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Republicans eye police reform — and search for Trump’s blessing

But Scott said he’s on a “separate track” from the White House. And other Republicans said Tuesday afternoon that Trump himself is not yet intimately involved in negotiations on what could become law.

“Donald Trump … has great respect for Tim Scott. He looks to him a lot for this kind of a thing,” said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.). Trump “isn’t going to lead on it right now. But he could get behind it.”

Republicans have had mixed success waiting for Trump to get them across the finish line on controversial issues. Add in a pandemic and a presidential campaign in which Trump is touting his law-and-order bona fides and a deal faces steep odds. But without Trump, police reform doesn’t have a shot in a critical moment for the movement.

The president’s endorsement of sentencing reform legislation got it passed in 2018 despite McConnell’s reluctance. Last year, the White House abandoned an effort to enhance background checks after a spate of mass shootings.

Efforts to cut deals with Trump on immigration and infrastructure also crashed and burned. And after a Trump veto threat led to the longest government shutdown ever in 2019, the GOP learned not to get ahead of a president who has repeatedly undercut their plans. Trump’s firm hold on the party also continues to dictate Republicans’ approach to any police debate.

But the fact that Republicans on both ends of the Capitol feel pressure to craft their own policing proposals — even in the absence of a clear green light from Trump — reflects how rapidly the political terrain has shifted underneath the GOP. Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said he hoped Senate Republicans could propose ideas that “suggest that we hear what people are saying and we want to do better at this.”

Meadows expressed some optimism about reaching a consensus. “We want to let our actions speak louder than our words,” he said after meeting with Scott. “We’re hopeful for something sooner than later.”

Scott presented Senate Republicans with proposals centered on improving federal data collection on the use of force and no-knock warrants as well as training for police. It does not include a federal chokehold ban; GOP senators may also add a long-stalled anti-lynching bill to the mix to evade Sen. Rand Paul’s procedural objections.

Regardless, the GOP approach appears far narrower than House Democrats’ sweeping plan, which would end police chokeholds, make it easier to sue police officers, prohibit racial profiling, make lynching a federal hate crime and end no-knock raids, among other things.

In just the two weeks since the killing of George Floyd, public opinion has swung in favor of police reforms, while several GOP lawmakers have marched alongside “Black Lives Matter” protesters. That would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

Trump’s inflammatory comments about the Buffalo protester and treatment of demonstrators in D.C. also raise doubts about how committed Trump might be to police reforms. Still, in an election year anything could happen with the mercurial president — especially with the GOP eager to shed its image as a party that appeals mostly to older, white males.

Several close Trump allies, like Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John Cornyn of Texas, said Trump could conceivably embrace a product from the Senate. And GOP lawmakers have become well practiced in trying to win Trump over.

“Any time you want to pass a bill you hope to have the president’s signature, or it can’t become law. We regularly make proposals of our ideas and then try to persuade him that they’re good,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.).

The president says he’s open to gentler police tactics but declined to name specifics. And his Twitter feed in recent days has been focused on calling for “law and order” — including backing up the Buffalo police officers who shoved a 75-year-old protester and reiterating his calls to bring in the National Guard to deal with at-times violent protests.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president had not reviewed legislation put forward by Democrats but drew the line at provisions that would end qualified immunity, which protects police officers from civil lawsuits. McEnany said it was a “nonstarter” because it could result in “police pulling back.”

The president met recently with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, the only African American Cabinet member, to discuss policy ideas, per an administration official. Trump also held a roundtable with law enforcement officers from around the country to discuss reform ideas on Monday. Still, he lashed out at calls by some progressives to “defund the police.”

“We won’t be dismantling our police. We won’t be disbanding our police. We won’t be ending our police force in a city,” Trump said.

There’s also deep antipathy among Republicans to having the federal government dictate to local police forces, hence Scott’s state-based approach — which Democrats argue makes for weaker reforms.

“The people who have the most direct control over what the police do or don’t do is the police chief, or the city council and the mayor. And I don’t know why people look to Washington,” Cornyn said.

Further complicating the push for police reform, the GOP — which has long been resistant to curbing police powers — is eager to echo Trump’s law-and-order message and align themselves with law enforcement ahead of the November election.

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a top Trump ally, is readying a resolution condemning the “defund the police” movement. GOP members on the House Judiciary Committee plan to call the sister of a slain police officer as well as Fox News commentator Dan Bongino — an outspoken defender of law enforcement — as witnesses for a high-stakes hearing on police brutality Wednesday.

On the House side, GOP leaders have signaled they’re open to tying federal funds to better police training and ensuring that bad officers can be removed. But Republicans are complaining that their Democratic colleagues crafted a policing package without their input, even after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declared he was “ready to work” on the issue. That’s one reason why House Republicans are pressing ahead with their own proposal.

