Democratic members this week attacked Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough after she (correctly) ruled that the inclusion of the $15 minimum wage hike in a reconciliation bill violated Senate rules. The response from Democratic members and many in the blogosphere was withering. Rep. Ilhan Omar called for MacDonough to be fired and others denounced her actions and called the Senate to simply overrule her — and the long-standing rules. It is not just the effort to gut or flip the “Byrd Rule” but vicious attacks on this parliamentarian that are so disconcerting.
Below is my column in the Hill on yesterday’s hearing on possible private and public limitations on free speech and the free press, including a letter from Democratic members asking companies why they do not remove Fox News and networks from cable. I recently responded to comments made by Rep. Anna Eshoo in the hearing. However, the letter highlighted the continuing pressure from members on both Big Tech and cable suppliers to silence opposing viewpoints. What was most disappointing was that no Democratic members used the hearing to offer a simple and unifying statement: we oppose efforts to remove Fox News and these other networks from cable programming. Not a single Democratic member made that statement, which (in my view) should be easy for anyone who believes in free speech and the free press. Even though every witness (including one who lost her father to Covid-19) made that statement, no Democratic member was willing to state publicly that they would oppose efforts to remove Fox News from cable access. That silence was also chilling to the point of glacial.
Here is the column:
I testified yesterday on possible private and public limitations on free speech and the free press, including a letter from Democratic members pressing companies to remove Fox News and networks from cable. Democratic members sent the letter to AT&T, Verizon, Roku, Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Charter, DISH, Cox, Altice, Hulu and Google’s parent company, Alphabet. During the hearing, House Democrat Anna Eshoo (D., Cal.) insisted that she was only “asking questions” and then reframed the objections to the letter as whether the letter itself was a violation of the First Amendment. It seemed like the line from “It all meant something. Until it didn’t.”
Given the limited opportunity to respond to Rep. Eshoo in the hearing, I wanted to respond. Continue reading ““It All Meant Something. Until It Didn’t”: A Response To Rep. Anna Eshoo”
Below is my column in the Cincinnati Enquirer in response to a column criticizing Sen. Rob Portman for his vote to acquit former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial. Portman (who recently announced that he will not run for reelection) is one of the most thoughtful and decent figures in Congress. James Freeman Clarke once said “A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman of the next generation. A politician looks for the success of his party; a statesman for that of his country.” I have spoken with Sen. Portman on constitutional and legal issues for years and he always epitomized what Clarke meant about a true statesman. His decision not to seek reelection was a blow for the Senate as someone who was eager to work with the other party on finding solutions to our growing national problems. That is why I felt I had to respond to a recent column by Opinion Editor Kevin Aldridge. I have no doubt about Aldridge’s good-faith disagreement with the verdict. However, we need to reach a place where we can disagree on such issues without questioning each other’s integrity or honesty. To that end, I want to thank the Cincinnati Enquirer (and Mr. Aldridge) for having the integrity of running my column. This is the essence of dialogue and we may find that what divides us is not nearly as great as what unites us as citizens.
My home city of Chicago continues to reel from soaring crime rates. Among the categories of increasing crime is a 135% spike in carjackings. One would think that the legislators would be focused on better policing and other programs. Rep. Marcus Evans Jr. (D, Chicago) however wants to ban video games like “Grand Theft Auto” which depict “motor vehicle theft with a driver or passenger present.” While it would not likely make a dent in carjackings, it would curtail free speech and individual choice. Continue reading “Chicago Faces 135% Increase In Carjackings . . . So Legislator Seeks To Ban “Grand Theft Auto””
There have been a variety of reported conflicts in school districts over curriculum changes and materials addressing racism, including the recent controversy in New York where white families were asked to chose between such “white identities” as “white supremacist” and “white traitor.” Such controversies make for poor lawsuits since they reflect policy, curricula, or programmatic choices of a given district. It becomes a legal matter when a district punishes parents for objecting to such material. That is part of the allegations raised in a recently filed lawsuit by the conservative group Judicial Watch. It is representing fired high school football coach Dave Flynn who alleges that he was terminated by the Dedham High School after raising objections as a parent over the course material in his daughter’s World Geography and Ancient History class. While I have not seen the school’s answer, the lawsuit highlights troubling allegations over how the district handled the matter and allegedly retaliated against Flynn. Continue reading “Fired High School Coach Sues Massachusetts School In Free Speech Lawsuit”
Below is my column in the Hill on second Trump trial and how core values quickly became the extraneous to the purpose of this constitutional process. The final chaos triggered by Rep. Jaime Raskin (D., Md) only highlighted the procedural and legal irregularities in a trial that seem increasingly detached from values like due process.
Here is the column:
There was a palpable sense of relief in Washington as the Trump trial came to a chaotic but final end. The verdict is in so now the vilification can begin. Both Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi immediately weaponized the verdict and demonized those who voted to acquit. While the Democrats insisted that all senators should “vote their conscience” that only meant if their conscience supported their side. Pelosi denounced opposing senators as cowards while Schumer lashed out at them for holding an opposing view of the evidence or the process. While groups are targeting members on both sides of the trial, our leaders should be calling for unity and civility after the trial. Instead, they are fueling the politics of division.
