Published: 10:04 pm, Tue. Aug. 16th, 2022Updated: 9:04 pm
Trump supporters’ threats to judge spur democracy concerns
WASHINGTON (AP) — Hundreds of federal judges face the same task every day: review an affidavit submitted by federal agents and approve requests for a search warrant. But for U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart, the fallout from his decision to approve a search warrant has been far from routine.
He has faced a storm of death threats since his signature earlier this month cleared the way for the FBI to search former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate as part of a probe into whether he inappropriately removed sensitive materials from the White House. Reinhart’s home address was posted on right-wing sites, along with antisemitic slurs. The South Florida synagogue he attends canceled its Friday night Shabbat services in the wake of the uproar.
Trump has done little to lower the temperature among his supporters, decrying the search as political persecution and calling on Reinhart to recuse himself in the case because he has previously made political donations to Democrats. Reinhart has also, however, contributed to Republicans.
The threats against Reinhart are part of a broader attack on law enforcement, particularly the FBI, by Trump and his allies in the aftermath of the search. But experts warn that the focus on a judge, coming amid an uptick in threats to the judiciary in general, is dangerous for the rule of law in the U.S. and the country’s viability as a democracy.
“Threats against judges fulfilling their constitutional responsibilities strike at the very core of our democracy,” U.S. Second Circuit Judge Richard J. Sullivan, chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on Judicial Security, said in a statement issued recently in the aftermath of the search. “Judges should not have to fear retaliation for doing their jobs.”
Giuliani says he ‘satisfied’ obligation with Ga. grand jury
ATLANTA (AP) — Rudy Giuliani said Wednesday that he had “satisfied his obligation” after facing hours of questioning Wednesday before a special grand jury in Atlanta as a target of an investigation into attempts by former President Donald Trump and others to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Giuliani said Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis ended his appearance by saying he had “satisfied his obligation under the subpoena.”
“So I was very happy that I satisfied my obligation,” he said.
Speaking upon his return to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, Giuliani didn’t provide any additional details about his appearance or testimony, including the type of questions he was asked. He was pushed through the terminal in a wheelchair alongside his lawyer, Bob Costello.
Giuliani’s attorneys tried to delay his appearance before the special grand jury, saying he was unable to fly due to heart stent surgery in early July. On Wednesday, Giuliani said “my plane ride was OK,” noting that it was his first since the procedure.
Cheney’s defeat end of an era for GOP; Trump’s party now
WASHINGTON (AP) — Liz Cheney’s resounding primary defeat marks the end of an era for the Republican Party as well as her own family legacy, the most high-profile political casualty yet as the party of Lincoln transforms into the party of Trump.
The fall of the three-term congresswoman, who has declared it her mission to ensure Donald Trump never returns to the Oval Office, was vividly foreshadowed earlier this year, on the first anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
As the House convened for a moment of silence, Cheney, who is leading the investigation into the insurrection as vice chair of the 1/6 committee, and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, stood almost alone on the Republican side of the House floor.
Democratic lawmakers streamed by to shake their hands. Republicans declined to join them.
“Liz Cheney represents the Republican Party as it used to be. … All of that is gone now,” said Geoff Kabaservice, vice president of political studies at the center-right Niskanen Center.
Trump Org. CFO to plead guilty, testify against company
NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s chief financial officer is expected to plead guilty to tax violations Thursday in a deal that would require him to testify about illicit business practices at the former president’s company, two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
Allen Weisselberg is charged with taking more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation from the Trump Organization over several years, including untaxed perks like rent, car payments and school tuition.
The plea deal would require Weisselberg to speak in court Thursday about the company’s role in the alleged compensation arrangement and possibly serve as a witness when the Trump Organization goes on trial in October on related charges, the people said.
The two people were not authorized to speak publicly about the case and did so on condition of anonymity.
Weisselberg, 75, is likely to receive a sentence of five months in jail, to be served at New York City’s notorious Rikers Island complex, and he could be required to pay about $2 million in restitution, including taxes, penalties and interest, the people said. If that punishment holds, Weisselberg would be eligible for release after about 100 days.
CDC director announces shake-up, citing COVID mistakes
NEW YORK (AP) — The head of the nation’s top public health agency on Wednesday announced a shake-up of the organization, saying it fell short responding to COVID-19 and needs to become more nimble.
The planned changes at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — CDC leaders call it a “reset”— come amid criticism of the agency’s response to COVID-19, monkeypox and other public health threats. The changes include internal staffing moves and steps to speed up data releases.
The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told the agency’s staff about the changes on Wednesday. It’s a CDC initiative, and was not directed by the White House or other administration officials, she said.
“I feel like it’s my my responsibility to lead this agency to a better place after a really challenging three years,” Walensky told The Associated Press.
The Atlanta-based agency, with a $12 billion budget and more than 11,000 employees, is charged with protecting Americans from disease outbreaks and other public health threats. It’s customary for each CDC director to do some reorganizing, but Walensky’s action comes amid a wider demand for change.
Judge reinstates North Carolina’s 20-week abortion ban
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Abortions in North Carolina are no longer legal after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, eroding protections in one of the South’s few remaining safe havens for reproductive freedom.
U.S. District Judge William Osteen reinstated an unenforced 20-week abortion ban, with exceptions for urgent medical emergencies, after he said the June U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade erased the legal foundation for his 2019 ruling that placed an injunction on the 1973 state law.