Even if Republicans in the House and Senate, along with Trump, were able to come up with a single plan, it’s hard to imagine a compromise with Democrats, who are also under pressure from their base to go big. That’s all the more true because it’s an election year.

“My fear is that both camps will retreat…put forward competing proposals, and then nothing will get done,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has backed police reforms in the past but is now angering both parties over his resistance to an anti-lynching bill. “So I am concerned.”

Marianne LeVine and Andrew Desiderio contributed to this report.

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Trump eyes police reforms while ignoring systemic racism

But as Trump now considers backing some of those reforms and addressing issues of race and policing in a prominent speech, his message on the subject remains muddled and — in the view of some advisers — tinged by a hardline stance he adopted at the start of nationwide protests that some view as difficult to walk back.

Even as he considers unveiling police reform proposals as early as this week, Trump and many of his top lieutenants have denied systemic racism is a problem in policing at all.

On Tuesday morning, as his aides prepared to present him with potential police reforms, Trump seized on an incident of police force that had been widely condemned, accusing a 75-year-old Buffalo protester who was seriously injured after police pushed him to the ground of being part of an Antifa “set up.”

A week after staking out a hardline “law and order” stance with his chemical-misted walk to St. John’s Church, some Trump advisers say it is unclear how Trump can pivot to a more conciliatory message. Two Trump campaign advisers said they believe Trump has mishandled the protests, questioning whether Trump has what it takes to close the gap.

“A speech, lacking genuine compassion, at any point would not help,” the adviser said. “He’s just not genuinely compassionate.”

Law and order message

In meetings over the past week — including a session with campaign and Republican National Committee communications aides — Trump reverted repeatedly to his law and order message even as violence faded from ongoing street protests and National Guard troops began withdrawing from Washington.

Chief among Trump’s concerns, according to officials and others familiar with his approach, is not appearing weak in the face of violence and looting, a stance that has been reinforced in his conversations with allies in conservative media and elsewhere.

Though he has publicly and privately decried the killing of Floyd, the unarmed black man who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest, Trump has shown little willingness to move beyond the tough-on-crime rhetoric he believes is welcomed by his core supporters. A year-and-a-half after signing the First Step Act, a landmark piece of criminal justice reform legislation, Trump’s default view of criminal justice issues continues to skew toward the tough-on-crime mantra that has shaped his views for decades prior.

Ongoing efforts inside the White House to convene a “listening session” for Trump with black leaders have been halting, though Vice President Mike Pence participated in one last week. It’s possible Trump does meet with social justice campaigners at some point this week, officials said, though the parameters were still being worked out. One official said any event would likely include evangelicals, whom Trump has fixated upon after polls showed support for him slipping among the key electoral constituency.

In the two weeks since Floyd’s death, senior advisers Jared Kushner and Ja’Ron Smith and other White House officials have held conversations with several criminal justice reform advocates and law enforcement groups to solicit ideas for potential policy action. Those conversations have centered around Kushner and Smith’s pre-existing relationships with groups that were key to the passage of the First Step Act.

‘Separate track’

Democrats offer sweeping police reform bill

While the White House works to assess what kinds of policies Trump could support and publicly back, Democrats on Capitol Hill have already charged forward with a package of legislative action, swift action that will be the backdrop to whatever action Trump ultimately proposes.

Senate Republicans have also formed a task force to work on policing reform legislation. The group is led by Sen. Tim Scott, the chamber’s only black Republican, and includes GOP Sens. John Cornyn, Lindsey Graham, Shelley Moore Capito and Ben Sasse. After a Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday during which Scott laid out some of his proposals — including an anti-lynching provision, funding for police body cameras and a review of “no knock” warrants — the South Carolina Republican said he was working on a “separate track” from the White House.

Later, Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows traveled to Capitol Hill along with Kushner and Smith to discuss potential police reform legislation in Scott’s office.

“We’re hopeful that we can address the issue in a real way,” Meadows told reporters as he departed the Capitol. “We’re letting stakeholders establish the priorities and hopefully we can be responsive with real legislation or action, we want to let our actions speak louder than our words.”

While a proposal to have Trump sit down with African American leaders has been put off, Trump did sit down with law enforcement officials on Monday. But rather than encourage the President to dig in on the tough-on-crime rhetoric that has dominated his Twitter feed, Trump heard from law enforcement officials who believe in implementing reforms.

Chief Steven Casstevens, president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, said the roundtable lasted “over an hour” after the press left the room on Monday and that Trump heard from several law enforcement officials about reforms they believe should be implemented — from creating a national database of police officers who have lost their certification and been fired from certain departments to developing national standards for police officer training and disciplinary action.

