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- 03/30/17--12:21: _White House Won't C...
- 03/31/17--10:41: _Trump Says CNN Is F...
- 03/31/17--09:07: _Black Democrats Are...
- 03/31/17--12:05: _Why Trump Will Have...
- 03/31/17--15:17: _The US Government C...
- 03/31/17--20:57: _The White House Rev...
- 04/02/17--11:34: _How “Auntie Maxine”...
- 04/04/17--16:11: _Federal Appeals Cou...
- 04/04/17--18:54: _A Short Section In ...
- 04/06/17--08:09: _Some Republicans Re...
- 04/06/17--13:08: _Twitter Sues Feds O...
- 04/06/17--13:08: _Inside The Original...
- 04/07/17--08:48: _The Senate Has Conf...
- 04/07/17--09:28: _Trump Badly Wants P...
- 04/07/17--11:44: _Catch Up On Some Of...
- 04/07/17--13:11: _Trump Organization ...
- 04/09/17--17:10: _Mass Arrests On Ina...
- 04/10/17--07:33: _Meet Justice Gorsuch
- 04/10/17--14:58: _Full Federal Appeal...
- 04/11/17--08:51: _Here’s How The Bill...
- 03/31/17--10:41: Trump Says CNN Is Fake News — But That’s Where He Wants Surrogates
- 04/06/17--13:08: Inside The Original Fake News Story
- 04/07/17--08:48: The Senate Has Confirmed Neil Gorsuch To The Supreme Court
- 04/07/17--13:11: Trump Organization Settles Lawsuit With Celebrity Chef José Andrés
- 04/10/17--07:33: Meet Justice Gorsuch
- 04/10/17--14:58: Full Federal Appeals Court Will Hear Travel Ban Arguments In May
- 04/11/17--08:51: Here’s How The Bill O’Reilly Ad Boycott Affects Fox News
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Deven Nunes (R-CA) speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill.
Joshua Roberts / Reuters
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer — who previously said the idea of Trump administration aides giving House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes info "doesn't pass smell test" — would not comment on a report that says two administration officials were involved in giving Nunes information that showed President Trump and his associates’ communications were incidentally collected in foreign surveillance exercise by US intelligence agencies.
On Thursday, the New York Times cited anonymous current US officials saying that Ezra Cohen-Watnick, the senior director for intelligence at the National Security Council, and Michael Ellis, a lawyer who works on national security issues at the White House Counsel’s Office who formerly worked on the staff of the House Intelligence Committee, assisted in disclosing the intelligence reports which Nunes then discussed with President Trump.
The Times report says that Cohen-Watnick, who was brought into the administration by Gen. Mike Flynn, former national security advisor, started reviewing “highly classified reports detailing the intercepted communications of foreign officials” after Trump tweeted that former President Obama had wiretapped him during the presidential campaign.
Nunes has come under fire for disclosing the intelligence to Trump while there is an open investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
At his daily press briefing on Thursday, Spicer said that he read the Times report but refused to comment on the story, saying that commenting “would be to validate certain things that I am not at liberty to do.”
Pressed by reporters to comment on Nunes’ trip to the White House to brief Trump, Spicer said, "If I start going down the path of confirming or denying one thing, we're going down a slippery slope"
When asked about a response to a question earlier this week about Nunes’ trip to the White House to brief Trump when Spicer said he would look into it, the press secretary continued to push back.
"I said we would look into it," Spicer said on how Nunes got into the White House grounds. "I never said we would give you answers."
A spokesperson for Nunes also declined to confirm the Times report.
"As he’s stated many times, Chairman Nunes will not confirm or deny speculation about his source’s identity, and he will not respond to speculation from anonymous sources," Nunes' office said in response to an email from BuzzFeed News.
Following the revelation from the Times, Rep. Eric Swalwell, a Democrat on the House intelligence committee, renewed the call for Nunes to recuse himself from the committee’s investigation.
"The House Intelligence committee must be independent, have credibility, and show progress to investigate Russia's attack on our election. It's time for Chairman Nunes to step aside from this investigation and for an independent commission to be created. If this report true, it reinforces why Chairman Nunes should be nowhere near this investigation,” Swalwell told BuzzFeed News.
“In last ten days he has cancelled a public hearing on the investigation and has spent more time at the White House than working with committee members. This was an attack on our country. It's bigger than one person. And America needs this investigation back on track,” Swalwell said.
In response to the report, Sen. Mark Warner, ranking member of the Senate intel committee, said that the situation surrounding Nunes get more "bizarre” every day.
"I can't make a judgment yet,” Warner said.
A spokesperson for House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has been asked repeatedly whether he thought that Nunes should recuse himself, said: "The speaker doesn’t know the source of the disclosure to Chairman Nunes. I’d refer you to the committee for more. As the speaker said this morning, the chairman has his full confidence."
Jim Bourg / AFP / Getty Images
In tweets and tirades, President Donald Trump has made clear his opinion of CNN: “fake news.” But privately — to surrogates that boost his message across television networks — the president has an additional position: Get yourself some CNN airtime.
The dueling messages reflect Trump’s complex relationship with the network, which was both an early and important source of free media for his campaign and a pesky adversary with aggressive reporting that he has deemed unfair. Despite Trump’s barbs, people close to the president say that he ultimately recognizes the importance of CNN’s platform, especially as he eyes the future midterm elections and beyond.
During a March meeting, for instance, an administration surrogate regaled Trump with stories of how sad some CNN employees were the day after the election. “There was crying and anguish. You would have thought 9/11 happened,” the surrogate told Trump, as the president lapped it up. (A CNN source called that characterization “absurd.”)
Trump had advice for the surrogate, who now works at a rival network. “Looking to 2018 it would be better for us if you dive back into that fire at CNN,” the source recalled the president saying. Trump offered to help get the surrogate on CNN.
It’s not the first time Trump has demonstrated a more nuanced position on CNN behind closed doors. After an aggressive meeting at Trump Tower following Election Day — where Trump berated news executives and anchors — CNN chief Jeff Zucker stopped by a photo shoot with Trump shortly thereafter. As BuzzFeed News reported, Trump dropped the combative tone from prior meeting and became more schmoozy. (Zucker and Trump — who have a complicated personal history — have not spoken in months, according to a CNN source.)
The episodes highlight that while Trump may trash CNN and lump it in with his broader accusations of “fake news,” he also views the network as something important to swing voters, particularly in juxtaposition to its cable competitors of Fox News on the right and MSNBC on the left.
“I think that the president treats it like a negotiating position,” said longtime Trump friend Christopher Ruddy, CEO of Newsmax Media. “He personally despises CNN, and he has used that word to me to describe his feelings toward it.”
Ruddy said that a few days after an appearance on CNN’s Reliable Sources, Trump called him to say job well done. “I can’t go on CNN all the time to defend myself,” Trump said, according to Ruddy.
Some people close to the president told BuzzFeed News that they have not heard him advocate for pushing for more friendly faces on CNN. But Ruddy said that he counseled Trump that CNN treats pro-Trump guests fairly. “With CNN viewers, my experience is that they are somewhat open,” he said.
Jeffrey Lord, a CNN contributor who noted that he has never been an official Trump surrogate, said, “It wouldn’t surprise me that he would say to surrogates to get on CNN.”
What is too often overlooked, Lord said, is the president’s media savvy. “This is somebody who in his entire life came up in the media capital of the world of New York City. He’s been doing this for decades,” he said.
“If you read between the lines, you see the strategy,” said a CNN executive. “Strategically, it makes sense if he’s pushing contributors get on CNN. He knows that we are a critical lifeline.”
"Everything you are trying to push is completely false," White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said in an email to BuzzFeed News.
Though Trump understands CNN’s importance in the media ecosystem, he hasn’t sat down for an interview with the network since August. Since taking office, Trump has given a series of prominent sit-down TV interview to the friendlier territory of Fox News with hosts like Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, Jesse Watters, and Tucker Carlson.
Trump’s cable news obsession has been well documented, and staffers and executives at CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC know that the president is watching. Not like he tries to hide it. Earlier this month, half an hour after CNN referred to a new Gallup survey about Trump’s sinking approval numbers, the president tweeted: “Just heard Fake News CNN is doing polls again despite the fact that their election polls were a WAY OFF disaster. Much higher ratings at Fox.”
About 10 minutes after CNN’s “Reliable Sources” aired a segment about a New York Times TV ad, Trump took the bait again: “For first time the failing @nytimes will take an ad (a bad one) to help save its failing reputation. Try reporting accurately & fairly!”
“When there’s something that we report that he doesn't like, it’s ‘fake news.’ He may not like it, but he’s watching it,” the CNN executive said.
Tom Perez and Keith Ellison speak to reporters last month after Perez became DNC chair.
Chris Berry / Reuters
WASHINGTON — As the Democratic Party rebuilds after the 2016 election, a set of black-led political action committees has begun organizing as outside political groups, carving out their own lane for fundraising and their advocacy priorities — things black operatives say have been ignored by the major Democratic campaign committees.
By quickly moving to support black candidates, organize black donors, and lock into a tailored progressive agenda, though, the groups hope to create more leverage inside the party — akin to how EMILY’s List, Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and NARAL function.
“There's always been this longing for more support,” said Quentin James, a Democratic strategist behind one such group gaining traction, Collective PAC. “[The Democratic committees’] objective is not to elect black people to office. It’s to elect Democrats. We have to build independent power outside of any party that prioritizes our values and issues as a community, and to do that I think you have to consider that the DNC is not the sole vehicle to create that pathway and progress.”
Jessica Pierce, the national co-chair of Black Youth Project 100, said these new entities exist not just because of a lack of focus on disenfranchised communities and shared priorities — but because of an acknowledgement of the need to make changes at the infrastructure level, policy, staffing, and resources and that “essentially make us feel like we’re included” with having to deliver tangibly with changes.
“It's like we're in a bad relationship,” she said. “They say, ‘Hey, we hear you, we're going to change.’ Then they do worse. I think this moment is us finally saying, ‘This is not working for us.’”
These outside, splintered groups come at a challenging time for the party: The 2016 primary posed ideological and political questions about the party’s direction — how progressive its economic direction should be, what role money in politics should play, what kinds of candidates appeal to which kinds of voters — that remain unresolved. In the weeks after the election, media and some Democratic attention focused on white, working-class voters who voted for Donald Trump in once-Democratic strongholds like Wisconsin, and whether they should be the focus of new party efforts. That post-election emphasis irritated many black operatives; reduced black turnout in states like North Carolina and Michigan likely hurt Hillary Clinton, as well as the failure of the campaign to flip enough affluent white voters in states like Pennsylvania.
