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On Wednesday's edition of MSNBC's "Deadline: White House," former Solicitor General Neal Katyal tore into Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for his efforts to block a subpoena from Georgia state prosecutor Fani Willis
The subpoena is part of a probe into former President Donald Trump's effort to force the secretary of state to "find" extra votes for him — something legal experts believe could present the greatest criminal liability to Trump of any of the investigations into him.
"What Fani Willis is to the rule of law in Georgia, certainly everyone watching this show is hoping Merrick Garland is to the rule of law in America," said anchor Nicolle Wallace. "Do you see how she sort of makes him look like he's not applying the rule of law to everyone and anyone?"
"I wouldn't go that far, Nicolle," said Katyal. "She's a little further ahead and Merrick Garland has a number of other competing concerns, including this investigation in Congress which he looks like he's waiting for the fruits of that before before taking substantive steps before taking a criminal indictment of Donald Trump or others around him. I don't think that's surprising. I think that's part of the genius of our system, our founders have criminal prosecutions at the state level and at the federal level and it looks like this Georgia DA is looking at racketeering and conspiracy against Donald Trump and his allies. Only Donald Trump could be at the center of an alleged racketeering scheme that never made anyone any money and that failed. That's Trump's M.O. But she certainly seems tough and making a convincing case already, this is possibly fraud against Georgia."
"When Lindsey Graham talks, as usual, out of both sides of his mouth, he makes no sense," continued Katyal. "He says this is all politics. Well, if it is all politics and you know so much about the situation, Senator Graham, and you're so confident there's nothing of substance, then I'm sure you're eager to go and testify before the grand jury and comply with the subpoena, but of course he's not. He wants to try to block the subpoena. He's claiming it's some sort of separation of powers problem, which I guess is convincing if Lindsey Graham is trying to prove he has no business being on the Senate Judiciary Committee."
"This is Louie Gohmert misunderstanding of the separation of powers," added Katyal. "I don't think his attempt to block the subpoena will go anywhere and leave a lot of investigative paths open for from what Graham says and the other six individuals who have been subpoenaed by this district attorney."
Watch video below.
Neal Katyal on Lindsey Graham's refusal to honor Georgia subpoena www.youtube.com
U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) have arrested a man with Molotov cocktails, the department announced on Wednesday.
"USCP officers arrested a man with two Molotov cocktails around 3:30 p.m. along Massachusetts Avenue, west of North Capitol Street," the department announced.
The location is just west of Union Station and only a few blocks north of the Capitol.
"There is no indication this was related to the Capitol, Members of Congress, or any protests," USCP said.
The block includes the headquarters for US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the National Guard Memorial Museum.
"Two molotov cocktails steps from Union Station, the rail transportation hub of the nation's capital," noted Bloomberg reporter Zach Cohen.
\u201cUSCP officers arrested a man with two Molotov cocktails around 3:30 p.m. along Massachusetts Avenue, west of North Capitol Street.\n\nThere is no indication this was related to the Capitol, Members of Congress, or any protests.\n\nMore details to come in a news release this evening.\u201d— U.S. Capitol Police (@U.S. Capitol Police) 1657142433
\u201cAbout that Huge Police Presence at North Cap and Mass Ave - Man arrested with two Molotov cocktails: https://t.co/bDXd14E5Bq\u201d— PoPville (@PoPville) 1657143103
Book publishers, booksellers, authors and free-speech groups are pushing back against a Virginia law that allowed obscenity claims to proceed in court against two books that have come under fire from conservatives who say they’re inappropriate for young readers.
The ACLU of Virginia, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) and numerous bookstores and book proponents are getting involved in the legal case playing out in Virginia Beach, where a retired judge made an initial ruling indicating the LGBTQ-themed memoir “Gender Queer” and the fantasy novel “A Court of Mist and Fury” could be considered obscene for minors due to explicit sex scenes. The case has drawn national attention due to the seemingly unique attempt to restrict sales of the books by private bookstores as opposed to simply removing them from public-school libraries.
Michael Bamberger, a top First Amendment lawyer based in New York, worked with the ACLU to file a motion to dismiss the case on behalf of the Authors Guild, American Booksellers for Free Expression, Association of American Publishers, American Library Association, Virginia Library Association the Freedom to Read Foundation and a handful of small, independent Virginia bookstores. The groups, according to court filings, have “a strong interest in ensuring that a broad selection of non-obscene fiction and non-fiction reading material be made available to readers, including material that challenges them.”