“I thought he was incredibly receptive,” Casstevens said. “A lot of the topics that we brought up … I think were enlightening for the President to hear.”

Casstevens and others involved in discussions with the White House said there is broadest agreement around the need for developing a national use of force standard for police officers.

Avoiding questions

Senate GOP dodges over Trump's baseless Buffalo tweet: 'I would rather not hear it'
Trump, meanwhile, has shown scant interest — at least in public — on answering questions about racism and policing. He has curtailed the number of questions he’s taken from reporters over the past several days, including on matters of race, a distinct shift from when he convened near-daily press conferences during the coronavirus pandemic. And his public schedules have been light for most of the past several days.

While he acknowledged Monday there may be a way to combat crime “in a much more gentle fashion,” he insisted again that “99.9%” of police officers are “great, great people” without implicit racial biases.

He was echoing the views of several top Cabinet officials, who also said over the last several days that systemic racism did not exist in American law enforcement.

“I don’t think that the law enforcement system is systemically racist,” Attorney General William Barr told CBS News on Sunday.

“Painting law enforcement with a broad brush of systemic racism is really a disservice to the men and women who put on the badge,” acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf said on ABC.

Even as Trump’s election-year rival former Vice President Joe Biden traveled to Houston this week to meet with members of Floyd’s family and taped a deeply personal address that was played during his funeral on Tuesday, Trump has not made plans to travel either to Houston or to Minneapolis, where Floyd died, though the idea was briefly raised inside the White House.

Instead, Trump has appeared focused more on resuming his campaign travel. He tweeted on Tuesday that his first campaign rally after a months-long moratorium due to the coronavirus pandemic could come next week.

He plans to raise campaign money in Texas on Thursday, and aides said it was possible Trump also participates in an event related to the ongoing national conversation about policing and race while he’s there.

Though some officials inside the White House continue pushing for Trump to deliver some type of address signaling his interest and focus on the anger surrounding police brutality, others have questioned what Trump’s message would be and have cautioned against delivering an address to the nation just for the sake of doing it.

Some inside the White House also believe Trump should hear from members of the black community to better understand the issues and to help generate ideas for how to move forward before speaking to the country.

Trump, however, has insisted that a focus on “law and order” plays better politically and has downplayed the role that racism plays in violent police incidents.

His approach seemed to gain new life over the weekend after some activists and Democrats called for the defunding, and in some cases the dismantling, of police departments, an approach Trump swiftly condemned and pinned on Biden. Aides said they viewed the liberal defunding push as way to extend the “law and order” messaging even as riots subside and questions turn toward police reform.

Biden quickly said he didn’t support defunding the police.

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Senate Republicans Move To Launch Police Reform Proposal : NPR

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is heading up a working group to draft a legislative response for Senate Republicans to issues of racial discrimination which have become more prominent since the killing of George Floyd, who was in police custody in Minneapolis.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP


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J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is heading up a working group to draft a legislative response for Senate Republicans to issues of racial discrimination which have become more prominent since the killing of George Floyd, who was in police custody in Minneapolis.

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell tapped South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the chamber’s lone GOP black Republican, to put together a legislative package addressing the country’s policing system.

The plan would respond to the “obvious racial discrimination that we’ve seen on full display on our television screens over the last two weeks,” McConnell, Ky., told reporters following a GOP luncheon to discuss the issue on Tuesday.

The plan comes a day after Democrats – with the support of more than 200 co-sponsors – rolled out their plan to overhaul law enforcement departments across the country. Scott told reporters he hopes Republicans can get a bill on the Senate floor before their July 4 break.

Scott said Republicans are considering a proposal to increase training to focus on de-escalation tactics that would lessen the potential for chokeholds and other dangerous forms of police restraints. But Scott was clear his GOP colleagues aren’t fans of the major items in the Democratic legislation, which includes bans of chokeholds and in cases of drug-related warrants, no-knock warrants. He also ruled out reform of the legal doctrine for police know as qualified immunity -– a key provision in the bill unveiled by Democrats on Monday.

The South Carolina Republican said there’s also talk about bringing more police departments under reporting requirements to the FBI and Justice Department. Today, only 40 percent are under such reporting requirements, and that needs to change, Scott said.

“We’d like to see all the agencies report, so we’re going to provide either resources for it or perhaps reduce grants if they don’t,” Scott said.

The GOP is also discussing setting up a commission to get a handle on concerns facing policing today, Scott added.

The plan would trigger “the establishment of a ‘National Police Commission’ study, so that we can figure out best practices that can used across all departments that we would at least direct funding and resources towards in that direction,” he said.

