Mueller indicts 12 Russians for DNC hacking as Trump-Putin summit looms

Special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 Russian military officials on Friday and accused them of hacking into two Democratic Party computer systems to sabotage the 2016 presidential election.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the indictment, filed in federal district court in Washington, just days before a scheduled Monday summit in Helsinki between President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. U.S. intelligence agencies have assessed that Putin ordered a Russian effort to manipulate the 2016 election in Trump’s favor.

Rosenstein said the Russians stole and released Democratic documents after planting malicious computer codes in the network of the Democratic National Committee as well as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The Russians also illegally downloaded data related to some 500,000 voters from a state database, he charged.

While many of the indictment’s details confirmed previous news reports and other assessments, it dramatically shifts the context for Trump’s upcoming meeting Continue reading “Mueller indicts 12 Russians for DNC hacking as Trump-Putin summit looms”

Who’s on Trump’s short list to replace Supreme Court Justice Kennedy?

President Donald Trump will replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy with one of 25 people from a previously released list, he affirmed on Wednesday after news broke that Kennedy, the court’s longtime swing vote, is retiring.

Trump said the process of nominating a new justice will “begin immediately.”

"Hopefully we will pick someone who is just as outstanding," Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. "It will be somebody from that list.”

Here is a look at the 25 people Trump has said he will choose from:

Amy Coney Barrett of Indiana, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. She previously clerked for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. She was appointed by Trump and confirmed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in October 2017.

She is a graduate of Notre Dame Law School.

Keith Blackwell of Georgia, Supreme Court of Georgia. He Continue reading “Who’s on Trump’s short list to replace Supreme Court Justice Kennedy?”

Anthony Kennedy retiring, giving Trump opening to reshape Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced on Wednesday that he will retire, unleashing an epic political battle to replace him that could allow President Donald Trump to shift the court to the right for a generation to come.

The departure of the 81-year-old Kennedy from his post after more than three decades has the potential to radically reshape the court on issues such as abortion and affirmative action, where Kennedy has served as a swing vote.

“It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court," Kennedy said in a statement. He said that he wanted to spend more time with his family and that his decision would be effective July 31.

His exit is expected to create a furious fight in the Senate over his replacement, and it could thrust the often Continue reading “Anthony Kennedy retiring, giving Trump opening to reshape Supreme Court”

Anthony Kennedy retiring, giving Trump opening to reshape Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced on Wednesday that he will retire, unleashing an epic political battle to replace him that could allow President Donald Trump to shift the court to the right for a generation to come.

The departure of the 81-year-old Kennedy from his post after more than three decades has the potential to radically reshape the court on issues such as abortion and affirmative action, where Kennedy has served as a swing vote.

“It has been the greatest honor and privilege to serve our nation in the federal judiciary for 43 years, 30 of those years on the Supreme Court," Kennedy said in a statement. He said that he wanted to spend more time with his family and that his decision would be effective July 31.

His exit is expected to create a furious fight in the Senate over his replacement, and it could thrust the often Continue reading “Anthony Kennedy retiring, giving Trump opening to reshape Supreme Court”

Judge won’t lift order to disclose voter fraud commission files

A federal judge has turned down the Trump administration’s bid to lift an order requiring officials to disclose internal records of a now-defunct commission set up to pursue President Donald Trump’s own unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled last December that a member of the panel, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, was improperly denied access to materials prepared and submitted by his fellow commissioners.

Justice Department attorneys asked Kollar-Kotelly to reconsider her decision requiring greater disclosure to Dunlap, but in a 57-page ruling Wednesday she declined to disturb her original decision.

"Plaintiff ultimately should receive relevant documents that any of the former commissioners generated or received. This includes material that commissioners solicited and subsequently received from third parties," wrote the judge, a Clinton appointee.

Kollar-Kotelly set a July 18 deadline for the records to be handed over to Dunlap. The administration Continue reading “Judge won’t lift order to disclose voter fraud commission files”

Judge won’t lift order to disclose voter fraud commission files

A federal judge has turned down the Trump administration’s bid to lift an order requiring officials to disclose internal records of a now-defunct commission set up to pursue President Donald Trump’s own unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled last December that a member of the panel, Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, was improperly denied access to materials prepared and submitted by his fellow commissioners.

Justice Department attorneys asked Kollar-Kotelly to reconsider her decision requiring greater disclosure to Dunlap, but in a 57-page ruling Wednesday she declined to disturb her original decision.

"Plaintiff ultimately should receive relevant documents that any of the former commissioners generated or received. This includes material that commissioners solicited and subsequently received from third parties," wrote the judge, a Clinton appointee.

Kollar-Kotelly set a July 18 deadline for the records to be handed over to Dunlap. The administration Continue reading “Judge won’t lift order to disclose voter fraud commission files”

Judge orders Trump administration to reunite migrant families

A federal judge has ordered the federal government to reunite migrant parents with children taken from them under the Trump administration’s family separation policy.

U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw, based in San Diego, issued a preliminary injunction on Tuesday night requiring that nearly all children younger than 5 be returned to their parents within 14 days and that older children be returned within 30 days.

