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Attorney General nominee Garland says politics won't influence criminal probes – National Post

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s attorney general nominee, Merrick Garland, vowed on Monday to protect the integrity of the Justice Department from partisan influence, in an effort to restore confidence after President Donald Trump repeatedly sought to bend the department to his will.

Trump, a Republican who lost to Biden in November, for years attacked Justice Department investigations of his 2016 campaign and Russian election interference as a “witch hunt” or a “hoax.”

Garland, in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, also vowed to make the investigation of the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol a top priority.

The next attorney general will inherit a few investigations that began during the Trump administration of the origin of those probes and also of Hunter Biden, the new president’s son.

“I would not have taken this job if I had thought politics would have any influence over prosecutions or investigations,” Garland told the panel.

“The president has promised that those decisions will only be made by the attorney general, and that is what I plan to do. I do not plan to be interfered with by anyone. I expect the Justice Department will make its own decisions in this regard.”

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Garland’s promises marked a contrast from previous Attorney General William Barr, who was criticized for his willingness to intervene in criminal cases in ways that benefited Trump’s political allies, from Michael Flynn to Roger Stone.

Garland pledged to sit down with department staff, who have suffered from low morale for the past four years amid partisan attacks and accusations by Trump they were part of a “deep state.”

“I want to make clear to the career prosecutors…that my job is to protect them from partisan or other improper motives,” Garland said, adding that for now his visits with them will need to be over Zoom due to the pandemic.

Garland, a federal appellate judge and former prosecutor, is widely expected to be confirmed as the nation’s top U.S. law enforcement official.

He was nominated to lead a Justice Department in the midst of intensive investigations into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters – an incident Garland called “heinous.”

Some of the more than 200 people arrested in the siege were associated with groups such as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, underscoring rising concern about future violence from right-wing extremists.

Garland has experience in tackling such threats, having managed the sprawling investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by anti-government extremists and supervising the prosecution of the so-called Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski after a deadly bombing spree.

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Garland told the committee he fears the Jan.6 riots were “not necessarily a one-off” and vowed to devote resources to the probe.

“We must do everything in the power of the Justice Department to prevent this kind of interference with policies of American democratic institutions,” Garland said.

Garland’s pledge to maintain the independence of Justice Department investigations will also encompass ongoing cases that may cast members of Biden’s family or former Obama officials in an unfavorable light.

Amid questioning by Republicans, Garland said he had not discussed the Justice Department’s investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes with the White House.

Biden has made clear that decisions about investigations and prosecutions will be left to the Justice Department, Garland told lawmakers. “So the answer to your question is no.”

He told Republicans he expects to allow John Durham, who was appointed by Barr to investigate the origins of the investigation into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, to continue his work.

“I understand that he has been permitted to remain in his position and sitting here today I have no reason to think that that was not the correct decision,” Garland said.

EQUAL JUSTICE FOR ALL?

Apart from the Justice Department’s focus on combating domestic terrorism, Garland said he intends to prioritize enforcing the civil rights laws, an area advocates say was decimated during the Trump administration.

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The Justice Department has faced pressure to take steps to hold police departments accountable for civil rights violations, after a white police officer killed African American George Floyd last year in Minneapolis.

The killing sparked nationwide protests, but those did little to motivate the Justice Department to open probes into systemic police misconduct or other civil rights violations.

Unlike Barr, who told Congress last year he did not believe systemic racism plagued the criminal justice system, Garland was unequivocal on whether the system treats Americans equally.

“Sadly, and it’s plain to me that that is not, that it does not,” Garland said in response to Democratic Senator Cory Booker.

Garland said he would resume using court-ordered consent decrees to hold police departments accountable, a tool largely abandoned during the Trump administration.

He also told Congress his support for the death penalty has eroded amid concerns it disproportionately affects Black Americans and other communities of color and that too many are wrongfully convicted. He stopped short of saying whether he will advocate for commuting all federal death sentences.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Will Dunham and Alistair Bell)

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Women Of Color Have Always Been In Politics. Now They Are Changing Congress. – FiveThirtyEight

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The current Congress includes more women of color than ever before, thanks to historic wins in the 2020 election. FiveThirtyEight spoke with three political scientists about why it’s taken so long to get to this point, and how having these women in office will affect the legislature.

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic to LeBron James – 'Do what you're good at,' stay out of politics – ESPN

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AC Milan star Zlatan Ibrahimovic criticized LeBron James and others on Thursday for their activism in what the former LA Galaxy star called “politics.”

Speaking in an interview for UEFA for Discovery+ in Sweden on Thursday, the outspoken striker said that although he admired James’ talent, it’s a “mistake” when athletes step out of their lane and get involved socially and politically.

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“[LeBron] is phenomenal at what he’s doing, but I don’t like when people have some kind of status, they go and do politics at the same time,” Ibrahimovic said. “Do what you’re good at. Do the category you do. I play football because I’m the best at playing football.

“I don’t do politics. If I would be a political politician, I would do politics. That is the first mistake people do when they become famous and they become in a certain status. Stay out of it. Just do what you do best because it doesn’t look good.”

James has been a force for social change and political action. His More Than a Vote organization drew more than 42,000 volunteers to work at polling stations for the November election, helped some earn back their voting rights and pushed for turnout among Black people and young voters.

