A group of 15 ethics law professors from around the country has filed bar charges against White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. For full disclosure, Conway is one of my former students at George Washington University Law School (she graduated in 1995). The letter from 15 professors alleged ethical violations of government rules as well as “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” Most of the allegations in the letter are, in my view, without merit and seem overtly political. The one issue that has already been raised in Congress and has a legal foundation is the alleged endorsement of Conway of the product line of Ivanka Trump. That is a technical violation of federal rules, but the question is whether it was a venial rather than mortal sin. The “violation” was the result of a side comment by Conway on television criticizing the decision of Nordstrom to drop the line. The White House Counsel’s office let it be known that Conway had been “counseled” over the infraction. However, ethics charges should not be a form of politics by other means and, with all due respect to these accomplished academics, this letter strikes me as raising largely political objections to Conway’s work as a spokesperson for the Administration.
There is an interesting poll out this week by Harvard-Harris for The Hill newspaper that shows an incredible eighty percent of Americans oppose so-called sanctuary cities and that cities should be required to turn over illegal immigrants to federal authorities. It is a striking contrast with Democrats who have gone “all in” on opposing immigration policies of the Trump Administration, including support for sanctuary cities. There are opposing polls showing support for cities and there are always legitimate questions raised by some polls that rely entirely on Internet polling. This may be such a case.
In Dayonta Bearch, Gary Blough, a disabled Navy veteran, is recovering from a vicious beatdown. The reason is not a mugging or a personal feud. Rather, Blough rescued a turtle that was being tortured by two men. Ryan Ponder, 23, and Johnnie Beveritt, 18, then allegedly jumped Blough as he tried to release the turtle back into the water.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will have a completed record for its review of the lower court’s stay of the Trump immigration executive order this afternoon. While much has been made of the court declined to issue an immediate stay of the lower court under the earlier emergency motion, the decision was very predictable. The Court instead ordered for an expedited response from the states of Washington and Minnesota. That argument is complete today. What remains is a relatively rare procedural process in seeking to review a temporary restraining order (TRO) before the issuance of a written opinion, let alone a permanent injunction.
84 Lumber is a building materials supply company that is the latest to trigger a Superbowl advertisement controversy over an ad. We have previously discussed how groups like PETA often seems to engineer conflicts (and rejections) to get more attention than would have been generated by a commercial itself. Whatever the motivation, 84 Lumber has garnered massive attention after its commercial “The Journey Begins” was rejected by Fox as too political and divisive. With some 47 percent of the public supporting the Trump executive order, it is a risky move that the attention could create as much anger as support among potential customers. Regrettably, I will be on a flight to Guam (which takes off at the time of the kickoff). I will try to get the game on the flight but I enjoy having a Superbowl party with the kids. We enjoy the commercials often as much as the game. The company said that it was censored but allowed to run an altered commercial. Maggie Hardy Magerko, 84 Lumber’s president and owner, is quoted as saying “I still can’t even understand why it was censored. In fact, I’m flabbergasted by that in today’s day and age. It’s not pornographic, it’s not immoral, it’s not racist.”
The Justice Department’s defense of the Trump executive order is off to a rather shaky start after the Department failed to immediately file an emergency appeal after its loss in Seattle (opening entries for those banned under the order) and then, according to the State Department, overstated the number of revoked visas under the order by over 40,000. Given the recent order by now fired Acting Attorney General Sally Yates to bar the defense of the order, the surprising blunders could fuel concerns in the Administration.
President Donald Trump gave a startling interview this week in which he expressly stated his belief that “torture . . . works” and stated that he would order torture if his team asks for it to be used on detainees. It is a position opposed not only by the military and both Republican and Democratic members of Congress but, more importantly, United States and international law. In fairness to Trump, he added that his decision would be controlled by the law but also that he believed in the efficacy of torture: “I want to do everything within the bounds of what you’re allowed to do legally but do I feel it works? Absolutely I feel it works.” Under international law, it does not matter if torture is successful or useful. It remains a war crime. Indeed, it was the United States that played a key role in defining torture as a violation of international law. In other words, there is no legal basis for the use of torture or the commission of any war crime under domestic or international authority.