Lost in the Sauce: March 1 – 7
Welcome to Lost in the Sauce, keeping you caught up on political and legal news that often gets buried in distractions and theater.
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FIRST, the headings will guide you through this piece. The Main Course covers the “big” stories and The Sides covers the “smaller” stories.
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Let’s dig in!
Tomorrow (Tuesday) I hope to post a big piece on Trump’s sabotaging of the coronavirus response, stay tuned.
Retribution and rewards
In November 2019, Trump nominated Acting-Comptroller at the Department of Defense Elaine McCusker to fill the position permanently, succeeding David Norquist after he was promoted to Deputy Secretary. McCusker’s confirmation seemed to be certain, until emails released in response to an FOIA request revealed that she repeatedly warned the White House’s Office of Management and Budget that Trump’s hold on Ukrainian aid violated the Impoundment Control Act and was thus illegal.
Last week Trump withdrew McCusker’s nomination, prompting accusations that the president is purging officials he deems not sufficiently loyal.
Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Monday that Ms. McCusker was “another casualty of the Trump administration’s efforts to purge public servants who put country before fealty to the president.” (NYT)
Meanwhile, officials who assisted Trump in his pressure campaign on Ukraine and the subsequent cover-up are still in the administration. In fact, one of these individuals was just promoted: Michael Ellis, a deputy to White House lawyer John Eisenberg, is now the senior director for intelligence on the National Security Council. Ellis is described as a “Trump loyalist” for his role in two ethically, perhaps legally, questionable incidents:
- Ellis was reportedly involved in leaking classified intelligence to then-Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes in 2017. Several officials stated that Ellis and former NSC senior director Ezra Cohen-Watnick were attempting to find evidence to support Trump’s debunked claim that Obama had Trump Tower wiretapped.
- Ellis and John Eisenberg, the lead lawyer for the NSC, made the decision to move the transcript of Trump’s July 25 call to a secure server. Two witnesses testified to Congress during the impeachment inquiry that Ellis and Eisenberg moved the transcript in order to hide it from the public, hoping to avoid any potential damage to the president.
Experts are voicing their concern at placing a political appointee, a loyalist, in the senior director of intelligence position – which “traditionally has gone to a senior member of the intelligence community, such as the CIA, the State Department, or NSA. It was an apolitical position, coveted and also seen as highly career advancing” (Natasha Bertrand). Former National Security Council spokesperson Ned Price warns that Ellis will have the power to hide inconvenient or politically-damaging material from the public:
His will be a critical voice when it comes to what to share with Congress and the American people regarding what we’re learning about foreign efforts to interfere in the 2020 election. He also will be in a position to prevent dissemination of foreign intelligence that paints an especially unflattering portrait of Trump… My suspicion is that our intelligence agencies have and, going forward, will collect even more information from foreign officials pointing to Trump’s wrongdoing in his interactions with them. With Ellis in this role, we can expect Congress and the American people will be left in the dark.
Meadows in, Mulvaney Out
Via tweet on Friday, Trump announced that Mick Mulvaney would be leaving his role as White House Chief of Staff and taking the long-empty position as Special Envoy to Northern Ireland. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) will be Trump’s fourth chief of staff.
Trump’s relationship with Mulvaney has been deteriorating for a while, but the breaking point was reportedly Mulvaney’s trip out of town, to Las Vegas, in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak. However, it’s important to note that Trump sent his announcement tweet while he, himself, was out of town at Mar-a-Lago while the coronavirus spreads across the country.
Meadows has his own controversial history:
Meadows also shares something else with the president, a past questioning of former President Barack Obama’s nationality. While campaigning in 2012, Meadows was asked if he would pursue an investigation to find out if Obama really is a citizen. “Yes,” Meadows responded. “If we do our job from a grassroots standpoint, we won’t have to worry about it. We’ll send him back home to Kenya or wherever it is.” (Slate)
[In 2018,] The House Committee on Ethics is still investigating Rep. Mark Meadows’ (R-NC) handling of sexual harassment complaints against his former chief of staff…the primary source of interest has been why Meadows, the Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, continued to pay his former top aide Kenny West long after complaints were made about West’s behavior and even following West’s termination… (Daily Beast)
Senate Republicans investigate Biden
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) is leading an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden and Ukrainian company Burisma. The day after Joe Biden won the South Carolina primary, Johnson informed the committee that he plans to subpoena a consultant for a US public affairs firm that worked with Burisma.