He has also focused on his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

The I Promise School he opened in 2018 now has over 450 students in third through sixth grades. When the pandemic shut down the school, James and his team ensured students got hot meals delivered to their homes — even complete Thanksgiving meals. An affordable housing project for 50 families broke ground this year. And in December, plans for House Three Thirty (a nod to Akron’s area code) were announced, detailing how James is going to offer things like accessible family financial health programming, job training and a community gathering space.

“I still know what I do on the floor, and obviously, I give everything to the game,” James told The Associated Press in December. “But I can make a greater impact off the floor right now, more than I can on the floor. And I want to continue to inspire people with the way I play the game of basketball. But there’s so many more things that I can do off the floor to help cultivate people, inspire people, bring people together, empower them.”

His outspokenness hasn’t always been well-received, however. In February of 2018, a prominent conservative commentator famously told him to “shut up and dribble” in response to his “talking politics.”

Ibrahimovic has made headlines for acrobatic goals, bombastic boasts and on-field controversy throughout his wildly successful soccer career.

In January, he faced accusations of racism after a clash with Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku during a Coppa Italia quarterfinal clash. Ibrahimovic, who often refers to himself in the third person, was accused of having used offensive language during his spat with Lukaku and later posted a message on social media reiterating that he is against racism, with his coach later backing his claims.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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The risks of corporate political spending after the Jan. 6 insurrection | Column – Tampa Bay Times

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Ever since the 2010 Supreme Court case Citizens United v. FEC, corporations have had the ability to spend money in politics. Now after the Jan. 6 insurrection, many corporate political spenders are feeling the sting of getting into bed with the wrong politicians. These corporations are learning something that I have been writing about for years — dabbling in politics comes with huge reputational risks.

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy
Ciara Torres-Spelliscy [ File photo ]

This year is not the first time that electoral votes have had congressional objections. Back in 2004, there were limited objections to Ohio’s electoral college votes. In 2004 the objection was from Ohio Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and California Sen. Barbara Boxer. Rep. Tubbs Jones was joined by several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who raised the objection to draw attention to the long lines and other voting difficulties experienced by Black voters in Ohio. The objection was resolved after a few hours. A big difference from 2021 was that the 2004 objection was not accompanied by violence in the halls of Congress.

The Capitol riot presents unique risks for corporate financial supporters for members of Congress who backed President Donald Trump’s position on Jan. 6.

Independent journalist Judd Legum’s Popular Information was the first to ask corporate PACs whether they would continue their financial support for members of Congress who objected in 2021 to the Electoral College votes in swing states on Jan. 6. In 2021 multiple swing states were subject to objections (instead of just one state), and this time more than a hundred House Republicans and a dozen Republican senators originally objected. This meant corporate donors to far more members of Congress were under scrutiny for supporting what some are now calling the sedition caucus.

Popular Information broke the news on Jan. 11 that three major corporations — Marriott, BlueCross BlueShield and Commerce Bank — suspended PAC donations to the 147 Republicans who objected to the Electoral College vote. A day later they reported that dozens of corporations would also suspend political support.

A month after the insurrection, the New York Times Deal Book highlighted that Morgan Stanley, Microsoft, BlackRock, Coca-Cola and Hilton all paused donations to the 147 objecting Republicans in Congress including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

A new survey by the Conference Board provides a new data both on how broadly corporations have pulled back from on political spending. The survey of 84 companies found that “about 28 percent of companies have announced their PAC’s actions both internally and externally, while another 25 percent have announced their PAC’s decision but only internally.” This indicates the firms that have been captured by Popular Information and the New York Times likely understates how many corporations have changed their political spending behavior since the changes haven’t all been public. Moreover, the Conference Board survey indicated that “concerns about company reputation was a key factor (nearly 45 percent) in driving the organization’s response (to Jan. 6).”

As I explained in my book Political Brands and in a law review article entitled “Shooting Your Brand in the Foot,” corporate political spending comes with many reputational risks including associating a well-crafted corporate brand with a toxic politician. If a politician that a corporation has supported gets into an embarrassing scandal or legal trouble, the corporation can be harmed through guilt by association. This can lead to boycotts and other shunning.

Also if the political spending is being done transparently through a corporate PAC, then there’s another lesson to hard learn: Records of political spending online last forever. Even if firms stop giving to Sens. Josh Hawley or Ted Cruz today, all their past political support is easy to find on sources like www.followthemoney.org or www.opensecrets.org. For forever and a day, the public, including a firm’s shareholders and customers, can find which corporate PACs supported Donald Trump or his congressional enablers.

Investigations into the Jan. 6 events are on-going. The FBI continues to arrest individuals who participated in the riot from the outside. New reporting notes that the Capitol Police are investing 35 officers of their own organization for their actions that day. Then there is a police investigation. about exactly which members of Congress may have given tours of the Capitol on Jan. 5 to aid and abet the future rioters. So what is now a political nightmare could get even worse if any members of Congress that were supported by a corporation gets into criminal trouble too related to the insurrection. The downside for the donor corporations can be enormous and long lasting.

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy is a professor of law at Stetson University College of Law, a Brennan Center Fellow and the author of “Political Brands.”

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