NEW YORK — The former head of the Human Rights Campaign is suing the nation’s latest LGBTQ+ rights organization, claiming he was underpaid and fired because he is Black, according to his lawsuit filed in Brooklyn federal court on Thursday. Alphonso David, a Black civil rights lawyer and onetime president of the HRC, was axed in September after the group investigated his role in former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s attempt to undermine a former staffer who accused Cuomo of sexual misconduct. “David’s treatment, including his summary termination, differed markedly from how his white predecessor h...
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I must confess that I've written things in the last two days I never thought I'd write — at least not in a work of nonfiction.
For example: In my most feverish nightmares I never dreamed I'd have to tell people that a former adviser to the president, a decorated retired U.S. Army general with years of service to his country under his belt, would take the Fifth Amendment when asked by a Republican member of Congress, "Do you believe in a peaceful transfer of power?"
Mike Flynn did.
Sure, many people consider Flynn an idiot. I also never thought I'd hear a witness tell us that the president of the United States blurted out, "Just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen."
A witness heard Donald Trump say that. Of course, many think Trump is an idiot as well.
And I certainly never thought I'd hear about a president becoming enraged over not being allowed to join an insurrection by armed assailants at the U.S. Capitol. Trump did that too. Not even the Secret Service disputes that fact. Whether or not Trump actually tried to wrestle the steering wheel from his driver as he lunged at him is the only fact in dispute — and guess what, if you know Trump that isn't much of a stretch either. But that's not the point. He wanted to go. Who in their worst alcohol-induced, Adderall-laced, psychotic-hallucinogenic rage would ever dream of having to report this? Not I, said the cat.
If you don't realize it yet, the nation is at war with itself. Call it what you want, but if you don't recognize that simple fact, then you're doomed to go down without a fight. And that's fine with Donald Trump, Mike Flynn, Steve Bannon, Jeffrey Clark, John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani et al., who have fought hard for a Trump authoritarian regime and won't support a peaceful transfer of power.
That's got our northern neighbor, Canada (remember Canada?), wondering whether they'll need to erect a border wall to keep out Americans fleeing our fascist state.
Make no mistake, what we face here is a potential tyranny of the minority. For those who seek to overturn our democratic ideals under the guise of freedom, while wrapping themselves in the flag, it is all about fear and trust. They want you to fear the wrath of their imaginary God and trust them — though they obviously trust no one else. Strong with them is the dark side.
Donald Trump partnered with the most atavistic of all humans to get elected. He played the useful fool for them as they fed him an agenda he couldn't have cared less about, since he only cared about power. And Trump's power was always in promoting his brand. In God we trust — all others pay cash. That's all the trust he understands.
But his minions, like Sen. Mitch McConnell from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, want you to trust in a God billions of people on the planet don't recognize and the "good old days," circa 1920, that never existed. It was a time filled with hate, prejudice and fear — themes the Republicans enjoy and promote — and have leveraged to set the Supreme Court back more than 50 years.
We are left with a country whose most hallowed ideals have been hollowed out, swallowed and regurgitated. We are struggling with the simple notion of being a nation of laws.
We are left with a country whose most hallowed ideals have been hollowed out, swallowed and regurgitated as an empty mantra. It is apparent that we are struggling with the simple notion that we are a nation of laws. In one of the most valiant efforts of my lifetime, it is Republicans who are dominating the witness stand during the House Jan. 6 hearings, providing the most salient testimony against members of their own party who are guilty of so many crimes they make the mob flush with envy. This is all going on in congressional hearings run by Democrats who are eagerly assisting those Republicans in telling the truth. This is bipartisanship at its most enlightened — or at least as close as we can get to it in this reality.
Those Republicans, like the Democrats guiding the hearings, should be lauded for their efforts. Every other Republican, especially those who sought pardons after the Insurrection — or in the case of Matt Gaetz, the feckless frat boy perpetually picked last for kickball, before the insurrection — should be prosecuted, removed from Congress and condemned to daily cleanup duty in cockroach-infested Mar-a-Lago for eternity.
Donald Trump told us, "I don't care if they have weapons, they aren't here to hurt me."
That's another sentence I never thought I'd write.
Trump's response to Tuesday's hearing was entirely typical. He said on his social media platform that he hardly knew who surprise witness Cassidy Hutchinson was (as if that had any bearing on her ability to witness his inappropriate actions) and that she was a "complete phony." Later that day he sent out several emails to his supporters asking for more donations and discounts on a variety of swag he keeps pushing.
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Trump's retort is similar to when Rep. Paul Gosar literally shouted, "Liar, liar, pants on fire" at Michael Cohen, after Cohen's testimony before Congress in 2019. It is juvenile.
There is no way to dismiss the spoiled-child nature of Trump's senior staff and supporters. They are much like their boss — and Trump encourages that behavior. Though these are usually men anywhere from their mid 40s to their late 60s, they act less like adults and more like recalcitrant children who just wet their pants when their wet nurse isn't around to change their soiled undies.
