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“Outraged About Ginsburg’s Comments?”: Supreme Court Justices Have Always Voiced Political Opinions

Donald Trump is freaking out over statements made by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Ginsburg didn’t hold back during a New York Times interview published Monday. “I can’t imagine what this place would be — I can’t imagine what the country would be — with Donald Trump as our president,” she said.

Trump, naturally, hopped on Twitter to complain.

Justice Ginsburg of the U.S. Supreme Court has embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot – resign!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 13, 2016

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called Ginsburg’s comments “out of place” during a CNN Town Hall on Tuesday.

But even after a wave of criticism, including from “liberal” outlets, Ginsburg refused to walk back her comments. On Monday, she called Trump a “faker.”

“He has no consistency about him. He says whatever comes into his head at the moment. He really has an ego. … How has he gotten away with not turning over his tax returns? The press seems to be very gentle with him on that,” she said in her chambers.

The backlash over Ginsburg’s comments is not surprising, given Trump’s history of trying to de-legitimize the judicial system (especially when it applies to him). But his argument that Ginsburg’s comments disqualifies her from being an unbiased judge is a weak one: The ideological leanings of the justices are well known by not only their decisions (its kind of their job to give opinions), but also their public statements.

Unlike Ginsburg’s comments about Trump, justices have made plenty of statements in the past that relate directly to cases before them in the court.

Antonin Scalia was the poster boy for this behavior – the conservative legal icon frequently toured between law schools, book stores, and other gatherings, debating all comers on a wide range of topics. We knew how he felt about the death penalty, abortion and homosexuality:

“The death penalty? Give me a break. It’s easy. Abortion? Absolutely easy. Nobody ever thought the Constitution prevented restrictions on abortion. Homosexual sodomy? Come on. For 200 years, it was criminal in every state.” he said in 2012.

“What minorities deserve protection? What? It’s up to me to identify deserving minorities? What about pederasts? What about child abusers? This is a deserving minority. Nobody loves them.” he said in 2015.

Scalia’s defense of his homophobic remarks could easily be used to defend Ginsburg’s Trump comments — not that Ginsburg would use his argument, despite her storied, decades-long friendship with Scalia.

“If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?” Scalia said in 2012 after a gay Princeton student asked him why he equated laws banning sodomy with laws that ban man-on-animal sex and murder.

Ginsburg herself has long been known for her frankness. Joan Biskupic, the journalist who reported Ginsburg’s statements on Trump, writes that, having met with her “on a regular basis for more than a decade,” she “found her response classic.”

Biskupic elaborates:

I have witnessed her off-bench bluntness many times through the years.  During 2009 oral arguments in a case involving a 13-year-old Arizona girl who had been strip-searched by school administrators looking for drugs, she was troubled that some male justices played down any harm to the student. “They have never been a 13-year-old girl,” Ginsburg told me. “It’s a very sensitive age for a girl. I didn’t think that my colleagues, some of them, quite understood.”

Earlier in 2009, she was being treated for pancreatic cancer yet made sure to attend President Barack Obama’s televised speech to a joint session of Congress, explaining that she wanted people to know the Supreme Court was not all men. “I also wanted them to see I was alive and well, contrary to that senator who said I’d be dead within nine months.” She was referring to Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, who had said she would likely die within nine months from the pancreatic cancer. Bunning later apologized.

As the first Latina to reach the court, Justice Sonya Sotomayor fiercely defends her use of personal political reflection, based in experiences that she believes differ from those of the other justices, in her arguments. The issue of affirmative action is especially important to Sotomayor. In her 2013 memoir, she wrote:

“Much has changed since those early days when it opened doors in my life. But one thing has not changed: to doubt the worth of minority students’ achievement when they succeed is really only to present another face of the prejudice that would deny them a chance even to try.”

Sotomayor has taken this sentiment to the court. In her dissent on Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, she wrote: “Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, ‘No where are you really from?’”

Sotomayor’s opinion in a fourth amendment case on the validity of police stops was an explicitly political appeal. “It is no secret that people of color are disproportionate victims of this type of scrutiny,” she wrote in her dissent, on a case where a Utah man claimed he was unlawfully stopped by police. “For generations, black and brown parents have given their children ‘the talk’ — instructing them never to run down the street; always keep your hands where they can be seen; do not even think of talking back to a stranger — all out of fear of how an officer with a gun will react to them.”

