Friday, August 12, 2022

Trump Says He Declassified Docs. With the Espionage Act, That Doesn't Matter.

Donald Trump's defenses against claims he did anything wrong, relating to his improperly holding classified documents — including being under investigation for potentially violating parts of the Espionage Act, per the search warrant of his Mar-a-Lago property that was made public Friday — are, to no surprise, not accurate.

On his Truth Social account (where anything BUT the truth is ever uttered, it seems), Trump listed a couple of reasons why (in his mind) criticism of him harboring top secret, classified information at his Palm Beach resort (including potential info on nuclear weapons) was fine. 

Let's look at what he had to say.

Number one, it was all declassified.
Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia
Well, no, it most likely wasn't. There's a process for declassifying information as top secret as the documents Trump was harboring. Just saying "I declassified this" isn't how it works.  

Additionally, according to The Wall Street Journal, the documents that were extracted WERE classified. So, Trump is lying.

But let's give Trump the benefit of the doubt, and say that his claim is true. That's STILL NOT AN EXCUSE for what he's done, as Charlie Savage at The New York Times points out:

For one thing, two of the laws that a search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago this week referenced — Sections 1519 and 2071 of Title 18 of the United States Code — make the taking or concealment of government records a crime regardless of whether they had anything to do with national security.
Savage goes on to note that:
The Espionage Act makes no reference to whether a document has been deemed classified. Instead, it makes it a crime to retain, without authorization, documents related to the national defense that could be used to harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary.
Let's look at the other claim Trump made in his Truth Social posting:
Number two, they [the DOJ] didn’t need to “seize” anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago.
This contradicts what we know about the whole situation from this week. Trump is gaslighting here, hoping his loyalists don't know any better.

Trump was subpoenaed this spring to turn over additional documents that the National Archives didn't collect in January. Within that very subpoena, it said the former president had to turn over other documents, if he had any, that were classified.

An informant indicated to DOJ that Trump still had classified documents in his possession (and as pointed out above, reporting from The Wall Street Journal confirmed that). This means that Trump violated the conditions within the subpoena.

Search warrants generally happen when investigators believe that a person will not voluntarily comply with subpoenas. The DOJ had reason to believe that, with these additional documents the informant told them about, Trump wouldn't comply. But they also had reason to believe this because Trump didn't comply in the first place — he didn't turn these docs over when he knew he had to.

Trump is in a lot of hot water — hotter than he's ever been in before — with these latest developments. The unsealed warrant suggests the DOJ is looking to charge him with crimes relating to the Espionage Act, which is not a slap-on-the-wrist kind of law, to say the least.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Decades-Old U.S. Law, Still on the Books, Could Imprison Anyone Discussing Abortion Online

A provision that's never been enforced since it was passed as part of a larger law in the way-back-times of former President Bill Clinton could land anyone talking online about abortion (in the U.S.) in prison for several years.

Per The New Republic:

[Q]uietly sitting on the books, where it’s been for nearly three decades, is a law that explicitly makes it a crime to discuss abortion online.
TNR's Melissa Gira Grant elaborates on how this came to be, and what it could mean:
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first major attempt by Congress to define what would be lawful on the internet. The act includes a provision that criminalizes discussing abortion, with potential punishment of up to five years in jail, $250,000 in fines, or both.
Obviously, this law is a violation of free speech protections that exist within the First Amendment. But with Republicans all-but-guaranteed to win Congress next year, the potential for a GOP president to win in 2024, and the Supreme Court's 6-3 far-right majority, it's possible that the law could be enforced — particularly if Republicans continue pushing to become a "Christian nationalist" party — and there would be no remedy to go about challenging it (let alone reversing the awful decision that the Court imposed in the first place). 

Any talk of abortion online, and you could find yourself sitting inside a federal prison. That's it. That's the law, potentially, if Republicans gain the power to govern without any checks and balances again.

Public Domain



Wednesday, April 6, 2022

De Pere Race Shows Jan. 6/Trump Coup Scheme Is Winning Issue for Dems, Even in Split Districts

Republican Kelly Ruh — who served as a fake elector with nine other members of WISGOP in the state as part of a plot to upend the Electoral College and overturn the 2020 presidential election — lost to Democrat Pamela Gantz in an alder race in De Pere, Wisconsin, on Tuesday. 

