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Donald Trump nominee decried criticism of judges, senators agree

President Donald Trump insisted Thursday that comments by his Supreme Court nominee criticizing his own attacks on the judiciary were “misrepresented,” even as Republican and Democratic lawmakers vouched for the veracity of the remarks.

Trump responded after private rebukes from Judge Neil Gorsuch, who said in meetings with lawmakers on Wednesday that the president’s comments about federal judges were “disheartening.”

Gorsuch, who was nominated by Trump last week to the nation’s highest court, made the comments in meetings with senators after Trump accused an appeals court panel considering his immigration and refugee executive order of being “so political.” Over the weekend, he labeled a judge who ruled on his executive order a “so-called judge” and referred to the ruling as “ridiculous.”

Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut first relayed Gorsuch’s remarks on Wednesday following a meeting with him. Trump’s own confirmation team for Gorsuch later confirmed he had made the remarks.

But Trump said during a Thursday luncheon with senators that Blumenthal had misrepresented Gorsuch. “His comments were misrepresented. And what you should do is ask Senator Blumenthal about his Vietnam record that didn’t exist after years of saying it did,” he said.

Blumenthal, who served in the Marine Corps Reserves during Vietnam, apologized in 2010 for saying he had served in Vietnam.

The president made the comments while making the case for Gorsuch during a luncheon with 10 senators, including six of Blumenthal’s fellow Democrats.

Blumenthal, a former state attorney general, argued Thursday that Gorsuch would need to go further to publicly denounce Trump’s verbal assault on judicial independence.

“He needs to condemn Donald Trump’s attacks publicly and it needs to be much stronger, more explicit and direct than has been done so far,” Blumenthal said. “Unless it is done publicly in a clear condemnation, it will not establish his independence.”

Lawmakers from both parties quickly vouched for the veracity of the remarks the senator said Gorsuch made. GOP former Sen. Kelly Ayotte, who is helping with Gorsuch’s confirmation and was at the meeting, issued a statement saying Gorsuch made clear he was not referring to any specific case. But she said the nominee said he finds any criticism of a judge’s integrity and independence to be “disheartening and demoralizing.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., each confirmed that Gorsuch made the same comments to them.

Sasse told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” ”Frankly, he got pretty passionate about it.” He added that Gorsuch said any attack on the “‘brothers or sisters of the robe is an attack on all judges’.”

Fellow Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy came to Blumenthal’s defense Thursday, lashing out in a tweet directed at Trump: “Ha! As a prosecutor, Dick used to put guys like u in jail. Now, u use your position to mock vets, he uses his to make their lives better.”

Gorsuch’s comments came at the end of a week of meetings with members of the Senate, which is considering his nomination. His response may have been aimed at drawing a line of separation with the new president.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is weighing the appeal of Trump’s executive order on immigration, which included a temporary travel ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries. In a hearing Tuesday, judges on the appeals court challenged the administration’s claim that the ban was motivated by terrorism fears, but they also questioned an attorney’s argument that it unconstitutionally targeted Muslims.

Trump told visiting police chiefs Wednesday that a portion of the immigration law gives him the power to enact the ban, calling it “beautifully written” and saying, “A bad high school student would understand this.”

“Courts seem to be so political and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what’s right,” Trump added. “And that has to do with the security of our country, which is so important.”

Since a lower-court judge blocked the order last week, Trump has assailed the decision, leading legal experts, Democrats and some Republicans to question whether his remarks might jeopardize the independence of the judiciary. Others have expressed fears he may be attempting to use political influence to sway the courts.

The president has repeatedly said foreigners are “pouring in” since the ban was put on hold and suggested that blocking the order would be dangerous for U.S. citizens.

On Wednesday he tweeted, “Big increase in traffic into our country from certain areas, while our people are far more vulnerable, as we wait for what should be EASY D!”

The administration has not provided any information to support his claims.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Charlie Crist wants Trump administration to look into voter suppression, disenfranchisement

Democrats skeptical about President Trump‘s repeated claims of voter fraud in last November’s election are now challenging him to add voter suppression and disenfranchisement into his administration’s upcoming investigation.

On Super Bowl Sunday, Trump told Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that Vice President Mike Pence will be in charge of a commission to probe what he believes was voter fraud in the election, despite a consensus among state officials, election experts — and both Democrats and Republicans — that voter fraud is extremely rare in the U.S.