Scott also noted that it’s time to increase funding for police body cameras, which stands at less than $20 million today.

“I’d like to see that number grow significantly,” he said.

Scott said he’ll be developing the legislation as part of a working group that includes Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, James Lankford of Oklahoma, John Cornyn of Texas and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.

Scott says he’s in talks with the White House, and said he’s hopeful the plan could win President Trump’s support.

“We are on a separate track from the White House,” Scott said. “I have been talking with folks in the White House about the track that they’re on as well, I think there is some synergy between all three tracks.”

Later Tuesday, Scott received a visit from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, White House advisor and Trump son-in-law Jared Kusher and Ja’Ron Smith, deputy director of the White House Office of American Innovation.

“We’re making progress,” Scott said.

Meadows later told a group of Capitol Hill reporters that the group had a “real good conversation” and are hopeful for a plan sooner rather than later.

“We’re hopeful that we can address the issue in a real way,” Meadows said, but declined to say whether the White House could be supportive of Scott’s plan so far. “It’s a work in progress.”

Scott said Republicans would also be working the phones Tuesday to see if any Democrats would join in the legislative effort. However, he was clear that Republicans aren’t on board with the Democratic proposal and wouldn’t be moving forward with it.

“I basically shy away from telling local law enforcement: you shouldn’t do that or you can’t do this,” Scott said, referencing bans on no-knock warrants in drug-related cases and chokeholds. “I think their bill has a tendency to be seen as perhaps a nationalization of some of the underlying issues or techniques.”

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, said competing party-driven plans could make it difficult for Congress to approve a reform bill.

“I think there’s going to be a Republican proposal and a Democrat proposal. The only thing that bothers me about that, is what usually happens when there’s a Republican proposal and a Democrat proposal?” Paul asked. “An impasse and nothing.”

But McConnell remained hopeful of a plan moving forward. He noted 50 years after major civil rights legislation “we are still wrestling with America’s original’s sin,” adding, “it’s perfectly clear we are a long way from the finish line.”

The majority leader said it was important “to listen to one of our own” – Scott – who McConnell noted has personal experiences with racial discrimination that have continued since he began his Senate career.

Separately Arkansas GOP Sen. Tom Cotton introduced a resolution that called for justice for George Floyd but also expressed opposition to calls from some advocates to “defund the police.” Cotton’s office indicated he would ask for unanimous consent to approve the resolution on Wednesday. Scott was not listed as a co-sponsor.

NPR’s Tamara Keith contributed to this report

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Senate GOP dodges over Trump’s baseless Buffalo tweet: ‘I would rather not hear it’

In an unsubstantiated claim, the President tweeted Tuesday morning, “Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur. 75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”

At a news conference following a Republican policy lunch, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky refused to say whether Trump’s tweet was appropriate.

CNN pressed him twice, and he instead pointed to the work led by GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina to try to put together a police reform package.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a Republican from Georgia, wouldn’t answer a question about the President’s tweet as she hopped on an elevator along with an aide in the Capitol.

CNN printed out a copy of the President’s tweet and tried to read it to Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, who said he hadn’t seen it, and then said: “I don’t want to comment right now. I’m on my way to a meeting. I’ll see it when I see it.”

Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin told CNN he hadn’t seen the tweet, but he also didn’t want it read to him. “I would rather not hear it,” he said as he walked onto an elevator.

“Voters can evaluate that,” Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said, adding: “I’m not going to give a running commentary on the President’s tweets.”

Sen. Steve Daines of Montana, a vulnerable Republican whom Trump praised Tuesday on Twitter, said when asked about the tweet: “The violence we are seeing across the nation is heartbreaking. We all need to pull together — both for civility and peaceful dialogue.”

He did not respond to a question about whether Trump should have tweeted about the Buffalo incident.

Video of the altercation in Buffalo shows a row of officers walking toward the man and two pushing him. His head bleeds onto the sidewalk as officers walk past him, some looking down at him.

GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida declined to weigh in on Trump’s tweet on his way into a hearing, saying, “I didn’t see it, you’re telling me about it. I don’t read Twitter, I only write on it.” Pressed on it later, Rubio said he couldn’t make a judgment because he didn’t know anything about the man who was pushed to the ground.

“I have no information about that man or who he is,” Rubio said.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said that he hasn’t seen the tweet: “You know a lot of this stuff just goes over my head.”

Rick Scott, a Republican from Florida, also told CNN that he didn’t see Trump’s tweet and that while he watched the video of the man in Buffalo, he didn’t watch it closely enough to know what happened.

