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The memory of a beloved pet inspires one couple's fight against injustice.

older | 1 | .... | 82 | 83 | (Page 84)

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    Jeff Sessions and Stephen Miller

    How riddled with corruption is Alabama's Republican Party? Consider this mind-blowing set of facts: At roughly the same time the state's House speaker (Mike Hubbard), governor (Robert Bentley), and Supreme Court chief justice (Roy Moore) were forced from office due to allegations of misconduct, one of the state's U.S. senators (Jeff Sessions) had a staffer (Stephen Miller) who, using taxpayer-funded resources, was promoting white supremacist literature and talking points to the right-wing Web site Breitbart News.

    That is five Republicans -- who engaged in or allowed -- alleged activities that were criminal, dishonest, unlawful, despicable, or some combination of all those. We can put all of these acts under the broad category of "corruption," and they were committed by individuals who were elected or appointed to represent the State of Alabama.

    With Hubbard, Moore, and Bentley having already hit the exits, we are left with this question: Should Miller be fired or forced to resign from his current position as a policy adviser to President Donald Trump -- and should Sessions be pressured to back out of the 2020 GOP race for his old U.S. Senate seat, currently held by Democrat Doug Jones?

    The worst might be yet to come for Miller and Sessions. Wednesday's report about Miller's emails being leaked to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is just the first of an expected series of revelations based on roughly 900 emails. Upcoming installments might include much more damaging revelations than we've seen already, and they could answer this question: Did Miller act on his own or did he trade in white nationalist talking points with Sessions' knowledge and support? This is from an article at the Philadelphia Inquirer:

    The report is the first installment in a series that draws on more than 900 leaked emails that Miller sent to a Breitbart writer over a 15-month period between 2015 and 2016. The report describes Miller's emails as overwhelmingly focused on race and immigration and characterizes him as obsessed with ideas like "white genocide" (a conspiracy theory associated with white supremacists) and sharply curbing immigration by nonwhites. 
    Among the more damming email exchanges highlighted in the SPLC report is one that shows Miller directing a Breitbart reporter (Katie McHugh) to aggregate stories from the white supremacist journal American Renaissance, or "AmRen," for stories that emphasize crimes committed by immigrants and nonwhites. In another, Miller is apparently upset that Amazon removed Confederate flag merchandise from its marketplace in the wake of the 2015 Charleston church massacre. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also owns The Washington Post.) Others reportedly show him promoting The Camp of Saints, a racist French novel popular among white nationalists.

    Are even more damning revelations likely coming in future installments from the SPLC? Our guess is yes; we doubt the organization fired its strongest shots in the first article. While the public now probably associates Miller with Donald Trump, most of these actions happened on Jeff Sessions' watch, as driven home in this report from New York magazine:

    Nobody would mistake Stephen Miller for a humanitarian. The White House speechwriter is widely known to be the force shaping President Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric and policies. Remember Trump’s Oval Office address in January, with its hyperbolic references to rapes, murders, and even dismemberment? That was all Miller, as McKay Coppins reported for The Atlantic at the time. Or the speech the president gave in Poland back in 2017? “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive,” Trump told a crowd in Warsaw. “Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?” If that sounds too eloquent for Trump, you’re right. The words belonged to Miller. So, too, did many of Trump’s most outrageous immigration policies, like family separation, and his ongoing quest to end temporary protected status for thousands of refugees.

    None of this suggests that Trump is fully Miller’s puppet. Trump was a racist long before he became president and he campaigned on nationalist sentiments that Miller appears to share. But it is true that Miller has used the Trump White House to amplify his own, more developed notions about immigrants and race. A new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center clarifies the source of Miller’s views. He isn’t just an immigration skeptic. He’s immersed in the white-nationalist movement, and has been at least since he worked for Jeff Sessions. . . .

    Miller’s white-nationalist sympathies aren’t limited to immigration. After Dylann Roof murdered black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, Miller was troubled by the prospect that Confederate monuments might disappear. In one message to McHugh, he wrote, “What do the [Confederate monument] vandals say to the people fighting and dying overseas in uniform right now who are carrying on a seventh or eighth generation of military service in their families, stretching back to our founding?” (The military might have its own white-nationalist problem, but as a matter of fact, it is not an all-white institution.) In a subsequent email, Miller wondered if the Spanish should thus be asked to stop displaying the country’s flag since it is, after all, a symbol of colonialism.

    On their own, the emails are incontrovertible proof that Miller is not only racist, but is conversant in and influenced by white-nationalist thought.

    Does the same hold true for Miller's boss at the time, former U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)? Future reporting from SPLC likely will make that clear.

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    Mike McGarity
    Many of our readers probably have felt they have been on the receiving end of a runaround at some point in their lives -- maybe from a retail store, a utility company, a bank, an auto mechanic's shop. I've certainly had such experiences, but I'm not sure I ever had truly been put through "the wash cycle" until I received a runaround from law enforcement.

    That experience left my head spinning and made me think I had been in the presence of runaround "greatness."

    It all grew from our former Alabama neighbor, the criminally inclined Mike McGarity (who works at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama), attacking me near the entrance of our neighborhood and hitting me in the back with a roadside sign. Alabama law is simple and clear about how it classifies what McGarity did. (See Code of Alabama 13A-6-21.) He committed a Class C felony, which is punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000.

    Such a punishment would be a stunner for most people. But given that McGarity already had eight misdemeanor convictions on his record, it might not have been a shock to him.

    Here is key element, under the law, to this incident. The bleeding abrasion -- I've called it a welt -- that McGarity left on my back was about 2-3 inches from my spine and 6 inches or so below my neck. What kind of damage could such a blow cause if my spine or neck -- any neurological center -- had taken the full force? I'm not qualified to make an assessment like that, but I feel safe in saying that severe blows to the spine and neck have been known to be life altering.

    McGarity committed a felony, under Alabama law, for two reasons: (1) He caused physical injury; (2) He used a "dangerous instrument" to do it. That is second-degree assault, a felony. Here is how a "dangerous instrument" is defined by statute, at Code of Alabama 13A-1-2

    (5) DANGEROUS INSTRUMENT. Any instrument, article, or substance which, under the circumstances in which it is used, attempted to be used, or threatened to be used, is highly capable of causing death or serious physical injury. The term includes a "vehicle," as that term is defined in subdivision (15).

    Note the key phrase "highly capable of causing death of serious physical injury." Here is the statutory definition of "serious physical injury":

    (14) SERIOUS PHYSICAL INJURY. Physical injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.

    Could McGarity's roadside sign -- made of wood and hard plastic and swung with two hands like a baseball bat by a "grown man" (using that term loosely), at my spine and near my neck -- have caused "protracted impairment of health." I don't think there is any question the answer is yes. The whole scenario still causes me to have visions of at least partial paralysis, with wheelchairs, crutches, and similar devices becoming a regular feature of my life. As we show below, Alabama case law has come to define "dangerous instrument" in a fairly broad way, with dozens of objects receiving that classification in cases where people were injured.

    For now, let's return to the runaround. It started when I tried to get "law officials" in Shelby County to properly classify the offense as a felony. I spoke with an assistant district attorney, a magistrate, and three sheriff's officials (a patrol deputy, a sergeant, and a lieutenant). No matter how clearly Alabama law said otherwise, each one insisted McGarity's offense was a misdemeanor.

    The whole circus began with Dept. Lee Stockman, who came to our house to take a report. When I obtained a copy of the report a few days later, I noticed that he had classified it as a misdemeanor, so I called him.

    (Note: Stockman went on to complete a degree at Birmingham School of Law and worked as an associate attorney at the Law Office of Patrick E. Kennedy, P.C. in Pelham. Stockman died in October 2017, and I have not been able to find a cause of death via public reports.)

    Stockman stated that he classified it as a misdemeanor in his original report -- and everybody up the line was unwilling to change it, no matter how wrong it was. (Video of my conversation with Dept. Stockman is embedded at the end of this post.) In other words, the least experienced and qualified person in the whole process -- a patrol officer -- made the misdemeanor determination, and all of his superiors took a "hear no evil, see no evil" approach when questioned about it.

    In essence, the assault wasn't against them, so they didn't care how it was treated. They just wanted what was easiest for the court system to deal with -- and a misdemeanor case goes to a bench trial before a district judge, and that is easy compared to a felony, which goes before a circuit judge and likely involves a jury.

    Here is a portion of my conversation with Stockman about his designation of a third-degree assault, which is a misdemeanor:

    Roger Shuler (RS): I don't understand how it was listed as third degree.

    Deputy Stockman (DS): You have to have intent to cause serious physical injury, and you have to cause serious physical injury.

    (RS): No. Read No. 2. It says with intent to cause physical injury. Doesn't say serious; that's what first degree says. . . .
    (RS): What did you base third degree on?
    (DS): The fact it's a scrape.

    (RS): No, you called it an abrasion in your report, and it was bleeding. I've got case law that says someone kicked in the shins, with a split lip, with a skin on the nose are all physical injury.

    DS: I based it on my experience in law enforcement.

