Gorsuch Hearing To Start Monday; Turley To Testify On Thursday

Neil_Gorsuch_February_2017

The Senate Judiciary Committee has released the schedule and witness list for confirmation hearing of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch for the United States Supreme Court.  I have been called as a witness for the majority and will likely testify on Wednesday or Thursday.  The hearings will begin on Monday.  Questions for Judge Gorsuch will begin on Tuesday and likely continue into Wednesday.

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Shaken Not Scripted: Spicer Repeats Allegation That British Intelligence Spied On Trump For Obama . . . Administration Reportedly Apologizes [UPDATED]

sean_spicerDie_another_Day_-_UK_cinema_posterYesterday’s press conference by White House Spokesman Sean Spicer seemed uncomfortably close to a Saturday Night Live parody as Spicer spared with CNN and other news outlets over President Trump’s wiretapping allegations.  I actually was sympathetic with Spicer on one point:  the media continues to take a literal meaning of Trump’s reference to “wiretap.”  Some after the first tweet, I stated on CNN that I did not believe that Trump was speaking literally and that he likely meant “surveillance.”  I have written and litigated in the field of surveillance over the course of decades and the use of “wiretap” to mean surveillance is a common, if inartful, practice  — particularly among older Americans.  That does not mean that Trump’s allegation of surveillance is true or supportable.  That should be the focus, not this recurring rhetorical point.  However, there has been a truly shocking lack of discipline among high-ranking Trump staffers in their public comments, including comments that have undermined the immigration orders.  A good example of that ongoing problem is the suggestion that British intelligence surveilled Trump for Obama. This allegation had no place in a White House briefing and led to a reported embarrassing apology from the Administration to the British and a promise not to repeat it. It appears that there was no James Bond contract to surveil and the Administration is again shaken not stirred scripted. [UPDATE: CNN is reporting late Friday that Sean Spicer has denied that any apology has been made to Britain.  For its part, Fox News reportedly is saying that it has no support for the allegation raised by Judge Napolitano]

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Five Ninth Circuit Judges Issue Rare Dissent Rebuking The Panel In Immigration Ruling

Federal Judge In Hawaii Enjoins Second Executive Order

donald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedDerrick_Kahala_WatsonLast night, U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson issued a
temporary restraining order
that prevents the second immigration order of President Donald Trump from going into effect on Thursday.  The 43-page opinion is scathing and relies not only on the statements of President Trump but the recent statements of his chief aide Stephen Miller.  While I respectfully disagree with Judge Watson and view his decision as contrary to the weight of existing case law, the opinion again shows the perils of presidents and their aides speaking publicly about litigation.  Political facing saving comments can be case legal damaging comments.  Yet, I still believe that Judge Watson relied too much on campaign statements and television interviews to overcome the facial neutrality of the language of the executive order.

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Bad Return: MSNBC Publication Triggers A Wave Of Responses From Mockery To Criminal Allegations

imgresThe build up last night on MSNBC had my phone ringing off the hook.  Rachel Maddow proclaimed “we’ve got the Trump returns.”  It turned out to be just the 2005 filing. Well, not the 2005 filing, the first two pages.  Worse yet, it turned out to be an entirely predictable tax return for a wealthy businessman with tons of deductibles.  It seemed like the tax version of Al Capone’s safe with Geraldo Rivera.  What was particularly odd is that MSNBC was “all in” — even after seeing that there was little there.  Maddow led with a long list of things we want to know from Trump’s tax return.  But none of those things were in the return.  They lined  up experts who seemed a lot like the “weather center” reporters the night before covering the major snow storm in D.C.   Reporters literally showed a dusting on cars in parking lots and spoke breathlessly about the possible storm that never came.  The tax experts were left in the same curious position — discussing what might have been shown.  As a legal commentator, I bowed out.  It was like being called as a seismologists to discuss an earthquake that never happened.  It is certainly true that Trump and Melania paid is a rate of less than 4 percent on their personal income — $5.3 million. However, they paid an additional $31 million under the alternative minimum tax, or AMT.  They used every loophole and tactic to reduce payments but those loopholes were legal and used by many in his tax bracket.

Having said that, the White House and others went too far in raising allegations of criminal conduct by Maddow and MSNBC in reporting on the story. There was also a return to the mantra of the “dishonest media.”  There was nothing dishonest in publishing the return. It was clearly overplayed but it was not dishonest to cover the leak.

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Study: 90 Percent of Coral Reefs Will Be Gone By 2050

We have been discussing the mounting evidence of catastrophic impacts from climate change.  A new report is particularly . . .  well . . . chilling.  Scientists believe that the world has now lost half of its coral reefs in the last 30 years and could lose 90 percent 2050.  It is not just the loss of one of the most unique and beautiful areas of Earth but the impact could be enormous on our food and our environment.  Indeed, these reports show how these losses produce a cascading crisis across ecosystems.  The report comes at a time when the Trump Administration is moving to reduce our commitment to climate change programs and agreements — putting the United States on a collision course with much of the world.

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