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DOJ Refuses Requests for Text of Speech Jeff Sessions Gave to an Anti-Gay Hate Group (But Here It Is)

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Sends Speech to Right Wing Website

The Department of Justice has either ignored or refused requests from media outlets like Buzzfeed, and at least one progressive advocacy organization, People for the American Way, to hand over the text of a speech Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivered in California behind closed doors to a group that appears on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of active anti-gay hate groups.

The speech was given by Sessions to the Alliance Defending Freedom on Tuesday. It was published Thursday afernoon by The Federalist, a right wing conservative website. Buzzfeed’s Dominic Holden was the first to report Sessions would be delivering the speech. On Thursday Holden published his report on the speech, and via Twitter posted the Freedom of Information (FOIA) request he filed with the DOJ that was ignored.

“A person familiar with the situation tells me the Justice Dept DID provide Sessions’s remarks to The Federalist,” Holden reports. It’s unclear why the DOJ chose a small right wing website rather than share the text with all who requested it, or why it did not just post the text on its site as a matter of course. 

Was Sessions or the DOJ concerned about its content? They have good reason to be.

RELATED: DOJ Refuses to Explain Why Jeff Sessions Is Speaking to an Anti-Gay Hate Group Tonight Behind Closed Doors

The DOJ’s refusal to release the text of his remarks has highlighted the group’s extremism, causing some on the right to lambast the hate group label. But the SPLC is clear in the criteria they use to define hate groups, and among them is the repeated spreading of false statements in an effort to marginalize groups of people. The SPLC has produced a 949 word profile of the attacks on LGBT people made by the ADF.

All that said, now we have the text of the Attorney General’s speech, and much of it is of great concern.

Sessions talks about “the Western heritage of faith and reason,” and says, “I propose that in America our understanding of religious freedom can only be understood within that heritage.”

“Heritage” is a dog whistle term, especially concerning when people like Sessions – who has a long history of racist allegations tailing him – use it.

So our freedom as citizens has always been inextricably linked with our religious freedom as a people,” Sessions says. But he does, surprisingly, add: “It has protected both the freedom to worship and the freedom not to believe as well.”

Sessions then laments, “the cultural climate has become less hospitable to people of faith and to religious belief. And in recent years, many Americans have felt that their freedom to practice their faith has been under attack. This feeling is understandable. Just last year, a Harvard Law professor publicly urged judges to ‘take aggressively liberal positions…The culture wars are over. They lost; we won…Taking a hard line is better than trying to accommodate the losers.'”

It’s clear in his speech that Sessions has taken sides, and is ill-prepared to see all Americans equally. His speech reveals an “us vs. them” approach, and as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, that is chilling.

And he doubles down, in a very partisan manner.

I believe that this recent election was significantly impacted by this concern and that this motivated many voters. President Trump made a promise that was heard. In substance, he said he respected people of faith and he promised to protect them in the free exercise of their faith. This promise was well received.”

And then, it comes.

In all of this litigation and debate, this Department of Justice will never allow this secular government of ours to demand that sincere religious beliefs be abandoned,” Sessions says. “We will not require American citizens to give intellectual assent to doctrines that are contrary to their religious beliefs. And they must be allowed to exercise those beliefs as the First Amendment guarantees.”

“We will defend freedom of conscience resolutely. That is inalienable. That is our heritage.”

Heritage, again.

What does Sessions intend to do when a religious belief contradicts the law?

Well, here’s the answer, a very partisan support of Donald Trump.

“Since he was elected, President Trump has been an unwavering defender of religious liberty. He has promised that under a Trump Administration, ‘the federal government will never, ever penalize any person for their protected religious beliefs.’ And he is fulfilling that promise. First, President Trump appointed an outstanding Supreme Court justice with a track record of applying the law as written, Neil Gorsuch. I have confidence that he will be faithful to the full meaning of the First Amendment and protect the rights of all Americans.”

And then, what progressives, liberals, LGBT people, women, minorities, and many others should see as a warning. The elevation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

The president has also directed me to issue guidance on how to apply federal religious liberty protections. The department is finalizing this guidance, and I will soon issue it.”

