Good Day For America’s Checks And Balances Continues With Strong Rebuke To Donald Trump Wednesday Evening

Late Wednesday evening we witnessed another sign that our nation’s checks and balances continue to work. I take note of such events as they are lifting moments in our troubling times when we witness fascism rising while an autocrat makes threats about violence being unleashed in the nation if he is brought to justice.  

Throughout the day we saw the efforts of law and order rise up and make a clarion statement that this nation does not kneel to such blackmail. New York Attorney General Letitia James took action to bar Donald Trump and his children from ever again running a business in New York State. She filed a lawsuit that claims the Trump family and their business overvalued assets by billions of dollars and with the proof of Trump’s annual financial statements showcased at least a decade of absurd myth-making while defrauding banks and insurance companies.  

Late in the evening, a federal appeals court handed down a blistering ruling that unleashed the Justice Department so to rightly resume using documents marked as classified that were seized from Donald Trump in the FBI search. In so doing, the ruling undoes a lower court’s order that had strictly limited the investigation into Trump’s handling of highly classified government materials.  The 11th Circuit set aside key parts of an earlier order by a Florida federal judge that had kept the department from using about 100 files that Trump illegally retained. 

The three-judge panel wrote in their opinion, “For our part, we cannot discern why Plaintiff would have an individual interest in or need for any of the one-hundred documents with classification markings.” 

What strikes me of great interest is that the panel in this ruling found particularly unpersuasive the repeated suggestions by Trump’s legal team that he may have declassified the documents. But note that when earlier pressed by the special master, Raymond Dearie, those lawyers would not say very much in court if Trump had acted to declassify the materials in question.  They know better than to lie during a court proceeding.  

So tonight, the federal court lowered the boom on Trump.  “Plaintiff suggests that he may have declassified these documents when he was President. But the record contains no evidence that any of these records were declassified. And before the special master, Plaintiff resisted providing any evidence that he had declassified any of these documents,” the panel wrote. “In any event, at least for these purposes, the declassification argument is a red herring because declassifying an official document would not change its content or render it personal.” 

We have come to a point in our nation where the legal process and the application of the rule of law will be required to be used energetically to ensure the nation remains a democracy.  This blog has often opined on the drift away from our nation’s ideals and the Framers’ construct during the Trump term—our nation’s most embarrassing fiasco since the days of Richard Nixon. (And let us be frank and term Dick a piker in comparison.) Today, however, was a fine example of what the law can and will do to right the ship that has drifted and tilted dangerously.  In so doing, it allows us a strong ray of hope about the future of this country.

Here Is Why Anthony Hamilton Is Worthy Of Your Vote For Dane County Sheriff

When it comes to public safety, I have continually opted for the course that best meets the needs of keeping society secure and follows the process of law and order. Even before the past 24 hours, or so, I was already a voter who was planning to cast a November vote for Anthony Hamilton as our next Dane County Sheriff. That decision was based on the clear need for more officers to be hired in the department, and what I consider a stodgy hiring strategy at a time when a public desire for safety increases.

Following news reports this week of a search warrant process that was not carried out in a fashion that we must demand from law enforcement, was just additional evidence as to why a change at the top of the Dane County Sheriff’s Department must take place at the ballot box.

Going into this election I have heard and talked with officers who have spoken about the feeling of being stretched thin with overtime and fewer fellow deputies to meet, at times, the needs of the county. That to me is the central and core issue of this race, and the topic that meets the voters at their home or their place of business.  The citizenry has a rightful expectation to know that law enforcement is staffed to meet the current array of problems that might require their involvement.

We know this summer that Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett stated the staffing situation is such that the department is short 40 deputies.  Though safety reasons were the leading cause for the closing of part of the outdated jail there was also a shortage of staff that aided in making that decision. While arguments can be made about the ways to recruit and hire new deputies, the fact there is such a shortage in the first place is enough concern to drive a voter to make a change in the leadership of the sheriff’s office.

Then the news from yesterday landed with a most embarrassing thud for the county.

Republican Dane County sheriff’s candidate and detective Anthony Hamilton has sued the Sheriff’s Office in federal court alleging that officials conspired to remove him from the SWAT team for raising concerns about a search at a hotel in March 2021 he considered illegal.

Hamilton’s removal from the SWAT team stemmed from an armed standoff at the Magnuson Grand Hotel in Madison where Hamilton and other law enforcement agents searched a hotel room, the lawsuit said. During the search, Hamilton voiced concerns that the search was probably illegal, the lawsuit said.

