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At Hearing, Sen. Whitehouse Blasts Barrett Nomination As Dark-Money Maneuver To Rig Courts

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

During her Senate confirmation hearings this week, Judge Amy Coney Barrett — President Donald Trump's far-right nominee to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court — has been questioned by Democratic senators who include Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. Whitehouse, during his questioning, focused heavily on some of the conservative groups and judicial activists that are pushing aggressively for Barrett's confirmation — and Whitehouse laid out, in detail, the right-wing scheme to "rig" the federal courts.

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Energy Department Threatens Whistleblower Who Exposed Secret Coal Scheming

A whistleblower leaked a photograph of a private meeting between Energy Secretary Rick Perry and a coal baron who’s also a major Republican donor. Now he’s being threatened.

 Photographer Simon Edelman used to work for the Department of Energy, headed by former Texas governor and failed presidential candidate Rick Perry.

But then Edelman leaked photographs of a secret meeting between Perry and Robert E. Murray, the owner of a major coal mining operation, and a longtime Republican donor and supporter of Donald Trump. The pictures show Perry and Murray embracing and exchanging an “action plan” drafted by Murray — essentially, a list Murray’s list of demands for changes to policy and regulations he wanted that would benefit the coal industry.

After those photos surfaced, Edelman was let go. The Department of Energy seized his personal laptop and escorted him out of his office in the department’s Washington, D.C., headquarters. His employment agreement was terminated, even though he was supposed to be employedfor two more years.

Then, according to a complaint filed with the inspector general of the Department of Energy, the threats started.

In one phone call that was recorded, an official at the Energy Department pushed for him to turn over the drive and said, “I would suggest that doing it sooner rather than later would probably be a good thing for you.”

Photos taken by government employees as part of their official duties are in fact in the public domain, and do not belong to any specific agency, the head of the agency, or the president and his administration.

Whistleblower Edelman alerted Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) about the department’s actions, and now they’re pushing for the department, and Perry, to come clean about why the photographer was really fired.

It’s not difficult to understand why such a meeting would be a huge embarrassment for the Perry, the Energy Department, and the Trump administration.

Murray contributed $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration and personally held a fundraiser for him during the campaign. Before that, he also financially supported Perry’s political career.

After the Sago Mine disaster in 2006 where 12 miners were killed and only one survived, Murray lobbied against the push in West Virginia to pass safety legislation.

His company, Murray Energy, operated the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah that collapsed in 2007, trapping six miners. Before the collapse, the mine had received 64 violations and racked up $12,000 in fines.

After President Barack Obama was re-elected in 2012, Murray laid off 156 workers and alleged that the Obama administration was engaged in a “war on coal.”

Murray sued John Oliver and HBO over an episode of the program Last Week Tonight that exposed his shoddy safety record and habit of suing journalists who write about his business.

He has also has long been a fixture on right-wing outlets like Fox News.

It is the troubling track record of someone involved in the mining business, let alone exerting an undue influence on the entire Department of Energy, the presidency, and the government. Murray is not someone who should have that kind of influence over the lives of mine workers, who have already gotten a raw deal from Trump after a campaign of absurd promises.

The Trump administration is in bed with the worst of the worst of corporate America. Trump and his team have shown time and again that they will not hesitate to cover up and hide massive corruption. In this case, it seems the Energy Department is willing to go so far as to threaten a whistleblower who dared to tell the truth about it.

How Neil Gorsuch Snowed One Side Of The Senate Aisle

WASHINGTON — Judge Neil Gorsuch, the Supreme Court nominee speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee, had all the answers — or so it seemed — at the theater.

Yet President Trump’s man for the Supreme Court deftly dodged Democratic efforts to engage on women’s constitutional privacy rights, dark money in politics, surveillance, corporations and torture. Substance was not his strong suit.

Not so long ago, as a Bush White House Justice official, Gorsuch wrote a presidential signing statement on detainee treatment that raised eyebrows. “I was a lawyer for a client,” Gorsuch shrugged it off.

As a sitting federal judge, his refrain was something like this: Judges don’t give a “whit” about politics, so I can’t prejudge this or that. We just apply the law. We’re all human beings, but a judge has to put that aside.

Here’s what the Gorsuch brought to his role. A perfect head of silver hair, suggesting wisdom at age 49, just like Alexander Hamilton. His Harvard and Oxford credentials worn lightly with easy manners. He knew his lines by heart under the lights and cameras in the Hart building hearing room.

