Picking Up the Pieces When the Courts Fail UsÂ
This has been a very bad week for transgender kids. On Wednesday the US Supreme Court issued an â€œemergencyâ€ stay to stop a 17-year Gavin Grimm from using the boyâ€™s restroom at his school. Joshua Block, his lawyer, described Gavin this week in a blog post on the ACLUâ€™s website:
Gavin has facial hair, a deep voice, and a state ID that identifies him as male. In every aspect of his life outside school, he is recognized as the boy that he is. But when Gavin goes back to school for his senior year of high school, he will be singled out from every other student and forced to use a separate single-stall restroom that no one else is required to use. Â
According to his school board, Gavinâ€™s mere presence in the boysâ€™ restroom is a violation of other boysâ€™ privacy. No one, including the school board, thinks it would be appropriate for a boy like Gavin to use the girlsâ€™ restroom. So the school board converted a couple of old utility closets into single-user restrooms that Gavin must now use to â€œprotectâ€ other students from his mere presence. He has been shamefully forced to use a separate restroom or the restroom in the nurseâ€™s office for the past two school years.
Later in the week, as a direct response to the Supreme Courtâ€™s intervention, other school systems in the 4th Circuit (the circuit where Gavinâ€™s case was initially decided) retreated from plans they had to treat transgender kids with respect and dignity. So while school systems are debating back and forth whether or not to let trans kids use the bathroom like other students or whether separate really can be equal, weâ€™ve got a crisis on our hands, and the courts arenâ€™t coming to save us any time soon. Â
This is where the rest of us come in. This is one of those times where, if you call yourself an ally, youâ€™ve got to step up. We all do.
If you own a business, make sure your restrooms are inclusive. If you have single-stall restrooms, make sure theyâ€™re labeledÂ just as â€œrestroom.â€ Thereâ€™s absolutely no reason to have gendered, single-stall restrooms whatsoever. If you have multi-stall restrooms, be sure theyâ€™re inclusive, too. Â
Go out of your way to talk to your cis (non-trans) friends, family, and co-workers about the issues trans people face. For better or worse, people are influenced most by people who are like them. Youâ€™re more likely to make progress with the people you interact with on a daily basis than someone standing on a street corner with a clipboard.Â
Stop letting micro-aggressions go unchecked. Yeah, sometimes itâ€™s easier to ignore someoneâ€™s comments instead of getting involved. We donâ€™t want the conflict so we stay quiet, instead letting someone else pick up the slack, or worse, the hurt. That has to stop. Correcting a friend or a co-worker when they misgender someone takes all of ten seconds. Stopping an inappropriate comment is as simple as saying, â€œIâ€™m sure you didnâ€™t mean it like this, but that word/joke/phrase is really hurtful to me and many others.â€
For many of us, we use phrases we think are inclusive but really arenâ€™t. Instead of saying â€œtrans brothers and sisters,â€ say â€œtrans friends and family.â€ â€œBrothers and sistersâ€ is a binary phrase, and there are many, many trans folks who are not binary. Using a binary phrase to describe them is erasure and leaves them out entirely. (Plus, using â€œfamily and friendsâ€ keeps the same syllable count and cadence, so rhythmically youâ€™re good.)Â
Average folks like us canâ€™t change the courts. We canâ€™t petition the Supreme Court or convince judges and justices to rule the way we think they should. But we can pick up the slack and we can make sure that in every area where we have even a little bit of influence, we go out of our way to make the world just a little bit safer for trans kids.Â
I know that the biggest barrier for most of us is the fear that weâ€™re going to accidentally screw up and say something terrible. Thereâ€™s a really good chance thatâ€™s going to happen, and thatâ€™s ok. When it does happen, apologize, fix it, and move on. Donâ€™t dwell on it. Listen carefully to the critique, internalize it, and commit to changing your behavior. You donâ€™t have to be perfect to be a good ally â€“Â you just have to want to see our world become a safer and more inclusive place.Â
There are some incredible people fighting in the court system. Theyâ€™re doing powerful, important work. In the meantime, itâ€™s up to the rest of us to fill in the gaps to keep our kids safe. I like to think of being an ally as the bulldozer that clears a construction site before construction begins. Itâ€™s our job to clear out the trees and obstacles and move them to the side so the experts can come in and start construction. Itâ€™s not our job to tell other folks how to do the work â€“Â itâ€™s our job to make sure the land is cleared and ready for them to build what they need.Â
Finally, check in with your trans friends and family. Be a good friend, sibling, parent, teacher, or neighbor to them. Ask how theyâ€™re doing. Go out to dinner with them. Hang out together. Ask if you can do anything specific to support them more than you already are. Really, one of the best things you can do is just being a good friend. And couldnâ€™t we all us more good friends?