The DNC, under the new leadership of Tom Perez, has the slightly challenging task of unifying the various camps produced by the 2016 election. Even if opposing Trump, and doing so in lockstep, has become the driving issue of the early days of the new president’s administration — the new groups reflect one way that post-election debate is shaking out.
Donna Brazile, the former chair, called the group’s work “long overdue.”
“The best way to leverage the increasingly strong clout within the Democratic Party is to build a network of donors to support candidates running for office or those outside the party's mainstream for additional resource allocations,” she said in an email to BuzzFeed News.
Perez, asked about the new outside groups, struck the note of inclusion he has since his election to the position last month.
“For too long, the Democratic Party has told young people of color to take a seat at the table, sit down and shut up. That ends now,” Perez said in an email to BuzzFeed News. “We need to weave their ideas, their energy, and their leadership into everything we do as a party.”
“We talk a lot about millennials and people of color being the future of our party, but frankly that future is now,” he said in an email to BuzzFeed News. “Across the country, young people of color are mobilizing to fight for Democratic values. Our job is to turn that energy into electoral success. And the only way we do that is by ensuring that our leadership reflects the communities we represent in every zip code.”
The tensions do have a generational component: The new groups’ ideology is derived, in many ways, from Black Lives Matter, whose politics, tactics, and decentralized movement confounded Democrats, including, at points, Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president. Black Democrats in Washington support the groups, with leaders wary that Perez’s vision sound all too familiar saying they the DNC should engage them early and often instead of only a few weeks before an election.
(Not all Democrats, though: “The reality of it is what they’re doing ultimately is a good thing, and I applaud them,” said Jarvis Stewart, a veteran Washington-based communications strategist. “But I would simply caution that a tone that emphasizes race over a message about Democratic values alienates white voters they need to win, and it further plays into this notion of identity politics that the Democrats are trying to get away from.”)
The groups are prepared to deal with dissatisfaction. Higher Heights is organizing 1 million black women, to create a donor base and consolidate their economic and voting power. Groups like Black PAC and Power PAC are organizing black voters of just election years, organizing voters around issues related to the economy, criminal justice and voting rights. Collective PAC aims to identify, recruit, and support progressive black candidates at every level of government. And after a series of fits and starts during the campaign, a collection of organizers and strategists, led by the strategist Jessica Byrd of Three Point Strategies, are engaging to fix a dilemma in Washington: how to increase the political heft of — and coordination with — Black Lives Matter.
“There's a coordinated effort to organize black money to get behind candidates and political initiatives, and if the DNC doesn't follow through with these commitments, I can see these groups becoming stronger and black donors will start giving primarily to outside groups,” said James, of Collective PAC. “When that happens you have a much more leverage for demanding change.”
On a recent evening in Georgetown, inside a boardroom, Justin Fairfax, a candidate for Lt. Governor in Virginia, spoke quietly about his candidacy, giving a stump speech about his background for a collection of young lawyers.
James doesn’t believe that it’s fair that pressure has been put on the DNC to be this beacon of diversity and building political power for people of color. Perez could certainly make worthwhile changes, he said, but he and others are unsure if they will be to the level that donors, black political strategists, and activists want. In this shift, James and his wife, Stefanie Brown James, are a major part of a band of political action committees whose sole mission to elect black candidates.
“No one thinks of going to the DNC and saying, ‘This is the primary place where we go to elect pro-choice women,” said Quentin James. “They go to EMILY’s List or the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.”
To some Democrats, Perez represented the kind of establishment-backed candidate averse to change.
Strategist Jamal Simmons said the Democratic Party is going to have to get accustomed to a level of discomfort — like. increased transparency in processes, and attracting new grassroots candidates that may not seem viable in Washington.
“These groups have to be brought to the table or else the [rebuild] won't be considered legitimate,” Simmons said. “That's the kind of shifting that the establishment is going to have to accept — that it's not going to be congressional leadership making these decisions on its own.”
Collective PAC has a lofty goal: It’s already working behind the scenes to ready black gubernatorial candidates in Florida, Georgia, and Maryland.
“It’s a really galvanizing moment for all of these groups to exist,” said Kimberly Allen-Peeler, the co-founder of Higher Heights. “People are like, ‘Aren’t you guys in competition?’ Really for us to get to where we need to be in elected representation we need, like, 20 Black PACs, and [nonprofit organizations] doing this work because there's just so much to be done.”
“We’re at the point that we know it's up to us to mobilize our voters,” she said. “We can't rely on parties or other groups to necessarily do that in a way that's going to be really impactful for our community.”
President Trump announces his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
WASHINGTON — If all goes according to Republicans’ plans, President Trump will have his first US Supreme Court nominee confirmed by the end of next week.
But the opportunity Trump has in front of him is greater than that: He could begin reshaping the rest of the federal judiciary — a branch that’s already proved to be a thorn in his side as he’s tried to advance his policies via executive action. In order to do so, though, he’ll have to find a way to work with Congress — including Democrats.
Trump inherited more than 100 federal district and appeals court vacancies. Under longstanding practice, senators of both parties have significant say in who ends up on the district courts within their states and influence over appeals court nominees as well.
As the healthcare bill debacle made clear, Trump has already run into trouble negotiating with Republicans in Congress. To fill judicial vacancies, he’ll have to contend with the wishes of both Republicans and Democrats. More than half of the vacant judicial seats are in a state with at least one Democratic senator. Thanks to a senatorial courtesy known as the blue slip process that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley has said he’ll continue to honor, Democrats in those states will have the power to indefinitely hold up nominees if they don’t approve.
Senator Mazie Hirono
Joshua Roberts / Reuters
There are already signs Democrats intend to exercise that leverage. Two lawyers familiar with the process told BuzzFeed News that Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, sent the White House a list of three lawyers she wants considered for a district court seat in the state — the very court where a judge has twice ruled against the administration in a challenge to Trump’s travel and refugee bans.
The three Hawaii candidates are the same lawyers that Hawaii’s senators recommended to President Obama for the same court vacancy. Obama’s nominee, who came from that list, never got a vote by the full Senate, and the nomination expired along with dozens of other Obama nominees at the start of the new Congress in January.
At a minimum, the move is a reminder to Trump that he won’t have free rein when it comes to the lower courts — at least not if he wants them to get out of committee, let alone confirmed.
“If [Democrats] wanted to play hardball on this and Grassley sticks to his guns, it could be a fairly serious limitation on the administration’s ability to fill those vacancies with people they want,” said Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who tracks judicial vacancies and nominations.
While a White House spokesperson declined a request to speak with a member of the White House counsel’s office, and would not comment on how the White House planned to proceed on lower court nominations, BuzzFeed News has found signs the White House is adhering to past practice — at least in part — when it comes to lower court nominees.
Trump’s first lower court nominee, Kentucky federal judge Amul Thapar, was on the list Trump released last year during the presidential campaign of his potential US Supreme Court candidates — and comes with strong backing from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The White House announced Thapar’s nomination earlier this month with no fanfare, a day after McConnell began sharing the news and in the midst of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch.
Additionally, a Republican aide told BuzzFeed News that the White House had approached Utah Sen. Mike Lee’s judiciary staff and asked for possible names for district court seats.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein
Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters
The White House has not only been working with Republicans on nominations. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in a statement to BuzzFeed News that she met with White House Counsel Don McGahn and Vice President Mike Pence in January and talked with them about lower court nominations.
Feinstein said she told McGahn and Pence that she would continue to use the same process she had used in the past for recommending nominees to the White House for California vacancies.
“Democratic senators each have their own process for recommending nominees. As the Obama administration consulted with Republican senators on nominees, we expect the Trump administration to do the same,” Feinstein said.
The White House does not intend to seek the opinion of the American Bar Association about lower court judicial nominees before announcing the president’s pick, according to a statement from ABA President Linda Klein to BuzzFeed News. The practice is in line with how President George W. Bush handled lower court nominations, but represents a break with every other president since President Dwight Eisenhower, according to Klein.
The decision is a marked contrast from the White House’s promotion of the ABA’s “well-qualified” rating for Gorsuch. As recently as Friday, White House press secretary Sean Spicer pointed to the ABA’s report about Gorsuch in urging his confirmation.
Standing in Trump’s way is the blue slip process. When the president chooses a federal district or appeals court nominee, the judiciary committee chairman sends a letter — historically on blue paper, hence the name — to the two senators from the state where the judicial vacancy is located, asking them if they approve or disapprove of the nominee.
During Grassley’s time as chairman, he hasn’t moved on judicial nominees until both senators returned their blue slips. His predecessor, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, had the same process. Grassley has said that he will continue to honor the blue slip process going forward. It’s not a formal rule, and chairs have enforced the courtesy more or less strictly over the years.
Democrats criticized Leahy for adhering to the blue slip process even when it empowered Republicans to hold up Obama’s nominees when they were in the minority, Wheeler said. But senators from both parties are likely to be protective of their power to influence who the president chooses for the federal bench, he said.
The White House historically has deferred to senators on nominees for the district courts — Trump will have to contend with the preferences of Republicans as well as Democrats. In some states, such as California and Texas, the senators have formal committees to screen and recommend applicants. In other states, it’s handled more informally, with the senators drawing on their own knowledge of the legal community and soliciting opinions from members of the bar.
For the circuit courts, the White House historically exercises more power, but still will often consult with home state senators, keeping the blue slips in mind. Of the 19 vacant appeals court seats, 11 are in states with at least one Democratic senator.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
Obama was thwarted in filling vacancies when Republicans felt that they didn’t get enough say in the process. When Jeff Sessions was under consideration for US attorney general earlier this year, Democratic senators asked him about his decision not to return a blue slip for Alabama federal judge Abdul Kallon’s nomination to the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit; Kallon never got a hearing, and his nomination expired at the start of the new Congress in January.
Sessions — who had previously voted for Kallon’s nomination to the federal district court in Alabama — replied in writing that he didn’t feel that the White House engaged in “good faith negotiations” about the Eleventh Circuit nomination, so he chose not to return the blue slip.
“It’ll be interesting to see if Democrats turn around and weaponize the blue slip process,” Wheeler said.
