By Robert A. Vella
Parliament dealt double blows yesterday to Boris Johnson’s intent to force a hard, no-deal Brexit as the October 31st deadline nears. What happens in the meantime isn’t clear, but the British prime minister won’t get the new snap elected he called for and he’s now required to negotiate further with the E.U. Boris, using intimidation tactics like his American counterpart, tried to retaliate against MPs in his own party who refused to support him; but, his authoritarian maneuvers failed spectacularly and only served to destroy the majority coalition behind him.
In America, a very quite political storm is ravaging the GOP. Republican members of Congress are dropping like flies these days as a wave of resignations are spreading across the country ahead of the 2020 election. The phenomenon typically reflects growing pessimism among politicians either about their individual reelection chances or about their political party’s prospects for gaining or maintaining control of Congress. A decade ago, a rash of Democratic resignations preceded the 2010 midterms which they ended up losing in a landslide.
In Trump related news, the President appears to have violated the law by publicizing his subjective and unscientific weather forecast for Hurricane Dorian which included a trajectory map that had been altered to support his assertion that the storm posed a threat to Alabama. The FBI is conducting surveillance against activist groups it sees as “extremist” or as “domestic terrorists” which in reality are only peacefully opposing the Trump Administration’s anti-immigration policies. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ asylum chief has been sacked apparently because he was not acting aggressively enough to oppose legal asylum cases. A former campaign staffer is giving up on her sexual assault lawsuit against Trump because she realizes that the President’s money, resources, and status gives him special privilege in the judicial system.
In court news, the judge in a hearing regarding Jeffrey Epstein’s sex-trafficking case became frustrated with lawyers’ lack of progress in identifying the hundreds of individuals who could be criminally implicated. A federal judge has ruled that the government’s terrorist watch list is too broad and must be changed to conform to the U.S. Constitution. Former Obama lawyer Greg Craig has been found not guilty of foreign lobbying and of lying to federal investigators in a huge defeat for President Trump’s attempts to turn the Department of Justice into a political weapon intended to exact retribution against the Mueller investigation. Former Republican congressman Aaron Schock was let off-the-hook for campaign finance violations when the DOJ granted him a sweetheart non-prosecution deal.
Last night, CNN hosted a seven-hour long climate change town hall event where moderators and audience members asked the ten Democratic presidential candidates questions about their plans to mitigate global warming. I watched the 5-8 PM PDT segments which included Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg. I was less than impressed, not only with the candidates’ responses but also by the skewed nature of the questions. For example, there were so many questions about nuclear power that I thought the audience was stacked with industry lobbyists! The moderator, Chris Cuomo, kept repeating climate change denier talking points and kept stressing the potential impact of mitigating global warming on oil and coal industry workers. Of the four candidates I watched, Sanders clearly stood above the rest. He was sharp, focused, knowledgeable, and eloquently explained why solving this crisis is so imperative. Biden sounded like a stale voice from the past, and Warren rambled on endlessly while avoiding direct questions. I’ve included two links for further reading, one from CNN and one from The New York Times. The decline of coal mining in Appalachia has been happening for years and now it is happening in Wyoming. Finally, the Trump administration is attacking energy-efficient light bulbs by using its favorite tactic – deregulation.
LONDON – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered a double parliamentary defeat Wednesday after he failed in his bid to call a general election just hours after rebel lawmakers succeeded in forcing Parliament to block a “no-deal” Brexit.
Next steps are far from clear: for Brexit, for Britain and perhaps for Johnson, who has insisted on taking a “do or die” approach to an EU departure.
The House of Commons voted by 327-299 in favor of the “no-deal” bill, sending it to Parliament’s upper chamber, the House of Lords. An earlier version passed 329-300.
Johnson needed two-thirds of British parliamentarians to trigger an election, a move he vowed to do after lawmakers Wednesday approved the “no-deal” legislation aimed at preventing Britain’s leader from leading the nation out of the EU without a formal exit deal covering trade, security, workers’ rights and other salient issues.
He fell 136 votes short of winning approval for a general election.
Republicans are dropping like flies
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), the second-longest serving member of the House, announced Wednesday he won’t seek reelection next year.
Sensenbrenner, who was first elected in the 1978 midterms, joins more than a dozen other House Republicans who have already announced their retirements. He was the third member from either party on Wednesday alone to say they wouldn’t run again in 2020, joining Reps. Bill Flores (R-Texas) and Susan Davis (D-Calif.).
And while Sensenbrenner’s Milwaukee-area district leans heavily Republican — President Donald Trump won 57 percent of the vote there in the 2016 presidential election — it’s yet another sign that Republicans are pessimistic about their chances to win back the House majority next year.
