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- 05/16/17--13:02: _Georgia Set To Exec...
- 05/16/17--22:01: _When It Comes To Ja...
- 05/17/17--12:00: _Hey America, Here's...
- 05/17/17--17:24: _A Few Likely Reason...
- 05/18/17--07:30: _A Trump Supreme Cou...
- 05/18/17--08:19: _14 Important Things...
- 05/18/17--09:09: _Why Is Donald Trump...
- 05/18/17--10:34: _New Poll: Almost Ha...
- 05/18/17--11:16: _Mike Flynn Not Comp...
- 05/18/17--14:50: _Trump's Safety Boar...
- 05/18/17--16:17: _Senators Want US Jo...
- 05/18/17--21:58: _How Everything That...
- 05/19/17--09:19: _The NAACP Won't Ren...
- 05/22/17--08:20: _Supreme Court Says ...
- 05/22/17--09:22: _Michael Flynn Refus...
- 05/23/17--08:56: _While You Were Watc...
- 05/23/17--15:04: _No, Impeachment Doe...
- 05/24/17--09:58: _Georgia Special Ele...
- 05/24/17--17:37: _Reporter Alleges Th...
- 05/24/17--19:49: _National Republican...
- 05/17/17--12:00: Hey America, Here's How To Impeach A President (If You Want To)
- 05/17/17--17:24: A Few Likely Reasons Why People Aren’t Quitting At The White House
- 05/18/17--09:09: Why Is Donald Trump Standing By Mike Flynn?
- 05/18/17--16:17: Senators Want US Job Protections Before Expanding Foreign Workforce
- 05/19/17--09:19: The NAACP Won't Renew Contract Of Its President And CEO
- 05/23/17--08:56: While You Were Watching Trump, The Democratic Party Changed
- 05/23/17--15:04: No, Impeachment Doesn't Work That Way
- 05/24/17--17:37: Reporter Alleges That Republican Candidate "Body Slammed" Him
- 05/24/17--19:49: National Republican Groups Silent On Montana Altercation
Georgia Department of Corrections via AP
A Georgia man was set to be executed Tuesday for the 1992 murder of his neighbor during an armed robbery — but the US Supreme Court waited until early Wednesday to reject his requests to halt the execution.
J.W. Ledford Jr. was sentenced to death for murdering his 73-year-old neighbor, Dr. Harry Johnston, during an armed robbery of his home. He would be the first inmate to be executed by Georgia this year. The state's death warrant is valid for a week, so the state will be able to proceed with the execution despite the US Supreme Court's delay.
In court appeals, Ledford, 45, asked state and federal courts to consider that executions should be constitutionally barred for those who commit murder before reaching the age of 21.
In another appeal, Ledford asked to be executed by a firing squad instead of the lethal injection. His attorneys have argued that the state's lethal injection drug — pentobarbital — will cause him to suffer "an excruciating" and therefore, unconstitutional death.
According to his appeal, Ledford has been using a medication to treat his chronic nerve pain for a decade which has "changed the chemistry of his brain" in a way that pentobarbital will not "reliably render him unconscious" during the execution.
"Accordingly, there is a substantial risk that Mr. Ledford will be aware and in agony as the pentobarbital attacks his respiratory system, depriving his brain, heart, and lungs of oxygen as he drowns in his own saliva. This horrific death cannot be countenanced by the Eighth Amendment," the appeal argued.
Ledford's appeal proposed the firing squad as a more "reliable" method of execution.
The state argued that Georgia has no alternative method of execution provided for by statute and that Ledford "failed to show that he has established an alternative that is less painful."
On Monday night, a federal appeals court denied a stay of execution to Ledford, stating that his claims lacked merit and "do not establish a substantial risk of serious harm."
In its ruling, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals also wrote that lethal injection was a more humane way of execution, citing the US Supreme Court — which has stated that "[t]he firing squad, hanging, the electric chair, and the gas chamber have each in turn given way to more humane methods [of execution], culminating in today’s consensus on lethal injection.”
The parole board on Monday also denied Ledford's request for clemency. According to his clemency appeal, Ledford's intellectual disability at a young age, coupled with his life at the hands of an alcoholic and abusive father led to him committing the "senseless, random act."
BuzzFeed News legal editor Chris Geidner contributed to this report.
Read the relevant US Supreme Court filings:
The mushrooming chaos erupting from the White House is testing the boundaries of one of the Trump administration’s safest spaces: Fox News.
On Tuesday evening, the New York Times published a bombshell story reporting that former FBI director James Comey wrote a memo after a meeting with President Trump that detailed how the president asked him to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
The revelation of the memo — shared with Comey’s close associates and confirmed by other outlets, but not obtained by them — quickly cascaded across a cable news landscape already gearing up to cover another major story, the Washington Post’s Monday report that the president discussed classified information with Russian officials in an Oval Office meeting.
But on Fox News, at least initially, the news landed with a thud.
“Comey is a smart man. There’s no way he doesn’t realize, in the absence of tapes, it’s his word against Donald Trump’s word, and it’s going nowhere,” Eric Bolling said on Fox’s 5 p.m. hour show, the Fox News Specialists. “So what is the point of this?”
This kicked off the network’s split approach for the night — and laid bare the dueling impulses at the network.
On the one hand, Fox pundits on the network’s primetime block, from Jesse Watters to Tucker Carlson to Sean Hannity, pooh-poohed the report. On the other hand, Fox’s journalists delivered facts between the punditry — facts that confirmed some of the New York Times’ story.
During the 6 p.m. hour, for instance, Fox’s chief political anchor Bret Baier twice relayed the fact that Republican lawmakers were not willing to go on camera to defend Trump.
At 8 p.m., Carlson squared off against a New York City Council Member, and the two talked completely past each other — Carlson about Penn Station bathrooms and the councilman about Trump and Russia. Later segments on Carlson’s show reflected on the liberal media’s hysteria and the fact that ABC cancelled a Tim Allen sitcom enjoyed by conservatives.
Then at 9 p.m., on The Five, Fox’s largely conservative roundtable took turns questioning Baier, who soberly reported what he knew about the Comey story. “I think you’re going to see more calls and hear more calls for a special prosecutor or special commission,” Baier told the panel.
Fox host Jesse Watters said it was a story with no video or audio, and that only three or four average people out of ten would even know who James Comey is anyway: “It’s a boring scandal,” he said.
Host Kimberly Guilfoyle — who said on Tuesday that she is in talks with the Trump administration about replacing Sean Spicer as press secretary, before reiterating in a statement how much she loves her current job — suggested that Comey could have fabricated the memo. “I can write a note and backdate it,” she said. Baier replied that he believed the documents would have been locked down.
Greg Gutfeld offered his take, parsing Trump’s remarks for their real meaning. “When you say you hope for something, it’s not like it’s a command,” he said.
Hannity, the network’s chief Trump booster, used his 10 p.m. hour to decry the media’s “hyperventilating breathlessness,” Comey’s pursuit of “revenge,” and the “deep state selectively leaking information to damage the president.” He also spent much of the hour discussing the death of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich and a recent story based on dubious sourcing that in the past few days reignited conspiracy theories about Rich’s death, over the objections of his family.
At 11 p.m., Hannity’s opinion time was over, and Baier returned with a panel of Fox reporters. That panel included Catherine Herridge, who reported that a source told her that Comey documented at least one meeting with Trump (though she did not go as far to say it was the same one the Times reported). The source told Herridge that Comey is known as a “copious note taker,” and that it was standard practice for him to take notes directly after meetings.
Fox New’s tone manifested online too. Splashed across the front page of the network’s website, and accompanied by headlines of people demanding answers from the White House, was the day’s news: “COMEY’S REVENGE? White House pushes back on report Trump asked ex-FBI boss to end Flynn probe.”
Brazilians are best known for samba and soccer, but we are also experts in constitutionally removing our elected presidents. We've impeached two of them in the last 25 years, which has to be a world record. Just last year, Brazilian lawmakers voted to remove President Dilma Rousseff from office, bringing the dramatic downfall of the country’s first female leader.
Now, US Democrats are beginning to speak openly about impeaching President Donald Trump over his interference in an FBI investigation — if they win Congress in the midterms, or if they can persuade Republicans to join them.