With two Republican senators in Alabama, though, Trump shouldn’t have a problem putting forward a nominee with a conservative background for the Eleventh Circuit. In conversations with lawyers in Alabama, two names repeatedly came up as contenders — Kevin Newsom, an appellate attorney at a private firm who previously served as Alabama’s solicitor general under a Republican attorney generalgovernor, and US District Judge L. Scott Coogler, who has been backed by Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby.
Building on momentum
With just one nominee announced for a lower court so far, it’s not clear how quickly Trump will move on the rest of the vacancies. Republicans hope he’ll move fast to take advantage of their majority in the Senate; Democrats were frustrated with Obama’s pace in naming nominees when they held the Senate early in his first term.
Dan Goldberg, legal director for the liberal advocacy group Alliance for Justice, said that as the White House rolls out more lower court nominees, he expects advocacy groups on the left to try to capitalize on the momentum they’ve built up opposing Gorsuch.
“What’s been clear from the Gorsuch nomination is how critical the courts are to all Americans and I think what you’ve seen is a broad coalition that has fought for these critical constitutional values and legal protections,” Goldberg said. The role federal judges have played so far in blocking Trump’s travel and refugee bans have also helped to raise public awareness about the importance of the judiciary, he said.
Goldberg acknowledged that the left will be up against the well-funded Judicial Crisis Network, a group that has spent millions of dollars on ad campaigns in support of Gorsuch. Still, he said, “we’re confident that we have the voters and the American people on our side.”
A Judicial Crisis Network spokeswoman declined a request to interview chief counsel Carrie Severino. But Severino previously told BuzzFeed News that the organization was prepared to deploy resources to support Trump’s nominees if Democrats try to block them.
Pool / Reuters
WASHINGTON — The US government will not have to release videos that show a detainee at Guantánamo Bay being forcibly fed, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday.
The government presented significant evidence that disclosure of the tapes could threaten security at the military facility, as well as the safety of American troops abroad, and a lower court judge was wrong to conclude that this evidence wasn't persuasive, the appeals court held.
"Images are more provocative than written or verbal descriptions. Extremists have used Guantánamo Bay imagery in their propaganda and in carrying out attacks on Americans," Judge A. Raymond Randolph of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit wrote in the court's main opinion.
The existence of the tapes was revealed in the case of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, who was held at Guantánamo Bay from 2002 to 2014. While he was detained, he went on a hunger strike, and military personnel moved him to a medical unit where he was forcibly fed. Those interactions were recorded by cameras at the facility.
Dhiab was released and sent to Uruguay in late 2014, but media organizations continued to fight in court to get copies of the recordings, which were part of the court record of Dhiab's broader legal challenges to his detention.
A federal district judge in Washington ordered the government to release the tapes, with redactions to protect the privacy of some of the individuals depicted. But she rejected the government's arguments that disclosing the videos would present a national security risk.
DC Circuit judges Judith Rogers and Stephen Williams joined the decision.
Washington attorney David Schulz, who argued for the media organizations, said in an email to BuzzFeed News that they were still deciding how to proceed. He noted that the judges didn't agree about what kind of First Amendment analysis to apply in this case, even though they all did agree that the government presented enough evidence in favor of keeping the tapes secret.
"The only thing that all three judges agreed upon is that the government had demonstrated a compelling interest in keeping the video tape evidence secret," Schulz said. "This is troubling given the conclusion of the district judge, after careful review of the actual videotape evidence, that the American public had a right to see what that evidence documented of alleged abuse."
A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment.
Read the opinion in Dhiab v. Trump here:
Pool / Getty Images
WASHINGTON — On Friday night, the White House began publicly releasing financial disclosure forms for senior officials in the Trump administration.
A handful of staff — like Jared Kushner, President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, and Gary Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president who is now the National Economic Council director — are very rich. Some — like White House senior strategist Steve Bannon — are merely wealthy. Others made incomes in the low six-figures before joining the White House.
Rather than posting the disclosure forms online, however, news outlets had to specify — one by one — which staffers' forms they wanted to receive. The White House later began emailing them to requesting publications.
And so, as the night wore on, reporters — and the public — learned a little bit more about the team Trump has brought into the White House.
Bannon made more than $1,000,000 last year — with $191,000 coming from Breitbart and more than $490,000 coming from Bannon Strategic Advisors, Inc., but with significant amounts coming from several other enterprises. For example, Bannon received $100,000 from Citizens United Production IV, LLC, for "director fees." He made more than $125,000 in "consulting fees" from Cambridge Analytica LLC, and more than $160,000 came from Glittering Steel, a production company that the Daily Beast previously connected to Bannon.
Ivanka Trump's business trust alone is worth more than $50 million, the 54-page disclosure form filed by Jared Kushner revealed.
Kellyanne Conway, one of the president’s most recognizable advisers, made more than $800,000 from her polling and consulting firm, inc./Woman Trend, according to her disclosures.
President Trump's social media adviser, Dan Scavino, made $300,000 over the past year before joining the White House — through his work on the Trump campaign and transition and other political consulting work.
KT McFarland, the deputy national security adviser who had previously been a Fox News analyst, made a little more than $60,000 from the cable news station — but more than double that from paid speeches (which came in about $10,000 a speech, on average) and a $42,500 book advance.
Aaron P. Bernstein / Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Maxine Waters has been in public office for 40 years, but she is now the unlikely, unchallenged new face of the Democratic Party and the “resistance” to president Donald Trump.
Waters, 78, was until recently a Los Angeles member of Congress in the news mostly for a messy ethics investigation. Now she’s an icon, and a meme. A single image of the woman now known on the internet as “Auntie Maxine” — righteous, furious, uncowed — and a bit of text seems to capture the moment of Democratic desperation, anger, and sheer exasperation. And Waters, more than perhaps any other Democrat, was made for the social media moment.
“We needed someone right now to shine the light of truth in a way that wakes us all up,” said Brittany Packnett, a co-founder of Campaign Zero and one of the leading national voices in the current struggle for racial justice. “Congresswoman Waters is that light. She's shaking it up and telling the truth, and we all owe her for it. She's the Auntie Boss: As real as your Auntie and as powerful as only a black woman could be.”
Waters intensity, her vehemence, her determination to communicate to her enemies that she really does not care, have defined her since she was first elected to the California State Assembly in 1977. She’s been an unabashed champion of federal spending on jobs, a critic of the Iraq war and other conflicts, a Los Angeles political insider, a leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, and a champion of the left of the national Democratic Party.
If there’s a quote that’s defined her, it’s a comment from 1989: “I have a right to my anger.”
But it would have been easy to think that, at 78, she was a politician of an early generation, entering the twilight of her career with a mixed legacy.
The decade did not begin so auspiciously for Waters. The Los Angeles Times had long suggested that her family benefited from her “clout.” She was a target of conservative outlets eventually including Breitbart News, and was ranked among the “most corrupt” members of Congress by both the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the conservative Judicial Watch. And she fell under a formal ethics investigation when, at the height of the financial crisis in 2008, she set up a meeting between the Treasury Department officials and the National Bankers Association (NBA), which represents minority-owned banks. The issue: a majority of the attendees were representatives of a OneUnited, a bank in which her husband held stock and was a formerly a board member. OneUnited was the only bank that requested assistance, and eventually received $12 million in bailout funds.
Waters vigorously protested her innocence, but the ethics investigation dragged on for years, a notorious Washington mess that Politico described as “ chronicle of mistakes, partisan and intraparty squabbles, allegations of racism, bitter personal rivalries and failed attempts to bring the investigation to a close months and even years before it ended.” It ended in 2012 after more than half of the committee’s members recused themselves. Waters was cleared, and her top aide received a formal reprimand, the mildest punishment possible.
That resolution opened the door for Waters to serve as the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee.
But her views on financial regulation are not what's endearing her to a generation of social-media-driven fans. Instead, it’s the rhetorical style that has always defined her, and that made her a particular object of conservative dislike, as in Human Events’ compilation of the “Top 10 Outrageous Maxine Waters Quotes.” That style is remarkably well suited to the media of 2017: The short, blunt video; the compact, blunt tweet; the simple image of an outraged black woman on the floor of Congress.
Waters’ former press secretary, Jermaine House, started to notice his boss’s image changing in January of 2015, when President Obama noted during the State of the Union that he had “no more campaigns to run. Republicans began clapping. “I know,” Obama said, not missing a beat, “because I won both of ‘em.”
Democrats went wild, but one of them stood out and caught her party’s attention: Rep. Maxine Waters of California, raising her hands in adulation and standing up for a president who punched back. “There was a lot of attention when that happened,” House told BuzzFeed News. “But it was nothing like it is now.”
Since then Waters has been going increasingly viral, sometimes literally. Her Twitter following last week ballooned to more than 260,000 after she tweeted: “I am a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I'm not going anywhere. #BlackWomenAtWork” (68,000 retweets, 192,000 likes.) There's a phrase to describe her probing, disbelieving gaze above her eyeglasses: “Looking Maxinely.” Someone made a drawing of her in a superhero costume with an ‘M’ on her chest. Improbably, Waters — someone who’s been in Washington for more than 25 years — is the face of the opposition against a president she says she does not respect.
Kimberly Woodard, 51, a public affairs consultant, came to know who Waters was way before she got to Capitol Hill where she rubbed elbows with the woman her politically-active mother revered. “Countless times I would hear my mother say, ‘Well, Maxine said…’ or something like, ‘Maxine is on it.’”
Woodard and others marvel her as to her current popularity but not surprised by it . “To be clear, this isn't a ‘new Maxine Waters,’” Woodard said. “This is who she's always been — a staunch advocate and passionate champion for fairness, truth and justice. And it comes with a lot of fire.”
“What you’re seeing is not a performance,” said House, Waters’ former press secretary. “Working for her is like working for Napoleon I: She is the top general with the plan and expects nothing less than the best or she will kick your behind, figuratively.
“People are just now figuring out what we have always known about her.”
It is obvious why Waters, who represents the 43rd district of California, is having her third, or maybe fourth, political moment – and the most defining of her career. The new political climate is defined by fake news, bombshell scoops sourced anonymously, and colleagues in the legislative branch who crush Trump in private but publicly choose their words carefully about a president who ran a winning campaign lining up his enemies one-by-one.
It's in this theatrical setting that Waters has emerged as a fully defined voice. She has encouraged investigations into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, coining the phrase “#KremLINKlan.” And ominously, she told Americans to get ready for Trump’s impeachment.
