Category Archives: Elected Officials

SCOTUS Watch

Source: Jay Pinho and Victoria Kwan, SCOTUS Watch, 2018

What is this?
SCOTUS Watch tracks the public statements made by United States senators about how they plan to vote on the Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, and tallies them into a likely vote count. This tally is based solely on their statements: we do not make estimates or guesses based on a senator’s party affiliation or ideology.

Related:
CIA Successfully Conceals Bay Of Pigs History
Source: National Security Archive, May 21, 2014
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit yesterday joined the CIA’s cover-up of its Bay of Pigs disaster in 1961 by ruling that a 30-year-old volume of the CIA’s draft “official history” could be withheld from the public under the “deliberative process” privilege, even though four of the five volumes have previously been released with no harm either to national security or any government deliberation. …. The 2-1 decision, authored by Judge Brett Kavanaugh (a George W. Bush appointee and co-author of the Kenneth Starr report that published extensive details of the Monica Lewinsky affair), agreed with Justice Department and CIA lawyers that because the history volume was a “pre-decisional and deliberative” draft, its release would “expose an agency’s decision making process in such a way as to discourage candid discussion within the agency and thereby undermine the agency’s ability to perform its functions.”….

D.C. Circuit Review – Reviewed: Brooding Spirits, Judge Kavanaugh Edition
Source: Aaron Nielson, Notice & Comment, July 9, 2018

Here’s Where Trump’s New Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Stands On Abortion, Executive Power, And Guns
Source: Zoe Tillman, BuzzFeed News, July 9, 2018
Kavanaugh has written hundreds of opinions in more than a decade on the DC Circuit.

Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick, explained
Source: Dylan Matthews, Vox, July 9, 2018
He’s a veteran of every conservative fight from the Clinton impeachment to the fight against Obamacare.

Brett Kavanaugh has sided with broad views of presidential powers
Source: Ann E. Marimow Washington Post, July 9, 2018

Students, Alumni Urge Yale Law School’s Leadership To Denounce Brett Kavanaugh
Source: Carla Herreria, Huffington Post, July 11, 2018
Even though Yale Law School published a press release touting the accomplishments of Brett Kavanaugh, its alumnus and President Donald Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee, not everyone at the school is singing his praises. As of Tuesday night, more than 200 students, staff members and alumni of Yale Law School signed an open letter calling for the institution to rescind its apparent support of Kavanaugh.

Is the Supreme Court’s legitimacy undermined in a polarized age?

Source: Kevin J. McMahon, The Conversation, July 7, 2018
When I learned Justice Anthony Kennedy would retire, my thoughts went immediately to the confirmation of the newest justice, Neil Gorsuch.

The Senate’s confirmation of Gorsuch was unprecedented in the history of the country. Never before had a “minority president” named a “minority justice.”

I’m a scholar of the presidency and the Supreme Court. I will soon publish an article in the Chicago-Kent Law Review that considers the concepts of a “minority president” and a “minority justice” in relation to presidential appointments to the High Court for much of American history.

Here’s what I mean by these terms.

Court out of step with America?

Since Donald Trump lost the popular vote in the 2016 election, he is, by definition, a minority president, elected by a minority of the voters.

Similarly, I define a “minority justice” as a nominee who won confirmation with the support of a majority of senators, but senators who did not represent a majority of voters.

Consider Gorsuch. He was supported by a majority of senators – 51 Republicans and three Democrats. But the votes earned by those 54 senators only added up to a total of 54,098,387.

The 45 senators who opposed Gorsuch, all Democrats, collected 73,425,062 votes in their most recent elections – a nearly 20 million-vote difference…..

Countries Hosting Trump Businesses Have Added Lobbyists at Rapid Pace Since Inauguration

Source: Frank Bass, MapLight, July 6, 2018

More than one-third of lobbyists who have registered as foreign agents with the Justice Department since President Donald Trump took office are representing countries with Trump-related business interests, according to a MapLight review.

More than 400 lobbyists have registered to represent foreign interests in the 16 months since Trump took office. Records show 142 new foreign agents are working for 20 countries where Trump has business interests, including Saudi Arabia, China, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Qatar. By contrast, former President Barack Obama’s Justice Department recorded 238 new foreign lobbyists during his first 16 months in office. There were 223 registrations reported during the same period under former President George W. Bush….

Trump Foundation donated to charities that booked galas at Mar-a-Lago

Source: Christine Stapleton, Palm Beach Post, July 6, 2018

Nearly all of the $706,000 in donations made by the Donald J. Trump Foundation in Palm Beach County since 2008 went to charities that hosted lavish fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago — the president’s highest-profile business in the county. ….

Moving to Mar-a-Lago: Who got how much and when
A sampling of the charities that received a donation at the time they moved their fundraisers to Mar-a-Lago.