Sheriff’s officials later lied in their reports about the incident, with Sgt. Mark Schroeder, who participated in the search, saying that he had ordered Hamilton to obtain a warrant, according to the lawsuit.

Law enforcement at the scene first said they had received permission from the hotel’s manager to search the room because no one had been living there. In an interview on Tuesday, Hamilton said he later learned that the hotel had been renting the room off the books, which technically made the search illegal.

The reason this finds me exercised today is that over and over on this blog I have pressed how the process of governing needs to be transparent, and made clear for those who follow the proceedings, so that win or lose, all can state honestly that the rules were known and applied.  The process must not be tainted or altered to get the desired end. From the antics of my local neighborhood association to the pure lunacy of the Donald Trump White House, there is no escaping that process matters. As it was required to do so with the law enforcement matter in which Hamilton was engaged.  What we are again witnessing is a fact. When an established process is tossed aside for expediency it makes for harsh consequences.

For the record, I have not met or talked with either of the contenders for the sheriff’s office this fall.  But I am aware of the distrust that falls upon the shoulders of the men and women who wear the law enforcement uniform, and how that translates into our politics and social tensions.  Dane County simply must have a rational hiring process so a full department can be ready to serve the public, and once hired officers must go about their business of not only serving and protecting, but also burnishing a better image for the public.  I believe our sheriff’s department must do better but can only achieve what is desired with new leadership. 

A new sheriff. 

Anthony Hamilton.

Build 6-Story Dane County Jail, As Too Many Wish To Reside There

The local conversation has not been as elongated as that which surrounded the downtown Judge Doyle Square development, but the numerous ideas and dialogue about the new Dane County jail seem akin to it.  Last week, the County Board was unable to pass any of its three options for moving forward with the jail consolidation project.  On the chopping block was a plan that lacked credibility as it scaled back the structure by one floor and reduced bed space for inmates. Data proves more space, not less space will be required.

As the news was reported in the Wisconsin State Journal about the lack of securing the needed votes on the Board for any new jail plan, came another sad example of why this ongoing planning must be pushed forward. Three 18-year-olds were charged in Madison with attempted first-degree intentional homicide.  Two of the adults got out of a car driven by the third man and started shooting at another man who was walking and then running away from the vehicle. The victim had broken bones in his pelvis.

As we know from data, Black men are arrested and charged for crimes at a far higher rate than their white counterparts. Reform-minded advocates have stated their belief that inequities in housing, education, social services, and other factors are the reasons for crimes. It can also be documented that Blacks face inequalities in the sentencing they receive for crimes.  While all that can be proven so can the abundant programming and ever-growing funding from the City of Madison, Dane County, the State of Wisconsin, and Congress at the federal level to combat the reasons for arrests. 

Clearly, something is not working.

Whatever propels young adults to pursue someone, shoot numerous rounds, and then when their home is searched a handgun and large extended magazine in a freezer are found does cause the average citizen to ask what part of the social system is broken.  Is the cause the taxpayer who does pay for social programming and truly desires for it to show results in the communities where it is used and needed?  Is the cause due to family structures that are so fragmented and dysfunctional that basic concepts of right and wrong are as foreign as metaphysics?  Whatever the cause may be the result is that those who can not or will not conduct themselves in accordance with societal norms must pay a price for their actions.

Would I like to see all the money needed for a new jail appropriated somewhere else?  Of course.  But that is not our reality. As long as there are so many among us who wish to reside in the Dane County jail based on the absurdity of their actions then we will need to house them, keeping them separate from the ones who do live between the guard rails of law and order.

I am not sure how the current impasse will resolve itself in deliberations over the jail among Board members.  But I am certain the end result will be a needed 6-floor development project.  Sadly, almost every edition of the newspaper underscores its necessity.

Threats Of Civil War By Angry White Males Fostered By GOP During Donald Trump Years

It was less than an hour after I posted on my Caffeinated Politics Facebook page about the FBI search of Donald Trump’s Florida home when a white male reader commented that the action meant “civil war” upon the nation. This week Ricky W. Shiffer posted messages on Trump’s social media platform recommending that “patriots” go to Florida and kill federal agents.  After he tried to break into the F.B.I.’s Cincinnati office his fate was sealed when he thought it wise to engage in a gun battle on an interstate with law enforcement.  Shiffer was shot dead.

It is very clear from the national chatter that extremists, low on IQ and book learning, but loaded with crazy thoughts and deadly guns are intent on creating violence in the nation following the law-and-order process the FBI undertook this week in Florida.  When a deranged personality was outside the home of a current member of the Supreme Court this summer, a hue and cry rightfully arose about the safety of the judiciary.  The backlash, however, from conservatives this week about the violence and threats from angry white males in the nation, like Shiffer, were hardly registered.  Transactional politics when it comes to the safety of our police and law enforcement officers is nothing short of repugnant.

