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November 21, 2019

Trump’s New Policy on Israeli Settlements Is Illegal and Self-Serving

Thumbing his nose at the Geneva Convention, the Rome Statute, the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly and the International Court of Justice, Donald Trump decided that Israel’s unlawful construction of Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is lawful. This policy change is part of Trump’s pattern of seeking to legalize illegal Israeli practices. It panders to Israel at the expense of the Palestinians while aiming to burnish Trump’s bona fides with his Christian Zionist base. Christian Broadcasting Network quoted Jack Graham, pastor of the megachurch Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, as saying that the Trump administration “once again has demonstrated why evangelical Christians have been unwavering in their support.”

“The timing of this was not tied to anything that had to do with domestic politics anywhere in Israel or otherwise,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed, denying that the change in policy was designed to benefit Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who’s locked in a tight battle for political survival.

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November 18, 2019

Trump Engaged in Witness Tampering During Ambassador’s Testimony

As former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testified in the House impeachment inquiry to evidence of abuse of power by Donald Trump, he tweeted insulting allegations against her in real time. Trump’s tweets defensively attempted to justify his decision to abruptly pull the veteran diplomat out of Ukraine two months before her scheduled departure date. His decision to recall Yovanovitch was part of Trump’s pattern of corrupt behavior of tying foreign policy decisions in Ukraine to his own political interests.

“Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad. She started off in Somalia, how did that go? Then fast forward to Ukraine,” Trump tweeted. Yovanovitch testified that she found his tweets “very intimidating.” This is evidence of witness tampering which could provide the basis for an article of impeachment against Trump for obstruction of justice.

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November 14, 2019

DACA Arguments in Supreme Court Leave Outcome in Doubt

After the arguments before the Supreme Court in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) case, it is difficult to predict the outcome. Justices often play devil’s advocate when questioning the lawyers, so reading the tea leaves about how a case will ultimately be decided can be a dicey proposition. But the justices’ questions appeared to indicate that right-wing Justices Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh favor affirming Donald Trump’s termination of DACA, and liberal Justices Kagan, Ginsburg and Sotomayor want to uphold DACA. Justice Thomas, who almost never asks a question during arguments, invariably sides with the right-wingers. Chief Justice Roberts, who generally takes the conservative position, and Justice Breyer, who more often votes with the liberals, were harder to read. Roberts, who appeared to lean toward the government’s position, will likely cast the deciding vote.

On November 12, the justices heard arguments in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, a case that is testing whether Trump’s rescission of DACA was lawful.

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November 10, 2019

Trump’s Order to Defy Subpoenas Is Itself Grounds for Impeachment

We’re headed for a separation of powers showdown between Congress and the president that will ultimately end up in the Supreme Court.

The Constitution gives Congress the “sole Power of Impeachment.” Yet President Donald Trump has ordered all of his current and former senior advisers to defy congressional subpoenas to testify in the impeachment inquiry. Trump is claiming the subpoenaed witnesses have “absolute immunity” against civil or criminal liability for refusal to provide testimony. However, “absolute immunity” is a creation of the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel. No court, statute or constitution has ever recognized it.

Some subpoenaed witnesses have obeyed Trump’s command and refused to testify. But others have defied him and testified before the committees of the House of Representatives gathering evidence during the impeachment process.

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October 30, 2019

Convicted Anti-Nuclear Activists Speak Out: “Pentagon Has Brainwashed People”

The seven Catholic peace activists who were convicted on October 24 for their symbolic protest against nuclear weapons at the Kings Bay Naval Base are now facing a two-to-three-month wait to hear their prison sentences. They could face more than 20 years in prison.

“Our own lives are uncertain regarding the possible length of prison sentences,” defendant Martha Hennessy told Truthout in an exclusive interview. “But we rejoice in the fact that more scrutiny is being directed at the purpose of the Kings Bay Naval Base in southern Georgia.”

The Kings Bay Naval Base is home to nuclear armed submarines with two dozen ballistic Trident D5 missiles, each of which is 30 times more powerful than the atomic bomb the United States dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. The seven peace activists — Martha Hennessy, Mark Colville, Clare Grady, Jesuit Fr. Stephen Kelly, Patrick O’Neill, Carmen Trotta and Elizabeth McAlister, who are collectively known as the Kings Bay Plowshares 7 — were convicted by a Georgia federal jury of conspiracy, destruction of property on a naval station, depredation of government property, and trespass after entering the base on April 4, 2018.

