Three Dangers of Biden/Harris Admin, by Glenn Greenwald

Re: Three Dangers of Biden/Harris Admin, by Glenn Greenwald

Postby admin » Fri Jun 11, 2021 10:35 pm

“Do Not Come”: VP Harris Sends Anti-Migrant Message in Guatemala, Visits Mexico Amid Deadly Election
by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now
JUNE 08, 2021
https://www.democracynow.org/2021/6/8/k ... n_killings

GUESTS
Erika Guevara-Rosas
human rights lawyer and Americas director for Amnesty International.
LINKS
Erika Guevara-Rosas on Twitter

In her first foreign trip as vice president, Kamala Harris is in Mexico City to meet with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador after first visiting Guatemala to meet with President Alejandro Giammattei. Harris is tasked by President Joe Biden with stemming the flow of Central American migrants fleeing corruption, violence and poverty, even after the two campaigned on allowing more migrants to apply for asylum along the U.S.-Mexico border, and issued a stern warning to migrants: “Do not come.” Her visit comes after voters cast their ballots in one of Mexico’s largest and deadliest elections in history, as over 80 politicians were killed in the run-up to the election, which had 21,000 local and national seats up for grabs. “This electoral process has been one of the most violent,” says Erika Guevara-Rosas, a human rights lawyer and Americas director for Amnesty International. “It is reflective of the human rights crisis that Mexico has been facing for many years.”

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

In her first foreign trip as vice president, Kamala Harris is in Mexico City today to meet with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador after visiting Guatemala Monday. Harris has been tasked by President Biden with blocking Central American migrants fleeing corruption, violence and poverty from reaching the U.S.-Mexico border, even after the two campaigned on allowing more migrants to apply for asylum.

Harris is the daughter of an Indian mother and a Jamaican father who both immigrated to the United States. During a press conference alongside Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, she issued this jarring warning.

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS: I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come. Do not come.

AMY GOODMAN: In her remarks, Vice President Harris failed to acknowledge how U.S. intervention and foreign policy in Central America have contributed to the root causes of why people flee in the first place.

Her visit to Mexico today comes after voters cast their ballots Sunday in one of the country’s largest midterm elections in history, with about 21,000 local and national seats up for grabs. Final results are expected next week in what could be a referendum on President López Obrador’s government. Preliminary results show his political party, MORENA, and allies won over half of the 500 seats in Mexico’s lower house but failed to secure a supermajority.

The election is also being described as one of Mexico’s deadliest, after human remains were found Sunday in at least two voting booths in the northern Mexican state of Baja California. Over 80 politicians, including 35 candidates, were killed in the run-up to Sunday’s election, which took place as Mexico continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and has one of the world’s highest case fatality rates. This is a Mexican voter.

MEXICAN VOTER: [translated] These are the measures I am taking. I am wearing my face mask, and I have alcohol gel. Although they gave us wipes here, it’s better to be prepared.

AMY GOODMAN: For more on all of this, we go to Mexico City to speak with the human rights lawyer Erika Guevara-Rosas, who is the Americas director for Amnesty International.

Erika, welcome back to Democracy Now! I mean, the story right now in Mexico is devastating. Nearly 100 politicians, what, at least 35 candidates who ran in this election, were murdered in the lead-up?

ERIKA GUEVARA-ROSAS: Yes, Amy. The situation is very complex, and it really represents what has been happening in Mexico for many years. It’s not only the political violence. It’s the violence that is affecting the majority of the states in Mexico. It’s the violence perpetrated by the organized crime, but also it’s the violence perpetrated by security forces that are committing human rights violations all over the country.

This political process, this electoral process, has been one of the most violent. I mean, you just mentioned the numbers. It has been the most violent for women, because out of the 35 candidates who have been killed over the electoral campaign, 21 were women. We have seen hundreds of reports of different type of attacks and violence against candidates and against politicians during the 200 days of electoral campaign.

And unfortunately, we are seeing also a President López Obrador that is denying the reality. I mean, every time that he’s been asked about this political violence, he just mentioned that Mexico is in peace and that this is one of the — not only historical process in terms of the number of people who are being elected for local and federal government, but he also said that it is historical because it’s the first time that democracy is happening in the country, while we are seeing all this type of violence all across the country.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Erika, could you talk about the — of this violence, is there any indication where it’s coming from? Is it particular political groupings that are being targeted, or is it just a random state-of-the-nation problem?