What follows is what I've learned covering Brazilian politics for 20 years, and from covering Dilma's impeachment closely. When President Fernando Collor was impeached in 1992, I was in high school. And what I've learned is that just catching the leader doing something illegal and/or unpopular isn't enough. Impeachment is, as Americans are learning, at least as much about political power as presidential conduct.
Here's what brought Brazil's government to take that extreme step:
Activists supporting the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff.
Andressa Anholete / AFP / Getty Images
1. YOU NEED A DEEPLY POLARIZED SOCIETY In 2014, Brazilian society was intensely polarized between Rousseff's left-wing Workers' Party and the center-rightist opposition. Rousseff was re-elected by a narrow margin (51.6%) over her opponent Aécio Neves (48.4%). Sound familiar?
2. THE PEOPLE REALLY FEEL THE EFFECTS OF AN ECONOMIC CRISIS: In the last three years, the Brazilian economy shrunk by 8%. It's the worst recession in our history, and — unlike in the US, where the problems are stagnation and inequality — millions of people could feel themselves getting poorer in real time.
3. CONGRESS FINDS SOMETHING TO CALL WRONGDOING: This doesn't have to be a criminal conspiracy. Even though Brazil is a world leader in bribery and real corruption, Rousseff was not impeached over personal misconduct. Instead, she was charged with accounting trickery aimed at disguising the budget deficit.
But she wasn't really brought down for accounting. In fact, she paid the political price for mismanaging of the economy and a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal surrounding Petrobras, the state-run oil company, an ongoing scandal that badly damaged all the main leaders of her Workers' Party.
(That's not to say there couldn't have been other reasons to impeach her. Last week, one year after her impeachment, the Brazilian Supreme Court released videos in which Rousseff's marketing advisers said she knew that undeclared money was used in the 2014 campaign.)
4. PEOPLE HEAD OUT INTO THE STREETS: The investigations surrounding the corruption allegations and the economic malaise sparked huge demonstrations across Brazil in 2015 and 2016, with crowds demanding her impeachment.
5. THE PRESIDENT'S POPULARITY CRASHES: This cocktail of recession, scandals and demonstrations was devastating to the president's popularity. Just 15 months after taking office as re-elected president, surveys showed that 71% of Brazilians disapproved her government.
6. THE PRESIDENT'S POLITICAL SUPPORT COLLAPSES: The next and the most dramatic step was the destruction of Dilma Rousseff's political support in Congress.
7. OH — AND YOU'D BETTER BE WILLING TO PUT UP WITH YEARS OF QUAGMIRE AND PARALYSIS
THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BRAZIL'S SITUATION AND THE U.S. IS WHO CONTROLS CONGRESS.
Dilma's party — unlike Donald Trump's — didn't control Congress, the body (as in the U.S.) with the power to impeach the president. Dilma’s party and her loyal allies from other left-wing parties had only 30% of the seats on Congress. Her government depended on partners on the center-right, some of them members Vice-President Michel Temer's party, many of whom were also facing corruption allegations. They didn't have any particular loyalty to Rousseff, and decided to restart the game by impeaching her.
Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images
The White House is in constant crisis mode 118 days into Donald Trump’s presidency — and Republicans on the outside are worrying over their panicked friends on the inside.
Tuesday’s New York Times report that Trump urged then-FBI Director James Comey to drop an investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn continued a torrent of bad news that has been flowing since Trump’s stunning firing of Comey a week earlier.
Staffers have been heard shouting behind closed doors. The Times, in a separate story, described West Wing aides “in glassy-eyed shock.” A Politico account presented a “White House on edge” and quoted one official “hoping the president doesn’t tweet.”
It’s the kind of situation that prompts the question: Why don’t people quit now?
Republicans who spoke to BuzzFeed News say the angst is very real. (“A shitshow,” said one Republican operative with friends in the White House who, like others, requested anonymity to offer candid thoughts and details of their conversations.)
But, for various reasons, they don’t see a mass exodus — voluntary or involuntary — coming any time soon.
For one thing, many who joined Trump in the White House are true believers who worked on his campaign, which did not attract top-level GOP talent. (“It’s not like it’s the A-team over there,” a Republican strategist said.) The reputations of some prominent aides may already be so joined to the Trump administration that seeing it through is a better strategy. And, they said, junior-level staffers may be better off gritting it out and trying to learn from a daily course in crisis management, rather than risk looking disloyal to future employers.
White House officials looking to make personnel changes have a problem, too.
“Everyone just assumes everyone is going to be fired. So fire everyone, great. But who is going to replace them?” said one Republican operative, suggesting that, right now, an open job in the Trump administration isn’t all that appealing to anyone who would be qualified for it.
So what should Republicans on the inside do?
Staffers at even the lower levels must worry about subpoenas and attorney fees as hearings over the conduct of Trump and his closest counselors become more likely, one Republican White House veteran told BuzzFeed News.
“My suspicion is a lot of people who work for Trump have not been through the meat grinder before, and this is all new to them,” this Republican said. “It freaks people out, stresses people out, and it’s hard to focus on your real work. It’s like a piano on a wire hanging over your head.”
The former White House aide said he has advised several friends in the Trump administration to tread carefully on the legal front. “Don’t treat it flippantly,” the former aide said.
“I would counsel people to just take a deep breath, but this could get real expensive real fast. If you get called to testify or are deposed, you can rack up some big bills pretty quickly.”
Besides proving loyalty, which ultimately could be of dubious worth in a Trump administration, some Republicans see a redeeming factor to staying put. For younger staffers or others outside the public eye and free of blame, this could be invaluable experience early in their careers.
“While it’s been rough sailing for the last few weeks, the feeling is, ‘Welcome to the NFL,’” said Ron Bonjean, a Republican consultant with close ties to the White House. “They know they’re at history’s doorstep. The hours suck. It’s not always a friendly environment, but most of the White House staff are pretty young and built for the mileage.”
Said another GOP strategist: “If you have a policy portfolio, there’s a lot of merit in continuing to plug away. You really can have an impact on something that might seem small to people reading the New York Times, but it’s big to people in certain sectors. If you’re a young deputy press secretary working there right now, you’re getting very, very good experience in horrible crisis situations every day. In many circumstances, you’re seeing lessons of what not to do.”
But these Republicans and others outside the White House are careful about offering any unsolicited advice.
“Anybody who watched that campaign and didn’t walk away with a sufficient fear of the inevitable — I’m not surprised where we are, to tell you the truth,” the strategist said.
Even staffers determined to leave might be stuck. Asked if people might quit voluntarily, one operative replied: “Where are they going to go? Is there a state senate race in Ohio to work on?”
Another party operative who visited the White House recently saw no signs of imminent defections. “The White House is challenging, and everyone knew that going in, but I haven’t seen anything like, ‘Hey, this is my resume, help me out.’”
One former GOP operative who has friends in the White House said “these guys knew what they were signing up for” and doesn’t expect them to jump ship.
“Frankly, man, it’s a strain on friendships.”
Cliff Owen / AP
ARLINGTON, Va. — A federal appeals judge who was on President Trump’s short list for the US Supreme Court has expressed support, at least in part, for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new policy that federal prosecutors pursue the most serious criminal charges and penalties possible.
Judge William Pryor Jr., who sits on the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, said in an interview with BuzzFeed News on Wednesday that although it wasn’t his “place to favor or oppose the charging policy,” he thought it could make charging decisions more uniform. Sessions’ policy, released this past week, replaced policies adopted by former Attorney General Eric Holder that urged prosecutors to avoid harsher penalties if possible for nonviolent offenders.
“When the executive follows a charging policy like that, it at least reduces the potential for disparities in charging,” Pryor said. “Maybe there’s a case to be made for lowering some penalties as a check of what prosecutors can charge, but when you charge the most readily provable highest offense, the prosecutors are at least treating similar offenders similarly.”
Pryor isn’t just a federal appeals judge and potential future Supreme Court nominee — he’s also the acting chair of the US Sentencing Commission, which manages the sentencing guidelines that federal judges rely on and analyzes data on criminal justice issues that affect the federal system.
Civil rights groups have blasted Sessions’ charging policy as “backward” and a harbinger of overincarceration. Some Republicans in Congress have come out against the policy, and on Tuesday bipartisan legislation was introduced that would allow judges in certain cases to hand down sentences below mandatory minimums.
