‘Constitutional crisis’ over Mueller report

Controversies over the Mueller report and the Trump administration continue in the US.

The vote was 24-16 in favour of holding Barr in contempt.

Reuters Explainer: Can Trump use executive privilege to withhold full Mueller report?

The White House on Wednesday invoked executive privilege to block the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s unredacted Russia report as a U.S. House panel met to vote on holding the U.S. attorney general in contempt of Congress for withholding the document.

The White House’s move escalated a constitutional clash between the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and Republican President Donald Trump over its powers to investigate him, his administration, his family and his business interests.

Trump is stonewalling Congress on multiple probes, blasting the investigations as “presidential harassment.” In an unusual move, he is even suing to stop the release of some materials that lawmakers want.

There are so few court decisions on executive privilege that it is hard to be certain if Trump can withhold the unredacted report and underlying evidence, said Ross Garber, a lawyer in Washington who focuses on political investigations.

But to prevail in court the White House will eventually need to be more specific about which documents are protected by executive privilege and why, Garber said.

In a letter to Trump on Wednesday, Attorney General William Barr encouraged the president to make a “preliminary, protective assertion of executive privilege designed to ensure your ability to make a final assertion, if necessary, over some or all of the subpoenaed materials.”

Some legal experts have argued that Trump long ago forfeited, or waived, his right to make an executive privilege claim over conversations described by witnesses in Mueller’s investigation and related documents.

Meanwhile:

Democrats versus Barr versus Mueller are not fading away

The Mueller investigation led to the Barr letter which was followed by the release of most of the Mueller report was followed by the release of a Mueller letter to Barr, and now Barr has been questioned in the US senate. And the controversies continue, predictably with many angles being taken by media and politicians.

Washington Examiner: 5 takeaways from the Barr hearing

1. Tension between Attorney General William Barr and Robert Mueller

Barr revealed a split with the special counsel over the pursuit of evidence that President Trump tried to obstruct the probe. Mueller did not draw any conclusion on obstruction, despite gathering the evidence.

“The investigation carried on for a while as additional episodes were looked into,” Barr told the panel. “So my question was, why were those investigated if, at the end of the day, you weren’t going to reach a decision on them?”

Later in the hearing Barr dismissed a March 27 letter from Mueller complaining about Barr’s four-page memo to Congress about the report. “The letter’s a bit snitty and I think it was written by one of his staff people,” Barr told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

2. Barr didn’t review Mueller’s evidence.

Under questioning from Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., a former prosecutor who is running for president, Barr acknowledged neither he nor Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein reviewed the trove of evidencegathered by the Mueller team before he cleared Trump of any wrongdoing.

The Mueller report did not clear Trump of any wrongdoing, but Barr’s letter summarising the findings of the investigation were taken by Trump and others as doing that.

3. Barr is probing leaks to media.

Under questioning from Republicans on the panel, Barr said he is investigating Department of Justice leaks to the media regarding the investigation into alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

4. Barr is examining the justification for surveillance warrants into Trump campaign.

Barr said he is investigating the basis for the Justice Department’s decision to secretly surveil the Trump campaign beginning in October 2016. Barr said he is working with Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to determine if a surveillance warrant was properly obtained by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court the month before the election.

5. Senate Judiciary (probably) won’t call Mueller to testify.

Democrats are eager to hear testimony from special counsel Robert Mueller, they said Wednesday. But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., doesn’t plan to invite him.

“I’m not going to do any more,” Graham said after Barr’s day-long hearing. “Enough already, it’s over.”

But it appears to be far from over.

RealClear Politics – Pelosi: Attorney General Barr Committed A Crime; “He Lied To Congress”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday accused Attorney General William Barr of criminally lying to Congress about special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and Mueller’s letter relating to how Barr has characterized its findings.

“What is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America is not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime,” the Speaker told reporters.

Asked again about the accusation, Pelosi said: “He lied to Congress. If anybody else did that, it would be considered a crime. Nobody is above the law.”

Asked whether Barr should go to jail, the speaker said: “There’s a process involved here.”

There’s something for everyone to cherry pick from.

