A spokesman for the Senate Judiciary Committee who was involved in Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court has abruptly resigned after allegations surfaced that he was dismissed from a previous job following a claim of sexual misconduct.
Garrett Ventry had been working as a communications official for the committee and focusing on messaging for the GOP amid Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation of sexual assault against Kavanaugh.
“Garrett was one of several temporary staff brought on to assist in the committee’s consideration of the Supreme Court nomination, a team that has done outstanding work,” a Judiciary Committee spokesperson told The Hill on Saturday.
“While he strongly denies allegations of wrongdoing, he decided to resign to avoid causing any distraction from the work of the committee,” they added.
Ventry denied any “allegations of misconduct” in a statement to NBC News, which first reported his dismissal on Saturday.
Ventry had previously worked for the conservative firm CRC Public Relations. A company spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill that Ventry had been on a leave of absence.
“We were not aware of these allegations, which he denies. As of this morning we have accepted his resignation,” a company spokesman said.
Politico had reported this week that CRC assisted lawyer and activist Ed Whelan in promoting an unfounded theory about the sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh, which Whelan later removed from Twitter.
NBC News reported Saturday that Republicans were concerned Ventry could no longer lead messaging surrounding the Kavanaugh allegation because of the allegation made in his past.
The allegation was reportedly made by a female employee of the North Carolina GOP General Assembly. Ventry worked as a social media adviser in North Carolina House Majority Leader John Bell’s office last year.
Bell fired Ventry after a few months. The North Carolina leader told NBC News that Ventry had worked in his office and “moved on,” but declined to discuss specifics surrounding the dismissal.
Ventry’s departure comes as the GOP-led Senate Judiciary Committee negotiates with Ford’s lawyers over her appearing before the panel next week.
Grassley has given Ford until 2:30 p.m. on Saturday to decided whether to testify about the allegations.
I was already planning to write an article today about the so-called Christian Right and Republican Politics and I was just putting the pieces together in my mind on how to write it. Then just before I clicked over to this platform I checked in once more to the Google news site that I read every day and found the embers on which to start my fire. The top Google News story a few moments ago was from a Writer from the New York Times named Mike Cohen. The story line was “Evangelical Leaders Are Frustrated At G.O.P. Caution On Kavanaugh Allegation.” There was a picture of a man named Ralph Reed whom the article calls “the Social Conservative Leader”, okay, lets stop right there for a moment. Personally I consider myself to be a social conservative Christian and I personally have never heard of Mr. Reed and after reading some of his opinions I am fully sure that he does not represent me at all. I have often wondered how people here in the U.S. who call themselves Christians can possibly throw their support behind either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. I realize that many do lean toward one Party or the other simply because our system only gives us two real choices here in the U.S. and both are obviously saturated in evil. I still believe that we voters must dump both of these evils and give the voters several more choices. For us Christians to condone the evil that is both Parties is to greatly diminish the love and the teachings of Christ whom we say we are followers of. Back in November of 2016 we all witnessed pure evil at the top of both of the Republican and the Democratic Tickets, we the people had a no win situation, many people were simply voting for what they felt was the least of the two evils. If we Christians condone that which is evil then we are and we will be counted among the evil, we must separate ourselves from them.
According to Mr. Reed “the Senate Republicans and the White House are not (PROTECTING) Judge Kavanaugh forcefully enough from a sexual assault allegation.” Mr. Reed goes on to say “if Republicans were to fail to defend and confirm such a (obvious and eminently qualified and decent nominee) that it will be difficult to energize the (faith-based) conservatives in November.” I have a few questions about having Mr. Kavanaugh sitting on the Supreme Court of our Country other than “just” this sexual assault case from when he was 17 years old though, but I will start my thoughts to you with this assault allegation. It appears that the events of that night became quite well-known in the school that the girl attended so it is not some just now made up story. There is a letter that has popped up now about 65 girls that Mr. Kavanaugh went to school with that are saying that he was a great guy who showed no signs of this type of behavior. My question on this is that MR. Kavanaugh went to an all boys prep school and the girl who said she was attacked by him went to an all girls prep high school. So, none of these 65 girls went to school with him, it would be a bit odd that they could have known him so well unless he was quite the ‘party animal.’
When Mr. Kavanaugh got his first job on the Bench his boss had a very bad reputation for sexual misconduct and in fact he resigned from the Bench because of all of the allegations against him. Mr. Kavanaugh said this past week that he was unaware of his Bosses reputation even though it was well know where he worked at. So, even now, is Mr. Cavanaugh just oblivious to the reality going on around him, is he just ignorant, or is he a liar? The New York Times also reports about how Court Clerk’s (the women) who wanted to get a job under Mr. Kavanaugh needed to have that certain “Model” look as he wanted all his female Clerks to be very good-looking. So, talent and knowledge didn’t seem to mean as much with him as a tight butt and a short skirt does seem to.
