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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Border

Border Agents Who Illegally Shot A Man Granted trump Pardons

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Donald Trump's slew of Christmas pardons this month weren't reserved just for his fellow crooks and mob presidency loyalists deserving of only a lump of coal this year. The impeached president issued full pardons to not one, not two, but three former Border Patrol agents who were charged and found guilty of crimes against people at the southern border while on duty.

The Texas Tribune reports one of the three pardoned criminals was Gary Brugman, who served almost two years for violating a man's civil rights. The other two former agents were Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and civil rights violations after they shot a man in 2005 and then tried to cover it up, Think Immigration reported. But the pardons were also in no way a Trump aberration: Both outlets reported that top Republican elected officials and figures pushed for the pardons.

The Texas Tribune reports that Brugman had in his corner both of Texas' U.S. senators, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Also supporting him was the state's notoriously anti-immigrant lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick. Think Immigration reports that supporting Ramos and Compean was former Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, himself "recently convicted of stealing campaign funds." Oh, but in the spirit of the holidays, Trump made sure there were enough pardons to go to every criminal in his orbit, and Hunter got a pardon too. Merry Christmas.

Think Immigration writes that crimes committed by Ramos and Compean in particular were "but one of countless immigration-related abuses over the years, and one of the most notorious that continues to haunt the communities all along our southern border." A 2006 report from the Department of Homeland Security inspector general details how Ramos and Compean chased a man, first trying to hit him in the head with the butt of a shotgun and then shooting him in the buttocks.

"Compeon and Ramos did not report the shooting as required by [Border Patrol] regulations," the inspector general report said, "and instead covered up the crime scene by removing the spent shell casings that were ejected from their pistols during the shooting." Both men were sentenced to over a decade in prison, but then had their sentences commuted by George W. Bush. Republicans have always been about that law and order, right? Trump's pardon now "wipes their records clean," Think Immigration said, "making it as though they were never guilty."

"Of particular note in the requests for the agents' pardons and in the final announcement itself is how they are devoid of any reference to remorse, request for forgiveness, or acceptance of responsibility," Think Immigration continued. "These pardons are beyond putting salt in the wound; it is salting the earth as the administration does what it can to leave the most lasting and damaging impact on its way out."

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) had already been operating with impunity but during the Trump administration dropped any illusion or appearance of trying to operate within the law, and within its own rules. That includes illegally detaining migrant children, spending emergency humanitarian funds meant for food and medical care for detained migrants on dirt bikes, and helping implement state-sanctioned kidnappings at the border. Then for the first time in a decade, children died while in custody of the agency.

Yet there has been too little accountability when it comes to CBP (as well as sibling agency Immigration and Customs Enforcement). May 2021 will mark three years since Claudia Patricia Gómez González, an unarmed Indigenous woman from Guatemala, was shot and killed by a border agent. Just like in the cases of other people attacked by CBP, officials lied about the circumstances around her killing. But according to Spanish-language media, the investigation around her case remains ongoing three years later.

There's already so little justice when it comes to the abuses perpetrated by U.S. officials against people at the border. Now with the stroke of a pen, Trump has erased some of that justice, as he also intentionally decimates faith in American democracy because he lost the election fair and square, and continues to kill more Americans by not giving one shit about the novel coronavirus pandemic.

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Kris Kobach

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

While former Breitbart News Chairman Steve Bannon continues to battle federal criminal fraud charges in connection with the We Build the Wall campaign, one of the far-right Republicans who has been unable to access funds from that project is former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. And on Monday, December 28, Kobach went to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to plead his case.

Kobach — a "birther" known for his anti-immigrant views and voter suppression efforts — has not faced any criminal charges in connection with We Build the Wall, a crowdfunding project for a wall along the U.S./Mexico border. Those who have been charged with fraud include not only Bannon, who served as White House chief strategist in the Trump Administration in 2017, but also, We Build the Wall founder Brian Kolfage and Bannon allies Andrew Badolato and Timothy Shea. Prosecutors allege that Bannon, Kolfage, Badolato and Shea deceived donors by not using 100% of the funds for the construction of a border wall, and instead used a lot of the money for personal expenses.

Federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York, Law & Crime reporter Adam Klasfeld notes, allege that "Bannon pocketed at least $1 million of the money, and Kolfage took $350,000 plus went on a spending spree to buy a Jupiter Marine yacht called the Warfighter, a Range Rover SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, and cosmetic surgery."

Klasfeld adds that as general counsel for We Build the Wall, "Kobach was compensated handsomely in attorneys' fees that the government does not allege to be improper." And because Kobach has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing — unlike Kolfage, Badolato and Shea — he believes it is unfair that he is being cut off from We Build the Wall assets during the prosecution.

But U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres disagrees. On December 14, according to Klasfeld, "Torres rejected Kobach's argument that blocking the money interfered with his due process rights."

Torres wrote, "Although the Supreme Court has made clear that pretrial hearings on forfeiture may be required when the forfeiture order is challenged by a criminal defendant, particularly where their Sixth Amendment right to counsel is implicated, the law concerning the rights of third parties is less clear."

Now, Kobach — who ran for governor of Kansas in 2018 and lost to Democrat Laura Kelly — is hoping that the Second Circuit will disagree with Torres' ruling. Kobach's attorney, Justin S. Weddle, according to Klasfeld, is arguing "that the indictment" in the fraud case against Bannon and the others "concedes that any alleged fraud ended when We Build the Wall updated the website to disclose that Kolfage would be compensated."

Weddle told Law & Crime, "The government has frozen funds donated well after that date, which can have no logical or legal connection to the alleged fraud. Regardless of the government's intent, the result is that the government has frozen We Build the Wall's pursuit of its mission, which is the opposite of what its donors intended."

Kobach has a reputation for being an extremist even in Republican circles. When Barack Obama was president, Kobach promoted the racist "birther" conspiracy theory— which claimed, with zero evidence, that Obama wasn't really born in the U.S. and was really born in Kenya. Obama's birth certificate made it abundantly clear that he was born in Hawaii and is a life-long U.S. citizen, contrary to what Kobach and other birthers claimed.

In addition to embracing birtherism, Kobach is known for his anti-immigrant viewsand for promoting voter suppression. But Kobach's xenophobia couldn't get him past the finish line in Kansas' 2018 gubernatorial race. Even in a deep red state, Kobach lost to the Democratic nominee, Laura Kelly, by 5% — and Kelly is now governor or Kansas.