The vote to issue the subpoena, scheduled for Wednesday, looked like it would fail when Sen. Mitt Romney told reporters that he could not support an investigation that appeared to be politically motivated. However, on Friday Romney changed his mind and will now support the subpoena after being assured that the witness will be interviewed in a closed hearing.
Johnson is planning to issue a subpoena for records to Andrii Telizhenko, the former consultant for public affairs firm Blue Star Strategies that worked with Burisma. Johnson says Telizhenko, a Rudy Giuliani ally who worked at the Ukrainian embassy in 2016 and has spread conspiracy theories that Ukraine meddled in the election in 2016, has expressed a willingness to cooperate with the Senate probe. (CNN)
McGahn case update
Two weeks ago, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that former White House counsel Don McGahn could not be forced by the courts to comply with a House Judiciary Committee subpoena. The two Republican-appointed judges wrote that the House should use political tools – like impeachment and contempt of Congress – to hold the president accountable.
Last week, House General Counsel Douglas Letter submitted a petition for the full DC Circuit Court of Appeals to re-hear the case. Letter points out that the “political tools” the court says it must use could have undesired consequences:
“The House could direct its Sergeant at Arms to arrest current and former high-level Executive Branch officials for failing to respond to subpoenas, after which the legal issues dividing the branches would then be litigated through habeas actions,” the House lawyers wrote. “But arrest and detention should not be a prerequisite to obtaining judicial resolution of the enforceability of a Congressional subpoena.”
“Under the panel’s logic, to obtain resolution of the legal question here, the House must direct its Sergeant at Arms to arrest McGahn,” the House wrote. “The Court would be faced with the same legal issues in McGahn’s inevitable habeas petition and would surely find them appropriate for judicial consideration.”
“[T]he panel did not acknowledge that, while this case was pending, President Trump’s White House counsel argued to the Senate that the president could not be impeached for obstruction of Congress because the House had not first sought judicial enforcement of its subpoenas,” the House noted, “a route that the panel has now held would have been futile, at the urging of President Trump’s DOJ.”
Judge decimates Barr
U.S. District Court Judge Reggie Walton, an appointee of George W. Bush, issued a 23-page opinion last week decimating Attorney General Bill Barr’s handling of the Mueller report. The case is a FOIA lawsuit seeking the release of Mueller’s un-redacted report and the underlying evidence. The Justice Department argued that the judge should uphold the censored portions of the report, but Judge Walton declined to do so, ordering that the DOJ privately show him what was deleted so he could independently verify the justifications for those redactions.
Walton stated that Barr’s efforts to spin the report before its public release raise serious concerns that Barr cannot be trusted:
The differences between the report and Mr. Barr’s description of it “cause the court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller report in favor of President Trump despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller report to the contrary,” wrote Judge Walton… (NYT)
“The inconsistencies between Attorney General Barr’s statements, made at a time when the public did not have access to the redacted version of the Mueller Report to assess the veracity of his statements, and portions of the redacted version of the Mueller Report that conflict with those statements cause the Court to seriously question whether Attorney General Barr made a calculated attempt to influence public discourse about the Mueller Report in favor of President Trump despite certain findings in the redacted version of the Mueller Report to the contrary.”
“These circumstances generally, and Attorney General Barr’s lack of candor specifically, call into question Attorney General Barr’s credibility and in turn, the Department’s representation that ‘all of the information redacted from the version of the [Mueller] Report released by [ ] Attorney General [Barr]’ is protected from disclosure by its claimed FOIA exemptions,” Walton wrote.
A second FOIA related to Mueller
Last week, a federal judge ordered access to Mueller-related material in a second, less-noticed, FOIA lawsuit. U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the National Security Agency (NSA) must turn over a memo documenting an “unusual” 2017 conversation in which Trump pressed former NSA Chief Mike Rogers to publicly refute the allegations Mueller was investigating. Mueller summarized the incident in his report, but the Justice Department does not want to release the contemporaneous memo. Judge Kollar-Kotelly will review the memo before determining if it should be released in full.
Richard Ledgett, former NSA deputy director who was reportedly present for the exchange, drafted a memo about the substance of the call. He and Rogers both signed it and locked it in a safe. Ledgett “said it was the most unusual thing he had experienced in 40 years of government service,” the report states.