If one listens and reads the crazy lingo from those white males who are engaged in right-wing militancy it is soon apparent, that they are again aggrieved—their favorite pastime when not stroking their weapons.  They huffed and puffed and made threats this week of ‘locking and loading’ in their zeal to defend their cult leader, Donald Trump.  Our nation, it needs all to be reminded, did not just arrive at such a moment; rather the GOP helped to create this situation.

The animus the Republican Party has fostered and yes, stoked, within their ranks against law enforcement and the rule of law-and-order is highly troubling and unsightly. We watched the GOP fall for Trump starting in 2015, and then over his term in office followed the disregard he had for the FBI, wanting to use the Attorney General as his own personal lawyer, and striving mightily to undercut the Constitution. The Republican Party stood by and watched and even started to mimic and repeat his false claims and further the erosion of respect for folks who put on a robe or a badge when they head to their job.

The outcome of Trump’s corrosive actions, and the spinless reaction from the GOP, is now playing out with the vile and threatening rhetoric and actions by the basest lowlifes in the conservative tent.  In 2018, I wrote a post about the disregard Trump had for the judiciary.

What troubled me….and cuts to the core as to why Trump is viewed as dangerous to democracy–concerns his disdain for laws and our Constitution.  To have our system work requires we acknowledge the rule of law.  The public needs to respect the judgments of those who sit on the courts.  The public needs to obey the laws and abide by the decisions of judges.  To then have a person in the Oval Office lashing out with personal attacks on judges and the court system–as Trump does continually–sends a most disturbing message to the nation.

There is also the added danger that judges should never have to consider any fear of personal attacks, or venom from the citizenry when rendering a decision. Having an autocratic person in the White House should not in some way taint the decision-making process in a court of law.  It is imperative that Trump show the proper respect for not only the law but those who decide the cases and shape laws.

The federal judge who signed the search warrant after being presented with facts as to what classified documents were strongly believed to be in Trump’s Florida home, and even where the documents that should not be anywhere except in a government building were located, should not be the target of terrorist threats by Trump’s flying monkeys.  Yet the judge has been placed under law enforcement protection based on the threats of violence.

This is the second time in just a matter of weeks that I feel the need to write about the growing trend in the nation that views violence as an acceptable path forward in our nation. A poll finds that Americans say they believe violence against the government can at times be justified, that result being the largest share to feel that way in more than two decades. The percentage of Americans who say violent action against the government is justified at times stands at 34 percent, which is considerably higher than in past polls by major news organizations dating back more than two decades. Again, the view is partisan: The new survey finds 40 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents, and 23 percent of Democrats saying violence is sometimes justified.

Our nation has been placed in a truly contentious and troubling place due to the Republican Party caving to the very thing the Founding Fathers feared.  It was my clear favorite of those men, Alexander Hamilton, who worried about the populace being swayed by a charlatan or one with low character. He knew of the Donald Trump types, as Hamilton had read books about the nature of mankind. He was also most aware of the threat of unlearned people being easily led, and led woefully astray, as the Trump base within the Republican Party has continually demonstrated.

The angry white males that are now threatening and seeking to intimidate the majority of the nation are precisely what Hamilton was worried about in his days of pondering the larger questions about our then-young nation. We join him in his justified worries.

Wisconsin Justice Brian Hagedorn Correct: “The Business Of Courts Is Public Business”

The ruling Friday from the Wisconsin State Supreme Court was direct and to the point. The request from those bringing suit against the Madison School District to remain anonymous was denied in a case dealing with a gender identity policy. They must disclose their identities to attorneys arguing the case. The court did allow them to proceed using pseudonyms publicly.

There are many perspectives that can be had about the policy and its implications on both transgender youth, and parents or guardians of those children. I will not wade into that fight, but rather wish to write about the process of open and transparent government that must be adhered to if all are to be treated and viewed fairly.

If our system of government is to be open and transparent there can be no justification for keeping the names of those seeking redress through the court system secret.  As Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote in the majority opinion, “While we protect certain vulnerable legal participants, such as children and crime victims, the business of courts is public business, and as such is presumed to remain open and available to the public.”

If one can not stand in the light of day to their convictions when seeking a remedy in the court system then perhaps there is a problem with the position that they are privately taking. 

