Trump’s Travel Ban Is Upheld By the Supreme Court

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court offered its consent to a travel ban
proposed by President Donald Trump. The travel ban is aimed at people from six
Muslim-majority nations. Despite legal challenges in lower courts, the ban is
expected to go into full effect.

The Supreme Court was divided on the matter with two liberal justices
dissenting. The court allowed the government’s request to lift injunctions
imposed by the lower courts that had blocked the travel ban. This is one of the
contentious policies that Trump first sought when he took office in January.

A Victory For The Trump Administration

Attorney General Jeff Sessions lauded the action by the Supreme Court and
declared a significant victory for the American people. The ban had been
challenged in several lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union and the state
of Hawaii. The argument in these lawsuits was that the ban was an act of
discrimination against Muslims which amounts to a violation of immigration
laws.

When Trump was vying for office, he promised to shutdown Muslims entering
the U.S.  According to ACLU lawyer, Omar Jadwat, Trump has repeatedly shown his anti-Muslim prejudice. His latest anti-Muslim sentiments were expressed in a post on Twitter where he shared anti-Muslim videos posted by a British party leader.

The lower courts had recently limited the extent of the ban to people who
had no family connections in the U.S. or former relationships with U.S. based
entities like resettlement agencies and universities.

Trump’s ban is not restricted to Muslims but further applies to North
Koreans and government agents from Venezuela. The high court declared in a one-page order that the rulings by the lower courts that partially blocked the latest travel ban would be put on hold under the federal appeals courts in Richmond, Virginia, and San Francisco review the cases.

No Hope For A Reversal Of the Ruling

Monday’s action was a strong sign that the court was going to uphold the ban
even after it returns to the appeals courts. However, there are exceptions to
this ban. Some people from each of the targeted nations may still be allowed to
apply for a visa for business, tourism, or education purposes.

Trump’s first travel ban targeted Muslim-majority countries in January. In
March, Trump issued a revised the initial ban after the federal courts blocked
the first one. In September, the second travel ban expired and was later
replaced by the current version.

North Carolina New Law Limits Judges in Waiving Fines and Fees

A new law in North Carolina, believed to be the first of its kind nationwide, took effect on Friday, Dec. 1, curbing the state’s judges’ ability to waive fees and fines for poor people.

The General Assembly, controlled by a Republican majority, passed the law to circumvent a U.S. Supreme Court decision from 1983 according to which judges are allowed to waive costs for the poor and cannot jail individuals for the sole reason they are too poor to be able to afford fines and fees.

The law goes against a general nationwide tendency for reform that looks to alleviate the burden on poor people, enabling them to pay in small installments and enabling judges to reduce or waive fees altogether.

According to the new law, judges are allowed to waive fees and fines but are required to give a 15 days’ notice to all affected agencies before the waiver. This requirement can prove a considerable obstacle, as the state imposes 52 different fees for a vast array of infractions including a $50 fee for failing to pay a fee. Court costs in the state can easily surpass $1,000. These fees are routed to four different state agencies and 611 counties and municipalities, making the notice requirement a potentially expensive exercise that can cost the state’s counties thousands of dollars in extra postage every week and further burden their often-understaffed offices.

Some Democrat state representatives are making an effort to mitigate the new law’s impact by alerting all agencies to it and to their open option to send counsel to any court session and be heard on any fee waiver. Nevertheless, as courts rely on fees for half of their budget, the new law is in the interest of those who hold budget considerations above other concerns.

Will Supreme Court Side Against First Amendment Or Against Anti-Discrimination Laws