Now, another very important issue that is being swept under the table by the Republicans in the Senate concerning Mr. Kavanaugh is his finances and his financial records. Bank records show that he has never had more than $60,000 in the bank at any time of his adult life yet he came up with a 20% down payment on a house note of 1.25 million dollars and $107,000 entrance fee for a local Country Club. His finances do not match up with his expenses and his tax records do not match up with where he got the money for his life style. When a person is being considered for a position on the Supreme Court it is normal for the FBI to do a thorough investigation into the person, this has not been done with Mr. Kavanaugh and the Republicans who control the Senate and Mr. Trump do not want to wait long enough for the FBI to run an investigation before they want to vote him onto the Court, why? There are other hypocrisies in Mr. Kavanaugh’s writings like his opinions on the impeachment of President Bill Clinton because of his low character and how he is now willing to over look President Trumps Plethora of examples of no morals.
Here is what I am getting at concerning Judge Kavanaugh and concerning the so-called Christian right. First, sexual assault is something that must be taken seriously and should be investigated by the FBI being that this man is seeking a job in which he will sit in judgement of you, me, our children and grandchildren. For a so-called religious leader to act like even the possibility of such an event is something that doesn’t matter, I beg to differ with you on calling such a person a ‘Religious Leader.’ The White House and the Senate are totally treating the Supreme Court as a Political Toy when it is supposed to be totally independent of Politics all together. Procedures need to be followed, including a full FBI investigation into Judge Kavanaugh morals and sexual assault does fall into this category. Also, the FBI needs to do a full investigation into the financial back ground of Judge Kavanaugh to find out who it is that has been funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to him and why it is that there is no record of this money on his tax reports. We the people need honesty from our government, it is obvious that there is little to no honesty in either the Congress or in the White House so it is very important for we the people to at least have some honest people sitting on the Court Benches and for them to be more than just political monkeys.
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If you live here in the U.S. and you pay any attention to the national news you probably know of a man named Brett Cavanaugh who is President Trumps hand-picked Judge to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Kennedy. Quite honestly the more I dig into the life and character of Judge Cavanaugh the less I want to see him confirmed by the Senate for this post. In this article I am not going to get into all of the reasons that I believe he is a very bad choice to be on the Bench but I am going to discuss the politics being injected into the choosing of Supreme Court Justices these days. As most of you probably know there are nine Justices that sit on the Bench and they are appointed to lifetime positions.
Of the eight current Justices it is considered that 4 are ‘liberal’ and 4 are ‘conservative,’ so this makes this 9th members spot very important to the politicians, both Republicans and Democrats. The Republicans want to get Mr. Cavanaugh confirmed before the mid-term elections that are being held in 7 weeks because they know if the Democrats are able to take control of the Senate that a ‘conservative’ like Mr. Cavanaugh will not happen because the Democrats would have the votes to block it. One of the big reason that the Republicans want Mr. Cavanaugh on the Bench is because they want to get some existing laws changed and they could do it with a 5 to 4 margin in the Supreme Court.
Laws that the Republicans want over turned are things like ‘Roe V Wade’ which legalized abortion back in 1973, Gay marriage and ‘The Affordable Care Act/Obama Care.’ To me I have always felt that the purpose of the Supreme Court is for them to decide what is legal or not legal via the U.S. Constitution. The Court was set up by our Nations Founding Fathers about 240 years ago in an attempt to eliminate politics from the decision-making process of what is Constitutionally legal, or not. The term being thrown around in the Senate hearings is “precedent”, meaning, Judge Cavanaugh, do you believe in it? Judge, do you believe that once a law is in place that has been voted on by prior Supreme Court Justices should not be ‘revisited’? The purpose of these 9 Justices is for them to make their decisions on what our Nations Constitution says, not on what their personal likes or dis-likes are nor what their political view points are.
Don’t get me wrong, I personally believe that there have been Supreme Court decisions in the past that I think were bad decisions, ones that I wish the Court had ruled differently on like Roe V Wade. There is another Court decision from about 1963 where a Court ruling made it to where District Attorneys can not be criminally or materially sued for their Court decisions. The 1963 Ruling was because the Justices at the time believed that D.A.’s would always be honest and would never do things like obstruct justice in court decisions. I have often wondered if those Justices were actually that naive, or really just that stupid. But, I believe that once a Supreme Court Decision has been made that said decision should not be able to be ‘revisited’, that ‘precedent’ should always hold. Yet the validly of this line of though depends on all Supreme Court Justices, on every case, on every vote to be made by their interpretation of the Nations Constitution, if this is not what they are doing then in my opinion it is they who are breaking the laws of the every Constitution they have sworn to uphold.
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President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, listens to a question during the third round of questioning on the third day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing.Jacquelyn Martin/AP Photo
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Before President Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, he had a lot of debt. In May 2017, he reported owing between $60,004 and $200,000 on three credit cards and a loan against his retirement account. By the time Trump nominated him to the high court in July 2018, those debts had vanished. Overall, his reported income and assets didn’t seem sufficient to pay off all that debt while maintaining his upper-class lifestyle: an expensive house in an exclusive suburban neighborhood, two kids in a $10,500-a-year private school, and a membership in a posh country club reported to charge $92,000 in initiation fees. His financial disclosure forms have raised more questions than they’ve answered, leading to speculation about whether he’s had a private benefactor and what sorts of conflicts that relationship might entail.