Below is my column in USA Today on the lack of a strategy by the House to secure conviction in the trial of former President Donald Trump. As I have previously noted, the House managers did an excellent job in their presentations and many of the videotapes rekindled the anger that most of us felt over the riot. They also reinforced the view of many (including myself) that former president Donald Trump bears responsibility in the tragedy that unfolded due to his reckless rhetoric. Yet, there was a glaring omission in the substance of the House arguments. The managers did not lay out what the standard should be in convicting a former president for incitement of an insurrection and only briefly touched on proving any “state of mind” needed for such a conviction. That is why I have referred to their case as more emotive than probative. It lacked direct evidence to support the claim that Trump wanted to incite an actual insurrection or rebellion against the United States, as alleged in the article of impeachment. I do not believe that an acquittal was inevitable in this case, but it was all but assured by critical decisions made by the House in this impeachment. The unforced errors discussed below raise the question of whether the Democrats “tanked” the trial.
Here is the column:
At the end of its first day of argument, the Senate trial was thrown into chaos when a “juror” stood up like a scene out of Perry Mason to contest the veracity statements made by “prosecutors.” That moment came as the Senate was preparing to end for the day and Senator Mike Lee (R., Utah) jumped to his feet to object that a quote by House manager Rep. David Cicilline (D., R.I.) was false. Lee should know. They were purportedly his words. After a frenzy on the floor and a delay of proceedings, lead House manager Rep. Jamie Raskin (D., Md) announced that it would withdraw Cicilline’s statements and that “this is much ado about nothing, because it’s not critical in anyway to our case.” In reality, it had much to do about the manager’s case and highlights a glaring problem in its case. The House has elected to try this case of incitement of insurrection largely on circumstantial evidence and using media reports rather than witness testimony. It is trial by innuendo and implication rather than direct evidence of what Trump knew and intended on January 6th. Continue reading ““Much To Do About Nothing”: The Withdrawal Of The Lee Claim Has “Much To Do” With A Glaring Flaw In The House Case”
When the House moved to impeach President Donald Trump for a second time, I wrote a column on the similarities to the William Belknap impeachment in 1876. The vote of the Senate to continue the trial despite a constitutional challenge over the use of a retroactive trial bore striking resemblance to that earlier decision. That should be good news for Trump. The Senate declared the trial constitutional and effectively over by its 56-44 vote. Continue reading “The Belknap Margin: The Senate Decision Shows Not Much Has Changed Since 1876”
Recently, Laurence Tribe bizarrely claimed that “not long ago” I argued in favor of retroactive trials in reference to my Duke Law Journal article from 21 years ago. Now, the House managers have claimed that I supported retroactive trials up to a few weeks ago. Rep. Joe Neguse cited my Duke piece at length to support the basis for retroactive trials after saying that I supported such trials until the last few weeks. I felt Neguse did an excellent job in his argument but any suggestion of a recent change would be untrue. His reliance, however, on the Duke article was not misplaced. I did and continue to recognize the value of such trials — and certainly the historical use of such trials. It is the jurisdictional question that has changed for me. It is true that I did not have reason to write publicly on the Trump retroactive trial until a few weeks ago (like many scholars), but my underlying views changed years before. However, if my views of 21 years ago are going to be cited as recent or “not long ago,” I would at least appreciate the use of my thinner photos from the 1990s. To give you an idea of how “recent” this was, here is my picture when I wrote those words. I will now insist on it being used as a recent image.
We recently discussed how House managers are claiming the right to use Trump’s failure to testify at his trial as proof of guilt (despite the fact that presidents historically have not given such testimony at Senate trials). Now CNN has released (on the day before the start of arguments) an account from an unnamed former “senior aide” that Trump was watching the riot in the Capitol unfold and “loving watching the Capitol mob.” The same pattern emerged in the first Trump trial. It is being described as the “smoking gun” evidence needed to secure conviction. The story highlights the decision of the House not to call witnesses before or after its snap impeachment. The question is why the House would use implication, innuendo, and inference when it could have used direct evidence to seek the conviction of Donald Trump.
“The First Amendment does not apply in impeachment proceedings.” If there is a single line that sums up the sense of legal impunity in the second Trump impeachment, it is that line from a letter sent by law professors to deny any basis for the former president to challenge his impeachment on free speech grounds. The scholars call any such arguments “legally frivolous” but only after misstating the argument and frankly employing a degree of circular logic. While I agree with aspects of the letter, I believe that the thrust of the letter misses the point of those of us who have raised free speech concerns. Continue reading ““The First Amendment Does Not Apply”: A Response To The Letter Of Scholars In Rejecting Trump Arguments Under The First Amendment”
Below is my column in The Hill on the news that Donald Trump will not be charged with campaign finance violations linked to payments made to Stormy Daniels. The report (and the start of the Senate trial) raise another question as to why Trump has not been interviewed, let alone charged, with the crime of incitement. Various members and legal experts have claimed that the case for prosecution is clear on its face. The crime occurred in public over a month ago, but there is no indication of a move to prosecute. Why? It is presumably not because prosecutors feel it would be too easy.
Here is the column: