Category Archives: Law & Order

FACT SHEET: President Biden’s Safer America Plan

New York City honors its police force in the Heroes Parade. While Republicans like to paint themselves as the “law and order” party – an image contradicted by January 6th and the aftermath, Democrats support law enforcement, community policing as well as criminal justice, gun safety. During the Summer, President Biden unveiled his Safer America Plan © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

With Republicans running campaigns based on increased crime rates and falsely charging “socialist liberal communist Democrats” with trying to “defund police” and supporting criminal justice, police reform and cashless bail, it bears noting that crime rates are rising in places ruled by Republicans as well as Democrats. (Nassau County, Long Island was America’s safest county of its size under Democrat County Executive Laura Curran; crime rates have risen 34 percent so far in 2022 under Republican Bruce Blakeman.)

Moreover, increase in crime rates reflects record levels of gun violence (a record 45,000 gun deaths in 2021, a rate that has hit records every year since Trump took over; per capita murder rates are 40% higher in states won by Trump than in those won by Joe Biden) as well as hate crimes and political violence that have accelerated with the rise of Trump and Trumpism bringing White Christo Fascism out of the shadows and into the mainstream. Trump basically gave permission for hate and political violence.

So, in addition to making it easier to buy assault weapons and refusing to raise the minimum age to 21, Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s response to the Uvalde school massacre was to send DNA kits to schools that parents can use to identify their children’s bodies AFTER they’ve been murdered rather than pass gun safety laws to proactively protect their lives. And while the Gun Lobby loves to dismiss the easy access to guns including weapons of war as a factor in America’s gun violence epidemic, and instead blame mental illness, Republicans at the federal and at state level (Texas) have voted against funding mental health services in schools and communities.

The reality is that whereas Democrats have supported law enforcement, Republicans have been the ones to cut funding: Trump wanted to rescind aid to police in sanctuary cities and the Republican Sedition Caucus in Congress is calling for ending funding to the FBI. While Republicans make a pretense of being the party of “law and order, – and work to overrule , overturn police reform and cashless bail , and repeal gun safety legislation – two words make clear the hypocrisy: January Sixth. In point of fact, President Biden released his Safer America Plan this summer. The White House provided this fact sheet – Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

President Biden knows what works to make our communities safer: investing in community policing and crime prevention. We need to fund police who walk the beat, know the neighborhood, are accountable to those they are sworn to serve, and build community trust and safety. We need to invest in mental health and substance use treatment services, crisis responders, and social workers to reduce the burden on police officers, connect people with community resources, and prevent violent crime. We need to expand community violence interventions – led by trusted messengers breaking the cycle of violence and trauma. We need to enforce our commonsense gun laws, require background checks for all gun sales in order to keep firearms out of the hands of felons and domestic abusers, and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines – weapons of war that have no place in our communities.
 
President Biden has taken action to make our communities safer during his first 18 months in office. He has funded the police and issued an Executive Order to improve police accountability. President Biden has taken more executive action to tackle gun violence than any other president at this point in their Administration, including by reining in the proliferation of ghost guns and cracking down on gun traffickers and rogue gun dealers. President Biden is the first president in nearly 30 years to bring together Members of Congress from both parties to take action on gun violence, signing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The President also secured Senate confirmation of career prosecutor Steve Dettelbach to serve as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), empowering this law enforcement agency with its first confirmed leader since 2015. And, the President has made unprecedented investments in community-led crime prevention and intervention.
 
The President believes we can and must do more to reduce crime and save lives. On July 21, President Biden announced his Safer America Plan to build on the progress he has made to reduce gun violence.
 
Today, the President is providing greater details regarding the Safer America Plan. President Biden’s fiscal year 2023 budget requests a fully paid-for new investment of approximately $35 billion to support law enforcement and crime prevention – in addition to the President’s $2 billion discretionary request for these same programs. The Safer America Plan details how this $37 billion will be used to save lives and make communities safer.
 
Specifically, the Plan:

  1. Funds the police and promotes effective prosecution of crimes affecting families today, including by funding 100,000 additional police officers who will be recruited, trained, hired, and supervised consistent with the standards in the President’s Executive Order to advance effective, accountable community policing in order to enhance trust and public safety;
     
  2. Invests in crime prevention and a fairer criminal justice system, including by investing $20 billion in services that address the causes of crime and reduce the burdens on police so they can focus on violent crime, and by incentivizing the reform of laws that increase incarceration without redressing public safety;
     
  3. Takes additional commonsense steps on guns to keep dangerous firearms out of dangerous hands, including by calling on Congress to require background checks for all gun sales and ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

 

1. Fund the Police and Promote Effective Prosecution of Crimes Affecting Families Today 

Fund the Police with the Resources They Need For Effective, Accountable Community Policing
 