The case in question became an internet sensation, even before it ever reached the Supreme Court’s docket. It involves Colorado baker Jack Phillips and his shop, Masterpiece Cakeshop, over the issue of whether or not the First Amendment guarantees him the right to refuse to bake a cake for the gay wedding of Charlie Craig and David Mullins. The couple sued Phillips for violating a state law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. While Mullins and Craig won the initial case, Phillips first pursued the matter in state appeals courts and is now due to have his side heard in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court Must Draw a Line Between Discrimination and the First Amendment
There’s a fine line between discrimination and the freedom of speech and the freedom of beliefs. That’s a line the Supreme Court has endeavored to establish many times before, as well. For as long as we have had the Bill of Rights, people and businesses have tried to use the First Amendment to justify discrimination. That’s a ploy that rarely works, especially in cases that reach the United States Supreme Court.
In 1973, the court determined that private discrimination may be viewed as one type of freedom of expression, but that doesn’t mean it is, in fact, protected by the terms of the constitution. Yet, 1995 brought about a decision that seemed to reverse that earlier opinion. In denying a gay rights march to participate in a St. Patrick’s Day parade, the court held that Massachusetts could not compel private citizens to include the gay pride march in its parade. As the parade is a form of expression in itself, the Supreme Court established that the themes of the parade were up to those organizing the event.
Neither Decision Will Undermine Anti-Discrimination Laws
While it’s anyone’s guess how the Supreme Court will decide, even Jack Phillips’ court documents acknowledge that the case isn’t a fight against anti-discrimination laws. In this instance, Phillips is simply trying to defend his own right to use his talents in a way that coincides with his personal belief system. That means not being forced to create a wedding cake for a gay marriage, while he’s personally opposed to same-sex marriages.
The Supreme Court may go along with that exception. It would be a simpler matter to make an exception based on one unique case versus having to redefine anti-discrimination laws on a broader term. If the court does rule in favor of Jack Phillips, the decision will almost certainly specify that the terms are specific to the situation. The court would only be granting Phillips to use his talents and skills in a way that coincides with his personal expressions. Otherwise, businesses might attempt to use this one limited exception as a way to discriminate against others, based on sexual orientation.

 

The 1954 Law to be Rolled Back

A group of religious rights has for many years opposed the 1954 law that prohibits churches and nonprofit organizations from engaging in any political activities. The once impossible demands are almost becoming a reality for the group after the Republican representatives began to prepare themselves to rewrite the path of the United States tax code in line with the $1.5 trillion tax package that will move to the Congress. Various amendments were made and passed through the House, among them the provision to scrap off the 1954 ban. Many religious rights support this move, while many of the religious and nonprofit leaders oppose it citing that it will clear the boundary that has existed between politics and charity. The nonpartisan Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation believes that the proposed change will turn the religious houses into fully funded political forces.

About $1.7 billion that comes from the traditional political committee will end up being diverted to the churches. It will also give churches and nonprofit organizations the legal right to practice partisan politics. The Senate vote is scheduled for early midweek. There is a definite variation of the tax rewrite in the Senate from that of the House. For starters, the ban has been left out. The Senate bill has not received sufficient support from the Republicans so that it can pass along party lines. Some Republican senators are concerned about the cost of the law as well as its approach. They are categorically worried about how small enterprises are treated and the scrapping off of the Affordable Care Act requirement that Americans rely on.

In the event that the bill passes in the Senate, the lawmakers will be required to resolve the variation between the House bill and that of the Senate. They will be required to agree on the mode of tax cuts for individuals, whether it will be permanent like it is done in the House or temporally like it is done in the Senate. Those who critics of the repeal of the 1954 Act popularized as the Johnson Amendment say that the change will create untraceable political spending and the creation of churches aimed at taking advantage of the political spending. Religious leaders and denominations say that that the rollback of the Johnson Amendment will be a threat to achieving the mission of their organizations. They also claim that the rollback will bring division in the churches along political affiliation.

The Supreme Court Set to Rule on a Gun Ownership Case

Its five years now since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting happened. While the shooting resulted in the death of 20 children, one name stood out. Benjamin was a six-year-old kid who was killed in the process. His parents have been relentless in fightng for justice for their son. His father who has been identified as David Wheeler has on a number of occasions pleaded with the state legislatures. He has testified and has also asked members of the Congress to look into the gun laws. At the same time, he has supported his wife as she made a speech during addresses that had been organized by former President Barrack Obama. They all want the lawmakers to rethink about gun ownership laws.

However, the family will have their day at the United States Supreme Court this week as they listen to their lawyers argue about their case. The lawyers want to convince the United States Supreme Court that the companies that produced the military-style rifle that was used to kill the 26 victims including 20 children are responsible for the deaths. The families and the lawyers are employing a novel strategy with the aim of piercing the shield that protects these companies from litigation. The law was passed by the federal government and has prevented thousands of cases for companies whose weapons have been used to commit crimes.