    With that last line, we are getting at the truth. Stockman probably didn't even consult the law. He just put down what he had seen done in other Shelby County assault cases, never considering whether those designations were correct, under the law. I call it law enforcement by "folk lore." A department designates a classification of a case a certain way for several years, and it becomes departmental folk lore. That's how all such cases are classified, regardless of what the written law says.

    Also, I showed Stockman the abrasion on my back when he came to our home, but he apparently never considered that it was right next to my spine and just below my neck. Under the law, the damage that a "dangerous instrument" is capable of causing, depending on how it is used, is critical to proper classification of the offense. McGarity used his sign to hit me, at full force, near two areas that can cause life-changing injuries. Stockman apparently didn't know the law or didn't care to take note of where I had been hit.

    Speaking of written law, let's look at that.  The controlling law on the McGarity incident is Code of Alabama 13-A-6-21 (a) (2), which reads:

    (a) A person commits the crime of assault in the second degree if the person does any of the following:

    (2) With intent to cause physical injury to another person, he or she causes physical injury to any person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument.

    That is assault-second degree, and it's a Class C felony. That is the correct designation for McGarity's offense.

    Assault-first degree is a Class B felony (Code of Alabama 13A-6-20), and it requires "serious physical injury." Serious physical injury has been defined as "Serious physical injury means physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death, or that causes serious and protracted disfigurement, protracted impairment of health, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ." The abrasion on my back did not qualify, so it could not be first-degree assault.

    Assault-third degree is a Class A misdemeanor (Code of Alabama 13A-6-22). That's how Stockman and his superiors insisted on classifying the McGarity offense, but that could not be right because here is how the statute reads in pertinent part:

    (a) A person commits the crime of assault in the third degree if:

    (1) With intent to cause physical injury to another person, he causes physical injury to any person;  or

    (2) He recklessly causes physical injury to another person;  or

    (3) With criminal negligence he causes physical injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon or a dangerous instrument;

    As you can see, third-degree assault generally applies in cases that do not involve use of a "deadly weapon" or "dangerous instrument" -- and do involve recklessness or criminal negligence. If McGarity and I had been in a crowded place, and he started swinging his arms around, and happened to strike me in the face (causing a bruise), that would have been assault-third degree.

    Lee Stockman
    But nothing like that occurred in this case. McGarity did use a dangerous instrument (a road sign), under Alabama law, and he grabbed it with both hands and swung it intentionally at me -- with no one else in the vicinity, and having a history of attempting to trample my rights. There was nothing reckless, negligent, or accidental about it; he meant to hit me, and he did hit me.

    As noted above, McGarity's offense was a felony for two key reasons: (1) He used a "dangerous instrument," under Alabama law; (2) He caused "physical injury," under Alabama law.

    We already have looked at relevant statutory law, but let's examine Alabama case law. Most of the relevant case law can be found at Burger v. State, 915 So. 2d 586 (2005) and Davis v. State, 470 So. 2d 1340 (Ala. Crim. App., 1985)

    In Davis, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals found that a stick, a tree limb, and a shoe were "deadly weapons or dangerous instruments" sufficient for a felony assault. The appellate court has made similar findings in other cases. In Austin v. State, 555 So. 2d 324 (Ala. Crim. App., 1989), the court found a piece of lumber (2 X 4) was a dangerous instrumentIn Helton v. State, 372 So. 2d 390 (Ala. Crim. App., 1979), the court cited cases where a large stone, a Coke bottle, a boot, and an aluminum chair were considered deadly weapons or dangerous instruments.

    What constitutes a physical injury. The Burger case makes it clear, and the bar is pretty low:

    Here, the testimony of the two officers was sufficient to establish that Officer Walker had suffered "physical injury." This court has held that the definition of physical injury includes a "black eye,"South v. City of Mountain Brook, 688 So. 2d 292, 297 (Ala.Crim.App.1996); a "busted lip" and "skint nose,"Eubanks v. State, 611 So. 2d 448, 450(Ala.Crim.App.1992); and several kicks in the groin that "hurt for a second,"Striplin v. City of Dothan, 607 So. 2d 1285, 1287 (Ala.Crim.App.1992).

    Did the bleeding abrasion on my back match the examples of "physical injury" outlined above in Burger? Yes. Did McGarity's roadside sign match the examples of "dangerous instruments" outlined in Davis, Austin, and Helton? Yes.

    Therefore, we are talking about a second-degree assault, which is a Class C felony.

    As for Deputy Stockman, he said he could tell that I was not going to be satisfied with his answers -- and he was right -- so he referred me to his supervisor, Sgt. Jayme Moore. That's where the runaround took on new dimensions.

    (To be continued)

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    Jeffrey Epstein

    Criminal charges are expected to be brought this week against two correctional officers who were responsible for guarding Jeffrey Epstein at the time of his death at a federal jail in New York City, according to a report from the Associated Press.In light of recent reports from an independent medical examiner that Epstein's injuries were more consistent with homicidal strangulation than suicide, the criminal process might bring the public closer to the truth about what happened to the financier and accused sex trafficker.

    From an article by AP reporters Michael Balsamo and Tom Hays:

    Two correctional officers responsible for guarding Jeffrey Epstein when he took his own life are expected to face criminal charges this week for falsifying prison records, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.

    The federal charges could come as soon as Tuesday and are the first in connection with Epstein’s death. The wealthy financier died at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York while awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls.

    The officers on Epstein’s unit at the federal jail in New York City are suspected of failing to check on him every half-hour, as required, and of fabricating log entries to claim they had. Federal prosecutors offered the guards a plea bargain, but the AP reported Friday that the officers declined the deal.

    The Epstein case already has shown the federal correctional system is manned by overworked staffers, who often cut corners and fail to follow proper procedures. From AP:

    Both guards were working overtime because of staffing shortages. They have been placed on administrative leave while the FBI and the Justice Department’s inspector general investigate the circumstances surrounding Epstein’s death. The 66-year-old had been awaiting trial on charges of sexually abusing teenage girls.

    Epstein was placed on suicide watch after he was found on his cell floor July 23 with bruises on his neck. Multiple people familiar with operations at the jail have said Epstein was then taken off suicide watch about a week before his death, meaning he was less closely monitored but still supposed to be checked on every 30 minutes.

    Epstein’s death exposed mounting evidence that the chronically understaffed Metropolitan Correctional Center may have bungled its responsibility to keep him alive. Guards often work overtime day after day, and other employees are pressed into service as correctional officers.

    Falsification of records might prove to be the central issue in a criminal case against the guards:

    Falsification of records has been a problem throughout the federal prison system. Kathleen Hawk Sawyer, who was named director of the Bureau of Prisons after Epstein’s death, disclosed in a Nov. 4 internal memo that a review of operations across the agency found some staff members failed to perform required rounds and inmate counts but logged that they had done so anyway.

    “Falsification of information in government systems and documents is also a violation of policy, and may be subject to criminal prosecution as well,” Hawk Sawyer wrote in the memo to top prison officials, a copy of which was obtained by the AP.

    The memo also noted that staff members who are indicted by a grand jury will be placed on an indefinite, unpaid suspension until the resolution of the criminal case.

    Epstein’s ability to take his own life while incarcerated at one of the most secure jails in America ended the possibility of a trial that would have involved prominent figures. And it sparked widespread anger that he wouldn’t have to answer for the allegations. He had pleaded not guilty and was preparing to argue that he could not be charged because of a 2008 deal he made to avoid federal prosecution on similar allegations.

    The Justice Department has vowed to aggressively investigate and bring charges against anyone who may have helped Epstein. Federal prosecutors investigating the financier’s death subpoenaed up to 20 staff members at the jail in August.

    Attorney General William Barr — who has said investigators found “serious irregularities” at the jail — said the FBI’s investigation had been slowed because some witnesses had been uncooperative.

    In addition to the shakeup at the top of the Bureau of Prisons, the warden at the Metropolitan Correctional Center had also been reassigned to a desk post at a regional office.

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    Donald Trump, with a public impeachment inquiry closing in on his presidency, is showing signs of a "hypomanic episode," according to an academic psychologist who has led an effort to alert the public about Trump's apparently unstable mental status.

    Dr. John Gartner -- in an interview with Salon's Chauncey DeVega, which was republished at Raw Story under the headline "‘Deep inside, Donald Trump is a very empty and sad person’: Psychologist John Gartner warns the president is on the verge of a ‘hypomanic episode’" -- says Trump could act out in ways that are unpredictable for the country. Writes DeVega:

    Donald Trump is not acting like late-stage Richard Nixon — yet. The latter raged and wandered about the White House in a drunken state during the climax of the Watergate impeachment scandal. But as the impeachment process moves forward, there are indications that Trump is spiraling out of control and his closest aides are apparently unable to control him.

    Trump has lived almost his entire adult life without restraints on his behavior. The stress of the impeachment process, along with the growing sense that the 2020 election will be a referendum on a deeply unpopular presidency, are forcing a man who has already shown himself to be mentally unwell into a steep decline, perhaps into psychotic behavior.