The guidance will also help agencies follow the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Congress enacted RFRA so that, if the federal government imposes a burden on somebody’s religious practice, it had better have a compelling reason. That is a demanding standard, and it’s the law of the land. We will follow it just as faithfully as we follow every other federal law. If we’re going to ensure that religious liberty is adequately protected and our country remains free, then we must ensure that RFRA is followed.

Under this administration, religious Americans will be treated neither as an afterthought nor as a problem to be managed. The federal government will actively find ways to accommodate people of all faiths. The protections enshrined in the Constitution and our laws protect all Americans, including when we work together, speak in the public square, and when we interact with our government. We don’t waive our constitutional rights when we participate fully in public life and civic society.

This administration, and the upcoming guidance, will be animated by that same American view that has led us for 241 years: that every American has a right to believe, worship, and exercise their faith in the public square. It has served this country well, and it has made us not only one of the tolerant countries in the world, it has also helped make us the freeist and most generous. Thank you.

Consider this fair warning. 

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BREAKING NEWS

Watch: Santos Responds to Report He Joked About Hitler, ‘The Jews’ and Black People

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U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) allegedly made a social media post appearing to praise Adolf Hitler while referring to “the Jews and Black” people, and frequently made pejorative “jokes” about being Jewish according to friends interviewed by Patch and screenshots of now-deleted social media posts.

In 2011, Santos “commented on a Facebook post with what appear to be intended-jokes about Hitler, a phrase that appears to salute Hitler and observations about ‘the Jews and black[s],’ exclusive screenshots obtained by Patch show.”

Patch, which published a screenshot of  what appear to be Santos’ comment, reports he had written this: “hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh hiiiiiiiiiiiitlerrrrrrrrrrr (hight hitler) lolololololololololololol sombody kill her!! the jews and black [sic] mostly lolllolol!!! Dum”

Sarah Fishkind, whose LinkedIn profile describes her as a political organizer, posted video Thursday afternoon of her conversation with Rep. Santos.

“Do you have any comments about your most-recently-leaked Facebook comments about killing all Jews and Black people?” she asked, according to her post.

“I’m sorry?” Santos, appearing to be stunned, replied.

READ MORE: ‘Big No-No’: Santos May or May Not Have a Campaign Treasurer Prompting Questions About Whose Signature That Is

“It’s on the news right. now,” she responded, “that you Facebook commented.”

Santos replied with a frustrated huff, then said: “That’s going to be hard to hold.” It’s unclear what he meant by that comment.

Santos ran and won his congressional seat claiming to be a gay Jewish Republican, only later to falsely claim he never said he was Jewish, but “Jew-ish.” He also lied about his grandparents fleeing the Holocaust.

Jewish groups have condemned his false claims of Jewish heritage, which include false claims that his grandparents were “Holocaust refugees.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

This is a breaking news and developing story. Details may change. 

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

‘Moral Turpitude’: Trump Coup Memo Author John Eastman Now Facing 11 Counts of Alleged Ethics Violations – and Disbarment

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John Eastman, the far-right attorney, disgraced former law professor, former clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and current chairman of the anti-LGBTQ National Organization For Marriage (NOM) is facing eleven counts of alleged ethics violations, and disbarment, by California state bar regulators. Among the allegations, “intentional acts of moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption.”

As The New York Times reported last fall, “after the November election, Mr. Eastman wrote the memo for which he is now best known, laying out steps that Vice President Mike Pence could take to keep Mr. Trump in power — measures Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans have likened to a blueprint for a coup.

So has the U.S. House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack, which late last month referred Eastman – in the same breath as Donald Trump – to the Dept. of Justice for possible prosecution on criminal charges, including obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

On Thursday, Bloomberg News reported California state bar regulators “say they will seek to strip” Eastman of his law license.

READ MORE: Ginni Thomas Looking Like ‘Full Fledged Potential Co-Conspirator’ After Discovery of Emails With Eastman: Legal Expert

“The Notice of Disciplinary Charges alleges that Mr. Eastman violated this duty in furtherance of an attempt to usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land — an egregious and unprecedented attack on our democracy — for which he must be held accountable,” the State Bar of California’s Chief Trial Counsel George Cardona said in a statement. “Eastman has not been charged with any crimes to date.”