There are fears that should the case be allowed to go through by the Supreme Court, it will open a jury trial. This will result in resurfacing of cases where relatives of victims and survivors will come out asking for accountability. Mr. Wheeler said in a recent interview that it doesn’t make any sense that these companies are free from liability. He further complained that the playing field was not level. He further said that he felt that the practice was not right. This has degenerated to a high profile case that has gained traction from both sides of the gun debate. For the past few days, the United States Supreme Court has listened to amicus briefs from doctors who treated victims and gun control advocates. One gun-rights group that had a day at the Supreme Court is the National Rifle Association. The group argued that should the case go forward, it would threaten the “eviscerate” of companies that make guns. Some experts argue that the case will be dismissed because federal protections were designed for such cases.

Church Money in Politics? Not On End Citizen United’s Watch

If there’s one thing that most people understand about the United States, it’s that it was founded on the principle of the separation of church and state. It has been this way since the dawn of this country, but now it’s at serious risk of being stripped away. At this very moment, conservative members of Congress are working feverishly to slip through a rider that will effectively strip the Johnson Amendment of its powers. This law is the one that specifically forbids tax-exempt non-profit organizations, including churches, from actively campaigning for political candidates. End Citizens United recently issued a press release urging Congress not to allow this to happen.

Few people were even aware of the Johnson Amendment until the 2016 presidential campaign season got into full swing. Republican candidate Donald Trump made repealing the amendment one of his top campaign promises. This promise went over many people’s heads, as they were unaware of the significance. However, those for whom Trump truly works–the wealthiest people in the country–were well aware, and it was music to their ears. Should the Johnson Amendment be repealed, there will be no stopping people from donating indiscriminately to religious organizations–and those religious organizations can then turn around and funnel the money wherever they’d like it to go.

Why is End Citizens United front and center in this battle? The grassroots organization, which was founded to fight back against the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision of 2010, sees this move as an attempt to further solidify the power of corporations and the extremely wealthy. In its press release, Tiffany Muller, the president of End Citizens United, stated, “The House Republican’s tax plan includes the terrible decision to repeal the Johnson Amendment, which can turn churches into tools for secret campaign spending.”

To understand why the repeal of the Johnson Amendment would be a true disaster for democracy in America, it helps to understand how much money is at stake. In the year 2015 alone, Americans donated more than $119 billion to religious organizations. To put that into perspective, the total cost of the 2016 election–the most expensive in history–was around $6.5 billion. The implication here is that should the amendment be gutted, a significant chunk of that $119 billion could find its way into the campaign coffers of conservative candidates–candidates who have been bought and paid for by the powers that be.

Although the Johnson Amendment has been in conservatives’ crosshairs for some time, it caused no controversy whatsoever when it was enacted in the mid-1950s. The amendment was proposed by then U.S. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas. He was inspired to champion the law after being attacked and accused of being a communist by non-profit religious groups. Noting that these 501(c)(3) organizations, as they are known, enjoy tax-free status, Johnson believed that they had an unfair advantage. Given that the country was founded on the concept of the separation of church and state, it seemed logical to enact this kind of law.

The Johnson Amendment has historically been more of a preventative measure than a punitive one. The mere existence of the law–and the threat of being stripped of tax-exempt status by the IRS–ensured that most toed the line. Still, some have deliberately flouted the law through the years, stating that it restricted pastors’ and others’ right to free speech. In fact, a movement called Pulpit Freedom Sounding, which is organized by the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, encourages churches and other groups to actively thumb their nose at the law. Even so, very few organizations have actually faced penalties because of it.

How exactly are Republicans working to do away with the Johnson Amendment? Not surprisingly, they are being pretty sneaky about it. Rather than blatantly attempt to repeal the law, they have attached it to various other pieces of legislation in the hopes of getting it passed without too much oversight. Language stripping the law of much of its power was included in the House Financial Services appropriations bill earlier this fall. More recently, a rider was added to the huge tax bill. It forbids the IRS from using funds to investigate violations of the Johnson Amendment, which means that the law is basically useless.