She’s an unapologetically black figure in American politics. Her tirades against Trump — and against Republicans over the years — have garnered their share of criticism, some of it racially tinged. In 2012, conservative commentator Eric Bolling told her to “step away from the crack pipe” in response to criticism of John Boehner, then the House Speaker. After running footage of her excoriating Trump on the floor of the House, the Fox News host Bill O’Reilly said he had been too distracted by her “James Brown wig,” a brazen attempt at humor widely panned as a racist attack (O’Reilly later apologized). Along with testy exchange between the White House correspondent April Ryan and Press Secretary Sean Spicer, the comment about Waters’ hair sparked the hashtag #BlackWomenAtWork, highlighting indignities black professional women face in the workplace.
The Internet’s response has been to call her “Auntie Maxine.” The term of endearment fits, activists and popular Twitter users observing Waters say, because she's an example of a figure in black familial culture whose strength isn't compromised in the face of opposition and has built up enough gumption to tell you what you're parents won't tell you —regardless of how it makes you feel.
Reggie Cunningham, an activist who started the hashtag #BlackWomenSave as a way of honoring black women during Women's History Month, wanted to acknowledge the women — mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers — who aren't always recognized. “I think we all see Rep. Maxine Waters in all of the black women that have impacted us on our daily walks. We see strength, power, intelligence, and grace. We see someone who unashamedly is fighting to save black people and others from this current administration.”
Friends and colleagues note how energizing Waters’ new fame has been, a process she's embraced in part by communicating directly to young people. Dante Barry, a Black Lives Matter organizer who runs the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, recalled a recent panel on Capitol Hill where Waters appeared and offered remarks. Toward the end she appeared to be unable to recall her final statement, then she remembered to everyone’s delight: “Oh, yes, stay woke.” She walked out with the room on fire.
“I think it is great that a giant fighter for social justice over several decades has become an icon for a new generation of activists,” Rep. Karen Bass, a fellow member of California’s congressional delegation said in an email to BuzzFeed News. “Rep. Waters is serving as a bridge between the generations, which is critically important because it addresses a concern among many that younger people are not aware of our history, our past struggles, and leaders. Hopefully the young activists that are following Rep. Waters will study her contributions and continue her legacy of speaking truth to power.”
Waters’ office did not immediately make her available for an interview, but she has appeared frequently on cable news taking aim at Trump. Recently, she took a break to comment on the love she's getting from the people she affectionately calls “millennials.”
“I'm so proud of this connection that I've made with these young people,” she told Joy Ann Reid on MSNBC. “They do call me Auntie Maxine — I embrace that, I love that and I'm going to be their auntie. I'm going to keep telling the truth and I want them to get out there and register people to vote, get active and bombard the Congress of the United States leadership with what they want them to do.”
Mark Kauzlarich / Reuters
WASHINGTON — Existing civil rights laws protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation, a federal appeals court ruled in a historic nationwide first on Tuesday.
It is a "common-sense reality," the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held, "that it is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex."
Specifically, the court held that the sex discrimination ban in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes a bar on discriminating against gay, lesbian, or bisexual people.
The 8-3 ruling represented a reversal of the court's past decisions on the topic, and makes it the first federal appeals court to rule in favor of protection for sexual orientation-based discrimination under existing federal law.
"[A] person who alleges that she experienced employment discrimination on the basis of her sexual orientation has put forth a case of sex discrimination for Title VII purposes," Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for the full court.
The Seventh Circuit covers federal lawsuits out of Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
The ruling comes on the heels of two other federal appeals court rulings, in which three-judge panels held that prior rulings of the courts made clear that sexual orientation discrimination is not covered under Title VII. Tuesday's ruling, however, was the first time a court had sat en banc — meaning the full court — in hearing such a case. When an appeals court sits en banc, it can review — and reverse — its prior rulings.
The Seventh Circuit did just that on Tuesday in Kimberly Hively's case alleging discrimination against Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana.
"It would require considerable calisthenics to remove the 'sex' from 'sexual orientation.' The effort to do so has led to confusing and contradictory results," Wood wrote, noting that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded "that such an effort cannot be reconciled with the straight-forward language of Title VII."
In explaining why the court was taking the step it took Tuesday, Wood detailed the role of the court — and the changed legal circumstances for gay people in America today, detailing the line of Supreme Court decisions over 20 years that culminated in 2015's Supreme Court decision ending state bans on same-sex couples' marriages.
"[T]his court sits en banc to consider what the correct rule of law is now in light of the Supreme Court’s authoritative interpretations, not what someone thought it meant one, ten, or twenty years ago," Wood noted. "The logic of the Supreme Court’s decisions, as well as the common-sense reality that it is actually impossible to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation without discriminating on the basis of sex, persuade us that the time has come to overrule our previous cases that have endeavored to find and observe that line."
Although the issue in the case brought by Kimberly Hively was regarding sexual orientation-based discrimination, Wood noted the logic has been applied to gender identity-based discrimination case as well.
"Many other courts have found that gender-identity claims are cognizable under Title VII," she wrote.
Three of the court's 11 judges dissented from the ruling: Judge Diane Sykes, joined by Judges William Bauer and Michael Kanne.
Sykes wrote, in part, that the decision represented a "radical change in a well-established, uniform interpretation of an important—indeed, transformational—statute."
Hively is represented by Lambda Legal. Gregory Nevins, a lawyer with the group, celebrated the ruling, saying in a statement, "This decision is gamechanger for lesbian and gay employees facing discrimination in the workplace and sends a clear message to employers: it is against the law to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation."
In Sykes' dissenting opinion, she addressed the group directly, saying that while "Lambda Legal's proposed new reading of Title VII ... has a strong foothold in current popular opinion," such information "informs a case for legislative change and might eventually persuade the people’s representatives to amend the statute to implement a new public policy" but that "it does not bear" on the legal question before the court as to the interpretation of Title VII.
Mandel Ngan / AFP / Getty Images
WASHINGTON — A short section in Judge Neil Gorsuch’s 2006 book appears to copy — at times word-for-word — from a 1984 law review article by a lawyer in Indiana. Other sections of his book that were reviewed by BuzzFeed News contain additional apparent attribution errors.
President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, whose nomination is being considered by the full Senate this week, has been an appellate judge for more than a decade. In all that time, he has been praised for his writing and has never been accused of plagiarism in his more than 200 opinions on the bench.
The section at issue in his book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, is a brief one: It is a summary of the facts and ruling in the 1982 case of Baby Doe, a baby born in Indiana with Down syndrome. It takes up only two paragraphs and seven endnotes in a book that covers more than 300 pages, including endnotes. The book came out of his 2004 Doctor of Philosophy dissertation from the University of Oxford.
The section, however, repeats language and sourcing from another work — Abigail Lawlis Kuzma’s 1984 Indiana Law Journal article, “The Legislative Response to Infant Doe.”
“‘Baby Doe’ (an appellation used to protect the family’s privacy) was born in Bloomington, Indiana, on April 9, 1982, with two congenital anomalies, Down’s syndrome and esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula,” Gorsuch began.
“Infant Doe was born in Bloomington, Indiana, on April 9, 1982 with two congenital anomalies, Down's syndrome and esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula,” Kuzma began.
Later, Gorsuch described what was happening:
Down’s syndrome is a chromosomal disorder that involves both a certain amount of physical deformity and some degree of mental retardation. Esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula means that the esophageal passage from the mouth to the stomach ends in a pouch, with an abnormal connection between the trachea and the esophagus. As a result, food and drink pass to the lungs instead of the stomach, eventually resulting in suffocation unless surgery is performed to correct the malformation. Surgery to correct esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula is routinely performed with success, but the parents of Baby Doe refused to consent to the surgery.
As had Kuzma, years earlier:
Down's syndrome or "Mongolism" is an incurable chromosomal disorder that involves a certain amount of physical deformity and an unpredictable degree of mental retardation. Esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula indicates that the esophageal passage from the mouth to the stomach ends in a pouch, with an abnormal connection between the trachea and the esophagus such that substances taken orally pass to the lungs instead of the stomach, eventually resulting in suffocation unless surgery is performed to correct the malformation. Corrective surgery to correct esophageal atresia with tracheoesophageal fistula is routinely performed with success, but the Bloomington Hospital is not equipped to handle the operation. However, the parents of Infant Doe refused to transfer their baby to Riley Hospital, a referral hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, for corrective surgery.
Gorsuch’s 2006 book contained two endnotes regarding the above-cited section:
49. “Virtually all individuals with Down’s syndrome have some degree of developmental retardation. The range of IQ scores has been wide, but most individuals are trainable by adulthood. Social skills usually are closer to the normal range than performance abilities. . . . The degree of mental retardation is quite variable, but most children learn to walk and develop some communication skills; there is a steady progress of development, at a slower pace than usual . . . [and c]hildren reared at home have higher IQs than those reared in institutions.” A. Rudolph, Pediatrics 244 (17th ed. 1983).
50. See R. Behrman and V. Vaughan, Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics 893–94 (12th ed. 1983).
Kuzma’s 1984 law review article contained several footnotes in the above-cited section, including:
14. "Virtually all individuals with Down's syndrome have some degree of developmental retardation. The range of IQ scores has been wide, but most individuals are trainable by adulthood. Social skills usually are closer to the normal range than performance abilities .... The degree of mental retardation is quite variable, but most children learn to walk and develop some communication skills; there is a steady progress of development, at a slower pace than usual . . . [and c]hildren reared at home have higher IQs than those reared in institutions."
A. RUDOLPH, PEDIATRICS 244 (17th ed. 1983).
15. See generally R. BEHRMAN & V. VAUGHAN, supra note 3, at 893-94.
The similarities continued throughout the brief section.
Kuzma did not respond directly to multiple requests for comment. In a statement from Kuzma provided to BuzzFeed News from the team of White House and outside staffers working on Gorsuch’s nomination, she said, “I have reviewed both passages and do not see an issue here, even though the language is similar. These passages are factual, not analytical in nature, framing both the technical legal and medical circumstances of the ‘Baby/Infant Doe’ case that occurred in 1982. Given that these passages both describe the basic facts of the case, it would have been awkward and difficult for Judge Gorsuch to have used different language.”
Chris Mammen, who was a student at Oxford while Gorsuch was there, said in a statement provided by Gorsuch's team, "The standard practice in a dissertation is to cite the underlying original source, not a secondary source, that supports a factual statement."
A BuzzFeed News review of the 10 case summary sections in the first half of chapter 10 of Gorsuch’s book, including the Baby Doe section, shows that one of the other nine also appears to have repeated some language from an uncredited law review article, although less extensively. A third section quotes extensively from a foreign-law decision — which is cited at the opening of the section — but large quotations are reprinted directly without using proper attribution.