“I’m going to set up a commission to be headed by Vice President Pence and we’re going to look at it very, very carefully,” Trump told O’Reilly in an interview taped Friday.

Seizing on that, Congressman Charlie Crist and 75 other Democrats are signing on to a letter originally penned by Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings, Alabama’s Terri Sewell and Washington’s Derek Kilmer calling for an evaluation of state voter restrictions in Wisconsin, North Carolina and Florida. Those states bar individuals with past felony convictions from voting unless they are able to meet a burdensome clemency requirement. This law has led to the disenfranchisement of an estimated 1.5 million Floridians. 

“Unsubstantiated voter fraud claims are being used as cover to enact policies aimed at disenfranchising certain voters — something Floridians are all too familiar with,” said Crist, the first-term St. Petersburg Democrat. “Voter suppression efforts are an attack on our democracy. I will fight to protect access to the voting booth, including for nonviolent former felons. It’s a matter of civil rights and fundamental fairness.”

“Voter suppression efforts are an attack on our democracy,” Crist added. “I will fight to protect access to the voting booth, including for nonviolent former felons. It’s a matter of civil rights and fundamental fairness.”

Clearly upset about the fact that he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by more than 2.8 million votes, Trump has steadfastly maintained that if it weren’t for voter fraud, he would have won the popular vote on November 8.

Despite that refrain, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday show that while election fraud does occur, “there is no evidence that it occurred in such a significant number that would have changed the presidential election.”

Trump’s focus seems intent only on looking at what happened in November, so the Democrats call for a look into other voting issues will unlikely find a sympathetic audience. Nevertheless, it gives them the opportunity to get out their beliefs that there are sustained, legalized measures in place currently that intentionally suppress the vote.

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Charlie Crist, Stephanie Murphy among top GOP targets for 2018

National Republicans, in an effort to boost their majority for the midterms, are targeting top House Democrats over the next two years – including Florida’s Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy.

POLITICO first reported on the list of 36 lawmakers coming from the National Republican Congressional Committee, with a particular focus on “blue-collar parts of the country where President Donald Trump is popular.”

Nearly one-third of the districts on the NRCC spreadsheet were taken by President Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton and won by a Democratic House member. Many of those are heavily blue-collar districts in the Midwest, a region Republicans believe see as winnable territory in the Trump era.

Florida’s 13th Congressional District, the district Democrat Crist won in November over incumbent Republican David Jolly, covers much of Pinellas County, which also elected Trump by a single percentage point.

POLITICO notes that there are two Democrats who were not key GOP targets in 2016: Reps. Dave Loebsack of Iowa and Ron Kind from Wisconsin. In 2016, Kind ran unopposed in the West Central Wisconsin district that Trump by more than four points.

“The success of our government depends on Republicans maintaining a strong majority in the House,” NRCC chair Steve Stivers said in a news release. “We owe the American people assurance that the agenda we were elected on — health care reform, a stronger national defense, and more good-paying jobs – is fulfilled.”

Democrats have issued their own list of 59 Republicans, released last month by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Democrats need a gain of 24 seats in 2018 to take back the House.

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Darryl Paulson: We are not the same; the immoral equivalency of President Donald Trump

Voters who supported Donald Trump for president did so because they liked his free-speaking ideas, his attacks on the political establishment and his promise to “make America great again.”

President Trump has repeatedly stated that he would have won the popular vote for president if not for massive vote fraud. Does Trump believe that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin won his office in free and fair elections?  I hope Trump cannot be that deluded.

Republicans raised strong criticisms when President Barack Obama conducted what many Americans viewed as an “apology tour,” criticizing America for all its failures. Americans prefer their presidents defend the nation and its values, and not constantly criticize the nation for its shortcomings.

Obama told a European audience in 2009 that “there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.” He also criticized the notion of American exceptionalism that all presidents have defended.

When Jihadists burned a Jordanian pilot alive, then showing the video online as a recruiting tool, President Obama cautioned a national prayer breakfast audience not to “get on our high horse” and “remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

Many Americans were sickened and highly critical of Obama’s efforts to apologize for America’s shortcomings. Instead of defending American exceptionalism, the president seemed to delight in pointing out our deficiencies.