And besides: The Constitution does not prohibit Supreme Court Justices from expressing personal opinions.

Bloomberg‘s Noah Feldman offers Chief Justice John Marshall, who served as John Adams’s secretary of state while he was a chief justice, as proof that America’s founding generation was not “obsessed with the idea that justices have to be outside the reach of politics.”

Marshall, a loyalist of the Federalist Party, was understood to retain his beliefs while serving as chief justice subsequently.

Two of his most revered opinions, Marbury v. Madison and McCulloch v. Maryland, are historically incomprehensible except through the lens of partisan politics. In the first, he went to great lengths to embarrass the Jefferson administration by insisting that Marbury had a right to a justice-of-the-peace commission granted by Adams, before tacking back and holding that the law that would have allowed the court to force the delivery of the commission was unconstitutional.

In the second, he upheld the constitutionality of the Bank of the United States, originally such a fundamental partisan issue that it helped drive the creation of his Federalist and Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican parties.

Maybe conservatives shouldn’t argue about the integrity of the Court while in their fourth month of refusing to give it a ninth justice.

 

By: Germania Rodriguez, The National Memo, July 13, 2016

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Donald Trump Is No Philanthropist”: Again And Again, Trump Lied About How Much He Gave To Charity

Don’t be fooled: Donald Trump is no philanthropist.

Although the real estate tycoon-cum-presidential candidate has boasted about his charitable efforts, a Washington Post investigation published Tuesday found that, over a 15-year period, Trump donated less than a third of the $8.5 million he pledged to give in that time.

From 2001 until his recent (and highly-publicized) donation to a veterans’ families group in May, Trump only contributed $2.8 million through a foundation created to manage his philanthropy. (His most recent proven donation to the foundation was in 2008.)

When BuzzFeed inquired about his donations, a spokeswoman for the campaign said that Trump’s charitable giving is “generous and frequent,” insisting that these donations are made privately and that “there’s no way for you to know or understand what those gifts are or when they are made.”

In fact, there is — but the campaign refuse to put out any documents that would support the claim that he donates privately. This set of files includes his tax returns, which he has repeatedly pledged to release.

So the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold painstakingly contacted over 160 charities with supposed connections to Trump, tracking progress on Twitter as he went along. As it turns out, only one of these groups, the Police Athletic League of New York, confirmed that it had received money from the candidate — a single donation of under $10,000 in 2009.

Fahrenthold also found that not-so noble causes like Trump’s daughter’s ballet school often received much larger sums than the causes he frequently name-dropped. For instance, though the Republican candidate has repeatedly spoken about donating profits from books and other ventures to fight homelessness, AIDS and multiple sclerosis, his son’s private school got more than all of those causes combined.

Stories like these are anything but rare. The BuzzFeed report notes that there is no proof that Trump followed through on promises to donate his profits from a Comedy Central special, a New Zealand lottery, and even a property rental to the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

In other cases, such as a lawsuit he won against the city of Palm Beach, or the sale of his vodka line,  the candidate donated significantly less than he pledged to initially, going from as much as a few million pledged to a few hundred dollars in actual donations.

Trump’s failure to give to charity also points to the likelihood that his ventures are less profitable than he makes them seem — and, therefore, that he is less wealthy than he claims to be. Or at least, much stingier.

 

By: Teo Armus, The National Memo, June 28, 2016

June 29, 2016 Posted by | Charitable Donations, Donald Trump, Philanthropy | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trump Campaign Branding Scheme”: This Isn’t New; Donald Trump Has Been Profiting Off His Campaign For Months

Donald Trump’s spectacularly bad fundraising report for the month of May, published over the weekend, got a lot of attention. The press picked apart the document, reporting on the lavish amounts of money Trump has paid his own companies, his family’s companies, and his political allies.

“Trump’s campaign spends $6 million with Trump companies,” the Associated Press reported.

But if the media wanted to find evidence of possible wrongdoing, or at least of an extremely bizarre campaign finance regimen, they needn’t have waited until now: Trump, his family, and his associates have been profiting off of this campaign for months.