As President Biden said during his State of the Union Address, “We should all agree the answer is not to defund the police. It’s to fund the police. Fund them with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.” We cannot abandon our streets, and we should not have to choose between safety, public trust, and equal justice. Instead, we can protect our communities and restore trust by investing in accountable, equitable, evidence-based, constitutional policing and other law enforcement practices. In May 2022 President Biden signed an Executive Order on Advancing Effective, Accountable Policing and Criminal Justice Practices to Enhance Public Trust and Public Safety (Executive Order 14074), which advances effective, accountable community policing in order to enhance trust and public safety. Through the Executive Order, the President mandated policing reforms and best practices for federal law enforcement officials. President Biden’s Safer America Plan would not only increase funding for police across the country—it would also extend the Executive Order’s reforms and best practices to state and local law enforcement. The Plan will:
 
Put 100,000 additional officers for effective accountable, community policing on our streets.  The Safer America Plan will provide the investment necessary to recruit, train, support, and manage 100,000 additional police officers for effective, accountable community policing over the next five years. Specifically, the Plan calls on Congress to appropriate $10.877 billion in mandatory funding over five years for the COPS Hiring Program, which, combined with the President’s discretionary funding proposal for this program, will fully fund this goal with $12.817 billion in total. These funds will be used to get officers out of their stations and squad cars and into the community, walking the beat on foot patrols that have been shown to enhance officer morale, improve community relations, and have a deterrent effect on crime.
 
These new funds will incentivize state and local police departments to undertake commonsense reforms the President required of federal law enforcement agencies in May in Executive Order 14074. These reforms include banning chokeholds and carotid holds except where deadly force is authorized; training officers in de-escalation tactics to prevent the unnecessary use of force; restricting the use of no-knock warrants; requiring that body cameras be activated when conducting arrests and searches and when on patrol; submitting data to the new National Law Enforcement Accountability Database that the Justice Department will create; and undertaking other consensus reforms. We will also prioritize funding for officers that are representative of the communities they are sworn to serve (including recruits who live in or are from the community), and we will require that officers hired with federal funds be properly screened, including to ensure that they do not have a history of termination or resignation under investigation for serious misconduct from another police department.
 
Support state, local, Tribal, and territorial officers with the high-quality training the President has already mandated at the federal level by the Executive Order. Training varies widely across states and across law enforcement agencies. The Plan will fund training that enhances accountability, transparency, and the well-being of state and local officers and the communities they are sworn to serve. That includes an infusion of resources to enhance evidence-based training of law enforcement on topics including crime control and deterrence tactics, community engagement, use of force, interacting with people with disabilities, responding to persons in mental health crisis and to domestic violence calls, responding to First Amendment protected public protest activity, and more. The Plan will also fund the purchase and operation of body-worn cameras. The Plan calls on Congress to appropriate $1 billion over five years for these purposes. These funds will also be used to incentivize state and local law enforcement agencies to implement reforms such as those discussed above that the President required of federal law enforcement agencies in Executive Order 14074.
 
Recruit and retain police officers who demonstrate a commitment to honorably serving and protecting. We ask police to put their lives on the line to keep us and our loved ones safe. Front-line officers and chiefs around the country have made clear that we need to do more to recruit and retain officers who honorably serve as guardians of their communities. We also need to support agencies in developing flexible employment opportunities so that the profession meets the needs of a 21st century workforce and can continue to attract the best candidates at the state and local level who will meet and exceed the effective, accountable community policing standards mandated for federal law enforcement in the Executive Order. To attract and retain this high-quality workforce, President Biden’s Safer America Plan will fund bonuses for retention; provide student loan repayment, tuition reimbursement, and higher education grant programs to incentivize service-minded candidates, including women and individuals from underrepresented communities, to become officers; support pilot programs to explore more flexibility in scheduling and work arrangements; and expand mental health and wellness care for our police officers. The Plan calls on Congress to appropriate $750 million over five years for these purposes, and require that grant recipients report to the Attorney General and make public any use of funds to pay bonuses.
 
Ensure that new resources for law enforcement reach not only our biggest cities but also our small cities and towns. Smaller agencies often lack the personnel and resources to stay abreast of the latest evidence-based practices in policing, and lack internal capacity to identify and access grant and high-quality training opportunities. The Safer America Plan will set aside a minimum of $300 million per year of the funding described above to exclusively support small law enforcement agencies.
 
