Trump Administration Ignored Internal Legal Opinion In Withholding Tax Records

I recently testified in the House Judiciary Committee that the Congress must challenge the refusal of the Trump Administration to turn over certain records and to bar certain witnesses from oversight investigations. While I also disagreed with some of Congress’s actions, the Trump Administration has cannot withhold material from oversight authority on the basis of undeclared privileges or ill-defined objections. This is the case in the refusal to turn over tax records demanded by Congress. As I stated earlier, the House has made only generalized claims of a legislative purpose for such records. Nevertheless, the law clearly favors Congress in seeking such material. Notably, the Trump Administration has not claimed executive privilege but only that the Committee lacks a legislative purpose. That is not enough. Now, it appears that the Administration was warned by its own confidential Internal Revenue Service legal memorandum that it would be violating the law by withholding the records without an executive privilege claim. It ignored the legal memorandum and refused the congressional demand.

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Florida To Impose Sweeping Anti-Semitism Ban On Florida Schools

Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is reportedly planning to travel to Israel and use the trip to sign a bill that imposes a sweeping anti-Semiticism law that raises serious free speech implications. Florida and other states are enacting a bill being duplicated through the country that would ban statements that “making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective.” I have previously raised my concerns over the curtailment of free speech from such laws as well as bans on support for boycotts of Israel. While courts have struck down the boycott laws, supporters are still trying to curtail speech under ill-defined hate speech models. Recently, the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations called for an international ban on anti-Semitic speech.

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France Investigates Journalists For Exposing Alleged Lies About War In Yemen

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Now France is adding an attack on the free press that parallels its growing intolerance for free speech. A reporter from Radio France and the co-founders of Paris-based investigative news organization Disclose are under criminal investigation for their reporting on France’s role in the war in Yemen with the use of leaked secret documents. In the United States, such journalism could get you the Pulitzer. In France, it could get you prison.

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Federal Judge Rules Against Trump On Subpoena For Financial Records

U.S. District Court Judge Amit P. Mehta has issued a 41-page opinion in favor of the House Oversight Committee in its subpoena of the accounting firm Mazars USA to obtain financial documents related to President Donald Trump. It is a significant victory for the Congress in its fights with the White House given the ambiguously stated legislative purpose behind the demand. However, as I testified last week before the House Judiciary Committee, Congress is likely to win such fights over legislative purpose and courts are unlikely to entertain challenges based on alleged improper or political motives by Congress. It is important however to note that this was a subpoena of a private party to gain private records of Trump as an individual. Far more difficult questions are raised by a subpoena for someone like Don McGahn who did not appear today at the House Judiciary Committee.

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Poll: Almost Half Of College Students Do Not Believe First Amendment Protects Hate Speech

We have previously discussed how speech codes and regulations are changing the way students are viewing free speech. There is now a steady message for students from elementary school to college that speech must be regulated and that even people can be punished for not just hate speech but the ill-defined category of “microaggressive” speech. Past polls showed that one-third of students believed that violence is justified in dealing with some exercises of speech. Now a survey of college students found almost half do not believe that hate speech is protected by the First Amendment — a chilling indication of the collapsing support for traditional free speech values on our campuses.

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ICYMI: New York Moves to Criminalize Texting While Walking

The New York State Senate is moving to make texting while walking a crime. It could produce a rather ironic result in New York City which just moved to reduce criminal penalties for public urination and turnstile jumping. Thus, you could soon be in a better legal position in New York City urinating on your cellphone in public than texting on it.

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A-Lean Cuisines: Source of Alien Signals Confirmed At Australian Radio Telescope After 17 Years

For 17 years, astronomers at a massive radio telescope in Australia at the Parkes Observatory have been searching for the source of an alien signal of “perytons.” With a new retrofit, they finally were able to isolate the source: their microwave in the kitchen.

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Trump Attacks GOP Rep As “Loser” For Supporting Impeachment

Rep. Justin Amash (R., Mich.) became the first Republican to call for the impeachment of President Donald Trump this weekend. There are ample grounds to questioning the existence of impeachable offenses. Yet, Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) called Amash’s stand courageous. I agree that breaking from one’s party on an issue of conscience is worthy of respect even if one does not see the merits in the same fashion. However, President Trump stuck with his signature personal insults in calling Amash a “loser” who was motivated by a desire for attention. Once again, I fail to see why Trump engages in such unpresidential, low-grade attacks. It is not only demeaning to his office but ultimately self-defeating to his claims of innocence.

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Navy Completes Investigation of “Sky Penis” Artists

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

With the litany of political investigations abound in Washington, DC, another of lesser consequence–and admittedly equal in relevance–involved errant U.S. Navy Aviators who drew a ginormous sky-borne phallus using contrails.

Surely, most everyone in Okanogan County probably found a good laugh, but someone just had to complain to a Spokane news medium and the controversy unfolded.

I am greatly relieved that our national security was assured as a result of this investigation.  Yet, unfortunately, the additional laughs garnered probably did not live up to the budget spent on their revelation.

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A Few Photos Along a Green Dot Road

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

I was out of town on business and decided to go for a quick drive in the countryside. One of the many benefits to be had with an off-road capable vehicle is the ability to find in nature that which others are unwilling to go out of the way to seize.

In our state, many wilderness roads are closed to vehicular travel. Those having a green dot aspect on delineators signify an open road.  It is not to say that these roads are easy to navigate but they do add some interesting challenge at times to hone one’s driving ability.

Here are a few photos taken along the way. Click each to enlarge

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Report: Democrats Hold Closed Door Caucus Rejecting Impeachment Move . . . Without A Single Dissenting Voice

Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have been hitting the airways to declare that the evidence of impeachable acts by President Donald Trump is not only clearly established by the Special Counsel Report but additional impeachable acts are unfolding every day. However, on Wednesday, a closed door caucus was held with a very different and apparently uncontested view: no impeachment. I have previously written about the disconnect of what Democrats are telling their voters and what they are actually saying to each other. Since before the midterm election (when impeachment was a big sell for giving the Democrats the majority), I do not believe that the House leadership ever intended to allow an impeachment to move forward against Trump because it is not in their political interests.

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Nevada Woman Charged With Killing Elderly Man After He Asked Her “To Be Nice” To Bus Passengers

Cadesha Michelle Bishop may seriously want to explore a plea deal. According to the Associated Press, the 25-year-old woman has been charged with murder after an elderly man who she shoved off a Las Vegas bus after he told her to stop abusing other bus riders and to be civil. A videotape shows Bishop matter-of-factly pushing 74-year-old Serge Fournier out a door and head first into the pavement.

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Brazil Prosecutes Comedian In Latest Attack On Free Speech

We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in Europe (here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). We have seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here). Now Brazil is joining the anti-free speech movement with a ridiculous prosecution of a comedian named Danilo Gentili. Gentili is known for his caustic and sometimes offensive jokes. One joke about a congresswoman however proved too much for the government and he is now facing criminal charges for making a joke.

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