“The 11 charges arise from allegations that Eastman engaged in a course of conduct to plan, promote, and assist then-President Trump in executing a strategy, unsupported by facts or law, to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election by obstructing the count of electoral votes of certain states,” the State Bar of California’s statement adds.

Law & Crime’s Adam Klasfeld further explains that Cardona “intends to seek Eastman’s disbarment for alleged violations of Business and Professions Code section 6106, which punishes making false and misleading statements that constitute acts of ‘moral turpitude, dishonesty, and corruption.'”

Last week The New York Times described Eastman as “a chief architect of Donald Trump’s effort to reverse his election loss,” but it is his fellow Republican attorneys who delivered the judgment on his skills.

“Many White House lawyers expressed contempt for Mr. Eastman, portraying him as an academic with little grasp of the real world,” The Times reported. “Greg Jacob, the legal counsel to former Vice President Mike Pence, characterized Mr. Eastman’s legal advice as ‘gravely, gravely irresponsible,’ calling him the ‘serpent in the ear’ of Mr. Trump. Eric Herschmann, a Trump White House lawyer, recounted ‘chewing out’ Mr. Eastman. Pat A. Cipollone, the chief White House counsel, is described calling Mr. Eastman’s ideas ‘nutty.'”

READ MORE: Bombshell NYT Report Reveals Bill Barr’s Special Counsel Opened ‘Secret’ Financial Crimes Probe Into Trump But Never Prosecuted

It wasn’t just Republican attorneys in the Trump White House.

During the January 6 insurrection, Eastman, certainly no silent architect, stood at the same podium Donald Trump would speak at, and delivered a fiery speech alongside Rudy Giuliani. Six days later his colleagues at Chapman University demanded his firing.

The disbarment may be the least of Eastman’s self-inflicted woes.

“He has been drawn into the criminal investigation into election interference in Atlanta, which is nearing a decision on potential indictments,” according to The Times, also adding that the “F.B.I. seized his iPhone.”

READ MORE: ‘Big No-No’: Santos May or May Not Have a Campaign Treasurer Prompting Questions About Whose Signature That Is

Watch the videos above or at this link.

This article was updated at 5:41 PM ET with details reported by Law & Crime, including references to “moral turpitude.”

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RIGHT WING EXTREMISM

Bombshell NYT Report Reveals Bill Barr’s Special Counsel Opened ‘Secret’ Financial Crimes Probe Into Trump But Never Prosecuted

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Special Counsel Robert Durham, appointed by then-Attorney General Bill Barr, uncovered possible financial crimes by Donald Trump but made no attempt to prosecute them, The New York Times reveals in massive, bombshell report published Thursday after a months-long investigation.

“Mr. Barr and Mr. Durham never disclosed that their inquiry expanded in the fall of 2019, based on a tip from Italian officials, to include a criminal investigation into suspicious financial dealings related to Mr. Trump. The specifics of the tip and how they handled the investigation remain unclear, but Mr. Durham brought no charges over it,” The Times’ Charlie Savage, Adam Goldman, and Katie Benner report.

The “potentially explosive tip linking Mr. Trump to certain suspected financial crimes” came during a trip Barr and Durham, his special counsel, took together. They “decided that the tip was too serious and credible to ignore.”

But, “Mr. Durham never filed charges, and it remains unclear what level of an investigation it was, what steps he took, what he learned and whether anyone at the White House ever found out. The extraordinary fact that Mr. Durham opened a criminal investigation that included scrutinizing Mr. Trump has remained secret.”

That’s just one aspect of The Times’ extensive and disturbing report.

It also reveals that there was little justification for Barr to install Durham as a special counsel to investigate what Trump wrongly maintained was an unjustifiable investigation into his ties to Russia.

In fact, The Times “found that the main thrust of the Durham inquiry was marked by some of the very same flaws — including a strained justification for opening it and its role in fueling partisan conspiracy theories that would never be charged in court — that Trump allies claim characterized the Russia investigation.”