If President Obama’s “apology tour” disgusted many Americans and most Republicans, President Trump’s defense of Putin and the Soviets should strike a similar response from the electorate. To cast America and the Soviets as “one and the same” should thoroughly repulse Republicans, in particular. Republican Ronald Reagan must be retching.

President Trump turned in one of the most disgusting performances of any American president when he placed America and the Soviets on the same moral plateau. In a Fox News interview with Bill O’Reilly before the Super Bowl, Trump defended Putin against O’Reilly’s charge that “Putin’s a killer.”

Trump responded that “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?” If Obama had made that statement, Republicans would be calling for his impeachment.

But, weak-kneed Republicans, who have no problem praising Trump, have a far more difficult time criticizing him when he becomes ill with “foot and mouth” disease. In their silence, supporters of Trump are neither doing him, or the nation, favors anyway.

Do you remember when one of our political leaders ordered the assassination of a political opponent?  Neither do I. But, Putin did that to Boris Nemtsov in 2015.

Anti-corruption reporter Sergei Magnitsky was killed in prison in 2009. Respected journalist Anna Politkovskaya was shot and killed the same year, and fellow reporter Yuri Schekechikhin was poisoned in 2013. The list of reporter and political opponent deaths is a long one.

The United States does not purposely bomb civilian neighborhoods as did the Soviets in Syria. The United States does not shoot down unarmed civilian aircraft as the Soviets did in the Ukraine. The United States does not invade independent neighboring countries as the Soviets did to the Ukraine.

Does President Trump really believe that murders of political opponents could happen in America?  I hope that Trump sees America in a different light than Putin and the Soviets.

Some Republicans have objected to President Trump’s abhorrent remarks about the moral equivalency between the Soviets and the United States. Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who called Putin a “thug,” and rejected any attempt at moral equivalency.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted:  “When has a Democratic political activist been poisoned by the GOP or vice versa?  We are not the same as #Putin.”

Republicans, in particular, and all Americans must support the president when he is right and must criticize him just as vigorously when he is wrong. To not do so will embolden both Trump and dictator Putin to continue a reckless path.

___

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

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Donald Trump still fixated on 2016 election results

The 2016 election is never far from President Donald Trump‘s mind.

When Trump met Tuesday with a group of sheriffs from around the country, he saw not just lawmen but battleground states.

Trump talked about his victories with officials from Pennsylvania and North Carolina. And when a sheriff from Minnesota introduced himself, Trump said if he had campaigned in the state one more time he would have won it.

More than two weeks into his presidency, the president is still fixated on the 2016 campaign.

Many of his public comments include references to his election performance. At times, the comments appear to be light and boastful while in other moments, he’s awkwardly interjected election talk into forums that are decidedly apolitical.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Voters await economic revival in a part of pro-Trump America

She tugged 13 envelopes from a cabinet above the stove, each one labeled with a different debt: the house payment, the student loans, the vacuum cleaner she bought on credit.

Lydia Holt and her husband tuck money into these envelopes with each paycheck to whittle away at what they owe. They both earn about $10 an hour and, with two kids, there are usually some they can’t fill. She did the math; at this rate, they’ll be paying these same bills for 87 years.

In 2012, Holt voted for Barack Obama because he promised her change, but she feels that change hasn’t reached her here. So last year she chose a presidential candidate unlike any she’d ever seen, the billionaire businessman who promised to help America, and people like her, win again.

Many of her neighbors did, too — so many that for the first time in more than 30 years, Crawford County, Wisconsin, a sturdy brick in the once-mighty Big Blue Wall, abandoned the Democratic Party and that wall crumbled. The rural county lent Donald Trump 3,844 votes toward his win. More came from formerly blue counties to the north and to the south, and on and on. Some 50 counties stretching 300 miles down the Mississippi River — through Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois — transformed in one election season into Trump Country.

They voted for Trump for an array of reasons, and the list of grievances they hope he now corrects is long and exacting: stagnant wages, the cost of health care, a hard-to-define feeling that things are not getting better, at least not for people like them.

Here in Crawford County, residents often recite two facts about their hometown, the first one proudly: It is the second-oldest community in the state. The next is that it’s also one of the poorest.

There are no rusted-out factories to embody this discontent. The main street of Prairie du Chien butts up to the Mississippi River and bustles with tourists come summer. Pickup trucks crowd parking lots at the 3M plant and Cabela’s distribution center where hundreds work. Just a few vacant storefronts hint at the seething resentment that life still seems harder here than it should.