Days before Trump’s exchange with Rogers, Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo… “whether they could say publicly that no link existed between him and Russia.” (USA Today)
Putin’s cook implicated
The trial of Russian company Concord Management and Consulting, owned by “Putin’s chef” Yevgeny Prigozhin, is set to begin next month, more than two years after Mueller’s initial indictment. The company is charged with financially supporting the Internet Research Agency in its interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The trial has already been delayed numerous times due to “intense pretrial jockeying,” recently culminating in U.S. District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich (a Trump-appointee) threatening to hold lawyers for Concord in contempt of court.
Prosecutors in the case claim to have a witness who will directly implicate Prigozhin in the election interference. The Justice Department states the witness and additional evidence prove that Prigozhin ran the Internet Research Agency, in addition to using companies like Concord to financially support the operations.
Other Mueller developments
Mueller memos: Release number 6
The Trump administration finally released summaries of Jared Kushner’s interviews with Mueller’s team, though the documents are heavily redacted. Most of the unredacted information was already public knowledge. Kushner told investigators that Dimitri Simes, who ran a pro-Kremlin think tank in DC, tried to give Kushner compromising information on Bill and Hillary Clinton’s ties to Russia. But Kushner told investigators he “never got from Simes information that could be ‘operationalized.’”
The memos also note that ion 2016, Roger Stone met with Russian national Henry Greenberg and is Ukrainian associate, Alexei Rasin, “who offered Stone damaging information on Hillary Clinton.”
- Rick Gates, a cooperating witness, told agents that Manafort maintained close contact with the Trump White House through 2018, using intermediaries like Kushner and Giuliani “to get associates appointed to administration jobs.”
- Sean Hannity appeared again in this release: During Trump’s campaign, Hannity tailored his shows to the agenda Manafort suggested.
- The summary says the following about J.D. Gordon, a 2016 Trump campaign adviser: “Gordon thinks Trump must be guilty of something. He is constantly ripping people off. Trump lies all the time and surrounds himself with people who don’t tell the truth. Gordon explained Hicks had lied about contact with Russians. Gordon thinks she probably lied to protect Trump whether she knew anything or not.”
- Corey Lewandowski told investigators that Trump’s then-digital media director and current campaign manager Brad Parscale “was able to put $94 million of campaign money through his business.”
Trump confirms Mueller’s case
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is heading to a run-off election to regain his Alabama U.S. Senate seat after coming in second place in last Tuesday’s Republican primary. Trump took to Twitter to celebrate Sessions’ failure to secure the nomination:
This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt. Recuses himself on FIRST DAY in office, and the Mueller Scam begins!
By admitting that he wanted Sessions to “end” the Russia probe, Trump confirmed that he wanted Sessions to commit obstruction of justice on his behalf. Mueller’s report specifically states: “…the President’s directives indicate that Sessions was being instructed to tell the Special Counsel to end the existing investigation into the President and his campaign.”
Flynn’s case update
Michael Flynn is trying to withdraw his guilty plea, arguing that his previous legal team provided him with ineffective assistance and tried to trick him into lying. Last week, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan signed an order waiving attorney-client privilege between Flynn and his previous counsel at Covington and Burling. Federal prosecutors will now interview Fylnn’s former attorneys in an attempt to disprove his claims.
Trump’s finances in court
37 former Republicans filed a Friend of the Court brief in Trump v. Vance, before the Supreme Court, arguing that President Trump’s claim of absolute immunity from prosecution is legally wrong and violates constitutional values. Trump is attempting to block Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance from enforcing a subpoena to his accounting firm, Mazars USA. SCOTUS will be hearing arguments in this case – and two others – on March 31.
“Trump’s assertions of absolute immunity from process while in office—and more generally, his arguments against accountability in any forum—could impose lasting damage on our constitutional system of checks and balances as well as on the rule of law.”
The brief points out that the Manhattan grand jury is investigating conduct before Trump took office. No court has held that any president enjoys privileges or immunities before his election and enjoys only extremely limited protections during the period between the vote and taking the oath of office.
The ACLU also filed briefs in the Supreme Court cases, opposing Trump in all three instances:
“No one is above the law, including President Trump. His office does not protect him or his accountants from complying with legal requests for documents such as these subpoenas. Should Trump be permitted to block his accountant from complying with the law and congressional oversight, it would put the rule of law and the separation of powers at risk.