Having reviewed the examples provided by BuzzFeed News to the Gorsuch team, the professor who supervised Gorsuch's dissertation, Emeritus Professor John Finnis of Oxford University, provided a statement to the Gorsuch team, concluding, "[I]n my opinion, none of the allegations has any substance or justification. In all the instances mentioned, Neil Gorsuch’s writing and citing was easily and well within the proper and accepted standards of scholarly research and writing in the field of study in which he and I work.”
In a section detailing a British case, In re T, descriptions from Graham Rossiter’s “Contemporary Transatlantic Developments Concerning Compelled Medical Treatment of Pregnant Women,” published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in 1995, are repeated in Gorsuch’s description of the case. The language in multiple places is the same between Rossiter and Gorsuch's work and different from the underlying cited court opinion.
Like Georgetown College, this case involved a blood transfusion and a Jehovah’s Witness. The patient, “T,” a twenty-year-old woman thirty-four weeks pregnant and living with her boyfriend, was admitted to a hospital following a traffic accident, with symptoms of pneumonia. T’s mother was a devout Jehovah’s Witness, while her father rejected the religion, and the parents were divorced. T described herself as a former Jehovah’s Witness when she entered the hospital, though she also stated that she still had certain beliefs and practices. Once admitted, T’s condition deteriorated and she went into labor; a caesarian section birth was necessary. Twice T expressed her opposition to any blood transfusion, though both conversations came shortly after she had met alone with her mother. T eventually signed a refusal of care form supplied by the hospital, which was neither read nor explained to her. The following morning, T delivered a stillborn child and her condition deteriorated to such an extent that she was sedated and placed on a ventilator; but for her expressed wishes, she would have been given a transfusion. T’s father, at this point, supported by T’s boyfriend, applied for a declaratory judgment that it would not be unlawful for the hospital to administer a transfusion. The case worked its way to England’s Court of Appeal, which ultimately concluded that the transfusion could be given.
Rossiter, years earlier:
In the first of these, in Re T, the Court was faced with an appeal from a decision of a judge declaring lawful the administering of a blood transfusion to a patient 34 weeks’ pregnant at the time who was admitted to hospital following a road traffic accident. The patient had been brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness but was not an active practising member of that religious denomination at the time the went in question occurred. She orally informed a nurse (twice) that she did not wish a blood transfusion and also signed a form provided by the hospital, which was neither read nor explained to her, signifying her refusal of consent to any such procedure. The following morning, her child was delivered stillborn and her condition deteriorated to such an extent that, but for her expressed wishes, a blood transfusion would have been given. Her condition remained critical and she was sedated and placed on a ventilator. The patient’s father (a non-Jehovah’s Witness) supported by her boyfriend applied to the Court for a declaration that it would not be unlawful for the hospital to administer a transfusion in the absence of her consent. An order was made by the High Court in terms of the application before it and that judgment was upheld on appeal.
Finally, in a section in Gorsuch’s book detailing an Italian case, In re B, he cites initially to the decision and, later, includes endnotes on both occasions when he uses quotations from the decision. In describing the case throughout the section, however, there are several points where he uses direct quotations from the decision without any attribution.
At one point, for example, Gorsuch describes the “one-way weaning program” as one “whereby, over a period of time, the number of breaths supplied by the ventilator is gradually reduced and the patient's body is allowed to become used to breathing on its own again.” No attribution is given to that description, and no quotation marks are used.
In the court’s opinion, it states, “One-way weaning is a programme whereby over a period of time the number of breaths supplied by the ventilator is gradually reduced and the patient's body is allowed to become used to breathing on its own again.”
The most prominent attribution errors in the first half of chapter 10, however, come in the Baby Doe section, detailed above.
Gorsuch ended the section by detailing that "the child died on the sixth day after he was born while a guardian ad litem was on his way to Washington, D.C., to appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court."
Kuzma ended the section of her 1984 article by detailing that "the child died on the sixth day after he was born while the guardian ad litem was on his way to Washington, D.C., to appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court."
They both cite to an article from the Bloomington Sunday Herald-Times.
Pete Marovich / Getty Images
Not all Republicans want to fire Richard Cordray.
Some do: House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling this week renewed his call for President Donald Trump to immediately remove Cordray from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — something that wouldn’t be unexpected from the president. A lot of Republicans want to completely dismantle CFPB, which Elizabeth Warren helped design to essentially police Wall Street.
But in Ohio, Hensarling’s demand had GOP operatives again picturing a scenario they’d rather not see: Cordray as next year’s Democratic nominee for governor. They acknowledge that Cordray, a former state treasurer and attorney general who has won two statewide elections, would be their toughest opponent.
“Republicans hardly stay awake at night worrying about Richard Cordray,” Jai Chabria, a former top adviser to term-limited Gov. John Kasich, told BuzzFeed News.
“But if he was fired by Donald Trump,” added Chabria, who is not working with any of the likely GOP candidates, “that would certainly make him more attractive to the Democratic base.”
Others close to GOP gubernatorial hopefuls and other party leaders in Ohio requested anonymity to speak candidly.
“He’s their best option, no doubt,” one party strategist said of Cordray. “He could be a linchpin for a very good ticket if he runs. Certainly beatable, but gives them the best chance in all likelihood, so I’d rather see them have to go about it with” a lesser-known candidate.
Another Republican operative believes Cordray “might be able to clear the field” on the Democratic side, where there are three declared candidates (former state legislator Connie Pillich, former US Rep. Betty Sutton, and Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni) and at least a half-dozen other prospects.
“I hear a couple of people say, ‘I wish they would just let him stay put or drag this out.’ Without him, their ticket is really weak,” a third Ohio Republican strategist told BuzzFeed News.
Ohio could have a crowded and super-competitive GOP primary for governor in 2018. The field already includes Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and US Rep. Jim Renacci. Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted are expected to join the race soon.
Republicans see Cordray as a threat because of the agency’s mission and the support it has among progressive activists and donors. Warren became a national figure — and a US senator from Massachusetts — after helping launch the agency under the Dodd-Frank Act and being bypassed for the director’s job in part because of strong GOP opposition.
Warren’s exit cleared the way for Cordray. But Republicans now are counting on Trump delivering the agency a knockout blow. Some Democrats in Ohio are counting on that, too. With Warren’s rise in mind, they believe Trump, if he fires Cordray, would enable him to return home as a political martyr who lost his job for being too tough on Wall Street and the banking industry.
Cordray of course could choose to resign from the job, which prevents him from campaign activity, and begin running for governor. But doing so could accelerate the agency’s demise and leave national Democrats blaming Cordray.
“I imagine he feels like he’s the last wall against some of the overwhelming excesses of the Trump administration,” Cordray ally David Leland, a state legislator and former Ohio Democratic Party chairman, said.
Hensarling addressed Cordray’s gubernatorial prospects Wednesday when the director appeared before his committee.
“Mr. Cordray, I know that you are here at our committee’s invitation for a statutory appearance, but I’m otherwise surprised to see you here in that, as you well know, there have been many press reports saying that you would have otherwise returned to Ohio to pursue a gubernatorial bid,” the Texas congressman said. “Perhaps the rumors of your political aspirations are greatly exaggerated.”
Hensarling and other Republicans assert that the agency has failed to help consumers and see Cordray’s stewardship as a potential liability in a run for office.
Liz Mair, a national GOP operative who has worked on financial regulatory issues, including some tackled by Cordray’s agency, acknowledged Cordray’s strengths as a candidate. But she also noted publicized accusations of discrimination and poor record-keeping under his watch.
“Cordray,” Mair told BuzzFeed News, “has now for several years presided over an agency that has been plagued by major problems that form an opposition research treasure trove for the Ohio GOP, whether they know it or not.”
WASHINGTON — Twitter sued the Trump administration on Thursday, trying to stop an attempt at forcing the company to reveal personal information about the user of the @ALT_USCIS account.
"The rights of free speech afforded Twitter’s users and Twitter itself under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution include a right to disseminate such anonymous or pseudonymous political speech," the lawsuit argues.
Filed in federal court in California, the lawsuit seeks a court order stopping the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) from using its summons authority to demand Twitter turn over personal identifying information relating to the account, identified on Twitter as an "immigration resistance" account and "[n]ot the views of DHS or USCIS."
Asked for comment on the lawsuit, Department of Homeland Security spokesperson Jenny Berke wrote, "As a matter of policy, we do not comment on pending litigation."
The lawsuit alleges that the request violates the First Amendment, is not authorized under the relevant summons law, violates the Administrative Procedure Act.
Twitter argues that the government cannot order Twitter to turn over the information unless several conditions are met, including "demonstrating that some criminal or civil offense has been committed, that unmasking the users’ identity is the least restrictive means for investigating that offense, that the demand for this information is not motivated by a desire to suppress free speech, and that the interests of pursuing that investigation outweigh the important First Amendment rights of Twitter and its users."
Of those standards, Twitter's lawyers from Wilmer Hale — including former US Solicitor General Seth Waxman — write that "Defendants have not come close to making any of those showings."
The ACLU has informed BuzzFeed News that it is representing the @ALT_USCIS user, and will be making a court filing on behalf of the user in the near future, raising statutory and constitutional arguments.
“The right to anonymously speak out against the government is clearly protected by the First Amendment. We are pleased to see Twitter standing up for its users’ rights, and the ACLU will soon be filing documents in court on behalf of this user," ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler told BuzzFeed News in a statement. "To unmask an anonymous speaker online, the government must have a strong justification. But in this case the government has given no reason at all, leading to concerns that it is simply trying to stifle dissent."
On March 14, according to the complaint, an agent with CBP faxed a summons to Twitter, ordering it to turn over "[a]ll records regarding the twitter account @ALT_USCIS to include, User name, account login, phone numbers, mailing addresses, and I.P. addresses."
As noted in the complaint, however, "The CBP Summons ordered Twitter to produce the records to a CBP office in Washington D.C. by 11:45 A.M. on March 13, 2017—the day before the CBP Summons was faxed to Twitter."
This is the summons faxed to Twitter:
Read the lawsuit:
Lies smears and whispering campaigns have always been part of the fabric of politics, but if you had to trace this digital era’s "fake news" phenomenon to its roots, you’d go back to the early days of Barack Obama’s campaign for president and to the persistent rumor that he was a secret Muslim.
