U.S. Ethics Office Sounds Alarm In Letter To Democratic SenatorsÂ
The U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) raised red flags Saturday about President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees being rushed through the confirmation process without completing ethics reviews.Â
Walter Shaub Jr., the director of the OGE, said in a letter to Democratic senators that it would be unprecedented for the Senate to hold confirmation hearings for nominees who haven’t been fully vetted by his office, according to The Washington Post. The Senate is set to begin confirmation hearings for several of Trump’s cabinet picks on Tuesday, which Shaub said could leave them with â€œpotentially unknown or unresolved ethics issues.â€
“As OGEâ€™s director, the announced hearing schedule for several nominees who have not completed the ethics review process is of great concern to me,â€Â Â Shaub wrote toÂ Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerÂ (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenÂ (D-Mass.). “This schedule has created undue pressure on OGEâ€™s staff and agency ethics officials to rush through these important reviews.Â I am not aware of any occasion in the four decades since OGE was established when the Senate held a confirmation hearing before the nominee had completed the ethics review process.”Â
Earlier, MSNBC reported that the OGE has struggled to gain access to Trump’s transition team. The network obtained emails from Shaub to Trump aides in which he lamented that despite repeated outreach, “we seem to have lost contact with the Trump-Pence transition since the election.” Shaub also warned Trump aides that they would be risking “embarrassment for the President-elect” by announcing cabinet picks without allowing OGE to review their financial information.Â
Schumer said in response to Shaub’s letter Saturday that the OGE’s concerns make “crystal-clear that the transition teamâ€™s collusion with Senate Republicans to jam through these Cabinet nominees before theyâ€™ve been thoroughly vetted is unprecedented.”Â
â€œThe Senate and the American people deserve to know that these Cabinet nominees have a plan to avoid any conflicts of interest, that theyâ€™re working on behalf of the American people and not their own bottom line, and that they plan to fully comply with the law,” Schumer said. “Senate Republicans should heed the advice of this independent office and stop trying to jam through unvetted nominees.â€â€‹
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‘Vulgar and Lewd’: Trump Judge Cites Extremist Group to Allow Drag Show Ban
A federal judge in Texas known for a ruling that attempted to ban a widely-used abortion drug is citing an extremist anti-LGBTQ group in his ruling allowing a ban on drag shows to stay in place.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a former attorney for an anti-LGBTQ conservative Christian legal organization, and a member of the Federalist Society, in his 26-page ruling dated Thursday cited the “About” page of Gays Against Groomers to claim, “it’s unclear how drag shows unmistakably communicate advocacy for LGBT rights.”
Judge Kacsmaryk, appointed by Donald Trump twice before finally assuming office in 2019, suggests the First Amendment does not provide for freedom of expression for drag shows, calls drag “sexualized conduct,” and says it is “more regulable” because “children are in the audience.”
Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern adds, “Kacsmaryk’s conclusion that drag is probably NOT protected by the First Amendment conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee, and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression. It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people.”
Calling the judge “a proud Christian nationalist who flatly refuses to apply binding Supreme Court precedent when it conflicts with his extremist far-right beliefs,” Stern at Slate writes that Kacsmaryk ruled drag “may be outlawed to protect ‘the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.’ In short, he concluded that drag fails to convey a message, while explaining all the reasons why he’s offended by the message it conveys.”
Stern does not let Kacsmaryk off the hook there.
“From almost any other judge, the ruling in Spectrum WT v. Wendler would be a shocking rejection of basic free speech principles; from Kacsmaryk, it’s par for the course. This is, after all, the judge who sought to ban medication abortion nationwide, restricted minors’ access to birth control, seize control over border policy to exclude asylum-seekers, and flouted recent precedent protecting LGBTQ+ equality,” Stern says.
“He is also poised to bankrupt Planned Parenthood by compelling them to pay a $1.8 billion penalty on truly ludicrous grounds. And he is not the only Trump-appointed judge substituting his reactionary beliefs for legal analysis. We have reached a point where these lawless decisions are not only predictable but inevitable, and they show no sign of stopping: Their authors are still just settling into a decadeslong service in the federal judiciary.”
West Texas A&M University President Walter V. Wendler penned the letter that sparked the lawsuit.
Titled, “A Harmless Drag Show? No Such Thing,” Wendler wrote: “I believe every human being is created in the image of God and, therefore, a person of dignity. Being created in God’s image is the basis of Natural Law. James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, prisoners of the culture of their time as are we, declared the Creator’s origin as the foundational fiber in the fabric of our nation as they breathed life into it. Does a drag show preserve a single thread of human dignity? I think not.”
Journalist Chris Geidner concludes, “It’s an extremely biased ruling by a judge who has established that he does not care about being overturned — even by the most conservative appeals court in the nation.”
Gaetz Praises GOP Congressman Who Echoes His Call for Change ‘Through Force’
U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-FL). largely seen as pushing Speaker Kevin McCarthy‘s Republican-majority House of Representatives toward shutting down the federal government, is praising and promoting remarks made by a freshman GOP lawmaker that appear to suggest the use of violence. U.S. Rep. Eli Crane‘s comments, posted Friday (below), call for change “through force,” remarks echoing Congressman Gaetz’s recent comments which were denounced by an expert on authoritarianism as fascistic.
“The only way we’re going to see meaningful change in this town is through force,” wrote Congressman Crane, Republican of Arizona atop a three-minute video in which he frames what is now an almost guaranteed government shutdown as a “spending fight.” In his video he says, “the only way you’re gonna get any change in this town is through force.” Gaetz in August had said, “we know that only through force do we make any change in a corrupt town like Washington, D.C.”