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah was critical of the tweet, however, telling CNN, “I saw the tweet it was a shocking thing to say and I won’t dignify it with any further comment.”

Republican Senate Majority Whip John Thune of South Dakota said in his response that: “It’s a serious accusation which should only be made with facts and evidence and I haven’t seen any yet.”

Asked if the President should stop making such accusations, Thune said: “Well I think that’s a given. But most of us up here would rather not be political commentators on the President’s tweets. That’s a daily exercise, which I know you have to cover but we are. Like I said of what I seen, saw the tweet, saw the video, that’s serious accusation.”

The incident in Buffalo has generated national attention amid nationwide protests and unrest after George Floyd was killed while in Minneapolis police custody.

Fifty-seven police officers in Buffalo resigned from the force’s emergency response team following the suspension of the two officers who are seen on video pushing the 75-year-old man. An investigation is underway in a protest incident that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, called “wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.”

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer on Tuesday criticized Senate Republicans for largely staying silent and refusing to criticize the President over the tweet.

“Republicans have been ducking and dodging about this,” Schumer said. “When a 75-year-old man is pushed to the floor and he’s bleeding and Donald Trump blames the victim and comes up with a conspiracy theory probably put out by the Russians about who this man is — that’s a disgrace. They can’t even speak out on that? Wow.”

This story has been updated with additional developments Tuesday.

CNN’s Betsy Klein, Amir Vera, Jay Croft and Dominic Torres contributed to this report.

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Ocasio-Cortez Defends ‘Defund The Police’ Slogan, Says It Shouldn’t Be ‘Repackaged’ For Suburban White Voters

Democratic New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defended calls to abolish police departments across the U.S., saying activists should not change the slogan to “make it palatable” for white, suburban swing voters.

“Our job as policymakers is to take the public’s mandate and find + create pockets to advance as much progress as possible. Progress takes a team of different roles. You don’t criticize a pitcher for not being a catcher,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Tuesday. “And by the way, the fact that ppl are scrambling to repackage this whole conversation to make it palatable for largely affluent, white suburban ‘swing’ voters again points to how much more electoral & structural power these communities have relative to others.”

Calls to defund U.S. police departments have grown louder on the left since the death of George Floyd late last month, with activists groups including Black Lives Matter demanding the abolition of police departments across the country. (RELATED: Washington DC Renames Part Of Street Near White House ‘Black Lives Matter Plaza’)

Congressional Democrats unveiled legislation Monday that would significantly reform police departments in the U.S. following Floyd’s death. The Justice in Policing Act would ban police chokeholds, prohibit no-knock warrants in drug cases and create a National Police Misconduct Registry, among other things. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he asked Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott to lead the effort to craft a Senate proposal that would reform policing nationwide.

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Hawley Asks Barr To Investigate States Over ‘Blatant’ Violations Of Religious Freedoms

Senator Josh Hawley, R-MO, sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday asking him to investigate state leaders for allegedly violating the religious freedoms of Americans, while allowing protests to continue across the country.

“In the past few weeks, state officials across the country have blatantly violated the
free exercise and free speech rights of religious Americans,” Hawley wrote. “Under the First Amendment, state officials must not treat religious persons and groups worse than others, and they must not favor one kind of speech over another. State officials have violated the free speech and free exercise rights of religious Americans by treating religious gatherings and speech differently than the speech and mass gatherings of protests. I urge you to launch a full civil rights investigation.”

The letter comes as protests continue nationwide in response to the tragic death of George Floyd, which Hawley recognized as the public’s constitutional right to do so peacefully. Although thousands are able to take to the streets, Hawley explained that many state and local leaders are still keeping religious Americans away from their faith gatherings.

Hawley noted, “Now, after two weeks of nationwide protests, no uncertainty remains. Many jurisdictions across the nation are imposing extraordinarily strict caps on religious gatherings—such as restricting religious gatherings to 10 or fewer people—even as those jurisdictions allow thousands of people to gather closely in protests. States cannot allow one but prohibit the other.”

“These actions also violate free speech. The First Amendment prohibits state officials from banning meetings based on the ideas that will be expressed. State officials have determined that the message behind the current protests is worth saying. But state officials cannot block religious speech while allowing protests simply because the states think the protest speech is more valuable.”

AG Barr has been outspoken about the issue since the coronavirus pandemic began shutting down many cities and states. Moreover, he’s put many states on notice for violating religious rights, while allowing certain “essential” places to remain open for business.