The rumor festered in the fever swamps in late 2006, got a boost from Fox News in January of 2007, and then seemed to fade — only to persist and grow through email forwards and talk radio chatter, to twist itself into a new form as a claim about Obama’s birth certificate, and to lead in a direct of twisted way to the elevation and ultimately election of Donald Trump.
But back in 2007, the Muslim whispers were a specific challenge to two groups: The Obama campaign; and the reporters covering him. And on this week’s Newsfeed with BuzzFeedBen, I talked to David Axelrod, the chief strategist for that campaign, about the difficult and new decisions we all faced.
Politics was beginning then to be truly shaped by the internet, and it was for many of us this first hint two old rules no longer applied: that the notion that news organizations could serve as gatekeepers and suffocate rumors by ignoring them; and that campaigns could keep lies in check by, as they used to say, refusing to dignify them with a response.
“You do get to a point where you make judgements as to whether this is seeping into the public consciousness in a way that is threatening to the enterprise and you make a decision about whether there’s more to lose by not talking about it than talking about it,” Axelrod recalled.
Back then, reporters spent a lot of time debating the same questions. We’d all gotten the email forwards — many from our friends and relatives outside politics — about Obama’s faith, and talked to Iowans and South Carolinians at political events who had questions about his religion. We also knew it was nonsense, and we were receptive to the campaign’s outrage at any suggestion of writing about the rumor, even to debunk it.
“Our interest was in not ramping up that story by giving it more exposure,” Axelrod said.
The campaign was not particularly pleased, as I recall, when Jonathan Martin and I broke with that convention in Politico in October of 2007, to report that on the myth about Obama’s faith. We traced the rumor then to a column by the anti-Muslim writer Debbie Schlussel, who wrote a column called, Barack Hussein Obama: Once a Muslim, Always a Muslim.
“I had a lot of readers ask me about Barack Obama and his background, and a lot of them had heard he was a Muslim or thought he was a Muslim,” she told us. “I looked into it, I found out his middle name was Hussein.”
The viral medium them wasn’t Facebook. It was mostly, as Dave Weigel and Chris Hayes noted at the time… email forwards.
Those online rumors had translated in early 2007 into a Fox News report suggesting that Obama had been educated in a “madrassa” in Indonesia.
The campaign responded furiously, and CNN sent a crew to Indonesia that debunked the story. That seemed, indeed, to put the conversation to rest — after all, Obama had written and talked at length of his Christian faith.
But “rather than vanish, the whispered smear campaign appears to have gone underground, and in its purest form: Obama himself, according to a pair of widely circulated anonymous e-mails, is a Muslim,” we reported back in 2007.
Obama himself “found it exasperating,” Axelrod said. “He had written about his faith, he had told his story a lot of times, he found it hard to understand how people could still accept what was patently not true.”
And by November of that year, the campaign had changed its strategy, putting out a fact-checking website — it seemed novel at the time! — that explicitly engaged and debunked the rumors about Obama’s faith.
This was complicated then, as now, Axelrod recalled by a second consideration: “We didn’t want to dignify the idea that if he was a Muslim that that was something to apologize for.”
The Muslim myth did fade out, replaced seamlessly — if totally irrationally — by whispers about Obama’s birth certificate. And the cycle repeated itself: The Obama White House first ignored the story and discouraged the press from covering it. Then when Donald Trump brought the ludicrous smear into the national conversation, Obama — and much of the media — went through the same cycle of first attempting to ignore it, then being forced to engage.
“That went on for years,” said Axelrod. Finally “out of exasperation he said to [White House Counsel] Bob Bauer…, ‘Would someone just get the damn birth certificate.’”
That question of how to handle a viral falsehood is now one of the central ones in journalism and politics. And Axelrod’s own view is that Democrats, in particular, need to be more aggressive — to “intercept these missiles as they’re launched on social” and “be willing to fight very hard when they surface.”
How to listen:
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With his wife Louise looking on, Judge Neil Gorsuch testifies during the second day of his Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on March 21, 2017.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
WASHINGTON — Judge Neil Gorsuch will be the 113th justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, confirmed on a 54-45 vote a little before noon Friday.
Gorsuch was confirmed on the 420th day since Justice Antonin Scalia died.
The nearly 14 months that have passed since presented countless unexpected — and some expected — developments, leading to Friday’s vote that will send a conservative appellate judge from Denver to Washington.
The confirmation is a major victory for President Trump, who nominated Gorsuch for the position, and for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose unwavering refusal to move on former President Obama's nominee kept the seat open.
Gorsuch, who clerked for Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy in the early 1990s, worked in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush before being nominated by him, in 2006, to a vacancy on the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit — a move that sent him back to Denver, where he was born and raised.
The Supreme Court public information office announced on Friday that Gorsuch will be sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts at a private ceremony at the court at 9 a.m. Monday morning. A public ceremony will follow at the White House, where Kennedy will administer the oath.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School with a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University in England, Gorsuch will be the only justice on the court from outside the coasts — although most of his two decades from when he started undergrad until when he joined the Tenth Circuit was spent on the East Coast, in Washington, New York City, or Boston.
On the Tenth Circuit, Gorsuch developed a reputation as a conservative judge, a good colleague, and a strong writer. One of Gorsuch’s fellow Tenth Circuit judges, Judge Harris Hartz, told BuzzFeed News in March that Gorsuch is hard-working, polite, and “someone who’s willing to change his or her mind and capable of changing your mind.”
Among his most noted cases are his positions in favor of strong protection for religious liberty in both the Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases involving the contraception mandate under the Affordable Care Act.
When Scalia died, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell almost immediately said the Senate would not consider any nominee put forth by Obama.
A month later, Obama nominated the widely respected chief judge of the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, Merrick Garland — but McConnell, aided by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, refused to move the nomination forward. Obama continued to press for Republicans to consider his nominee, but to no avail.
In May, Trump did the unexpected and announced a list of eleven judges who he would consider for to replace Scalia if he were to be elected. Gorsuch was not among the 11 names.
Then, in September, Trump added another 10 names to the list — including Sen. Mike Lee and, more importantly, Judge Neil Gorsuch.
While Hillary Clinton presented no list of her own, most expected her to win the election, meaning either that Garland would be confirmed in the lame-duck period in the Senate after the election or that Clinton would put forth Garland or another nominee once she took office.
Of course, that didn’t happen. Trump won the presidential election, stuck to his list, and, on Jan. 31, Trump nominated Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.
It was one of the rare moments when the president — who was in Florida at Mar-a-Lago as the Senate voted on Friday — was front in center in the nomination process.
After nearly 20 hours of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee in March, Gorsuch's nomination came to full Senate — where Democrats, still angry about the treatment of Garland, filibustered the nomination on Thursday. As promised, however, McConnell successfully moved to change the rules of the Senate to require only a simple majority vote to end debate on Supreme Court nominations.
All of which led to Friday's confirmation vote, over which Vice President Mike Pence presided.
Gorsuch said that January night that the president had entrusted him with “a most solemn assignment" in nominating him for the high court.
“Standing here, in a house of history and acutely aware of my own imperfections, I pledge, if I am confirmed, I will do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great country,” he said.
Gorsuch will now have the opportunity to do that — and quickly. The current Supreme Court term remains in progress, with oral arguments yet to be heard in a handful of cases, including a case out of Missouri about whether excluding a church from participating in a specific type of governmental program can violate the Constitution’s Free Exercise Clause.
Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images
For the second time in his young presidency, Donald Trump has won the praise of the mainstream media. All it took was a comfortable speech to Congress and bombing Syria.
Trump ran on a promise not to intervene against the Syrian regime, and to instead bomb their ISIS enemies. But the warm reviews for his military strike raise the question: What lesson will a president who is hungry for praise take from this?
On CNN, Fareed Zakaria said that “Donald Trump became president of the United States” last night, when the US military launched strikes against a Syrian air base in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack against that killed civilians in the country. US radar had captured planes from the base, and in an address Thursday evening, Trump said the strikes were "in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons."
The move, from someone who had campaigned against intervention in Syria and the Middle East and warned that Hillary Clinton would entangle the country in foreign conflicts, stunned the political world. Though some members of Congress offered critiques about an unclear endgame and lack of congressional approval, many Democrats and Republicans commended Trump’s response after years of criticism of the Obama administration’s Syria policy. In the hours since the raid, mainstream media figures that have been critical of Trump have likewise emerged across television and Twitter to heap on their plaudits.
Bret Stephens — a Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal columnist and a frequent Trump critic who lambasted the president’s attacks on the media in a viral speech — tweeted that “Trump has done the right thing and I salute him for it. Now destroy the Assad regime for good.”
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, who was criticized for his close relationship with Trump during the campaign but clashed with the president in recent months, also praised the move, tweeting that the White House’s comments following the attack suggested it was to send a message of “strength” and “moral leadership.”
Scarborough, whose show is closely watched by Trump, had earlier this week criticized the Trump administration for blaming the chemical attack on his predecessor. “He can’t criticize Barack Obama on one hand for turning a blind eye to Assad’s chemical weapons in 2012 and then allow it to happen in 2017, and do absolutely nothing while this holocaust unfurls before our eyes,” Scarborough said on Wednesday’s Morning Joe.
Brian Williams described the Pentagon-released footage of the airstrike as “beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments,” and quoted Leonard Cohen.
The admiration extended to the New York Times, which has been a frequent target of Trump’s anti-media tweets and whose opinion pages have critiqued the president. Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tweeted, “Trump is right to make Syria pay a price for war crimes, and taking out airfields is the best approach. I do worry about his execution.”
In a news analysis piece in the Times, White House correspondent Mark Landler reflected on how Trump’s heart had moved him to take action after images of the atrocities emerged. “What is clear, however, is that Mr. Trump reacted viscerally to the images of the death of innocent children in Syria. And that reaction propelled him into a sequence of actions that will change the course of his presidency,” Landler writes. “Mr. Trump’s improvisational style has sometimes seemed ill suited to the gravity of his office. In this case, it helped lead him to make the gravest decision a commander-in-chief can make.” (The headline on the piece was later changed from referencing Trump’s “heart” to his “instinct.”)
The general positive reaction from a pundit class obsessed with “optics” is perhaps somewhat predictable. Trump’s presidency thus far has been defined by chaos, infighting, and unforced errors, but mainstream media talking heads tend to latch on to moves that appear decisive and “presidential.”