Congressman Crane is a former Navy SEAL. He has promoted the false “Big Lie” conspiracy theory that there was massive fraud in the election President Joe Biden won, and called “on the state legislature to decertify the 2020 election.” He is one of six House Republicans who voted against McCarthy’s speakership all 15 times in January.
“Congressman Eli Crane is a fountainhead of political courage,” said Rep. Gaetz Friday afternoon. “He holds the line.”
Crane recently came under fire for calling Black people “colored,” during debate on his legislation that would force the U.S. Armed Forces to not use any diversity requirements in its hiring practices.
Just days before he won his House seat last year, The Washington Post reported Crane had urged an “audience to look up an antisemitic sermon at a recent campaign stop.”
“Crane said that he was motivated to run because of ‘radical ideologies that are destroying this country’ and that he was most concerned about ‘Cultural Marxism,’ which the Southern Poverty Law Center has described as an antisemitic baseless claim gaining traction on the American right.”
“He encouraged the audience to watch a speech by a right-wing pastor who blamed cultural change on a group of German Jewish philosophers and condemned Barack Obama for having a ‘homosexual agenda.'”
“If we don’t wake up,” Crane said, according to the Post, “if we don’t study what they’re doing, and if we don’t put people in influential positions that understand what this war is all about, what they’re trying to do and have and have the courage to call it out, we’re going to lose this country.”
In August, while standing next to Donald Trump at a campaign rally, Congressman Gaetz said, “Mr. President, I cannot stand these people that are destroying our country. They are opening our borders. They are weaponizing our federal law enforcement against patriotic Americans who love this nation as we should.”
“But we know that only through force do we make any change in a corrupt town like Washington, D.C. And so to all my friends here in Iowa, when you see them come for this man, know that they are coming for our movement and they are coming for all of us.”
At the time, Raw Story reported, “historian and author Ruth Ben-Ghiat called Gaetz comments alarming.”
“What he is saying is that they are not going to have change through elections or through legislation or through reform. They are going to have change through violence,” she warned.
“And that’s how fascists talk,” Ben-Ghiat added. “So, even if Trump is out of the picture, these are people who have adopted methods very familiar to me as a historian of fascism, that violence and corruption and lying that’s what the party is today.”
Image via Shutterstock
‘See How Easy That Is to Say?’: GOP Mocked for ‘Weaponization’ of DOJ Claims as Democratic Senator Gets Indicted
The U.S. Dept. of Justice unsealed an indictment against U.S. Senator Bob Menendez late Friday morning, accusing the New Jersey Democratic lawmaker of bribery as prosecutors showed photos of gold bars and nearly half-a-million dollars in cash stuffed into a jacket that bears his name and the seal of the U.S. Senate.
Many on the left immediately demanded Senator Menendez resign, a demand he is refusing. He will step down as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, which Senate Democrats require when a chair is criminally charged.
It took little time for liberals to mock Republicans who have been claiming President Joe Biden and Democrats in general, along with the “deep state,” have “weaponized” the Dept. of Justice against conservatives, especially after Donald Trump’s four indictments on a total of 91 criminal felonies.
“Let me get this straight,” wrote journalist and progressive SiriusXM host Dean Obeidallah. “To the GOP, when DOJ indicts President Biden’s son and a senior Democratic US Senator that is great. But when DOJ indicts Donald Trump for attempting a coup and for 32 counts of Espionage that is DOJ’s ‘weaponization’ of criminal justice?!”
“This is the second time that Sen. Bob Menendez has been indicted for corruption. He needs to resign and allow Gov. Murphy to fill that vacancy with someone who does right by the people of New Jersey,” wrote former Human Rights Campaign press secretary Charlotte Clymer. “See how easy that is to say, GOP?”
Journalist, author, and former Clinton White House aide Keith Boykin posted video of the prosecutor announcing the indictment.
US Attorney Damian Williams shows photos of the Mercedes Benz, gold bars, and cash the government alleges Senator Robert Menendez received in bribes. pic.twitter.com/h4hYYwzKVQ
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) September 22, 2023
Boykin later sarcastically commented, “There goes Biden again weaponizing the Justice Department to prosecute political leaders in his own party.”
“President Joe Biden’s weaponized Department of Justice has now indicted Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and *checks notes* Joe Biden’s son,” observed veteran intelligence officer, activist, and social media personality Travis Akers.
Attorney and former Republican George Conway quickly responded, saying, “senile sleepy Joe is playing 65-dimensional chess again.”
“Menendez should resign. Today,” demanded historian and author Kevin M. Kruse.
“One of the nice things about rule of law is that truly believing in it ensures that you don’t end up as a partisan hypocrite,” observed The Atlantic’s Brian Klaas, an associate professor in global politics at University College London. “If Menendez is guilty, he should go to prison as anyone else would. (And it would be prudent to resign swiftly).”
Meanwhile, some used Friday’s indictment of Sen. Menendez to focus on other political figures.
Foreign policy, national security and political affairs analyst and commentator David Rothkopf, warned, “The Memendez case should have Jared [Kushner] and Clarence [Thomas] ordering extra strength Tums today.”
Rachel Bitecofer, the political strategist and analyst also appeared to point the finger at Justice Thomas and his wife, Ginni.
You know who else hid money from the IRS and ran his bribes through his wife?! pic.twitter.com/kWJuAPCtbJ
— Rachel Bitecofer 📈🔭🇺🇲🇺🇦 (@RachelBitecofer) September 22, 2023
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