Read the full letter below:

Letter Attorney General Barr Protests Religious Discrimination by Sara on Scribd

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Charles Booker Challenges Amy McGrath for Kentucky Democratic Senate Nomination

All of a sudden, the Democratic senatorial primary race in Kentucky has become extremely interesting. Time was that Amy McGrath, the former combat pilot who lost a bid for Congress in 2018, looked like the winter book favorite to be the one to try to relieve American democracy of Mitch McConnell. But, steadily, and obscured by gigantic events elsewhere in the country, state representative Charles Booker has made a serious race out of it and, on Tuesday, he copped a big endorsement. From Politico:

Sanders’ announcement also puts the Vermont independent at odds with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and positions him against two prominent House Democrats: Foreign Affairs Chair Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus…Sanders backed Booker, a black first-term state representative, in the Kentucky Senate race against McConnell ahead of the June 23 primary. Booker, who is running on a platform that includes “Medicare for All” and the “Green New Deal,” is challenging Amy McGrath, who has been endorsed by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Booker endorsed Sanders in the presidential primary, while McGrath backed former Vice President Joe Biden.

Booker also did a good job pinning McGrath to her own words in their last debate, to which Booker came directly from having been tear-gassed at the protests in Louisville over the killing of Breonna Taylor. For some reason or another, in her announcement speech, McGrath accused McConnell of standing in the way of the president*’s policies, about which McGrath seems to believe—against all the available evidence—that the president* is sincere. From Kentucky.com:

When asked about the fact that she said during her campaign announcement last July that McConnell was standing in the way of President Donald Trump’s policies, McGrath gave the same answer that garnered criticism from the progressive base of the Democratic Party in the first place — that Trump campaigned on lowering prescription drug prices and expanding infrastructure.

“I think that’s what people want,” McGrath said. “Wouldn’t you want someone who is going to do what’s right for Kentucky?” When asked about the other gaffe that soured some Democrats on her electoral prospects — saying she would have voted to confirm Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in July and then reversing herself hours later after an online backlash — McGrath gave the line she usually gives: that she’s not a politician and that she “makes mistakes like everyone else.”

(Also, term limits? Really? Gah.)

McGrath still has to be considered the favorite. She has the unquestioned support of the DNC. She has a preposterous fundraising advantage: she’s raised upwards of 50 times more money than both of her Democratic competitors combined. Her campaign has gotten a boost from recent polling that shows McGrath in a virtual dead heat with McConnell in a general election, which certainly would be a blessing from an attentive deity. But Booker is making a fight of it, and forcing McGrath to stop taking the president* seriously, and to move in the direction of the sea change that’s building in the country. He should make that fight as tough as he can.

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Washington Democrats back bill to curtail police use of excessive force

Updated


The Democrats in Washington’s congressional delegation are lining up behind a sweeping bill aimed at curtailing excessive use of force by police and establishing a national data base to track and prosecute misconduct.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer introduced the legislation Monday with strong Congressional Black Caucus support. Republicans have not yet been heard along Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, a Black senator who is promising his own proposals later this week.


“All throughout our region and across this country, people are demanding change to end police brutality and ensue accountability and justice: While there is no single policy that will erase decades of systematic racism and to reform policing, this legislation is a good first step toward driving real change,” said Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., a cosponsor of the Justice in Policing Act.



In a Senate floor speech, Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., another cosponsor, said:

“It is time that we not just speak out about injustice ; it’s time that we pass new federal laws to protect the civil liberties of United States citizens and protect them from these injustices.”


With 35 Senate cosponsors and 166 from the House, the legislation would:

— Prohibit federal, state and local law enforcement from racial, religious and discriminatory profiling, and mandates training on racial, religious and discriminatory profiling for all law enforcement;

— Ban choke holds, carotic holds and no-knock warrants at the federal level and limits the transfer of military-grade equipment to state and local police;


— Mandates the use of dashboard casmeras and body cameras for federal officers and requires state and local law enforcement to use existing federal money to ensure the use of police body cameras;

— Establish a National Police Misconduct Registry to prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave an agency from moving to another jurisdiction, without accountability;

— Amend federal criminal statutes from “willfulness” to “recklessness” standard to successfully identify and prosecute police misconduct;

— Reform qualified immunity so that individuals are not prohibited from recovering damages when police iolate their constitutional rights.”

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., another bill cosponsor, said the legislation “includes necessary, life-saving reforms to halt police violence and restore confidence in law enforcement.”


The Democrats have votes in the House to pass the Justice in Policing Act. It then goes to a 53-47 Republican-run Senate and faces Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell has sought political advantage in blasting “Defund the Police” proposals. As a young man, however, he interned with Sen. John Sherman Cooper — a Republican backer of the 1964 Civil Rights Act — and attended the 1963 March on Washington. He has strayed far from ideals of his early days.

In an election year, with Republicans’ control of the Senate in jeopardy, backers hope that the “World’s Greatest Deliberative Body” will get to deliberate over the proposed law.

