We have been discussing the controversy of the use of unmarked cars by federal officers to arrest people in Portland. As I have written, the use of unmarked cars and (even those these officers worn police markings) plain clothes is a common practice and not unconstitutional. Now an arrest by the NYPD using an unmarked carhas led to similar objections. MSNBC host Chris Hayes even declared that the view below constitutes a “kidnapping.” It isn’t. It is not even illegal or improper to use an unmarked vehicle. The basis for the arrest can be challenged but the rhetoric of the coverage is outstripping the reality of the law. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has declared the video to be evidence of an authoritarian takeover.
The State University of New York-Binghamton is the defendant in a new lawsuit over its failure to protect College Republicans and a leading conservative economist in public events last year. The Binghamton University College Republicans and the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) is suing Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger, Vice President for Student Affairs Brian Rose; Chief of Binghamton University Police Department John Pelletier, the College Progressives, and Progressive Leaders of Tomorrow (PLOT) for the denial of First and Fourteenth Amendment violations.
Below is my column in The Hill on the recent disclosure of a document showing that the FBI used an agent to gather information for Crossfire Hurricane during campaign briefings of Trump during 2016. The document directly contradicted the long-standing denial that the investigation to Russian collusion was ever used to gather intelligence on Trump or his campaign. At the same time, the credibility of the Steele Dossier was further undermined this weekend with the release of new information that Steele misrepresented the sources and information used as the basis for this report, which was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. The source for the most alarming allegations was revealed as Igor Danchenko, 42, as confirmed to The New York Times, He was not the “Russian-based” source claimed by Steele and the FBI learned that Steele took third-hard rumors and presented them as hard intelligence in the report used to help justify the Russian collusion investigation. This source was used in the last two renewal applications to the FISA court as a “truthful and cooperative” and “Russian-based,” according to the Justice Department Inspector General report found. So it turns out that the primary “source” of Steele’s dossier was “not a well-connected current or former Russian official, but a non-Russian-based contract employee of Steele’s firm.”
None of this has made any difference to the coverage. On ABC Sunday, George Stephanopoulos had Chris Christie as a guest but his involvement in the very meeting discussed in the document did not merit a single question from the host. In the meantime, Democratic leaders, who once mocked the idea of any investigation of Trump or targeting of the campaign, now say that it really doesn’t matter. Rep. Eric Swalwell says that it was actually “the right thing to do.”
As I discussed in a column this weekend, Democratic members have spent years mocking allegations that there was any spying or surveillance of Trump or his campaign by the FBI. That was just a conspiracy theory. Now however there is proof that the FBI used a briefing in August 2016 of then candidate Trump to gather information for “Crossfire Hurricane,” the Russia investigation. It turns out that it did not really matter after all and Rep. Eric Swalwell did not miss a step. He simply declared that such targeting of the opposing party and its leading presidential candidate was the right thing to do. That’s it. A conspiracy theory suddenly becomes a commendable act. Continue reading ““They Were Right To Do It”: Swalwell Praises FBI For Using Campaign Briefing To Investigate Trump [Updated]”
Like many, I have criticized Speaker Nancy Pelosi for calling federal officers in places like Portland “stormtroopers.” It is highly offensive on a myriad of different levels and serves to fuel attacks on federal officers who have suffered significant levels of injuries in the rioting. However, the recent statement from Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, on the possibility of libel lawsuits is unsustainable under current tort law.
The Washington Post settled a lawsuit filed by the family of a teenager Nicholas Sandmann who was falsely labeled a racist who aggressively attacked an elderly Native American activist during a visit to the Lincoln Memorial with his high school class. The false account of the incident was widely circulated in the media. He was attacked on networks like MSNBC and CNN as well as in newspapers like the Post. He sued the Washington Post for $250 million but the settlement terms were not disclosed.