His decision defies the recommendations of all named parties in the 2019 case, including doctors, district attorneys and the attorney general’s office, who earlier this month filed briefs requesting he let the injunction stand.
“Neither this court, nor the public, nor counsel, nor providers have the right to ignore the rule of law as determined by the Supreme Court,” wrote Osteen, who was appointed to the court by Republican President George W. Bush.
Unable to pass abortion restrictions that would survive Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto, the Republican General Assembly leaders urged Osteen to restore the ban in a July 27 friend-of-the-court brief after the state’s Democratic attorney general, an outspoken abortion rights supporter, rejected their demand that he bring the ban before a judge himself.
Bombing at Kabul mosque kills 10, including prominent cleric
ISLAMABAD (AP) — A bombing at a mosque in the Afghan capital of Kabul during evening prayers on Wednesday killed at least 10 people, including a prominent cleric, and wounded at least 27, an eyewitness and police said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, the latest to strike the country in the year since the Taliban seized power. Several children were reported to be among the wounded.
The Islamic State group’s local affiliate has stepped up attacks targeting the Taliban and civilians since the former insurgents’ takeover last August as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their withdrawal from the country. Last week, the IS claimed responsibility for killing a prominent Taliban cleric at his religious center in Kabul.
According to the eyewitness, a resident of the city’s Kher Khanna neighborhood where the Siddiquiya Mosque was targeted, the explosion was carried out by a suicide bomber. The slain cleric was Mullah Amir Mohammad Kabuli, the eyewitness said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.
He added that more than 30 other people were wounded. The Italian Emergency hospital in Kabul said that at least 27 wounded civilians, including five children, were brought there from the site of the bomb blast.
Blasts in Crimea underscore Russian forces’ vulnerability
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A spate of explosions and fires has turned Russian-occupied Crimea from a secure rear base into a new battleground in the war, demonstrating both the Russians’ vulnerability and the Ukrainians’ capacity to strike deep behind enemy lines.
Nine Russian warplanes were reported destroyed at an air base in Crimea last week, and an ammunition depot on the peninsula blew up on Tuesday.
Ukrainian authorities have stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility, preferring to keep the world guessing, but President Volodymyr Zelenskyy alluded to Ukrainian attacks behind enemy lines after the latest blasts, which Russia blamed on “sabotage.”
Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and has used it as a staging ground for attacks on the country in the war that began Feb. 24. Ukrainian authorities have vowed to recapture Crimea and other occupied territories.
“The invaders will die like dew in the sun,” Zelenskyy, in his nightly video address Wednesday, said of the effort to retake Crimea and other areas.
Kids-for-cash judges ordered to pay more than $200M
Two former Pennsylvania judges who orchestrated a scheme to send children to for-profit jails in exchange for kickbacks were ordered to pay more than $200 million to hundreds of people they victimized in one of the worst judicial scandals in U.S. history.
U.S. District Judge Christopher Conner awarded $106 million in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages to nearly 300 people in a long-running civil suit against the judges, writing the plaintiffs are “the tragic human casualties of a scandal of epic proportions.”
In what came to be known as the kids-for-cash scandal, Mark Ciavarella and another judge, Michael Conahan, shut down a county-run juvenile detention center and accepted $2.8 million in illegal payments from the builder and co-owner of two for-profit lockups. Ciavarella, who presided over juvenile court, pushed a zero-tolerance policy that guaranteed large numbers of kids would be sent to PA Child Care and its sister facility, Western PA Child Care.
Ciavarella ordered children as young as 8 to detention, many of them first-time offenders deemed delinquent for petty theft, jaywalking, truancy, smoking on school grounds and other minor infractions. The judge often ordered youths he had found delinquent to be immediately shackled, handcuffed and taken away without giving them a chance to put up a defense or even say goodbye to their families.
“Ciavarella and Conahan abandoned their oath and breached the public trust,” Conner wrote Tuesday in his explanation of the judgment. “Their cruel and despicable actions victimized a vulnerable population of young people, many of whom were suffering from emotional issues and mental health concerns.”
Gas-powered muscle cars drive into the sunset, turn electric
PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — Thundering gas-powered muscle cars, for decades a fixture of American culture, will be closing in on their final Saturday-night cruises in the coming years as automakers begin replacing them with super-fast cars that run on batteries.
Stellantis’ Dodge brand, long the performance flag-bearer of the company formerly known as Fiat Chrysler, is officially moving toward electricity. On Wednesday night, Dodge unveiled a battery-powered Charger Daytona SRT concept car, which is close to one that will be produced in 2024 as the sun sets on some petroleum models.
Stellantis says it will stop making gasoline versions of the Dodge Challenger and Charger muscle cars and the Chrysler 300 large car by the end of next year. The Canadian factory that makes them will be converted to electric vehicles. Other automakers are moving — or have moved — in the same direction.
General Motors has said it will build an all-electric Chevrolet Corvette. Tesla says its Model S Plaid version is the fastest production vehicle made, able to go from zero to 60 mph (97 kilometers per hour) in under 2 seconds. Audi, Mercedes, Porsche and other European automakers already have high-performance electric models on sale. And Polestar, an electric-performance spinoff from Volvo, just announced a new Polestar 6 roadster for 2026.
One reason for the industry shift is that electric vehicles are simply faster off the starting line. Their handling is typically better, too, because their heavy batteries create a low center of gravity.