Meanwhile, some of Trump’s most ardent right-wing media supporters expressed feelings of betrayal. Infowars' Paul Joseph Watson, for instance, announced that he is abandoning the Trump train, calling the president “another deep state/Neo-Con puppet.” Breitbart News’s London editor tweeted that he was “apoplectic” over Trump’s attack.
Welcome back! BuzzFeed News has relaunched No One Knows Anything, our politics podcast, with new hosts and a new format.
Each Friday, co-hosts Kate Nocera (our Washington bureau chief) and Charlie Warzel (a senior tech writer) will break down three of the top stories during this insane time in U.S. politics, with the help of some of the sharpest reporters who cover these issues.
This week, they talk about:
The former Trump campaign adviser who met with a Russian spy in 2013...
What happened to the filibuster — and the dramatic change in the way we confirm Supreme Court justices, and what that will mean...
And how Mike Cernovich and how the White House is legitimizing pro-Trump media.
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WASHINGTON — The Trump Organization has settled a lawsuit against a celebrity chef who in 2015 dropped plans for a restaurant at the Trump International Hotel in Washington in response to then-candidate Donald Trump's statements on the campaign trail.
The Trump Organization and chef José Andrés’ company ThinkFoodGroup issued a joint statement on Friday announcing the settlement. The terms are confidential. The amicable announcement — it includes the word "friends" twice — came after more than a year of hard-fought litigation.
Donald Trump Jr. said in the statement that the agreement "is a ‘win-win’ for both of our companies.”
"I am glad that we are able to put this matter behind us and move forward as friends," Trump Jr. said.
Andrés, who successfully fought to depose Donald Trump in the case, said in the statement that he was "pleased that we were able to resolve our differences and move forward cooperatively, as friends." He added that he had "great respect for the Trump Organization’s commitment to excellence in redeveloping the Old Post Office."
Starting in December, Andrés had tweeted offers at Trump to settle.
The settlement was first reported by The Washington Post.
Andrés and another celebrity restaurateur, Geoffrey Zakarian, announced in 2015 that they were pulling out of plans for restaurants at Trump's DC hotel after Trump made disparaging statements about Mexicans and immigrants at a campaign event. The Trump Organization sued both chefs in District of Columbia Superior Court for breach of contract.
The lawsuit against Zakarian and his company is still pending. Trump's attorney and a lawyer for Zakarian were not immediately reached for comment about the status of that case. In January, a lawyer for the Trump Organization told the judge that mediation had been unsuccessful and the two sides had reached an "impasse."
Read the joint statement from the Trump Organization and ThinkFoodGroup:
Adrees Latif / Reuters
WASHINGTON — Cheney Orr, a photographer, drove down from New York City early in the morning on Jan. 20 to document the events of President Donald Trump's Inauguration Day.
He didn't expect that by the end of the day, he'd be arrested, loaded into a police van, and charged with rioting. And he certainly didn't expect that he would later agree to turn over the contents of his cell phone and cameras to prosecutors in order to get his property back, even as he maintained his innocence.
Orr is one of 16 people — mostly journalists, photographers, and legal observers — arrested on Jan. 20 on a felony rioting charge whose cases have already been dropped by prosecutors. Police seized all phones, cameras, and other electronic devices during the arrests. Some had to wait several weeks for their cases to get dismissed and to get their property back, according to interviews with BuzzFeed News and court documents. Some still don’t have their devices. Most don't know if their phones or cameras were searched by police or prosecutors — or whether those prosecutors plan to use the information on the devices as evidence in others' cases.
First Amendment lawyers and legal ethics experts say the fact that journalists and legal observers were caught in the mass arrests on Jan. 20 is troubling on its own. But the seizure and possible search of their phones and cameras adds a whole new layer of legal complexity.
Mass arrests that sweep up journalists — enabling police and prosecutors to collect electronic evidence they might not otherwise have access to — threatens the independence of the press, said Stephanie Lacambra, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The EFF has been working with Jan. 20 arrestees to get their phones back.
"If you’re made to turn over your phone to law enforcement, they can unmask anonymous sources, they may impede on the relationship you have with some of your sources," Lacambra said. "It will chill people's willingness to come forward."
Legal observers, regardless of whether they're lawyers, separately have an interest in safeguarding notes and photos they take that document interactions between police and protesters, since those might later be used in court. And attorneys also have to worry about their ethical obligation to protect client information stored on their phones and other electronic devices.
“Anytime journalists and legal observers are arrested at protests, it raises troubling First Amendment questions,” said Alex Abdo, a senior staff attorney at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. “They are there precisely to fill in for the public and when they’re arrested too that sends a chill in the community.”
More than 200 people have been indicted on a charge of felony rioting in connection with demonstrations in DC on Jan. 20 that at times turned violent. Prosecutors revealed in court papers a few weeks ago that they're attempting to extract data from more than 100 locked cell phones seized during the arrests, including devices that belong to people who were not indicted. The government's court papers don't address whether prosecutors have search warrants to search other electronics that were seized that day, such as cameras.
A spokesperson for the US attorney's office said the search warrants authorizing cell phone data extractions are under seal. He declined to comment about the searches and the handling of electronic devices in individual cases, citing the pending litigation.
“An arm of the police”
Zoe Tillman / BuzzFeed
The mass arrest took place during a demonstration in downtown DC that had been promoted as an "anti-fascist" and "anti-capitalist" march. Some participants smashed the windows of stores and cars. Journalists and legal observers — many sporting a neon green hat that identified them as observers — followed them. Police eventually corralled several hundred people at the corner of 12th and L streets, about a mile north of the National Mall, where Trump's inauguration festivities were taking place.
BuzzFeed News interviewed nine journalists, photographers, and legal observers who were arrested at 12th and L and later had their cases dropped. They described a similar series of events: They were instructed to place all of their belongings in a clear plastic bag, including phones and cameras, and then put in a police van to be taken for processing and held in jail overnight. They were released after an initial court appearance on Jan. 21 or in the early hours of Jan. 22, and sent to a police station to retrieve their property. It was then that they learned they wouldn't be getting some or all of their electronic devices back.
Orr said he was carrying three cameras, camera equipment, and a cell phone when he was arrested. As a freelance photographer, he said he couldn't work without his cameras. Soon after his arrest, he agreed to let the government make a copy of the contents of his cell phone and cameras in order to get his property back. He also provided the passcode to his phone. He picked up his cameras about a week after his arrest, and his cell phone was mailed to him a few weeks later. Prosecutors dismissed the case against him on Feb. 21.
"I’m giving them the right to use my pictures as essentially evidence of other people protesting. It’s basically making me an arm of the police, which is a bad feeling," Orr told BuzzFeed News. “But I was just in a real shitty spot.”
Alexander Contompasis, an independent journalist from Albany who was arrested while capturing video of the demonstrations, said his cell phone and two cameras were seized by police during his arrest. He said it would have been obvious to police that he was a journalist: He was wearing press credentials and had a large shoulder-mounted camera.
"My main concern about the whole thing — that this is going to set the precedent here going forward for independent journalists."
Contompasis's case was dismissed on Feb. 21, but he said he didn't learn he could get his property back until March 1. He doesn't know if any of his cameras or his phone were searched, and has been scared to turn his phone on since he got it back. His cell phone wasn't locked when it was taken by police; prosecutors said in court papers that all the devices they were extracting data from pursuant to search warrants were locked. The government's court papers didn't mention if they had been searching cameras.
"My main concern about the whole thing — that this is going to set the precedent here going forward for independent journalists: Arrest them, get their footage, see what [the government] can use to prosecute," he said.
Another person, who examined his property after he got it back, told BuzzFeed News he suspected the government had at least attempted to access his devices.
Shay Horse, a photographer from New York who was arrested on Jan. 20 and had his case dismissed on Feb. 21, said he learned from his lawyer in mid-March that he could get his cell phone and camera back. Once he did, however, he said he had trouble accessing email on his phone and noticed that settings on his camera had been reset.
Mickey Osterreicher, a First Amendment lawyer and general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association, said that outside of a criminal arrest and a search warrant, prosecutors would have to subpoena a reporter to get access to their photos, videos, or other electronic evidence. The journalist would then have an opportunity to contest the subpoena in court. The search warrant application process, on the other hand, is one-sided — the person whose information is sought doesn't get a chance to contest it, although they can later ask a court to suppress evidence if they believe it was illegally obtained.
"We would normally do everything possible to fight the request to have those images searched and to be used, because journalists don’t want to be seen as an arm of law enforcement," said Osterreicher, who represented Orr in negotiating the return of his property.
The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington has a manual for officers about how to handle mass protests and arrests. The latest version, released in December, says that police should "recognize and honor media credentials issued by or officially recognized by” the department. It also says officers should "make reasonable accommodations" to allow the press to use cameras or other equipment as they cover protests.
An MPD spokesperson declined to comment about how police managed the arrests and the seizure of electronic devices on Jan. 20, citing the ongoing litigation.
The MPD and US Park Police are facing a lawsuit in federal court that alleges they used excessive force in responding to the demonstrations on Jan. 20. Lacambra said the Electronic Frontier Foundation is investigating whether to file a class action lawsuit on behalf of people who were arrested and had their electronic devices seized. Several arrestees who got their phones back have sent them to the EFF, which is searching for a forensic analyst to try to figure out if the phones were accessed or searched.
The US Department of Justice has special policies in place about how to handle the seizure and search of evidence from journalists. The US Attorneys' Manual calls for special review by a top DOJ official in most cases when a journalist is the subject of a subpoena or search warrant.
"The Department views the use of certain law enforcement tools, including subpoenas, court orders ... and search warrants to seek information from, or records of, non‐consenting members of the news media as extraordinary measures, not standard investigatory practices," the manual says.
The federal Privacy Protection Act includes protections for journalists against efforts by law enforcement to seize their work, but there are exceptions if the journalist whose property is at issue is suspected of a crime. Gregg Leslie, legal defense director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said that if there was reason to believe that an arrestee on Jan. 20 was a journalist covering the protests, police shouldn’t have seized their electronic devices and prosecutors shouldn’t have applied for search warrants to search them.
“Kind of a shock”
It wasn’t only journalists whose devices were confiscated. Lawyers and nonlawyer legal observers arrested on Jan. 20 whose cases have already been dismissed also described to BuzzFeed News or in court papers how their phones — some containing sensitive and potentially privileged information — were taken by police on Jan. 20. At least one lawyer says he still has not had his phone returned to him.