It should be remembered John Hancock used a large bold script when signing the Declaration of Independence, so large in fact that ”…fat George can read it without his spectacles.”  That should be the model of our convictions today.  If people can not publically stand by their views as expressed in court proceedings and are ashamed of having their names made known in the press or seen in the public square, we need to ask why they seek cover?

When one lobbies in any fashion for the government to take any action it should be public knowledge.  The consequences of using a conservative law practice to attempt, through the court process, to hide and harbor those who bring a suit when perhaps they are not even living in the school district or have students in our Madison schools run counter to the openness that our government should always strive to maintain.  (The same holds true for the individual who signs a petition concerning a heated issue.)

This issue of anonymity should not be a conservative vs. liberal issue but instead viewed as one of strict adherence to higher ideals. A good government issue. A process concern about how to proceed when our judicial system operates.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a favorite of conservatives, spoke to this issue in oral arguments regarding individuals seeking anonymity for signing a petition to get policy matters on the ballot. The oral argument was in John Doe # 1, et al., v. Reed, et al. (09-559)

Declaring that the rough-and-tumble of democracy is not for the faint-hearted, what Scalia referred to as the “touchy, feely” sensitivity of some political activists, the Justice said “you can’t run a democracy” with political activity behind a First Amendment shroud.  “You are asking us to enter into a whole new field,” Scalia told James Bopp Jr., the lawyer for Washington State signers of an anti-gay rights petition.  Politics, the Justice went on, “takes a certain amount of civic courage.  The First Amendment does not protect you from civic discourse — or even from nasty phone calls.” 

Scalia was most correct with that point.

Let me be most direct. The higher ideals of our state and the judicial process can not be made hostage to the fears of retaliation.  If that had been the case at the beginning of our national story Thomas Jefferson would never have set quill to parchment.

Would it not be great if, in the face of this needless court case concerning Madison schools, brought by people who may not even have any direct connection to the district, we could fully recognize the need for openness and transparency about how our court system must continually operate?

,

Some Wisconsin Progressives Must Share Blame For Supreme Court Abortion Debacle

It is fair to say that conservative justices on the Supreme Court embraced an ideological position from which they ruled when handing down the decision that undid the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. No one can pretend the ruling was framed with only the law in mind, as the playbook for this result was fashioned from the likes of the Federalist Society along with the decades of work by politicians such as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. They sought an outcome from the Court and did everything in their power to have it realized. Even if the law and precedent had to be stepped over so to achieve it.

The blowback of the citizenry that has occurred over the past several days is not surprising. We are seeing only the start of what will be a relentless and searing rhetorical effort to steer voters to the ballot box in this fall’s mid-term elections. Whether or not the issue of abortion is so baked into the partisan DNA of the voters already, or if there is room to energize more votes for Democrats in key races will be what politicos watch play out this summer and fall.

While conservatives on the Court are correctly taking the bulk of the anger and outrage since Friday morning, it does need to be pointed out there is another segment of the nation that also needs to be accountable for the tossing away of Roe. Those people were the purists in the Democratic Party or that segment of the independent vote that could not see the wisdom of supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016.

It was noted often on this blog how I felt about the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. At the time of the 2016 Democratic Convention, I stated the following.

Bernie Sanders was out of the race for the nomination by mid-March with no mathematical way forward.  Still, however, the socialist thought he could take over the Democratic Party.  Instead of bowing out gracefully, he bore down harder still into the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

It also should not come as any surprise to those who supported Sanders for the nomination that races are tough and politics means someone wins and someone loses.  If one is not aware of that simple fact it means they really should not be weighing in on the larger and far more complex issues that face the nation.

Basic politics underscores that no candidate in good conscience would seek to undermine the eventual nominee of the party. The results of such a strategy are dangerous. Continued bombast from the far left about Clinton aided in too many of them sitting out the 2016 presidential election or voting for someone that had zero chance of winning.

Clearly, pragmatism was not underlined as a needed component in politics and governing when civics was being taught in some classrooms. But it is very much an essential ingredient to our political dynamics, and when it is missing or willingly tossed aside, we then have election outcomes that produce a Donald Trump sitting in the Oval Office.

In Wisconsin in 2016, Democrats needed roughly 20,000 more votes to carry it for Clinton. The numbers were roughly the same for Michigan and Pennsylvania.  Had those three states found their common sense the electoral college would have been 270 for Hillary Clinton. As I often write on CP, not only must we vote—but we must always vote intelligently,

Consider that in Wisconsin the amount Clinton lost by was less than the 30,981 votes Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein garnered statewide to get 1.1 percent of the total.  Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson took 3.6 percent of the statewide total or 106,434 votes.   

