Category: Constitutional Law

Barr Is Wrong On FISA Reforms

Attorney General Bill Barr appears on a collision course with President Donald Trump over reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. Civil libertarians like Sen Rand Paul (R., Tenn.) are pushing for reforms in light of the abuses uncovered from the Russian investigation. Despite my respect and friendship for Barr, he is wrong in my view and the President should push forward with the reforms. When President Trump declared “Now is our chance to fix it,” he is absolutely correct.

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“The Southern Border Is Not A Militarized Zone”: Federal Judge Bars Some Funds For Border Wall In Defiant Decision

In Seattle, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein has issued a defiant, and somewhat curious, decision that not only denies some funding for the Southern Wall but seems to defy the Supreme Court in its recent decision in the area. Rothstein barred President Donald Trump from diverting $89 million intended for a military construction project in Washington state to build the border wall. While the Supreme Court recently lifted an injunction on such lower court rulings, Rothstein insisted that that case involved different plaintiffs and issues. I fail to see the clear distinction and the Rothstein decision, in my view, works too hard to find such a distinction.

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Trump Campaign Sues The New York Times For Libel

We have previously discussed President Donald Trump’s repeated calls for changing libel laws and suing his critics, particularly the New York Times. Now his campaign has done just that with a defamation lawsuit against the New York Times for allegedly publishing false claims in an op-ed written by Max Frankel on March 27, 2019, entitled “The Real Trump-Russia Quid Pro Quo.” The selection of an opinion piece makes this case especially difficult. In addition to suing a newspaper for the alleged defamation of a public official, it is doing so for a piece that is identified as opinion and appears on the opinion page. In my view, the column is protected speech under the First Amendment.

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Second Circuit Rules In Favor Of Trump Administration On Sanctuary Cities

The Trump Administration won a major victory with decision by the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of its sanctions against “sanctuary cities” which refuse to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. The decision in New York v. Department of Justice reversed a lower court ruling blocking the policy of withholding certain grants. Despite my disagreement with friends like Judge Napolitano, I previously stated that I thought the Administration would prevail ultimately on this challenge though there are good-faith arguments against government. The decision could have two immediate impacts. First, it will add pressure to cities in their opposition to the immigration policies. Second, it could create the type of split in the circuits that make a Supreme Court review more likely as these challenges move beyond the trial level.

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Roger Stone Should Be Given A New Trial, Not A Pardon

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Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the calls for either a new trial or a presidential pardon for Roger Stone. I believe that he has a far greater claim to the former than the latter.

While I believe that the sentence of 40 months was longer than was warranted in this case, Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Stone where some of us had predicted on the guidelines range. It was less than half of what the prosecutors originally asked for. Yet, the decision to go forward with the sentencing seemed odd given the substantial claim of juror bias raised by the defense in a pending motion. The other pending motion for disqualification is quite weak, but the motion for a new trial in my view should be granted. Although the odds are against Jackson ordering a new trial, it is clear that the foreperson has no business being on this jury and that her past comments raised significant and legitimate questions over whether Stone was given an impartial jury.

Here is the column:

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Turley To Speak At University Of Virginia

On Monday, I will be speaking on the recent impeachment trial at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center for Public Policy. The event, “The Trump impeachment episode: Party wars and the Constitution,” will be a discussion with Claire Finkelstein, Algernon Biddle Professor of Law and Professor of Philosophy, of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. It will be moderated by Sidney M. Milkis, the White Burkett Miller Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia. The event will be held Monday, February 24, 2020 for 11:00 – 12:15 at The Miller Center, 2201 Old Ivy Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22903.

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“I Have Been Traduced”: Trump’s Moves Against Impeachment Witnesses Are Neither Unlawful Nor Unprecedented

Below is my column in the Washington Post on the continuing controversy over the actions taken against impeachment witnesses by President Donald Trump. I recently explained that these actions are not, as claiming on CNN, clear criminal acts of witness retaliation. While I was critical of the moves, this column addresses why they are neither unlawful nor unprecedented.

Here is the column:

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Ginsburg Declares ERA Dead And Calls For New Campaign

I have long criticized Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for making comments on political issues to liberal and academic groups.  While not unique on the Court in what I have called the era of “celebrity justices”, Ginsburg is something of recidivist in abandoning the long-standing avoidance of political discussions by justices as well as issues that are likely to come before the Court.  Despite repeated controversies in speaking publicly on political issues, Ginsburg is clearly undeterred.  This week, Ginsburg tripped both wires in discussing a matter in litigation and heading toward the Court while encouraging what would be a political campaign for a new constitutional amendment. As we have discussed, there is currently litigation over whether the Equal Rights Amendment was ratified by the recent vote in Virginia. Ginsburg did not wait for the appeal and announced that the ERA is dead. She then called for a new ERA movement. Both statements were inappropriate, but the statement on the status of the amendment was wildly at odds with standards of judicial restraint and ethics.