“The unfortunate reality is that under the present system migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property. Certainly, that cannot satisfy the requirements of due process,” Sabraw wrote in his order.

Top Aaron Schock prosecutor off the case

The federal prosecutor who has led the investigation into former Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) for more than three years is officially off the criminal corruption case, just as it appears to be finally heading for trial.

Timothy Bass, a veteran prosecutor who heads the public-corruption unit for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Central Illinois, notified the federal court there on Tuesday that he was formally withdrawing from the prosecution team.

No reason was given for Bass’ withdrawal, but he faced a series of unpleasant headlines last year as a federal judge complained that he was misled by the prosecutor; as Schock’s attorneys alleged that Bass pried into Schock’s sexuality; and as lawyers for the House of Representatives charged that investigators in the case engaged in “an apparent theft” of House records.

Sharon Paul, a spokeswoman for the interim U.S. attorney, John Childress, said she could not Continue reading “Top Aaron Schock prosecutor off the case”

Judge rejects Manafort’s challenge to Mueller’s legitimacy

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s challenge to the authority of special counsel Robert Mueller.

The ruling from U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III dashes the hopes of many allies of President Donald Trump’s that Ellis would deliver a crippling blow to Mueller’s office and undermine the legal legitimacy of his appointment.

During oral arguments last month relating to bank and tax fraud charges against Manafort, Ellis skewered the special prosecutor’s team, suggesting they were on a crusade aimed at impeaching Trump. The president leaped on the critique, reading it aloud from a stage during a speech in Texas.

“I‘ve been saying that for a long time. It‘s a witch hunt,“ the president said, praising the judge as "really something special, I hear."

Ellis’s 31-page written opinion is rife with skepticism about the special counsel mechanism and about Mueller’s pursuit Continue reading “Judge rejects Manafort’s challenge to Mueller’s legitimacy”

17 states sue over Trump family separations

A coalition of 17 states filed suit Tuesday over President Donald Trump’s family separation policy, arguing that it unconstitutionally infringes on parents’ rights and is motivated by "animus" toward Latinos.

Blasting Trump’s policy as "abhorrent and indefensible," the lawsuit argues that the administration’s move to separate more than 2,000 immigrant children from their parents has harmed the interests of the states’ residents and interferes with the states’ ability to protect children from abuse.

The suit is led by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who painted it as part of a broader campaign to resist Trump administration initiatives.

"This case, like all our cases against this Administration, says something important about who we are as a people,” Ferguson said. “We will stand up for the Constitution, basic decency and fundamental American values."

It’s unclear how pivotal the state-led litigation will be in challenging Trump’s family separation policy, which he Continue reading “17 states sue over Trump family separations”

Trump administration warns court action could slow family reunification

The Trump administration is warning a federal judge that issuing a court order mandating reunification of immigrant children forcibly separated from their parents could actually slow implementation of President Donald Trump’s decision to end that practice.

The American Civil Liberties Union has asked a judge in San Diego to immediately grant a preliminary injunction that would require nearly all children under five be reunited with their parents within 10 days and older children within 30 days.

However, Justice Department attorneys filed a written brief Tuesday urging U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw to let federal agencies act on their own to carry out the executive order Trump issued last week abandoning the family-separation policy that triggered a continuing public outcry across the country.

"The agencies are working to reunify families now that the President has ordered an end to family separation policies," Justice Department lawyers wrote. "This Court should Continue reading “Trump administration warns court action could slow family reunification”

Supreme Court repudiates infamous Korematsu ruling

The Supreme Court’s ruling Tuesday upholding President Donald Trump’s travel ban policy produced one unexpected result: the formal repudiation of an infamous 74-year-old precedent upholding the forcible transfer of Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War II.

The extraordinary step by the court’s five Republican-appointed justices appears to have been triggered by two liberal justices’ upbraiding the majority for echoing a ruling widely seen as a failure to confront a racist policy implemented under the guise of a national security threat.

“Today’s holding is all the more troubling given the stark parallels between the reasoning of this case and that of Korematsu v. United States,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent, joined by Justice Ruth Ginsburg. “Although a majority of the Court in Korematsu was willing to uphold the Government’s actions based on a barren invocation of national security, dissenting Justices warned of that decision’s harm to Continue reading “Supreme Court repudiates infamous Korematsu ruling”

Supreme Court sides with crisis pregnancy centers in fight over California law

The Supreme Court Tuesday morning handed faith-based crisis pregnancy centers a victory by ruling a California law requiring the clinics to advise women about free and low-cost abortions probably violates the First Amendment.

The court held 5-4 that the centers "are likely to succeed" challenging the state’s Reproductive FACT Act, which requires the anti-abortion, often religiously affiliated clinics to display written notices about abortion access. The justices also ruled for the clinics on part of the law that requires clinics not licensed to provide medical care to disclose that clearly.

The justices sent the case back to lower courts for further proceedings.