In this place that astonished America when it helped hand Trump the White House, many of those who chose him greeted the frenetic opening acts of his presidency with a shrug. Immigration is not their top concern, and so they watched with some trepidation as Trump signed orders to build a wall on the Mexican border and bar immigrants from seven Muslim countries, sowing chaos around the world.

Among them is a woman who works for $10.50 an hour in a sewing factory, who still admires Obama, bristles at Trump’s bluster, but can’t afford health insurance. And the dairy farmer who thinks Trump is a jerk — “somebody needs to get some Gorilla Glue and glue his lips shut” — but has watched his profits plummet and was willing to take the risk.

There’s a man who owns an engine repair shop and struggles to keep the lights on, and a bartender who cringes when he sees “Made in China” printed on American goods.

There’s also Holt, who makes $400 a week as a lawyer’s assistant and whose husband doesn’t do much better at a car parts store. She is enthusiastic that Trump started quickly doing the things he said he would, because she worries that by the time their sons grow up there will be nothing left for them here.

In this corner of middle America, in this one, small slice of the nation that sent Trump to Washington, they are watching and they are waiting, their hopes pinned on his promised economic renaissance. And if four years from now the change he pledged hasn’t found them here, the people of Crawford County said they might change again to someone else.

___

Katherine Cramer, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, coined a name for what’s happened in her state’s rural pockets: the politics of resentment.

She spent years traveling to small towns and talking to people at diners and gas stations. And when she asked which political party best represented them, their answers almost always sounded something like, “Are you crazy lady? Neither party is representing people around here.”

“People have been looking for a politician who is going to change that, going to listen to them, do it differently,” she said. “People a lot of times don’t have specifics about what that means. They just know that however government is operating currently is not working for them.”

In Crawford County, with just 16,000 residents, that dissatisfaction stems from feeling left behind as other places prospered.

There are plenty of jobs in retail or on factory floors, but it’s hard to find one that pays more than $12 an hour. Ambitious young people leave and don’t come back. Rural schools are dwindling, and with them a sense of pride and purpose.

Still, much of the economic anxiety is based not on measurable decay, but rather a perception that life is decaying, said Jim Bowman, director of the county’s Economic Development Corporation.

There are higher-paying jobs — in welding, for example — but companies can’t find enough workers with the right training, Bowman said. The county’s $44,000-a-year median household income is $9,000 less than the state’s, but the cost of living is lower, too.

Just 15 percent of adults have college degrees, half the national average, and yet the ratio of people living in poverty is below the country as a whole.

Crawford County and all the other places in the county cluster along the Mississippi River that switched from Obama to Trump rank roughly in the middle on a scale of American comfort in one economic think tank’s county-by-county appraisal of community distress.

Yet for many here, it doesn’t feel that way.

“If you ask anybody here, we’ll all tell you the same thing: We’re tired of living like this. We’ve been railroaded, run over by the politicians and run over by laws,” said Mark Berns, leaning through the service window in the small-engine repair shop downtown that he can barely keep open anymore. He drives a 14-year-old truck with 207,000 miles on it because he doesn’t make enough profit to buy a new one.

Berns watched Trump’s first days in office half-hopeful, half-frightened.

“He jumps on every bandwagon there is. It’s a mess,” he said, bemoaning what he described as a quantity-over-quality, “sign, sign, sign” approach to governing. “I just hope we get the jobs back and the economy on its feet, so everybody can get a decent job and make a decent living, and have that chance at the American dream that’s gone away over the past eight or 10 years.

“I’m still optimistic,” he said, sighing. “I hope I’m not wrong.”

___

Marlene Kramer gets to work before the sun comes up and spends her days sitting at a sewing machine, stitching sports uniforms for $10.50 an hour.

Kramer, who voted twice for Obama, used to watch Trump on “Celebrity Apprentice.” ”I said to myself, ‘Ugh, I can’t stand him.'” When he announced his candidacy, she thought it was a joke. “Then my husband said to me, ‘Just think, everything he touches seems to turn to money.'” And she changed her mind.

She’s 54, and she’s worked since she was 14, all hard jobs: feeding cows, pulling weeds, standing all day on factory floors. Now it’s the sewing shop, where she’s happy and gets to sit. But there’s no health insurance.