If the general public really understood what was at stake with the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, there would surely be a lot more fuss being made. However, public sentiment regarding the separation of church and state is surprisingly muddled. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2016, 66 percent of Americans are uncomfortable with the idea of religion in politics. That’s a comfortable majority, of course, but it suggests that a large percentage of people are fine with it–and that is a problem.

Despite the perception that all religious organizations are welcoming the repeal of the Johnson Amendment, the reality is that plenty of them oppose this move too. In fact, more than 100 such organizations have joined End Citizens United in its efforts to prevent the repeal of this incredibly important law. The repeal of this 63-year-old law would undoubtedly open the floodgates, allowing organizations to funnel tax-free contributions to political campaigns. As if that’s not alarming enough, those who made donations in this way would conceivably enjoy tax breaks, as such donations are typically deductible. In this way, the very wealthy will be double-dipping and enjoying yet a22851977_1131203693680779_2957189258061179696_nother unfair advantage over the public at large.

As dire as things seem at this time, groups like End Citizens United are closely monitoring the situation and mobilizing to fight back. Ideally, of course, the Republicans will fail in their objective. Should they prevail, ECU and other groups will have to work even harder to get their candidates elected. This will mean a lot more work, of course, since it will mean undoing a lot of damage. Although President Trump signed an executive order back in May, the battle is far from over. By supporting End Citizens United, citizens can help to take their country back.

 

The United States Supreme Court Allows the Execution of a Man who can’t remember his Crime

The United States Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the execution of an Alabama man who cannot remember his crime should go ahead. He has been on death row since 1985 for first-degree murder. The Supreme Court issued a statement later saying that the decision was unanimous. This was an indication that there were no noted dissents. However, the three judges of the Supreme Court who are known for their liberal opinions released a statement saying that the case brought before the court a good legal question. They further said that it was their opinion that the matter should be brought to the court at a later date. The inmate, in this case, has been identified as Vernon Madison. The Times learned that he has been on death row since he was convicted for killing Julius Schulte. The Supreme Court case was based on a request that Mr. Madison made in 2016 on a trial court in Alabama. He asked the court to suspend the decision to execute him because he could not remember why he was being punished. This is an opinion that Justice Stephen G. Breyer agreed on. He later described the condition of the inmate. He described Mr. Madison as legally blind.

At the same time, Justice Stephen G.Breyer said that the inmate could neither walk independently nor talk like a normal person as his speech was slurred. The inmate was inconsistent. The Justice said that the current condition of Mr. Madison means that he didn’t have a memory of the capital offense. Two court-appointed psychologists agreed that the inmate understood that he knew about what he had been accused off. At the same time, he knew of the measures that the state planned on using to punish him. One psychologist had been appointed by the court while the other was appointed by Mr. Madison. Before the case made its way to the United States Supreme Court, a state trial judge ruled that the execution should take place. When the case proceeded to a federal court, the judges agreed with the state judges. However, the United States Court of Appeals would not agree with the previous judges. The court determined that executing a person who would not remember his crime would be violating the United States Constitution. At the same time, the court argued that the United States Supreme Court had ruled that a person who has no rational understanding should not be executed.

Dealing with Hate Crimes in America

A murder trial from the state of Iowa that had attracted the attention of Attorney General Jess Sessions has concluded with a guilty verdict. The trial involved the murder of a popular teenager from the state. The defendant had been accused of first-degree murder. Jorge Sanders-Galvez was found guilty of killing Kedarie Johnson. This is a teenager who was described by his mother as gender fluid as he even dressed in women’s clothing. The trial began two weeks ago, and it helped revive the debate of what should be considered as a hate crime. According to the mother of the deceased, he believed that his son’s case was as a result of a hate crime. Public prosecutors in Keokuk, Iowa said that the defendants, alongside another man, pursued the deceased as they believed that he was a girl. The teenager was 16 years at that time. When they discovered that he was a boy during the sex act, the two men were enraged. However, the two cases have been based on murder and not hate crime. The trial for the second man is yet to begin. It’s worth to note that the statute of hate crimes in Iowa have no provision for gender identity. Efforts to add this provision was thwarted last year by the state’s legislature.