In February, the New York Times reported that, of the 12.4 million the Trump campaign had spent in 2015,

About $2.7 million more was paid to at least seven companies Mr. Trump owns or to people who work for his real estate and branding empire, repaying them for services provided to his campaign. That total included more than $2 million for flights on his own planes and helicopter, a quarter of a million dollars to his Fifth Avenue office tower, and even $66,000 to Keith Schiller, his bodyguard and the head of security at the Trump Organization.

We reported back in March that, in January, Trump had spent around six percent of total campaign expenditures on Trump businesses, and the salaries of Trump employees.

In May, Forbes reported that, through the end of March, Trump had paid Trump-owned businesses $4.3 million, or 10 percent of total campaign expenditures through that date.

And now, through May, we know that of the $63 million the Trump campaign has spent this election cycle, 10 percent has been spent on Trump-owned organizations, in keeping with the trend this whole time.

Trump’s campaign expenses happen to be with businesses he owns or is affiliated with. A look at the list of top Trump campaign vendors is telling: Aside from Rick Reed media, a GOP advertising group, most are in some way Trump-related.

Tag Air is the Trump-owned company that operates his private jet. $4.3 million.

Ace Specialties, who manufacture the “Make America Great Again” hats, is owned by Christl Mahfouz, who the Wall Street Journal reported in October serves on the board of the Eric J. Trump foundation. $4 million.

WizBang solutions is run by the Mike Ciletti, the former head of the Make America Great Again PAC, which the Trump campaign disavowed after pressure from the media. They do “printing and design services,” according to the Washington Post. Mike Ciletti is a close business associate of Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s recently-fired campaign manager. $2 million.

And on and on and on: You get the point. When Trump isn’t funneling donor dollars and his own loans to Trump organizations or employees, he’s spending them on the companies of close associates and friends.

And he can pay those “loans” back to himself using donor dollars, as long as he does it before the Republican National Convention in July. Can Donald Trump afford to lose the $45 million he has loaned his campaign so far? We can’t know for sure, especially without seeing his tax returns… Trump did wonder aloud, in May: “Do I want to sell a couple of buildings and self-fund? I don’t know that I want to do that necessarily.”

So, we’ll see. Keep your eyes on the FEC filings.

But now that Trump has dropped all pretense of “self-funding” his general election campaign, this whole branding scheme may get a bit more complicated. Trump loaned his campaign $11.5 million in March, his largest one-month loan. After that, his monthly contributions started decreasing: $7.5 million in April, and just $2.2 million in May.

May was the first month the Trump campaign took in more from donations ($3.1 million) than it did from Trump’s loans.

That’s meaningful. As Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, an election law expert at the Brennan Center for Justice, noted in a New York Times article published yesterday, “as soon as you start using campaign money that has come in from donors, not just the money that he has loaned to himself, and he uses it for something that he will personally keep, or his family will personally keep, that is what crosses the line.”

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, June 22, 2016

June 23, 2016 Posted by | Campaign Finance Laws, Donald Trump, Trump Organization | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump’s Delusions Of Competence”: Running A National Economy Is Nothing Like Running A Business

In general, you shouldn’t pay much attention to polls at this point, especially with Republicans unifying around Donald Trump while Bernie Sanders hasn’t conceded the inevitable. Still, I was struck by several recent polls showing Mr. Trump favored over Hillary Clinton on the question of who can best manage the economy.

This is pretty remarkable given the incoherence and wild irresponsibility of Mr. Trump’s policy pronouncements. Granted, most voters probably don’t know anything about that, in part thanks to substance-free news coverage. But if voters don’t know anything about Mr. Trump’s policies, why their favorable impression of his economic management skills?

The answer, I suspect, is that voters see Mr. Trump as a hugely successful businessman, and they believe that business success translates into economic expertise. They are, however, probably wrong about the first, and definitely wrong about the second: Even genuinely brilliant businesspeople are often clueless about economic policy.

An aside: In part this is surely a partisan thing. Over the years, polls have generally, although not universally, shown Republicans trusted over Democrats to manage the economy, even though the economy has consistently performed better under Democratic presidents. But Republicans are much better at promoting legends — for example, by constantly hyping economic and jobs growth under Ronald Reagan, even though the Reagan record was easily surpassed under Bill Clinton.