Juxtapose that with Hutchinson. She is 25, younger than my youngest son, and she acted more like an adult than almost everyone else in Trump's administration, who by the way made a hell of a lot more money and lived in relative splendor, compared to a junior White House staffer.
But character is what counts, and Cassidy Hutchinson is far richer in that than Mike Pence, Pat Cipollone, Jim Jordan, John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Flynn or any of the other freaks traveling in Dr. Trump's Wild West show. She was quiet and professional as she testified before Congress. She was the one thing Trump never has been — an adult. Her testimony is destined for the history books, and she is the greatest testament yet that it's time for the geriatric crowd to give up their hold on government in favor of younger, more vibrant yet even more grown-up voices. She's also a testament to good legal counsel — but that's another story.
The essence of Hutchinson's testimony boiled down to witnessing Trump, his chief of staff Mark Meadows and other senior officials trying to bring about a tyranny of the minority. Hutchinson said she came to her job at the White House bright-eyed and eager to cheer for Trump's policies. That was a naïve hope.
I spent four years covering that administration and I am unaware of any actual policy it pursued. Then and now, Trump's only goal is to increase his personal revenue and power at the expense of anyone and everyone else. Hutchinson came to the administration closer to the end of Trump's run than the beginning, and it didn't take her long to catch on.
"I was really saddened as an American. I was disgusted. It was unpatriotic. It was un-American. We were watching the Capitol get defaced over a lie," she testified.
This has had a predictable effect on the QAnon crowd, not unlike smacking a hornet's nest with a baseball bat. It won't be long before Hutchinson is accused of drinking baby blood or being a lizard alien. But another former Trump chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, defended her. "I know her. I don't think she's lying," he said.
Some have compared Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony to that of John Dean during Watergate. Dean himself says it was closer to the testimony of Alexander Butterfield, another "surprise witness."
Some called her appearance the "John Dean" moment in these hearings, referencing Richard Nixon's former White House counsel, who testified before the Watergate committee. But Dean says it more accurately resembled testimony by Alexander Butterfield, until that moment a relatively obscure deputy assistant. "In both cases they were surprise witnesses and had testimony that changed the direction of the hearings," Dean explained. Otherwise, he said, the two hearings have little in common.
"Watergate was so different and so mild. Nixon could at least experience shame," he said. After Watergate "I hoped we would not have another authoritarian president," Dean continued, "but the antiquated Electoral College, which is supposed to prevent these things from happening, gave us Donald Trump."
That would be the guy who shouted that he was "the fucking president" while urging the Secret Service to drive him to the Capitol.
With Donald Trump, it is always about him and it always has been. Hutchinson testified to witnessing the aftermath of a Trump tantrum that ended up with broken plates and ketchup on the wall. Michael Cohen spoke of numerous tantrums from a man "who never got into a fistfight his whole life," but used his temper to get his way — much like a toddler.
And there we are; a young woman, in her early 20s at the time, acting more responsible than the baby-boomer president she served. As a parent, I confess, I would be very proud of what she did.
The Jan. 6 committee hearings are the last chance we have of excising the primary infection that has spread to become a Donald Trump cancer. Should we fail, this country is headed down a very dark road, paved by the actions of a Supreme Court that has ignored well-established legal precedent in order to enact laws bound by religious beliefs and contrary to the will of the majority of Americans. The effect is to destroy the rule of law and place justice in the hands of those who oppose democracy.
Filtered through that light, Cassidy Hutchinson took on the whole authoritarian movement — not just Donald Trump — when she stepped up and testified this week.
How could a parent not be proud of that? Americans are a curious lot, I grant you. We are filled with foibles and fears, and at times the feckless fools seem to run amok. Then you see a young woman doing what we were all raised to do: Defend the rule of law. Testify honestly. Act rationally. Stand up. If that doesn't give you hope, brothers and sisters, then I don't know what will.
Now would be the time for another surprise witness: Pat Cipollone. (Well, OK: He was subpoenaed on Wednesday.) The former White House counsel is a fellow Kentucky-schooled, Roman Catholic brother. He has 10 children, a few of them approximately the same age as Hutchinson, including a daughter who once worked as a Fox News booker for Laura Ingraham. Maybe by following Hutchinson's example, Cipollone could offer an example for his own children regarding Christian integrity. "I think he's worried about losing Republican clients if he testifies," Dean explained. "They believe in retribution. He's worried about that when he should be worried about democracy."
Finally, I once again find myself having to write sentences I never thought I'd write — until today:
On Tuesday, the House Committee hearings into the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection saw surprise testimony from former Mark Meadows aide Cassidy Hutchinson. She testified that former President Donald Trump tried to commandeer a presidential SUV to join and lead a group of anti-democratic insurrectionists. Concurrent with her testimony and following it, Donald Trump sent emails to his supporters asking for donations while announcing an upcoming rally in Anchorage, Alaska.
It's a short flight from Anchorage to Russia. Is that where he's headed next?
He'd probably be thrilled if he were asked to go. He's still a sucker for any type of attention.
The United States Supreme Court on Thursday denied a religious liberty challenge to New York health care workers who were fighting against the state's vaccine mandate -- but not without a dissent from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas that claimed COVID-19 vaccines were developed using "aborted children."