No other recent Supreme Court nominee has come before the Senate with so many unanswered questions regarding finances. That’s partly because many of Kavanaugh’s predecessors were a lot richer than he is. Chief Justice John Roberts, for instance, had been making $1 million a year in private practice before joining the DC Circuit as a judge. The poorer nominees had debts, but explainable ones, such as the $15,000 Sonia Sotomayor owed to her dentist. Neil Gorsuch came the closest to financial scandalwhen he disclosed that he owned a mountain fishing lodge in Colorado with two men who are top deputies to the billionaire Philip F. Anschutz, who had championed Gorsuch’s nomination.
Kavanaugh’s finances are far more mysterious. During his confirmation hearing last week, he escaped a public discussion of his spending habits because no senator asked about it. But on Tuesday, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent Kavanaugh 14 pages of post-hearing follow-up questions, many of which involved his finances. On Thursday, Kavanaugh supplied answers, but he dodged some of the questions and left much of his financial situation unexplained.
A number of the questions Whitehouse sent Kavanaugh dealt with the house he bought in tony Chevy Chase, Maryland, in 2006 for $1.225 million. Kavanaugh would have needed $245,000 in cash for the traditional 20 percent down payment on the house. But in 2005, when his nomination to the DC Circuit was pending, Kavanaugh reported a total net worth to the Senate of about $91,000, which reflected a mere $10,000 in the bank and $25,000 in credit card debt. According to his financial disclosure forms before and after the purchase of his house in 2006, Kavanaugh’s liquid assets and bank balances never totaled more than $65,000, and those balances didn’t decline after the purchase of the house.
Whitehouse wanted to know why. He wrote, “The value of assets reportedly maintained in your ‘Bank of America Accounts’ in the years before, during, and after this purchase never decreased, indicating that funds used to pay the down payment and secure this home did not come from these accounts. Did you receive financial assistance in order to purchase this home?”
In his responses, Kavanaugh didn’t answer the question directly. He indicated that he took out a loan against his retirement fund to help make the down payment. But the year before he bought the house, he indicated on his financial disclosure form that the total value of that account was only $70,000. Loans through the Thrift Savings Program, the federal government retirement plan against which Kavanaugh borrowed money, are capped at the value of the account or 50 percent of the vested balance. For Kavanaugh, that wouldn’t have been nearly enough to cover the down payment on his house, even if he’d put down only 10 percent. (He also noted that he paid back the loan with paycheck deductions.)
Other questions from Whitehouse addressed Kavanaugh’s unusual debt history. Not long after Trump nominated him, the Washington Postreported that since joining the DC Circuit Court of Appeals as a judge in 2006, Kavanaugh had run up a significant amount of debt that often appeared to exceed the value of his cash and investment assets. His debts on three credit cards, as well as a loan against his retirement account, totaled between $60,000 and $200,000 in 2016, according to his financial disclosure forms. The next year, his debts vanished. When he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week for his confirmation hearing, his financial disclosure form listed no liabilities aside from his $815,000 mortgage. His disclosures don’t show any large financial gifts, outside income, or even a gambling windfall, as Sotomayor’s had when she hit the jackpot at a Florida casino in 2008 and won $8,283.
The White House didn’t fully address how Kavanaugh managed to incur all that debt and pay it off in a matter of months on his federal judge’s salary of $220,600 a year. (His wife left the workforce in 2010 and returned in 2015, when she took a part-time, $66,000-a-year job as the town manager in their village of 225 homes.) A spokesman told the Post in July that Kavanaugh had used his credit cards to purchase Washington Nationals season tickets and playoff game tickets for himself and friends, who later paid him back. The White House also said some of the debt came from home improvements.
Sen. Whitehouse was looking for a better answer as to how a man who has spent most of his professional life working in public service managed to pay off so much debt so quickly without draining his other savings accounts. (Kavanaugh worked in private practice for only about three years, in between stints at the office of the independent counsel during the Clinton administration.) In his written questions to Kavanaugh, Whitehouse asked how many seasons’ worth of Nationals tickets he’d purchased, which friends he’d bought them for, what sort of home improvements he’d made, and where the debt repayment money came from.
Kavanaugh elaborated on some of those answers in his response to Whitehouse this week. Of the large credit-card debts, he explained:
I am a huge sports fan. When the Nationals came to D.C. in 2005, I purchased four season tickets in my name every season from 2005 through 2017. I also purchased playoff packages for the four years that the Nationals made the playoffs (2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017.) I have attended all 11 Nationals’ home playoff games in their history. (We are 3-8 in those games.) I have attended a couple of hundred regular season games. As is typical with baseball season tickets, I had a group of old friends who would split games with me. We would usually divide the tickets in a “ticket draft” at my house. Everyone in the group paid me for their tickets based on the cost of the tickets, to the dollar. No one overpaid or underpaid me for tickets. No loans were given in either direction.
He also told Whitehouse that the $1.225 million house he’d bought in 2006 was basically a fixer-upper. He included a long list of repairs he’d made on it—everything from replacing the HVAC system to mold removal—that accounted for the bulk of the rest of his debt. “Maintaining a house, especially an old house like ours, can be expensive,” he wrote.
Whitehouse also asked about Kavanaugh’s membership in the Chevy Chase Club, which he joined in 2016. In his responses to a Senate questionnaire before his confirmation hearing, Kavanaugh made the club sound like a basic rec center, writing, “The Chevy Chase Club is a recreational club. We joined because the club has an outdoor hockey rink and a girls ice hockey program, and because of its gym and sports facilities.”