Pryor has longstanding ties to Sessions. He succeeded Sessions as Alabama attorney general, and had Sessions’ backing in the Senate when he went through contentious confirmation proceedings in 2003. Sessions reportedly advocated for Pryor to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. That nomination went to Tenth Circuit Judge (now Justice) Neil Gorsuch, but if another Supreme Court seat opens up, Pryor could still be in the running — Trump told The Washington Times that he would choose his next high court nominee from his original campaign shortlist.
Pryor spoke with BuzzFeed News after he delivered remarks at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School on Wednesday about his proposal for overhauling the sentencing guidelines; the event was sponsored by the Charles Koch Institute. Pryor has called for guidelines that are simpler and “presumptive” — not mandatory, but more binding than the current guidelines, which are advisory. Pryor’s proposal is his own, and doesn’t reflect the opinion of the sentencing commission.
Pryor wants to trim the list of factors that judges can consider in deciding whether to boost or lower a sentence; develop broader possible ranges of sentences; reduce the penalties for first-time and low-level nonviolent offenders; and require prosecutors who want to argue that there are aggravating factors that warrant a higher sentence to include them in an indictment and prove them to a jury.
One part of the current system that Pryor would leave mostly intact, and that’s been a source of criticism, is the extent to which judges can look at a defendant’s prior criminal history in crafting a sentence. Critics have said that taking into account criminal history deepens racial disparities in sentencing, since African Americans are more likely to get caught up in the criminal justice system.
Pryor in his remarks on Wednesday acknowledged that African Americans were disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system and had more significant criminal histories on average than other offenders, but he did not think that was a reason to move away from the emphasis on past criminal history during sentencing. The rules already included provisions for excluding consideration of low-level crimes disproportionately prosecuted against African American defendants, he said, and studies showed that criminal history was a strong predictor of the odds that a defendant would re-offend.
Pryor told BuzzFeed News after his remarks that he had shared his sentencing proposal with a few members of Congress who had an interest in sentencing reform — he said he received a kind note in response from Sessions when he was still a senator — but hadn’t gotten any formal pledges of support to date.
Pryor acknowledged in his remarks that the political climate in Congress meant that any major changes to the criminal justice system would be difficult, but that shouldn’t be a reason not to try.
“We are in a highly unusual time ... one that comes along only every generation or so, where there is genuine and sustained bipartisan support for structural sentencing reform,” he said.
Here’s what else the president has been up to.
More than 41,000 suspected undocumented immigrants have been arrested in the 100 days since Trump signed an executive order expanding the mandate of federal immigration authorities, reflecting a 38% increase compared to the same period last year.
Bryan Cox / AP
Stock markets had their biggest fall since before the presidential election on Wednesday, as investors became uncertain over Trump's policy agenda — and perhaps even his future in the White House.
Bryan R. Smith / AFP / Getty Images
Trump's plan to blacklist Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood – and, by extension, target US Islamic groups – no longer seems imminent, but civil rights groups are warning that it’s no time for celebration.
Daniel Berehulak / Getty Images
Months after he claimed, with zero evidence, that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 election, Trump is setting up a commission to investigate voter fraud to be headed by Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
The Washington Post / Getty Images
Anthony Michael Hall as Greg Pulver. / Via youtube.com
One of the great mysteries of Washington right now is: Why is Donald Trump risking his presidency for retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn?
It would be the easiest thing in the world for Trump to let Flynn go down for dumb professional sins, most obviously not reporting that he was lobbying for Turkey. But instead Trump has stuck with Flynn through an embarrassing series of stories on his ties to Russia. He stuck with him even when he knew Flynn was under investigation for the Turkey deal. He stuck with him when Sally Yates said he'd lied about contact with the Russians. And he may wind up destroying his presidency by asking Jim Comey take it easy on Flynn.
What, Washington is reasonably asking, does Flynn have on Trump?
That may be the right question. Flynn’s lawyer suggested he has a “story to tell.”
But an old book and a new movie hint at something else, that Flynn brought from the military and from Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s band of brothers a trait that Trump, a self-described “loyalty freak,” values above others: personal loyalty.
Flynn arrived in Trump’s camp after a long career as part of the tight, combative inner circle around another American leader, McChrystal. He rose through the ranks on McChrystal’s coattails, and played a central role in another great public crisis: the 2010 downfall of McChrystal and his loyal men after they were quoted in Rolling Stone trashing their civilian masters.
The new movie War Machine, out on May 26 on Netflix, includes a thinly veiled portrait of Flynn as Gen. Greg Pulver, the top aide to Brad Pitt’s arrogant US general in Afghanistan. As played by Anthony Michael Hall, Pulver makes up for being somewhat dense with awe-inspiring, fierce personal devotion to his boss.
“His official title was director of intelligence, but all I saw was a guy with anger management issues whose life had no meaning without” the general, based obviously on Stanley McChrystal.
Hall plays the character broad in a movie that is often a broad satire, but the moment when a Flynn learns that his team’s antics have cost McChrystal his job is genuinely moving.
The movie is fiction, and at pains not to be taken for biography. But Pulver is obviously based on Flynn, a core member of McChrystal’s inner circle who had, by Michael Hastings’ account in the book on which the movie was based, served under McChrystal three times before they headed to Afghanistan.
“When we alerted for Afghanistan in May of 2009, the first two officers I sought to form the nucleus of the team were Charlie and his older brother Mike,” McChrystal writes in his memoir.
Mike Flynn, McChrystal writes admiringly, was “pure energy,” and the brothers were part of a small and loyal team around their leader. Hastings, our former BuzzFeed colleague who died in 2013, described as “a handpicked collection of killers, spies, fighter jocks, patriots, political operatives, counterinsurgency experts, and outright maniacs, the likes of which the American military has never seen.”
Flynn comes across in Hastings’ reporting in The Operators as a particularly out-of-control figure. “How the hell did you ever get your security clearance?” Flynn is asked at one point. “I lied,” he replies.
The writer and director of War Machine, David Michôd, confirmed to me that he had McChrystal’s inner circle in mind in while he was writing the film.
“The loyalty felt like a hugely important part of that bunch of guys,” he said in an email. “A bunch of guys collectively propping up a delusion. And they do this with their unwavering loyalty and admiration for the General. And I know this to be true of these guys in the real world."
The most common mistake in American journalism these days is overthinking Donald Trump — imputing a strategy, or even a plan, to a cipher who operates on impulse and gut. He has always surrounded himself with a certain kind of man — die-hard loyalists, whose loyalty he mostly returns, sometimes after he fires them.
A friend of Flynn, Michael Isikoff reported today, described the general and the president as "brothers in a foxhole." And Peter Alexander reported this week that when Flynn, already mired in scandal last fall, requested the job of national security adviser, “Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump made it clear President-elect Trump would certainly approve of that request to reward Flynn’s loyalty.”
Even after he'd forced Flynn out — and on the day he would have his fateful dinner with Comey — Trump was grumbling in public that his former aide-de-camp had been treated “very, very unfairly.”
Flynn was also in the Paris bar in 2010 where the soldiers’ drunken revel ended the general’s career — though not the general’s loyalty to the men whose anonymous comments created the crisis.
I don’t know if any of those notorious quotes about Biden and Obama come from Flynn. But McChrystal, in his own memoir, doesn’t blame his staff for his fall. And Trump, too, appears ready to return Flynn’s loyalty to the bitter end.
Win Mcnamee / Getty Images
More young white voters now have negative views of President Trump, a new poll finds.
The national survey, which surveyed over 1,750 young adults aged 18-34 from April 14 to May 1, found that Trump has only a 34% approval rating among young whites, as opposed to 47% who do not approve of the job he is doing as president.
"This finding might suggest that if Trump is unable to move forward his promised agenda centering on jobs, white millennial support of Trump may fade by 2018 and 2020," said Cathy Cohen, a professor at the University of Chicago who conducted the poll by GenForward: A survey of the Black Youth Project.
The issue of Trump's popularity has come into sharper focus after the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, and a New York Times report that Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn, who was Trump's national security advisor.
While the poll found that a majority of young voters in all racial and ethnic groups believe that the country is on the wrong track, these voters are deeply divided over what they believe to be the most important problem in America. The most important problems for young black voters (37%) is racism, and health care (26%), while the most important problems for young Latinos are immigration (47%) and racism (39%).