Gantz won with 55.7 percent of the vote, versus Ruh's 44.2 percent. 


This race is small, and probably shouldn't be seen as a huge indicator of how things will go nationally. But it shouldn't be ignored, either — De Pere is a pretty evenly divided city, politically speaking, but Trump won in 2020 over Biden by 0.3 percent of the total vote.


That a challenger to a Trump-supporting Republican was able to win the alder district race by more than 11 points, then, is something Democrats across the country — especially those facing Republicans who promote "big lie" election fraud conspiracy theories, or otherwise involved themselves in January 6 related events to overturn the election (hint hint, Derrick Van Orden) — should take notice of.


Tyler Merbler/Wikimedia


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Johnson, Who Once Marveled at Medical Science, Pooh-Pooh's Vaccines Because God Didn't Make Them

Wisconsin's Republican Senator, Ron Johnson, is trying to win the hearts and minds of anti-vaxxers by becoming the most anti-vaxxer lawmaker in Washington — and embarrassing our state in the process.

Here's the latest of what Johnson has peddled against vaccines, via Raw Story:

During an interview with WCPT, Johnson said that vaccine scientists are wrong to think that they "can create something better than God."


The Wisconsin Republican recalled that he had tested positive for Covid-19 last year while being free of symptoms.


"Why would we just automatically assume that our natural immunity is going to be awful?" he ranted. "You would think the default position would be, if you've already had it, you ought to be pretty well protected. Why do we assume that the body's natural immune system isn't the marvel that it really is?"


"Why do we think that we can create something better than God" is quite the argument for Johnson to make against medical science — especially from someone who used to discuss the wonders of medical science in order to (somehow) bash the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare.


Here's a statement from Johnson in 2012:


"The types of medical innovation that saved my daughter’s life [and] that saves millions of Americans — I wont’ say it’s going to come to a grinding halt but it’s going to be severely limited [by Obamacare]..."


The logic behind Johnson's attacks on the ACA were, in fact, illogical, as
his claims of "severely limited" healthcare never came to fruition

image via Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons, modified
(indeed, his claims were about as believable as "death panels"). But that's not the point: the real issue here is that the Wisconsin senator used to give high praise to the things medical science could provide, specifically noting that his daughter benefited from such innovations. But today, he refuses to do so for vaccines that could save hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives.


That's because it's not politically advantageous for him, as a member of the anti-science, pro-Trump wing of the GOP. Now, he's got to act like vaccines are somehow an affront to God in order to get support from his far-right base in Wisconsin (and campaign cash from others elsewhere across the country). 


Here are the facts: the vaccines work, and they're safe. Omicron has proven that variants have the ability to result in breakthrough infections, but those who do get COVID after a vaccine rarely need hospitalization, including in Wisconsin, where an unvaxxed person is more than 10 times more likely to need to go to the hospital than a person who has received their shots for the virus.


In places where vaccine rates are higher, there are fewer hospitalizations — and fewer deaths. In the state overall, the rate of fully-vaccinated individuals sits at 62 percent. During the past seven days, a total of 163 Wisconsinites have died.


Compare that with Dane County's rates. With four-in-five residents vaccinated (80 percent), just seven residents in the county have died during the past week.


We also know that so-called "natural immunity" that Johnson is pushing is bogus — that method is less likely to create the same/consistent levels of antibodies that the vaccines safely create. It's also a process that requires thousands of people to get sick and die in order to be effective. 


"We have never successfully been able to do [natural herd immunity] before, and it will lead to unacceptable and unnecessary untold human death and suffering," Kristian Andersen, an immunologist at the Scripps Research Institute, said in October 2020.


So the bottom line is this: we have proof that vaccines are working and that they're safe to administer. We also have never seen "natural immunity" tackle a virus like this or any other ailment causing this much harm to the public. The vaccines are our best shot at combating this pandemic.


Ron Johnson's belief that a man-made vaccine is an affront to God would be silly, were it not so seriously deadly. This senator needs to go, because his words are dangerous.