The Iowa hate crime, however, saw the intervention of the Justice Department under the request of the attorney general. Seen as a highly unusual step, the justice department sent an experienced hate crimes prosecutor in the state. He was supposed to work with the state’s prosecutors to show that the death was caused by hate crime. The decision was quite stunning for people who advocate for transgender people and gay. The attorney general has been known as a conservative who has distanced himself from transgender people. He even advocated doing away with policies that encourage the issue in schools such as bathrooms. As for Sander-Galvez, he will possibly receive a life sentence, and the Justice Department will most likely not file hate crime charges after the verdict. Earlier on, the Justice Department decided to file hate crime charges against Dylann S. Roof, the man who killed nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The federal government wants to send a message that it will not tolerate these crimes. The body of Mr. Kederie was discovered on 2nd March 2016. He was a liked kid in school, and people respected his decision.

Source: https://www.fbi.gov/investigate/civil-rights/hate-crimes

CATALONIA’S QUEST FOR INDEPENDENCE FROM SPAIN

Catalonia is one of the self-governing regions in the Kingdom of Spain. The Spanish Constitution of 1978 permitted these regions to govern themselves on condition that they would submit to the overall supremacy of the Monarch and the Central Government. Thriving from this semi-independence, Catalonia experienced a rapid socio-economic boom. Catalonian residents were even allowed to use their native language as the official language- a privilege that had been revoked during the Francoist era. The region gradually established itself as a separate political, economic, and cultural hub. The growing diversity from the rest of the Spanish communities fuelled the notion of Catalan independence over the years.
However, it wasn’t until the dawn of the 21st Century that the first signs of Catalonian agitation for independence were seen. In 2006, the autonomous region held a referendum which approved the passing of the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia. The Statute had been passed by Catalan legislators, and it enshrined articles that granted the region’s independence from Spain. In addition, the Statute’s preamble referred to Catalonia as a ‘nation.’ The Statute was immediately opposed and declared defiant to the Spanish Constitution by one of Spain’s leading political parties- the Popular Party. The pressure was mounted onto the Constitutional Court of Spain by various Spanish institutions, and they were requested to intervene. After four years of deliberation, the Court outlawed over a dozen articles in the Statute and cited their unconstitutionality. Among the eradicated articles was a provision that sought to elevate the status of Catalan language at the expense of Spanish language in the locality.
The court ruling fuelled the region’s demand for independence even further; much to the chagrin of the Spanish Government. In 2014, Catalonia held a referendum with the objective of discerning how many voters in the region favored secession from Spain. Unsurprisingly, the notion of secession received overwhelming support from the voters. Despite being outlawed by Spain, Catalan legislators scheduled an independence referendum in October 2017. On October 1, 2017, more than 90% of the votes cast supported the notion of secession. The Spanish government deployed police officers to the region tasked to impede the voting process. The Catalans have since been involved in a series of tussles with the Spanish government. The latter are keen to enforce Article 155 of the Constitution, which provides for direct governance of Catalonia by Spain.

LINK
http://news.findlaw.com/apnews/9ea9fcc00c6b43218f9ae564a96998db

 

The Transgender Ban in the Military Overturned

The transgender ban on the US military by the Trump administration will have to wait a little bit longer to be implemented after it was temporarily blocked yesterday. The decision was made by a US federal judge known as Colleen Kolla-Kotelly. She serves at the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia. The ban was expected to begin in March 2018. During her ruling, the judge determined that the ban was unconstitutional. She further directed the military to stick to the current policy. In a 76-page ruling, the judge determined that there was no way being transgender could negatively affect the servicemen. She further said that research has shown that discharging these people on the grounds of being transgender would result in such negative feelings. She, however, warned that the White House had touched on issues that concerned equal protection clause of the American Constitution. She gave a number of factors that led to the decision to do away with the ban. First, she said that the circumstances under which the announcement was made were unusual. She further noted that there were no facts for the ban by the president. In one way or the other, she said that if the ban was implemented, the military service people would not be protected by the Fifth Amendment.