But the Chevy Chase Club is a lot more than a gym. Whitehouse noted in his questions that the club’s initiation fee is reportedly $92,000, plus more than $9,000 in annual dues. The private country club founded in 1892 is so elite that a neighborhood realtor once told the Guardianthat “you can be a CEO, a billionaire, but you can’t get in.” Its website offers no insight as to how someone might go about joining—it’s by invitation only. But the website does outline the dress code: no jeans, no collarless shirts, and hats must be worn “visor forward.” Any guest hoping to play tennis with a member must appear on the court dressed only in white.
As recently as 1976, the club refused to admit Jewish and African American members. In 2011, a reporter from the Telegraph wrote of the club, “Order a cocktail at the Chevy Chase country-club and you’ll step back into ante-bellum Savannah. The blacks wait on Wasps, showing all the deference expected of them. You won’t find many Cohens either, lounging on the well-kept lawn.”
Whitehouse wanted to know how someone with less than $65,000 in the bank came up with the initiation fee to join the club. Did someone help him? And if so, who? Kavanaugh wrote in his response that he paid the full price to join the club, as well as the annual dues, with no discounts. Befitting a club member, he declined to say exactly how much that initiation fee was.
As part of the document dump leading up to Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, a lawyer for the Bush administration released an email from Kavanaugh’s time working in the White House. It appeared to be part of a conversation with some school buddies discussing a weekend reunion in Annapolis. Kavanaugh wrote, “Apologies to all for missing Friday (good excuse), arriving late Saturday (weak excuse), and growing aggressive after blowing still another game of dice (don’t recall). Reminders to everyone to be very, very vigilant w/r/t confidentiality on all issues and all fronts, including with spouses.”
The email prompted Whitehouse to ask Kavanaugh whether some of his debts might relate to a gambling addiction. He asked whether Kavanaugh participates in a regular poker or dice game, and even whether he ever ran up any gambling debts in the state of New Jersey, former home to casinos owned by Trump. “Have you ever sought treatment for a gambling addiction?” he also asked.
Aside from a few low-stakes blackjack hands played in his twenties, Kavanaugh responded that he’s not a gambler and never has been.
His answers leave many questions as to where the nominee found the cash to buy his house and to pay off his debts last year. He acknowledged that in 2014, he received a lump-sum payment—which Whitehouse estimated at $150,000—as part of a settlement in a class action filed by federal judges seeking back pay for cost-of-living increases denied by Congress. The payment wasn’t included on his financial disclosure form because, he wrote, the instructions exempt reporting pay from the federal government. Kavanaugh also indicated that his income had increased from teaching gigs at Harvard, his wife’s return to the workforce after many years at home, and a pay raise.
But reading between the lines of his answers to Whitehouse, it’s clear that Kavanaugh has gotten a substantial amount of financial help from his parents, in-laws, or other family members. (Kavanaugh had a privileged, private-school upbringing as the son of a Washington lobbyist for the cosmetics industry and a state prosecutor.) “We have not received financial gifts other than from our family which are excluded from disclosure in judicial financial disclosure reports,” he wrote.
Kavanaugh wouldn’t be the first Supreme Court nominee or justice to receive a windfall from his parents. Both Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Elena Kagan inherited money from parents who had died, but unlike Kavanaugh, they disclosed the estate transfer on their federal forms. The White House has worked hard to frame Kavanaugh as a mainstream fellow who, just like ordinary American dads, loves sports and drives the carpool. Publicly disclosing the extent to which his parents or in-laws may be subsidizing his high-end lifestyle could probably undermine that portrayal.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Kavanaugh’s nomination on September 20.
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US National Security Adviser John Bolton speaks at a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel, Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
The United States on Monday warned the International Criminal Court against prosecution of US or Israeli officials for alleged war crimes in the Middle East.
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton called the Hague-based rights body “unaccountable” and “outright dangerous” to the United States, Israel and other allies, and said any probe of US service members would be “an utterly unfounded, unjustifiable investigation.”
In his remarks to the conservative Federalist Society in Washington, Bolton said: “If the court comes after us, Israel or other US allies, we will not sit quietly… The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court.”
Bolton pointed to an ICC prosecutor’s request in November 2017 to open an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the US military and intelligence officials in Afghanistan, especially over the abuse of detainees. Neither Afghanistan nor any other government party to the ICC’s Rome Statute has requested an investigation, Bolton said.
He said the ICC could formally open the investigation “any day now.”
He also cited a recent move by Palestinian leaders to have Israeli officials prosecuted at the ICC for human rights violations.
While “in theory, the ICC holds perpetrators of the most egregious atrocities accountable for their crimes, provides justice to the victims, and deters future abuses,” he said, “In practice… the court has been ineffective, unaccountable, and indeed, outright dangerous.
“For all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us,” he stated.
Bolton added that “While the court welcomes the membership of the so-called state of Palestine, it has threatened Israel, a liberal, democratic nation, with investigation into its actions in the West Bank and Gaza to defend its citizens from terrorist attacks.”
Exterior view of the headquarters of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, January 12, 2016 (AP Photo/Mike Corder)
He noted recent suggestions “that the ICC will investigate Israeli construction of housing projects on the West Bank” and said “The United States will always stand with our friend and ally Israel.”