ERIKA GUEVARA-ROSAS: Well, a vast majority of the candidates who were killed and the vast majority of the attacks are against candidates of opposition parties. Politicians for opposition parties are the ones who have been targeted by this violence in different parts of the country. But it is also true that those who have been attacked are in locations where the organized crime has increased its influence over the last few years and also where the human rights situation is worse than ever, precisely because of the strong presence of the security forces of the military. So it’s difficult to say where the violence is coming from, because it’s the same violence that is affecting the general population. But the reality is that it is reflective of the human rights crisis that Mexico has been facing for many years.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Vice President Kamala Harris is scheduled to meet today with President López Obrador. Could you talk about the significance of her coming immediately after these elections in a trip to Mexico and also what you would hope that a vice president would tell the president of Mexico at this point?

ERIKA GUEVARA-ROSAS: Yeah. Well, Amnesty International sent a letter to Vice President Kamala Harris as soon as we learned about the trip to Guatemala and Mexico. We raised a lot of our concerns about the human rights situation in both countries. And more important, we raised our concerns about the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and these two countries, particularly because over the last few years we’ve seen an increase in the level of support that these countries are getting to increase the power of the security forces, particularly to prevent migration.

So, we are hoping that Vice President Kamala Harris is going to have an open and honest conversation with President López Obrador, raising concerns about the human rights situation that is affecting, of course, the possibility of people to seek asylum at the border. We also need to acknowledge that many Mexicans are seeking asylum on the U.S. side, precisely because of the human rights situation that the country is facing.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen the results of the visit of Vice President Harris in Guatemala and this very contradicting message of telling people not to come and not to seek asylum, when the reality is that it is a human rights — there is a human rights of people to seek asylum that has been violated precisely because of the cruel and inhumane political policies of the Trump administration, that we are seeing continue to be implemented by the Biden administration, including the closing of the border to migrants and asylum seekers using, in a very unlawful way, this Title 42.



The Biden administration’s contradictory statements on refugees
Washington Post
Apr 23, 2021

The Biden administration changed its story on when and how it would increase the refugee admissions cap six times in three weeks.


So, we hope that the conversation is going to lead in an understanding of the need to come up with different methods and policies to not only support people that are seeking asylum, but to provide protection to those people that are seeking asylum at the border.

AMY GOODMAN: Erika, when Harris met with the Guatemalan president and issued this very jarring warning, “Do not come. Do not come,” to immigrants fleeing poverty, fleeing the climate crisis, fleeing violence, but not acknowledging the U.S. role in this over the decades, what has led to this crisis, a part of the efforts that are being worked out with the Guatemalan government — and, I presume, with the Mexican government, with the presidents — are further militarizing the border. Can you talk about what that means?

ERIKA GUEVARA-ROSAS: Well, that means that they are going to create more risk for people that are trying to seek asylum. You just mentioned that, Amy, these people are being forced to leave their homes, they have been forced to leave their countries, precisely because of the massive violations of human rights that are happening at all levels. It’s not only the inequality, but it’s also the violence and the lack of protection that they are facing from the governments, particularly in Central America and Mexico. So these people are seeking asylum because it’s their right to seek asylum, and governments are obliged by international and domestic law to let people seek asylum, to protect those people who are seeking international protection.

And what we are seeing over the last few years is an increase in the militarization of the response. People that are seeking asylum, people that need international protections, are being treated and seen through the lens of security. And that means that these people are being confronted to a risky reality or of — you know, being confronted by organized crime and all the many risks, because they have been pushed to very risky situations and some of the more dangerous parts of the border, or they are also being confronted by the authorities, who are committing human rights violations against them by committing extortion, or, in very extreme cases, such as in Mexico, these people have been killed, as well, by security forces in collusion with the organized crime.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Erika Guevara, one of the hallmarks, supposedly, of President Biden’s different approach to the refugee and migration crisis was that he was going to embark on a sort of Marshall Plan-type effort to boost the economic life in Central America to induce migrants or those who are seeking to leave to stay in the country. But what’s Amnesty’s assessment of how U.S. foreign aid has been used in regions like especially Central America or Mexico? There was a New York Times report recently about how the bulk of that money that is apportioned out for foreign aid basically goes to U.S. contractors, who take up the bulk of the money, rather than — actually, the money doesn’t make its way down to the folks who need it.

ERIKA GUEVARA-ROSAS: Yeah, historically, we’ve seen how the humanitarian aid or the assistance that has been provided by the United States have been utilized in countries in Latin America to increase the power of security forces, and many times through the use of these private contractors. I mean, we’ve seen this in countries such as Colombia, and we are seeing now the consequences of this technical support and this assistance that the U.S. government has been provided to security forces. And we are seeing the same situation in Central America and Mexico. The vast majority of the resources are not going directly to support people and to address the root causes.