This decision is seen as a victory by the people who support the issue. For instance, current transgender troops will not be discharged. At the same time, the current troops under this category would be allowed to re-enlist. Finally, it will be possible to permit transgender recruits to join the army come January. A lawyer who deals with military law at the National Center for Lesbian Rights said that the judge just wiped the slate clean. The lawyer is known as Shannon Minter. Mrs. Minter has represented a number of plaintiffs in such cases. She, however, noted that she was confident that the ruling could be appealed. She said that she believed that be ban violated the constitution. The Justice Department released a statement saying that that it didn’t agree with the ruling. The Justice Department spokesman said that they were evaluating their steps and they would appeal the ruling. Late in July this year, Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that the government couldn’t afford the medical costs associated with transgender people in the army. He later issued a presidential memorandum in August declaring that the government would no longer allow transgender troops to serve.

Trump Presidential Campaign Adviser George Papadopoulos Pleads Guilty to Lying to Feds in Russian Collusion Investigation

With legal scholars, the media, and the public alike focusing their attention on the indictment of former Donald Trump presidential campaign chairman Paul Manafort, the real story on October 30, 2017, was the announcement of the guilty plea of a man named George Papadopoulos. Papadopoulos was the energy and foreign policy adviser to the Trump presidential campaign, according to The Guardian.

After releasing the details of the indictment against Manafort and one other Trump campaign aide, Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced that his office had entered into a cooperation agreement with Papadopoulos. As part of the agreement, Papadopoulos secretly pleaded guilty in early October 2017 to lying to federal agents about his contacts with Russians connected with the Kremlin in his role as an adviser to the Trump campaign.

In pleading guilty, Papadopoulos admitted that his conduct impeded the “FBI’s ongoing investigation into the existence of any links or coordination between individuals associated with the Campaign and the Russian government’s efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election.”

Papadopoulos was involved in brokering meetings between the Trump campaign and Russians associated with the Kremlin. In making the announcement of the guilty plea, the Special Counsel provided little information as to what did or not result from these efforts undertaken, and then lied about, by Papadopoulos.

Papadopoulos was arrested in July. He was not incarcerated after his arrest. Pursuant to the plea agreement, he appeared before a federal judge during the first week of October and pleaded guilty.

The Special Counsel’s office stated that it would advise the sentencing judge of Papadopoulos’s cooperation with the investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian officials. The one caveat noted by the Special Counsel’s office is that in order for that recommendation to be made, Papadopoulos needs to continue to cooperate with the investigation.

The indictment in Papadopoulos’s case indicate that he was striving to set up a meeting between Russian officials, who claimed they had negative information about Hillary Clinton, directly with Donald Trump. An email back to Papadopoulos about scheduling a meeting with Trump stated that such a session needed to be with someone removed from Trump so not to raise any red flags.

As of the time the Special Counsel’s office released information on Papadopoulos, no date has been disclosed for his sentencing. Papadopoulos remains free, likely on his own recognizance.

Supreme Court Ruling on Stored Communication Act of 1986

Reports from Washington DC confirm that the United States Supreme Court will rule on whether technology companies can be forced by federal prosecutors to hand in information stored outside the US. This ruling comes at an opportune time where the Justice Department and technology companies in the US have been involved in such battles. The Supreme Court will decide on the emotional issue where technology companies’ desire to protect their customers’ information and the demands of law enforcement. This lawsuit has been made possible by a case known as United States v. Microsoft, No 17-2. This is a case based in the United States and involves federal drug-related charges. Prosecutors, in this case, have demanded emails of the suspect that are stored in Microsoft data center that is located in Dublin. On their part, federal prosecutors demand that they should be given access to the emails as Microsoft is an American company based in Seattle. Back in 2013, a New York federal judge issued a search warrant. He argued using a 1986 law known as the Stored Communication Act. Federal prosecutors were unable to carry out the search as Microsoft challenged the decision in court arguing that they cannot be forced to hand in information stored outside the United States.

The United States Court of Appeal later convened a three-judge panel that confirmed that the warrant could not be used beyond the US borders. They argued that the 1986 law could not be used extraterritorially. One of the judges by the name Gerald E. Lynch asked the Congress to revisit the law and see how it can be used for cases involving data stored abroad. Later on, the Full Second Circuit could not agree whether the warrant could be used as the court judges were deadlocked to a 4-4 vote. The Justice Department has requested the Supreme Court not to be influenced by Microsoft’s decision to store data aboard yet the same information can be accessed domestically by a mouse click. At the same time, the Justice Department has argued that the results of the ruling will affect thousands of investigations in the country. This could range from fraud, child pornography as well as terrorism. They attribute this to the inability of the government to obtain electronic evidence due to bureaucracy. Microsoft has also issued a statement in regards to the case where it has said that it’s upon the Congress to revise the 1986 law.