Those issues are not on the radar of young white and Asian voters, the survey found. White voters are more concerned with health care, terrorism, and the national debt, while Asian voters are primarily concerned with health care and education.
"This finding suggests that any political party or politician seeking to attract the millennial vote will need to pay attention to the ways race and ethnicity shape their political preferences," said Cohen. "They are not one big homogenous group."
Pool / Getty Images
If Michael Flynn refuses to comply with congressional subpoenas, that almost certainly wouldn't be a reason he ends up in jail.
The Senate's intelligence committee had asked Flynn — President Trump's former national security adviser — in April to turn over documents relevant to the committee's investigation into Trump campaign associates' connections to Russia.
When Flynn's lawyer, Robert Kelner, said Flynn would not be turning over the documents, the committee did what any good committee would do: It issued a congressional subpoena for the documents.
On Thursday morning, the chair of the committee, Sen. Richard Burr, announced that Flynn would not be complying with the Senate's subpoena — although he later walked that back by saying that he'd not yet gotten a "definitive answer" from Flynn's lawyer.
Burr's initial announcement prompted many folks on Twitter to say the move meant that Flynn could end up in jail: contempt of Congress!
They cite a criminal statute and say he could be put in jail for up to a year!
Technically true, but ... here's the issue: We're a long way off from that and it's not likely to happen, as suggested in a Politico report earlier this week.
The Justice Department would have to prosecute the case — something exceptionally unlikely to happen. And that only could happen if the Senate voted to hold Flynn in contempt and forward the matter to the US Attorney's Office for prosecution.
That itself rarely happens: The last criminal prosecution of a current or former executive branch official for contempt of Congress was in 1983, when Rita Lavelle faced a contempt prosecution in relation to the Environmental Protection Agency Superfund scandal that took down then-EPA administrator Anne Gorsuch Burford (whose son is now-Justice Neil Gorsuch).
In that case, a 413-0 contempt vote by the House led to prosecution by the US Attorney. Even there, however, Lavelle ultimately was convicted of perjury for lying to Congress — not under the contempt statute.
Sure, Congress holds people in contempt. It happens not irregularly — a few times each administration (in normal times, that is) and generally with a more partisan vote than in the Lavelle matter. In 2014, the House voted 231-187 to hold former IRS commissioner Lois Lerner in contempt for refusing to cooperate with the investigation into the agency's targeting of conservative groups.
But, the Justice Department doesn't need to prosecute a contempt citation forwarded to it — which was the decision made as to Lerner. Similar decisions against prosecution were made when the House held George W. Bush administration officials — Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers — in contempt.
Congress could seek civil enforcement of the subpoena, a step the House tried to take against former Attorney General Eric Holder after he was held in contempt of Congress in relation to the "Fast and Furious" operation scandal. The process took years, however, and the judge ultimately declined to hold Holder in civil contempt — which would have resulted in fines being assessed against Holder.
There also is, technically, an "inherent" contempt power that Congress itself can exercise to enforce its interests. The power has not been exercised in the modern era, however, and the move — detailed in a recent congressional report as having the Sergeant-at-Arms bring in a person, having the House or Senate try the person, and imprisoning the person in the Capitol until he or she fulfills the congressional request — almost certainly would end up in court. (But it sounds very 2017, it's true.)
Kelner has not responded to multiple requests for comment about his client's plans.
Yuri Gripas / Reuters
President Trump's nominee to serve on a workplace safety board has provided some blunt analysis of and advice regarding this past week's White House difficulties.
He did so back in 2010.
"Employees just can’t resist talking about their latest developments, even though they’re not for public disclosure," James J. Sullivan Jr., said of employees sharing confidential information.
Earlier this week, BuzzFeed News confirmed the Washington Post's reporting that Trump had divulged highly classified information to Russian officials in a May 10 White House meeting.
Sullivan is Trump's nominee to be a member of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
Back in September 2010, Sullivan — then a lawyer with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney — participated in a roundtable discussion about labor and employment law, which was published in December of that year.
Warning of online postings that could cause headaches, Sullivan said employers "really have to monitor their employees' online activities."
On May 12, Trump tweeted that "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" — a reference to the conversations the president had with the former FBI director, who he fired on May 9.
Although the Trump White House has lashed out at the media for reporting based on leaks — including, per a New York Times report, to Comey — Sullivan had noted back in 2010, "[E]ven if you train employees and you train management, leaks are going to happen."
On Tuesday, Trump formally sent Sullivan's nomination to the Senate.
Sullivan's full 2010 comment:
I was going to talk about trade secrets because it seems like this is a recent phenomenon. But nine years ago when I was in-house at Comcast, I remember getting a call about an Internet forum for cable technicians. A Comcast cable technician had posted information about a product that Comcast had not yet rolled out, and Comcast was very upset about it because it was essentially a secret. This happens to companies all the time. They really have to monitor their employees’ online activities, especially where confidential information is concerned, because even if you train employees and you train management, leaks are going to happen. Employees just can’t resist talking about their latest developments, even though they’re not for public disclosure.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images
A bipartisan group of senators, including Republican Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, have asked the federal government to ensure American jobs are protected before expanding the number of unskilled temporary foreign workers allowed into the US this year.
“It is essential that you carefully evaluate hiring and recruitment efforts to ensure that any proposed increase … does not disadvantage US workers,” the senators wrote.
At issue is the H-2B program, which allows American employers to bring up to 66,000 foreign workers into the US every year on short-term work visas. Part of an omnibus spending bill passed recently by Congress gave regulators the ability to issue additional visas above the cap restriction, which has raised concerns among advocates for US workers and those who feel the visa program can lead to the exploitation of foreign laborers.
“Such a determination should not be made lightly,” the senators wrote in the May 17 letter, which was also signed by senators Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, and David Perdue, a Republican from Georgia.
It was sent Wednesday to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta.
The letter cites a BuzzFeed News investigation that raised questions about the visa program after finding that workers could be victims of financial exploitation, physical abuse, and even rape. The investigation showed "that the program condemns thousands of workers each year ‘to exploitation and mistreatment,’” the letter added.
Stephen Faulkner, middle, owner of Faulkner's Landscaping & Nursery, installs an irrigation system alongside his workers Gonsalo Garcia, left, and Jalen Murchison, right, at a landscape project in Manchester, N.H.
Elise Amendola / AP
Increasing reliance on the H-2B program, which is specifically for non-agricultural employment such as hotel work or seafood processing, the letter continues, could reduce wages, push American workers out of jobs, and discourage them from ever applying again.
One of the most prominent users of the H-2B program is President Donald Trump; Mar-a-Lago and other businesses controlled by his trust hire temporary workers as waiters and housekeepers. Most recently, The Trump National Golf Course in Westchester County won permission to hire up to eight foreign workers last month.
Last year, more than 150,000 workers came into the US each year under the H-2 program, which also includes the H-2A visa designed for agricultural jobs. That number has increased steadily in recent years, and supporters of the program, including employers and visa agencies that help them request and recruit foreign workers, have lobbied regulators and Congress to expand the program and limit growth in wage requirements for foreign workers.
Representatives for the departments of Labor or Homeland Security could no immediately be reached for comment.
Read the entire letter here:
Kevin Lamarque / Reuters
How will the president and the most senior law enforcement officials in the United States select and ultimately manage a new FBI director while the FBI investigates the Trump campaign?
That question is at the heart of the complex ethical situation created when President Trump fired the bureau’s former director, James Comey. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, meanwhile, has pledged to recuse himself from any investigations concerning the 2016 campaigns. Will Trump and Sessions walk out of the room if the subject of Russia and the campaigns comes up?
So far, the answer from the Trump administration is: There is no problem.
Over the weekend, when Justice Department officials were beginning interviews to find a new FBI director, Sen. Dianne Feinstein tweeted that Sessions — due to his recusal from the Russia investigation — should recuse himself from the selection of a new FBI director.
BuzzFeed News asked spokespersons from the White House and Justice Department on Wednesday whether any effort had been made to ensure that Sessions' recusal was figuring into FBI director selection process; how the process was accounting for how the potential nominees would address questions regarding the investigation; and whether they expected the eventual nominee to recuse himself or herself from the investigation if confirmed.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer responded, “The process continues as discussed.”