“I’d like to convey to you, from the bottom of my heart … that I’m a fair judge. …I can promise you absolutely nothing less,” Gorsuch said. “Anyone, any law is going to get a fair and square deal with me.”

You could hear the corn popping in Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley’s plain-spoken voice as he presided over his party’s love fest

But wait, there’s more.

Back home in “the West,” the Colorado native said, “I love my life,” lest there be doubt. He’d be doing us a favor to leave the great outdoors.

Lord knows the embattled, unpopular President Trump desperately needs his first win in office. The talk in the halls is that Gorsuch may hand him a victory in early April, when the full Senate votes on his confirmation. As of now, Gorsuch needs 60 votes from a closely divided Senate: 52-48.

Whether he can pick up eight votes among the vexed, scrappy Democratic minority, though, is not a done deal. Senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., landed a few punches as the leading antagonists.

Durbin brought up one of Gorsuch’s dissents in the case of a trucker stuck with frozen brakes in subzero weather in Chicago. It was “so cold, but not as cold as your dissent, Judge Gorsuch,” Durbin declared.

Gorsuch looked pained.

Whitehouse noted that millions of “dark” dollars had been raised to buttress Gorsuch’s nomination, without names attached. “They obviously think you will be worth their money,” Whitehouse said bluntly.

Gorsuch’s rulings raised concern that he will be sympathetic to the Chief Justice John Roberts “corporate court,” senators said.

Among all the players, a ghost hovered in the room: Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s final pick for the high court last March. Republicans blocked the highly respected Garland, the first Supreme Court nominee who never had a hearing, from his day in the Judiciary Committee’s court.

Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein pointedly raised “the very unusual circumstance.” Everyone at the hearing knew a sore was seething under the surface.

Gorsuch rated Garland as an “outstanding judge.” He even called him to tell him he’d been nominated. That’s the kind of winner he is.

The four-day drama was watched closely because Gorsuch will effectively step into the shoes of ferocious conservative Antonin Scalia, who died last winter.

Gorsuch likes to say he was skiing when he heard of Scalia’s death. The older man, a mentor, and he were fly-fishing buddies.

And the story goes that he wept as he skied down the mountain slope. “I am not embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t see the rest of the way down the mountain for the tears,” he said.

Well. I have a better takeaway. Gorsuch also wept because a Democratic president would presumably fill the seat meant for him.

Has Washington made me cynical?

Here’s where I’m almost sure he lied under oath: “I never dreamt I’d be sitting here, I can tell you that.”

So spoke Gorsuch, with a straight face.

Most Of The “Most Valuable Progressives” Named By ‘The Nation’ Have Endorsed…Hillary?

If like me you’re a longtime and faithful reader of The Nation — a venerable publication celebrating its 150th anniversary — then you probably saw its recent cover editorial endorsing Bernie Sanders for president. That lengthy essay, along with many other Nation articles over the past several months, leaves the unmistakable impression that Sanders is the only truly progressive choice for Democratic voters.

Yet just a month ago, The Nation published its 2015 Progressive Honor Roll, an annual feature written by John Nichols, who happens to be a highly enthusiastic Sanders supporter — which named several strong supporters of Hillary Clinton among America’s “most valuable” progressives. In fact, of the individuals named on Nichols’ list, nearly every single one is backing Clinton (one exception is Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell, “most valuable Cabinet member,” who must observe administration neutrality in the primary but — as a former top Clinton administration official — would very likely endorse her).

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), named “most valuable Senator,” officially endorsed Clinton back in January 2014. Rosa DeLauro, “most valuable House member,” endorsed her last April. Pam Jochum, the Dubuque Democrat who presides over the Iowa State Senate — chosen from hundreds of local pols across the country as “most valuable state legislator” — announced her support for Clinton last October. Cecile Richards, the Planned Parenthood president named “most valuable activist,” led her organization to back Clinton earlier this month (and earned a sour-grapes dismissal by Sanders as “the establishment”). Newark’s Ras Baraka, the “most valuable mayor,” hasn’t officially endorsed a presidential candidate yet, but his political organization has shown every sign of backing Clinton since last summer. And “most valuable memoir” author Gloria Steinem, the great feminist leader and thinker, will campaign for Clinton in New Hampshire tomorrow.

As voting approaches, primary rhetoric gets super-hot, and partisans inevitably utter silly, uninformed, and even offensive remarks about the opposing candidate. But it is worth remembering that progressives can differ honestly over which of these two candidates will represent the nation’s real interests most effectively.

Photo: Hillary Clinton, not Bernie Sanders, is getting most of the high-profile progressive endorsements.