“I believe that children should be encouraged to read whatever interests them, whatever they find meaningful,” Bamberger, senior counsel at the Dentons law firm, said in an interview. “And setting up these sort of baskets that say no minor can read this book is not the way to go.”
Attorneys for the publishers and authors of the two books are also seeking to have the case dismissed, arguing the Virginia law is unconstitutional and the books themselves cannot be considered obscene based on sex scenes that only make up a portion of a larger literary work.
Virginia law defines “obscene” as material that has sex as its “dominant theme” and “taken as a whole, does not have serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.”
“Under the law, these books are not obscene,” said Darpana Sheth, FIRE’s vice president of litigation. “Obscenity is a legal term of art. And the First Amendment simply does not allow banning books simply because they may be read by minors.”
FIRE, which began as a civil liberties group focused on college campuses but recently broadened its mission into broader issues of free expression, isn’t formally intervening in the case but is planning to file a brief to inform the court, according to Sheth.
A multitude of attorneys from several different law firms are now working to defend the free flow of books and block the suit filed in late April by Del. Tim Anderson, R-Virginia Beach, on behalf of Tommy Altman, a former Republican congressional candidate from Virginia Beach who finished third in a four-way GOP primary last month.
Anderson, an attorney and Trump-style firebrand serving his first term in the House of Delegates, had sought a temporary restraining order against Barnes & Noble that would have prevented the bookstore chain from making the books accessible to minors. That request has not yet been acted upon. Retired Judge Pamela Baskervill, who’s overseeing the case after Virginia Beach judges recused themselves because the legislature appoints judges, set the next hearing in the case for Aug. 30.
In an interview Wednesday, Anderson said the fact that more than 20 lawyers are lining up against him is a sign of the seriousness of his case and not the type of response you’d see in a “slam dunk First Amendment case.” The request for age restrictions on media content, he said, is “narrow” and not as novel as headlines about “book banning” suggest.
“I think the majority of society accepts that they don’t want a 12-year-old going to an R-rated movie at AMC,” Anderson said. “They don’t want a 9-year-old buying an extremely violent video game without their parents knowing what’s going on.”
In the meantime, lawyers representing Barnes & Noble have argued allowing the case to proceed would be a dangerous step toward the type of book bans the country seemed to have left behind.
“There was a time in American history, before the development of contemporary First Amendment doctrine, when best-selling and critically-acclaimed books faced the risk of being declared obscene,” a team of lawyers from the D.C.-based firm Davis Wright Tremaine wrote in a May 30 letter to Baskervill on behalf of Barnes & Noble. “But no mainstream books by established publishers have been found to be obscene in the past 60 years.”
The attorneys fighting the use of the obscenity law have argued it has severe procedural flaws, including authorizing courts to issue restraining orders against books without any notification or involvement from the businesses selling them. The obscene-book law creates a civil proceeding against the book itself, but the criminal penalties involved can fall on anyone who sells or distributes a book deemed obscene.
“That’s a bizarre procedure to start off with,” Bamberger said. “But then what is most troubling to retailers and publishers is that if in this hearing in Virginia Beach some book is held obscene, that applies to the entire state. And so a bookseller who’s in Arlington and knows nothing about the case and has received no notification and is not involved in the case in any way suddenly can be charged with a felony for selling the book.”
The defense has also pointed out the law doesn’t have any clear provision for deeming books obscene for children but suitable for adults. It does, however, allow judges to carve out a specific category of people “to whom the book is not obscene.”
From a legal perspective, the cases are virtually identical, but “Gender Queer,” a story about LGBTQ identity in a comic book-style format, has drawn stronger criticism from some parents due to an illustration depicting oral sex and other explicit content. Members of the Virginia Beach School Board chose to remove “Gender Queer” from school libraries after a review deemed the book “pervasively vulgar,” going against a staff recommendation to keep the book in school libraries.
Anderson said the illustrated depiction of oral sex in the book is “harmful to a child’s mind.”
“They shouldn’t have access to that material without adult supervision,” he said. “And that’s it.”
Bamberger said the obscenity law, as written, was meant to apply to material the courts felt no one should read and it cannot be used to let any Virginia resident go to court to try to restrict what all children can read.
“That’s not what the law says,” Bamberger said. “And neither of these books are obscene for adults. Clearly.”
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