Conduct of media and Trump questioned after release of Mueller summary

So far just a summary of the report of the inquiry by Special Counsel (Robert Muller) has been released, but claims and accusations are flying, with the media bearing the brunt of most criticism.

Trump is justifiably very please with the outcome, but as usual has made inaccurate statements – he has not been fully exonerated as he claims, and his conduct during the inquiry, in particular his accusations against Mueller, was far from presidential.

But the media is copping most of the flak.

Politico:  Media stares down ‘reckoning’ after Mueller report underwhelms

Fox News host Sean Hannity accused “CNN, MSNBC, and the mainstream media” of having “lied” for two years in his first tweet on Sunday after a four-page summary of special counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusions was made public.

Pot, kettle.

“Now they will be held accountable,” he warned.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump. Jr. accused “CNN, MSNBC, BuzzFeed and the rest of the mainstream media” of “non-stop conspiracy theories” in a statement, while urging “honest journalists within the media” to “have the courage to hold these now fully debunked truthers accountable.”

That Mueller concluded no one from Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign “conspired or coordinated” with Russia in attempting to influence the election has ramped up scrutiny of the news media’s handling of the two-year investigation.

There may be some truth in that, but it is an over generalisation – Lowry is a part of the media and I presume he isn’t criticising himself.

Longtime Rolling Stone writer and author Matt Taibbi published an excerpt from his new book on Saturday which argued that “Russiagate is this generation’s WMD,” a reference to news coverage during the run-up the Iraq war, widely seen as the greatest journalistic failure in modern memory.

“The sheer scale of the errors and exaggerations this time around dwarfs the last mess”.

But as with some of the media on the collusion accusations, this may be premature, until details of the inquiry findings are released – and if they are not all released, it will provide scope for continued questions.

It may be premature to castigate the news media when a lot questions remain unanswered. Attorney General William Barr only provided a four-page summary of Mueller’s report, which notably on the issue of obstruction, “does not conclude that the president committed a crime,” but “also does not exonerate him.” It remains unclear why, exactly, Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded over the weekend that there was not sufficient evidence to support obstruction — especially as the president was never interviewed.

Also, blaming “the media” writ large is problematic in potentially lumping unsupported speculation — whether on cable news or on social media — with dogged reporting on an investigation which led to a half-dozen Trump associates, including a former campaign chairman and national security adviser, either being charged or pleading guilty to crimes. Not to mention, there are still a dozen investigations, largely based in New York, stemming from the special counsel’s investigation.

Some journalists have already pushed back on the weekend criticism. “Given the issues, stakes, and seriousness with which special counsel treated all of this, the media’s coverage of Russia-Trump connection and possible obstruction over the last two years was somewhere between about right and not quite aggressive enough,” tweeted Esquire’s Ryan Lizza.

Of course there are valid criticisms of the modern media (all of it). Lance Morrow (City Journal): Journalism Dies in Self-Importance

I suppose it’s true that “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” as the Washington Post’s slogan says. But journalism may also die, by morphing into forms that can no longer be described as journalism. Journalism may come to mean a crooked scandal sheet, or high-minded propaganda. Sometimes squalor and self-righteousness are equally disreputable.

The other day, Ted Koppel, a voice from the late-twentieth-century practice of journalism, spoke about what has become of his old business in the age of Trump. “We are not the reservoir of objectivity that I think we were,” Koppel said, in an understatement. The Left always cites Fox News in this regard. He singled out the Washington Post and the New York Times, saying that they have gone overboard in their bias, transforming themselves into anti-Trump advocates.

“We are not talking about the Washington Post [or New York Times] of 50 years ago,” Koppel said. “We’re talking about organizations that . . . have decided, as organizations, that Donald J. Trump is bad for the United States.”

Other media, or at least parts of it (like Fox), have at times blatantly taken Trump’s side.

Koppel made clear that he does not disagree with the verdict that Trump is “bad for the United States.” He means only that the Post and Times abandon their journalistic responsibility when they take sides so blatantly.