Clear Court Backlogs and Solve Murders So We Can Take Shooters and Other Violent Criminals Off the Streets
 
A small number of individuals are responsible for a disproportionate share of homicides and gun violence in our cities. The federal government will help state and local law enforcement in cities across the country take these criminals off our streets – and keep them off our streets. That’s why the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget proposal includes funding to ensure that federal law enforcement can show up and support state and local law enforcement. For example, the President’s budget request includes $2.8 billion for the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, an increase of 15% over FY22 enacted. This funding will increase the number of attorneys in these offices by 10%, increasing the federal government’s capacity to ramp up prosecutions of people who commit shootings and other violent crimes. The President’s budget also includes funding to hire 195 Deputy U.S. Marshals to help state and local law enforcement take violent fugitives off our streets, and nearly 100 additional administrative staff to relieve administrative burdens currently placed on Deputy U.S. Marshals so they can be re-deployed to the field full time.
 
In February, the Attorney General directed U.S. Attorneys to increase resources dedicated to district-specific violent crime strategies, such as New York City’s Gun Violence Strategic Partnership. The Safer America Plan will provide the federal government and cities with additional resources to support these strategies.
 
The Plan calls on Congress to appropriate $2.67 billion over five years for the following purposes:
 
Provide communities with funding they need to set up task forces to bring down the homicide and gun violence rate. These task forces will regularly convene federal, state, and local law enforcement to share intelligence, especially on repeat shooters, and coordinate efforts to successfully arrest, detain, and prosecute individuals committing homicides and gun violence. This funding will help police departments in communities to: hire critical personnel, including a task force coordinator, additional forensic analysts, and staff to write and process warrants for individuals suspected of committing violent crimes; pay for overtime and hire additional law enforcement officers, as needed, to execute on the work of the task force; provide life-saving equipment for officers in the field, like bullet-proof vests; and purchase forensic equipment and materials to analyze DNA, fingerprints, and data from bodycams, CCTV, and social media, while respecting privacy interests and civil rights. The Plan will also authorize the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Marshals Service, Drug Enforcement Administration, and U.S. Attorney’s Offices) to hire additional personnel to staff these task forces.
 
Equip communities with additional technology and personnel they need to quickly identify and investigate shooting incidents and image every bullet or casing recovered in the city and enhance the capacity of ATF to make ballistic matches. Additional resources for these cities include National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN) ballistics imaging machines and personnel needed to operate these machines, acoustic gunshot detection technology, gunshot residue forensics technology and analyst staff, and firearm forensics evidence collection technicians. The Plan will also call on Congress to authorize significant enhancement of ATF’s National NIBIN Correlation and Training Center to expand the number of jurisdictions it services.
 
Clear court backlogs and improve pretrial supervision in order to improve public safety. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented backlog in courts’ processing of criminal cases, with courts forced to delay or dismiss cases due to lack of capacity. We need to ensure courts have the resources to fully and fairly assess people accused of crimes and detain those who are too dangerous to be released to the community, consistent with due process requirements; to process cases and ensure accountability for criminal conduct; and to effectively supervise people upon release. The Safer America Plan invests in the technology and data systems modernization necessary to ensure that the justice system runs efficiently and with the most current data, such as case management systems that effectively integrate pre-trial services, judicial, and law enforcement records; virtual access and notification systems to facilitate remote check-ins and hearings as appropriate and beneficial for all involved; or scheduling software to manage the increased volume of cases. The Plan also provides emergency funding to support pretrial and post-conviction supervision staffing and systems, ensuring that persons on release are appropriately monitored and given assistance with the employment, health, and housing services that are shown to prevent recidivism.
 
Crack Down on Other Serious Crimes Affecting Families Today
 
The Safer America Plan includes several legislative fixes needed to address emerging crime trends, target resources at violent crime, and support commonsense criminal justice reform. To crack down on serious crime, the Plan will:
 
Impose tough penalties on all forms of fentanyl. Over 100,000 people have died from drug overdoses in the past 12 months, many of them from the synthetic opioid fentanyl. The federal government regulates fentanyl as a Schedule I drug, meaning it is subject to strict regulations and criminal penalties. But drug suppliers have found a loophole: they can easily alter the chemical structure of fentanyl—creating “fentanyl related substances”—to enhance the drug’s psychoactive properties and try to evade regulation of fentanyl. The Drug Enforcement Administration and Congress temporarily closed this loophole, but it will reopen in January 2023 unless Congress acts. The Safer America Plan includes the Administration’s 2021 proposal to permanently schedule all fentanyl related substances into Schedule I so traffickers of these deadly substances face the penalties they deserve.
 
Crack down on organized retail theft. Late 2021 saw an increase in high-profile incidents of organized retail theft around the country. In these incidents, crime rings recruit people to storm a brick-and-mortar store together and quickly steal high-value products for resale online. To recruit people to perpetrate the thefts and the resale, these organized theft rings typically target minors, individuals under financial duress, and individuals with substance use disorders. To tackle organized retail theft, the plan calls on Congress to pass legislation to require online marketplaces, such as Amazon, to verify third-party sellers’ information, and to impose liability on online marketplaces for the sale of stolen goods on their platforms.


