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As The Lame Duck Congress Ends, Will Equality Elude Gays And Lesbians — Again?



With tax cuts, unemployment benefits, the START treaty, the DREAM Act, a Ground Zero workers’ health care bill, continued funding of government operations, not to mention the National Defense Authorization Act spending bill, is there any room left on the calendar for the bill everyone was talking about last week, repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ban against gay and lesbian service members in the military?

After the Senate Democrats went down to defeat in efforts to extend tax cuts for the middle class over the weekend, President Barack Obama announced he would seek unemployment assistance and other support for the long-term unemployed, as part of a deal with the Senate Republicans on extending tax cuts, during the remaining days of the lame duck session of Congress.

President Obama also made clear last week that getting the START Treaty ratified is a priority for his administration by inviting former Secretary of State and retired General Colin Powell to the Oval Office, seeking his public endorsement announced in an open press avail.  “Now it’s time to get this done,” Obama said, with Powell at his side.  “It is important for us to make sure that we complete the evaluation process, we finish the debate, and we go ahead and finish this up before the end of the year.”

(Note: There was no mention of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at the presser by either the President or the General, who presided over its adoption in 1993, and has come out publicly against it recently.)

White House officials have claimed ratification of the START Treaty is an emergency because Russian nuclear weapon sites have not been inspected since Dec. 2009 when the treaty expired. But the White House “emergency” on the START Treaty is really about vote counting –when the Senate returns in January, there will be six fewer Democrats in its caucus, making it much more difficult to get the necessary 67 votes needed for ratification.

On Friday afternoon, according to Politico, White House staff from the Office of Public Engagement that included director Tina Tchen, her deputy Brian Bond, and legislative affairs aide Chris Kang, attempted to reassure gay advocacy groups that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell remained a White House priority and there was enough time for debate on the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes the repeal language.

Later during the same afternoon, Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the Senate would adjourn on Dec. 17th for the year, but not before he lambasted John McCain for his rigid opposition to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” During Reid’s floor time, he was reminded by Senator Carl Levin, the chairman of the  Senate Armed Services Committee, to include the bill on the Senate’s agenda (see video).

We believe tax cuts and unemployment assistance are a priority with so many Americans out of work, or under-employed.  But we remain concerned with so little time left–about 12 days (including a weekend) in light of announced White House priorities and the schedule announced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will drop off the agenda without adequate time for Senate debate needed to obtain the 60 votes needed for cloture, enabling a floor vote that assuredly will pass.  Some senate experts have observed that the NDAA and the defense appropriation bills can take up to two weeks, if not longer for amendments, debate and voting, depending upon the hostility of the minority party. Given this scenario it is likely that the NDAA may not even come up for vote, with so few days left for legislation action–this would be a first in 48 years.  The NDAA also includes pay raises for all service members.

As the weekend proceeded several statements made by Republican Senators Richard Lugar, Mitch McConnell, the Minority Leader and John Kyl deepened our concern that DADT will fall off the Senate agenda.  A Lugar spokesman issued a statement indicating that “DADT needed more study” before moving forward. By Sunday evening both McConnell and Kyl said that DADT was dead for this Congress and there was not enough time for debate and amendments on NDAA.

A number of commentators have lamented Obama’s and the Senate Democrats’ weak leadership in handling the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, including New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd who wrote:  “Once again, the Democrats waited too long to close the deal, the president showed no leadership, and a campaign promise that was seen as a fait accompli now seems a casualty.” A New York Times editorial published on Dec. 4th titled “Inside the Beltway, a Deficit of Purpose,” also pointed out that the White House should not be trading core principles for a deal on tax cuts, although Democrats did not vote on tax cuts before the elections, thus, negotiations were put off to the lame duck session, putting the White House in a weakened position.