Today, opinion and dogmatic speculation are the currency of politics and journalism. Facts have become elusive or even unnecessary, except for, say, the body counts at mass shootings. Otherwise, the world is fluid and angry and ideological. Among other things, the new journalism—more theater than journalism, a slugfest of memes—is a lot easier to practice. Much of it, on either side, is little more than noise.

Washington Times:  Media pulled off big con with Russia collusion story

America got conned again.

It was all a big set-up. A ruse. A dirty canard.

The whole thing was one giant lie.

And everybody peddling it — from House Democratic leaders, to Senate Democrats running for president, to the Senate Republican who reported the whole thing in the first place, to the roaring lions of the Great White Media…

I presume the Washington Times excludes themselves from ‘Great White Media’.

Media defends itself. Politico – Week 96: Trump Might Not Be Guilty, But Neither Is the Press

Trump walked away victorious if bloodied from the announcement, hailing the Barr letter, in a classic bit of exaggeration, as a “complete and total exoneration” as he boarded Air Force One in Florida. But Trump had every right to revel.

Mueller’s air-tight inquiry—did his team ever leak?—encouraged political speculation from Democrats and journalistic supposition on the part of reporters that Russian monkey wrenching of the election, which almost everyone now concedes happened, had succeeded in penetrating and influencing the Trump campaign.

No information should not be an automatic excuse for speculation.

Mueller’s failure to connect Trumpworld directly to Russian skullduggery in a way that would hold up in a court of law made a shambles—for the time being, at least—of the theories formed by pols and reporters studying the issue from outside Mueller’s cone of knowledge.

Did the press blow the Trump story? That’s what journalist Matt Taibbi wrote in his newsletter the day before the release of the Barr letter, excoriating “every pundit and Democratic pol” who hyped an emerging Russia headline. He dings CNN, the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, the New York Times, and others for what he considers credulous and gullible reporting, comparing their output to the faulty coverage of WMD during the Iraq War run-up. The Taibbi tirade will be cringemaking for every reporter whose extrapolations of the Russian story now place them on the wrong side of the Barr précis.

But there’s a major difference between the press coverage of the WMD story and the Russia business, one that deserves highlighting.

Media should have reported on the Mueller inquiry. It was a big deal and quite newsworthy. But in the absence of facts ‘reporting’ and ‘news’ were often overrun with speculation and predictions.

In defense of the coverage, let’s remember that charges of collusion didn’t arise in a vacuum. Thanks to Mueller, we now know about the steady and suspicious dalliances with Russians during the campaign by the easily compromised, ethically challenged, political amateurs inside Trumpworld—George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, Michael Cohen, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and Donald Trump Jr. (and Michael Flynn after the campaign).

Recall how many documented lies Mueller has caught the president’s men telling. Recall again the relationship between Manafort and his business associate Konstantin V. Kilimnik, believed by Mueller to be allied with Russian intelligence.

There was a lot of news that justified reporting.

The dishonesty and lying of senior members of trump’s campaign team, and their prosecutions and findings of guilt, were big news.

So with all due respect to Donald Jr., who was quick on Sunday to turn the absence of more indictments from Mueller into an indictment of what he called “the Collusion Truthers,” I will not be “apologizing for needlessly destabilizing the country.” Quite the opposite. Investigators investigated. Reporters reported. The republic still stands.

As long as Trump is bestowing exoneration on himself today, let’s not forget to mention Mueller and his much-reviled deep-state warriors—remember all those “13 angry Democrats” tweets?—who proved they could wield the law in a fair and impartial matter.

There was misreporting and preposterous claims in the absence of facts from across the media spectrum.

Can the Mueller findings be trusted? At this stage only a brief summary has been revealed by the Attorney General, who was appointed by Trump.

Remember that one prominent person was scathing of Mueller and his inquiry.

NZ Herald chose to publish this from David Von Drehle:

For nearly two years as special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election, Mueller has endured a nearly constant barrage of insults and character assassination from a Twittering President Donald Trump and his bootlicking propagandists.

There is only one explanation for the president’s relentless attacks. He thought that Mueller was likely to throw the book at him. And there are only two explanations for that expectation. Either Trump knew he deserved it, or Trump assumed Mueller would sink to his own level of mendacity and self-serving to pervert justice. The idea that a public servant, indeed, a team of public servants, would quietly discharge a mission with honour was utterly beyond Trump’s fathoming.