And in spite of this narrative of all efforts to address the root causes, to improve the economic situation, so that people can stay in the countries, the reality is that we are seeing the contrary. People continue to experience massive human rights violations, that have been fed by impunity, corruption, by the climate crisis and the lack of response from the governments. We are seeing now, for instance, in countries such as Guatemala, a backlash against all efforts to address, to tackle impunity and corruption by the [inaudible] government that Vice President Harris met yesterday. So, unfortunately, there is no hope that only the financial assistance that the U.S. is going to be providing to these countries is truly going to address the root causes of why people are forced to leave their countries, their homes, and take all this risk to seek asylum at the U.S.A. border.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we go, Erika, we wanted to ask you about the situation of COVID. In a moment, we’re going to go down to Peru. Peru and Mexico have some of the highest per capita death rates from COVID in the world. It might surprise some to know that AMLO, the Mexican president, took more of the approach of someone like the far-right president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro. I mean, he would wear amulets. He would hold mass rallies. Now we have news that 1 million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines are headed to Mexico from the United States, with most of the shots set to service resort areas and spots along the border. Can you talk about how Mexico and Peru have dealt with COVID?

ERIKA GUEVARA-ROSAS: Well, Latin America really continues to struggle with COVID-19. And we have seen that any effort to try to minimize the impact of COVID has been insufficient. Even in countries such as Chile, where the vaccine rollout has improved over the last few weeks, we are seeing also an increase in the number of cases. Latin America continues to be the epicenter of the pandemic. With only 8% of the population, we have between 32 and 35 of the total death around the world, the number of people who have died because of the virus.

Just recently, a few days ago, Peruvian government acknowledged that the numbers that they were presented were lower, way lower, than the real numbers. I mean, we are talking about more than 180,000 people who have died because of the virus in Peru, when the numbers reported just a few weeks ago were around 70,000.

And in Mexico, there is a similar situation, where the government has acknowledged many times that the numbers that they have presented are lower than reality, precisely because of the lack of testing and the lack of capacity to really track all the cases.

So, the ways that the pandemic has been affected — affected these countries is very reflected of the lack of response and the structural challenges that these countries have been facing in terms of ensuring access to health for its population, for their populations. Right? So, we are seeing now a very slow vaccine rollout in both countries, but also in many countries across the region. People seem to be trapped between the ineffective responses from the governments, the fact of which countries are hoarding all the doses available of the COVID vaccine, but also the impunity and corruption that continue to shadow the efforts of governments to truly address the consequences of the pandemic, not only in terms of the direct impact with the number of cases, but also how the pandemic has been exacerbated the inequalities and the economic situation for millions of people across the continent.

AMY GOODMAN: Erika Guevara-Rosas, we want to thank you so much for being with us, human rights lawyer, Americas director for Amnesty International, joining us from Mexico City.
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Re: Three Dangers of Biden/Harris Admin, by Glenn Greenwald

Postby admin » Fri Jun 11, 2021 10:59 pm

Biden’s DOJ Vows to Stop Spying on Journalists Months After Placing Gag Order on New York Times
by Amy Goodman
Democracy Now
JUNE 07, 2021
https://www.democracynow.org/2021/6/7/j ... lance_fisa

GUESTS
Jameel Jaffer: founding director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.
LINKS
Jameel Jaffer on Twitter
"The Drone Memos: Targeted Killing, Secrecy, and the Law"

The New York Times has revealed shocking details about an unsuccessful attempt by the Trump administration, and then the Biden administration, to secretly obtain the email logs of four reporters at the newspaper. As part of the campaign, the Biden Justice Department placed a gag order on the Times in March to prevent many at the paper from even knowing about the request until a federal court lifted it. In recent weeks the Justice Department also disclosed the Trump administration had secretly obtained the call records of four journalists at the Times, as well as three journalists at The Washington Post and one at CNN. Jameel Jaffer, founding director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, says subpoenas for journalists’ records are “really troubling” because of their potential chilling effect on critical journalism. “It’s about the right of the public to have access to information about the government,” he says.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now!

We turn now to look at a fight over press freedom. The New York Times has revealed shocking details about an unsuccessful attempt by the Trump administration — and then the Biden administration — to secretly obtain the email logs of four New York Times reporters. As part of the campaign, the Biden Justice Department placed a gag order on the Times in March to prevent many at the paper, including its executive editor, from even knowing about the request. The Times reported on the story Friday after a federal court lifted the gag order. In recent weeks the Justice Department also disclosed the Trump administration had secretly obtained the call records of four journalists at the Times, as well as three journalists at The Washington Post and one, Barbara Starr, at CNN.