Back to Mr. Trump: One of the many peculiar things about his run for the White House is that it rests heavily on his claims of being a masterful businessman, yet it’s far from clear how good he really is at the “art of the deal.” Independent estimates suggest that he’s much less wealthy than he says he is, and probably has much lower income than he claims to have, too. But since he has broken with all precedents by refusing to release his tax returns, it’s impossible to resolve such disputes. (And maybe that’s why he won’t release those returns.)

Remember, too, that Mr. Trump is a clear case of someone born on third base who imagines that he hit a triple: He inherited a fortune, and it’s far from clear that he has expanded that fortune any more than he would have if he had simply parked the money in an index fund.

But leave questions about whether Mr. Trump is the business genius he claims to be on one side. Does business success carry with it the knowledge and instincts needed to make good economic policy? No, it doesn’t.

True, the historical record isn’t much of a guide, since only one modern president had a previous successful career in business. And maybe Herbert Hoover was an outlier.

But while we haven’t had many business leaders in the White House, we do know what kind of advice prominent businessmen give on economic policy. And it’s often startlingly bad, for two reasons. One is that wealthy, powerful people sometimes don’t know what they don’t know — and who’s going to tell them? The other is that a country is nothing like a corporation, and running a national economy is nothing like running a business.

Here’s a specific, and relevant, example of the difference. Last fall, the now-presumed Republican nominee declared: “Our wages are too high. We have to compete with other countries.” Then, as has happened often in this campaign, Mr. Trump denied that he had said what he had, in fact, said — straight talker, my toupee. But never mind.

The truth is that wage cuts are the last thing America needs right now: We sell most of what we produce to ourselves, and wage cuts would hurt domestic sales by reducing purchasing power and increasing the burden of private-sector debt. Lower wages probably wouldn’t even help the fraction of the U.S. economy that competes internationally, since they would normally lead to a stronger dollar, negating any competitive advantage.

The point, however, is that these feedback effects from wage cuts aren’t the sort of things even very smart business leaders need to take into account to run their companies. Businesses sell stuff to other people; they don’t need to worry about the effect of their cost-cutting measures on demand for their products. Managing national economic policy, on the other hand, is all about the feedback.

I’m not saying that business success is inherently disqualifying when it comes to policy making. A tycoon who has enough humility to realize that he doesn’t already know all the answers, and is willing to listen to other people even when they contradict him, could do fine as an economic manager. But does this describe anyone currently running for president?

The truth is that the idea that Donald Trump, of all people, knows how to run the U.S. economy is ludicrous. But will voters ever recognize that truth?

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, May 27, 2016

May 30, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Economic Policy, Economy | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Scandalous Matters That Are Real”: If He Shouts ‘Rape’, Donald Trump Should Unseal His Divorce Records

Evidently Donald Trump believes that his campaign can accomplish with an Internet video what Kenneth Starr failed to do with $50 million and a platoon of private detectives and FBI agents: Bring down Bill and Hillary Clinton by dredging through moldy muck. Somehow he doesn’t seem to understand his own vulnerability on scandalous matters that are real rather than invented.

The problem Ken Starr confronted during six years as independent counsel was neither a shortage of resources nor a lack of support from the political media, most of which seemed as eager to ruin Clinton as the right-wing Republican prosecutor. No, the trouble with Whitewater, Travelgate, and Filegate — so dubbed by scandal-addled reporters — was that substantive, plausible evidence of wrongdoing simply didn’t exist. The Lewinsky affair was all too real, but most Americans didn’t believe that sex, or even lying about sex under oath, merited a costly, hypocritical, and rabid investigation, let alone a presidential impeachment.

Aside from Lewinsky, the “Clinton scandals” each ended the same way: Despite all the blaring headlines, ranting editorials, grand jury dramatics, and talk-radio thunder, Starr never prosecuted the President and First Lady because he couldn’t sustain an indictment. The Clintons fully deserved the presumption of innocence that the press, the prosecutors, and the Republicans in Congress refused to afford them.

The hollowness of all those old pseudo-scandals is why the Clintons are still standing — even as ace sex detective Starr is ousted from the presidency of Baylor University in disgrace for covering up sexual assault by members of the school’s football team.