2. Invest in Crime Prevention and A Fairer Criminal Justice System  

Fund Other Services to Address the Causes of Crime and Reduce the Burdens on Police Officers
 
Today, police are too often asked to respond to situations that require a mental health care provider or a social worker, not law enforcement.
 
When it comes to mental health, we know that people experiencing mental health challenges are more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of a violent crime. Policing is not the answer to these challenges – fully funded mental health and substance use disorder services and supports are the answer. That’s why the Biden Administration has put forward a plan to transform how the nation understands and treats mental health needs. As just one piece of this plan, this July the Biden Administration launched the 988 crisis response line so people experiencing suicidal ideation or another behavioral health crisis can reach out for emergency help from a health professional instead of calling 911. The President’s Fiscal Year 2023 budget also requests an additional $700 million to expand crisis centers and crisis response so people experiencing a behavioral health crisis have a place to call and a place to go.
 
The Safer America Plan further expands the prevention and intervention strategies we know will reduce violent crime and ease the burden on police officers so they can focus on policing. This includes:
 
Helping states, cities, Tribes, and territories advance prevention strategies and invest in mental health, substance use disorder, homelessness and other services to prevent crime and reduce the burden on police. The Plan establishes a new $15 billion over 10 years Accelerating Justice System Reform grant program that jurisdictions can use to advance strategies that will 1) prevent violent crime and/or 2) ease the burden on police officers so they do not have to respond to non-violent situations that may not merit police intervention. Doing so not only enhances public safety, but also delivers evidence-based criminal justice reform that advances racial equity. For example, jurisdictions may choose to use these funds to:

  • Expand drug courts that divert individuals charged with drug possession alone into mandatory treatment and harm reduction services instead of incarceration, as well as other alternative courts such as mental health courts and veterans courts;
     
  • Expand co-responder or alternate responder programs so calls that should be answered by mental health or substance use disorder providers or social workers – alone or in partnership with police – are not solely the responsibility of law enforcement;
     
  • Increase mental health and substance use disorder services, including by training existing professionals to become certified in cognitive behavioral therapy (which helps people improve their response to stress and reduce impulsivity), trauma-informed therapy, and other evidence-based treatments effective at addressing mental health problems, disruptive behaviors, and exposure to or risk of violence;
     
  • Support teenagers and young adults with paid jobs during the summer and school year, out-of-school enrichment programs, and mentoring;
     
  • Support built environmental improvement and design strategies proven to reduce violent crime in high-risk neighborhoods (for example, improved lighting in priority areas, crafting safe passage routes for students to walk to school, and vacant and/or abandoned lot and building remediation);
     
  • Provide housing and other supportive social services to individuals who are homeless, including those displaced due to victimization; and
     
  • Increasing job training, employment, housing, and other stabilizing services and opportunities for people returning home from jail and prison.

In addition, in order to receive these critical grants, jurisdictions must repeal mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes and change other laws that contribute to increased incarceration rates without making our communities safer. The Plan calls on Congress to appropriate $14.7 billion in mandatory funding for this new program, which will add on to the $300 million request in the President’s FY23 discretionary budget to fully fund this effort.
 
Expand community violence interventions with $5 billion over 10 years. The Plan appropriates $5 billion to expand and build the capacity of focused deterrence, violence interruption, and hospital-based programs. Community violence intervention (CVI) programs are effective because they leverage trusted messengers who work directly with individuals most likely to engage in or be victimized by gun violence, intervene in conflicts, and connect people to social, health and wellness, and economic services to reduce the likelihood of violence as an answer to conflict.
 
Reform Our Justice System
 
To support commonsense criminal justice reform, the Safer America Plan will:
 
End the crack-powder disparity and make the fix retroactive. The Safer America Plan calls on Congress to end once and for all the racially discriminatory sentencing disparity between crack cocaine and powder cocaine offenses—as President Biden first advocated in 2007—and make that change fully retroactive. This step would provide immediate sentencing relief to the 10,000 individuals, more than 90 percent of whom are Black, currently serving time in federal prison pursuant to the crack/powder disparity.
 
Help formerly incarcerated individuals successfully reenter society. The Safer America Plan lifts almost all restrictions on eligibility and access to vital federal benefits and programs that people need to get back on their feet after serving their time and leaving incarceration. For example:

  • Federal law currently includes a lifetime ban on eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits for people with prior drug felonies. States can modify or waive the ban, but restrictions remain across the country. The Safer America Plan calls on Congress to repeal the federal ban, nullifying state laws and regulations restricting eligibility based on conviction history, and to allow people to begin applying for benefits during the last 30 days of their incarceration. This would help Americans returning home make ends meet for their families and increase public safety. According to a 2017 Harvard study, access to SNAP and TANF benefits reduces the risk of reincarceration within one year by 10%.
     