On Saturday, the Justice Department reversed course and announced it’s changing its policy and will no longer force media companies to hand over source information as part of its leak investigations.

On Sunday, New York Times reporter Adam Goldman appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources. His phone records were seized by both the Obama and Trump administrations.

ADAM GOLDMAN: It’s certainly disappointing, but I wasn’t surprised. Some of the same prosecutors who were involved in seizing my phone records earlier this year, and unsuccessfully trying get my emails, were involved in secretly obtaining my phone records in 2013 when I worked at the Associated Press. This office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C., has a history of trampling on the First Amendment. So that’s why I wasn’t surprised. They treat the media, they treat newspapers like drug gangs.

AMY GOODMAN: In late May, President Biden spoke out against the seizing of records from journalists at the very time when The New York Times was still under a gag order. He was questioned by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins.

KAITLAN COLLINS: [Should the government be] seizing reporters’ phone records and emails? And would you prevent your Justice Department from doing that?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Only yours. But beyond yours, OK, for them, no.

KAITLAN COLLINS: But honestly.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: And we should — absolutely positively, it’s wrong. Simply, simply wrong.

KAITLAN COLLINS: So you won’t let your Justice Department do that?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I will not let that happen.

AMY GOODMAN: It was only this weekend that the Justice Department announced they would not do this.


The White House said in a statement late Monday that it was “not consulted” on the Justice Department continuing to defend former President Donald Trump in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against him, the third time the Biden Administration has distanced itself from the DOJ in recent days as President Joe Biden contrasts himself with Trump by emphasizing the department’s independence.

-- White House Distances Itself From DOJ’s Trump Defense As Biden Breaks With His Justice Department — Again, by Alison Durkee


We’re joined now by Jameel Jaffer, the founding director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, previously the deputy legal director at the ACLU.

Jameel, it’s great to have you back. Can you first respond to what we learned this weekend?

JAMEEL JAFFER: Yeah, sure. And thanks for inviting me.

I mean, I guess the first thing to say is that these kinds of subpoenas are really troubling for a number of reasons. It’s not so much about journalists’ rights; it’s about the right of the public to have access to information about the government. And if reporters’ sources are available to the government, then reporters won’t be able to get the information they need in order to write the stories we want them to write. So there’s a real concern that these kinds of subpoenas can have a chilling effect on journalism that is, you know, really necessary, journalism that goes to the ability of the public to hold government officials accountable for their decisions. So, that’s why I think these reports are so disturbing, these reports of Trump administration subpoenas directed at news organizations, intended to uncover the identities of reporters’ sources. And, you know, as your intro noted, we’ve seen now a number of these; just over the last few weeks, a number of these have come to light.

One sort of background fact that’s important to recognize here is that the Supreme Court hasn’t weighed in on this set of issues for 50 years. And the result is that whatever protections journalists have in this context are really a matter of executive grace. They’re a matter of what protections the Justice Department wants to give them, rather than what protections the First Amendment requires. The First Amendment is kind of strangely absent in this context. The relevant set of rules has come, over the last few years, at least, from the attorney general’s guidelines, which were strengthened under President Obama. Attorney General Holder tightened those restrictions — tightened those rules in some ways to make it slightly — not just slightly, more difficult for prosecutors to obtain reporters’ sources, the identities of reporters’ sources.

But even with that kind of tightening, the Justice Department has found it possible to serve these subpoenas, and not just serve these subpoenas, but this most recent report out of The New York Times involves not just a subpoena intended to obtain reporters’ phone and email records, or subpoenas meant to obtain those records, but a gag order on Times executives that prevented, initially, the Times's lawyer, David McCraw, from disclosing the fact of the subpoena and court order to other Times officials. And that, I think, is a kind of independent First Amendment problem, not just the subpoena directed — you know, intended to uncover the reporters' sources, but then a gag order that prevents the Times from sharing that kind of information even within the organization, let alone with the public.

AMY GOODMAN: And, of course, we don’t know if there are — though the Biden Justice Department says they’re not going to engage in these, whether there are any more of these gag orders out there, because people can’t talk about them. And what do you make of — I mean, Goldman and Matt Apuzzo had been — the Justice Department had gone after them both under the Obama administration — they worked for AP, and now they’re working at The New York Times — and him saying, “They treat us like drug gangs. They’re using the same laws”?