America had an unpleasant job that needed doing. The president of the United States had surrounded himself with people who lied about their contacts with highly placed Russians. He had fired the director of the FBI, James Comey, and within hours he personally assured the Russian ambassador that he did so to shut down an inquiry into these lies.

It was possible all this could be explained as the product of incompetence and naivete, because Trump had been utterly unprepared for the presidency and was surrounded by gangsters and clowns.

But it was also possible something intentional was going on.

Someone had to sort out the facts. The task would be exhausting, it would be thankless and it would likely end in some degree of vilification.

Mueller’s report has not yet been published, and there will be more to say about it when more of it has been seen. Perhaps parts of it will remain secret for years, if not decades. But we can say that Mueller ran the tightest ship Washington has seen in a very long time, leakproof and diligent. And it appears he was more than fair to the president and the first family. According to Attorney General William Barr, Mueller alleged no collusion with the Russians.

That seems more than fair. Maybe the president will apologise now for his many months of attacks on the silent Mueller. “I’m sorry,” Trump might say, “I guess you weren’t on a witch hunt after all. I guess you didn’t hire a bunch of partisan hacks, as I repeatedly charged. Thank you for doing your job with honesty and integrity.”

Nothing like an apology From trump yet, Just a typical misrepresentation of the summary findings.

On ‘Obstruction of Justice’ the Attorney General’s letter states that the Special Counsel said “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”.

Mueller found no evidence of collusion, and  “the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the president committed an obstruction of justice offence’.

But what was clear during the investigation was that claims from both the media and Trump were inappropriate.

The Mueller report should put an end to questions of collusion, but what appears to be an exemplary investigation by Muller is in stark contrast to the performances of the President and the media. If neither change their approach to their respective jobs then the disrepute of politics and political reporting remains a stain on the United States.

 

US Attorney General’s letter to Congress on Mueller report

The US Attorney General William Barr’s summary letter to Congress on the Mueller investigation has been released.

“The investigation did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in it’s election interference activities”.

Mueller handed responsibility on whether to proceed on possible obstruction of justice to the Attorney General.

The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him”.

 

https://judiciary.house.gov/sites/democrats.judiciary.house.gov/files/documents/AG%20March%2024%202019%20Letter%20to%20House%20and%20Senate%20Judiciary%20Committees.pdf

Trump keeps trashing his Attorney General

As others have expressed here, it is easy to become numb to what Donald Trump says. Incredulity is turning into boredom due to the number of outrageous things he says.

Media don’t help as they keep reporting on stupid but trivial things, like his comments on the hurricane Florence flooding “One of the wettest we’ve ever seen, from the standpoint of water”. Mocking Trump is like breathing air.

But Trump’s ongoing involvement and interference in judicial matters and investigations is (or should be) a major concern.

Like Trump says ‘hard to imagine’ Kavanaugh guilty of allegation

Trump conceded that “we’ll have to make a decision” if Ford’s account proves convincing.

“I can only say this: He is such an outstanding man. Very hard for me to imagine that anything happened,” Trump said.

This is mild involvement by Trump’s standards, but it would normally be prudent for President stay right out of things like this (Trump us not known for prudence).

However some of the most serious interference from Trump is his ongoing attacks on his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions.

Hill.TV INTERVIEW EXCLUSIVE: Trump eviscerates Sessions: ‘I don’t have an attorney general’

“I don’t have an attorney general. It’s very sad,”

“I’m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general, and I didn’t see it”

“And then he went through the nominating process and he did very poorly. I mean, he was mixed up and confused, and people that worked with him for, you know, a long time in the Senate were not nice to him, but he was giving very confusing answers. Answers that should have been easily answered. And that was a rough time for him.”

“He gets in and probably because of the experience that he had going through the nominating when somebody asked him the first question about Hillary Clinton or something he said ‘I recuse myself, I recuse myself”.

“And now it turned out he didn’t have to recuse himself. Actually, the FBI reported shortly thereafter any reason for him to recuse himself. And it’s very sad what happened.”