Her bosses, brothers Todd and Scott Yeomans, opened the factory 12 years ago. They said they’re trying to do the right thing by making sportswear with American-made fabrics and American labor. But they compete against factories overseas.

They’d like to offer insurance. The other day, a trusted worker quit for a job with benefits. But they’ve run the numbers and it would cost $200,000 a year — far more than they can spend.

Kramer said she’s glad the Affordable Care Act has helped millions get insurance, but it hasn’t helped her.

She and her husband were stunned to find premiums over $1,000 a month. Her daughter recently moved into their house with her five children, so there’s no money to spare. They opted to pay the penalty of $2,000, and pray they don’t get sick until Trump, she hopes, keeps his promise to replace the law with something better.

Kramer thinks Obama did as good a job as he could in the time he had. She admires him, still, but went with Trump. That doesn’t seem incongruous to her, just a simple calculation of results.

“His things aren’t going the way we want them here,” she said, “so we needed to go in another direction.”

Across town, Robbo Coleman leaned over the bar he tends and described a similar political about-face. He held up an ink pen, wrapped in plastic stamped “Made in China.”

“I don’t see why we can’t make pens in Prairie du Chien or in Louisville, Kentucky, or in Alabama or wherever,” said Coleman. “Trump brought something to the table that I haven’t heard or seen before. And if it doesn’t turn out, then, hey, at least we tried.”

Coleman doesn’t love Trump’s moves to build a wall or ban certain immigrants — all Americans descended from immigrants, he said, including his own relatives, who migrated from Germany too many generations ago to count. But he’s frustrated that other politicians stopped listening to working people like him.

“We’ve got to give him some time,” he said of Trump. “He’s not Houdini.”

Even some rural Wisconsin Democrats agreed with Coleman’s assessment, and think their party’s leaders are among those who stopped paying attention to those just trying to get by. On the same day that Trump took the oath of office, a group of them huddled in the back room of a tavern, still trying to grasp how the election went awry.

Bob Welsh met Hillary Clinton at a rope line in Iowa and asked her to visit Wisconsin. But she didn’t come a single time during her campaign against Trump, and Welsh thinks that confirmed in the minds of many that Democrats are disinterested in white working people.

Welsh wears flannel shirts and suspenders. He grew up on a farm, worked as a herdsman, and drove a school bus until he was 76 years old. He’s 78 now, and knows his neighbors as kind, hard-working people, and could barely believe they voted for a man he finds reprehensible. But the left-right, blue-red vitriol that has cleaved apart the country has not left the same scars here, where wives reported not knowing how their own husbands voted and husbands said they never asked their wives.

Welsh said he hopes Trump finds a way to keep his promise to build his friends better lives.

“If he does that then he’ll change my mind,” he said. “And I’ll be the first to admit it.”

___

Bernard Moravits hosed the mud and cow dung off the boots pulled up over his jeans and headed for his truck, to drive to town to talk to a banker about keeping his farm afloat.

Moravits — everyone calls him Tinker — works on his farm outside of town at least 12 hours every day, and usually a lot longer. He diversified to minimize risk and has dairy and beef cows, and acre after acre of corn, beans, alfalfa.

“You don’t hit a home run that way, but you don’t get your ass kicked either,” he said. “But this year could be the ass-kicking year.”

The price of milk and agricultural goods has plummeted, and it’s hard to keep things running.

Change is what he looked to Obama for and now expects from Trump. He wants the president to reduce red tape and renegotiate trade deals to benefit American farmers. And he hopes people make more money and spend more money, which eventually trickles down to him.

“I think he’s a shrewd businessman,” he said. “He’s been broke several times. He keeps bouncing back, and he knows how big business works.”

He has several choice words for Trump’s move to build “his stupid wall.” Moravits employs Hispanic workers who have been with him 15 years. He built them apartments. He trusts them to do a dirty, difficult job that he says white people aren’t willing to do.

“A lot of people don’t treat them like people,” he grumbled.

Unlike many transfixed by Trump’s presidency, Moravits doesn’t stay up-to-the-minute on the news. In the morning, he checks the agriculture prices and the weather. As protests over Trump’s immigration ban raged for days, Moravits wasn’t paying attention.