A Legislation that Would Control Guns in the USA

The National Rifle Association did the unexpected last week when it agreed to embrace new restrictions towards a new device that would prevent converting riffles into automatic weapons. While this might sound like an unfamiliar territory, it seemed like it was a calculated move as the association through its leaders said that it would draw a line on how far they would go to making these restrictions into law. While talking to CBS’s Face the Nation, the chief executive and executive vice president Wayne LaPierre said that if it was possible to legislate morality, it’s something that the United States would have done years ago. He referred to the issue as interpretive. He further said that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Explosives, and Firearms should take up the challenge and look into the issues at hand. This is a device that few people knew before the Las Vegas Shootings. This is a device that the shooter, Stephen Paddock fitted to the 23 guns that he used to shoot people on Sunday last week. With this device in his semiautomatic weapon, he was able to fire automatically from the 32nd window of his hotel room. At the end of the ordeal, he had killed 58 people.

This has led to the emergence of a rare interest from both parties where the legislators want to pass a law that would make the sale of the bump stock illegal. The NRA decided to wait until the issue had cooled down before they issued an official statement. Since the Obama administration decided that the device was legal, some people in Congress and some members of the NRA have this belief that they can settle the issue without making legislation. At the moment, Democratic Senator from California Dianne Feinstein has said that no one has agreed to co-sponsor her bill that is aimed at making it illegal to sell the bump stocks. This will include other materials that make the gun fire like an automatic weapon. The California Democrat said that the regulation was not going to work this time. The only way to address the issue was through law. Senator Chris Murphy has also been vocal about gun regulations in America. He has taken this stand since the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre in 2012. He tried a clean bill but failed in garnering enough support. He, however, spoke on Sunday saying that he would support any legislation seeking to control guns.

A Constitutional View of Impeachment: Is Donald Trump at Risk of Losing the Presidency?

While the 2016 presidential campaign was one of the most heated in history, the drama didn’t stop when President Trump was sworn into office. In fact, there have been an unprecedented number of controversies since Donald Trump became the Commander in Chief, and it seems that there is a new storm every few weeks.

From the travel ban, to allegations of Russian collusion, to not taking a hard enough stand against the incident in Charlottesville, Trump is getting hit from all directions with serious accusations, and there has even been talk of impeachment. While that can sound quite alarming to the average citizen, impeachment is a legal and constitutional issue, and many people don’t understand how it works and what it may mean for Trump’s presidency.

What is Impeachment?

The process of impeachment is widely misunderstood. In layperson’s terms, impeachment is a specific power given to Congress to try government officials for certain crimes and potentially remove them from a federal office. It is much like a court trial, except that it is political and the trial and verdict are all carried out in the hallowed halls of the United States Congress. Any member can put forth Articles of Impeachment which are much like an indictment in the criminal court system. The House of Representatives then views the evidence and hears witnesses about the specific charges made. If the House agrees that the government official has committed sufficiently serious crimes, it can decide to impeach this person.

A trial, however, is needed in the Senate to determine whether the impeached party should be removed from their office. These are two separate questions, and both are long and drawn out processes. In very few instances is the official removed even when the impeachment itself is successful.

Are the Charges Against Trump Serious Enough?

The House of Representatives can impeach the president if he has committed bribery or treason, and these are relatively straightforward charges if there is sufficient proof. There is, however, a more gray area known as high crimes and misdemeanors, and these categories are open to quite wide interpretation. When it comes down to it, what is considered an impeachable offense is really up to a particular House of Representatives at the time of the proceedings. In the case of Trump, the current makeup of both the House and Senate are largely conservative, so the deck is stacked in his favor when the rubber hits the road on this issue. While Donald Trump’s more liberal colleagues may be throwing everything they can at him, successfully impeaching a president is difficult.