What Trump seems to be sad about is that Sessions is acting for the United States of America, as he absolutely should be, and not in Trump’s own personal interests.

And as is common, Trump is wrong in the recusal.  Sessions told the Senate Intelligence Committee:

“I recused myself not because of any asserted wrongdoing on my part during the campaign, but because a Department of Justice regulation, 28 CFR 45.2, required it.”

Trump appears to see himself as above the law.

He has been trashing Sessions for some time, because Sessions is not doing what he wants, and doesn’t do what Trump says he wants him to do.

Trump has the power to sack Sessions. That he hasn’t done that despite his ongoing criticism suggests that it has been made clear to him that it would likely lead to a crisis in his presidency, and would possibly making his own position untenable.

If Trump sacked sessions it may (and should) precipitate mass resignations from his administration, and it may even force Republican politicians to stand up for their country rather than rolling over for Trump.

Operation Burnham inquiry warranted ‘in the public interest’

Attorney General David Parker announced this afternoon that there would be an inquiry into Operation Burnham, the attackn in Afghanistan that has been criticised in the book Hit & Run.

“In deciding whether to initiate an inquiry I have considered material including certain video footage of the operation. The footage I have reviewed does not seem to me to corroborate some key aspects of the book Hit & Run.

“The footage suggests that there was a group of armed individuals in the village.

“However, the material I have seen does not conclusively answer some of the questions raised by the authors.

“In light of that, and bearing in mind the need for the public to have confidence in the NZDF, I have decided in the public interest that an inquiry is warranted.”

The inquiry’s terms of reference include:

  • The allegations of civilian deaths.
  • The allegation that NZDF knowingly transferred a man to a prison where he would be tortured.
  • The allegation that soldiers returned to the valley to destroy homes on purpose.

Approval for Inquiry into Operation Burnham

Attorney-General David Parker has today announced a Government Inquiry will be held into Operation Burnham and related events.

The operation undertaken in Tirgiran Valley, Afghanistan, by NZSAS troops and other nations’ forces operating as part of the International Security Assistance Force took place on 21-22 August 2010.

It was the subject of the book Hit & Run by authors Nicky Hager and Jon Stephenson which contained a number of serious allegations against New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel involved in the operation.

“In deciding whether to initiate an inquiry I have considered material including certain video footage of the operation,” says Mr Parker.

“The footage I have reviewed does not seem to me to corroborate some key aspects of the book Hit & Run.

“The footage suggests that there was a group of armed individuals in the village.

“However, the material I have seen does not conclusively answer some of the questions raised by the authors.

“In light of that, and bearing in mind the need for the public to have confidence in the NZDF, I have decided in the public interest that an inquiry is warranted.”

Commissioning this inquiry does not mean the Government accepts the criticisms of the actions of SAS forces on the ground, although their conduct is squarely within the inquiry’s purview and will be thoroughly examined.\

The inquiry, established under s 6(3) of the Inquiries Act 2013, will be undertaken by two persons of the highest repute, former Supreme Court judge Sir Terence Arnold and Sir Geoffrey Palmer. As required by statute, it will act independently, impartially and fairly.

Given the classified nature of some information that will be made available to the inquiry, it is possible that two forms of report will be provided; one a public version and a second version referring to classified or confidential information.

Mr Parker said the inquiry would seek to establish the facts in connection with the allegations, examine the treatment by NZDF of reports of civilian casualties following the operation, and assess the conduct of the NZDF forces, including compliance with the applicable rules of engagement and international humanitarian law and the authorisation – military and, if any, political – for Operation Burnham.

It will assess the status – civilian or insurgent – of the Afghan nationals in the area of the operation.

It will also assess the extent to which NZDF rules of engagement authorised “targeted killings” and whether this was clearly explained to those involved in approving the rules of engagement.

The accuracy of public statements made by NZDF and the accuracy of written briefings to ministers about civilian casualties will also fall within the inquiry’s scope.