    What about Gartner's credentials? DeVega lays them out:

    Dr. John Gartner is a psychologist, psychoanalyst and former professor at the Johns Hopkins University Medical School. Gartner is also the founder of the Duty to Warn PAC, an organization working to raise awareness about the danger to the United States and the world posed by Donald Trump. Gartner was a contributor to the 2017 bestseller “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President.” Along with two other mental health professionals, he wrote the recent USA Today op-ed proclaiming that “Trump’s rash Syria move looked like a ‘hypomanic episode.'” 
    I recently spoke with Gartner about Donald Trump’s mental state and the likelihood that impeachment will force the president to act out in even more dangerous and unpredictable ways. Gartner also explains the ways that Trump’s malignant narcissism manifests itself through sadistic pleasure, which may even be sexual in nature. Gartner also considers what will happen to Trump’s followers and their “fascist fever” when Trump is eventually no longer president of the United States.

    This conversation has been edited for clarity and length. You can also listen to my full conversation with Dr. John Gartner via this link.

    First, Gartner notes that Trump's behavior appears to go beyond any form of mania to something potentially more dangerous -- malignant narcissism:

    Q: If Donald Trump were your patient, how would you evaluate his behavior over the last year or so? Is Donald Trump’s behavior devolving, as predicted by the medical literature?

    A: Yes, but in ways that I think are even more ominous than when we spoke almost a year ago. Trump is a malignant narcissist. Erich Fromm, the noted psychoanalyst who studied Nazi Germany — and the person who introduced the diagnosis of “narcissism” — explained that in such personalities their grandiosity, their narcissism, their paranoia, conspiracy theories, sociopathy, criminal behavior and sadism all go into overdrive when they get power. Those traits are also inflamed when a narcissist is challenged or attacked.

    And there is a feedback loop as well, where because they’re gaining power — which inflames their narcissism and their paranoia and their freedom to act on their criminal impulses — of course that means there will be opposition and resistance to them. Narcissists like Donald Trump then demonize and try to brutalize and invalidate anyone who does not kiss his ring. Trump has systematically eliminated every single guardrail on his power and behavior in the White House.

    There is literally nobody, not one person, who can tell him “no” right now, intervene against him. But there is another element to Trump’s dangerous behavior that we should be paying very close attention to. I believe that Donald Trump is having a hypomanic episode.

    Dr. John Gartner
    Many reporters and journalists have described Trump’s recent behavior as manic. Concerned observers highlight Trump’s tweets, which have greatly increased in number.

    A hypomanic episode is not the same as a manic episode. “Manic” is only partially accurate in describing Donald Trump because when somebody is manic, they think they’re Jesus Christ, which means they are psychotic and usually end up in the psychiatric hospital. But when someone’s hypomanic, they become more agitated, more energized, more impulsive. They act out more aggressively with poorer judgment. A hypomanic person does not listen to anybody. They do not delay their activity. They do not accept feedback from anybody else.

    This means that a hypomanic person can act quickly, impulsively and urgently, with poor judgment, in ways that will have predictably catastrophic consequences. A person with that temperament can, in moments of stress, devolve into something that is a psychiatric disorder. Essentially, everything gets accelerated for the worst. This is what we are now seeing with Donald Trump. When this will really become an even greater crisis — a crescendo in his dangerous behavior — is when Donald Trump starts making catastrophic moves internationally. He could start a war.

    Q: Trump’s speech after the Delta Force commandos killed al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader, was utterly unpresidential. It was crass and disturbing. He was truly in his element.

    A: Note Trump’s lies and grandiosity. Of course, he claims that he destroyed ISIS. He has said things such as “I’m the chosen one.” It is malignant narcissism and grandiosity, which has become more extreme.

    It is very alarming that Trump’s dysfunctional behavior is getting worse — even by earlier standards, which were very alarming. For example, Trump made a catastrophic decision to impulsively withdraw the U.S. military from Syria which leaves the Kurds to face genocide. He literally picked up the phone, talked to the president of Turkey, and without consulting or informing even one human being in his own administration, literally at 3:00 a.m. and called the military and said, “Start withdrawing from Syria.” That is a manic style of decision-making. It did start a war. There is always that narrative about a president’s leadership and the 3 a.m. phone call about a global crisis as the test of his leadership. Well, in this case Donald Trump is the crisis. He is the 3 a.m. phone call.

    Q: What do we do in a moment where it is the president of the United States who is the greatest danger to the nation and the world?

    A: It’s not that Donald Trump is the greatest danger to the world, but that he is so much more erratic and desperate, and more driven now to act out in destructive ways to feel powerful.

    Q: Donald Trump was booed during the World Series. The same thing happened when he went to Madison Square Garden to attend a UFC event. During the baseball game Trump looked like a man about to explode in rage and tears. In such a moment, how does a malignant narcissist such as Donald Trump resolve the obvious public scorn, when he imagines himself as being universally loved?

    A: Reality has always been fluid for Donald Trump. Erich Fromm said that malignant narcissists live on the boundary between sanity and insanity. This is a state almost akin to being in the middle between psychosis and neurosis. Because Donald Trump is such an inveterate liar and con man, the American people and the world do not know if Trump is just trying to con everybody or if he actually believes the crazy conspiracy theories that he touts, or crazy grandiose things such as the claim that he won the popular vote, or that he is cheered instead of being booed at public events.

    I believe that Donald Trump may just be lying and at other times he may be delusional. It shifts back and forth. People who have this level of severe personality disorder must psychologically project everything bad outward. They can never be to blame. They’re always the victim. Someone else is always to blame. They can’t own up to the bad things that they’re doing, so they must externalize the blame. People like Trump end up accusing other people of the very thing within themselves that they cannot tolerate or acknowledge.

    Q: At his rallies and other events Trump often claims that the Democrats don’t respect the Constitution: “They’re traitors, they’re treasonous. The Democrats have conducted a coup.” Does Trump actually believe that, or is that all outward projection of his own internalized guilt?

    A: Donald Trump is incapable of feeling guilt, shame or remorse. But Trump does project externally onto others what he knows is within himself. Sometimes it’s unconscious, though, so Trump is not aware that he’s projecting. Donald Trump does not feel any compunction about lying. Donald Trump cannot tolerate anything negative about himself, therefore he needs to experience it as coming from the outside where he is the innocent victim.

    Q: Several weeks ago, Trump publicly said that his wife, Melania, would not be willing to take a bullet for him. Was that a moment of honesty about their relationship?

    A: Donald Trump is a person who really is incapable of thinking of relationships as being anything but transactional. I don’t believe that Trump has a single human being in the world who actually feels affection for him or likes him and where he in turn returns the favor. There’s no human being that Donald Trump likes, unless they are helping Trump or doing something useful for him at a given moment. But the minute that person stops being useful, they cease to exist to Donald Trump.

    If you look at malignant narcissistic leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Saddam Hussein and others, they all act in that way. Unless you are a slavish toady, such personalities will eventually see you as an enemy. This is what we’ve seen with Trump’s systematic purging of people in the White House. Anyone who does not put the Great Leader above all other things — in this case, above American democracy — is purged. And that is how you get a totalitarian state.

    Q: Trump has really normalized deviance. At one of his recent rallies he even pretended to have an orgasm on stage while re-enacting a sex act. There is a deeply libidinal connection between Donald Trump and his cult members. This is an aspect of fascism which is little understood by the general public and most in the news media.

    Trump experiences great pleasure from sadism. One of the four components of narcissism is sadism, getting pleasure — maybe even sexual pleasure — from degrading, humiliating and harming your enemies.

    Q: What about Trump’s threats of both explicit and implied lethal violence against the Democrats, the whistleblower and other people who dare to oppose him?

    What would Trump be like if he didn’t have the restraints from the remnants of the United States Constitution or the Democrats in the House of Representatives? We have to wonder how many immigrants would be in concentration camps right now. How many FBI agents and Democrats and journalists would be in jail?

    A: Donald Trump would not mind seeing some journalists killed. I don’t think Trump sees the deaths of journalists as a bad thing. In totalitarian states like Russia, journalists are killed and the opposition is jailed. The courts are used to put people in jail for “corruption” when they dare to challenge the real corruption of the state. Donald Trump would be as bad as any of the other totalitarian leaders throughout history if he had the chance and the unrestricted power.

    Q: The New York Times has analyzed approximately 11,000 of Trump’s tweets. Reading them as a mental health professional, what do Trump’s tweets reveal?

    A: The most frequent use of Trump’s tweets is to attack people. There’s almost a manic level to Trump’s rage. The other most common category was self-praise. Trump is a malignant narcissist. He’s shamelessly grandiose. Trump’s paranoia is inflamed and all these behaviors and traits are getting dramatically worse because he’s destabilized.

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    Oliver Robinson

    Alabama's Drummond Company and Balch Bingham law firm allegedly conspired in schemes to launder money and  conceal payments designed to lobby the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) against designating an area in North Birmingham as a Superfund site, according to a third amended complaint in a lawsuit filed by a former Drummond executive.