  • Currently, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) payments are suspended during incarceration and terminate when incarceration exceeds 12 months. Although SSI allows people to apply 30 days pre-release, many are not aware of their ability to apply or cannot access the resources to do so, and SSDI allows applications only one month after release. The Safer America Plan would suspend rather than terminate SSI and SSDI during incarceration, automatically restart payments upon release, and allow new applicants to apply for SSI and SSDI benefits 90 days before release.
     
  • The Plan calls on Congress to eliminate the ban on paying for health services during the last 30 days of a person’s incarceration. This would help Medicaid beneficiaries returning home from jail or prison begin the transition to community care before release.

 
In addition, as part of the $15 billion Accelerating Justice System Reform grant program described above, states, cities, Tribes, and territories may use funding to provide the following services for individuals who are formerly or currently incarcerated: mental health and substance use disorder treatment, GED programs, and training and employment opportunities.
 
Promote commonsense reforms in the states. As noted above, the new $15 billion Accelerating Justice System Reform grant program will not only support crime prevention strategies; it will also incentivize state criminal justice reforms such as repealing mandatory minimums for non-violent crimes.


3. Take Additional Commonsense Steps to Keep Dangerous Guns out of Dangerous Hands 

After decades of congressional inaction, President Biden made historic progress with bipartisan support from Congress. In June, the President signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which will help keep dangerous guns out of dangerous hands. For example, the new law provides states with $750 million to invest in crisis interventions, including extreme risk protection order laws, and it requires enhanced background checks for gun purchasers under the age of 21. Earlier this month, Congress confirmed Steve Dettelbach to serve as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), empowering this law enforcement agency with the confirmed leader it has lacked since 2015. Earlier this year, President Biden signed into law the NICS Denial Notification Act, which was included in the Violence Against Women (VAWA) reauthorization and requires federal officials to notify state and local law enforcement when individuals who are legally prohibited from purchasing firearms fail a background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
 
But, when it comes to commonsense action to reduce gun crime, Congress has more work to do. Congress needs to give ATF the resources it needs to crack down on gun traffickers and gun dealers willfully violating the law. Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice launched five gun-trafficking strike forces to support state and local law enforcement in efforts to stop the trafficking of firearms across state lines. The President’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 budget proposes $1.7 billion in discretionary funding – a 13% increase over the FY22 enacted level – for ATF to enforce our commonsense gun laws. This funding will be used to:

  • Hire more than 140 new agents, intel analysts, and other personnel, including personnel to staff the multijurisdictional gun trafficking strike forces the Justice Department launched last year. These strike forces crack down on significant firearms trafficking corridors like the Iron Pipeline – the illegal flow of guns sold in the south, transported up the East Coast, and found at crime scenes in cities from Baltimore to New York City.
     
  • Hire 160 new investigators to help ensure that Federal Firearms Licensees (FFLs) and manufacturers comply with the law. These investigators will help carry out the Department of Justice’s new policy, announced last year, of zero tolerance, absent extraordinary circumstances, for certain willful violations of the law by federally licensed firearms dealers that put public safety at risk.
     
  • Add 16 new positions to provide NIBIN correlation reviews and training for state and local law enforcement agencies nationwide. The NIBIN database holds millions of digital images of ballistics from crime scenes. A NIBIN search can link seemingly unrelated scenes, thereby making connections and filling in gaps to help law enforcement identify and hold shooters accountable.
     
  • Increase by more than 40% the funding for the National Tracing Center, which more than 8,400 law enforcement agencies across the United States use to trace firearms found at crime scenes. Funding will be used to upgrade technology and hire additional personnel.

 
In addition, the Safer America Plan includes the following measures, which would fully align with the Second Amendment:
 
Keep guns out of dangerous hands. The federal gun background check system is the best tool we have to keep guns out of the hands of people currently prohibited under federal law from purchasing these weapons – including felons and domestic abusers. The Plan will strengthen the background check system by requiring background checks for all gun sales, with limited exceptions. In addition, the Plan will close the terrorist, dating violence restraining order, stalking, and Charleston loopholes in our existing gun background check system, which make it easier for violent criminals to purchase firearms. And, the Plan will establish a national extreme risk protection order program and require safe storage of firearms.
 
Keeping especially dangerous firearms out of our communities. The Plan will ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. In addition, it will ban the manufacture, sale, or possession of unserialized firearms, often referred to as “ghost guns.”