In fact, only three presidents in the history of the United States Constitution have been faced with Articles of Impeachment and, of those, none were formally removed from office. President Andrew Johnson was narrowly acquitted in 1868, while the Watergate scandal of 1972 led President Richard Nixon to resign rather than face impeachment hearings. In late 1998, the only successful presidential impeachment occurred when former President Bill Clinton was tried for lying under oath about his relationship with his intern Monica Lewinsky. He was not, however, ultimately removed from office by the Senate.

The Court of Public Opinion vs. the Numbers Game

If impeachment is unlikely, then why does it seem to be so talked about with each new accusation made against President Trump? Politics is based on polling and perception, and anything that implies that President Trump is in legal hot water has the potential to make his approval rating tank. Liberals understand the numbers game and knows that getting enough conservatives to jump ship all the way to impeachment is unlikely. However, they may plant seeds of doubt in Trump’s constituency base, leaving liberals with a better political position at the end of the day. Even if nothing sticks, enough much mud in the water could sully Donald Trump in the eyes of American citizens.

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Constitutional Law Expert Sujit Choudhry Presents an Analysis of Freedom of Speech

What if Impeachment Happens?

While it is not clear at this point whether Trump has committed any impeachable offenses, it is always possible that he will find himself subjected to Articles of Impeachment for a current or future incident. However, even if impeachment does happen, President Trump will have plenty of options to decide how he wants the situation to play out. Even if impeachment looked likely, Trump could emulate Richard Nixon and resign rather than allow the proceedings to continue to his ultimate removal from office.

Due to the heavily Republican Congress, the odds of there being enough support for an impeachment process, let alone a removal from office, are not high unless there is a significant change in the balance of power in Washington. President Trump continues to enjoy considerable support from Republican voters. Regardless of whether Trump’s Republican colleagues support him, partisan calculations still matter in D.C. and will probably shape this debate in the end.

As a constitutional law expert, Sujit Choudhry provides a broad range of legal opinions about current events and politics both in America and abroad. He operates the Center for Constitutional Transitions, an organization that provides research and education in support of constitutional transitions worldwide. 

Follow Sujit Choudhry on TwitterLinkedIn or Facebook for more information, or visit his website at www.constitutionaltransitions.org.

 

Justice Department Seeks Expansion of Firearms Purchase Tracing

With the events of Las Vegas still fresh in legislators’ minds, the question of how best to legally approach the issue of firearms has grown to an increasingly relevant topic of national discourse. It is typical for the conversation to center around blanket legal bans of firearm types, limiting quantities of ammunition to prevent stockpiling, and other measures targeted at the purchaser. While these steps have the power to control arms distribution at the transaction level, the government’s approach hopes to expand well beyond that and, after a recent announcement from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, it appears the Justice Department will be taking a larger and more complex role in tracking and cataloging firearms after purchase.

Under the new measures, which are essentially an updated and more robust version of 2001’s Project Safe Neighborhoods, Attorney General Sessions plans to involve attorneys more deeply in the process of tracing firearms and tracking crime statistics. Attorneys will not only be vested with more responsibility but, according to Sessions, they will be under more scrutiny to produce measurable results.

The backbone of these new gun safety measures, as far as the investigative process is concerned, is the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, a system which enables law enforcement agencies at the local, state, and federal levels to link firearms used in crimes to their purchase history. Previously, requests for this information took about six business days to process. With this new push for result, law enforcement can expect to receive information regarding the weapon’s retail purchase history in as little as 24 hours.

As far as legal professionals are concerned, Sessions will invest a group of 40 new or present prosecutors across a total of 20 U.S. Attorney offices to focus on reducing violent crime through the reinvigorated Project Safe Neighborhoods, though it’s unclear which jurisdictions will be receiving this increased level of focus. Likewise, Sessions has not yet elaborated upon what metrics will be used to measure success or across what time frame they hope to achieve them.

That said, the Department of Justice (DOJ) did state that once assigned, the attorneys and their associated departments would be expected to provide more accurate statistics regarding violent crime. Likewise, the DOJ hopes that adding attorneys to the mix will offer a sort of midway point for local and federal law enforcement authorities to communicate and coordinate their efforts. Crimes of this nature often result in difficult questions of jurisdictional authority, but the more robust justice offices could provide an effective middle ground.