    David Roberson, former VP of government affairs, essentially became the fall guy for Drummond in the summer 2018 bribery trial. But Roberson is fighting back in the civil arena, and according to a report from the banbalch.com Web site, that action is producing revelations that could lead to more corruption probes at two of Alabama's largest corporate and legal entities. From banbalch.com:

    A new third amended complaint from ex-Drummond Company executive David Roberson sheds new light on internal matters that could provoke more corruption probes of Drummond Company.

    First up: the targeting of poor black children with a “coat drive” looks like it was a way to launder more money to convicted felon and bought-and-paid-for politician Oliver Robinson.

    Using a coat drive for poor black children to launder money headed for the pocket of a corrupt politician? Can the stench of corruption get any more hideous than that? This is directly from the amended complaint in the Roberson lawsuit:

    As part of its public relations campaign to defeat the EPA in North Birmingham and at the request of Joel Gilbert of Balch Bingham, David Roberson, on behalf of Drummond Company, wrote a $5,000.00 check to be used to purchase 100 fifty-dollar gift cards to Burlington Coat Factory to be used to purchase winter coats for kids in North Birmingham.

    Unbeknownst to Plaintiff Roberson as Joel Gilbert concealed this information from the Plaintiff, Balch and Oliver Robinson had agreed for Oliver to keep $2,500.00 out of the $5,000.00. Plaintiff did not learn of this hidden fact until his criminal trial in July of 2018. Plaintiff suffered damages as a result of Balch’s concealment of it allowing Oliver to keep half of the $5,000.00 as the prosecution in Roberson’s criminal trial used this $2,500.00 payment to Oliver Robinson as damaging evidence against Roberson in his criminal trial to help it obtain a conviction against him.

    If that scam doesn't make you want to puke, try this one on for size, as reported by banbalch.com:

    But worse than that, are the revelations tied to Balch Bingham’s stooges Trey Glenn and Scott Phillips currently facing a criminal ethics trial in Jefferson County.

    How ugly are the details? From the amended Roberson complaint:
    Balch Bingham, LLP contracted with Trey Glenn (who invoiced Balch under the company name of Southeast Engineering Consulting, LLC and directed the payments to Scott Phillips) to lobby the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (or “ADEM”) to oppose the EPA in listing the North Birmingham site on the National Priorities List. The Balch invoices to Drummond seeking reimbursement for the payments to Trey Glenn and Scott Phillips were paid by Drummond General Counsel Blake Andrews and approved by Drummond CEO Mike Tracy. At the time that Scott Phillips and Trey Glenn were receiving money from Balch via Drummond to lobby ADEM on a policy matter involving the listing of North Birmingham as a Superfund site, Scott Phillips was on the Alabama Environmental Management Commission (or “AEMC”). The AEMC is the entity that oversees ADEM.

    Neither Glenn nor Phillips, while they were lobbying ADEM about it opposing the EPA’s listing of North Birmingham as a Superfund site, disclosed to ADEM the existence of their contract with Balch Bingham or that they were indirectly being paid by Drummond Company.
    Trey Glenn
    Balch and Drummond Company concealed from Roberson that Drummond was paying Phillips (who was on the AEMC), pursuant to a contract with Balch, to lobby the entity in which the AEMC supervises (ADEM). Roberson suffered damages as a result of Balch and Drummond’s concealment of their payments to Glenn and Phillips as their testimony that Drummond was paying Phillips to lobby ADEM when he was on the commission that supervises ADEM was very damaging to Roberson at his criminal trial and was used in part by the prosecution to convict Roberson even though he had no knowledge of this scheme and even though Glenn’s and Phillips’ invoices were being paid by Balch and reimbursed by Blake Andrews and Mike Tracy.

    If that sounds gross to you, it's probably because you have integrity -- something that is in short supply throughout Alabama's corporate/legal/political industrial complex. We give the last word to banbalch.com:

    The concealment is now out in the open.

    Shockingly, Drummond Company allegedly hid the money laundering and hid the secret greasing of Balch stooges from their then-Vice President of Government Affairs, David Roberson.

    Are the allegations potent enough to spur more probes from law enforcement and regulatory agencies of Drummond Company, retired Drummond CEO Mike Tracy and Drummond Company’s General Counsel Blake Andrews?

    Richard Mullen, the new CEO at Drummond, may have to mop up this mess before it floods the basement.

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    Donald Trump Jr. and his "best seller"

    The Republican National Committee's bulk purchase of Donald Trump Jr.'s new book apparently is the primary reason the author occupies the No. 1 spot on The New York Times' prestigious best-sellers list. It also points to possible fund-raising fraud and campaign-finance violations, both of which could have criminal implications -- and it suggests members of the Trump family are incapable of achieving anything in a straightforward, honest fashion. In other words, Trump Jr.'s book probably is a total piece of crap, but his cronies can help buy him the designation "best-selling author."

    We have covered this issue before in numerous posts (see here, here, and here), especially as it relates to former Missouri secretary of state and U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander -- and efforts to buy a "best-selling author" spot for his wife, Diana. Jason Kander's political career seems to have stalled after he withdrew from the Kansas City mayoral race in fall 2018, citing depression and PTSD from his stint in the military. Sources tell Legal Schnauzer the real reason for the withdrawal likely is because he had been outed, via a citizen whistle blowers' document called The Kander Memo, as having ties to  various forms of fraud.

    That brings us back to the subterfuge behind Donald Trump Jr.'s sudden status as a major literary figure. From a report at the International Business Times:

    After strenuously denying for the past two weeks it didn't do so, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has admitted to buying thousands upon thousands of copies of Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us, written by Donald Trump Jr., and released November 5.

    That's bulk sales by any standard and confirms the wisdom of The New York Times in attaching a dagger (†) to the book's title. As the Times explained, the dagger indicates its belief Don Jr.'s book made its way onto its bestseller list in a way that seems “suspicious." In this case, many of Triggered's sales appear to come from bulk purchases and not individual sales.

    Triggered is the top-selling hardcover on the Times' nonfiction list this week for the second straight week. It debuted on the nonfiction list last week at number one.

    The RNC's bulk buying of Triggered was revealed in a new campaign-finance filing

    What does the campaign-finance filing reveal, what about the content of Trump Jr.'s book, and is the RNC's bulk purchase really fooling anyone in the book community? From a report at Business Insider:
    Trump Jr.'s book Triggered, released on November 5, is partly a memoir and partly a scathing list of grievances against the left and the Democratic Party, which Trump Jr. casts as victimizing his father's presidency and his family.

    Triggered debuted at the top of the next week's New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction, with an important caveat: a dagger symbol indicating a large percentage of the book's sales came from "institutional, special interest, group, or bulk purchases."

    "It's known in the industry as the 'deadly dagger,'" a source told Page Six. "A rare penalty that is only called for flagrant fouls."

    In a new filing with the Federal Election Commission, the RNC revealed it spent $94,800 at Books-A-Million just a few days before Triggered was released. The RNC told The New York Times' Nick Confessore that they "haven't made a large bulk purchase, but are ordering copies to keep up with demand" of Triggered.

    Did RNC donors intend for their funds to be used for propping up Donald Trump Jr. on the best-sellers list? The answer probably is no, and that's how criminal charges could enter the picture.

    The Kander Memo provides insight about such schemes, which are based on inside knowledge about the book-publishing industry.

    In 2014, when the Kanders embarked on this scheme, they calculated that if the wife of a U.S. Senate candidate was a "New York Times Bestselling Author," then this prestige could boost her husband's political campaign and help him win a U.S. Senate seat. It is a "dirty little secret" in the U.S. book-publishing industry that a new author can buy his or her way onto America's most prestigious bestseller lists. It is a scheme that costs between $150,000 and $300,000, depending on certain circumstances. The money is used to buy the author's new book in strategic, large-bulk units -- bulk purchases timed shortly after the new book is officially released.

    Some people think if you spend your own money to buy your way onto a bestseller list, then it is not illegal. That's incorrect, but it's beside the point. By seeking to fund their scheme by soliciting online public donations via their "crowd-sourcing" campaign, the Kanders scheme of 2014 clearly crosses the criminal line -- in fact, several criminal lines.

    For details, we turn to an October 2016 Legal Schnauzer post:

    According to The Kander Memo, the book effort likely violated solicitation-registration and felony anti-fraud statutes in every U.S. jurisdiction -- federal and state. It also likely violated statutes in all 50 states that make it a crime to commit, or attempt to commit, theft by deceit. From the memo:

    [This] is not only an audacious and shameless scheme, it is a patently criminal scheme . . . a "50-state crime spree."

    Word that Donald Trump Jr. is a best-selling author might best be placed under one of his father's favorite categories -- "Fake News!"From the UK Guardian:

    The book is believed to have sold more than 115,000 copies, according to NPD BookScan, which tracks physical print sales in the US. The RNC said $500,000 had been raised from sales of the book. When it debuted in the bestseller list, Trump Jr tweeted: “Thanks Deplorables! You’re the best.”