JAMEEL JAFFER: Yeah. Well, I mean, I do think that there’s a real risk here that people will come to see journalists as kind of extensions of law enforcement or extensions of the intelligence agencies, and then, you know, would-be sources won’t go to people like Apuzzo or Goldman with information that is crucial for the public to have. So I do think that the concerns are justified.

I know that President Biden has now said that his administration won’t tolerate these kinds of subpoenas, and the Justice Department has said that it’s going to implement that direction, which is obviously a good thing. You know, what I would say about that, though, just to temper it a little, number one, is, again, it’s really troubling that all of this is a matter of executive grace rather than constitutional law. There should be some set of rules, that is independent of whoever’s in office right now, that limits what kinds of information the Justice Department can get, and when, in these kinds of investigations.

But the other thing I’d say is just that there are real questions about implementation. You know, the definitions matter. Like, who counts as a journalist? What counts as a leak investigation? The attorney general’s guidelines have historically had exception for foreign intelligence investigations. And that means that subpoenas and court orders served under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or national security letters that are sometimes served on technology companies or telecoms, those are essentially exempt from the attorney general guidelines that were put in place under the Obama administration. So there’s a real question now — you know, great that the Biden administration seems willing to go in a different direction, but I think we should ask some questions about the precise scope of the commitment that the Justice Department has now made.

AMY GOODMAN: Would it be up to Congress to pass laws?

JAMEEL JAFFER: Yeah, well, you know, many states have shield laws that protect journalists when state law enforcement seeks access to their records. There is no federal shield law, so, you know, again, we have no background First Amendment law, or almost no background First Amendment law. There’s a 1972 case, Branzburg v. Hayes, which is the last time the Supreme Court weighed in, in this context. But that case is very, very muddy, sort of notoriously muddy. It doesn’t really give journalists any kind of real confidence that their records can be kept secret. So you’ve got that, and, on the other hand, you have no federal shield law. There’s no congressionally enacted protections for journalists.

So, again, what that leaves journalists with is really just whatever protections the Justice Department wants to give. And I don’t think that’s really defensible in a society that is committed to press freedom. You know, you can’t call yourself a society that’s committed to press freedom if the only press freedom that exists is the press freedom that the government wants to provide or the executive branch wants to provide.
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Re: Three Dangers of Biden/Harris Admin, by Glenn Greenwald

Postby admin » Fri Jun 11, 2021 11:00 pm

DOJ Announces it will Defend Donald Trump in Defamation Lawsuit brought by E. Jean Carroll
by Glenn Kirschner
Jun 8, 2021

In a disappointing turn of events, the Department of Justice filed a motion in federal court yesterday defending Donald Trump in the defamation lawsuit brought against him by E. Jean Carroll. The court had ruled that the allegedly defamatory statements by Trump about Ms. Carroll were not within the scope of his official presidential duties or employment. The DOJ disagrees and has come to Donald Trump's defense.

Here's is some of what's at stake by the DOJ taking this troubling position.




*****************

DOJ's Position in the E. Jean Carroll Case Explained
by Glenn Kirschner
Jun 9, 2021

President Biden's Department of Justice under the leadership of Attorney General Merrick Garland has been a mixed bag. This video reviews several recent DOJ decisions, from police department "Pattern or Practice" investigations, civil rights prosecutions and high profile subpoenas of folks like Rudy Giuliani to DOJ's decision in the lawsuit for the clearing of protestors from Lafayette Square and the recent decision in the E. Jean Carroll case. Specifically, this vide contains a review of the DOJ's legal rationale for filing an appeal in the Carroll case and the pros and cons of the position DOJ has decided to take in that case.

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Re: Three Dangers of Biden/Harris Admin, by Glenn Greenwald

Postby admin » Fri Jun 11, 2021 11:17 pm

White House Distances Itself From DOJ’s Trump Defense As Biden Breaks With His Justice Department — Again
by Alison Durkee
Forbes Staff
Jun 8, 2021,11:12am EDT

TOPLINE

The White House said in a statement late Monday that it was “not consulted” on the Justice Department continuing to defend former President Donald Trump in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit against him, the third time the Biden Administration has distanced itself from the DOJ in recent days as President Joe Biden contrasts himself with Trump by emphasizing the department’s independence.

KEY FACTS

The Trump-era Justice Department tried to intervene in a defamation lawsuit that Carroll brought against Trump for comments he made after she accused him of sexual assault, asking to represent Trump in the case because his denial of Carroll’s allegations was allegedly part of his presidential duties.

