is destroying lives, livelihoods, and our economy—is playing his “Law and Order” card to the hilt.

Show enough graffiti on government buildings, he seems to think, and people will be so disgusted or frightened that they’ll forget the enormous threats they’re facing every day due to his ineptitude. Sure, that should get the suburban women into the President’s camp.

Or will it? What about the Wall of Moms in Portland (pictured above) who are bravely covering their faces with shields and their heads with helmets and placing themselves, arms locked together, between the peaceful protesters and the armed federal officers?

Yes, there will be more violence; all the local and state officials are in agreement that things were de-escalating until these deputized makers of mayhem arrived on the scene.

Watch the video of a former Navy officer, his shirt emblazoned with the word “Navy,” mistakenly thinking he could engage them in conversation to find out what their goals were. They beat him and sprayed him and broke his arm.

But isn’t that the goal? Get people so angry that they begin to side with the disrupters? The crowds have grown substantially since this federal “action” began.

I have written before about Attorney General Barr and the damage he’s wrought. In the past, I’ve used rhyme and hyphenated his name, my little tricks to myself to cut him down to size.

But this time the horror defies rhyme. He can bend the law any way he chooses. He has unleashed fascistic forces onto American streets. I no longer think that word is excessive.

It is time to impeach, disbar, or otherwise end his reign of continual harm to our nation—employing his despicable misuse of the law for nefarious ends that move us further and further away from our democratic ideals.

Annie

Continue reading “Barr’s Army: The Slender Legal Reed for Overtaking American Cities”