    This is not the first time claims have been made about sales of Trump Jr’s book being inflated. The New York Times bestseller list marks books with a dagger if retailers report there have been bulk sales, which it did for Triggered. When it topped the chart, it was the only book in the top 10 list to feature the dagger.

    The Hachette imprint Center Street, which published the book, has previously said that it did not “have knowledge of third-party book purchases”. The book’s launch was marred when Trump Jr was heckled at one of his own events for refusing to take part in a Q and A session.

    Is Triggered anything more than glorified -- and expensive -- toilet paper? A couple of reviewers have dubbed junior's work as "a litany of trolling and insults worthy of his father":

    In Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence US, the eldest son of the US president blasts a high-pitched rant against American liberals who he accuses of turning the country into a socialist monument to political correctness.

    The US government has been infected with antisemitism, Donald Trump Jr writes in the 294-page book . . .  “Angry mobs” are now in charge of major media outlets, political correctness has taken hold and “we have completely ceded control of what we can and cannot say in public to the left”.

    The author dedicates Triggered to “the Deplorables”, a reference to Hillary Clinton’s ill-fated portrayal of Trump supporters during the 2016 presidential election. “I am proudly one of you,” he writes.

    But a more accurate description of the book, a copy of which has been obtained ahead of publication by the Guardian, might be that it reveals its author to be every bit as devoted to partisan trolling, childish insults and grudge-holding as his father in the Oval Office. Even the title, Triggered, is designed to make the veins on the foreheads of liberals pulsate.

    No one should be surprised that Trump Jr., like his father, has problems with facts, but he fires insults left and right. Write the Guardian reviewers:

    Trump Jr tells readers he did not set out in writing Triggered to offend anyone. Which is surprising, as he does such a good job at precisely that.

    Special counsel Robert Mueller is a “feeble old fool” at the head of a “crooked investigation”; conservative commentator Bill Kristol is a rat; the Squad of four left-wing congresswomen that includes Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, should be renamed “Hamas caucus”; George W Bush is a loser like Romney.

    As for CNN, the news channel that the US president has made his media whipping boy, its newscasters are nothing less than “full of shit”.

    Historians of the Trump era are unlikely to find much solid material to mine within Triggered. Though the author follows his father’s protocol in attacking the former FBI director James Comey, he barely mentions what he calls “the infamous Trump Tower meeting … which supposedly exposed me as a Russian spy”.

    In that meeting, on 9 June 2016, Trump Jr, his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and the campaign chair, Paul Manafort, met a Russian lawyer with links to the Kremlin who said she could offer dirt on Hillary Clinton. Nor does Trump Jr discuss his infamous reply to an email setting up the meeting: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

    He also – like his father – appears to play a little fast and loose with the facts.

    Trump Jr accuses Comey of alerting the press to the supposed importance of the Steele dossier, a file of opposition research on links between Trump and Moscow, after briefing the president-elect about it. But in doing so, he misstates the date – by a year.

    “All [Comey] had to do,” he writes, “was hand the phoney dossier to the president-elect during an official visit and then leak the visit to the press. Presto chango! In that moment on January 7, 2016, the dossier went from a pile of garbage to a document in an official intelligence briefing.” 
    In fact, the FBI came into possession of the Steele dossier on 9 December 2016, when the Republican senator John McCain handed it to Comey. Concerned about Russia’s untroubled response to sanctions imposed by Barack Obama, and knowing the media had copies of the dossier, Comey and other officials briefed the White House about it on 5 January 2017.

    Comey then briefed Trump on 6 January 2017, an encounter that would stay out of the public sphere until it was described in Comey’s own book, A Higher Loyalty. Buzzfeed, which obtained the dossier from a McCain aide in December 2016, published it in full on 10 January.

    We will give the final word to Jezebel, which does a splendid job of skewering Trump Jr.'s literary efforts:

    Don Jr. is many things—a hunter, a lover of big fish, a failson, and now... a New York Times best-selling author. Triggered, his useless paean to uselessness, has wiggled its way to the top of the much-vaunted Times bestseller list, but there’s a big ole caveat—according to the Times, a lot of the book’s sales were from bulk orders, which indicates that “the author or someone associated with the author bought a substantial number of copies.”

    Color me extremely shocked that a man from an extremely scam-happy, corrupt family is in all likelihood gaming an easily gamed system! As Electric Literature wrote in 2018, the Times is well aware that authors often find ways to juice their sales, and in particular, authors of books with a more conservative bent. And a book that’s made it to the Times list largely through bulk sales is marked with a dagger, what one book industry source told Page Six is called the “the deadly dagger” and a “rare penalty that is only called for flagrant fouls.”

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    Mike McGarity
    Sgt. Jayme Moore was the second stop on my law-enforcement runaround in Shelby County, AL. Like his underling, Dep. Lee Stockman, Moore was convinced -- no matter what the written law says -- that I was not the victim of a felony assault by our criminally inclined Alabama neighbor Mike McGarity.

    Moore's efforts at a cover-up took a little different approach from Stockman's. And they even included comedic moments. that almost made me laugh out loud. But the results were the same -- he got the law wrong and referred me to someone else up the ladder.

    The main difference with Moore was that he claimed the roadside sign McGarity used to strike me in the back -- near my spine and just inches below my neck -- was neither a "deadly weapon" nor a "dangerous instrument." To make our conversation even more enlightening, Moore kept mixing up those two terms -- as if they are interchangeable and mean the same thing.

    In fact, they are very different. Even I acknowledge that the sign did not constitute a "deadly weapon," and I did not suffer a "serious physical injury" -- so it could not have been a first-degree assault, which is a Class B felony, punishable by two to 20 years in prison and a fine up to $30,000.

    But McGarity's offense did involve a "dangerous instrument," based on how it was used (swung with two hands, as hard as he could, right at my spine), and it resulted in "physical injury." That makes it a second-degree assault, which is a Class C felony, punishable by one to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $15,000.

    Let's take a look at portions of my conversation with Sgt. Moore. (A video, with the full conversation, is embedded at the end of this post.):

    Jayme Moore (JM): To qualify for felony assault, it has to be a serious physical injury by means of a deadly instrument, and it's not going to fall into either one of those provisions. A for-sale sign does not qualify as a dangerous instrument.

    Roger Shuler (RS): It was swung like a baseball bat, with two hands.
    From the outset, Moore mixed up the terms "deadly instrument" (it's actually "deadly weapon") and "dangerous instrument" -- a sure sign he had no clue what he was talking about. But that didn't keep him from talking:

    RS: Before I did anything, I went to the law library and read the entire section on assault. I've got a copy of it. The clear authority is . . . assault second degree, under item No. 2.

    JM: On assault 2nd, if it causes physical injury, it has to be by means of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, and a for-sale sign is not going to qualify.

    RS: Yes, it is. I've got case law that says something as small as a pencil, depending on how it's used . . . He swung it like a baseball bat and hit me in the middle of the back with it. This is a sign that is 3 ft x 2 ft, made of wood and plastic. The law says any substance can be a dangerous instrument, depending on how it's used. This was used to hit me in the middle of my back, swung like a baseball bat by a grown man, using the term 'man' loosely.

    I've got case law in Shelby County, Burger v. State, where a Pelham police officer was kicked in the shins by a woman and it was classified as second degree.

    One problem here: Everybody agrees it's assault, everybody agrees it's not first-degree assault. But it's also not third, because No. 3 under that, if it involves a dangerous instrument, you must have criminal negligence. And this is not a case of him swinging a sign around crazily, and I happen to run into it. It wasn't negligence.

    At this point, the conversation with Sgt. Moore started going off the rails, with things turning in a nutty, goofy direction:

    JM: Under assault second, that is intended if you use any kind of deadly instrument -- knife, gun -- but don't cause serious physical injury. Like if somebody is trying to stab you, and they wind up cutting your finger. That's what that statute is used for. [I have no idea where he got this; my research indicates it is pure fantasy.]

    RS: This sign was five times bigger than a pencil, and he swung it and hit me in the back. . . .

    JM: If he had rammed it in your eye socket, that would qualify.

    RS: No kidding. That would be first, not second.

    JM: Depending on the injuries.

    RS: If somebody jams something in my eye socket, I think it's going to be pretty serious. [Moore seemed to be undecided if having something jammed in your eye socket would cause a serious injury.]

    JM: I don't believe it will qualify, based on my experience with the DA's office.

    RS: I don't want special treatment; I just want it applied the way it's written.

    JM: I don't believe it would qualify as a deadly instrument.

    RS: It doesn't have to be a deadly instrument. You're mixing up the words.

    JM: If you disagree with me, you can call my supervisor.

    RS: [Guffaws] How many people am I going to have to talk to?

    Moore's supervisor turned out to be Lt. Howard Brogdon, so he became stop No. 3 on my runaround train.

    (To be continued)

    (Previously in the series)

    * Dep. Lee Stockman starts the runaround on Alabama assault law -- 11/18/25

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    William Barr and George H.W. Bush in the Iran-Contra era

    Two 2020 candidates for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama have made recent statements that indicate they lack the intellectual heft to handle the job. And one of them already holds the job.