After a judge denied the Trump DOJ’s attempt to join the case and the Justice Department appealed the ruling, the Biden DOJ said in a court filing that while it didn’t support Trump’s “crude and disrespectful comments,” it still believed Trump’s response to Carroll’s allegations were answers to questions “posed to him in his capacity as President.”

The White House “was not consulted by DOJ on the decision to file this brief or its contents,” spokesman Andrew Bates said in response to the filing, noting that Biden and his team “have utterly different standards from their predecessors for what qualify as acceptable statements.”

Biden also disputed the DOJ defending a Trump-era Social Security Act provision for Puerto Rico residents in a U.S. Supreme Court filing Monday, saying the provision the Justice Department was backing—part of their “longstanding practice” to defend federal statutes—“is inconsistent with my Administration’s policies and values.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also distanced the administration from the DOJ’s practice of using gag orders when seizing records from journalists, saying in a statement they were unaware of it before a New York Times report Friday.

The Justice Department will no longer subpoena reporters’ records because doing so is “not consistent with the president’s policy direction to the department,” Psaki said.

TANGENT

Biden also attacked Trump having the Justice Department defend him in Carroll’s lawsuit ahead of the presidential election, saying during a town hall the case was an instance of Trump using the DOJ as his “own law firm.”

CHIEF CRITICS

Carroll and attorney Roberta Kaplan have heavily criticized the Biden DOJ’s decision to wade into her case against Trump, which Kaplan said Monday was “truly shocking” and “legally” and “morally wrong.” “As women across the country are standing up and holding men accountable for assault — the DOJ is trying to stop me from having that same right,” Carroll said in a statement.

KEY BACKGROUND

After Trump faced criticism throughout his presidency that he was using his Justice Department and U.S. Attorney General William Barr to do his bidding, Biden has repeatedly emphasized his intention to keep his administration’s judiciary arm as independent as possible. "The Justice Department in my administration will be totally independent of me," Biden said on the campaign trail in September, calling the DOJ’s “politicization” under Trump “the most dangerous thing that's happened so far” during Trump’s presidency. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has vowed to be impartial in his work at the department, saying after being confirmed that the “essence of the rule of law” is that there should not be “one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends, another for foes.” In addition to the Carroll lawsuit, the Biden Administration has also pointed to the DOJ’s independence to justify not getting involved in questions of whether Trump should face prosecution for his alleged role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol building, with Psaki saying in February that the issue will be “up to the Department of Justice to determine.” “We’re doing something new here, and there’s going to be an independent Justice Department,” Psaki said.
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Re: Three Dangers of Biden/Harris Admin, by Glenn Greenwald

Postby admin » Fri Jul 09, 2021 5:28 am

Biden's Lawless Bombing of Iraq and Syria Only Serves the Weapons Industry Funding Both Parties
U.S. citizens derive no benefit, but instead suffer great loss, from endless war in the Middle East. But their interests are irrelevant to decisions of bipartisan Washington.

by Glenn Greenwald
Jun 28, 2021

Image
US President Joe Biden salutes along with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin before delivering an address at the 153rd National Memorial Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day in Arlington, Virginia on May 31, 2021. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

For the second time in the five months since he was inaugurated, President Joe Biden on Sunday ordered a U.S. bombing raid on Syria, and for the first time, he also bombed Iraq. The rationale offered was the same as Biden's first air attack in February: the U.S., in the words of Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, “conducted defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region.” He added that “the United States acted pursuant to its right of self-defense.”

Embedded in this formulaic Pentagon statement is so much propaganda and so many euphemisms that, by itself, it reveals the fraudulent nature of what was done. To begin with, how can U.S. airstrikes carried out in Iraq and Syria be "defensive” in nature? How can they be an act of “self-defense"? Nobody suggests that the targets of the bombing campaign have the intent or the capability to strike the U.S. "homeland” itself. Neither Syria nor Iraq is a U.S. colony or American property, nor does the U.S. have any legal right to be fighting wars in either country, rendering the claim that its airstrikes were "defensive” and an “act of self-defense” to be inherently deceitful.

The Pentagon's description of the people bombed by the U.S. — “Iran-backed militias groups” — is intended to obscure the reality. Biden did not bomb Iran or order Iranians to be bombed or killed. The targets of U.S. aggression were Iraqis in their own country, and Syrians in their own country. Only the U.S. war machine and its subservient media could possibly take seriously the Biden administration's claim that the bombs they dropped on people in their own countries were "defensive” in nature. Invocation of Iran has no purpose other than to stimulate the emotional opposition to the government of that country among many Americans in the hope that visceral dislike of Iranian leaders will override the rational faculties that would immediately recognize the deceit and illegality embedded in the Pentagon's arguments.

