Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

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


Big Majority Believes Asking Foreign Power For Election Help Is ‘Wrong’

More than 4 in 5 Americans (81 percent) say asking foreign governments for help in an election is wrong, according to a new Grinnell College poll released Tuesday.

The results are the same or higher among Trump’s political base.

The same poll shows 81 percent of Republicans, 85 percent of evangelical Christians, and 87 percent of rural voters agree that it is wrong to ask for such assistance.

The poll is in line with other national polls showing similar public sentiment. In a late July Quinnipiac poll, 78 percent of voters agreed with the statement that “it is never acceptable for a presidential campaign to obtain information on a political opponent from a hostile foreign power.”

In a mid-October poll from the University of Maryland, 68 percent of respondents said a president asking foreign leaders to interfere in a U.S. election was an impeachable offense.

The questions come amid an ongoing impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives, focused on Donald Trump’s actions with regard to Ukraine. Trump has been criticized for his efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate his 2020 election rival Joe Biden, as well as a long-debunked conspiracy theory about the DNC servers.

Several officials have also claimed Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine, conditioning that assistance on Ukraine’s willingness to launch such an investigation. Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney admitted to a quid pro quo for the DNC information earlier this month before trying to walk back his remarks later.

While a majority of Americans are clear-eyed about the impropriety of seeking foreign interference, several Republican senators have struggled to reach that same conclusion.

In early October, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) was asked repeatedly if it was appropriate for a president to ask a foreign government to investigate a political rival. Gardner refused to say yes or no.

Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) reacted similarly, refusing to answer a simple question about the issue, as did Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).

As Republicans continue to hedge on the issue or avoid it altogether, Americans more broadly seem to have more concrete opinions on the matter. Polls show the public increasingly likely to support impeachment as the House inquiry continues, with one survey showing more support for Trump’s impeachment than for President Bill Clinton’s impeachment back in 1998.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

Texas Grand Jury Resumes Investigation Into Arrest, Death Of Sandra Bland

By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

HOUSTON — The Texas grand jury looking into the death of Sandra Bland resumed its examination Wednesday, renewing the possibility that the state trooper who arrested the 28-year-old woman could be charged.

The grand jury has already concluded that no felony was committed by the sheriff’s office or jailers in connection with Bland’s death.

Bland was found hanged by a plastic bag in her jail cell three days after she was arrested outside Houston on July 10 during a routine traffic stop.

Special prosecutor Shawn McDonald said the Waller County grand jury met for the fourth time Wednesday morning after reaching no decision last month on whether Brian T. Encinia, the trooper who arrested Bland, should face charges.

McDonald said he couldn’t say whether the grand jury was considering charges against Encinia, but said the panel will likely finish its work by day’s end.

He is one of five Houston-area lawyers appointed as independent special prosecutors to present the case to the grand jury. If there are any indictments, those lawyers will take the case to trial.

Bland’s family and activists have questioned how the traffic stop was conducted and whether Bland, an outspoken online advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement, killed herself. At the time Bland was stopped, she had just accepted a job at her alma mater, Prairie View A&M University.

Encinia pulled over Bland for making an improper lane change near the university’s entrance, about 50 miles northwest of Houston. The confrontation that ensued before Bland was arrested and charged with assault was captured on video by a dashboard camera.

Bland was taken to the Waller County jail in nearby Hempstead where, three days later, unable to make $500 bail, she was discovered hanged in her cell. After an autopsy by the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences in Houston, officials ruled her death a suicide.

Cannon Lambert, an attorney for the Bland family, said they have little hope the grand jury will indict Encinia.

“We would frankly be surprised,” Lambert told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.

But Lambert said there’s still a chance the grand jury could charge the trooper.

“We called it a sham before — I’d love to be wrong,” he said, “We always have believed that he acted criminally.”

Lambert said he was hopeful that if the grand jury finishes Wednesday, investigators would finally release records, including a Texas Ranger’s report, that have so far been withheld due to the ongoing investigation.

Bland’s relatives have demanded the records as part of a wrongful death lawsuit they filed in August against the Waller County Sheriff’s Office, jail officials and the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Last month, attorneys representing Waller County filed a motion seeking to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that Bland took her life because she was distraught that her family members didn’t bail her out of jail.

Following last month’s grand jury meetings, protesters gathered outside the Waller County courthouse and marched in a Houston park to condemn the process and call for the Justice Department to launch an independent investigation.

State lawmakers monitoring the case have asked for calm as the grand jury meets.

©2016 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Demonstrators hold signs of Sandra Bland and Kindra Chapman, both of whom died in custody, during a rally against police violence in New York July 22, 2015. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton


Attorney General Loretta Lynch Meets With Freddie Gray’s Family

By Alison Knezevich and Mark Puente, The Baltimore Sun (TNS)

BALTIMORE — U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch met with members of Freddie Gray’s family Tuesday, part of a tour that included discussions with officials and community leaders about the 25-year-old whose death sparked rioting and looting around the city.

At her first stop, at the University of Baltimore, she met with some members of Gray’s family; they left without commenting to the media waiting in the lobby.

Lynch’s visit comes four days after Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced criminal charges against six officers involved in Gray’s arrest and transport. He died April 19 — one week after suffering a spinal injury during the arrest.

The Gray case could be viewed as a key test for Lynch, the first African-American woman to hold the attorney general’s position.

In a news conference last Wednesday, Lynch denounced the “senseless acts of violence” on Baltimore streets, and the unrest in Maryland’s largest city consumed her first week as the nation’s top law enforcement official. Although Mosby charged the officers, the Justice Department is still conducting its own investigation into Gray’s death, as well as a collaborative review of the Baltimore Police Department.

City officials requested federal help in October to curb police abuses after a multipart Baltimore Sun investigation found that the city had paid nearly six million dollars since 2011 in court judgments and settlements for lawsuits alleging brutality and other misconduct.

The Sun found that dozens of black residents received battered faces and broken bones during questionable arrests. In nearly all of the cases, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the suspects.

Issues surrounding Gray’s arrest mirror those in cases highlighted in the Sun’s investigation. As soon as Gray died, Mayor Stephanie-Rawlings Blake questioned why police stopped Gray in the Gilmor Homes housing complex. He fled after he and an officer locked eyes, but Mosby said Friday that police had no probable cause to stop him.

The deaths of Gray and several other men have sparked a national debate over the way police departments treat minorities.

In North Charleston, S.C., last month, a white officer was charged with murder after a video surfaced showing that he fired eight bullets into a black man’s back as he fled. The deaths of Eric Garner in New York and Tamir Rice in Cleveland at the hands of officers have also stoked outrage in recent months.

In Missouri, the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, sparked months of protests.

After the uprising in Ferguson, President Barack Obama dispatched then-Attorney General Eric Holder to address the tension.

Photo: The Hill via Twitter