    We are talking first about Democrat Doug Jones, who currently occupies the seat and said, if given a "do-over," he would not vote to confirm Donald Trump nominee William Barr as attorney general. Then came GOP candidate Tommy Tuberville, best known for his years as head football coach at Auburn University, claiming Barr's predecessor, Jeff Sessions, "had a chance to support the president and blew it."

    Tommy Tuberville
    Political figures make a lot of dumb statements, but I'm not sure I've ever seen two of them, within days of each other, make comments as dumb as these.

    Let's tackle Jones' statement first. This is from al.com's report on the senator's comments about the Barr confirmation:

    Sen. Doug Jones would switch his vote and not confirm Attorney General Bill Barr if he got a shot at a do-over, he said Wednesday.

    In a response to a Twitter user, who described themselves as a Jones voter both in 2017 and in the upcoming 2020 election, Alabama’s Democratic junior senator said he would vote against Barr’s confirmation “with the benefit of hindsight.”

    When he announced his intention to vote to confirm Barr on Feb. 7, Jones said: “I have concluded that Mr. Barr is qualified for the position of Attorney General and his record strongly suggests he will exercise independent judgment and uphold the best interests of the Department of Justice.”

    While Jones said he had concerns about Barr’s views on executive power, the then-nominee’s statements during his confirmation hearing and personal assurances to Jones himself -- including stating that "no one, including the president of the United States, is above the law -- assuaged the senator’s concerns.

    Why would Jones need "the benefit of hindsight" to reject Barr when he had the chance. Barr's reputation as a political hack and fixer, dating to his days as AG under President George H.W. Bush during the Iran-Contra Scandal, have been well-known for years -- and received wide coverage at the time Trump nominated him. Consider this NPR report from January 2019:

    This won't be the first time that William Barr, President Trump's nominee to become attorney general, will be involved with what's been called a "witch hunt."

    Barr, who is scheduled to go before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday for his confirmation hearings, ran the Justice Department once before, under President George H.W. Bush.

    Back then, the all-consuming, years-long scandal was called Iran-Contra. On Dec. 24, 1992, it ended when Bush pardoned six people who had been caught up in it.

    "The Constitution is quite clear on the powers of the president and sometimes the president has to make a very difficult call," Bush said then. "That's what I've done."

    Then-Attorney General Barr supported the president's decision in the Iran-Contra case, which gave clemency to people who had been officials in the administration of President Ronald Reagan, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He had been set to go on trial to face charges about lying to Congress.

    To the man who led the Iran-Contra investigation, however, the pardons represented a miscarriage of justice.

    "It demonstrates that powerful people with powerful allies can commit serious crimes in high office, deliberately abusing the public trust without consequences," said Lawrence Walsh, the independent prosecutor in the case, at the time of the pardons.

    Barr said later that he believed Bush had made the right decision and that he felt people in the case had been treated unfairly.

    Doug Jones was unaware of this information when he voted to confirm William Barr? Or what about this information from a report at Common Dreams, which referred to Barr as the "Cover-Up General":

    Back in 1992, the last time Bill Barr was U.S. attorney general, iconic New York Times writer William Safire referred to him as “Coverup-General Barr” because of his role in burying evidence of then-President George H.W. Bush’s involvement in “Iraqgate” and “Iron-Contra.”

    General Barr has struck again—this time, in similar fashion, burying Mueller’s report and cherry-picking fragments of sentences from it to justify Trump’s behavior. In his letter, he notes that Robert Mueller “leaves it to the attorney general to decide whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime.”

    As attorney general, Barr—without showing us even a single complete sentence from the Mueller report—decided there are no crimes here. Just keep moving along.

    Barr’s history of doing just this sort of thing to help Republican presidents in legal crises explains why Trump brought him back in to head the Justice Department.

    Christmas day of 1992, the New York Times featured a screaming all-caps headline across the top of its front page: Attorney General Bill Barr had covered up evidence of crimes by Reagan and Bush in the Iran-Contra scandal.

    Earlier that week of Christmas, 1992, George H.W. Bush was on his way out of office. Bill Clinton had won the White House the month before, and in a few weeks would be sworn in as president.

    But Bush’s biggest concern wasn’t that he’d have to leave the White House to retire back to Connecticut, Maine, or Texas (where he had homes) but, rather, that he may end up embroiled even deeper in Iran-Contra and that his colleagues may face time in a federal prison after he left office.

    Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh was closing in fast on him, and Bush’s private records, subpoenaed by the independent counsel’s office, were the key to it all.

    That's about 27 years of history that managed to elude Doug Jones' attention? Amazing.

    What about Tuberville's gaffe? Let's consider this report from Alabama Political Reporter:

    Former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville on Saturday criticized Jeff Sessions’ work as U.S. attorney general.

    Tuberville spoke with the Alabama Political Reporter before Saturday’s Iron Bowl in Auburn.

    “He had his chance to support the president as attorney general, and he blew it,” Tuberville said.

    Sessions has praised President Donald Trump and vowed to support the president’s policies if he returns to the U.S. Senate, but the president has been very critical of Sessions’ efforts as attorney general, particularly his decision to recuse himself from the Russia collusion investigation.

    Sessions recused himself from the probe after it became public knowledge that he had met twice with the Russian ambassador during the 2016 presidential campaign and did not disclose that to the Senate during his confirmation hearings. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein then became the acting attorney general on Russian collusion probe, and he made the decision to appoint former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel.

    Trump blamed Sessions for the Mueller investigation . . . , [and] the president has gone so far as to call his appointment of Sessions as attorney general “my biggest mistake” as president.

    How nutty is Tuberville's claim that Sessions "blew" his opportunity to support Trump? Legal scholars have pointed out for years that the AG's role is not to support the president. Yes, the AG is a political appointee, but he is to serve as the nation's chief law-enforcement official, independent of the White House.

    If Tuberville were to land in the Senate, he could be faced with voting to confirm, or not confirm, an AG nominee. It's important that he know what the job is supposed to entail.

    As regular readers know, I'm hardly prone to supporting Jeff Sessions. His brand of Southern-fried politics -- based in his own racist instincts and a tendency to surround himself with racists -- is abhorrent and detestable. But he had no choice but to recuse from the Russia probe, and it's one of the few honorable and legally correct actions I can recall him taking.

    That Tommy Tuberville does not seem to understand that indicates he lacks the intellectual foundation to serve in the U.S. Senate -- but, then, again, the same could be said of Doug Jones, and he already serves in the Senate.

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    U.S. Attorney General William Barr said earlier this week that if some communities do not start showing more respect for cops, they might not get police protection. (See video above.)

    Barr made the remarks while presenting the Third Annual Attorney General's Award for Distinguished Service in Policing. Are Barr's comments pure nonsense? We would say yes, given that he seems to be suggesting that citizens whose taxpayer dollars fund law enforcement might not receive protection if they fail to bow sufficiently to cops. Barr also seems to ignore widely reported incidents of cops trafficking in violence against citizens, rather than offering protection. Finally, Barr's remarks are wildly out of line with the Schnauzer household's experiences with officers, which we have reported on frequently here at the blog -- and we happen to be white liberals who have been attacked by cop thugs while living in two bright red states, Alabama and Missouri -- even though it is clear black Americans receive the brunt of police misconduct.

    Before I started reporting on political and legal corruption in Alabama -- much of it tied to statewide political figures, such as Jeff Sessions, Luther Strange, Bob Riley, Rob Riley, Bill Pryor, and Doug Jones -- my wife, Carol, and I had sparkling clean records and never had experienced a significant encounter with cops. Now, we both have been physically beaten by cops and spent time in jails -- me in Alabama (for five months); Carol in Missouri (for a few hours, with her time reduced because she needed a trip to a hospital for treatment of a broken arm, courtesy of cops.)

    How goofy are Barr's remarks? Well, he somehow managed to compare the experiences of today's cops with those of military troops returning home from Vietnam. A report from NBC News provides details:

    During a ceremony to honor police officers, Barr said crowds applaud departing troops and show their approval for individual service members in airports, but police get no cheers when they roll out of the precinct and get no ticker-tape parades when they come home.

    In the Vietnam era, he said, the troops who served in that conflict bore the brunt of people opposed to the war.

    "The respect and gratitude owed them was not given, and it took decades for the American people to realize that," Barr said. It's good to see troops today getting the proper recognition, he added.

    "But I think today the American people have to focus on something else, which is the sacrifice and the service that is given by our law enforcement officers. And they have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves. And if communities don't give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need."

    Civil-rights groups were quick to take issue with Barr, as NBC News reports:

    "Support and respect are earned, not given as the result of a demand from those who carry badges and guns," said Jeffrey Robinson of the ACLU. "Attorney General Barr is telling communities across the country to bow their heads in respect to police even if those same police are violating their rights and killing people without justification."

    Vanita Gupta, who headed the Civil Rights Division under President Barack Obama, said, "The idea that the attorney general of the United States, the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, is recommending abandoning communities as retribution for pushing for police reform or criticizing policing practices, is profoundly dangerous and irresponsible."