DoJ Forms Firearms Trafficking Strike Forces to Crack Down on Sources of Guns Used to Commit Crimes

President Joe Biden, standing with Vice President Kamala Harris and Attorney General Merrick Garland on April 8, 2021, declared, “gun violence in the US is an epidemic.” Since then, he has implemented a number of gun violence prevention initiatives. Today, the Department of Justice announced it will launch five cross-jurisdictional firearms trafficking strike forces within the next 30 days to help reduce violent crime by addressing illegal gun trafficking in significant firearms trafficking corridors. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

WASHINGTON – Today, the Department of Justice announced it will launch five cross-jurisdictional firearms trafficking strike forces within the next 30 days to help reduce violent crime by addressing illegal gun trafficking in significant firearms trafficking corridors. Tomorrow, the Attorney General will discuss with the President, law enforcement officials, and local and community leaders, this initiative, which, along with other measures, the Department of Justice is undertaking as part of the administration-wide comprehensive strategy to combat the rise in violent crime. 

Gun violence is a major driver in the increase in violent crime over the last 18 months, and today’s action is an important step in stemming the supply of illegally trafficked firearms which are used in deadly shootings and other violent crimes.

“Working with our local partners to tackle violent crime is one of the Justice Department’s most important responsibilities,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “Today, the department is taking another concrete step to address violent crime and illegal firearms trafficking. Our firearms trafficking strike forces will investigate and disrupt the networks that channel crime guns into our communities with tragic consequences. This effort reflects our shared commitment to keep communities safe.”

The five strike forces will focus on significant firearms trafficking corridors that channel guns into New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, D.C. They will be led by designated U.S. Attorneys who will coordinate with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and with state and local law enforcement partners in places where firearms originate and where they are used to commit crimes. The strike forces will share information and otherwise collaborate across districts where firearms trafficking schemes cross state or jurisdictional boundaries to focus enforcement against entire trafficking networks, from the places where guns are unlawfully obtained to the areas where they are used to commit violent crimes.

At an event today hosted by the Police Executive Research Forum, attended by hundreds of law enforcement professionals from around the country, the Deputy Attorney General spoke about the strike force launch, emphasizing the department’s commitment to working closely with state, local, tribal and territorial law enforcement partners as part of a comprehensive approach to reduce crime and make our communities safer.

Today’s announcement builds on the Justice Department’s broader Violent Crime Reduction Initiative, announced on May 26, 2021, that supports local communities in preventing, investigating and prosecuting gun violence and other violent crime. In guidance to federal agents and prosecutors as part of that comprehensive strategy, the Deputy Attorney General made clear that firearms traffickers that provide weapons to violent offenders are an enforcement priority across the country. 

Biden on Supreme Court Nomination: ‘The voters will not stand for this abuse of power. And if we are to call ourselves a democracy, their voices must be heard’

VP Joe Biden on Trump nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to Supreme Court: “Never before in our nation’s history has a Supreme Court Justice been nominated and installed while a presidential election is already underway. It defies every precedent and every expectation of a nation where the people are sovereign and the rule of law reigns.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vice President Joe Biden spoke out on Trump’s unprecedented nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to  the US Supreme Court in the middle of an election. Here is a highlighted transcript of his speech as prepared for delivery in Wilmington, Delaware:

On Friday, Jill and I had the honor of paying our respects to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first woman in the history of our nation to lie in state at the U.S. Capitol. 

Though it should not have taken nearly this long to bestow that honor on a woman, it nevertheless speaks to the unique and powerful impact Justice Ginsburg made on our society and to her enduring legacy of equal rights and equal justice under law.

Shortly before Justice Ginsburg passed, she told her granddaughter, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

It wasn’t a personal request. It wasn’t a favor being asked for. It was the last act in a long, unflinching career of standing up for American democracy.

Never before in our nation’s history has a Supreme Court Justice been nominated and installed while a presidential election is already underway. It defies every precedent and every expectation of a nation where the people are sovereign and the rule of law reigns.

But yesterday, before Justice Ginsburg could be laid to rest, and after hundreds of thousands of Americans have already cast their ballots, the President nominated a successor to her seat.

There is no mystery about what’s happening here.

President Trump has been trying to throw out the Affordable Care Act for four years. The Republican Party has been trying to eliminate it for a decade. Twice already the Supreme Court has upheld the law. And the Congress, expressing the popular will of the American people, has rejected President Trump’s efforts as well.

Now, all of a sudden this Administration believes they’ve found a loophole in the tragedy of Justice Ginsburg’s death.

It doesn’t matter to them that Republicans set the precedent just four years ago when they denied even the courtesy of a hearing to President Obama’s nominee after Justice Scalia passed away nine months prior to Election Day.