The Justice Department spokesperson did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the questions — echoing earlier nonresponsiveness on the question of Sessions' recusal from any part of the selection process.
This all follows an unusually intense period of news. The past three weeks have included a dizzying number of actions, stories, and revelations surrounding the president of the United States, the investigation into his campaign, and whether the president has tried to influence — or even shut down — the investigation.
The complicated but important timeline is worth laying out:
On May 8, President Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein met to discuss then-FBI Director James Comey’s fate. In discussing Comey, whose agency was running the investigation into the questions surrounding the Trump campaign and Trump associates’ ties to Russia, neither Trump nor Sessions, due to his recusal, should have been discussing (or told) anything about the investigation.
On May 9, Rosenstein wrote a memo detailing problems with Comey’s handling of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state and concluding that Comey “cannot be expected” to do what would be needed for the FBI “to regain public and congressional trust.” Sessions forwarded it to Trump, recommending Comey’s firing. Trump fired Comey before the day was out.
Rosenstein, senators said on Thursday, knew that Comey was going to be fired before he wrote the memo — meaning he likely learned the intended result at, if not before, the May 8 meeting.
On May 10, we have since learned, Trump shared highly classified information with Russian officials in a meeting at the White House. The next day, Trump did an interview with Lester Holt of NBC News, where he said he would have fired Comey regardless of Rosenstein’s memo — and acknowledged that he asked Comey whether he was under investigation.
Over the weekend, Sessions and Rosenstein were already at the point of interviewing possible candidates for FBI director. CNN reported that Comey’s firing and the Russia investigation were not discussed.
On Monday, Sessions briefed Trump. On Wednesday, Trump himself interviewed four candidates — including former Sen. Joseph Lieberman — who was, by Thursday, Trump’s reported leading candidate for the position.
As the Wednesday interviews were taking place, however, Rosenstein was appointing Robert Mueller — himself a former FBI director — to serve as the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation.
FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Intelligence Committee hearing into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., March 20, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Joshua Roberts / Reuters
The timeline, and the intermingling of the same officials in the Comey firing, raises those unanswered questions about how recusals and independence will work as the new FBI director is selected.
More or less, advocates who have been aggressively fighting the administration’s perceived ethical lapses hope that the eventual FBI director nominee will take responsibility for addressing these questions — given that neither the White House nor the Justice Department appear to be doing so.
“To the extent possible Mueller as Special Counsel should lead the Russia investigation and should have contacts in the FBI who work with his office directly,” Richard Painter, the former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush and vice chair of the board of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told BuzzFeed News on Thursday.
CREW, which sued Trump already over his foreign business entanglements, has been highly critical of the Trump administration’s ethics issues.
“In view of what happened to Comey,” Painter explained, “The judgment calls on what to investigate and how to investigate should as much as possible be made by the Special Counsel.”
Faiz Shakir, the national political director at the ACLU, echoed Painter’s comments — and went a step further.
“Given the appointment of Mueller, the next FBI nominee should pledge to recuse himself or herself from any role in the investigation,” he said. “The mere fact that the White House has indicated they want this investigation to end and that they key actors sought to dismiss Comey over this matter, anyone they choose should be forced by the Senate to recuse from the investigation.”
The prospect of other Trump-related investigations in the future is part of why Painter has expressed support for Lieberman, saying that the new director “should be someone who we have confidence can have an active role in other investigations concerning the Trump administration, which are outside the scope of the Special Counsel.” On Twitter, he wrote that Lieberman “[w]on’t take any grief from Sessions.”
Others have raised questions, however, about Lieberman’s independence — given the fact that his law firm, Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, has regularly represented Trump, including during the 2016 presidential campaign. If Lieberman ultimately is Trump’s pick, the issue is sure to be an additional ethical wrinkle in the nomination process.
Feinstein, however, expressed a different concern in a CNN interview on Thursday when asked if she would vote for Lieberman. While she didn’t say she would oppose him, she did say that “the appointment must be what’s right for the FBI at this time.”
Saying that the FBI is “separate from the political operation of our government,” Feinstein said, “I think, and I feel this very strongly, that the best appointee would be somebody that comes up in the FBI — actually a career appointment.” She pointed specifically to Andrew McCabe, the acting FBI director and one of the other people interviewed by Trump on Wednesday.
D Dipasupil / Getty Images
The NAACP has decided not to renew the contract of its president and CEO, three people tell BuzzFeed News.
Cornell William Brooks will not continue on at the helm of the nation's oldest civil rights organization after a three-year stint. The executive committee informed Brooks of their decision Thursday, and an announcement on the development could come as early as Friday, a source said. Executive board committee Leon Russell and Derrick Johnson will handle the organization's day-to-day operations.
Dr. Amos C. Brown, a national board member, confirmed the news, saying that Brooks' contract ends in June, and leadership felt now was the right time to go in another direction, moving on to fight racism and "dealing with the fallout of Trumpism."
His ouster comes at a particularly sensitive time for the country. Donald Trump's presidency has ushered in a wave of enthusiasm from the far right, and amid setbacks already established by the administration on criminal justice and voting rights.
Reached by BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson for the NAACP declined comment. In a statement issued later Friday, Derrick Johnson, a vice-chair of the board, said “In the coming months, the NAACP will embark upon a historic national listening tour to ensure that we harness the energy and voices of our grassroots members, to help us achieve transformational change, and create an internal culture designed to push the needle forward on civil rights and social justice."
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Brooks said he was informed Thursday of the situtation and was "disappointed" in senior leadership's decision.
"We were beginning to turn the corner" as an organization "that was beginning to be taken seriously."
Brooks said he received the final decision today, receiving a letter from the executive committee Thursday. "For decades the NAACP has had a revolving door of CEOs, and it's unfortunate that it's still spinning," said Brooks.
Brooks told BuzzFeed News that his exit comes at the "worst time," with communities facing an existential threat of increased racism, a Justice Department intent to bring back mass incarceration, and a voter fraud investigation coming from the White House — all issues that adversely affect black Americans. "This is not a good a time not to be about the business. It's time for boldness."
Inside the organization, Brooks was known as an energetic leader with a penchant for engaging in direct action, staging civil disobedience and willingly being arrested in support of causes that he and his deputies posted to forums like Facebook Live. Brooks said that in this era, it was important to show up rather than simply [craft] statements to the press. But asked whether he thought this leadership style had rankled some in senior leadership, Brooks said, "Possibly, probably."
"In the [social media age, how else are you supposed to do civil rights unless you show up," he said, saying the group had come from the legacy of giants like Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King.
In addition to gains in social media engagement — a campaign he said was designed to increase the group's national visibility — Brooks said he was proudest that the NAACP helped lead in the fight against Attorney General Jeff Sessions, organizing a shut down of the Senate phone lines and testifying at his Senate confirmation hearing. He said the organization had increasing online membership and donations under his leadership, and had broadened collaboration across the progressive political grassroots spectrum.
In recent days, Brooks expressed optimism about the immediate future of the organization, saying that he looked forward to welcoming President Trump.
"Our question to him is the same one that he posed to us: "What in the world do you have to lose?" Brooks told BuzzFeed News in a separate interview regarding whether Trump would visit this summer's NAACP convention.
"This is a racial tinderbox," Brooks told BuzzFeed News. "Among millennials, racial justice issues rank at the very, very top. The republic is deeply divided. Donald J. Trump is no longer a candidate, he's President Trump. This is a moment where it's not a matter of choosing the conventions you want to breeze through for a cameo — this is a real leadership moment.
"So the president should come. He should stand flat-footed, and speak to the country from the rostrum of the NAACP about the nation's concerns."
A somber Brooks said he's not leaving a perfect organization, but one, that under his leadership was "certainly better off."
The Supreme Court on Monday morning upheld a lower court's decision that two North Carolina congressional districts were improperly created — with an eye to the race of the voters too heavily controlling those districts lines.
The entire court held that one of the districts was unconstitutionally devised, with five of the court's eight members voting in the case holding that the second district also was unconstitutionally devised. (Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate.)
Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court, joined by its more liberal members and Justice Clarence Thomas, in holding that "racial considerations predominated in designing both Districts 1 and 12" and that the state gave no sufficient reasons for doing so.
