Posts tagged with "Trump Administration"

Professor Jeffrey Swartz on Manafort Sentencing

LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR AND LEGAL ANALYST ON PAUL MANAFORT SENTENCING

Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Professor Jeffrey Swartz, a former prosecutor and former Judge in Miami-Dade County, is offering the below statement regarding the sentencing of Paul Manafort.

As a former prosecutor I am incensed at Judge T. S. Ellis III’s hubris at believing he sees the Manafort prosecution for one thing, while ignoring the greater issues of continuing to punish non-violent, but yet serious white-collar behavior so leniently.  Mr. Manfort’s attorneys successfully invoked the constant battle between the two theories of punishment that have been the stalwart of our system of justice for two hundred years, Utilitarianism (the certainty of punishment as a general deterrence to society not to violate the law) and Retributivism (addressing sentencing to the individual defendant based upon their own moral blameworthiness, i.e. their just deserts).

Judge Ellis’ findings give short shrift to the underlying criminality of Manfort’s conduct and business.  The prosecution sentencing memorandum and, although we have not seen it, what appears to be in the Pre-Sentence Investigation and Report seem to outline the long history of Manfort’s criminal behavior, contempt for the laws of the United States, our system of justice even while out on bond, including his attempt to tamper with witnesses, and his disregard for the undermining of our democracy and form of government.

The Sentencing Guidelines were promulgated by Congress to provide a means for judges to standardize the approach toward how to appropriately punish the conduct of defendants based upon objective criteria.  They also contemplate that the court will consider “all relevant conduct”, not just that conduct for which the defendant was convicted. Although they are just “guidelines” they provide for departures both upwards and downwards, giving the court “appropriate discretion” to adjust its ultimate decision, where the findings of the court support the exercise of that discretion.  In that regard they are both Utilitarian (certainty and consistency of punishment) and retributive (assuring an individualistic approach to a particular defendant).

Judge Ellis ignored everything other than his own opinion that there was an ulterior motive for this prosecution.  He more than exercised his discretion. I would argue that he abused that discretion in the grossest way. A guidelines range of 234 to 288 months may have been more severe than most thought appropriate.  However, Ellis reduced that to less than twenty percent of the bottom of those guidelines at forty-seven months less nine months credit for time served.

The penalty Ellis imposed, even in the face of not granting Manafort even the three-point adjustment for acceptance of responsibility, seems to indicate a disdain for white-collar prosecution in general.  A disdain many ex-prosecutors, who have appeared before him, have stated he has exhibited in the past. He also made clear his displeasure at the government’s prosecution of Mr. Manafort, which was exhibited on more that one occasion through specific statements he verbalized and his rulings at trial, by interfering in the government’s introduction of evidence and testimony.

The depth and breadth of Manfort’s criminality, and its effect on our society was set forth in the prosecution’s memorandum, which Ellis chose to ignore.  This was not a “one-off” as Ellis seemed to allude in the pronouncement of his sentence, but a lifetime systematic course of conduct. Manafort is a criminal in every sense of the word, who deserved far more than he received.

The only saving grace is that Manafort must face sentencing before Judge Amy Berman Jackson next week.  Judge Jackson has likewise indicated a disdain for a party in her case. Judge Jackson is the judge who ordered Manafort into custody for his actions while out on bond.  It was before her that Manafort entered into a plea agreement, which mandated his truthful and complete cooperation with the special counsel’s investigation, to which Manafort chose to not cooperate fully, but to actually lie to investigators and grand jurors.  I could argue that in so doing he was attempting to obstruct justice.

I can only hope that Judge Jackson corrects Judge Ellis’ lack of perspective and balance.  It is fair to expect that Jackson will sentence Manafort to an appropriate term of incarceration intended, not only to send a message to all those who would engage in the crimes in which Manafort engaged, but to give Manafort his just desserts.  Whether it amounts to a “life” sentence or not, anything less than 120 to 144 months would be a true miscarriage of justice, in light of the fact that those guilty of far less egregious behavior receive greater sentences than Manafort received from Ellis.

Negotiations End With California Over Clean Car Standards

Reports indicate that the Trump administration has ended negotiations with California over the administration’s plans to roll back vehicle fuel economy and greenhouse gas emissions standards. This indicates that the administration is likely to revoke a waiver that permits California and other states to enact more stringent standards than the federal government.

The fact that the Trump administration has stopped talking to California officials about the clean cars standards is an ominous sign. It signals President Donald Trump’s determination to undo the standards – which have saved consumers more than $70 billion at the gas pump and cut dangerous climate pollution – and revoke the California waiver, which allows that state, 13 others and the District of Columbia to protect their citizens from harmful tailpipe pollution. 

Rolling back the clean car standards is reckless. Doing so threatens not only the lives and pocketbooks of every American but also the long-established ability of states to protect their residents from pollution. 