It doesn’t matter to them that millions of Americans are already voting on a new President and a new Congress. They see an opportunity to overturn the Affordable Care Act on their way out the door.

As we speak, we are still in the midst of the worst global health crisis in a century — a crisis that has already taken more than 200,000 American lives.

And yet, the Trump Administration is asking the Supreme Court right now to eliminate the entire Affordable Care Act. The Administration filed a brief with the Court that concludes: “The entire ACA thus must fall.”

President Trump can claim all he wants that he’s going to protect people with pre-existing conditions, but the fact is, he’s actively fighting to take those protections away as we speak.

If he has his way, more than 100 million people with pre-existing conditions like asthma, diabetes, and cancer could once again be denied coverage.
 
Complications from COVID-19, like lung scarring and heart damage, could become the next flood of pre-existing conditions used as an excuse to deny coverage to millions.
 
Women could once again be charged higher premiums just because they are women. 

And seniors would see their prescription drug prices go up and funding for Medicare go down.
 
It doesn’t matter what the American people want. President Trump sees a chance to fulfill his explicit mission to steal away the vital protections of the ACA from countless families who have come to rely on them for their health, their financial security, and the lives of those they love.
 
It should come as no surprise that President Trump would nominate Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
 
She has a written track record, disagreeing adamantly with the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ACA.
 
In fact, she publicly criticized Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion upholding the law eight years ago.
 
The American people understand the urgency of this moment.
 
They are already voting in droves because they know that their health care hangs in the balance. They understand that if Donald Trump gets his way, they could lose their right to vote, their right to clean air and clean water, their right to equal pay for equal work.
 
Workers could lose their collective bargaining rights.
 
DREAMers could be thrown out of the only country they’ve ever known.
 
Women could lose the bedrock rights enshrined by Roe v. Wade, which has safeguarded their autonomy for nearly half a century.
 
People are voting right now because they know that the very soul of our country is at stake and because they know that the decisions of the Supreme Court affect their everyday lives.
 
Their voices may not matter to Donald Trump.
 
They may not matter to Mitch McConnell.
 
But there are Senate Republicans out there who know in their hearts that if you shut out the voice of the people during an election, you are closing the door on American democracy thereafter.
 
That is where the power of this nation resides: in the people, and in the rule of law, and in the precedents we abide by.
 
To subvert both so openly, so needlessly, even as Americans cast their votes would be an irreversible step toward the brink.
 
And a betrayal of the singular quality that America was born and built on—that the people decide.
 
The Senate must stand strong for our democracy.
 
They should not act on this nomination until the American people finish the process they’ve already begun of selecting their President and their Congress.
 
As I’ve said before, if the people choose Donald Trump, then the Senate should give his nominee a hearing and a vote.
 
But if the people choose me, President Trump’s nomination should be withdrawn.
 
And my nominee, chosen by the President who was chosen by the people, should get a fair hearing and a vote on confirmation.
 
The U.S. Constitution provides one chance, one for Americans to have their voice heard on who serves on the Court, who makes those big decisions about their health care, their civil rights, and so much else.
 
That chance is now.

That moment is now.
 
The voters will not stand for this abuse of power. And if we are to call ourselves a democracy, their voices must be heard.
 
I urge the American people to keep voting and to let your current Senators know that you want to be heard before they vote to confirm a new Justice.
 
And I urge every Senator to take a step back from the brink — to take off the blinders of politics for just one critical moment — and stand up for the Constitution you swore to uphold.
 
This is the time to de-escalate, to put an end to the shattering of precedents that has thrown our nation into chaos.
 
Just because you have the power to do something doesn’t absolve you from your responsibility to do right by the American people.
 
Uphold your constitutional duty. Summon your conscience.  
 
Stand up for the people. Stand up for our cherished system of checks and balances.

Americans are watching. Americans are voting. We must listen to them now.
 
We must allow them to exercise their sacred power.
 
Thank you.
 
God bless the United States of America and may God protect our troops.

Black Lives Matter Protest for Equal Justice Comes to Suburbia

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people who took a knee for 8 minutes 46 seconds, the amount of time a police officer had his knee on George Floyd’s neck, snuffing out his life. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer has galvanized the nation and the world. His murder was only one of a long, long list of murders and lynchings over decades. But this was a perfect storm that made its heinousness obvious to all: this was not the instant firing of a gun in a moment of fear, but a tortuously long, drawn out 8 minutes, 46 seconds, during which three other police stood around, onlookers pleaded for mercy, and the whole thing captured on video shared over social media. So while there were other unprovoked killings – Breonna Taylor, shot in her own apartment in the dead of night after police invaded with a no-knock warrant – this one was undeniable in demonstrating the ingrained culture that dehumanizes in order for such violence to occur, and the smug security of police, given unparalleled power of a gun and a badge, that they would not be held accountable.