…In Trump v. Vance, the ACLU also argues that Trump does not have the right to absolute immunity from a grand jury subpoena for similar documents simply because of his office. The subpoenas, directed to his accountant for personal financial records, impose no burden on his official duties.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden – a Trump appointee – lifted the stay in the case brought by the House Ways and Means Committee against the Treasury Department seeking Trump’s tax returns. McFadden had put the case on hold until the D.C. Appellate Court handed down a ruling in the House Judiciary Committee’s suit against Don McGahn.
Now, it is up to both sides to submit statements with the court explaining how they want to proceed. Trump’s lawyers want McFadden to dismiss the suit, while the House attorneys will ask for time to prepare arguments about why this suit is different from the McGahn case.
- Rocket docket: Nikhel Sus, Senior Counsel at CREW, recommends that lawmakers create a judicial “rocket docket” for disputes between Congress and the president, “enact[ing a law providing for expedited judicial review of particular categories of cases, including those seeking enforcement of congressional subpoenas.” Sus argues: “A rocket docket could have prevented many of the abuses seen during the Trump administration, would reduce the likelihood of future abuses, and will enhance Congress’ ability to conduct oversight of potential government corruption.”
Mnuchin grilled about Trump’s taxes
During a Ways and Means Committee hearing, Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey laid into Mnuchin for not handing over the tax documents to the committee, accusing the Treasury secretary of “staggering lies” in his reasons not to comply with Congress.
“By refusing to turn over Donald Trump’s business and personal tax returns to this committee, I think you’re breaking the law,” the New Jersey Democrat said.
“Your stated reasons for stonewalling our requests, you never cite any superseding legal basis. The only thing you suffer is smug rhetoric and staggering lies,” he added later. (CNN)
Watch a 5-minute C-span clip here.
Erik Prince hires foreign spies
The brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been helping conservative group Project Veritas hire former spies (non-paywalled) to infiltrate and spy on American liberal groups and campaigns. Prince recruited ex-MI6 officer Richard Seddon to secretly tape conversations in a Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers and to later infiltrate the congressional campaign of Virginia Democrat Abigail Spanberger. Her campaign discovered his identity and fired him.
The group has also become intertwined with the political activities of Mr. Trump and his family. The Trump Foundation gave $20,000 to Project Veritas in 2015, the year that Mr. Trump began his bid for the presidency. The next year, during a presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, Mr. Trump claimed without substantiation that videos released by Mr. O’Keefe showed that Mrs. Clinton and President Barack Obama had paid people to incite violence at rallies for Mr. Trump.
In a book published in 2018, Mr. O’Keefe wrote that Mr. Trump years earlier had encouraged him to infiltrate Columbia University and obtain Mr. Obama’s records.
Former Deputy Assistant to President Obama, Colin Kahl, pointed out that Trump’s associates have a pattern of “using former spies to target pol[itical] opponents.”
In 2017, someone in Trump’s orbit hired the Israeli firm Black Cube to go after former Obama officials (incl me & my family). Now this…Congress needs to investigate.
The Trumps profit off the presidency
Secret Service charged to protect Trump
Watchdog group Public Citizen uncovered new documents revealing that Trump’s company has charged the Secret Service $157,000 more than was previously known, bringing the total charges to Secret Service to over $628,000 since taking office in 2017.
Last year, Eric Trump said in an interview that federal employees “stay at our properties for free – meaning, like, cost for housekeeping.” He added, “We charge them, like, 50 bucks.” The newly released receipts show that the Trump Organization actually charged $650 and $396.15 a night for rooms Mar-a-Lago and $566 a night for a cottage in New Jersey.
Secret Service agents are exempt from federal limits on hotel room spending. So Mar-a-Lago charged them twice as much as a regular gov’t employee — for the same night! (ProPublica’s Isaac Arnsdorf)
- Meanwhile, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Richard Engel sent a letter to the State Department pushing for more information about the spending of taxpayer dollars at Trump properties “regarding whether and how the State Department’s resources are being appropriately spent.”
Eric Trump takes up the profiting off office business
…the Trump Organization is offering members of its New Jersey golf club a chance to travel to Scotland or Ireland with Eric Trump this summer—likely at great expense to taxpayers who will foot the bill for Secret Service protection for the president’s son.