In the majority opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote, "neither California nor the Ninth Circuit has identified a persuasive reason for treating professional speech as a unique category that is exempt from ordinary First Amendment principles." The case was National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) Continue reading “Supreme Court sides with crisis pregnancy centers in fight over California law”

Supreme Court upholds Trump’s travel ban

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, a major victory in the administration’s quest to restrict the flow of immigrants and visitors into the United States.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices affirmed the president’s vast powers over matters of national security — even as they grappled with Trump’s anti-Muslim statements and the intent behind the controversial policy.

The latest version of the ban levels a range of travel restrictions against five majority-Muslim countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen — as well as North Korea and Venezuela. Chad, another majority Muslim nation, was removed from the list in April.

Although several federal courts had blocked the ban nationwide, the justices allowed the policy to take full effect in December pending consideration of the merits of the case. The temporary order allowing full implementation was an ominous sign for opponents of the Continue reading “Supreme Court upholds Trump’s travel ban”

Supreme Court upholds Trump’s travel ban

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of President Donald Trump’s travel ban, a major victory in the administration’s quest to restrict the flow of immigrants and visitors into the United States.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices affirmed the president’s vast powers over matters of national security — even as they grappled with Trump’s anti-Muslim statements and the intent behind the controversial policy.

The latest version of the ban levels a range of travel restrictions against five majority-Muslim countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen — as well as North Korea and Venezuela. Chad, another majority Muslim nation, was removed from the list in April.

Although several federal courts had blocked the ban nationwide, the justices allowed the policy to take full effect in December pending consideration of the merits of the case. The temporary order allowing full implementation was an ominous sign for opponents of the Continue reading “Supreme Court upholds Trump’s travel ban”

Any gag order should cover Trump, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer says

Michael Avenatti, the attorney for the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, is fighting an effort to bring a court-ordered end to his near-continuous media appearances, but is also telling a federal judge that if a gag order is issued, it should cover another frequent tweeter and TV presence: President Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, a lawyer for Trump’s longtime personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen, sought to shut down Avenatti’s public commentary about a suit Daniels filed trying to invalidate a “hush money” deal that Cohen arranged. That deal paid the adult film star $130,000 just prior to the 2016 presidential election in order to keep a damper on her story alleging a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006.

Trump’s attorney didn’t join in the gag order request, but indicated that he would not oppose it. However, Avenatti said that if the judge went forward, any gag would have to cover Continue reading “Any gag order should cover Trump, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer says”

Echoing Trump, indicted Russians contest Mueller’s legitimacy

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is facing a new challenge to its legitimacy from an unlikely source: Russia.

Echoing an argument offered by President Donald Trump himself, a Russian company Mueller has charged with meddling in the 2016 election filed a legal motion Monday seeking to dismiss the case by attacking Mueller’s appointment as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The filing from American attorneys for St. Petersburg-based Concord Management and Consulting contends that Mueller’s appointment was legally flawed because he was never nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate — nor was he appointed pursuant to a specific law passed by Congress.

Many legal experts believe that Mueller likely did not expect to face a legal counterattack from the Russian company, which was founded by a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The unexpectedly vigorous defense could consume Mueller’s precious time and resources, diverting him from Continue reading “Echoing Trump, indicted Russians contest Mueller’s legitimacy”

Manafort appeals judge’s decision to jail him

Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is appealing a judge’s decision to jail him over charges that he attempted to tamper with the testimony of two potential witnesses against him.

Ten days after U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson revoked Manafort’s house arrest and ordered him jailed, his defense attorneys filed an official notice Monday appealing her ruling to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Manafort’s defense team also filed another appeal Monday over a decision Jackson issued nearly two months ago tossing out a civil suit Manafort hoped to use to block any further prosecutions of him by special counsel Robert Mueller.

At the June 15 hearing at which Jackson remanded Manafort into custody, defense lawyer Richard Westling signaled a possible appeal on the bail issue when he asked the judge to delay the effect of her order so that the defense could appeal. She refused.

Continue reading “Manafort appeals judge’s decision to jail him”

Supreme Court upholds most of Texas redistricting plan

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld nearly all aspects of a Texas redistricting plan adopted in 2013, ruling that lower courts went too far in concluding that the maps were tainted by an intent to discriminate against Latino voters.

The 5-4 decision split the court along its usual ideological lines, with all Republican appointees voting to allow the bulk of the Texas legislature’s plan and all Democratic appointees dissenting. The vote tracked with the justices’ decision last September to temporarily block the lower court’s ruling requiring the maps to be withdrawn.

The high court’s majority opinion, written by Justice Samuel Alito, found that only a single state House of Representatives district was unconstitutionally drawn.

SCOTUS punts in another fight over denial of services for same-sex wedding

The Supreme Court on Monday said they were passing up a chance to consider a closely watched case about merchants’ obligations to provide services to same-sex couples.

The justices said they will not hear a case involving a Washington state florist who cited her religious beliefs in declining to provide floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding. The move effectively postpones a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court on whether and when business owners can refuse services to gay couples.

Earlier this month, the court ruled in a similar dispute involving a Colorado bakery, but the decision was on narrow grounds involving what justices viewed as government hostility to the baker’s religious views. The high court’s order Monday told Washington state courts to reconsider the litigation based on the ruling from the Colorado case.