Diane Akerman is a lawyer with the New York City Legal Aid Society who traveled to Washington on Jan. 20 to serve as a legal observer through the National Lawyers Guild. She declined an interview request through one of her attorneys, but court papers indicate that she was arrested and her cell phone was seized by police.
On Feb. 2, her lawyers asked a judge to order the US attorney's office to return her phone, citing attorney-client privilege concerns. Akerman even offered to make a forensic image of her phone once it was released and provide relevant, non-privileged information to the government if was sought through "lawful means." But Akerman's lawyers wrote that prosecutors nevertheless refused to return the phone.
Akerman's case was dismissed on Feb. 3. The US attorney’s office and Akerman’s attorney declined to comment about the status of her phone, but there were no other filings in the case.
Alexander Penley, a lawyer in Maryland who said he was serving as a legal observer when he was arrested, said he showed officers his business card as he tried to explain that he was an attorney, to no avail.
Penley's case was dismissed on Feb. 3, but he says he still hasn't gotten his cell phone back. He said he used that phone, which was locked, to communicate with clients, and is worried that any search by the government could intrude on privileged communications.
"It was surprising, because I am accustomed to being a legal observer at protests and generally we have a mutual respect ... between the police and the legal observers, and this was just so different than that," Penley said.
The US Attorneys' Manual has a section about how prosecutors should handle evidence seized from an attorney who is the subject of an investigation. According to the manual, a US attorney or DOJ assistant attorney general has to authorize applications for search warrants for evidence from an attorney. It also instructs prosecutors to develop special procedures to make sure any privileged information is kept secure.
Zoe Tillman / BuzzFeed
Several legal observers told BuzzFeed News that they were wearing green National Lawyers Guild hats when they were arrested, and that police did not allow them to leave when they identified themselves as such.
Layne Poplin isn't a lawyer, but traveled from her home in North Carolina to volunteer as a legal observer on Jan. 20. She said she was wearing the green guild hat when she was arrested. She and other legal observers also wearing the hats tried to explain to police who they were, she said, with no success.
"It was just kind of a shock," she said.
Poplin’s case was dismissed on Feb. 3, and she found out soon after that she could get her phone back. She traveled to DC near the end of March to pick it up, but said she hasn’t turned it on yet — instead sending the phone, which was locked when she gave it to the police, to the Electronic Frontier Foundation to try to figure out if anyone accessed it.
Outside Your Bubble is a BuzzFeed News effort to bring you a diversity of thought and opinion from around the internet. If you don’t see your viewpoint represented, contact the curator at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for more on Outside Your Bubble.
Franz Jantzen, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
WASHINGTON — On Monday morning, Judge Neil Gorsuch became Justice Neil Gorsuch — taking the constitutional oath from Chief Justice John Roberts.
The 113th justice of the Supreme Court, Gorsuch becomes the ninth justice on the current court, which has had a vacancy since Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly on Feb. 13, 2016.
Gorsuch was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Trump in January and was confirmed by then Senate on a 54-45 vote on April 7.
Later Monday morning, Gorsuch participated in a public swearing-in ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House. That ceremony, where Gorsuch took the judicial oath, was performed by Justice Anthony Kennedy — one of the justices for whom Gorsuch clerked after law school.
The ceremony also gave Trump a chance to take a bit of a victory lap — he noted that Gorsuch's decisions on the Supreme Court will "protect our Constitution" today and "for many generations of Americans to come." Trump also highlighted that Gorsuch's confirmation came in the first 100 days of his presidency.
Gorsuch's nomination and confirmation followed the Senate Republican leadership's unwillingness to consider President Obama's 2016 nominee for the job, Judge Merrick Garland.
Trump's nominee faced his own difficulty, the subject of a successful filibuster by Senate Democrats on April 6. In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — backed by his fellow Republicans — changed the rules of the Senate so that only a simple majority is required to close debate on Supreme Court nominees.
Franz Jantzen, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
Now that Gorsuch is on the Supreme Court, he will not have the slow summer months to get up to speed. Instead, he will be able to attend his first conference — the private meeting when the justices consider petitions asking the court to hear cases — on Thursday. He will be able to sit for his first arguments next Monday, April 17.
Watch Justice Gorsuch take the judicial oath:
Carlos Barria / Reuters
More than a dozen federal appeals court judges will hear arguments over President Trump's travel ban executive order on May 8, the court announced on Monday.
All active judges of the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit — there are 15, if none are recused — will hear the appeal over the travel ban injunction issued by a federal judge in Maryland in Richmond, Virginia.
The move to hear the case initially en banc — by the full court — rather than by a three-judge panel signifies the importance that the court places on the case and was not opposed either by the challengers to the ban or the Justice Department.
The move also guarantees that the appeals court — which includes a majority of judges nominated by Democratic presidents — will not first hear the case by a three-judge panel that might happen to include two or three conservative judges.
The arguments in the Fourth Circuit are on the narrow preliminary injunction issued by US District Judge Theodore Chuang — focused only on barring the federal government from enforcing the 90-day ban on travel from six Muslim-majority countries.
The next week, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will hear its second arguments relating to the two executive orders Trump has issued on the topic — and over the federal government's appeal of a much more broad injunction than that issued in the Maryland case.
The injunction in Hawaii v. Trump bars the Trump administration from enforcing the entire section of his executive order relating to the travel ban, as well as the entire section relating to the 120-day halt to the refugee program.
The Ninth Circuit has scheduled the arguments on that appeal for May 15.
This is a developing story. Please check back at BuzzFeed News for the latest.
Brendan Mcdermid / Reuters
Fox News is digging in as more than 50 advertisers yank their commercials from The O’Reilly Factor, reducing the amount of ad time during the show and ratcheting up the public relations pressure.
Media executives and journalists have been playing a guessing game of whether Bill O’Reilly can survive the scandal, and the decision could hinge on just how much Fox News feels the economic reverberations from the ad boycott.
The company has remained relatively silent on the controversy, which ignited when the New York Times reported that five women received about $13 million to settle harassment allegations against O’Reilly, the most dominant cable news figure for years running. O’Reilly has denied the claims, and Fox hasn’t addressed the ad boycott other than to say that clients’ ad buys had been “re-expressed” into other programs, essentially downplaying the business impact. (A Fox News spokesperson referred BuzzFeed News to that statement).
But ad buyers note that shifting commercials into other shows could have some repercussions for Fox News.
It comes down to how the TV ad sales process works. Ad buyers purchase big packages across a channel or group of channels — usually months in advance in the “upfront” marketplace. Networks guarantee that they can provide a certain audience. If the network doesn’t deliver that audience, advertisers receive “make goods” in the form of commercial time free of charge. While most of ad time is purchased well in advance, networks also sell ad time in a more constant year-round marketplace known as “scatter.”
Since O’Reilly carries a larger audience than his colleagues, Fox would likely need to offer more commercial time when moving ads to other shows. That, in turn, reduces the amount of overall ad space that Fox can sell to advertisers in the scatter marketplace. In other words, a 30-second ad on O’Reilly doesn’t equal a 30-second ad elsewhere on Fox News, in terms of advertising value.
“It takes inventory out of scatter from other shows. It will have an economic impact,” one ad buyer said.
It’s far from clear what that economic impact will be, and networks have gotten very creative over the past few years at figuring out how to jam more ads into programming to avoid this problem. One former TV ad sales chief said Fox will likely be able to deal with the issue by moving money around and cramming in more ads to other shows to make up for the shortfall.
But the ad boycott is evident to viewers, as O’Reilly’s show airs fewer commercials. According to Media Matters, advertisers for Monday night’s show included My Pillow, BuyWaxRX.com, Genucel, and Qunol — not exactly marquee name brands. A Saturday Night Live sketch this weekend teased that O’Reilly only had unsavory sponsors remaining, like “Dog Cocaine.”
That was a joke, sure, but the O’Reilly episode has offered a glimpse into how mainstream brands are doing their best to avoid controversy in the Trump era, as consumers across a politically-charged social media environment bombard marketers’ mentions. Corporate America is increasingly wary of pairing ads with controversial content these days, and many have pulled their ads from YouTube in recent weeks as the video giant seeks control a controversy stemming from ads appearing before hate speech on its platform. In the this case, once reporters start calling, chief marketing officers are forced to justify to all of Twitter why they are advertising on The O’Reilly Factor as a media maelstrom intensifies.
That’s why advertising executives don’t expect the brands that have pulled ads from O’Reilly — which include Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, and Allstate — to return to the show anytime soon, which would only prompt more calls from reporters and consumer backlash.
“Nobody is walking away from it,” the ad buyer said.
Still, O’Reilly’s reach in cable news is unparalleled. Last week, as the scandal swirled, his show averaged about 3.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen. O’Reilly brought in more than $178 million in advertising revenue in 2015, according to ad tracker Kantar Media.
One ad executive noted that while he generates huge ratings, O’Reilly’s viewers tend to be voracious cable news consumers that aren’t particularly difficult to find on other programs. Advertisers tend to pay a premium to advertise in front of more hard-to-reach audiences, such as young or affluent viewers.
For now, O’Reilly’s future remains unclear. TV networks have ditched hosts in the past amid PR and advertiser pressure before. MSNBC in 2007 dropped its broadcast of Don Imus’s program after the host made racist comments about the Rutgers University women's’ basketball team. NBC pulled Brian Williams from the its nightly news broadcast after the anchor was caught “misremembering” a personal story about the Iraq War. (Williams was suspended and now has found a home at sister-channel MSNBC).
“There is precedent to take a high profile anchor off the air and replace them because they did something dumb,” said Jason Kanefsky, chief investment officer at ad buyer Havas Media Group.
But media executives say that O’Reilly is just too important to Fox News, and that the network will likely seek to ride out the PR nightmare. The Wall Street Journal reported that O’Reilly’s contract, due to expire at the end of the year, was recently renewed, even after the network took into account the new allegations. The Washington Post went on to report that the contract now extends through 2020, which would make booting O'Reilly particularly expensive for the network.
As New York magazine reported, the decision ultimately hinges on Rupert Murdoch, who stepped in to oversee Fox News after Roger Ailes's departure amid his own spate of sexual harassment allegations, which he has likewise denied. While there isn’t an obvious alternative waiting in the wings should Fox News remove or suspend O’Reilly, the network has also proven its ability to replace top talent against seemingly difficult odds. Murdoch tapped Tucker Carlson to assume Megyn Kelly’s time slot after the star anchor decamped for NBC News amid the Ailes saga, and the show’s ratings have only strengthened.