According to an email sent to members of Donald Trump’s Bedminster golf club, Eric Trump will lead at least two three-day golfing outings this summer for club members. The price for each trip—one to Trump’s Doonbeg golf resort in Ireland and one to his Turnberry course in Scotland—will cost members $6,500 apiece, not including airfare. That’s a lot more than people typically pay to play at the Trump courses. (Mother Jones)
The Trump administration has attempted to hide the cost of these business trips from the American public. We know from FOIA documents released just last week that a two-day trip that Eric Trump took in early January 2019 to visit a Trump-branded property in Uruguay cost US taxpayers more than $80,786, just for hotel rooms for his Secret Service detail.
The 2019 trip brings Eric Trump’s total up to at least $178,616 in taxpayer funds to work on development of the Trump Organization’s Punta Del Este property alone.
Don Jr’s Mongolian hunt
Donald Trump Jr.’s Mongolian trophy hunting trip cost taxpayers $17,704 in Secret Service charges alone, according to records obtained by CREW. The records show that $16,000 of that total went to Jandos Kontorbai Ahat’s company. Ahat arranged Don Jr.’s “very political” hunting permit and is also a member of the Mongolian president’s political party. His company is on the board of the Mongolian hunting and wildlife association.
The eight day trip was already controversial for many reasons: Don Jr. was retroactively awarded his permit to hunt the endangered argali sheep after killing it, he had a private meeting with Mongolia’s president that we still don’t know much about, and hunted alongside a major Republican donor. The Secret Service’s payment to Ahat’s company, Marmara International LLC, shows that taxpayer money directly funded Don Jr.’s political connection on the trip. (CREW)
Kushner enriches family off tax breaks he lobbied for
Last month, Jared Kushner sold his stake in Cadre, a company that invests in Opportunity Zone projects after he successfully lobbied for tax breaks the company benefited from. As a result of the tax breaks and increased business, Kushner’s stake in Cadre rose from $5 million to between $25-50 million in three years. As Chris Hayes pointed out, that’s a 500% increase “tied to policy he pushed in the White House.”
Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, pushed for the Opportunity Zone tax breaks to be included in Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul. The breaks offer investors big cuts in capital gains taxes if they put money into businesses and buildings in 8,700 poor, struggling neighborhoods across the country that otherwise might not attract the money.
Trump and Nunes take on freedom of the press
In the past two weeks, Trump has filed libel lawsuits against three media outlets for publishing opinion articles on Trump’s Russia involvement/comments: The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN. Though legal experts say the suits will fail to meet the high bar to prove defamation of a public figure, the effect of just pursuing the lawsuits in the first place could have a “chilling effect” on freedom of the press.
When it comes to defamation litigation, public figures like Mr. Trump must establish that not only was a statement false and defamatory, but also that it was published with “actual malice.” That means showing evidence that the people who wrote and edited the statement knew it was false—or likely false but they didn’t care to print the truth. (WSJ)
Nunes in the complaint alleges Bezos bought The Washington Post in 2013 “for the purpose of using WaPo’s mighty pen to influence federal elections,” that Bezos is “desperate to defame the president” and that Post reporters coordinated actions with House Democrats to “impugn (Nunes’) reputation and undermine his relationship with the president.”
“This is ongoing nonsense, we’re on Russia-gate 9.0,” Nunes said on a Fox news show Sunday previewing his latest lawsuit.
As I reported last week, the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit government accountability watchdog, filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics asking for an investigation into how Rep. Devin Nunes is paying for his lawsuits against media companies and critics.
The complaint says Nunes appears to be in “blatant violation of House rules,” because he would have trouble paying for all these lawsuits solely from his congressional salary of $174,000 per year. The group argues he’d only be able to pay if he received legal services for free, at a discounted rate, or based on a contingency fee, meaning the lawyer would get compensated from Nunes’ winnings if he prevails in his lawsuits.
In all of those cases, the complaint says, Nunes must disclose the legal help he is receiving by filing a legal expense fund, otherwise it would represent an illegal gift given to Nunes under congressional ethics rules. Nunes has not filed a legal expense fund with the Office of Congressional Ethics.
The changing judiciary
Trump will get the chance to appoint another judge in a key position: Judge Thomas B. Griffith of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is retiring. This will be Trump’s third nominee to the DC appellate court, which has already heard numerous cases against the president.
Republican senators aren’t content to wait for these vacancies to open up, they want to create more judgeships for Trump to fill before the next election. “Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham told National Journal he’s preparing legislation creating new judgeships in jurisdictions where courts have warned about untenable backlogs of cases.”
- Former Sen. Russ Feingold says Democrats need to start talking about term limits for Supreme Court justices and the possibility of adding more justices.