“The play-by-play don’t mean bullshit,” he said. “It’s like watching the Super Bowl. What counts is how it ends.”

He took over this farm at 18 years old, when his father died of an aneurysm while milking cows. He said he plans to die here, too. He’ll retire when “they close the casket lid.”

But if nothing changes and changes soon he might have to borrow against his equity.

Moravits isn’t sure Trump is going to “Make America Great Again” for farmers. But he feels he had to take the gamble.

“He might have us in a war in two weeks,” he said. “We’ll come back here in six months, drink a 30-pack of Busch Light and talk, because no one knows now what’s gonna happen.”

He laughed, then shrugged and pantomimed rolling the dice.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch and ‘over-criminalization’

President Donald Trump’s nomination of  Neil Gorsuch, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, sparked a predictably hostile response from Democrats. But Gorsuch’s record on criminal justice reform offers a rare opportunity for bipartisan agreement.

Gorsuch tipped his hand at a gathering of conservative attorneys in Washington, D.C., three years ago by addressing the issue of “over-criminaliztion.”

NEIL GORSUCH: President Donald Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee has publicly addressed the explosion of criminal justice laws, sometimes called “over-criminalization.”

Speaking at the Federalist Society’s National Lawyers Convention in 2013, Gorsuch said, “we have about 5,000 federal criminal statutes on the books, most of them added in the last few decades, and the spigot keeps pouring, with literally hundreds of new statutory crimes inked every single year.”

“Neither does that begin to count the thousands of additional regulatory crimes buried in the federal register. There are so many crimes cowled in the numbing fine print of those pages that scholars have given up counting and are now debating their number,” he continued.

“What happens to individual freedom and equality when the criminal law comes to cover so many facets of daily life that prosecutors can almost choose their targets with impunity,” he asked.

The question highlights an alarming problem, but one that hasn’t gone unnoticed in some quarters of both the left and right.

“From federal agencies independently attaching jail time to otherwise noncriminal behavior to U.S. lawmakers punishing crimes best dealt with by states, the problem of over-criminalization is growing,” explains the libertarian Cato Institute.

The conservative Heritage Foundation cites the explosion of criminal laws as a major area for reform, and the American Bar Association hosts an over-criminalization task force to educate attorneys on the “urgent problem.”

The left-leaning American Civil Liberties Union has turned its attention to confronting social inequities born from criminalizing broad swaths of everyday life. It launched a Criminal Justice Reform Project to reduce “excessively harsh criminal justice policies” that result in racial disparities and disproportionate sentencing.

One outgrowth of having too many criminal laws is what critics call “mass incarceration.”

“America, land of the free, has earned the disturbing distinction of being the world’s leading jailer. Representing just 5 percent of the world’s population, we now hold 25 percent of its inmates,” the ACLU says.

The Prison Policy Initiative, a nonprofit research organization, says over-criminalization and high rates of incarceration go hand-in-hand to “undermine our communities and national well-being.” The group cites Florida as having one of the highest incarceration rates in the country.

“Historically, ‘crime’ was a term restricted to morally blameworthy actions, but today, many ordinary activities are captured by the term,” says Right on Crime, a project of Texas Public Policy Foundation.

In his Federalist Society remarks,  Gorsuch cited absurd examples of overreach.

“It’s now a federal crime to misuse the likeness of Woodsy the Owl,” Gorsuch said.

“Businessmen who import lobster tails in plastic bags rather than cardboard boxes can be brought up on charges. Mattress sellers who remove that little tag? Yes, they’re probably federal criminals too,” he said.

The full speech can be seen here:

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Activists: Charities must move galas from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

Since President Donald Trump opened the gold-infused ballroom at his Mar-a-Lago resort almost 12 years ago, it has been a popular rental for the American Red Cross, hospitals, medical researchers and other charities for fundraising galas where the wealthiest donors are wined and dined, often netting $1 million or more.

But Trump’s election puts charities in an awkward position over choosing the resort — recently dubbed the president’s Winter White House — for events they may have planned more than a year in advance.

With Trump placing a moratorium on refugees and immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries and his promises to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, activists are pressuring charities such as the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Cleveland Clinic to move or cancel their galas this month.

As the International Red Cross held a gala fundraiser Saturday at Mar-a-Lago, about three thousand demonstrators marched nearby to protest Trump’s now-blocked executive order temporarily limiting immigration. The event ended peacefully, and there were no arrests.