House Democrats are reveling in a “Texodus” as they increasingly see an offensive strategy to grow their House majority running through the Lone Star State.
These incumbents are seeing the writing on the wall.
“Nobody should be surprised by this,” UT Austin professor Jim Henson told Vox, adding that Republican retirements are happening “in places in the state where you’re seeing rapid population growth, [and] the composition in these districts [is] changing. It’s just not very attractive to some of these Republicans to be looking at a very tough election fight.”
While giving an update on the storm, Trump asked a staffer to hold up a map, which was an outdated version of the hurricane’s original path. The storm’s trajectory was outlined in white and encompassed most of Florida and part of Georgia, as well as the surrounding water.
But the map had been altered: a semi-circle of black ink extended the farthest reaches of Hurricane Dorian’s impact cone beyond Florida and into Alabama.
The National Hurricane Center did not include Alabama in its forecast, and some observers pointed out on Wednesday that Trump’s altered map may have violated the law.
“Whoever knowingly issues or publishes any counterfeit weather forecast or warning of weather conditions falsely representing such forecast or warning to have been issued or published by the Weather Bureau, United States Signal Service, or other branch of the Government service, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ninety days, or both,” the statute reads.
WASHINGTON — The FBI is monitoring groups on the border that are protesting U.S. immigration policy, according to a document obtained by Yahoo News.
The FBI has gathered intelligence from people with “direct access” to the organizations and is monitoring their social media, according to the document, called an “external intelligence note,” that was obtained by Yahoo News. The note, which was produced by the FBI office in Phoenix and sent to other law enforcement and government agencies, said there are indications these groups are “increasingly arming themselves and using lethal force to further their goals.” However, almost all of the evidence cited in the report involved nonviolent protest activity.
The intelligence collected and cited in the FBI document, dated May 30, 2019, is worrisome to activists and civil rights advocates who say that the government is classifying legitimate government opposition and legally protected speech as violent extremism or domestic terrorism.
The head of asylum for US Citizenship and Immigration Services, John Lafferty, has been reassigned to deputy director of a service center in Virginia, according to an agency official.
Lafferty’s reassignment comes after an email was publicized in July that he had sent to asylum officers noting the challenges they were being asked to endure in order to implement a new asylum policy.
It is unclear if Lafferty’s move is connected to the email. BuzzFeed first reported Lafferty’s reassignment and reports that acting USCIS Director and Trump administration insider Ken Cuccinelli pushed him out.
In the memo, Lafferty wrote that the agency was “once again being asked to adapt, and to do so with very little time to train and prepare.”
Still-secret court filings related to sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein and his alleged procurer Ghislaine Maxwell could implicate “hundreds of other people,” Maxwell’s lawyer said Wednesday during a court hearing.
But finding out who some or all of those people are could take some time as both Maxwell’s lawyer and an attorney for women who claim the wealthy financier Epstein sexually abused them told U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska they had not come into court with an agreement in place on how the documents should be unsealed.
Preska was clearly irritated with their lack of progress.
Preska ended the hearing with a tentative plan to have the attorneys take the next two weeks to hash out a process for categorizing the thousands of pages of sealed documents.
After that, the lawyers would have a week to designate which group of documents should be unsealed first, with a rolling week-to-week process thereafter to evaluate the material and argue over how much or how little should be disclosed publicly. There could be up to 10 different categories for the documents.
WASHINGTON — A federal judge ruled on Wednesday that a federal government database that compiles people deemed to be “known or suspected terrorists” violates the rights of American citizens who are on the watchlist, calling into question the constitutionality of a major tool the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security use for screening potential terrorism suspects.
Being on the watchlist can restrict people from traveling or entering the country, subject them to greater scrutiny at airports and by the police, and deny them government benefits and contracts. In a 32-page opinion, Judge Anthony J. Trenga of United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia said the standard for inclusion in the database was too vague.
Greg Craig, a top lawyer in the Obama administration, was acquitted by a federal jury in Washington on Wednesday afternoon of allegedly making a false statement to the Justice Department.
It was a stunning rebuke of the Justice Department’s recent efforts to spin off a lobbying probe from the Mueller investigation into an equal opportunity comeuppance for a top former Democratic official.
Former Rep. Aaron Schock was officially cleared Wednesday of criminal charges alleging he used his campaign funds as a personal piggy bank, six months after the Illinois Republican struck a deal with federal prosecutors.
The deferred prosecution agreement, first announced in March, required Schock to pay $42,000 to the IRS and $68,000 to his congressional campaign fund. His campaign committee, Schock for Congress, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of failing to properly report expenses. Schock admitted to overbilling the House of Representatives for mileage as he drove around his district for both official and campaign purposes.