“Israel too has sharply criticized the ICC,” he said.
Israel last month lodged a formal protest with the ICC for launching a campaign to reach out to “victims of the situation in Palestine,” an unusual step which Jerusalem officials charge casts doubt on the court’s ability to treat the Jewish state fairly.
Bolton said the State Department’s decision to close the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s office in Washington reflected “congressional concern with Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel.”
US National Security Adviser John Bolton takes the stage to speak at a Federalist Society luncheon at the Mayflower Hotel, Monday, Sept. 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
“The Trump administration will not keep the office open when the Palestinians refuse to take steps to start direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” he added.
“The United States supports a direct and robust process,” he went on, “and we will not allow the ICC or any other organization to constrain Israel’s right to self-defense.”
Congress in 2015 mandated that the PLO mission be shut if the Palestinians initiate or support an investigation by the court against Israelis.
Bolton also threatened to arrest and prosecute judges and other officials of the International Criminal Court if it moves to charge any American who served in Afghanistan with war crimes.
“We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States. We will sanction their funds in the US financial system, and we will prosecute them in the US criminal system,” he said. “We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans,” he said.
The ICC, which is based in the Hague, has a mandate to prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
President Bill Clinton signed the Rome Statute that established the court, but his successor, George W. Bush, renounced the signature, citing fears that Americans would be unfairly prosecuted for political reasons.
The condemnation of the ICC added to the White House’s rejection of many supranational institutions and treaties the president does not believe benefit the United States.
Bolton also condemned the record of the court since it formally started up in 2002, and argued that most major nations had not joined.
In this file photo taken on April 9, 2018, US President Donald Trump shakes hands with National Security Adviser John Bolton during a meeting with senior military leaders at the White House. (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)
He said it had attained just eight convictions despite spending more than $1.5 billion, and said that had not stemmed atrocities around the world.
“In fact, despite ongoing ICC investigations, atrocities continue to occur in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Libya, Syria, and many other nations.” he added.
But Bolton said the main objection of the administration of President Donald Trump is to the idea that the ICC could have higher authority than the US Constitution and US sovereignty.
“In secular terms we don’t recognize any higher authority than the US constitution,” he said.
“This president will not allow American citizens to be prosecuted by foreign bureaucrats, and he will not allow other nations to dictate our means of self defense.”
The State Department earlier said it was ordering the closure of the Washington mission of the PLO, saying the Palestinians were not supporting peace talks with Israel.
“We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks during a briefing at the State Department in Washington, August 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
“However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel… To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a US peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise. As such, and reflecting congressional concerns, the administration has decided that the PLO office in Washington will close at this point.”
Israel welcomed the move, with the Prime Minister’s Office saying “The Palestinian’s appeal to the ICC and their rejection of negotiations with Israel and the US are not the way to achieve peace, and it is good that the US is taking a clear stance in the matter.”
PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat called the move a “dangerous escalation” that “shows that the US is willing to disband the international system in order to protect Israeli crimes and attacks against the land and people of Palestine as well as against peace and security in the rest of our region.”
He also reiterated calls for the ICC to probe “Israeli crimes” and vowed the Palestinians would not “succumb to US threats and bullying.”
The PA has boycotted the Trump administration and rebuffed its peace efforts since the US president’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December of last year. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem — which Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six Day War and later annexed — as the capital of their future state.
In May, a spokesperson for the National Security Council said the White House was weighing closing the PLO mission after the PA’s foreign minister submitted a “referral” to the ICC calling for an investigation of Israeli settlement policies in the West Bank and the violent clashes on the Gaza border.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)
Egypt Sentences 75 to Death, Hundreds to Jail Over 2013 Sit-In
Saturday, 8 September, 2018 – 14:30
This picture shows detainees inside the soundproof glass dock of the courtroom during the trial of 700 defendants including Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, in the capital Cairo, on September 8, 2018. Mohamed el-Shahed / AFP
Cairo- Asharq Al-Awsat
An Egyptian court on Saturday issued death sentences for 75 people, including prominent Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and jailed more than 600 others over a 2013 sit-in which ended with the killing of hundreds of protesters by security forces.
The sentencing concluded the mass trial of some 700 people accused of offenses including murder and inciting violence during the pro-Muslim Brotherhood protest at Rabaa Adawiya square in Cairo.
The government says many protesters were armed and that eight members of the security forces were killed.
In Saturday’s hearing at the vast Tora prison complex south of Cairo, a criminal court sentenced to death by hanging several Muslim Brotherhood leaders, including Essam al-Erian and Mohamed Beltagi and preacher Safwat Higazi.
Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Mohamed Badie and dozens more were given life sentences, judicial sources said. Others received jail sentences ranging from five to 15 years.
Furthermore, the court handed a five-year jail sentence to award-winning photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid.
Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, is however expected to walk free soon, his lawyer said.
Shawkan was arrested in August 2013 as he covered deadly clashes in Cairo between security forces and supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
He was accused of “murder and membership of a terrorist organization” — charges that can carry the death penalty — but has already spent five years in jail.
Shawkan should, therefore, be able to leave prison “within a few days”, his lawyer Karim Abdelrady said as he welcomed the verdict.