"[T]he court below found that race furnished the predominant rationale for that district’s redesign. And it held that the State’s interest in complying with the [Voting Rights Act] could not justify that consideration of race," she wrote as to District 1. "We uphold both conclusions."
Later, as to the second district, Kagan wrote, "[W]e uphold the District Court’s finding of racial predominance respecting District 12. The evidence offered at trial, including live witness testimony subject to credibility determinations, adequately supports the conclusion that race, not politics, accounted for the district’s reconfiguration."
The court did so as to both districts, she noted, in part due to the deferential review that the Supreme Court gives to factual conclusions reached by lower courts.
Under the "clear error" standard, Kagan wrote, the Supreme Court would defer to the three-judge district court's findings of fact — "most notably, as to whether racial considerations predominated in drawing district lines" — so long as the court's findings are "plausible in light of the full record."
Thomas wrote a short, two-page opinion concurring with Kagan's opinion for the court, highlighting his support for Kagan's focus on the "clear error" standard of review.
Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, would have reversed the lower court and upheld the map for one of the districts, District 12.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield represents District 1, and Alma Adams represents District 12.
This is a developing story. Please check back at BuzzFeed News for the latest news.
Carlos Barria / Reuters
Michael Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in refusing to comply with a Senate subpoena seeking records relating to the intelligence committee's investigation into the Trump campaign's Russia connections, a source close to Flynn tells BuzzFeed News.
The subpoena called for a response by Wednesday, but the source told BuzzFeed News that Flynn — President Trump's former national security adviser — will be responding on Monday.
Given the many calls to investigate and prosecute Flynn, the source said, it would be "highly imprudent for him to comply with the subpoena." Flynn will invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination not to do so, the source added.
The Associated Press reported earlier Monday that "a person with direct knowledge of the matter" expected Flynn to take such steps on Monday.
As BuzzFeed News previously reported, Flynn's decision doesn't mean he will be going to jail for contempt of Congress. The process for such a prosecution is complex and rarely attempted — let alone successful.
This is a developing story. Please check back at BuzzFeed News for the latest.
Fotosearch / Getty Images
Donald Trump has already changed the Democratic Party more than his own Republican Party.
While the president has merely reduced his own party into a panicked mess, the Democrats’ trajectory seems to have moved subtly and decisively away from the center-left Clinton liberalism toward a politics whose planks make Barack Obama look like Al Gore.
I know, it’s been a distracting month. So you’re forgiven if you missed the big development on the Democratic Party policy front: the call for “a large-scale, permanent program of public employment and infrastructure investment.” That plan, titled “A Marshall Plan for America,” came not from Bernie Sanders but from the Center for American Progress, the Clintonite Washington think tank John Podesta led. The proposal breaks in tone and substance with the Clinton–Obama focus on an economy led and dominated by the private sector.
The plan’s radicalism, CAP President Neera Tanden told me, is aimed at a jobs crisis that they’re talking about with an urgency that was absent from the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration.
“The problem is gigantic. And we can't be indifferent to it. If we continue to be than both the economy and the democracy will unravel,” Tanden said. And the spur, she said, isn’t just the current president: “It's Trumpism, Brexiters, National Frontism.”
Democrats’ opportunity is to deliver on the explicit and implicit promises that Trump abandoned once he was elected: expanded and improved health care and large-scale jobs programs, cost no object. And that opportunity comes as the party’s economic left — its social democratic wing, as it used to be called — finds new footing. Sanders proved Democrats could pitch unabashed government action in the economy without upsetting primary voters — or even, almost inexplicably, getting criticized for plans to raise taxes. And the new plan from CAP drew grudging praise even from thinkers who had basically given up on the established Democratic Party.
“Some Democratic leaders are beginning to realize that Trump is a symptom of a political and commercial system that they had a role in mismanaging,” said Matt Stoller, a former Sanders aide in the Senate now at the New America Foundation. “As a result they are inching their way toward rethinking their agenda.”
The jobs plan is the bluntest sign of this shift, but the party appears to be inching its way toward another pillar of social democracy: government-funded health care.
“What happened in the presidential campaign is that Bernie ran explicitly in support of a Medicare-for-all approach” — a simple framework for single-payer — “and what the politicians saw is that voters were fine with that,” said Vermont Rep. Peter Welch, a longtime advocate of single payer.
“It’s inclusive and it doesn’t get us into the identity politics divisions that are problematic,” he said. “It gets us into inclusive politics.”
And if Sanders made single-payer safe for Democrats, Trump’s extremely unpopular foray into health care policy with the American Health Care Act has created a new landscape. Democrats’ blend of private-sector structures with government money and incentives, Obamacare, never became truly popular. A Republican version of that hybrid system, tilted toward the markets and away from guarantees, isn’t popular either.
“Then the default becomes, well the private market doesn’t work, the next thing is single-payer,” said an insurance industry executive close to the politics of the issue, who noted that the CEO of Aetna recently shocked the industry by calling for a serious debate about what single-payer would look like. (To the insurance industry, it could look like a new sluice of predictable revenue.)
“This is probably going to be like what happened with Republicans on immigration,” the insurance industry official said. “You may even have a bigger swath of Democrats who are not for single-payer but the single-payer group is becoming so outspoken that other voices are muted.”
The shape of this new Democratic Party will emerge in concrete terms in primary battles over the next 18 months, as candidates fight for places in what they believe are promising midterm elections. They may lean heavily on what is the third and largest pillar of the Trump-era Democratic Party — calls for investigating or impeaching Trump.
But the party that emerges may wind up advancing something a lot more like Donald Trump’s campaign promises of government-supported jobs and health care than anything Trump or his party have suggested.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
Despite the fact that most Democratic leaders insist that talk of impeaching President Trump is premature, some liberal corners won’t stop talking about it.
On May 17, Rep. Al Green of Texas called for the impeachment of the president in a floor speech. Rep. Ted Lieu tweeted that he was going to be reading a 2015 government report on “impeachment and removal” on Friday evening, May 19.
Then, the next day, Louise Mensch and Claude Taylor — a former conservative British MP and a Clinton White House volunteer office staffer, respectively — made a series of questionable allegations in a widely discredited report that took Twitter by storm.
In addition to claiming that multiple sources had told them “the House Judiciary Committee is considering Articles of Impeachment against the President of the United States,” the article asserted that sources had also told the duo that “the Supreme Court notified Mr. Trump that the formal process of a case of impeachment against him was begun.” Specifically, they noted, this meant Trump “was not able to use his powers of pardon against other suspects in Trump-Russia cases.”
They added that the sources told them that “the Marshal of the Supreme Court spoke to Mr. Trump.” (The pair have since claimed in a follow-up report that the marshal’s contact with Trump — on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews — was related to another fantastical set of circumstances involving a case out of Michigan challenging the president’s travel ban.)
But impeachment has not commenced, and while individual members might be reviewing the process, there is no formal action in motion. The Supreme Court would not notify the president of the start of an impeachment process, and his pardon powers are not impeded currently (or by impeachment). Finally, there is no reason to believe the marshal — responsible for court security — spoke with Trump about anything, let alone a nonexistent impeachment “case.”
In short, none of that appears to be true.
Hope Hicks, a White House spokesperson, discouraged BuzzFeed News from reporting on the impeachment issues — specifically, the Mensch and Taylor report. Of the report, however, she wrote, “[T]his is not only totally and completely false — it doesn’t make sense and it's not how the system works.”
There is, however, significant confusion and misinformation about the process. Let’s step back and talk about what’s what — the actual facts of how it works — when it comes to impeachment.
How does it begin?
Impeachment begins with a House resolution, which either calls for impeachment or directs the House Judiciary Committee or elsewhere to begin an impeachment investigation.
Many people have pointed to “page 17” of the report tweeted out by Lieu — a 2015 Congressional Research Service report called “Impeachment and Removal” — as evidence of many things: that a single House member can begin the impeachment process, that a non-member can do so, and that a grand jury charge can do so.
All of these things are true, but only in a narrow sense. The reality is less remarkable when one examines the actual precedents described in the report. These things can happen, but a member of Congress must still introduce the evidence at issue — a state legislative resolution, a grand jury report — as part of a resolution, or the single member’s motion must be introduced in the form of a resolution. Then, members of the House must vote on the resolution in order to begin the impeachment process, through committee referral.