Beyond the propagandistic justification is the question of legality, though even to call it a question dignifies it beyond what it merits. There is no conceivable Congressional authorization — none, zero — to Biden's dropping of bombs in Syria. Obama's deployment of CIA operatives to Syria and years of the use of force to overthrow Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad never had any Congressional approval of any kind, nor did Trump's bombing of Assad's forces (urged by Hillary Clinton, who wanted more), nor does Biden's bombing campaign in Syria now. It was and is purely lawless, illegal. And the same is true of bombing Iraq. The 2002 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq, which the House just last week voted to repeal, has long since ceased to provide any legal justification for ongoing U.S. troop presence and bombing campaigns in that country.

In its statement justifying the bombing raids, Biden's Pentagon barely even bothered to pretend any of this is legal. It did not cite either the 2002 AUMF for Iraq or the 2001 AUMF authorizing the use of force against those responsible for 9/11 (a category which, manifestly, did not include Iran, Iraq or Syria). Instead, harkening back to the days of John Yoo and Dick Cheney, the Biden Defense Department claimed that “as a matter of international law, the United States acted pursuant to its right of self-defense,” and casually asserted that “as a matter of domestic law, the President took this action pursuant to his Article II authority to protect U.S. personnel in Iraq."

Those claims are nothing short of a joke. Nobody seriously believes that Joe Biden has congressional authority to bomb Syria and Iraq, nor to bomb “Iranian-backed” forces of any kind. As The Daily Beast's long-time War on Terror reporter Spencer Ackerman put it on Sunday night, discussions of legality at this point are "parody” because when it comes to the U.S.'s Endless Wars in the name of the War on Terror, “we passed Lawful behind many many years ago. Authorization citations are just pretexts written by lawyers who need to pantomime at lawfulness. The U.S. presence in Syria is blatantly illegal. Such things never stop the U.S.”

That is exactly right. The U.S. government is a lawless entity. It violates the law, including its own Constitution, whenever it wants. The requirement that no wars be fought absent congressional authority is not some ancillary bureaucratic annoyance but was completely central to the design of the country. Article I, Section 8 could not be clearer: “The Congress shall have Power . . . to declare war.” Two months after I began writing about politics — back in December, 2005 — I wrote a long article compiling the arguments in the Federalist Papers which insisted that permitting the president unchecked powers to wage war without the approval of the public — through their representatives in Congress — was uniquely dangerous for ushering in the kind of tyranny from which they had just liberated themselves, and another article in 2007 which did the same:

The Constitution -- while making the President the top General in directing how citizen-approved wars are fought -- ties the use of military force to the approval of the American citizenry in multiple ways, not only by prohibiting wars in the absence of a Congressional declaration (though it does impose that much-ignored requirement), but also by requiring Congressional approval every two years merely to have an army. In Federalist 26, this is what Alexander Hamilton said in explaining the rationale behind the latter requirement (emphasis in original):

The legislature of the United States will be obliged by this provision, once at least in every two years, to deliberate upon the propriety of keeping a military force on foot; to come to a new resolution on the point; and to declare their sense of the matter by a formal vote in the face of their constituents. They are not at liberty to vest in the executive department permanent funds for the support of an army, if they were even incautious enough to be willing to repose in it so improper a confidence.


Public opposition is the key check on the ill-advised use of military force. In Federalist 24, Hamilton explained that the requirement of constant democratic deliberation over the American military is "a great and real security against military establishments without evident necessity". . . .

Finding a way to impose checks on the President's war-making abilities was a key objective of the Founders. In Federalist 4, John Jay identified as a principal threat to the Republic the fact that insufficiently restrained leaders "will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for purposes and objects merely personal, such as a thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of other motives, which affect only the mind of the sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice or the voice and interests of his people."


But as Ackerman says, even discussing legality at this point is meaningless, an empty gesture, a joke. It gives far too much credit to the U.S. ruling class, as it implies that they care at all about whether their posture of endless war is legal. They know that it is illegal and do not care at all. Many have forgotten that President Obama not only involved the U.S. in a devastating regime-change war in Libya without congressional approval, but so much worse, continued to do so even after the House of Representatives voted against providing him authorization to use force in Libya. Obama ignored the House vote and kept troops in Libya anyways as part of a NATO mission, claiming that NATO and U.N. authorization somehow entitled him to do this despite his own country's Congress voting against it, reflecting overwhelming opposition among the citizenry. (The U.N. authorization — even if it could somehow supplant the U.S. Constitution — only allowed the use of force to protect civilians, not to overthrow the Libyan government, which quickly and predictably became the NATO mission, making it clearly illegal).

