As Mueller report lands, a wider legal threat continues to loom over the Trump presidency

The New York Times reports:

Even as the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, submitted his confidential report to the Justice Department on Friday, federal and state prosecutors are pursuing about a dozen other investigations that largely grew out of his work, all but ensuring that a legal threat will continue to loom over the Trump presidency.

Most of the investigations focus on President Trump or his family business or a cadre of his advisers and associates, according to court records and interviews with people briefed on the investigations. They are being conducted by officials from Los Angeles to Brooklyn, with about half of them being run by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan.

Unlike Mr. Mueller, whose mandate was largely focused on any links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, the federal prosecutors in Manhattan take an expansive view of their jurisdiction. That authority has enabled them, along with F.B.I. agents, to scrutinize a broader orbit around the president, including his family business. [Continue reading…]

I wrote the special counsel rules. The attorney general can — and should — release the Mueller report

Neal Kumar Katyal writes:

The public has every right to see Robert S. Mueller III’s conclusions. Absolutely nothing in the law or the regulations prevents the report from becoming public. Indeed, the relevant sources of law give Attorney General P. William Barr all the latitude in the world to make it public.

Those regulations, which I had the privilege of drafting in 1998 and 1999 as a young Justice Department lawyer, require three types of reports. First, the special counsel must give the attorney general “Urgent Reports” during the course of an investigation regarding things such as proposed indictments. Second, the special counsel must provide a report to the attorney general at the end of the investigation, which Mueller delivered on Friday. And third, the attorney general must furnish Congress with a report containing “an explanation for each action … upon conclusion of the Special Counsel’s investigation.”

The regulations anticipated there would be differences among these three. Generally speaking, the final report the special counsel gives to the attorney general would be “confidential,” and the report the attorney general gives to Congress would be “brief.” We wanted to avoid another Starr report — a lurid document going unnecessarily into detail about someone’s intimate conduct and the like. A subject of such a report would have no mechanism to rebut those allegations or get his or her privacy back. [Continue reading…]

Mueller delivers report on Trump-Russia investigation to Attorney General

The New York Times reports:

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has delivered a report on his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election to Attorney General William P. Barr, according to the Justice Department, bringing to a close an investigation that has consumed the nation and cast a shadow over President Trump for nearly two years.

Mr. Barr told congressional leaders in a letter late Friday that he may brief them within days on the special counsel’s findings. “I may be in a position to advise you of the special counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend,” he wrote in a letter to the leadership of the House and Senate Judiciary committees.

It is up to Mr. Barr how much of the report to share with Congress and, by extension, the American public. The House voted unanimously in March on a nonbinding resolution to make public the report’s findings, an indication of the deep support within both parties to air whatever evidence prosecutors uncovered. [Continue reading…]

James Comey: What I want from the Mueller report

James Comey writes:

The country is eagerly awaiting the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. Many people know what they want it to say — what they feel it simply must say — namely, that Donald Trump is a criminal who should be removed from office. Or that he is completely innocent of all wrongdoing.

But not everyone knows what it “must” say. Even though I believe Mr. Trump is morally unfit to be president of the United States, I’m not rooting for Mr. Mueller to demonstrate that he is a criminal. I’m also not rooting for Mr. Mueller to “clear” the president. I’m not rooting for anything at all, except that the special counsel be permitted to finish his work, charge whatever cases warrant charging and report on his work.

President Trump’s constant attacks on the special counsel, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department over the past two years raised the prospect that he would interfere to stop the special counsel’s work. It is deeply concerning that the president of the United States would try to protect himself by torching the institutions of justice. But he hasn’t used his authority to end Mr. Mueller’s work. (That would have been a crisis of a different order — shutting down the investigation, rather than just trying to undermine its credibility.) So we are in a position to wonder and hope about the report’s content. [Continue reading…]

Federal judge demands Trump administration reveal how its drilling plans will fuel climate change

The Washington Post reports:

A federal judge ruled late Tuesday that the Interior Department violated federal law by failing to take into account the climate impact of its oil and gas leasing in the West.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras of Washington could force the Trump administration to account for the full climate impact of its energy-dominance agenda, and it could signal trouble for the president’s plan to boost fossil fuel production across the country. Contreras concluded that the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management “did not sufficiently consider climate change” when making decisions to auction off federal land in Wyoming to oil and gas drilling under President Barack Obama in 2015 and 2016. The judge temporarily blocked drilling on about 300,000 acres of land in the state.

The initial ruling in the case, brought by the advocacy groups WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility, has implications for oil and gas drilling on federal land throughout the West. In the decision, Contreras — an Obama appointee — faulted the agency’s environmental assessments as inadequate because they did not detail how individual drilling projects contribute to the nation’s overall carbon output. Since greenhouse gas emissions are driving climate change, the judge wrote, these analyses did not provide policymakers and the public with a sufficient understanding of drilling’s impact, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act. [Continue reading…]

The real reason the Trump administration is constantly losing in court

The Washington Post reports:

Federal judges have ruled against the Trump administration at least 63 times over the past two years, an extraordinary record of legal defeat that has stymied large parts of the president’s agenda on the environment, immigration and other matters.