So far, no known Mar-a-Lago charity events have been moved or canceled.

More than 2,000 people, including faculty and students from Harvard Medical School, have signed an online petition demanding that Boston-based Dana-Farber move or cancel its Feb. 18 “Discovery Celebration,” featuring a performance by Grammy Award winner David Foster. The cheapest ticket is $1,250.

Petition organizer George Karandinos, a 30-year-old Harvard medical student from Houston, said he understands that canceling or moving the Dana-Farber event would be difficult, “but they can make a public moral stand that is in line with their stated values” of diversity and supporting scientific exchanges across borders. Plus, he said, a cancellation might attract additional donors.

A similar open letter, signed by more than 1,100 including doctors and medical students, demands that Cleveland Clinic move its Feb. 25 “Reflections of Versailles: A Night in the Hall of Mirrors” gala. Its cheapest ticket also is $1,250.

Both Dana-Farber and the Cleveland Clinic said they won’t move or cancel their events, but added that it doesn’t mean they support the president’s policies. Applications filed with the town of Palm Beach show Dana-Farber expects to raise $1.25 million after paying expenses of $250,000. The Red Cross says it will make $950,000 after spending $400,000. A portion of those expenses would go to Mar-a-Lago. The town did not immediately release Cleveland Clinic’s application.

Dana-Farber President Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher issued a statement saying she shares the protesters’ concerns about the immigration moratorium and what it will mean for doctors, scientists, students and patients from the affected countries, but that the protesters are unrealistic.

“The forthcoming fundraiser in Palm Beach is planned many months in advance, and raises critical funds to support this lifesaving work. Contracts have been signed, and a large number of people have committed to attend. Canceling the event outright would only deny much-needed resources for research and care,” she said.

The Cleveland Clinic issued a similar statement.

“The sole purpose of our event in Florida is to raise funds for important research to advance cardiovascular medicine that improves patient care,” spokeswoman Eileen Sheil said. “In no way is this connected to anything else but helping patients. The event has been held there for years, well before the election.”

Mar-a-Lago director Bernd Lembcke didn’t return a call seeking comment. The Trump Organization didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

Photos of the ballroom complex, including the Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom, show large open spaces lighted by chandeliers and surrounded by massive archways and columns. Bathroom fixtures are gold-plated. The walls, ceiling and columns have intricate decorations gilded with gold leaf. Many organizations have been using the venue for years to host their wealthiest donors.

Trump opened the 20,000 square-foot ballroom complex in late 2005 — the inaugural event was the reception for his wedding to Melania Trump. He told reporters the complex cost $35 million, but Palm Beach building records indicate the cost was lower, likely no more than $15 million.

Mary Simboski, who teaches in Boston University’s fundraising management program, said that while she could not speak to any specific event, major galas like the ones the Cleveland Clinic, Red Cross and Dana-Farber are throwing take a year to plan and are a major part of an organization’s fundraising operation.

Picking a site like Mar-a-Lago often comes down to location, size, cost and availability, she said, and has nothing to do with politics. Projecting that the groups could perhaps garner more financial support by canceling the event is wishful thinking, she said.

“Hope is not a strategy,” Simboski said.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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With Melissa McCarthy playing Sean Spicer, ‘SNL’ cranks up Donald Trump satire

Melissa McCarthy lampooned White House press secretary Sean Spicer in a “Saturday Night Live” sketch where she taunted reporters as “losers,” fired a water gun at the press corps and even used the lectern to ram a Wall Street Journal journalist.

“SNL” opened with Alec Baldwin reprising his President Donald Trump and phoning foreign leaders with chief strategist Stephen Bannon by his side. Bannon, with hood and scythe, was portrayed as the grim reaper. He nodded affirmatively after the successive calls to countries like Australia and Germany dissolved into Baldwin vowing, “Prepare to go to war.”

But it was McCarthy’s mid-show sketch impersonating a pugnacious Spicer that sparked the bigger response in the NBC show’s second episode since the inauguration. McCarthy’s Spicer insisted that “no one was sad” at Trump’s supreme court nominee unveiling. “Those are the facts forever,” she said, before accidentally giving her email password. Off to the side, she kept a CNN reporter, chastised as “fake news,” jailed in a cage.

