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Supreme Court lets AT&T wiretapping immunity stand

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WASHINGTON — The US Supreme Court let stand Tuesday an immunity law on wiretapping viewed by government as a useful anti-terror tool but criticized by rights activists as a flagrant abuse of executive power.

The top US court declined to review a December 2011 appeals court decision that rejected a lawsuit against AT&T for helping the National Security Agency monitor its customers’ phone calls and Internet traffic.

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Plaintiffs argue that the law allows the executive branch to conduct “warrantless and suspicionless domestic surveillance” without fear of review by the courts and at the sole discretion of the attorney general.

But President Barack Obama’s administration has argued to keep the immunity law in place, saying it would imperil national security to end such cooperation between the intelligence agencies and telecom companies.

“Electronic surveillance for law enforcement and intelligence purposes depends in great part on the cooperation of the private companies that operate the nation’s telecommunication system,” the Obama administration said, making its case.

“If litigation were allowed to proceed against those who allegedly assisted in such activities, the private sector might be unwilling to cooperate with lawful government requests in the future, and the possible reduction in intelligence that might result is simply unacceptable for the safety of our nation,” it stressed.

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The Supreme Court is set to hear a separate case later this month in which civil liberties’ group are suing NSA officials for authorizing unconstitutional wiretapping.


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Nancy Pelosi faces serious challenges — but she’s failed miserably in two key ways

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As I wrote earlier this week, with its muddled messaging on impeachment, the House Democratic leadership may have figured out a way of both demoralizing the Democratic base and firing up Trump's supporters. It's a mess.

But fairness requires us to acknowledge an important fact: Speaker Nancy Pelosi doesn't have the votes to launch an official impeachment process. And it's not close. At present, The Washington Post's tally finds 137 members of the House in favor of launching an impeachment inquiry, with 92 opposed and 6 others not taking a position. Leadership can twist arms on a close vote, but when you're close to 100 votes shy of a majority, it's impossible to whip a measure across the finish line--especially one of such consequence.

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Trump’s anti-worker labor nominee is more like the ‘Secretary of Corporate Interests’

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Progressive groups and Democratic lawmakers expressed serious concerns Thursday about corporate attorney Eugene Scalia — President Donald Trump's pick to lead the Labor Department — as the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee met to consider his nomination.

"Instead of nominating a Secretary of Labor, President Trump has nominated a Secretary of Corporate Interests," declared Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the committee's ranking member. "If there's one consistent pattern in Mr. Scalia's long career, it's hostility to the very workers he would be charged with protecting, and the very laws he would be charged with enforcing if he were confirmed."

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Here are the specific charges Trump could face if the whistleblower report reaches prosecutors

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The exploding Ukrainian whistleblower scandal could once again throw President Donald Trump into legal turmoil, wrote former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade for The Daily Beast on Saturday.

Specifically, she argued, prosecutors could theoretically charge the president under federal bribery and extortion laws, based on the facts laid out by recent reporting.

"The facts here still need to be fleshed out, but the gist is easy enough to understand," wrote McQuade. "Trump allegedly has demanded that Ukraine launch an investigation into Biden if it wants to receive the military aid that has already been promised. If true, this conduct would be a classic abuse of power that is considered criminal when committed by a public official."

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