Below is my column for BBC on the Assange espionage charges. As I have written, I believe that Attorney General Bill Barr is dead wrong on these charges — a view apparently shared by at least two of the prosecutors on the team. Until now, President Donald Trump’s disturbing rhetoric against the media has been disconnected from actual moves against the media with the exception of suspending press passes or changing rules for the White House press corp. This is a quantum leap in the wrong direction. Indeed, this prosecution could easily become the most important press case since John Peter Zenger.
Bill Barr has been (in my opinion) wrongly attacked for many of his actions with regard to the Special Counsel Report. Indeed, I defended his decisions in print and I testified in favor of his confirmation. I still believe that he is an excellent choice for Attorney General. However, on the charges against Julian Assange, he is wrong. Dead wrong. As I stated in a recent column, the use of the Espionage Act strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. Now, the Washington Post is reporting that two prosecutors involved in the Wikileaks case argued against the new charges.
We have previously discussed President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and his controversial statements. Juncker for many is the face of the detached and arrogant bureaucracy that dictates policies and practices in various nations. While the EU has long tried to assure people that it is not replacing their national identity or self-determination, Juncker has always been dismissive of such concerns, even with growing anti-EU movements. That dismissive attitude was evident this week when Juncker said on CNN “These populist, nationalists, stupid nationalists, they are in love with their own countries.”
The NYPD is still looking for all but one of these teens. This picture shows a group of teenagers who allegedly were harassing and abusing an elderly couple. A 38-year-old firefighter was driving by and stopped to tell the group to stop harassing the elderly couple. The teenagers proceeded to attack the unidentified firefighter, resulting in several broken teeth and a concussion. Yesterday, the police arrested Damir Johnson, 17, was charged with one count of second-degree assault. They are looking for the other five.
We have been discussing the various statues, memorials, and dedications being struck around the country. I have been critical of some of these moves as erasing history that should be part of a broader understanding of all citizens. Now leaders are lining up to strike the Massachusetts flag because of its depiction of a Native American. Cambridge declared the flag recently as “offensive” and demanded its replacement. There appears however some disagreement on what is offensive with some pointing to the depiction of a Native American while others say the problem is the arm holding a sword.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press conference today that left far more questions than she answered . . . except for some members of the press. While CNN asked the more obvious question of why Pelosi keeps saying that Trump is committing impeachable acts but barring impeachment, the other reporters quickly moved to softball questions and the short time ran out, as did Pelosi. However, Pelosi did reaffirm that Trump should not be impeached because he wants it too much. That is consistent with those other principled stances like (1) serial killers should not be arrested if police think that they really want to be caught; (2) suicide jumpers should not be stopped if they really want to be rescued; and (3) bulimia victims should be given more food if you think that they just want you to intervene. The original question is still the operative question: if Trump is committing crimes and a cover up, as Pelosi alleges, why does it matter what Trump wants as opposed to what the Constitution says.
A study in Nature shows a massive violation by China in the release of ozone-depleting gases like chlorofluorocarbons. China agreed to the Montreal Protocol to stop such CFC pollution. However it now appears that the Chinese regime is violating the Protocol. A concentration of increased CFC pollution was traced to the northeastern provinces of Shandong and Hebei.
Emma, a Shih Tzu mix, was a much loved pet . . . and that apparently proved her demise. Her owner passed about on March 8th in Virginia and Emma was brought to the Chesterfield Animal Shelter. The shelter was then surprised on March 22 when the executor of the estate informed it that the dog was to be handed over because the owner wanted her pet to be euthanized upon her death. The shelter pleaded that it could find many new families for Emma but the dog was taken away to be killed per the request of its owner.
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.
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.
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.
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.