Robbie Medwed is an Atlanta-based LGBT activist and educator. His column appears here weekly. Follow him on Twitter: @rjmedwed
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Trump Swore Under Oath He Had $400 Million in Cash – Now He’s Telling a Court a Different Story
Attorneys for Donald Trump are arguing the ex-president and self-professed billionaire should not have to post a bond of $454 million as he appeals the New York State Supreme Court’s ruling holding him liable for civil business fraud. Instead, Trump is offering a bond of $100 million.
But as legal experts are pointing out, under oath, Trump stated he had $400 million in liquid assets. And his attorney, Alina Habba, when asked last week if he could come up with $350 million, said on-camera, “Yes, I mean, he does, of course he has money, you know, he’s a billionaire. We know that.”
Question: Judge Engoron says that he wants this $350 million within 30 days. Does Donald Trump have that kind of money sitting around?
Habba: I mean, he does. Of course he has money. You know, he’s a billionaire. Um, we know that pic.twitter.com/O6HRd4lBXi
— Acyn (@Acyn) February 20, 2024
“Trump says he doesn’t have the cash that both he and Habba told everyone he had, and that ‘properties would have to be sold’ to come up with the money,” Filipkowski adds.
He sums up the situation: “Trump under oath in his deposition: I’m worth at least $10 billion, I have over $3 billion in tangible assets, I have $400 million in cash. Trump to appellate court: I can come up with $100 million and I need more time to sell stuff to come up with the rest.”
Indeed, The New York Times reported earlier this month, “Mr. Trump claimed under oath last year that he was sitting on more than $400 million in cash.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James was quick to urge the court to deny Trump’s offer of $100 million, or, as Just Security’s Adam Klasfeld reports, “to deny Trump’s application to pause enforcement of the judgment pending appeal, including the disgorgement, monitoring, and loan prohibition.”
“Defendants all but concede that Mr. Trump has insufficient liquid assets to satisfy the judgment amount; defendants would need ‘to raise capital’ to do so,” James writes, as Klasfeld notes.
Klasfeld points to this section of Trump’s motion that reads: “In the absence of a stay on the terms herein outlined, properties would likely need to be sold to raise capital under exigent circumstances, and there would be no way to recover any property sold following a successful appeal and no means to recover the resulting financial losses from the Attorney General.”
In other words, Trump’s attorneys are saying he would have to sell assets, or properties, at less than market value, and should he win his appeal, he would have no means to be compensated for the difference in value.
“Trump has less than 30 days to post the money to prevent the New York attorney general’s office from taking steps to execute the judgment, including potentially move to seize properties,” CNN adds. “It is not yet clear how he plans to cover the payment.”
Watch the video above or at this link.
Image via Shutterstock
McConnell to Step Down as Minority Leader
Senate Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the longest-serving party leader in the history of the U.S. Senate, will relinquish his leadership role in November. The Kentucky Republican, who is 82 and has suffered health issues, has served in the Senate since 1985.
“One of life’s most underappreciated talents is to know when it’s time to move on to life’s next chapter,” Leader McConnell said in prepared remarks, The Associated Press reports. “So I stand before you today … to say that this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate.”
McConnell, who told colleagues Wednesday that “the politics within the Republican Party” have “changed,” is stepping down but not retiring. He plans to serve out his current term to the end, in January 0f 2027.
News outlets have reported McConnell has been under pressure to endorse Donald Trump’s bid for re-election. The New York Times reports “conversations between the Trump and McConnell camps have been happening between key advisers to both men,” despite that neither has “said a word to each other since December 2020.”
In March of 2016, as Majority Leader, he refused to follow the U.S. Constitution’s call for “advice and consent” of Presidential nominees, derailing then-Judge Merrick Garland’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.
McConnell partnered with then-President Donald Trump to install a record-number of judges to the federal bench, many chosen by the far-right Federalist Society. But even before Trump’s election, McConnell, PBS’s Frontline reported, held open “vacancies that Trump then filled with conservative federal judges at a breakneck pace.”
“When President Trump took office and McConnell served as Senate majority leader, Trump had more than 100 vacancies to fill in the lower courts, including 17 in the U.S. courts of appeals — all of them lifetime appointments,” according to Frontline. “The Supreme Court hears around 80 cases a year, while the courts of appeals handle tens of thousands of cases annually — often making them the last word in most cases that impact the lives of Americans.”
MSNBC/NBC News legal analyst Glenn Kirschner, a former federal prosecutor for 30 years, remarked in a thread on X: “Mitch McConnell’s legacy, at least in part, will be violating the Constitution by denying a president’s Supreme Court nominee a confirmation hearing – ignoring the Senate’s ‘advice and consent’ responsibilities. McConnell then led Trump by the nose, orchestrating the degradation of the Supreme Court, with the predicable results being a callous and conflicted Supreme Court revoking women’s constitutional privacy rights, damaging equality of educational opportunities for minorities, and unleashing business discrimination cloaked in religious piety.”