    Carol and I disagree with Vanita Gupta's assessment. If cops were to abandon our neighborhood, we would applaud their exit. Neither of us ever has suffered significant harm at the hands of a so-called street criminal. Cops, on the other hand, have broken into our homes twice and beaten both of us -- leaving Carol with an arm that needed about eight hours of trauma surgery for repair. We have yet to see cops make a community problem better. Multiple times, we've seen them make problems worse. Here are a few "highlights" from out experiences with cops:

    * When Mike McGarity, our criminally inclined neighbor, started repeatedly trespassing on our property (along with his kids and guests), we first tried having a rational conversation with McGarity, letting him know that the trespassers from his property were not welcome on ours. When that proved fruitless, I contacted an attorney who sent written warning, and we eventually called the Shelby County Sheriff's office. We asked the officer if he would visit McGarity and explain the law to him, since we weren't able to make him understand. "We don't do that,"officer Michael Greene said. "We just write reports."

    * In 2013, after I reported on Rob Riley's relationship with lobbyist Liberty Duke, plus Judge Bill Pryor's ties to 1980s and '90s gay pornography, Alabama deputies started swarming our property, with officer Chris Blevins eventually breaking into our home -- without showing a warrant, indicating he had a warrant, or stating his purpose for being there. -- beating me up, dousing me with pepper spray, and  hauling me for a five-month stay in jail. At the time, I was the first U.S. journalist to be incarcerated since 2006, and the only one in the western hemisphere to be jailed in 2013.

    * In September 2015, Missouri deputies conducted an unlawful eviction at our duplex apartment, pointing an assault rifle at my head and slamming Carol so brutally to the ground, and yanking on her arms with such force, that they induced a comminuted fracture of her left arm -- the kind of injury that normally is seen in car crashes or other forms of intense trauma.

    * Alabama cops brought a bogus resisting-arrest charge against me, and Missouri cops brought a false assault charge against Carol -- claiming she assaulted one of them, instead of the other way around. Those incidents led to court proceedings, where we watched cops lie repeatedly under oath, with at least one clear instance of perjury.

    As for William Barr, it's not fully clear what he meant with his recent remarks. From HuffPost:

    The Justice Department did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for clarification on who specifically Barr was referring to when he mentioned “communities” and what he meant by people finding themselves without police protection.

    But American Bridge, a liberal super PAC that first flagged the comments, said the attorney general was referring to communities of color that have historically had a contentious relationship with law enforcement due to police brutality, mass incarceration and racial profiling.

    “The Attorney General isn’t being subtle and that shouldn’t surprise us considering this administration’s record,” American Bridge spokesperson Jeb Fain told HuffPost in a statement. “When it comes to communities of color, he sees justice and equal protection under the law as subject to conditions.

    “Barr’s words are as revealing as they are disturbing ― flagrantly dismissive of the rights of Americans of color, disrespectful to countless law enforcement officers who work hard to serve their communities, and full of a continuing disregard for the rule of law.”

    Would Barr have much concern for our experiences with cops? Probably not, based on the HuffPost report:

    The attorney general has proved before that he does not support the more humane criminal justice reform that’s coming to states, counties and local jurisdictions across the country. Since taking over as attorney general in February, Barr has maintained the “tough on crime” approach that President Donald Trump has adopted.

    In August, Barr told the Fraternal Order of Police ― the country’s largest police organization ― that there should be “zero tolerance for resisting police.” The attorney general gave an emotionally charged speech going after local prosecutors he accused of making police officers’ jobs more difficult because of their more progressive approaches to criminal cases.

    “There is another development that is demoralizing to law enforcement and dangerous to public safety,” Barr said in his August speech. “That is the emergence in some of our large cities of district attorneys that style themselves as ‘social justice’ reformers, who spend their time undercutting the police, letting criminals off the hook and refusing to enforce the law.”

    Barr is also behind the Justice Department’s push to reinstate the federal death penalty, something that hasn’t been put to use since 2003. The attorney general scheduled five executions for this month and the next, though a district judge ordered a preliminary injunction while some of the people Barr wants to put to death legally challenge his workaround for reinstating capital punishment at the federal level. The injunction was upheld this week by a federal appeals court. The Justice Department has asked the Supreme Court to make a ruling.

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    Balch Bingham's all-white new hires
    (From banbalch.com)

    Birmingham's Balch Bingham law firm recently announced the hiring of eight new associates -- and all of them are white, according to a report at banbalch.com. The firm's leadership seems to have a tin ear, given its widely reported ties to racist U.S. Senate candidate (and former Trump attorney general) Jeff Sessions and the North Birmingham Bribery Scandal, which essentially was a scheme to keep corporate polluters from being held accountable for poisoning a heavily black neighborhood.

    Balch is located in the heart of a city that is more than 70 percent black, but it seems fine with presenting a lily-white face to he public. Four of the new white hires will work in Birmingham, with the other four set to work at firm satellites in Jackson, MS; Gulfport, MS; and Atlanta, GA. From a report at banbalch, headed by publisher K.B. Forbes:

    Demonstrating again that Balch Bingham’s leadership in Birmingham is oblivious to their own alleged institutional racism, the embattled firm recently announced the hiring of eight new associates throughout its footprint, including four in Birmingham.

    All of the new associates are white.

    Coming on the heels of a $19.5 million verdict loss in Miami, Balch’s attempts to rehabilitate their image appear to have sputtered.

    Last spring, the firm let go of their only female African-American attorney in the Birmingham office, Kimberly Bell.

    Bell was one of the lead attorneys representing Balch in the Newsome Conspiracy Case.

    Bell was a member of the Birmingham Bar Association’s Diversity and Inclusivity Committee, according to Balch’s 2016 Diversity Report.

    A Balch press release, dated 11/19/19, provides a rundown of the new, all-white hires.

    What about a big-picture view of Balch's hiring practices. That comes from a banbalch post in May 2019:

    Of the 203 profiled attorneys, partner, and staff on Balch’s website we reviewed… only three were African-American women, while two additional attorneys were African-American men.

    All five African-Americans attorneys, partners, or Of Counsel appear to each be in a different regional office (Atlanta, Birmingham, Gulfport, Jackson, and Montgomery).
    When you add the new additional attorney in Augusta, less than 2.5% of Balch and Bingham’s attorneys, partners, and top staff is African-American, according to a review of Balch’s website.

    Yet, Balch’s footprint shows a different story according to U.S.Census figures:

    * Atlanta is 54% African-American.

    * Augusta is 54% African-American.

    * Birmingham is 73% African-American.

    * Gulfport is 36% African-American.

    * Jackson, MS is 79% African-American.

    * Jacksonville, FL is 30% African-American.

    * Montgomery is 56% African-American.

    * Vidalia, GA is 40% African-American.

    * Washington,DC is 50% African-American.

    Institutional racism is real.

    Besides all of the alleged unsavory, unethical and foolish behavior engulfing the once prestigious firm, the lack of diversity appears to be another black-eye that could potentially cause more clients to flee.

    It has been reported for years that Jeff Sessions is a racist -- and recent reports indicate he has a habit of surrounding himself with racists, such as current Trump adviser Stephen Miller. With Sessions is running to reclaim his U.S. Senate race in 2020, is Balch trying to earn favor with the "evil elf" by adding to its already overwhelmingly white roster of attorneys?

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    Donald Trump on "The Apprentice"

    Jeffrey Epstein is not the only Donald Trump associate to face charges of being a pedophile and winding up dead in a jail cell. Epstein is not even the first associate to face such charges and meet such a fate, according to a report from a D.C.-based investigative journalist.

    Jesse G. Phinney, a cameraman on Trump's The Apprentice television show, was found dead in a jail cell roughly 18 months before Epstein was found under similar circumstances, reports Wayne Madsen. From a recent post on Phinney's death at the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), which is subscription only:

    A year-and-a-half before the jail cell hanging of alleged child sex trafficker, convicted child sex offender, and one-time close Donald Trump friend Jeffrey Epstein at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Manhattan, another Trump associate accused of pedophilia was found hanging in his jail cell in the Philippines.

    Jesse G. Phinney, a cameraman for Trump's "The Apprentice" reality television show, was discovered on December 5, 2017, hanging by his belt in his jail cell in Cebu in the Philippines. Phinney, who lived and worked in Los Angeles, had been arrested by officers of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Phinney was arrested after he was identified by Cebu province Vice Governor Agnes Magpale that Phinney was suspected of violating the Anti-Trafficking of Persons Act and the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act.

    How seedy does the Phinney story get? Very:

    After a raid on Phinney's apartment in Talisay City, the NBI discovered an 8-year old was present in the residence at the time of the police action. WMR's sources in the Philippines report an additional three underage girls, the oldest 12, were also residing in Phinney's apartment.