READ MORE: ‘Failed Spectacularly’: Top Legal Experts Call for Ethics Probe Into Bill Barr’s Handpicked Special Counsel John Durham

In another shocking revelation, The Times reports Durham “used Russian intelligence memos — suspected by other U.S. officials of containing disinformation — to gain access to emails of an aide to George Soros, the financier and philanthropist who is a favorite target of the American right and Russian state media.”

The Times does not explain how Durham obtained the Russian disinformation.

“Mr. Durham used grand jury powers to keep pursuing the emails even after a judge twice rejected his request for access to them. The emails yielded no evidence that Mr. Durham has cited in any case he pursued.”

Attorneys on Durham’s team apparently had significant qualms with his actions, leading at least two to resign.

“There were deeper internal fractures on the Durham team than previously known,” The Times reports. “The publicly unexplained resignation in 2020 of his No. 2 and longtime aide, Nora R. Dannehy, was the culmination of a series of disputes between them over prosecutorial ethics. A year later, two more prosecutors strongly objected to plans to indict a lawyer with ties to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign based on evidence they warned was too flimsy, and one left the team in protest of Mr. Durham’s decision to proceed anyway. (A jury swiftly acquitted the lawyer.)”

BARR THREATENED NSA

The Times also reports that Attorney General Barr bought into Trump’s false claims that there had been “no collusion” between the Trump camp and Russia.

READ MORE: Republicans Claiming ‘Censorship’ Threaten to Haul AT&T and DirecTV Into Congress for Dropping Far-Right Newsmax

Importantly, The Times states point-blank that the Mueller Report “detailed ‘numerous links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign,’ and it established both how Moscow had worked to help Mr. Trump win and how his campaign had expected to benefit from the foreign interference.”

According to The Times’ account, “soon after giving Mr. Durham his assignment,” in May of 2019, “Mr. Barr summoned the head of the National Security Agency, Paul M. Nakasone, to his office. In front of several aides, Mr. Barr demanded that the N.S.A. cooperate with the Durham inquiry.”

The NSA is a wholly separate entity from the Dept. of Justice. It is an agency under the Dept. of Defense and reports to the powerful Director of National Intelligence (DNI).

Barr apparently did not care, and, “repeating a sexual vulgarity, he warned that if the N.S.A. wronged him by not doing all it could to help Mr. Durham, Mr. Barr would do the same to the agency.”

DURHAM TRIED TO SCUTTLE A REPORT’S FINDING THAT TRUMP-RUSSIA INVESTIGATION WAS WARRANTED

“Mr. Durham’s team spent long hours combing the C.I.A.’s files but found no way to support the allegation” that the investigation into Trump and Russia was the result of some anti-Trump deep state operation.

Barr and Durham actually “traveled abroad together to press British and Italian officials to reveal everything their agencies had gleaned about the Trump campaign and relayed to the United States, but both allied governments denied they had done any such thing. Top British intelligence officials expressed indignation to their U.S. counterparts about the accusation, three former U.S. officials said.”

The Dept. of Justice’s Inspector General’s investigation found there was, in fact, sufficient cause for the DOJ to have opened up the Trump-Russia investigation, contrary to Barr’s personal beliefs.

So he tried to have that finding removed from the final report.

READ MORE: ‘Big No-No’: Santos May or May Not Have a Campaign Treasurer Prompting Questions About Whose Signature That Is

The Times reports that “the broader findings contradicted Mr. Trump’s accusations and the rationale for Mr. Durham’s inquiry,” which should have shut down what ultimately became Durham’s four-year long investigation that netted almost nothing.

The DOJ Inspector General, Michael Horowitz, “found no evidence that F.B.I. actions were politically motivated. And he concluded that the investigation’s basis — an Australian diplomat’s tip that a Trump campaign adviser had seemed to disclose advance knowledge that Russia would release hacked Democratic emails — had been sufficient to lawfully open it.”

So Barr tried to discredit Horowitz’s report.

“Minutes before the inspector general’s report went online, Mr. Barr issued a statement contradicting Mr. Horowitz’s major finding, declaring that the F.B.I. opened the investigation “on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient.” He would later tell Fox News that the investigation began “without any basis,” as if the diplomat’s tip never happened.”

Read the entire Times report here.

 

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