– The International Red Cross received a $21,000 donation in 2015, the year it decided to move its event from The Breakers back to Mar-a-Lago.
– The Salvation Army received a $25,000 in 2015, the year after it moved its event to Mar-a-Lago from the Breakers.
– The MorseLife Foundation moved its dinner dance to Mar-a-Lago in 2011 and the next year the Trump Foundation made a $25,000 donation.
– The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society moved its event to Mar-a-Lago in 2010. In April 2011, Trump called into Rush Limbaugh’s radio show during Limbaugh’s annual Leukemia/Lymphoma Cure-A-Thon and pledged to give $100,000. The foundation then made a $101,500 donation.
– The Dana Farber Cancer Institute began hosting its fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago in 2011. A year before, the Trump Foundation donated $100,000 to the institute’s headquarters and the foundation followed with a $25,000 gift in 2014 and another $22,500 in 2015.
– The Palm Beach Zoo — a regular at the Breakers — received a $25,000 donation from the Trump Foundation in 2013, which was the year it moved to Mar-a-Lago.

Can Fact-checking Prevent Politicians from Lying?

Source: Chloe Lim, May 17, 2018

Journalists now regularly trumpet fact-checking as an important tool to hold politicians accountable for their public statements, but fact checking’s effect has only been assessed anecdotally and in experiments on politicians holding lower-level offices. Using a rigorous research design to estimate the effects of fact-checking on presidential candidates, this paper shows that a fact-checker deeming a statement false false causes a 9.5 percentage points reduction in the probability that the candidate repeats the claim. To eliminate alternative explanations that could confound this estimate, I use two types of difference-in-differences analyses, each using true-rated claims and “checkable but unchecked” claims, a placebo test using hypothetical fact-check dates, and a topic model to condition on the topic of the candidate’s statement. This paper contributes to the literature on how news media can hold politicians accountable, showing that when news organizations label a statement as inaccurate, they affect candidate behavior.

#MeToo in the Statehouse: At Least 16 Men Are Gone, But the Harassment Culture Isn’t

Source: Jen Fifield, Stateline, May 11, 2018

…..Seven months after the #MeToo movement began, state lawmakers across the country are still grappling with how to root out what many say is a longstanding misogynist culture in statehouses. After dozens of sexual harassment accusations against sitting male state lawmakers, at least 16 legislators in a dozen states have resigned or been expelled, according to a Stateline tally.

In many states, accused lawmakers were knocked from leadership posts, or voluntarily relinquished them, while remaining in office. Others apologized and kept their positions, or maintain their innocence.

As many legislative sessions end, many of the substantial policy changes that state lawmakers were hoping for — such as creating a private and safe method for victims to come forward and a nonpartisan way for bad behavior to be punished — remain elusive…..

If Trump is Laundering Russian Money, Here’s How it Works

Source: Garrett M. Graff, Wired, May 11, 2018

….Recent days have been filled with a seeming tidal wave of fresh revelations from the spiraling investigation around Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, particularly around suspicious financial transactions involving Trump fixer Michael Cohen, who appears to have used the same shell company LLC to pay hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels, collect six- and seven-figure consulting deals from companies like AT&T and Novartis, and receive payments from a company with close ties to oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. The subtext of many of the recent tales—from Donald Trump’s massive cash-spending spree to Cohen’s $32 million flip of New York real estate—is that the atypical transactions are worthy of greater scrutiny. After all, why was the self-proclaimed “King of Debt” suddenly waist-deep in cash and on a spending spree in the midst of the global real estate crash? Where was Cohen’s money coming from—and where was it going?….

How Trump is reshaping the courts

Source: Sam Baker, Stef W. Kight, Andrew Witherspoon, Axios, May 10, 2018

President Trump has already appointed a record-breaking number of federal judges, but his judicial legacy is even bigger than that: More than half of those judges replaced Democratic appointees.
Why it matters: Some of our most contentious political debates are ultimately settled in the courts. If Trump can keep replacing liberal judges with conservatives, he’d be giving conservatives an upper hand that would last for decades.

The numbers:
– The Senate has confirmed 17 Trump nominees for federal district courts, most of whom replaced Democratic appointees.
– Trump has also filled 16 vacancies on federal appeals courts (the last stop before the Supreme Court). Six of those appointees replaced judges who were nominated by Democratic presidents.
– There are still 140 more vacancies in the federal district and appellate courts, and Trump has put forward nominees for about half of them.
– There could soon be 100 judicial nominees pending in the Senate, according to the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo, an outside adviser to Trump on judicial nominations.

Louisiana Legislators Are Earning Big Money From Government Agencies — But Don’t Have to Disclose It All

Source: Rebekah Allen, The Advocate, April 13, 2018

One state senator earned $836,000 in legal fees representing a sheriff. The amount he disclosed: $13,328. “The notion that you could get public money and not report it in our flim-flammery of an ethics system is ridiculous,” an ethics expert says.