Here is a list of legislation, besides early mentions, that is likely to be taken up by the Senate in the next 12 days:

The Dream Act, according to the National Immigration Law Center is a bipartisan legislation that addresses the tragedy of young people who grew up in the United States and have graduated from our high schools, but whose future is circumscribed by our current immigration laws. Under current law, these young people generally derive their immigration status solely from their parents, and if their parents are undocumented or in immigration limbo, most have no mechanism to obtain legal residency, even if they have lived most of their lives here in the U.S. The Dream Act would provide such a mechanism for those who are able to meet certain conditions, including serving in the Armed Service or by going to college.  The White House has given the Dream Act regular visibility on its home page, which includes a fact sheet on the bill.

The Zadronga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act would provide $7.4 billion over 10 years for health care and compensation for those whose illnesses are blamed on working at Ground Zero, according to the New York Daily News. Reid has indicated he will try to force the bill to a vote this week amid strong Republican opposition, which only includes one Republican senator, Mark Kirk of Illinois.  Reid needs 60 votes to bring the bill to the floor and for cloture.  All 59 Democrats senators are supporting, including two independents and needs one more Republican. Usual suspects include Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe from Maine, who might join with Democrats.

Continuing resolutions to fund government operations, pay salaries i.e., must be adopted by the House and Senate because many appropriation bills remain outstanding.  In the Congress, all funding bills must begin in the House and authorization bills must be adopted first, before appropriations can be processed for a vote.The White House management of the DADT repeal process can be defined as political malpractice.  It has been quite clear from the begining that Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been in charge from the moment President Obama turned it over to the Pentagon.  In fact, the Washington Post reported over the weekend that allegedly that Rahm Emanuel, the former chief of staff and Jim Messina, deputy chief of staff, begged Gates to allow the Congress to move on DADT, knowing that losing the House was likely, as early as May, but he refused.

Gates, known to be an adept bureaucrat, seems to have really dropped the ball this time, when it really counts.  His calendar called for the release of the Pentagon’s report after the midterm elections, when most first term presidents lose a minimum of 25 seats.  The Gates time line and calendar undercut the likelihood of passage of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and now we all see a weakened Democratic majority in the Senate that left too much business to the lame duck session.  Reid’s calendar, unless changed, insures that the repeal of DADT will be pushed off to another day and time sometime in the future.

These actions taken as a whole, reflect the height of incompetence and cynicism on the part of the Obama White House and the Senate’s Democratic leadership.  Clearly, the White House, along with the Senate, have made its priorities known for several days now. They plan to take care of constituencies that will insure their reelections.  What does this say about America’s promise?  We hold ourselves out and open our doors to those from around the world who are political oppressed and to those who are dispossessed, and yet our politicians have apparently decided to leave lesbian and gay servicemembers during a time of two wars on the side of the road.

They will not cast their votes to take us across the bridge to freedom and justice this time and we will not let them forget it.


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Trump Lawyer’s ‘Critical Evidence’ Will Help DOJ Make Decision to Charge ‘Without Significant Delay’: Former Prosecutor



Donald Trump‘s attorney Evan Corcoran, who allegedly directed another Trump attorney to draft the false statement claiming all classified and sensitive documents had been returned, has been ordered to testify before a grand jury and hand over documents and records to Special Counsel Jack Smith in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents criminal investigation.

Trump appealed U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell’s decision ordering Corcoran to testify and hand over documents, including handwritten notes. The Appeals Court in light speed mode, rejected Trump’s appeal.

Corcoran will be testifying before the grand jury on Friday, CNN reports.

RELATED: ‘National Security Implications’: Former DOJ Official Speculates on Ruling Ordering Trump Attorney to Hand Over Docs

One former top DOJ official, Brandon Van Grack, says the “Special Counsel is about to get access to the most critical evidence in the case. Should allow DOJ to make a charging decision without significant delay.”

He did not define what “without significant delay” means in terms of days, weeks, or months.

Van Grack served at Main Justice for eleven years, including as a lead prosecutor in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and later, as the Chief of the DOJ’s Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) Unit.

“The announcement from a panel of three judges in the appeals court – less than a day after Trump sought to put Corcoran’s testimony on hold – adds momentum to the special counsel investigation as it seeks to secure evidence that could make or break a federal criminal case against Trump,” CNN explains. “The Justice Department has successfully argued in court that prosecutors have enough evidence that Trump’s interactions with the lawyer were part of a possible crime that they can pierce the confidentiality of the conversations between the two.”