“The deaths of George Floyd and other victims of police brutality have started a movement that has mobilized our nation,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash. “It is past time for Congress to make meaningful change to this broken system . . . and transform the culture of policing in the United States.”

Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., leaving Congress and running for lieutenant governor, reflected on the legislation, intensely pushed by the Congressional Black Caucus:

“I will never know what it is like to see flashing lights or hear a siren and wonder whether the people entrusted with my protection will truly protect me, or whether they will see me as a threat. Yet that is a thought shared by so many African Americans every single day.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., will discuss the legislation at a 6 p.m. town hall on Wednesday. It will be steamed live at Facebook.com/Rep. Jayapal

And Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, declared: “I’ve been talking to people all over Washington state about how we begin working to address our country’s legacy of racism and anti-Blackness, and I know the path toward solutions and healing cannot be paved by the same violence that got us here.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., did tell the Spokesman-Review: “I want justice for George Floyd. He should be alive today.” She described Floyd’s death, ath the hands of Minneapolis cops, as “heart wrenching.”

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The Left’s New War on Police

The idea of defunding police has caught fire, and liberal pols are scrambling to get in front of their radical constituents.

Newly painted in huge yellow letters on 16th Street, just north of the White House, is the slogan: “Defund the Police.”

That new message sits beside the “Black Lives Matter” slogan, also in huge letters, painted there at the direction of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

She renamed that section of 16th Street “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”

Still, the messages are less ominous than the chants of protesters in New York after the takedown that resulted in the death of Eric Garner.

Protesters then chanted of the NYPD: “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want it? Now!”

While this sudden campaign to defund and dismantle city police forces seems an absurdity, it is actually part of a thought-out radical program that has gained momentum since the sadistic public execution of George Floyd in Minneapolis two weeks ago.

Consider. On Sunday, nine members of the city council, a veto-proof majority, voted to disband the Minneapolis police department. Asked if he would support the council decision, Mayor Jacob Frey hedged, “I do not support the full abolition of the police.”

As the crowd jeered and booed, the mayor walked away alone.

The idea of defunding police departments has caught fire, and liberal politicians are scrambling to get in front of their radical constituents. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced that he will reallocate up to $150 million from the LAPD budget to social programs.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio says he will be transferring $1 billion: “We will be moving funding from the NYPD to youth initiatives and social services.”

In two weeks, there has been a sea change in attitudes toward police, with not a few coming to share the hard left’s hatred. While the criminal elements burned cop cars and showered police with bottles, rocks and bricks, even “peaceful protesters” were calling the police fascists and racists.

Two decades ago, the NYPD were celebrated “first responders” who ran toward the collapsing twin towers, many never to come back. Funerals of the cop heroes were televised. Those days are gone.

Indeed, after two weeks of seeing police decried on nightly TV as racist oppressors of African Americans, cops must realize that they are reviled and detested by some of the countrymen they have sworn to protect.

What will happen now is predictable, as it has happened before.

To pander to the militants on the left, liberal politicians will devise new restrictions on cops and more severe punishments for infractions, treating the police as potential threats to civil and constitutional rights.

The “Ferguson Effect” will take hold. Cops will back off from confronting the lawless and violent. Criminals will see an opening to seize opportunities. The urban poor who look to the police as their only protection will stay inside and lock their doors. And small businesses, realizing the cops may not be there, will sell and move out.

Where is this leading?

According to former New York City Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik, not only did New York law enforcement officers suffer many injuries in the riots, hundreds of cops, seeing how they are regarded and were treated by many whom they protect, are preparing to leave the NYPD.

As the Democrats’ “police reform” bill is debated on the Hill, Republicans will largely stand with the police and Attorney General William Barr, who said Sunday that while there is racism in America, there is no “systemic racism” in the nation’s police departments.

If there were, it would be an indictment of the Democrats, who have run most of our great cities for decades.

As it rises in prominence, the issue of defunding police will divide the Democratic Party more than the GOP.

For while the hard left sees cops in ideological and class terms as racist and fascist, the right, by and large, sees the police as the last line of defense again the anarchy we saw erupt when there were not enough cops in New York and D.C. to control the mobs looting Fifth Avenue and Georgetown.

And this, too, is likely to become a forever war in America. For it is almost inevitable that we are going to see more violent collisions between white cops and black suspects, collisions that result in deaths.

For every large urban police force has daily encounters with black male criminals, who commit a disproportionate number of violent crimes. Some will end with dead cops, and the others with dead criminals.

President Donald Trump has taken his stand with the police.