The inquiry will also be asked to examine whether NZDF’s transport and/or transfer of suspected insurgent Qari Miraj in 2011 to the Afghanistan National Directorate of Security in Kabul was proper given, amongst other matters, the June 2010 decision of the High Court of England and Wales in R (on the application of Evans) v Secretary of State for Defence.

The inquiry, in common with all inquiries under the Inquiries Act, has no power to determine the civil, criminal, or disciplinary liability of any person. However it may, if justified, make findings of fault and recommend further steps be taken to determine liability.

Inquiry_into_Operation_Burnham__Terms_of_Reference.pdf

Media_Q_and_A_Operation_Burnham.pdf

Contempt of Court law to be considered by Parliament

It’s a bit ironic that after nine years as Attorney-General it is from Opposition that Chris Finlayson is got a bill into Partliament that will consider Contempt of Court law changes that would toughen up on criticism of judges, especially via social media, and also publishing information that could prejudice an arrested person’s right to a fair trial .

Audrey Young (NZH): It took a move to Opposition for Chris Finlayson to make progress on contempt law

A proposed new law of contempt, setting boundaries for what can and can’t be said by the media, particularly social media, about defendants, trials and judges is going to be examined by Parliament.

One of the most controversial parts of the bill is likely to be penalties for making untrue allegations against judges, which will attract a fine of up to $50,000 or up to two years imprisonment.

Some abuse of judges was calculated to intimidate judges individually or collectively, said the bill’s sponsor, former Attorney-General Chris Finlayson.

I’ve seen what look like examples of this on a particular website that shouldn’t (mustn’t) be named here (for legal reasons).

“Such abuse is capable of undermining the rule of law. Judicial independence and impartiality is at the heart of the rule of law.”

The previous National Government commissioned the Law Commission to look at the law of contempt. It came up with plenty of recommendations and a draft bill to implement them.

But Finlayson was unable to convince the Ministry of Justice to make it a legislative priority so it languished.

So in Opposition Finlayson adopted the Law Commission’s bill as his own private member’s bill – which was recently drawn from the biscuit tin in the regular ballots for members’ bills.

So it is just by the luck of the draw that has enabled this to be considered by Parliament.

And Justice Minister Andrew Little will seek the support of his Cabinet colleagues to adopt it as a government bill after it passes its first reading, which is likely to be next week.

“Now that it has been drawn and has to be considered, we might as well do it properly,” Little said.

That’s very good to see from Little. He has made a good start as Minister of Justice in the Labour led government, on more than this issue.

The Administration of Justice (Reform of Contempt of Court) Bill will set those laws out in one place and come up with rules that will apply equally to mainstream media, and people commenting or blogging, tweeting or posting publicly through social media on the courts.

It will also cover disruptions in court, jurors who breach the rules by doing their own independent research, the enforcement of court orders, and malicious attacks on judges.

A lot of the time, people did not know what the boundaries were, including tweeters sitting in the back of a courtroom.

“I want to get this thing properly debated for the sake of the system,” said Finlayson.

“I think there is a danger in our system that we become obsessed when looking at justice questions with ‘law and order’ type issues and we don’t look at the other areas that are so fundamental to the efficient and successful running of our state.”

One of the issues on which he expected there would be debate was on criticism of judges.

Judges should not be immune from criticism for their decisions, he said.

“I’m not concerned about judges being criticised for their judgments but I am concerned about the abuse of judges and the attempts to intimidate judges, be it individually or collectively.

“Fair criticism is different from abuse.”

The aim of the bill was to make sure the boundaries were clear and people knew what they can and cannot do.

In the modern era of social media it will be good for this to be clarified.

Little has some concerns about what limitations are put on the criticism of judges.

Free speech versus the functions and  integrity of the judicial system.

What the bill does:

  • A person or organisation commits an offence if it publishes information that could prejudice an arrested person’s right to a fair trial, and is liable for up to six months imprisonment or a fine of $25,000 for an individual or $100,000 for an organisation.
  • Publishing untrue accusations against a judge punishable by up to two years imprisonment and a $50,000 fine for individuals and $100,000 for organisations.
  • A person wilfully disrupting court proceedings may be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to three months.
  • A person disobeying a court order may be fined up to $10,000 or imprisoned for up to three months.
  • A juror convicted of intentionally researching information relevant to the case is liable for a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment of up to three months.

