Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Eric Holder

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As Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General, languishes in Senate confirmation limbo, her supporters led by “Rev.” Al Sharpton have launched a “hunger strike” of sorts that will continue until she is confirmed by the Senate.

While experts disagree about how much weight Sharpton needs to loose, the do agree that he could be waiting weeks for his next Big Mac if the “Hunger Strike” is real and Republicans follow through on their threat to hold up Lynch’s confirmation until certain confirmation preconditions are met.

These preconditions include issues related to Lynch’s confirmation testimony, abortion funding language in a sex trafficking bill and President Obama’s end run around the Senate’s right to “advise and consent” on the Iran nuclear deal before it can take effect.

These are big issues that could add months to Lynch’s five month wait to become the nation’s top cop.

So says Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) who warned Wednesday that the Senate could bypass a sex trafficking bill and postpone a vote on Lynch’s nomination to free up time to review the Iran nuclear deal reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a unanimous bipartisan vote on Tuesday. Cornyn told reporters that:

“Iran is a special case. So I’m not suggesting we hold up Iran for this”…“but I am suggesting we come back to it after Iran, particularly if [Democrats] want to release Eric Holder so they can let him make a lot of money in the private sector.”

The “Rev.” Al Sharpton is having none of it. In fact, he is so serious about standing on principal that he will abstain from food on “alternate days” until Lynch is confirmed to replace Eric Holder at the Justice Department.

Dubbed “Confirm Loretta Lynch Fast,” Sharpton’s stunt means to mirror the actions of true civil rights leaders that include Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi organizers said.

Sharpton said in a statement that:

“As long as the Senate refuses to take fifteen minutes to confirm someone for Attorney General that they have already confirmed twice for U.S. Attorney,” National Action Network and its allies “will do everything in our power to draw attention to this completely unfair and unnecessary delay to vote to confirm Loretta Lynch.”

National Action Network executive director Janaye Ingram, added:

“We stand with Loretta Lynch and are so in support of this cause that we are willing to sacrifice our daily meals to impress upon the U.S. Senate that it’s time to call a vote.”

Sharpton’s “every other day” hunger strike stunt is part of a wider campaign to “pressure” Republican leaders to send Lynch’s nomination to the floor for an up or down vote – a vote stuck in limbo since her confirmation was reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in February.

There are other factors in play as well.

During her confirmation hearing, Lynch raised eyebrows when she said President Obama’s Executive Amnesty for illegal aliens was constitutionally sound… did not violate the separation of powers between the Executive and Legislative branches of government… and that she would support it at Attorney General.

Some Senators are also holding up a vote on Lynch because President Obama has said he will veto a bill to battle the scourge of sex trafficking if it excluded funding for abortion – language similar to the Hyde Amendment the prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars for abortion.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) repeated earlier this week that the Senate would not vote on Lynch until it resolves the abortion-funding dispute over the bill. McConnell said:

“Democrats couldn’t possibly justify voting for Hyde language in order to help doctors, as they did hours ago, but then look an abused victim in the eye and tell her she’s not worth it…” “All that’s needed now are a couple more Democrats willing to show the same level of compassion to enslaved victims they offered to doctors just a few hours ago (on an unrelated Medicare bill).”

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In the opening statement of her U.S. Senate Confirmation hearing, Attorney General-nominee Loretta Lynch spoke of many things — her mother’s struggle for a college education, her father’s principles as a Baptist preacher, her work as an attorney, and her drive to bring justice to criminals and victims. Lynch’s autobiographic presentation was eloquent; “excellent and powerful” as Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham gushed. Were her confirmation based solely on the caliber of her personal story, Obama’s nominee would be a shoo-in.

But is a moving self-portrayal, honest as it might be, all it takes to be confirmed as the most important law enforcement official in the United States? Should it be? Is an outstanding record as an attorney sufficient to qualify a man or woman to serve as Attorney General? Or is there more to it?

It is axiomatic that the Attorney General of the United States is the top lawyer in the country. The occupant of that office is responsible for the thousands of attorneys within the Department of Justice and the 94 U.S. Attorney offices across the country. In addition, the Attorney General oversees the FBI, the DEA, and numerous other federal investigative and police agencies. It is a powerful post, and the person who sits atop that department is far more than just the nation’s top lawyer.

The Attorney General opines officially on questions involving the very constitutionality of actions undertaken – or not undertaken – by the President and top officials throughout the Executive Branch. He or she can provide a golden “get out of jail free” card to federal officials who have undertaken, or propose to undertake actions of questionable legality or constitutionality; making it difficult if not impossible for those individuals subsequently to be prosecuted for violating the law.