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“A Significant Escalation”: Justice Department Sues Sanctuary Cities

In what Attorney General Bill Barr has called a “significant escalation,” the Justice Department is filing actions against sanctuary cities over what is alleged as interference with federal enforcement of immigration laws and removals. As discussed yesterday, both parties seems to be going “all in” on immigration from sharply opposing positions.

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A Verdict On Our Times: How The Senate Trial Left Us With Rage Over Reason

Below is my column with the BBC on the impeachment verdict and its aftermath. A new Hill/HarrisX poll shows President Donald Trump at a record high of popularity — finding the same 49 percent level of the earlier Gallup poll. In other words, people heard what they wanted to hear in the trial — and most heard nothing at all by tuning it all out. Indeed, as discussed below, it ultimately did not seem to matter what anyone actually said as opposed to what people wanted to hear.

Here is the column:

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“My Open Grave”: Mitt Romney And Why Washington Admires Bipartisanship . . . At A Distance

Below is my column in the Washington Post on the vote of Mitt Romney and how his independence is a virtue celebrated selectively by the political establishment and the media. One thing that should unite everyone is the inexcusable attack on Romney’s reference to his faith by President Trump. Romney grew emotional on the Senate floor when he dismissed the “unimaginable” attacks as paling in comparison to what he would lose by violating an oath to God.  Trump responded at the National Prayer Breakfast by declaring.” “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong.” The one thing that I never thought would be questioned is the faith of Mitt Romney, who not only is widely known as a deeply religious Mormon but has been discussed as a possible head of the Mormon Church.  I have never been a fan of Romney’s policies, particularly his environmental policies (which are in line with Trump).  However, I have never heard anyone suggest that Mitt Romney’s faith is anything but genuine and heartfelt. I have no problem with Trump attacking the merits of his decision but the attack on his motivation is well beyond the pale.

Here is the column:

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Trump Wins Major Emoluments Decision

I have previously written about my fundamental disagreement with the aspects of the emoluments challenges filed by various academics. We discussed the prior denial of the challenge by the Fourth Circuit. Now, the D.C. Circuit has issued a unanimous rejection of the challenge. It is a major victory for the Trump Administration and again raises the questions over the coverage of these claims, which largely omitted discussion of the considerable barriers facing these filings. It is a rejection of the challenge brought by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) and 215 other members of Congress.

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The “Liberated” Pelosi Should Now Step Down As Speaker

Below is my column in the Hill newspaper on the controversial conduct of Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the State of the Union this week. Pelosi broke with tradition on three points: changing the greeting for the President, making demonstrations of criticism from the Speaker’s chair, and ripping up the address in protest. I previously called upon Pelosi to apologize and commit to maintaining decades of tradition for the Speaker to be neutral in the State of the Union to represent the House as a whole — Republicans and Democrats. Pelosi yesterday however doubled down and declared her protests to be perfectly appropriate and liberating. Her declaration of being “liberated” is itself both confirmatory and chilling. She liberated herself from traditions of neutrality that extends back centuries to the English Parliament.

Now liberating from rules and tradition, Pelosi is free to convert the Speakership into a more partisan role at the SOTU, including the use of the position to mock, troll, or taunt a president addressing both houses. I have joined others in criticizing Trump’s failure to shake the hand of Pelosi and his highly inappropriate comments yesterday questioning Pelosi’s and Romney’s faith. However, that does not give Pelosi license to violate this important and unbroken tradition as Speaker at the State of the Union. Indeed, the silence of Democratic members in the face of Pelosi shattering decades of tradition is equally shocking. In remaining silent, Democrats of both houses have lost any moral high ground.

Here is the column:

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The Trump Verdict: Why Bad Cases Can Make Bad Law

With the exception of one vote on one article of impeachment (by Sen. Mitt Romney), the acquittal of President Donald Trump went as predicted with a party-line vote. Notably, however, the vast majority of senators, including a significant number of Republican senators, expressly rejected the core defense offered by Professor Alan Dershowitz in their statements –rejecting the position that impeachable offenses must be based on criminal allegations and does not include allegations of abuse of power. What we did not see, as discussed in this column in The Washington Post, was a bipartisan rejection of Article II.

Here is the column:

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