That’s what is being considered by Parliament, it hasn’t been agree on yet.

The first one is of particular interest to users of social media – it is important that the law is clear on this.

Little has concerns about the last one.

He is also opposed to making it an offence for jurors to research cases…

“Most jurors get a pittance as a substitute for their wages. Most are reluctant to be there and they are doing it out of a civic duty,” he said.

“A better balance needs to be struck but that can be dealt with at select committee.”

I would think it would be difficult to discover let alone convict a juror for intentionally researching information relevant to the case.

AG Sessions fires former FBI #2 McCabe

The Washington political circus continues.

Reuters – Former FBI No.2 McCabe fired; claims he is being targeted

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired the FBI’s former No.2 official Andrew McCabe Friday, prompting McCabe to say he is being targeted because he is a crucial witness into whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct the Russia investigation.

Sessions, in a statement on Friday, said he felt justified in firing McCabe after the Justice Department’s internal watchdog found he leaked information to reporters and misled investigators about his actions.

“The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity and accountability,” Sessions said.

But McCabe, who played a crucial role in the bureau’s investigations of Hillary Clinton and Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election, denied those claims and said he is facing retaliation by the Trump administration.

In a lengthy statement, McCabe said he believes he is being politically targeted because he corroborated former FBI Director James Comey’s claims that Trump tried to pressure him into killing the Russia probe.

Trump ousted Comey last year and acknowledged in a televised interview that he fired Comey over “this Russia thing.”

McCabe’s dismissal came two days before his 50th birthday, when he would have been eligible to retire from the Federal Bureau of Investigation with his full pension. The firing – which comes nine months after Trump fired Comey – puts McCabe’s pension in jeopardy.

The timing seems a bit nasty.

That’s also nasty -especially considering this just before Christmas:

It’s not exactly going to encourage people to work for the White House or under White House appointees.

Chaos continues.

Trump versus US Attorney General

Donald Trump has again ignored the principle preserving judicial and prosecutorial independence with another attack on the US Attorney General. Jeff Sessions, who had been a strong support of Trump for the presidency, hit back in his defence.

Howard Kurtz at Fox News: Trump’s tweet on ‘disgraceful’ DOJ puts Jeff Sessions in a bind

That last word is just remarkable.

As an old Justice reporter, let me pose this question:

How credible would it be if Sessions, a big Senate supporter and surrogate of the Trump campaign, who’s recused himself from the Russia probe, was overseeing an investigation of how the Obama DOJ handled a surveillance request against a Trump adviser who had contacts with Russia?

That’s why you have an independent inspector general.

Is Trump trying to embarrass Sessions into quitting? He’s not a big fan of Rod Rosenstein, who would become acting AG, and the No. 3, Rachel Brand, recently quit. The battle for the Senate to confirm a new DOJ chief would be a drawn-out spectacle.

For the moment, the president has left his attorney general little choice but to defend his department.

Reuters: Trump flays Sessions for ‘disgraceful’ decision, sparking new clash

It is a disgraceful decision by Trump to spark a clash with the AG.

Long-simmering tensions between U.S. President Donald Trump and his attorney general erupted anew on Wednesday after Trump lambasted Jeff Sessions’ decision on a surveillance abuse investigation as “DISGRACEFUL.”

Sessions, one of Trump’s earliest supporters in his 2016 presidential campaign, responded to the public rebuke with an uncharacteristically terse statement in which he pledged “to discharge my duties with integrity and honor.”

The latest fracas began with Trump flaying Sessions for having Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz – not prosecutors – examine how the agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained a warrant to monitor a former Trump campaign adviser, Carter Page.

“Why is A.G. Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate massive FISA abuse,” Trump wrote on Twitter, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which regulates government monitoring of the communications of suspected foreign agents.

“Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey, etc.,” Trump continued. “Isn’t the IG an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!”

Horowitz was sworn into his post in 2012, during the Obama administration, after serving on a sentencing policy commission to which he was nominated by Republican President George W. Bush.