Unique among all cabinet officers, the Attorney General of the United States sets a tone of respect for, or disrespect of, the rule of law by the President he or she serves. The policies thus established either keep America on a Constitutional Road or, as with the current Administration, move us to a constitutional detour.

In a very real sense, this is what was so disturbing in Lynch’s initial confirmation hearing — the way in which she so easily defended Obama’s flouting and undermining of the laws as passed by the Congress. The fact that even as she claimed to be her own woman – “not Eric Holder” – Lynch was echoing Holder’s unswerving defense of everything Obama; including the President’s standing above the law.

Even though some of the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee did mildly press Lynch on her views; as is typical for the manner in which the GOP handles controversial confirmations, those concerns took a back seat to playing verbal pat-a-cake with the nominee. For example,when Graham broached the topic of Lynch’s 2006 amicus brief supporting Planned Parenthood’s opposition to a partial-birth abortion ban, he stated naively, “[t]he only reason I mentioned that is that if there’s a Republican president in the future, an attorney general nominee takes an opposite view on an issue like abortion, I hope our friends on the other side will acknowledge it’s OK to be an advocate for a cause, as their lawyer.”

Graham’s gobbledygook reflects a mindset that political ramifications are more important than substance when considering a nominee’s suitability for high office. In this way, nominations move forward despite misgivings, simply to maintain a “senatorial” image. Advocates of this “happy face” strategy apparently hope to immunize the GOP from Democrats playing hardball with Republican nominees in the future. Unfortunately, no matter how many times they play this scenario out, the GOP comes out on the short end; and in this case, so will the country.

Regardless of how fine an attorney Lynch may be, and no matter how heart-warming is her personal story, Senators should base their vote on real substance — whether she will uphold the law and the Constitution; whether she truly understands she represents the People of the United States and not the President who nominated her; and whether she fully and openly answers all questions put to her. On these three principles, from what we have seen thus far, this nominee falls short.

While some Republican may argue that confirming Lynch is preferable to leaving Holder in office; this is not the case. The two lawyers are cut from the same philosophical and political cloth. Moreover, as Attorney General, Lynch would possess something Holder does not — that she would have been confirmed by a Republican Senate; thereby greatly strengthening her hand in the future, and placing her largely beyond their reach.

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Creative Commons - Ewils Photo

In a stunning about face, the “Rev” Al Sharpton first accepted and then backed out of a debate sponsored by the Oxford union in London concerning the topic of race relations in the United States.

Sharpton was to argue his tired charge that the United States is “institutionally racist” before bailing out on his Oxford union hosts at the last minute. Had he honored his commitment, Sharpton would have stood side-by-side with debate partners Black Panther leader Aaron Dixon and liberal blogger Mychal Denzel Smith.

Arguing the opposing view in the structured style of Oxford union debate were SiriusXM host, Breitbart News, and Fox News Contributor David Webb, conservative commentator Joe R. Hicks and BBC radio host Charlie Wolf.

Sharpton, who has been trading on his close relationships with President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, instead asked Oxford if he could deliver a prepared speech without the classic back and forth arguments governed by a moderator charged with enforcing strict time limits that Oxford union debates are known for.

Upon learning that Sharpton was running for the tall grass, debate opponent Webb said that:

“He (Sharpton) wants to control the event, because he won’t debate the facts and the real issues including how his own conduct impacts race relations in the U.S.”

“He doesn’t want to be exposed for what he really is – a shakedown artist and racial coward. After years of conning people into giving him money by fanning the flames of racism, he’s just too afraid to have a civil, fact-based conversation about the issues of race in America.”

In the end, the Oxford union decided to let Sharpton make a prepared 20-minute speech.

However, Oxford Union president Lisa Wehden, in an attempt to keep as close to debate tradition as possible, said that Sharpton would have to take questions from his debate opponents.

While not pleased with the outcome, Webb said “it would be wrong to allow Sharpton to get away with just his usual thin, inflammatory rhetoric when this is supposed to be a substantive discussion”.

This has not been a good year for Sharpton.

Most recently, the United States Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder, decided not to indict former Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson in the self-defense shooting death of Michael Brown.

The shooting set off weeks of angry protests that Sharpton successfully sought to incite before all the facts of the shooting became known. Later, Sharpton again turned up his race-baiting rhetoric when a Ferguson grand jury decided not to indict Office Wilson in the incident.