    Jesse Phinney
    Police discovered high-end camera equipment and production lighting in Phinney's apartment. Also found were children's clothing, including bikinis, and toys. The 8-year old girl was turned over to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

    If you have followed the Epstein story, see if this sounds familiar:

    Phinney, 42, was found hanging by his belt in his cell. Friends of Phinney contended that Phinney never wire a belt. A U.S. pathologist hired by Phinney's family in Boston found that Phinney's death appeared not to be from asphyxiation from hanging but from blunt-force trauma indicative of a beating death. It should be noted that Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who routinely carries out extrajudicial executions in the country, is a favorite of Donald Trump.

    Phinney's possible murder mirrors that of Epstein, who was found hanging in his cell on August 10, 2019, while two guards failed to conduct mandatory 30-minute checks on Epstein, who had been placed on a suicide watch in the jail's Special Housing Unit. The MCC guard station was located a mere 15 feet from the guard station. The two guards have been criminally charged by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York with conspiracy and falsifying records. No reasonable explanation has been made about the unusual visit to the MCC by Attorney General William Barr after Epstein was reportedly physically assaulted by another inmate. Barr's father, Donald Barr, was involved in the decision to hire Epstein to teach teens at the Dalton School in Manhattan in the mid-1970s. Donald Barr was the school's headmaster from 1964 to 1974. Epstein was hired in 1974. 
    The NBI began their surveillance on Phinney in December 2016. Affidavits were sworn by a mother and girl that Phinney had young girls sleep overnight at his apartment, took photographs of them, and gave them presents. Police discovered photos of children from throughout Southeast Asia and Central America. Phinney was a frequent traveler to both regions that are heavily favored as sex tourism locations by pedophiles.

    Phinney's death is a story where politics, media, entertainment, and law enforcement intersect -- and those, to a great extent, are the worlds that produced Donald Trump:

    Local press reported that the U.S. embassy in Manila had shown an interest in Phinney's death. Phinney had announced his retirement from TV work in Los Angeles and said he was planning on settling in Cebu. A second autopsy showed that Phinney's head showed a hemorrhage and there were bruises on his back, none of which were consistent with suicide by hanging. A Paris-based firm, Insiders Corp, began conducting a pro bono investigation of Phinney's arrest and death. Insiders Corp maintains an office in the Philippines and Boston and its founder, Julien Serres, is a former correspondent for Le Figaro and the Canal+ television network in Asia. Epstein was returning from Paris to the United States on his Gulfstream jet when he was arrested at an airport in New Jersey. French authorities have been criticized for dragging their feet on investigating Epstein's operations in France. Epstein maintained residences in Paris, Biarritz, and Nice.

    Phinney was also a cinematographer for the reality TV show "Keeping Up with the Kardashians." Trump is close to both Kim Kardashian, who is an executive producer for the show, and her husband, rapper Kanye West.

    Perhaps it boils down to this question: Do we have a murderer in the White House -- and does the president use public resources to wipe out individuals who are perceived to have dirt on him?

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    Democrats announce articles of impeachment 

    House Democrats yesterday produced two articles of impeachment -- one for abuse of power and one for obstruction of Congress -- against President Donald Trump. In so doing, Democrats focused solely on issues related to Ukraine, with no article based on Russian election interference and the Mueller report. In essence, impeachment will focus on the alleged misconduct of President Trump, while ignoring the much more expansive and serious misconduct of Candidate Trump.

    Is it a mistake to give Trump a pass on the Russia scandal? A number of commentators already are crying, "Yes" -- and we agree with them. We also suspect this is the first major sign that Americans will have to endure four more years of a Trump White House. Whether the country can survive that is anyone's guess, but our suggestion is, "Brace yourself."

    A Salon article by Andrew O'Hehir, dated 12/6/19 (last Friday) seemed to presage yesterday's events, with the headline "Are Democrats Blowing Trump's Impeachment?" Writes O'Hehir:

    [Last] Thursday’s announcement by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that Democrats are ready to vote articles of impeachment against President Trump — presumably on the narrowest possible terms, after a constrained and foreshortened process — is hardly surprising. It is, however, disheartening. Why they would even consider moving to a floor vote on impeachment without doing whatever is necessary to compel testimony from John Bolton, who is now a private citizen and has always been a blast-hardened neocon Republican, and who is clearly eager to roast Donald Trump’s gizzard on a fork and then eat it, is profoundly baffling. 
    Or maybe, sadly, it isn’t. So far, this spectacle confirms my sense that the Democratic Party is strikingly ill-prepared for the historical role it ought to play in this moment of small-d democratic crisis. Driven as usual by fear, excessive caution and a morbid fascination with identifying the middle of the middle of the political middle (and then veering slightly to its right), the Democrats are entirely likely to screw things up, whether morally or tactically or politically or all at once.

    O'Hehir, in fact, suggests Democrats already have botched it by settling into a "back to normal" political stance that has placed Joe Biden as a frontrunner who quite possibly could lose to even an impeached Trump in 2020:

    Actually, the Democrats have already screwed it up. Let’s be clear that the Republican defense of Trump is completely incoherent, because there is no defense for his actions. But on a generic or abstract level, Republicans have floated halfway-valid concerns about the process of the impeachment inquiry and the motivations behind it — which Democrats have done little to dispel.

    Republicans claim that Democrats have been itching for a pretext to impeach Trump since before he took office, and finally landed on one. That’s at least partly true, although the Angry White People Party is too consumed by paranoid delusions to understand the ways in which it is both true and untrue, and how those reflect the deep and wide schism within the Democrats over how to respond to the Trump era. Sure, Rashida Tlaib got elected in Detroit vowing to “impeach the motherf***er,” but a whole lot of other Democrats got elected while not talking about that at all, and explicitly or otherwise espousing the “back to normal” politics that have made Joe Biden the 2020 frontrunner all year long.

    In case you haven’t been keeping score, there is no “normal” to go back to, history never flows backward and that whole approach is a dangerous delusion, as we will all learn the hard way soon enough. Biden would be a disastrous nominee and a terrible president, which is not to say there’s an obvious alternative who inspires immense confidence. But for our present purposes all that is a side issue, even if it’s also a yawning abyss beneath our feet.

    Susan Hennessey, executive editor of the Lawfare blog and general counsel of the Lawfare Institute, argued in a piece published Monday (12/9/19) that Democrats should present articles of impeachment that have some breadth and are not too narrow. The headline: "The One Episode From the Mueller Report That Democrats Must Include in Impeachment."Writes Hennessey:

    It would be a huge mistake not to include an article related to Mueller. It would be a mistake substantively and a mistake strategically. And the House Judiciary Committee’s recent hearings on impeachment show why.

    The argument here is not that the House should include any and every plausible article based on conduct described in Mueller’s report. To the contrary, it would be unwise to be so overbroad. But there is a single, specific article of impeachment that should be included: one describing how the president of the United States obstructed justice by directing White House Counsel Don McGahn to create a false internal record denying that the president had instructed him to have Robert Mueller fired as special counsel.

    For those who might be foggy on the details regarding McGahn, Hennessey provides a primer:

    It’s worth briefly recapping the facts on this episode, as recounted in the Mueller report. In June 2017, following press reports that the special counsel was investigating Trump personally, the president ordered McGahn to have Mueller fired. McGahn prepared to resign rather than carry out the order, but he was persuaded to remain. Months later, in January 2018, the New York Times reported that the prior June Trump had directed McGahn to have Mueller fired. The president sought to have McGahn publicly deny this story, but McGahn refused to do so because the story was accurate in significant part. Approximately one week after the initial Times story, Trump told White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to direct McGahn to create a record “for our files” denying the story and saying McGahn had never been told to fire Mueller. Trump suggested to Porter that if McGahn refused to write such a letter, Trump might fire McGahn. Porter communicated Trump’s request to McGahn, and McGahn refused to create such a record, reiterating that the story was true and that in June 2017 the president had, in fact, told him to have Mueller fired. Finally, the president directly pressured McGahn, in an Oval Office meeting, to refute the story and McGahn again refused. 
    Susan Hennessey
    Mueller determined that McGahn’s account of events was credible and that the weight of evidence supports an inference that Trump’s pressure on McGahn was not about countering a news report but, rather, was an effort to “deflect or prevent further scrutiny of [Trump’s] conduct towards the investigation.” Running through the three elements of statutes criminalizing obstruction of justice—an obstructive act, nexus to an investigative proceeding and corrupt intent—Mueller found that evidence supports the conclusion that the president’s conduct met all three. And critically, Mueller determined that there are no available constitutional defenses for the president here. Whatever the scope of Article II, it does not extend to directing the White House counsel to falsify records.

    Numerous other Mueller-related articles could be included, but Hennessey explains why the McGahn episode cannot be swept aside:

    While there are other compelling examples, the McGahn episode is the single strongest episode of obstruction of justice in the entire Mueller report. The facts of what occurred are established by clear evidence and are supported by both documentary records and the testimony of multiple White House officials. It is also an example of obstruction that is unambiguous on the law—it presents a clear criminal violation.

    And that’s exactly why the Democrats would be nuts not to include this episode as an article of impeachment.

    We know now that Democrats did not follow Hennessey's advice, and we suspect they -- and the country -- will pay a huge price.

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