Trump’s tweet appeared to reveal a lack of understanding of the function of Horowitz’s office, which serves as an independent watchdog that investigates misconduct in the Justice Department and can refer wrongdoing to prosecutors.

Many of Trump’s tweets reveal a lack of understanding of many things.

In his statement, Sessions called the referral to Horowitz “the appropriate process that will ensure complaints against this department will be fully and fairly acted upon if necessary.”

“As long as I am the attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution,” he said.

Sessions’ statement was his strongest defense against repeated attacks from Trump.

Republican politicians have backed Sessions.

“Not to incur the president’s wrath, but I wouldn’t do that. Jeff Sessions is loyal to the president,” Representative Peter King, a Republican member of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, told Fox News.

Trey Gowdy, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, defended Sessions’ decision to refer the matter to Horowitz.

Horowitz “has been fair, fact-centric and appropriately confidential with his work,” Gowdy said in a statement. “I have complete confidence in him.”

Fox News: Trump’s punching bag: How much longer will Sessions endure the thrashing?

President Trump’s latest outburst against Attorney General Jeff Sessions – escalating a year-long public flogging of the mild-mannered former senator – is raising the question: How much longer will Sessions endure?

Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey backed Sessions’ decision to ask the IG to investigate FISA abuse, calling the move “precisely the right choice.”

“If anyone at DOJ should look into the circumstances of this FISA application, it is the IG, who reports to both the Attorney General and Congress,” he said in a statement.

Trump’s attack was the latest in a long line of public swipes at the AG, who was one of Trump’s earliest supporters and is otherwise aligned with Trump’s base on issues like immigration and crime.

But their relationship soured within months of Trump taking office, largely over Sessions’ decision to recuse himself from the Russia meddling investigation.

If the attorney general chooses to stay, it would seem unlikely Trump would look to fire him outright, especially given the chaos that followed the ouster of FBI boss James Comey.

Doing so could fire up the already-piqued interest of FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who the Post reports is already investigating a period last summer where Trump tried to push Sessions out, amid concerns Trump was looking to replace him with someone who would exercise control over the Russia probe.

Image result for trump train wreck

Alarming cannabis claim from US Attorney General

One would hope that the US Attorney general was well informed, but apparently he is not.

At a Heritage Foundation event celebrating Ronald Reagan’s birthday this week, Jeff Sessions made a familiar argument: Easy access to marijuana is helping fuel the opioid epidemic. The Drug Enforcement Agency says that the vast majority of heroin addiction starts with prescription painkillers, he acknowledged, but “We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs, too.”

Accordingly, last month, Sessions rescinded the Obama-era guidance to deprioritize prosecuting dispensaries in states that had legalized marijuana.

But a growing body of evidence suggests that legal access to medicamarijuana could in fact help reduce overdose deaths. The latest study, published by the RAND Corporation this week, found that states that allowed liberal access to marijuana through legally protected dispensaries saw reduced deaths from opioid overdoses. States that legalized the drug but didn’t allow dispensaries didn’t see the same pattern.

The most comprehensive review on the medical effects of marijuana to date, published last year by National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, examined more than 10,000 studies on marijuana and found evidence that marijuana and its synthetic cousins, cannabinoids, reduce chronic pain, as well as muscle spasms from multiple sclerosis and nausea from chemotherapy. The study also found evidence of downsides, like increasing the risk of bronchitis, schizophrenia, and anxiety.

A 2016 Journal of Pain study found that marijuana use was associated with a 64 percent reduction in opioid use among patients with chronic pain.

Vox: Jeff Sessions: marijuana helped cause the opioid epidemic. The research: no.

Speaking at the Heritage Foundation to the Reagan Alumni Association this week, Sessions argued that cutting prescriptions for opioid painkillers is crucial to combating the crisis — since some people started on painkillers before moving on to illicit opioids like heroin and fentanyl. But then he expanded his argument to include cannabis.

“The DEA said that a huge percentage of the heroin addiction starts with prescriptions. That may be an exaggerated number; they had it as high as 80 percent,” Sessions said. “We think a lot of this is starting with marijuana and other drugs too.”