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On the third day of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he referred to contraception as “abortion-inducing drugs.”
Judge Kavanaugh was responding to a question from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Thursday about his 2015 dissent in the Priests for Life v. HHS case. Kavanaugh had sided with the religious organization, which didn’t want to provide employees with insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Priests for Life, a Catholic group that opposes abortion rights, filed a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services in 2013 over the provision under the Affordable Care Act that required certain health care providers to cover birth control. The group argued that the provision was a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act ― the same premise of the Hobby Lobby lawsuit in 2014.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled against Priests for Life in 2014. When the group tried and failed to get a full court hearing the next year, Kavanaugh dissented to lay out why he would have ruled for them.
This year, the group celebrated Kavanaugh’s nomination.
“We at Priests for Life have personal experience of Judge Kavanaugh’s approach to religious freedom, because he sided with us when we had to defend our religious freedom in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals,” Father Frank Pavone, the organization’s national director, said in July.
“At a time when these freedoms need more defense than ever,” he went on, “we urge the Senate to conduct a swift and fair confirmation process, focused on the excellent qualifications of Judge Kavanaugh, and not on the politics of personal destruction that the Democrat Left are such experts at carrying out.”
Following Kavanaugh’s remarks on Thursday, Dawn Laguens, executive vice president at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said it was “no wonder” activists have been so emphatic in protesting his nomination.
“Kavanaugh referred to birth control ― something more than 95 percent of women use in their lifetime ― as an ‘abortion-inducing drug,’ which is not just flat-out wrong, but is anti-woman, anti-science propaganda,” Laguens told HuffPost. “Women have every reason to believe their health and their lives are at stake.”
“Let me break it down for you, Brett,” she went on. “Birth control is basic health care. Birth control allows women to plan their futures, participate in the economy, and ― for some women with health issues like endometriosis ― allows them to get through the day.”
Bob Bland, co-president of the Women’s March, called Kavanaugh’s potential ascent to the Supreme Court “an emergency, all-hands-on-deck moment for women across America.”
“We know Brett Kavanaugh is against abortion, and now we know he thinks birth control is abortion,” Bland said Thursday.
Cruz, who brought up the Priests for Life case at Thursday’s hearing, used language similar to Kavanaugh’s when he referred to contraception as “abortifacients” at a 2013 summit. The religious right’s use of terms like “abortifacient” and “abortion-inducing drugs” has long been criticized by medical and pro-abortion rights communities.
Language has been amended to more precisely describe the timeline of the Priests for Life case.
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Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) released formerly confidential emails from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh about racial profiling and racial discrimination at the start of the third day of confirmation hearings on Thursday,around an hour after threatening to do so.
The dramatic move appeared to defy Republicans who had shielded the documents from public view, and it seemed to risk breaking Senate rules. Senate Judiciary Committee staffers for Republican and Democratic officials told The Washington Post, however, that the committee cleared the documents for public viewing before either senator posted them to their websites. A spokesman for Bill Burck, the Republican lawyer overseeing the approvals, also told the publication that the emails Booker released were cleared last night.
The precise timing is not yet clear.
A spokesman for Booker said in a statement that the senator and unnamed Democratic colleagues “were able to shame the committee” into releasing the documents. Yet a spokeswoman for Hirono told HuffPost the senator did not ask the committee to release the emails that she made public around 10:30 a.m. before she published them online. Hirono did not know they would be cleared for public release, the spokeswoman said.
Booker was the first to threaten to make the documents public, saying he would “knowingly violate” the rules and accept any punishment for his action, which he considered to be civil disobedience. Booker said the emails, taken from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House, do not pose a threat to national security.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said the emails Booker referenced had, in fact, just been deemed non-confidential, saying “the process worked.” Lee offered to work with Democrats in the committee to make other confidential documents public, too.
When Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) reminded Booker that he could lose his seat for breaking Senate rules, prior to the documents’ release, Booker responded: “Bring it.”
At the hearing, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) argued that all the committee confidential documents should be publicly released, saying, “We are literally trying to get at the truth here.”
Booker’s documents, released Thursday afternoon, reveal that while Kavanaugh “generally” supports “race-neutral” security measures, the nominee also believed there was an “interim” question on whether to use racial profiling before neutral security measures are deployed. The emails between White House staffers were sent from mid-2001 and early 2002.
Messages released by Hirono reference unspecified government programs. Kavanaugh said in June 2002 that any such programs “targeting” native Hawaiians “as a group” are “subject to strict scrutiny” and “of questionable validity under the Constitution.” Hirono said in the hearing that her “colleagues from Alaska should be deeply troubled” by the nominee’s views because they would also apply to native Alaskans. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski from Alaska is seen as a possible swing vote in the confirmation process.
Booker’s colleagues Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Hirono also rallied around him, pledging their support in the event Booker faced “retribution,” as Durbin put it. Hirono said she would “defy anyone.”
“You want everything to be made public? All your emails? I don’t think you do,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) responded at the hearing.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) jumped in to argue that the process of categorizing documents as committee confidential was far from transparent and perhaps unfair.
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“There is no process for ‘committee confidential,’” she said, adding that Democrats were not consulted in the decision to make certain documents private.