Yet Trump, under the tutelage of Nixon-era dirty trickster Roger Stone, apparently believes that he can resuscitate even the most discredited old tales to smear the Clintons – and especially Hillary, the Democrat he is likely to face in November.

It is typically insolent for Trump – the most dubious character ever to win a presidential nomination in this country – to bring up the failed Whitewater real estate venture. The Clintons lost money on that deal, ripped off by a huckster named James McDougal whose grandiose style of double-dealing was just a small-time, Southern-fried version of a Trump scam. Will the casino mogul still be talking about Whitewater and the death of Vince Foster when he goes to court to defend the con game known as “Trump University”?

Actually, both Trump and Stone know that Whitewater is too arcane. So this sordid pair quickly turned to Starr’s sex files, with a misogynist twist: The sexual accusations against Bill Clinton should be blamed on Hillary. They’re confident that if they shriek “rapist” and “enabler” loudly enough, nobody will realize that their attack has no factual basis.

Only Juanita Broaddrick and Bill Clinton know what, if anything, ever happened between them, and their accounts are directly contradictory – except that Broaddrick has offered at least two versions, under oath, that contradict each other. It is important to recall that Starr immunized Broaddrick and thoroughly investigated her revived rape accusation against Clinton during his impeachment probe in 1998. He found the evidence that she provided “inconclusive,” and didn’t include her case in his impeachment brief. (There are other reasons to wonder whether Broaddrick told the truth that are explored in The Hunting of the President by Gene Lyons and me. Our free e-book,The Hunting Of Hillary, is available here.)

Naturally, Trump is promoting Broaddrick’s additional claim that Hillary Clinton, only weeks after the alleged rape by her husband, sought to intimidate the Arkansas nursing home owner into remaining silent. But as with all of the sensational charges lodged by Broaddrick over the years, it isn’t easy to know what to believe about her charge against Hillary – because, again, she has also said, and may even have sworn, precisely the opposite.

Nearly a year after she testified before the independent counsel, Broaddrick was interviewed on NBC News Dateline by correspondent Lisa Myers. After tearfully describing her alleged encounter with a violent Clinton, she tried to explain why she had denied being raped for almost 20 years and – in a moment that Trump has made relevant again – stated firmly that nobody had ever tried to intimidate her.

From the Dateline transcript of February 24, 1999:

Lisa Myers: Did Bill Clinton or anyone near him ever threaten you, try to intimidate you, do anything to keep you silent?

Juanita Broaddrick: No.

Myers: This has been strictly your choice.

Broaddrick: Yes.

Did Broaddrick ever tell Starr or his investigators about Hillary’s alleged intimidation of her? Having received a grant of immunity against prosecution for perjury, did she tell them that Hillary – also a target of Starr’s broad-ranging investigation – had feloniously tried to “silence” her? Or did she tell the Office of Independent Counsel — as she later told Myers on NBC — that nobody had ever done so?

The next reporter to interview her might want to ask those questions.

Meanwhile, perhaps the moment has come when Donald Trump, blustering rape accuser, should respond to the rape accusations lodged against him by his estranged first wife Ivana – in a sworn deposition — during their bitter 1990 divorce, which a New York court eventually granted her on grounds of “cruel and inhuman treatment” by Trump. Journalist Harry Hurt III first recounted the ugly details of Trump’s allegedly very violent assault on Ivana –which involved ripping out her patches of her hair as well as sexually violating her – in his book The Last Tycoon.

Although Ivana sought to withdraw her accusation after the Daily Beast reported it last year, Hurt told me there is much more to be learned from the Trump divorce papers, which are under seal. So here is a suggestion for Trump, who still refuses to release his tax returns as American presidential candidates have done routinely for decades.

If he wants to accuse other people of rape and intimidation, Trump should unseal his divorce papers and let voters assess his standing to make those charges. The evidence gathered about Bill Clinton by the independent counsel’s sex probe is public record. If Trump has nothing to hide, he should let the public view the evidence of what he did to his first wife – and then they can judge him accordingly. If he doesn’t have the guts to disclose those scathing documents, then maybe he should shut up about the Clintons’ marriage, which endures.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, May 27, 2016

May 28, 2016 Posted by | Bill and Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Ivana Trump | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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