While the Trump administration doubles down on dangerous policies to benefit the auto industry and big oil, more leaders are stepping up to defend the clean car standards. On Wednesday, more than 200 state lawmakers from 14 states called on the auto industry to oppose the rollback and instead support the lifesaving and money-saving standards. 

The industry and administration should heed their call and preserve the standards, which constitute one of the most effective programs we have to combat climate change.

TPS Holders Sue Trump Administration

Six adults with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and two U.S. citizen children of TPS holders filed a class-action lawsuit today seeking to stop the unlawful termination of TPS for over 100,000 TPS holders from Honduras and Nepal and prevent the separation of tens of thousands of U.S. citizen children from their TPS-holder parents. The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and ACLU Foundation of Northern California in the release, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, and Sidley Austin. [Read the filing here]

In October of 2018, the Court enjoined the termination of TPS for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador, finding substantial evidence that the terminations were motivated by racism and violated the Administrative Procedure Act. Plaintiffs in Bhattarai v. Nielsen allege that the terminations of TPS for Honduras and Nepal suffer from the same legal flaws and should be set aside. Plaintiffs also allege that the terminations are unconstitutional because they require the U.S. citizen children of TPS holders to choose between their country and their family.

Plaintiff Keshav Raj Bhattarai, a member of Adhikaar and Nepali TPS holder shares, “I am proud to be a part of this lawsuit, for all the other Nepali TPS holders like me. With TPS I have been able to build a new life here with my family and I have a found a stable job. When I see so many people’s lives at risk in losing TPS, I am troubled to see that this country would harm its hardworking workers and people. I wish to continue working to support this country, and also continue supporting the rebuilding of Nepal, which is still recovering from the earthquake.”

The complaint filed today alleges that, in terminating TPS for Honduras and Nepal, political appointees in the Department of Homeland Security deliberately ignored recommendations from U.S. Ambassadors and evidence of conditions on the ground. Instead, they predetermined that TPS must be terminated to further the President’s “America First” policy, which seeks to exclude non-white, non-European immigrants. The complaint recites a litany of racist statements made by President Trump in reference to Latin American and South Asian countries and immigrants, including referring to immigrants as snakes and animals, mispronouncing Nepal as “nipple,” and faking an Indian accent in imitation of Indian Prime Minster Narendra Modi.

Plaintiff Donaldo Posadas Caceres, a member of the Painters’ Union (IUPAT DC21) with TPS from Honduras explains, “I’m taking part in this lawsuit not just for myself and my daughter but for everyone who would be hurt by our TPS being taken away. Forcing our children to choose between the life they have here or a country they don’t know is unfair. Sending all of us to danger and instability is unjust. I’m proud to have been a union painter for two decades in this country and it does not feel right to see all of that just cut away.”

Jessica Bansal, NDLON’s Co-Legal Director, said: “The Trump Administration is illegally trying to gut the humanitarian TPS program, but TPS holders are fighting back. They have already won a temporary reprieve for hundreds of thousands of TPS holders. With today’s filing, they seek to protect tens of thousands more.”

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are members of diverse organizations fighting to defend TPS in the courts and in Congress, including Adhikaar, the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), AND the National TPS Alliance.

Jenny Zhao, Staff Attorney at Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, said: “The Trump Administration’s plan to end TPS for Honduras and Nepal must be stopped before it causes immeasurable harm to TPS holders, their families, and their communities.”

Minju Cho, Staff Attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles said: “TPS holders are valued members of our communities. They are parents to tens and thousands of U.S. citizen children. TPS is vital to people’s ability to work and provide for themselves and their families. We are proud to stand alongside these communities in their fight against the Trump administration’s unconstitutional attempt to take TPS away.”

Ahilan Arulanantham, Senior Counsel at the ACLU of Southern California, said: “We are proud to represent these courageous U.S. citizen children and their parents who held Temporary Protected Status before the Trump Administration unlawfully stripped it away. They ask only that our government respect their due process rights. We hope the Court will uphold the rule of law and grant them the protection they deserve.”

Natural Habitat Adventures Takes Stand Against Alaska’s Proposed Pebble Mine

Southwest Alaska is now ground zero in a conservation crisis. A massive open-pit gold and copper mine is slated for development inside the headwaters of the Bristol Bay watershed, home to two national parks, a national wildlife refuge, a state park and countless acres of sensitive and pristine roadless terrain. As a global leader in conservation tourism, Natural Habitat Adventures is taking a stand against this dramatic insult upon the environment, wildlife and Alaskan communities. Together with Alaska’s fishing industry, Native communities and more than 200,000 World Wildlife Fund supporters, Natural Habitat Adventures encourages opposition to the Pebble Mine’s environmental impacts and the destruction of Alaska’s pristine habitats, inviting signatures to WWF’s petition here.