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October 23, 2019

As Trump Aids and Abets Turkey’s War Crimes, the UN Must Act

Nearly two weeks have passed since Turkey launched its ground and air attack on Rojava, the autonomous region of northeast Syria, following Trump’s sudden removal of 1,000 U.S. troops from the area.

While the United States and Turkey reached a “ceasefire” agreement on October 17, there are ongoing reports of violations of the deal. A U.S. official told CNN that Turkish-backed forces broke the ceasefire on its first day, saying that they were either acting beyond the scope of Turkish control or Turkey “didn’t care what they did.” Two U.S. officials said the ceasefire “is not holding.”

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October 15, 2019

Civil Rights Are on the Chopping Block in New Supreme Court Term

This term, the Supreme Court will decide whether people can be fired for being transgender or LGBQ, if people brought to the U.S. as children can be deported, whether states can impose restrictions on abortion that disproportionately harm poor women, how firm the separation between church and state is, the scope of the Second Amendment and whether criminal defendants can be convicted by less-than-unanimous juries.

Millions of people will be impacted by the results of these cases. “The court’s decisions will affect 800,000 ‘dreamers,’ in the DACA case…millions of LGBTQ workers in deciding whether federal discrimination laws protect on the basis of gender identity and sexual orientation, and ‘half the country’ in the abortion case,” The Washington Post’s Robert Barnes wrote, summarizing an interview with ACLU legal director David Cole.

These are some of the cases the Court will decide by the end of June 2020:

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October 7, 2019

Trump’s Stonewalling of Impeachment Inquiry Is an Impeachable Offense

As three committees of the House of Representatives proceeded with the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump, the president tweeted, “I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP.” Encyclopedia Britannica defines coup d’etat as “the sudden, violent overthrow of an existing government by a small group.”

On the contrary, Congress is fulfilling its constitutional responsibility to investigate allegations that could constitute impeachable offenses — that is, high crimes and misdemeanors. Indeed, during its early history in England, impeachment was called “the most powerful weapon in the political armoury, short of civil war.”

Impeachment is mentioned six times in Articles I, II and III of the Constitution. The “sole Power of Impeachment” resides in the House of Representatives. Impeachment is like an indictment. It requires a simple majority of voting House members. The case then moves to the Senate for trial. It takes two-thirds of the senators to convict the president and remove him from office.

In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee staff report for the Nixon impeachment inquiry noted: “The Revolution had been fought against the tyranny of a king and his council, and the framers sought to build in safeguards against executive abuse and usurpations of power.”

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September 14, 2019

Post-9/11 Terrorism Watchlist of More Than 1 Million Judged Unconstitutional

The U.S. government has used the post-9/11 war on terror to launch two major wars, mount gunship and drone attacks on several countries, and institute a widespread program of torture and abuse. Casualties of those conflicts number in the hundreds of thousands.

Another casualty of the war on terror is civil liberties. From the USA PATRIOT Act, to warrantless surveillance, to the Muslim Ban, to the use of metadata to spy on people and target for drone strikes, the deprivation of constitutional rights has continued during the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.

An additional assault on the Constitution is the terrorism watchlist, a federal government database of “known or suspected terrorists.” In 2013, there were 680,000 people on the watchlist, called the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB). By 2017, the number had swelled to 1.2 million, including 4,600 U.S. citizens.

That increase coincided with the Obama administration’s expansion of the terrorism watchlist system in 2013. It established a secret process that didn’t require “concrete facts” or “irrefutable evidence” to designate someone a terrorist, according to The Intercept. The “March 2013 Watchlisting Guidance” states that even uncorroborated Facebook or Twitter posts may be sufficient to include an individual on the watchlist.

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September 12, 2019

Observe 9/11 Anniversary by Calling for an End to the Afghan War

On the eve of the 18-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks and the illegal U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, the United States and the Taliban completed nine rounds of peace talks with no deal.

Although they had reportedly reached an agreement in principle, Donald Trump insisted on a secret meeting at Camp David with the Taliban and the puppet Afghan government so he could take credit as dealmaker-in-chief. The idea of finalizing the negotiations at Camp David was “a prospect that appealed to the president’s penchant for dramatic spectacle,” The New York Times reported.

Trump, however, abruptly canceled the meeting, slated to occur last weekend, citing a Taliban car bombing that killed an American.

There are “questions about the accuracy of [Trump’s] assertion that the Taliban had accepted his invitation to Camp David on Sunday, and that he was the one calling off the meeting,” according to The New York Times.“Taliban negotiators said Sunday that they had agreed to come to the United States only after a deal was announced and only to meet with the American side, suggesting that Mr. Trump may have canceled a meeting that the key participants were not planning to attend.”

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