In the dissent, which was flagged by Slate's Mark Joseph Stern, Thomas argued that health care workers had legitimate objections to using the vaccines, which he said "were developed using cell lines derived from aborted children."
In fact, the COVID-19 vaccines, as well as several other vaccines developed in the 21st Century, have used stem cell lines from aborted fetuses that had been frozen more than five decades ago.
However, even the Catholic Church, which maintains that abortion is a sin, does not believe there are legitimate religious objections to using the vaccines.
As Vatican News reported in December 2020, the Vatican's own Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith declared that "it is morally acceptable to receive Covid-19 vaccines that have used cell lines from aborted fetuses in their research and production process."
While the church expressed reservations about Catholics engaging in "passive material cooperation" with past abortions, it said those concerns are outweighed if "there is a grave danger, such as the otherwise uncontainable spread of a serious pathological agent -- in this case, the pandemic spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19."
The United States Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that states can prosecute non-Native people who commit crimes against a Native person on tribal lands, a dramatic move for tribal sovereignty that undoes decades of practice.
Victor Manuel Castro-Huerta, who is non-Native, was sentenced to 35 years in prison stemming from a 2015 child neglect conviction in Oklahoma against his Native American stepdaughter within the state’s Cherokee Reservation. Castro-Huerta challenged the conviction, citing the Supreme Court’s 2020 decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, which held states cannot prosecute crimes committed on Native American lands without federal approval.
In this case, Oklahoma argued that because Castro-Huerta is non-Native, McGirt does not bar his prosecution by the state, and the Supreme Court agreed.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who authored the court’s majority opinion, raised questions about the eastern part of Oklahoma, including Tulsa, being labeled as “Indian Country.”
“About two million people live there, and the vast majority are not Indians,” he wrote.”The classification of eastern Oklahoma as Indian country has raised urgent questions about which government or governments have jurisdiction to prosecute crimes committed there.”
Kavanaugh listed multiple decisions going back to 1845 to support the argument that Indian reservations are “part of the surrounding state” and are subject to the state’s jurisdiction “except as forbidden by federal law.”
“In short, the court’s precedents establish that Indian country is part of a state’s territory and that, unless preempted, states have jurisdiction over crimes committed in Indian Country,” Kavanaugh wrote for the majority.
Justices John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito Jr., and Amy Coney Barrett joined Kavanaugh in the majority. At the same time, Neil Gorsuch joined the three liberal justices — Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor — in dissent.
In his dissent, Gorsuch praised the 1832 decision Worcester v. Georgia, which ruled state law had no power in Indian country without congressional authorization.
“The decision established a foundational rule that would persist for over 200 years: Native American Tribes retain their sovereignty unless and until Congress ordains otherwise,” Gorsuch wrote.
He argued that Wednesday’s ruling was reneging on a promise made to the Cherokee after their exile to what became Oklahoma.
“The federal government promised the tribe that it would remain forever free from interference by state authorities. Only the Tribe or the federal government could punish crimes by or against tribal members on tribal lands,” he wrote. “Where this Court once stood firm, today it wilts … Where our predecessors refused to participate in one state’s unlawful power grab at the expense of the Cherokee, today’s Court accedes to another’s. Respectfully, I dissent.”
Gorsuch pushed back on the majority’s argument that a state possesses “inherent” sovereign power to prosecute crimes on tribal reservations until and unless Congress “preempts” that authority.
“The Court emphasizes that states normally wield broad police powers within their borders absent some preemptive federal law,” he wrote. “But the effort to wedge tribes into that paradigm is a category error. Tribes are not private organizations within state boundaries. Their reservations are not glorified private campgrounds. Tribes are sovereigns.”
Keaton Sunchild, political director at Western Native Voice, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for Native rights in Montana, said the ruling sets a dangerous criterion going forward.
“Obviously we fear that this starts a dangerous precedent of stripping tribal sovereignty and blurring the lines between the treaties made between the federal government and the tribes across the country,” he said. “This is something that we have long just assumed is settled on between state governments, federal governments and tribal governments … I guess the five justices thought differently and now we have to worry about what happens next with tribal rights, who knows what else could be under attack and potentially stripped next.”
He added that the decision is expected to have a harmful impact going forward. “We will likely see more states meddling in tribal affairs and the taking away of autonomy that tribes have had available to them for decades.”
The Native American Fund said in a statement that the ruling “strikes” against the sovereignty of tribal nations and the consequences of the decision for tribal nations, the federal government, and states will take time to unravel.
“The Supreme Court’s decision today is an attack on tribal sovereignty and the hard-fought progress of our ancestors to exercise our inherent sovereignty over our own territories,” said National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp in the release. “It was only a few months ago that Congress loudly supported tribal sovereignty and tribal criminal jurisdiction with the passage of the Violence Against Women’s Act, reaffirming the right of Tribal Nations to protect their own people and communities, but make no mistake, today, the Supreme Court has dealt a massive blow to tribal sovereignty and Congress must, again, respond.”
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