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‘All smoke, no fire’: Law professor dissects Nunes memo and finds it ‘punts’ when it comes to facts

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Joining the chorus of legal and political experts deriding House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes’ (R-CA) dud memo is law professor Orrin S. Kerr, who said the four-page document is “more confusing than illuminating.”

In his Saturday op-ed for The New York Times, Kerr noted that Nunes’ memo is supposed to make the case that the Department of Justice and the FBI purposefully omitted key facts when applying for a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant for former senior Trump campaign aide Carter Page. According to the University of Souther California law professor, however, they fail even to do that.

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“Even assuming the memo’s claims are true — which we can’t determine from the document itself — it still does not establish an ‘abuse’ of the foreign intelligence laws,” Kerr noted.

Republican proponents of the memo claim the infamous Fusion GPS dossier alleging ties between Russia Donald Trump was the prime piece of evidence in the decision to surveil Page. The information that would corroborate this claim, as well more information on why the DOJ decided to surveil the former campaign operative, is either left out of the memo or disputed by it.

“The memo mostly punts on the critical question: Was evidence provided by Mr. Steele important to finding probable cause?” Kerr mused. “We just can’t tell. There may have been lots of other evidence showing Mr. Page was a Russian spy. If so, it doesn’t matter what (if anything) the [House Intelligence Committee’s] affidavit said about Mr. Steele.”

“The memo gives us too little information to make a conclusion about whether the government abused the surveillance laws,” he concludes. “It’s a partial view when we need a panorama to know what happened.”

Read Kerr’s entire editorial via the Times.

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Joe Biden takes on Trump’s rhetoric during racial justice crises: ‘The words of a president matter’

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Former Vice President Joe Biden talked about the importance of a president's words and accountability during times of crisis during a Friday appearance on MSNBC.

Biden was interviewed by Craig Melvin, who noted the protests tearing apart cities and asked where he would start if elected president.

"I start by talking about what we must be, making no excuses, talking about our obligation to be decent," Biden answered. "Our obligation to take responsibility, our obligation to stand up when we see injustice."

"Look, the words of a president matter -- no matter how good or bad that president is," he explained. "A president can, by their words alone no matter who they are, make it rise or fall, take us to war, bring us to peace. The words of a president matter."

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South Carolina Republicans gather for an ‘active rejection’ of social distancing measures: report

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On Friday, The New York Times reported on a gathering of Republicans in Conway, South Carolina that appeared to be an "active rejection" of social distancing measures and other public health guidelines.

"The outdoor gathering here on Thursday was a send-off event for Cleo Steele, a longtime Republican Party operative in Horry County, who is retiring to Ohio," wrote Astead Herndon. "Speakers shared the same microphone. Local and state political candidates greeted voters with handshakes and squeezed tight for pictures. Of all the people gathered outside the county Republican office — many of them senior citizens — fewer than a dozen wore masks."

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Paul Krugman: A stronger GDP won’t help Americans if they’re dead

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Liberal economist Paul Krugman, in his New York Times column, has been stressing that the better a job the United States does with social distancing policies now, the better off the U.S. economy will be in the long run. In his Thursday column, Krugman warns that a premature reopening could hurt the U.S. both economically and from a health standpoint.

“America is now engaged in a vast, dangerous experiment,” Krugman writes. “Although social distancing has limited the spread of the coronavirus, it is far from contained. Yet despite warnings from epidemiologists, much of the country is moving to open up for business as usual.”

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