There is no resolution. That has not happened.
Green gave a floor speech; he did not introduce a resolution.
For his part, Lieu was very clear about where he believes things stand.
“White House lawyers have now started researching impeachment proceedings. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee — which is where any impeachment proceedings would start — I thought it would be prudent for me to do the same research,” Lieu said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. “Other than declaring war, impeaching a president is the gravest decision Congress can make. We need to let the special counsel and congressional committees finish their investigations and then make a decision based on the facts presented to us.”
What about the Supreme Court?
In an attempt to sort of reverse engineer the initial Mensch-Taylor article, people have pointed to parts of a law review article by Martin Belsky support for Mensch and Taylor’s claims about Supreme Court notification. In particular, these people have pointed a specific passage in the article where Belsky writes that “[t]he legal reality is that the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, have become the arena for investigating the president.”
But reached by BuzzFeed News to discuss the article, Belsky was blunt.
“No, that is not what the article says,” he said of the Supreme Court notification claims this week.
“The courts would not [get] involved directly. My opening line in the article was ‘indirectly’ — not ‘directly,’” he said, pointing to a line in the introduction to his article, which says that “the Supreme Court has significantly, but indirectly, gotten involved in the impeachment process.”
Expanding on what that means, he added, “They can create information that the impeachment committee can use; that’s all I said.”
Belsky pointed to two examples: Supreme Court rulings during the Clinton and Nixon administrations. In the 1990s, the court ruled that Bill Clinton could not stop civil lawsuits relating to things he did before he became president from proceeding while he was president. Earlier, in the 1970s, the Supreme Court ruled that Richard Nixon needed to turn over Watergate tapes to a special prosecutor in response to a subpoena. In both situations, the Supreme Court decisions preceding impeachment ultimately produced information later relevant to impeachment consideration.
"The Supreme Court will not get involved in any decision where the conflict is between the Congress and the president about what information should be delivered or not be delivered," Belsky said, "but the courts have said [...] if an interest was important enough, they would be willing to order the president to respond to legal proceedings — and the evidence that comes out of those legal proceedings could then be used for impeachment purposes.”
In short, the way the Supreme Court gets involved in impeachment is, as Belsky said, indirectly — through related criminal or civil proceedings that lead to production of evidence that later can become a part of impeachment proceedings.
So, what happens?
“There will be someone, I trust this, there will be someone who will propose a resolution of impeachment,” said Belsky, who worked for the House Judiciary Committee in the latter half of the 1970s after President Nixon’s resignation. “It happened to every president; it’s one of those things that happens every time. Some person, some congressman, decided they wanted to make that suggestion.”
Then, however, things turn to the leadership — of the House and, subsequently, of the House Judiciary Committee — to decide whether and how to proceed. Given that the House is run by Republicans, it is less likely that anything would happen even if a resolution were introduced — and it would almost definitely take something drastic for that to change.
If a Judiciary Committee were considering an impeachment investigation, the committee chair would have to decide, as Belsky put it, “whether or not they’re going to collect evidence and ask the staff to prepare information.”
Then would come the big question in preparing articles of impeachment: Is what the committee finds impeachable conduct? The Constitution makes clear that the president and vice president can only be impeached for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
After going through the committee investigation, Belsky detailed, “The chair would then say, ‘Well, what does a high crime or misdemeanor mean?’ And the staff would have to say, ‘It is whatever you want it to mean.’ There is no law at all what a high crime or misdemeanor is. I mean, merely the fact the president of the United States tried to fire someone was sufficient for a high crime or misdemeanor against Andrew Johnson.” Johnson was the first president impeached by the House.
The second and only other president impeached, Bill Clinton, was impeached by the House in December 1998 on two charges — perjury and obstruction of justice — resulting from the investigation of an independent counsel, Kenneth Starr. Two other articles of impeachment failed, as the House voted against impeaching Clinton on a second perjury charge and a charge of “abuse of power.”
In other words, the resolution starts the investigation, which leads to a committee vote, which leads to articles of impeachment if the committee votes for them, which leads to a House vote.
All of that, however, is just the first step.
“An impeachment is like an indictment,” Belsky said. “It is a [finding] that there is sufficient evidence to refer it to the Senate for trial.”
Once the House votes to impeach, the House would select members to present the case to the Senate: the House managers. (In the modern era, the House has selected managers by resolution.)
U.S. Senate Collection / Via senate.gov
And the Senate?
Despite all those steps in the House, the real action happens in the Senate, which has the power to remove the president (or others) from office.
The effort, however, comes about through a process decided upon by the Senate but with some limitations set by the Constitution. Namely, it takes a two-thirds vote for conviction in an impeachment trial that, in the case of the president, is overseen by the Chief Justice of the United States.
In addition to those constitutional limits, the process for the trial is set forth in Rules of Procedure and Practice in the Senate When Sitting on Impeachment Trials.
Once the impeachment articles are formally presented to the Senate, the Senate formally notifies the president or other official by summons of the pending impeachment trial. That is the first point in the impeachment process where there is any obligation to inform the individual being impeached of the impeachment.
The impeached individual can answer the charges, and the House managers can reply to that answer. All of that leads up to the “trial” — which can include opening arguments, presentation of evidence and examination of witnesses, and closing arguments. That is followed by closed deliberation and an open vote, article by article, on conviction. Conviction, by definition, would mean removal from office.
When it comes to trying to bring the courts into questions about the Senate impeachment trial — as Judge Walter Nixon did in the 1990s — the Supreme Court chose to stay out, declaring the question to be a “nonjusticiable” political question.
On the other side of that is the pardon power: The president’s pardon power is virtually unlimited as to federal crimes, but the Constitution does contain a significant limit: The president can exercise the power, “except in cases of impeachment.” While there is debate over what that means exactly, the debate mainly relates to whether the president can pardon himself or herself — not his or her ability to pardon others while under impeachment.
In Jeffrey Crouch’s 2009 book, The Presidential Pardon Power, he notes that the exception does not diminish the president’s authority to issue pardons of others — or even to pardon a person from criminal offenses relating to impeachment. Instead, he writes, the exception “only covers the political process of impeachment.” In other words, impeachment is a political process; the president does not have the power to overturn the will of that political process through a pardon.
How does it end?
As Belsky noted, Johnson was saved from conviction in the Senate by one vote: 35–19. Clinton had an easier time of it — defeating the perjury article 45–55 and the obstruction-of-justice article 50-50.
Ultimately, the impeachment process involves a number of difficult steps in both houses of Congress, all of which would be widely publicized.
No president in US history has been removed through impeachment.
Kevin D. Liles / Reuters
Republicans are fighting harder than they expected to defend two vacant House seats: One up for grabs Thursday in Montana, the other on the ballot next month in Georgia.
They aren’t panicking. Yet.
But many acknowledged that Democrats have a good thing going with small-dollar contributors. And some in the GOP are nervously watching the record sums of money pouring in, wondering if circumstances — a motivated opposition, a potentially strained donor base — have left them even more vulnerable to losing their majorities in Congress as the 2018 midterms approach.
The battle in Georgia’s 6th District is of particular concern.
Already, it’s the most expensive congressional race in history. Nearly $35 million in TV and radio advertising has been reserved there, according to tracking by the firm Medium Buying. The windfall shocked Atlanta-area television stations to the point where one added a newscast and pre-empted reruns of The Andy Griffith Show to make way for the deluge of political ads.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, an outside group aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan and tasked with preserving Republican rule, has committed at least $6.5 million to keep a seat once held by Newt Gingrich and Tom Price out of Democratic hands.
“The Dems are just tapping this mad small-dollar activist base,” one national Republican consultant told BuzzFeed News before name-checking a few of the GOP’s big-dollar donors. “How many times can you get a check from Paul Singer or Sheldon Adelson?”
The consultant added: “It’s one seat in Congress. How much do you want to plow into it?”
It’s a question without an easy answer.
Georgia’s special election to succeed Price, now the Health and Human Services secretary, began with a jungle primary that put 18 candidates — 11 of them Republicans — on a single, nonpartisan ballot. Democrats rallied around Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old newcomer. Outside Republican groups spent millions in the weeks leading up to the April vote just to keep Ossoff from cracking the 50% threshold he needed to win outright. Ossoff received 48%. He faces Republican Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state, in the June 20 runoff.