“I want to begin tonight by apologizing on behalf of you to me for how you have treated me these last two weeks,” McCarthy said in opening the mock press briefing. “And that apology is not accepted.”

Parodying a similar exchange, she then haggled with reporters over the use of the word “ban” to describe Trump’s recent immigration order. Trump and Spicer have both used the word, but McCarthy defended it: “He’s using your words. When you use the word and he uses them back, it’s circular using of the word and that’s from you.”

When a Wall Street Journal reporter asked if she was OK, McCarthy picked up the lectern and charged. She warned that she would put the reporter “in the corner with CNN.”

Host Kristen Stewart began the show with a monologue recalling Trump’s tweets about her romantic life. In 2012 when the actress dated “Twilight” co-star Robert Pattinson, Trump tweeted that Pattinson should “dump” her and that he could “do much better.”

“To be fair, I don’t think Donald Trump hated me,” Stewart said. “I think he’s in love with my boyfriend.”

She added: “The president is not a huge fan of me. But that is so OK. And Donald, if you didn’t like me then, you’re really probably not going to like me now. Because I’m hosting ‘SNL’ and I’m, like, so gay, dude.”

Though Trump has frequently criticized “SNL” and its sketches skewering him, he had not responded to Saturday’s show as of early Sunday afternoon.

As Stewart began introducing the show, she let slip an expletive. She immediately apologized and guessed that she wouldn’t ever be allowed to host again.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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Federal government seeks stay of immigration order

The Latest on a lawsuit by Washington and Minnesota seeking to halt President Donald Trump’s immigration ban (all times local):

7: 20 p.m.

The White House says it will seek an emergency stay of a federal judge’s order that temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump’s executive order issued last week was “lawful and appropriate.” An initial statement said the judge’s order was “outrageous,” but it was later revised to remove that word.

U.S. District Judge James Robart late Friday granted a temporary restraining order at the request of Washington state and Minnesota that’s effective nationwide.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson had said that Trump’s order is causing significant harm to residents and effectively mandates discrimination. Minnesota joined the suit this week.

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5:49 p.m.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson says she supports measures to protect the security of the United States but also backs the Constitution.

Swanson, a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, is reacting to a federal court ruling temporarily blocking President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

She said in a statement Friday that she supports “strong measures to protect the security of the United States” but also supports “the bedrock of that security — namely, the Constitution of the United States.”

U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a temporary restraining order Friday that Washington state and Minnesota requested. It halts Trump’s executive order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries and suspending the U.S. refugee program.

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4:35 p.m.

Washington state’s attorney general says a federal court ruling temporarily blocking President Donald Trump’s travel ban shows nobody is above the law.

U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a temporary restraining order Friday that Washington state and Minnesota requested. It halts Trump’s executive order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries and suspending the U.S. refugee program.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said after the ruling that “the law is a powerful thing — it has the ability to hold everybody accountable to it, and that includes the president of the United States.”

Ferguson said people from the affected countries can now apply for entry to the United States.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had no immediate comment on the ruling.

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3:55 p.m.

A federal judge in Seattle has temporarily blocked President Donald Trump’s ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

U.S. District Judge James Robart granted a temporary restraining order Friday at the request of Washington state and Minnesota that’s effective nationwide.

Trump signed an executive order last week that sparked protests across the country and confusion at airports as some travelers were detained.

Lawyers for the U.S. government argued that the states don’t have standing to challenge the order and said Congress gave the president authority to make decisions on national security and admitting immigrants.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson had sued, saying the order is causing significant harm to residents and effectively mandates discrimination. Minnesota joined the suit this week.

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7:58 a.m.

Washington state and Minnesota officials are asking a federal judge for an immediate nationwide halt to the implementation of portions of President Donald Trump’s immigration travel ban.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson says the state has a “profound interest” in protecting its citizens from the harms caused by what he called “the irrational discrimination” embodied in Trump’s order. A hearing is scheduled for Friday afternoon. Trump issued an executive order last week prohibiting people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from crossing U.S. borders.

Washington and Minnesota want a temporary restraining order while the court considers their lawsuit, which says key sections of the order are unconstitutional.

Ferguson says the order is causing significant harm to Washington residents and businesses.

The Washington-based businesses of Amazon, Expedia and Microsoft support the state’s efforts to stop the order.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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