Graham is one of three Republican senators who have received an unusually high amount of donations from judicial nominees: “
…three Republican senators — Ted Cruz and John Cornyn of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — got more money than the rest of the Judiciary Committee combined. Virtually all of those contributions came from judicial nominees they ultimately backed… The investigation also found that judges appointed by Trump were at least twice as likely to have contributed to a Judiciary Committee member as judges appointed by Obama.
What’s Congress up to?
- CNN: House Democrats are quietly discussing moving ahead with punishments for individuals who defied subpoenas in President Donald Trump’s impeachment inquiry — even as some are growing skeptical about issuing a subpoena for the testimony of former national security adviser John Bolton…some Democrats who had been pushing hard for Bolton to testify in the impeachment inquiry are showing little appetite now to pursue his testimony amid the possibility that it could lead to a court fight and also distract from the party’s election-year messaging.
- Washington Post: The Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Democratic vice chairman sent a letter Monday to Richard Grenell, the acting director of national intelligence, urging him to reconsider his agency’s decision not to declassify information related to the brutal killing in October 2018 of Khashoggi…“It has been more than a year since agents of the Saudi government murdered Jamal Khashoggi . . . in Turkey,” Wyden said in a statement to The Post. “And yet the Trump administration refuses to publicly acknowledge who ordered that assassination. It is choosing to protect an authoritarian government.”
- Buzzfeed News: At least two US senators intend to probe Clearview AI, the secretive facial recognition startup that’s compiled a database of billions of photos scraped from Facebook, Instagram, and other websites, about the sale of its technology to countries with documented human rights abuses [including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates]
More speak out against Jim Jordan
A total of six former college wrestlers have now accused Donald Trump defender Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) of knowing about sexual abuse by the team doctor when he was an assistant coach at Ohio State University…The six told CNN they were present when Jordan either heard or responded to sexual misconduct complaints about university doctor Richard Strauss. Eight others told the network that the physician’s conduct was an open secret in the university’s athletic department and that Jordan couldn’t have not known. (Huffington Post)
- Reuters: Conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices appeared sympathetic on Monday toward a bid by President Donald Trump’s administration to buttress its power to quickly deport illegal immigrants without court interference… The American Civil Liberties Union, representing Thuraissigiam, said the administration’s arguments, if accepted by the court, could be used to deport millions of other illegal immigrants without meaningful judicial review.
- USA Today: The Justice Department on Friday set in motion the mass collection of DNA from detained immigrants by issuing a long-anticipated final rule authorizing genetic sampling from potentially hundreds of thousands of migrants placed into federal custody each year… Absent a legal challenge, the expanded program would begin in April.
- Public Integrity: Workers at shelters for migrant children were warning that family separations would hurt children before the Trump administration ramped up the policy in the spring of 2018, according to a Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) internal investigation released Thursday… The HHS inspector general found that “HHS was not responsible for separating families, but HHS’s inadequate communication, management, and planning made the situation worse for many separated children.”
- Reuters: Federal inspections of the U.S. government’s only dedicated detention unit for transgender immigrants [Cibola County Correctional Center in New Mexico] last year found hundreds of unanswered requests for medical attention, poor quarantine procedures and deficient treatment for mental illnesses and other chronic diseases… the concerns led to the transfer of all of the approximately two dozen detainees in the transgender unit, as well as other chronically ill detainees in the general population.
- New York Times: ICE is boosting its operations in sanctuary cities to arrest and deport undocumented immigrants, conducting round-the-clock surveillance in addition to deploying elite tactical agents… The agency plans to deploy hundreds of additional officers in unmarked cars in the coming weeks to increase arrests in cities where local law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement.
- NBC News: A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco lifted a stay and barred a particular group of asylum-seekers from being subjected to a policy that would block U.S. asylum for migrants who had not sought protection first in a country through which they traveled on their journey to the border. The group comprises migrants who went to the border and sought to seek asylum before the rule’s effective date in mid-July but who were forced to wait until after that date to present themselves at ports of entry.
- Buzzfeed News: Immigration and Customs Enforcement now jails nearly every immigrant it arrests in New York — including those who don’t pose a threat — for weeks or even months until they go before a judge, according to data released in a new lawsuit… In the four years prior to the algorithm change, about half of immigrants arrested in New York who were regarded as low risk were released until their trial. Now 96% of them are held in jail for as long as three months, the lawsuit says.