U.S. District Judge James Robart issued an order Friday night that blocked a Seattle law prohibiting police from using pepper spray and other anti-riot weapons. While described by the court as “very temporary,” it is also very dubious from a constitutional standpoint. I do not see the authority of a federal judge to stop the City of Seattle from determining what gear and devices may be used by its own officers, particularly in response to the federal government objecting to the state policy. The court in my view does not have the authority to make such a policy decision, even on a “very temporary” basis. Update: A different federal judge issued a more credible ruling in rejecting the demand of the Oregon Attorney General to put limits on the federal officers. The Oregon Attorney General’s filing was long on rhetoric and short on the law.
We recently discussed the false tweet sent out by CNN’s White House reporter Jim Acosta that mocked White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany for saying that “the science should not stand in the way of this.” That quote was artificially clipped to leave the diametrically opposite impression from what actually said. The clip suggests that McEnany was dismissing science when she was actually highlighting scientific work supporting the position of the White House. While Acosta later sent out another tweet noting the real meaning and his colleague Jake Tapper corrected the false narrative on the air, Chuck Todd on Meet the Press decided to play the misleading clip not once but twice on Sunday. It was not just running an overtly misleading clip but defiantly doing so after other journalists have challenged the erroneous impression left by the clip. The misleading quality of the clip clearly was not the problem but the appeal for Meet the Press.
The Washington Post recently made an interesting find when it sought the person responsible for recent extreme right actions like the appearance of heavily armed citizens at Gettysburg on Independence Day. Two members of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., and Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., demanded that government investigate and identify who was behind the Gettysburg hoax and similar false claims in nine other cities this summer. While there has been evidence of extreme right groups fueling violence in the recent protest, the Post found instead Adam Rahuba, a part-time food-delivery driver and supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Rahuba said he supports the ant-fascist movement Antifa, a loosely organized group that I have criticized in the past for its anti-free speech agenda. Rahuba, 38, was trying to make chumps out of the far right but some have suggested possible criminal liability for the hoaxes.
I have recently been highly critical of reports that Rep. Iihan Omar (D., Minn.) has given up to one million dollars in campaign funds to her own husband’s company, one of the long-standing loopholes for corruption in Washington. Omar has been highly controversial for her positions and statements but this should be a matter that unifies people across the political spectrum. However, the attention of her colleagues has not been on closing this loophole but instead on lashing out at her recent call for the “dismantling the whole system of oppression” in the United States from its economic to political structures. A resolution, introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs (R., Ariz) would denounce Omar for having “a documented history of expressing anti-American sentiments.” The resolution is a mistake that undermines both free speech and democratic values. It should be withdrawn. Continue reading ““Anti-American”? House Members Move To Condemn Rep. Omar In Resolution”
MSNBC’s Joy Reid has two notable developments this week. She was named as the new nightly anchor to replace Chris Matthews and was lost a major appeal in a defamation lawsuit tied to her prior position. Reid has a history of controversial statement including her insistence that her posts on her blog with homophobic comments were fabricated by hackers. She later apologized for the postings that she claimed that she made. She acknowledged “I can definitely understand, based on things I have tweeted and have written in the past, why some people don’t believe me.” She was sued in one of the most notorious postings on social media by Roslyn La Liberte, a Trump supporter, who was trashed by Reid for comments that she never made and an account that proved to be untrue. Reid relied on California’s Anti-Slapp statute and immunity arguments to try to force La Liberte out of court, even though she again later apologized. Now the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has handed down a major ruling against Reid that could undermine future defenses by media figures. Continue reading “Joy Reid Loses To La Liberte: MSNBC Host Creates New Precedent Binding Media”
We have been discussing the shocking abandonment of journalistic principles by the New York Times in its recent apology for publishing a column by a United States Senator and forcing out an editor who had the audacity to publish an opposing view of the current protests. The newspaper effectively declared echo-journalism to be its new mission. Now another opinion writer and editor, Bari Weiss, has resigned after what she called an “illiberal environment” where she has been harassed and abused by other reporters without any intervention from the management. In a scathing resignation letter, Weiss called the Times a “Digital Thunderdome.”