The release was in line with what progressive groups urged Democratic senators to do Wednesday: Go around Grassley and release the 141,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s record that are not permitted for public release or public discussion. Members of the committee can read and discuss the documents among themselves, but they cannot question Kavanaugh on their contents in the hearings.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Wednesday that emails being withheld by Senate Republicans show that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh may have lied under oath during his prior confirmation hearings in 2004 and 2006.
The Democrat claimed that six emails from Kavanaugh’s time in the George W. Bush White House may contradict testimony Kavanaugh gave when being confirmed for his federal judgeships. But according to Leahy, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has labeled the emails as “committee confidential,” meaning they can’t be released to the public.
“There is simply no reason they can’t be made public,” Leahy said during confirmation hearings Wednesday.
Leahy’s assertion shined a bright light on the fact that committee Republicans are rushing the judge’s nomination through without disclosing a huge number of documents related to his work in the White House counsel’s office under Bush.
Grassley only requested between 10 and 15 percent of the documents from Kavanaugh’s time in Bush administration, and only 7 percent ― 457,000 documents ― have been provided to the committee. Of the documents that have been turned over, Grassley is refusing to publicly release 189,000. The committee asked for no records from Kavanaugh’s time as White House staff secretary.
The six emails in question related to a scandal from 2002 and 2003 in which a Republican Judiciary Committee staffer named Manny Miranda stole emails from the committee’s Democrats that included strategy memos about how they would question Bush’s judicial nominees.
Leahy alleged that Kavanaugh, in his role preparing those judicial nominees for their confirmation hearings, knew he had received these stolen emails from Miranda detailing the Democrats’ strategy on the nomination of Priscilla Owen to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Kavanaugh claimed in both his 2004 and 2006 confirmation hearings that if he did receive those documents, he “never knew or suspected” that they were stolen.
Under tough questioning by Leahy on Wednesday, Kavanaugh stated that what he said in 2004 and 2006 was “100 percent accurate.” Leahy’s line of questioning first focused on three emails that are available to the public, then later alluded to the six emails that are not.
Leahy brought up an email sent on July 19, 2002, from Miranda to Kavanaugh and another Bush official that, according to the senator, asked “why the Leahy people were looking into financial ties between two special interest groups and Priscilla Owen.”
Kavanaugh proceeded to read the email and concluded, “I don’t really have a specific recollection of any of this, senator, but it would have not have been unusual [to say] … ‘The Leahy people are looking into this and the Hatch people are looking into that.’”
Then Leahy asked about a January 2003 email.
“Mr. Miranda forwarded you a letter from me and other Judiciary Democrats to then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle,” the senator said. “The letter was clearly a draft. It had typos and it wasn’t signed. Somebody eventually leaked its existence to Fox News.”
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“Here’s the thing,” Leahy continued. “You had the full text of my email in your inbox before anything was said about it publicly. Did you find it at all unusual to receive a draft letter from Democratic senators to each other before any mention of it was made public?”
Kavanaugh pointed out that the only reply he made to this particular email was asking, “Who signed this?” According to Kavanaugh, this meant that he did not realize that the document was a draft and, therefore, remained oblivious that the document had been stolen.
Leahy then wanted to know if Miranda ever asked Kavanaugh to meet outside of the White House or the Capitol.
“I can’t rule that out,” Kavanaugh answered.
Leahy continued, “Did he ever hand you material separately from what would be emailed back and forth?”
“I don’t know the answer to that, senator,” Kavanaugh said before hemming and hawing about how sometimes the Democrats and Republicans on the committee worked together.
After his failure to remember whether he met with or received documents by hand from Miranda, Leahy asked Kavanaugh about another specific email. This was the first allusion to confidential emails the committee was not disclosing to the public.
“When you worked at the White House did anyone ever tell you they had a mole that provided them with secret info?” Leahy asked.
Kavanaugh said he didn’t “recall the reference to a mole.”
Leahy got more specific: “You never received an email from a Republican staff member with information claiming to come from spying?”
“I’m not going to rule anything out,” Kavanaugh said, echoing previous denials. “If I did, I wouldn’t have thought the literal meaning of that.”
“Wouldn’t that surprise you that you got an email saying that they got that from somebody spying?” Leahy pressed.
Kavanaugh, realizing that Leahy was talking about a document without revealing it, responded with his own question: “Well, is there such an email, senator?”
This led Leahy to turn to Grassley: “We’d have to ask the chairman what he has in the confidential material.”
Grassley responded angrily that all of the documents that the committee has made public from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House counsel’s office are publicly available online. Leahy replied that the email he referenced is marked “committee confidential.” Grassley, angrily yelling, declared that 80 percent of the emails the committee got from the archives are available to the public.
Leahy replied to both Kavanaugh and Grassley: “I’m concerned because there is evidence that Mr. Miranda provided you with materials that were stolen from me. And that would contradict your prior testimony. It’s also clear from public emails … that you had reason to believe that materials were obtained inappropriately at the time.”
“Mr. Chairman, there are at least six documents that you consider committee confidential that are directly related to this, including three documents that are already public,” Leahy added. “These other six contain no personal information. No presidential-act-restricted material. There is simply no reason they won’t be made public.”
Grassley said that he would produce the documents Leahy referenced: “He’s going to get what he wants. And I think there’s five of them.”