In case after case, judges have rebuked Trump officials for failing to follow the most basic rules of governance for shifting policy, including providing legitimate explanations supported by facts and, where required, public input.

Many of the cases are in early stages and subject to reversal. For example, the U.S. Supreme Court permitted a version of President Trump’s ban on travelers from certain predominantly Muslim nations to take effect after lower-court judges blocked the travel ban as discriminatory.

But regardless of whether the administration ultimately prevails, the rulings so far paint a remarkable portrait of a government rushing to implement sweeping changes in policy without regard for long-standing rules against arbitrary and capricious behavior.

“What they have consistently been doing is short-circuiting the process,” said Georgetown Law School’s William W. Buzbee, an expert on administrative law who has studied Trump’s record. In the regulatory cases, Buzbee said, “They don’t even come close” to explaining their actions, “making it very easy for the courts to reject them because they’re not doing their homework.”

Two-thirds of the cases accuse the Trump administration of violating the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), a nearly 73-year-old law that forms the primary bulwark against arbitrary rule. The normal “win rate” for the government in such cases is about 70 percent, according to analysts and studies. But as of mid-January, a database maintained by the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law shows Trump’s win rate at about 6 percent. [Continue reading…]

It’s time to fight white nationalist terrorism and its apologists

Christopher Dickey writes:

Donald Trump was right. The special pleading around the question of whether to call terrorism by radical Muslims “radical Islamic terrorism” clouded a critical issue. The fight against extremism must start with ideas, and with language that is clear and unequivocal. Which is why we should be perfectly blunt about what Brenton Tarrant, the 28-year-old monster of Christchurch, claimed to represent, and did and does represent, which is white nationalist terrorism.

Tarrant may have been a lone shooter when he slaughtered 50 people at two mosques in New Zealand on Friday, but he was not a “lone wolf.” He was part of a much wider movement that is every bit as extensive as Al Qaeda was when it attacked the United States in 2001, and potentially much more dangerous to the future of Western democracies.

Now, before it grows any stronger, should be the time to move against it with the same kind of concerted international focus of attention and resources that were trained on Osama bin Laden. Now is the time for a global war on white nationalist terrorism.

But that’s not likely to happen. As The Daily Beast reported on Friday, fewer than one in five FBI cases target white supremacists.

Nobody can claim, as the George W. Bush administration did, that “we’re going to fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them here,” because they are already “here” with a vengeance, steadily increasing their power and presence in Western democracies.

Networks of white nationalist apologists, sympathizers, supporters and facilitators—vital to any terrorist movement—are deeply embedded in the political and social fabric. They are literally the enemy within. As an apologist, it should be said, President Donald Trump is in a class by himself. Trump is “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose,” as Tarrant wrote in his manifesto. [Continue reading…]

Rogue state: U.S. bars entry to International Criminal Court investigators

The Associated Press reports:

The United States will revoke or deny visas to International Criminal Court personnel seeking to investigate alleged war crimes and other abuses committed by U.S. forces in Afghanistan or elsewhere, and may do the same with those who seek action against Israel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday.

Pompeo, acting on a threat delivered in September by U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, framed the action as necessary to prevent the international body from infringing on U.S. sovereignty by prosecuting American forces or allies for torture or other war crimes.

“We are determined to protect the American and allied military and civilian personnel from living in fear of unjust prosecution for actions taken to defend our great nation,” Pompeo said.

U.S. officials have long regarded the Netherlands-based ICC with hostility, arguing that American courts are capable of handling any allegations against U.S. forces and questioning the motives of an international court.

The ICC and its supporters, including human rights groups that denounced Pompeo’s announcement, argue that it is needed to prosecute cases when a country fails to do so or does an insufficient job of it. [Continue reading…]

In overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, House calls for Mueller report to be made public

The Washington Post reports:

The House voted overwhelmingly and in bipartisan fashion to urge the Justice Department to publicly release the entirety of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 election, once completed.

The move is an attempt to “send a clear signal both to the American people and the Department of Justice” that lawmakers expect to see the full account of Mueller’s work, according to the Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).

The final vote count was 420 in favor, with no one voting no. Four lawmakers voted “present.” [Continue reading…]

Sandy Hook massacre: Remington and other gun companies lose major ruling over liability

The New York Times reports:

The Connecticut Supreme Court dealt a major blow to the firearms industry on Thursday, clearing the way for a lawsuit against the companies that manufactured and sold the semiautomatic rifle used by the gunman in the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

The lawsuit mounted a direct challenge to the immunity that Congress granted gun companies to shield them from litigation when their weapons are used in a crime. The ruling allows the case, brought by victims’ families, to maneuver around the federal shield, creating a potential opening to bring claims to trial and hold the companies, including Remington, which made the rifle, liable for the attack.

The decision represents a significant development in the long-running battle between gun control advocates and the gun lobby. And it stands to have wider ramifications, experts said, by charting a possible legal road map for victims’ relatives and survivors from other mass shootings who want to sue gun companies. [Continue reading…]