“McConnell also improperly orchestrated an acquittal at Trump’s first impeachment trial,” Kirschner continued, “enabling Trump to launch a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. American will be better for Mitch McConnell’s departure from the US Senate.”
Watch McConnell’s announcement below or at this link.
McConnell on the Senate floor announcing his upcoming retirement as Senate leader: “Believe me, I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time. I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them.” pic.twitter.com/gyvZjNoxba
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 28, 2024
‘MAGA-Motivated Conspiracies’: Hunter Biden Decimates Comer and Jordan in Opening Remarks
Hunter Biden is testifying behind closed doors in a joint hearing of the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees, but the President’s son released his opening statement Wednesday morning, accusing Republican Chairmen Jim Comer and Jim Jordan of basing their investigation on an “entire partisan house of cards” of “lies” told by two people who have been indicted, a third who is behind bars, and fourth who has been “exposed” for his “false statements.”
Politico calls Hunter Biden’s opening statement a “blistering rebuke of Republicans’ investigation into his father, President Joe Biden.”
“I am here today to provide the Committees with the one uncontestable fact that should end the false premise of this inquiry: I did not involve my father in my business. Not while I was a practicing lawyer, not in my investments or transactions domestic or international, not as a board member, and not as an artist. Never,” Hunter Biden’s statement begins.
“You read this fact in the many letters that have been sent to you over the last year as part of your so-called impeachment investigation. You heard this fact when I said it weeks ago, standing outside of this building. You heard this fact from a parade of other witnesses – former colleagues and business partners of mine, including my uncle – who have testified before you in similar proceedings. And now, today, you hear this fact directly from me.”
“For more than a year, your Committees have hunted me in your partisan political pursuit of my dad. You have trafficked in innuendo, distortion, and sensationalism – all the while ignoring the clear and convincing evidence staring you in the face,” Biden’s statement reads. “You do not have evidence to support the baseless and MAGA-motivated conspiracies about my father because there isn’t any.”
Biden goes on to charge Comer and Jordan with building their “entire partisan house of cards on lies told by the likes of Gal Luft, Tony Bobulinski, Alexander Smirnov, and Jason Galanis. Luft, who is a fugitive, has been indicted for his lies and other crimes; Smirnov, who has made you dupes in carrying out a Russian disinformation campaign waged against my father, has been indicted for his lies; Bobulinski, who has been exposed for the many false statements he has made, and Galanis, who is serving 14 years in prison for fraud.”
Alexander Smirnov is the latest witness House Republicans chose whose credibility has been destroyed. Two weeks ago today he was arrested on federal charges including lying to the FBI about the very topic Comer and Jordan have based their entire impeachment investigation on: the debunked “Burisma” conspiracy theory. Smirnov has admitted, according to court documents, those claims were handed to him by Russian intelligence officials.
“Rather than follow the facts as they have been laid out before you in bank records, financial statements, correspondence, and other witness testimony, you continue your frantic search to prove the lies you, and those you rely on, keep peddling. Yes, they are lies. To be clear, I have made mistakes in my life, and I have squandered opportunities and privileges that were afforded to me. I know that. I am responsible for that. And I am making amends for that. But my mistakes and shortcomings are my own and not my father’s, who has done nothing but devote his entire life to public service and trying to make this country a better place to live.”
Biden points to his “battle with addiction,” praises his father for his support, and says, “He helped save my life. His love and support made it possible for me to get sober, stay sober and rebuild my life as a father, husband, son, and brother.”
“What he got in return for being a loving and supportive parent is a barrage of hate-filled conspiracy theories that hatched this sham impeachment inquiry and continue to fuel unrelenting personal attacks against him and me.”
Biden charges Republicans with taking his “communications out of context,” and alleges they “relied on documents that have been altered, and cherry-picked snippets of financial or other records to misrepresent what really happened.”
He then told the Republican Chairmen they used “a few references to my family in emails or texts that I sent when I was in the darkest days of my addiction.” And he starkly warned: “If you try to do that again today, my answers will reveal your tactics and demonstrate the truth that my father was never involved in any of my businesses.”
U.S. Rep. Robert Garcia (D-CA), who is attending today’s hearing, blasted Speaker Johnson, Donald Trump, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We’ve been in the deposition now for about an hour, and one thing is crystal clear: Republicans have zero evidence linking Hunter Biden to any sort of business dealings with the president,” he told MSNBC. Garcia also accused Speaker Johnson of having “absolutely no plan” as the government shutdown deadline approaches.
Watch below or at this link.
Rep. Robert Garcia on MSNBC: “We’ve been in the deposition now for about an hour, and one thing is crystal clear: Republicans have zero evidence linking Hunter Biden to any sort of business dealings with the president.” pic.twitter.com/CAH5HnIuUn
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 28, 2024
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