It is Joe Biden who has the problem. For while Democratic mayors are unlikely to join a campaign to abolish their police forces, Biden is going to have to tell his Bernie Bro and socialist constituents that their ideas for getting rid of police departments are ridiculous.

Monday, Joe made a start. He said that defunding cops is off the table.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of  Nixon’s White House Wars: The Battles That Made and Broke a President and Divided America Forever.

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Most Politicians’ Memoirs Are Terrible. Luckily, Ilhan Omar’s Isn’t.

I was nervous when Jacobin editors asked me to review Ilhan Omar’s new book. Omar, a Somalia-born refugee, in 2018 became (with Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib) one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress.

The problem was, I’m a fan. I admire Omar’s courage, and I’m glad someone as tough and visionary as she is fights for our side, the side of the working class. And I can’t help but notice that, like her fellow “Squad” member, Queens congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Omar is gifted with such good looks that it’s nearly impossible for her enemies to deploy the misogynist’s favorite nonviolent weapon: the unflattering photo. Omar gives me hope for the future. If we needed any further reasons for fandom, she’s also raised a great kid: her daughter, Isra Hirsi, is one of the main organizers of the US Youth Climate Strike (Jacobin interviewed her here).

But since memoirs by politicians are usually so terrible — inspirational and dishonest treacle — I feared I’d hate her book. Then I’d have to write a “love the author, hate the book” review or write some essay about her that more or less dodged the matter of the book’s quality. But this story has a happy ending: This Is What America Looks Like is a pretty good book. It is indeed a political memoir, as feared, but Omar and her coauthor, Rebecca Paley, have a straightforward, highly readable storytelling style, and the congresswoman has a compelling story.

A tomboy from an early age, climbing trees with the boys, Omar grew up in an upper-middle-class family of civil servants in Mogadishu, Somalia in a compound that included not only her father and siblings (Omar’s mother died when she was young), but also aunts, uncles, cousins, and a grandfather.  Her grandfather, “Baba,” raised his children and grandchildren with strongly anti-patriarchal attitudes, often in defiance of the society around him.

Her happy childhood came to a devastating end when civil war broke out in Somalia in 1989. Three years later, the family had to flee the country, as their particular clan was targeted for genocide and they would have been killed. Omar and her family then spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before coming to the United States, where many people died, most devastatingly an aunt who had been like a mother to her. Omar describes this time powerfully and unsentimentally: of her fellow refugees in the camp, she writes, “They buried loved ones in makeshift graves and went to play soccer.”

Memoirs put the reader in a curious position, because much of what is revealed is none of our business, yet a narrative quickly becomes irksome to the reader when information is too vague. As readers, we are entitled to complain. In this vein, there are some confusing gaps in Omar’s narrative of her marriages. Still, she’s much more candid than most politicians would be, acknowledging a “Britney Spears­–like meltdown” in which she shaved her head, left her husband, and briefly eloped with another man.

Since Omar attracts controversy wherever she goes, it’s not surprising that her book has already caused a stir on both the Left and the Right. Each of the controversies is deeply silly in its own way. Right-wingers are obsessing over her marriages and whether her book advance violated House ethics rules. The Left has had its own bone to pick. Omar writes in the book that although “her politics aren’t mine,” she admires Margaret Thatcher. Omar was called an “Iron Lady” as a child for her ability to hold her own and win fights with boys despite her small size, and has always identified with the conservative prime minister’s “internal sense of equality.” A Republican colleague once told Omar, “you walk in here like a man,” perhaps a crude comment but also an insightful one: Omar sees herself as someone who belongs in the halls of power. Predictably, left social media, unable to pause, read, and process anything as unpixelated as a real book, has taken Omar’s Margaret Thatcher statement as an indication of some sort of latent conservatism on her part. That’s just dumb.

More important, along with Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and many others, Omar has become one of the most prominent and courageous faces of the social-democratic wing of the Democratic Party, advocating for single-payer health care, a living wage, housing justice, and a Green New Deal. She’s also been outspoken on Trump’s immigration policies and race-baiting, and a principled critic of US foreign policy. The first person in Congress to wear a hijab — and to end the rule against head coverings on the floor of the House — she is the far right’s worst nightmare, routinely receives death threats, and was at least once the focus of a Trump rally, in which hundreds chanted, “Send her back!”

But there’s good reason to hope that politicians like Ilhan Omar, who genuinely represent working-class voters in their own communities, are the future of American politics. AOC has also been an inspiration to the rising left, but in a way, Omar’s story offers even more hope: AOC won her 2018 primary by 4,000 votes out of 28,000 cast. In a district of similar size, Omar won hers by more than 20,000, with 135,318 votes cast. Given her popularity and grit, she’ll probably be around for a long time.