A Continuing Standoff

A fight against the proposed Pebble Mine has raged for nearly two decades, following the discovery of the rich mineral deposit near Katmai National Park. Prospects looked positive for protecting this sensitive environment in 2014 when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Obama Administration deemed this heavy metal mining project too risky to consider further.

But the EPA under the current administration has reversed course, reopening the permitting process and charging the Army Corps of Engineers with preparing an Environmental Impact Statement that will aid regulators reviewing the permit application. The outlook for Bristol Bay and Katmai National Park, where Natural Habitat Adventures leads trips to view coastal brown bears, has become precarious. As the Trump Administration pushes the Pebble Mine agenda forward, the possibility grows for approval of a massive mining operation that would mar a vast tract of untouched wilderness and two of Bristol Bay’s prime river systems.

A Destructive Impact

The proposed industrial site would be nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon and consume more land than the area of Manhattan. It lies within an active earthquake zone. And it would harm one of the most productive marine ecosystems on the planet—including the world’s largest wild salmon fishery, which produces 46 percent of the world’s wild sockeye salmon harvest alone and provides income for 31 Alaska Native villages and more than 12,000 jobs for fisherman and processors—a $5.4 billion annual industry.

In addition to the footprint of the mine itself, multiple landscape-altering transportation systems would traverse pristine wilderness that provides critical habitat for wildlife, including thousands of bears and millions of wild salmon, and sustains ecosystem health for Alaska Natives who have relied on natural resources in this region for centuries. Other wildlife that depends on this unique environment include bald eagles and 189 other bird species, seals, walrus, pacific right whales, beluga whales, rainbow trout, and more than 40 other species of terrestrial mammals such as moose, wolves and others.

The Pebble project will cause irreparable harm to this vulnerable ecosystem. In addition to tailings and toxic water pollution on site, the injuries include an 80-mile-long road crossing more than 200 streams and penetrating the most productive brown bear habitat on Earth, a year-round icebreaking ferry running across Lake Iliamna, and a large industrial airstrip and port that includes a 4.2-mile dredged corridor through some of ¬¬the world’s most unmarred and productive marine ecosystems. A new road would pass within a mile of the McNeil River State Game Refuge and Sanctuary, currently the undisturbed home of one of Alaska’s densest concentrations of large mammals, including the largest congregation of brown bears anywhere on the planet.

Join the Opposition: Stop Pebble Mine—Make Your Voice Heard by June 29

Time is running out to help protect the brown bears, salmon and other abundant wildlife of Southwest Alaska. The public comment period for the Pebble Project Environmental Impact Statement ends after June 29, 2018, making it critical to voice concern about the Pebble Mine before the end of the month.

Join Natural Habitat Adventures and WWF’s joint opposition to the Pebble Mine by sharing your specific concerns about the project with the Army Corps today. Precise, detailed comments hold the most weight.

VICE News + Donald Trump

As the GOP is recruiting candidates ahead of the 2018 midterms, most of the potential candidates for Senate look more like the 16 other Republicans in last year’s presidential primary than the populist anomaly who took the White House. On ViceNews.com, Alex Thompson examines how the GOP is looking for more conventional Republicans and is not recruiting candidates who share full political views with Trump.

Publicly, the GOP from the national to the local level is loyal and supportive of the president, but their actions suggest that they see Trump’s surprise victory as a one-off rather than a sign of a fundamental shift in the American electorate. Some Republicans are actively fighting Trump’s recent injection of populism, while loyalists see him as the beginning of a new era of politics.

Read “The GOP is not looking for the next Donald Trump” by VICE News’ Alex Thompson here: https://news.vice.com/story/the-republican-party-is-not-looking-for-the-next-donald-trump.

Follow @vicenews and @AlxThomp for more updates.

 

Trump Revealed on Opioid Epidemic 

With more than 100 Americans dying every day from drug overdoses, Trump declared it was time to take action and officially declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency. The announcement was short on details. Declaring a national state of emergency involves more than just a brief statement from the president to the press — there’s a formal process that requires documents to be signed and legal steps to be followed.

On ViceNews.com, Keegan Hamilton details Trump’s informal state of emergency declaration and how a White House spokesman confirmed that the paperwork still remains incomplete.

The informal state of emergency declaration follows a pattern for the Trump administration. Much like his recent tweets about banning transgender people from the military or his early executive orders about cracking down on crime, Trump’s opioid gambit has been — at least so far — all flash and no substance, attracting attention without making any major policy changes.

Read “State of no emergency” by VICE News’ Keegan Hamilton here: https://news.vice.com/story/trump-officially-declared-an-opioid-emergency-and-then-officially-did-nothing. Follow @vicenews and @keegan_hamilton for more updates.