Subsequently, Sharpton seized on the resisting arrest death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York – an arrest captured in a cell phone that went viral later in the day.

Garner, who was overweight and in poor health, was alleged to have sold untaxed cigarettes on a city street – a crime that he had been arrested for many times in the past. During the arrest altercation, an officer applied a “choke hold” in violation of New York Police Department policy. The NYPD dismissed the offending officer from the force.

Subsequently, a grand jury decided not to indict any police officers involved with the arrest with a crime.

Several days after the failed indictment was handed down, uniformed NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot execution style as they sat in a marked police car on a Brooklyn street corner in what investigators described as a crazed gunman’s goal to avenge the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

Following the assassinations, Sharpton sought to back off on his rhetoric, calm tensions and avoid public comment but by then, the damage had been done.

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Holder Asset Forfeiture

After six years in office during which the federal asset forfeiture program was widely criticized as an abuse of police powers, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that federal law enforcement would no longer benefit from money or property seized by state and local police.

The controversial practice known as “Asset Forfeiture” allowed state and local police to seize property and money from people that police believe might have gained through illegal means even when the individual is not found guilty of or even charged with a crime.

Holder was quick to add that the use of asset forfeiture as a law enforcement tool would not end entirely since state and local police could continue the practices but that the federal government could not benefit from the property seized.

Under the existing laws, local police may easily seize and keep property they acquired through searches – even during something as routine as a traffic stop. The policy leaves open the door for forfeitures in cases involving public safety or during joint operations between state and federal law enforcement.

Writing for The Washington Times, reporter Phillip Swarts said “civil rights advocates complained that the federal government’s acceptance of the seized cash and property — so called “adoptions” — was essentially allowing police to steal from citizens.”

Speaking for the American Civil Liberties Union, Washington Legislative Office Director Laura Murphy said “this is a significant advancement to reform a practice that is a clear violation of due process”… and that Congress and state governments should pass legislation to end the practice of seizing innocent Americans’ property and protect their due process rights.”

Action by the Attorney General came in the wake of a letter sent to Holder earlier this month from a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives urging that he end the practice.

Congressional signers said “we are concerned that these seizures might circumvent state forfeiture law restrictions, create improper incentives on the part of state and local law enforcement, and unnecessarily burden our federal authorities…”

Sen. Chuck Grassley, (R-IA), the new Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of the congressmen who signed the letter said he was “thankful” the DOJ (Department of Justice) has chosen to limit the practice. Going further, Grassley said:

“The rule of law ought to be about protecting innocent people.” “Too often we’ve seen just the opposite with civil asset forfeiture laws. The practice up to this point had perverse incentives and violated some state laws.”

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In July of this year, 43 year-old Eric Garner’s heart stopped while being arrested in NYC.

Garner, who was suspected of selling black-market cigarettes in front of a store in Staten Island , commented to a plainclothes officer, “I was just minding my own business. Every time you see me you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today!”

After telling the cop, “Don’t touch me, please” and swatting away the arms of law enforcement officers, Garner was placed in a chokehold and brought to the ground.

After telling police, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” the 350 pound, 6’3” African American male died within minutes.

A coroner’s report concluded that Garner died from neck and chest compression although asthma, heart disease and obesity were “contributing factors.”

The entire event was caught on video.

On Wednesday, a grand jury decided against the indictment of the plainclothes officer, Daniel Pantaleo involved in Garner’s death.

By that evening, hundreds of protesters obstructed traffic in New York streets, mixing with visitors in Rockefeller Center gathered for the annual lighting of the Christmas tree.

The massive crowd chanted, “I can’t breathe” as they created a standstill in the streets while police began to make arrests.

While Ferguson is still smoldering after destructive riots in protest of a similar “no indictment” decision in the case of Michael Brown, New York City is ripe for antagonists to incite riots in the nation’s most populated city.

Within hours of the decision, the stage had been set for national outrage by the words and actions a trio of national leaders who have hyper-focused on race in recent weeks: President Obama, Eric Holder and Al Sharpton.

Quickly jumping on the outrage, Rev. Al Sharpton met with Garner’s widow and mother after tweeting, “Mrs. Garner, widow of Eric Garner and I just spoke with Attorney General Eric Holder about the Garner case.”

Shortly after Sharpton’s tweet, Obama commented on the case, “we are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of accountability that exists between our communities and law enforcement.”

The President’s words were followed by outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder who announced immediate action, “This afternoon, I spoke with the widow of Eric Garner to inform her and her family of our decision to investigate potential federal civil rights violations.”

Holder is also independently investigating the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.



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