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‘National Security Implications’: Former DOJ Official Speculates on Ruling Ordering Trump Attorney to Hand Over Docs



A former top Dept. of Justice official says a federal judge’s expedited ruling ordering an attorney for Donald Trump to testify against his client before a grand jury and hand over documents very well may be related to “national security.”

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled that DOJ Special Counsel Jack Smith had successfully made the case Donald Trump may have committed a crime, via his attorneys, in his classified documents case. That finding allowed her to invoke the crime-fraud exception, and order Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to testify before the grand jury investigating the ex-president’s unlawful retention and refusal to return hundreds of classified documents.

Former FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann, who also worked for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and headed the DOJ’s Criminal Fraud Section, Wednesday afternoon on MSNBC said it’s possible Judge Howell’s expedited decisions were related to national security.

Tuesday night Judge Howell ordered DOJ to provide information by 6:00 AM Wednesday.

READ MORE: Jim Jordan’s Attack on Manhattan DA Will ‘Backfire’ and Allow Democrats to Expose Coordination With Trump: Columnist

Trump appealed Howell’s ruling, and Wednesday afternoon the Appeals Court denied his appeal related to the documents, Politico reports.

“I’ve never seen anything that quick. It’s very hard to know why. I have to say, to me, when I think about what can be a plausible reason– and this is pure speculation – is that there must be something in the papers that gave the judges concern about national security implications, because it’s such a short timeframe.”

“The reason this is a bombshell is you could end up with Evan Corcoran as a key, fundamental witness against Donald Trump in an obstruction of justice case and a false statements case,” Weissmann adds.

According to Politico, Wednesday’s appeals court ruling “effectively permits the Justice Department to circumvent Trump’s attorney-client privilege after a lower-court judge found that the documents likely contain evidence of a crime.”

NEW: Trump Lawyer’s ‘Critical Evidence’ Will Help DOJ Make Decision to Charge ‘Without Significant Delay’: Former Prosecutor


This article was updated to correctly spell Andrew Weissmann’s last name.

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Trump Appeals After Judge Agrees With Special Counsel on Crime-Fraud Exception and Requires His Attorney to Testify



Donald Trump’s attorneys have appealed a ruling that requires one of his lawyers to testify before a grand jury investigating his unlawful removal, retention, and refusal to return classified documents from the White House.

Attorneys for the Special Counsel “said there is evidence of a deliberate effort not to turn over all the material covered by the subpoena,” The Washington Post reports, citing people familiar with the matter.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell had reportedly agreed with Special Counsel Smith that there is sufficient evidence proving Donald Trump may have committed a crime via his attorneys, and ruled his attorney must testify before a grand jury. The ruling, which was not made public, was handed down Friday night, NBC News reported Wednesday afternoon.

Judge Howell “ruled in favor of applying the ‘crime fraud’ exception to Trump’s attorney-client privilege and ordered Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran to testify before the federal grand jury.”

READ MORE: ‘On Standby’: Experts Say Manhattan Hush Money Grand Jury Delay ‘Not All That Surprising’

Trump’s attorneys have already appealed the ruling.

“People familiar with the matter said an appeals panel has already begun reviewing the decision, after Trump’s lawyers appealed,” The Washington Post adds. “The extraordinarily quick timeline suggests that the judges — all nominated by Democratic presidents — intend to rule swiftly.”

Trump could take his case all the way to the Supreme Court, but The Post says it’s “not clear he would have a much better chance of success there.”

According to an NBC News report from October, Corcoran directed another Trump attorney, Christina Bobb, to sign the letter claiming a thorough search of Mar-a-Lago had been made and all classified or “sensitive” documents had been returned. That was proven untrue after federal agents, executing a search warrant, recovered hundreds of documents with classified markings.

NEW: ‘National Security Implications’: Former DOJ Official Speculates on Ruling Ordering Trump Attorney to Hand Over Docs

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