As a result of Trump winning the presidency, he had the opportunity to name three Supreme Court appointments, and those three justices were critical to the ruling that now places women across large swaths of the nation no longer being able to make their own reproductive health decisions.

There is absolutely a need to hold conservatives accountable for what was handed down from the Court. But if we are honest, there also must be a recognition of those progressives and independents who cared more about some notion of ‘purity’, than for the greater political and policy needs of the nation. Those people can try to duck, weave, and spin their yarns but they, too, are very much a part of the reason Roe was undermined.

Newspaper Front Pages: Ideological Blow From Supreme Court Against Roe v. Wade

Friday a majority of the males on the United States Supreme Court stepped away from the law and squarely mired themselves into their political, cultural, and religious beliefs as they dealt a blow not only to abortion rights in the nation, but also to the longheld understanding regarding the importance of precedence guiding our judicial system.

This morning I gathered up a wide cross-section of front pages of newspapers from this nation, including Hawaii, to underscore the seismic consequence of placing ideologues on the high court. As can be seen on the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle the lead heading also noted the sinister concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas as he threatened both sales of contraceptives in the nation, along with the right to gay marriage.

It is also worth noting that Republican Maine Senator Susan Collins is the only elected official that I can find (from about 100 papers) being placed on the front page (Portland Press Herald) for her spineless behavior during confirmation hearings for justices to the Court.

The nation has been offered too many examples of Collins’ glibness and silliness as she prattles on about being duped by others. I know she was unsettled Friday by the court ruling, was dismayed this morning, and surely will be distressed by cocktail hour. Once again we are reminded of how delusional she continues to be about her senatorial duties.

This is the same conservative senator who actually said after the first impeachment process of Donald Trump that “I believe that the president has learned from this case”. There is no way someone like that should not have a guardian.

Now, here is a wide selection of how the nation is reading of the assault on abortion rights in the United States.

Justice Thomas Writes Opinion For Rolling Back Gay Marriage, Contraceptive Sales, But Did Not Mention Loving v. Virginia

There is plenty of reason to feel ashamed of the Supreme Court today for its purely partisan and doctrinaire ruling which overturned Roe. v. Wade. With no regard for the social realities of the early 21st century, a majority of the males on the court tossed aside precedent and dived into the idealogic depths. They view women as birthing chambers, as the powerfully worded dissent correctly stated, “from the very moment of fertilization, a woman has no rights to speak of.”

While the abortion ruling was one the nation knew was coming for a couple months, the gravity of the ruling and the explosion of emotions and political consequences which will follow surely will be quite unlike anything we have witnessed before in the nation. At a time the political divides are already severe, and the anger among citizens is at an intense level, the court opted for a highly partisan and purely ideological ruling rather than a measured and competent address of the issue at hand.

As if the ruling itself was not jarring and threatening enough to the nation, Justice Clarence Thomas in his cold and calculating conservative concurring opinion called for overturning the constitutional rights the court had affirmed for access to contraceptives and LGBTQ rights. This, too, was not totally a surprise as many, including this blog, have argued since the leak of today’s ruling, that they were the next steps of the conservatives in the judiciary. Some commented on this site that I was basically exaggerating.

But those registering concern about the undermining and stripping away of other rulings were not just blowing smoke.

Reading the separate opinion today by Thomas allowed us to understand his initial view that the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization did not directly affect any rights besides abortion. But then in his customary angry nature that is often seen while sitting petulantly in silence during oral arguments, or his 19th-century views when writing, he argued that the constitution’s Due Process Clause does not secure a right to an abortion or any other substantive rights, and he urged the court to apply that reasoning to other landmark cases.

Thomas stunningly wrote, “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.”

Oddly, Thomas left out the famed Loving v. Virginia, the landmark civil rights decision that ruled that laws banning interracial marriage violated the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. His marriage seemed not to need judicial review.

As we know from years of following the Court and also following legal scholars and noted writers the reckless action today that produced a tingling thrill for conservatives when overturning the landmark decades-old abortion decision, now leaves other precedents vulnerable.

I fully understand that the typical person in Topeka or Green Bay is not pondering the long-term consequences of today’s ruling. But those who follow the cases at the Supreme Court and the politics of moving certain cases forward, and the means by which they make such a journey, do pay attention.

That is why it was sophomoric and utterly ridiculous for anyone to claim two months ago that gay people in our nation had nothing to worry about regarding our marriage rights. What we warned was a possibility was put into writing today by a Supreme Court Justice.

A black man who was able to marry a white woman because of a Supreme court ruling.

Irony is very much alive.