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House of Representatives votes against US Libya role, by BBC News, June 24, 2011
The US House has refused to give President Barack Obama Authority to continue US participation in the Nato-led operation in Libya, but rejected a bid to cut off money for the conflict.


This is one reason I found the Trump-era discourse so suffocatingly dishonest and fraudulent. I began writing about politics in 2005 in order to document the systemic lawlessness that had become the fully bipartisan Bush/Cheney War on Terror. The executive power theories that were adopted — that the president has the right to do whatever he wants under Article II regardless of congressional laws or any other acts by courts or the citizenry, even including spying on American citizens without warrants — was the pure expression of authoritarianism and lawlessness. That lawlessness not only continued but escalated severely under the Obama administration, with the war in Libya, the claimed right to assassinate anyone in the world without due process, including U.S. citizens, and the CIA's covert regime-change war in Syria.

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Unclaimed Territory, by Glenn Greenwald, Jan. 6, 2006
An Ideology of Lawlessness

***

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Chilling legal memo from Obama DOJ justifies assassination of U.S. citizens, by Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian, Feb. 5, 2013


Having to watch the Bush/Cheney and Obama/Biden operatives who ushered in this permanent state of illegality and lawless wars prance around during the Trump years as noble defenders of the sacred rule of law — all while being celebrated and profiting greatly — was nauseating in the best of times. American elites do not care about the rule of law or the Constitution. Ignoring it is how they empower themselves at the expense of the citizenry. That is why very few will care about the fact that Biden (indulging the fiction for a moment that it was he) ordered the bombings on two countries without the slightest whiff of legal authority to do so.

While it feels frivolous even to raise questions of legality — since so few in Washington care about such matters — the real overarching question is the simplest one. Why does the U.S. continue to have a military presence in Iraq and Syria? What conceivable benefits redound to American citizens from the massive expenditures required to keep U.S. troops stationed in these two countries, the risk of those troops’ lives, the endless acquisition of bombs and other weapons to fight there, and the obvious but severe dangers from triggering escalation with powerful militaries that — unlike the U.S. — actually have a vital interest in what takes place in their bordering countries?

While the ordinary American only suffers from all of this, there are definitely some sectors of U.S. society which benefit. The corporation that Biden’s Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin left in order to run the Pentagon — Raytheon — needs ongoing troop deployment and permanent warfare for its profitability. According to The New York Times, it was “Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, [who] briefed Mr. Biden on attack options early last week,” after which "Mr. Biden approved striking the three targets.” So Gen. Austin's colleagues on the Raytheon Board of Directors, as well as his comrades on the Boards of General Dynamics and Boeing, are surely thrilled with this attack.

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Raytheon Technologies
Board of Directors
Lloyd J. Austin, III
General, U.S. Army (Ret.) and Former Command of U.S. Central Command
Lloyd J. Austin III is a member of the Raytheon Technologies Board of Directors. He brings expertise in government, senior leadership and international affairs.


Indeed, anyone invested in endless war in the Middle East — including the entire U.S. intelligence community and the weapons industry which feeds off of it — must be thrilled by all of this. Each time the U.S. "retaliates” against Iran or Iraqi militias or Syrian fighters, it causes them to "retaliate” back, which in turn is cited as the reason the U.S. can never leave but must instead keep retaliating, ensuring this cycle never ends. It also creates a never-ending supply of angry people in that region who hate the U.S. for bringing death and destruction to their countries with bombs that never stop falling and therefore want to strike back: what we are all supposed to call "terrorism.” That is what endless war means: a war that is designed never to terminate, one that is as far removed as possible from actual matters of self-defense and manufactures its own internal rationale to continue it.

But what is beyond doubt is that this illegal, endless war in the Middle East does nothing but harm American citizens. As they are told that they cannot enjoy a sustainable let alone quality standard of living without working two or three dreary hourly-wage, benefits-free jobs for corporate giants, and while more Americans than ever continue to live at home and remain financially unable to start families, the U.S. continues to spend more on its military than the next thirteen countries combined. This has continued for close to two full decades now because the establishment wings of both parties support it. Neither of them believes in the Constitution or the rule of law, nor do they care in the slightest about the interests of anyone other than the large corporate sectors that fund the establishment wings of both parties. The bombs that fell on Syria and Iraq last night were for them and them alone.
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