“Resources were deployed early because of the the incredible financial edge Ossoff had from out-of-state fundraising — and this being a jungle primary,” said one GOP operative who works closely with House campaigns. “Democrats have also been all-in in the 6th since the beginning. They hand-picked the candidate they wanted, sent staff down immediately.”
Handel’s emergence from the primary was a boost for Republicans in another way: It virtually assured investment from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Handel once led an Atlanta-area office for the Republican-leaning organization. And special elections can be a Chamber specialty. In 2013, for example, the group helped establishment favorite Bradley Byrne beat a Tea Party candidate in an off-year race for a vacant House seat in Alabama.
“Early money is smart money,” Rob Engstrom, the Chamber’s national political director, told BuzzFeed News. “We traditionally have played aggressively in special elections as we can closely connect politics back to policy and drive our agenda on the Hill.”
Engstrom, like many Republicans, cautioned against reading too much into the dynamics or results of one special election. “We believe that special elections are, indeed, that — special.” But others say the Montana and Georgia races will foreshadow what happens in 2018.
“I take a little bit of a different view,” one GOP strategist said. “I think these special elections are important, not only for the symbolic reasons, but because we are in a midterm where every seat will matter. If we come up one short [in the House] next November and we say, ‘If only we spent more on Georgia or Montana’ — no one wants to be in that position and have regrets.”
The strategist, who like others requested anonymity to speak candidly, added: “The House is a realistic objective for Democrats. Their donors are obviously already worked up. It’s a good time for them in terms of small-dollars. The typical race won’t be as expensive as Georgia, but it will be expensive. So House candidates in difficult races need to start raising money yesterday.”
President Trump is another factor. Nationally his job-approval ratings are low, though he remains popular with the GOP base. His narrow win over Hillary Clinton in the Georgia 6th last fall signaled that the district could be a pick-up opportunity for Democrats after he picked Price to lead HHS. And Trump’s recent firing of an FBI director amid an investigation of his campaign’s ties to Russia raises doubts about his long-term political value.
“These races are a bellwether,” said a Republican consultant who has worked with congressional candidates. “But it’s also prudent to realize right now we’re stuck in a microcosm of time where the worst that could happen to Republicans has already happened. When you have an incumbent president who’s not well liked, who won’t shut up, and who’s essentially aided and abetted by an equally incompetent staff. If we lose Montana and Georgia, it will clearly be hung and should be hung on Trump’s neck, because it’s depressing the base.”
GOP groups — including the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee — outraised their Democratic counterparts in the year’s first quarter. “They’re going to have to spend every nickel in 2018 to hold on to the House and the Senate,” this consultant said.
But the consultant is skeptical that the special elections will lead to donor fatigue. “You’re talking about $20 million to $30 million spent between all the GOP committees and outside groups. That’s a drop in the bucket when you think about it.”
Several GOP operatives noted that the party’s committees can use the threat of losing control of Congress as a selling point as they work their donor base.
“When faced with the thought of Speaker Pelosi,” said Corry Bliss, executive director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, “there’s nearly an unlimited amount of money that Republicans can raise the next two years.”
Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
The Montana special election took a strange turn on Wednesday night after a reporter claimed that the Republican candidate assaulted him before a campaign event.
The candidate, Greg Gianforte, was charged with misdemeanor assault.
Ben Jacobs, a reporter for the Guardian, tweeted around 7 p.m. that Republican candidate Greg Gianforte "body slammed" him, breaking his glasses.
The alleged incident took place at a campaign meet-and-greet in Bozeman after Jacobs entered a room where Gianforte was preparing for a television interview.
A Fox News reporter who was present during the incident later confirmed Jacobs' account.
"Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him," reporter Alicia Acuna wrote in a post on Fox News' website. She and two Fox News field producers then "watched in disbelief," she said, "as Gianforte then began punching the man, as he moved on top the reporter and began yelling something to the effect of "I'm sick and tired of this!"
Afterward, the Guardian posted audio of the exchange between Gianforte and Jacobs.
BuzzFeed News reporters were at the event in Montana, and one was close to the scene but unable to see all of it.
In the audio recording, Jacobs can be heard asking the candidate for his opinion on the Republican healthcare bill. Gianforte shoos him off, replying, “we’ll talk to you about that later," and directing the reporter to speak to campaign spokesperson Shane Scanlon.
After Jacobs presses Gianforte to answer, a scuffle and a loud crash can be heard, followed by someone yelling, "I'm sick and tired of you guys! The last time you guys did the same thing! Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing. Are you with the Guardian?”
“Yes, and you just broke my glasses,” Jacobs says.
“The last guy did the same damn thing,” Gianforte says.
“You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses,” Jacobs says.
“Get the hell out of here,” the man says. Someone else adds, "You need to leave."
Here's what BuzzFeed News saw and heard on the scene.
Immediately following the incident, aides appeared to escort Jacobs out of the room, and then entered a private room with the candidate. Police arrived shortly after, and Jacobs was reportedly taken from the venue in an ambulance to be treated for his injuries.
"I’m going to get my elbow checked out," Jacobs told MSNBC in a phone interview following the incident. "I landed on my elbow, and it’s less than comfortable. I’m making sure that it’s okay because I’m one-handed typing right now."
The campaign did not return BuzzFeed News' requests for comment.
Both Gianforte and his campaign staff left the venue shortly after the incident.
In a statement, campaign spokesman Shane Scanlon blamed "aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist":Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian's Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began asking badgering questions.
Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground.
It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene at our campaign volunteer BBQ.
In a statement Wednesday evening the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department said it is “currently investigating allegations of an assault involving Greg Gianforte."
At a press conference Wednesday evening, Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said that the investigation into the incident remains "active." He asked media and the public to stop calling the county's police dispatch center for information.
Authorities are still in the process of collecting witness statements to determine whether charges should be filed, Gootkin said. He estimated that there were roughly five people who witnessed the incident, including Jacobs and Gianforte.
Sheriff's deputies have not conducted an interview with Gianforte beyond an initial interaction at the scene, Gootkin said, but will attempt to interview him Thursday morning.
"He has every right in the world to refuse to speak with us," the sheriff added.
Gianforte's opponent, Democrat Rob Quist, appeared taken aback when reporters asked him about the incident Wednesday evening.
"I hadn't heard that," Quist tells reporters, in a video posted by the Washington Post's David Wiegel. "So for me, I guess, that's really not for me to uh, to talk about. I think that's more a matter for law enforcement, I guess you'd say."
Asked how the alleged incident might affect Thursday's election, Quist replied, "I guess, again, that's not for me to judge."
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
National Republicans invested in a special election for a vacant House seat in Montana were mostly silent Wednesday evening after their candidate, Greg Gianforte, was accused of assaulting a reporter before a campaign event.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to representatives with House Speaker Paul Ryan's political team, with the National Republican Congressional Committee, and with the Ryan-aligned Congressional Leadership Fund.
Each group has a stake in the outcome of Thursday's contest between Gianforte and Democrat Rob Quist. And each group was silent in response.
The Guardian's Ben Jacobs says Gianforte "body slammed" him and broke his glasses after Jacobs tried to ask about Gianforte's opinion on the Republican health care bill. Gianforte's campaign spokesman later released a statement accusing Jacobs of grabbing the candidate's wrist and other "aggressive behavior."
But audio posted by the Guardian is at odds with the campaign's account, and features Gianforte shouting extensively.
Additionally, late Wednesday night, after BuzzFeed News first reached out to the groups, Fox News posted an account from a journalist who was in the room with Jacobs and Gianforte. "Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him," the Fox News journalist wrote.
Local law enforcement is investigating.
"Unreal," one GOP source close to a group that has spent money on the race said via text message when prodded about the incident. Asked for an on-record comment, the source replied: "Call the campaign."
It's a sign that Gianforte is on his own in the final hours of the campaign. It's not particularly surprising that the national GOP groups would distance themselves in a potential last-minute crisis. The race between him and Quist already appeared to be closer than most Republicans expected, and party operatives will be eager to blame a loss on a flawed candidate as opposed to a national trend that spells doom in the 2018 midterms.
Doug Stafford, an adviser to Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, called the Gianforte campaign's statement "horse shit" on Twitter.