This paper explains why the Constitution as originally designed by the framers requires the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to be put on hold. It takes no view on his ultimate confirmation. But as one of the authors has elsewhere explained, it offends the structure the framers created for a president who is facing mounting personal liability under our Constitution and laws to choose one of the judges in his own case.
Or more likely, multiple cases. Never before in the history of presidential nominations of Supreme Court justices have there been so many matters of the deepest personal impact to the president that may come before the Supreme Court.
Never before in the history of presidential nominations of Supreme Court justices have there been so many matters of the deepest personal impact to the president that may come before the Supreme Court.
In addition to legal and procedural questions surrounding possible impeachment proceedings, there are a staggering array of issues with which the nominee may well be presented owing to the historically unprecedented fact that his patron the president was a named subject and, but for hesitation to indict a sitting president, could well have been a target, in a criminal investigation at the very time that he handpicked the judge—reportedly after White House consideration of the judge’s views on some of these very issues. As detailed below, those issues include:
Whether a president can use the pardon power to shield himself from criminal liability;
Whether a president can be charged with obstructing justice;
Whether a president can defy a subpoena for testimony;
Whether a president can be criminally indicted;
Whether a president can unilaterally fire a special counsel without cause; and
Related civil matters involving a president’s personal interests.
The need for a pause is particularly strong here, where the judge, as we also explain below, holds views that, while formally denying that presidents are above the law, amount to affirming that proposition as a practical matter—and where the deliberate confirmation process needed at a minimum to examine those views has been rushed and, in our view, broken. All of the authors of this paper have either been before the Senate for confirmation, worked on Supreme Court or other confirmations, or both. We have never seen anything like this hurried and defective process for such an important nomination.
In this paper, we advance an additional constitutional ground that strongly counsels that there be a hiatus. Although the Constitution provides no process for making a binding and enforceable determination that a particular Supreme Court Justice take no part in the consideration and decision of a specific case or set of cases, it does not follow that the Constitution, read with fidelity to its structure and its purposes and in light of the precedents construing its implications, has nothing to say on the matter to a justice who was worthy of confirmation in the first instance. On the contrary, we believe the Constitution instructs that a judge nominated to the Court in the situation that currently confronts Judge Kavanaugh recuse himself from the full swath of cases presenting the issues of personal presidential liability this paper identifies—and that precedent demands he do so now, as other nominees have done under far less compelling circumstances. The confirmation hearings should therefore be halted so these issues can be explored and proper recusals agreed to after due deliberation, including full production of the judge’s documents so his views can be thoroughly probed.
Our position is based upon first principles of our system of justice under the law, reinforced by a trio of Supreme Court precedents in the past decade establishing the parameters of constitutionally mandatory recusal—parameters that are triggered by the unique circumstances of Judge Kavanaugh’s situation. Those cases are Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., Williams v. Pennsylvania, and Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, which we describe in detail below. They have reflected two key constitutional principles that should dictate the outcome of recusal questions: judges must step aside when there is either a “serious risk of actual bias” or where there is an independent and compelling government-wide interest in protecting against the appearance of bias regardless of whether that appearance compromises the particular rights of any litigant. That includes the paramount interest at stake in this case of protecting the public faith in the judicial system as a cornerstone of the legal process as a whole and as a guardian of the rule of law.
While these precedents and the principles they embody have not yet been applied to require a Supreme Court justice to recuse, they plot a trajectory that points unmistakably in that direction. As we explain below, both principles clearly compel recusal here. Bias and the appearance of bias are powerfully implicated by the unique confluence of factors in this case.
If, moreover, we are to believe press reports that Judge Kavanaugh will refuse to commit now to recuse, he will be repudiating the guidance of the Constitution before he ever sits on the Court, inasmuch as recusal is mandatory if our understanding of the Constitution is correct. The seriousness of the matter is highlighted by the fact that other nominees have, as we explain below, committed to the Senate to recuse on substantially lesser grounds. This is after all no routine nomination but a lifetime appointment as one of nine individuals who determine the course of our justice system and the shape of the laws under which all of us will live, and as one who may, among other things, determine the fate of the president who nominated him and potentially of the presidency itself.
If the foregoing press reports are accurate, they further warrant our view that the Kavanaugh nomination should be delayed until the relevant legal issues overhanging the sitting president are resolved—and that the hearings set to begin on September 4, 2018, should not be taking place at this time. That pause must include further production of documents relating to the nominee’s White House service, a process that to date contrasts starkly with the timely and transparent production of documents regarding Justice Elena Kagan’s prior White House service when the Senate was considering her nomination to the Court. To date, only a small fraction of the requested Kavanaugh materials have so far been made available on the hasty schedule gratuitously set by the Senate majority. Unlike with Kagan’s nomination, where no White House documents were withheld on privilege grounds,101,921 of the Kavanaugh documents were abruptly withheld, without adequate explanation of the privilege assertions made in conclusory form, late on the last business eve before the hearings were to begin. The Senate must have adequate time to review those documents as well as the documents that have already been produced, including 42,000 pages produced on the eve of the first day of the hearing.
5See Senator Leahy, Jun. 23, 2010 (noting that the Obama Administration had not invoked executive privilege and the Clinton Library had withheld fewer than 2,000 documents on “personal privacy” grounds).