Enough is enough, protesters by the tens of thousands in hundreds of cities throughout the country and the world, chant, even putting their own lives at risk, not just from the baton-wielding, tear-gas throwing, flashbang grenade hurling, rubber-bullet firing police dressed as an invading army, but from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The protests have come to suburbia and our home town as well – most affectingly, one this weekend organized by Great Neck high school students which drew well over 500 people to Firefighters Park in Great Neck Plaza. (They withstood accusations on Facebook they were terrorists who had collected stones to throw at police. Meanwhile, county police closed off the main street to traffic so they could march a mile to the Village Green, and walked along side.)

They decried the structural racism at the heart of a police culture that has its origins in catching slaves, then, morphed into an enforcement mechanism for White Supremacy, along with so many other structural inequities that, by design, have kept African Americans, Hispanics and other minorities unequal in society.

While the elements of police brutality and criminal injustice are well known, they are kept in force year after year, decade after decade, generation after generation by supremely politically powerful police unions.

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Indeed, the most dramatic “reform” is to completely rebuild police departments – there are 16,000 of them. Some police departments have actually done this – Camden, NJ, for example – and it may be the only way to really root out the structural inequities, bias. Now Minneapolis’ city council has voted to disband its $193 million police department. What that actually means is that, like Camden, it intends to rebuild it, in order to make it functional and appropriate in a country that supposedly is based on principles of “equal justice for all.”

They will likely scrutinize how police officers are recruited, hired, know if there is a record of police brutality (like Timothy Loehmann who murdered 12-year old Tamir Rice). How are officers trained and what they understand their “mission” to be? One trendy training program (as John Oliver disclosed on “Last Week Tonight”) is in the “art” of “Killology” where officers are instructed that if they are not predators prepared to kill, they have no business being police.  

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Not only are the problems well known, but the solutions have been methodically investigated, analyzed, quantified and put in the form of recommendations – by the Obama Administration after the Ferguson, Missouri, riots that followed Michael Brown’s unprovoked murder by police. The task force developed a template for 21st Century Policing, including ending militarizing police. His Department of Justice under Eric Holder obtained consent decrees from the most vile police forces. But, like the template to address a global pandemic handed  to the Trump Administration, it was immediately discarded, and the consent decrees withdrawn.

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But George Floyd has created the rarest opportunity for reform. With breathtaking speed for New York or any state government, major measures for a “Say Their Name” police reform agenda have already passed the Legislature:  Allow for transparency of prior disciplinary records by reforming 50-a; ban chokeholds; prosecute for making a false race-based 911 report; and designating the Attorney General as an independent prosecutor in cases involving death of unarmed civilian by law enforcement.

Cuomo wants to go further to “seize the momentum,” correctly seeing this time as transformational to “reinvent” policing..

“This is a long time coming,” Cuomo said. “It is time to reimagine and reinvent policing for 2020…Police are public servants for that community – if the community doesn’t trust, doesn’t respect police, police can’t do their job.”

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Democrats in Congress have also seized on this transformational moment as well, introducing “Justice in Policing Act” which at the federal level would ban chokeholds; challenge “qualified immunity”; prohibit no-knock warrants; counter the trend toward militarization of police; require body and dashboard cameras; require independent prosecutors in cases of police brutality; establish a national database to track police misconduct; and (finally) make lynching a federal  hate crime.

Calls to Defund the Police. Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Others want more. There are calls to “defund police” – which like “They’re coming for your guns” and “Open Borders!” is a catchy slogan that fits on a sign that has been deliberately distorted by Trump and the Republicans  and used to incite fear among (white suburban) voters who are being told their neighborhoods will be overrun by criminals, gangs and rapists.

What “defund police” means is reassessing what functions the police do. Do we want protectors or warriors? Are police the best ones to address situations involving mental health, drug overdoses, domestic violence or school discipline? More accurately, people are calling for “divest-reinvest”:  take that money and invest in social workers, mental health professionals, and guidance counselors that police, themselves, have said they are not equipped to deal with.

Divest Police-Reinvest in Communities. Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And it means investing in community programs that in themselves reduce crime. That’s what Cuomo is proposing in a Justice Agenda to root out the causes of criminal injustice, all on view in conjunction with the coronavirus epidemic and its disproportionate impact on communities of color: it goes to addressing the disparities in education, housing, health care, poverty.

“This is not just a moment for political protest,” Governor Cuomo said. “It’s not just a moment to express outrage. It’s a moment to do something about it, and to make real reform and real change. That’s the goal of the moment. I understand the emotion. I want people to know how upset I am. Good. Second step, what do we do about it? And let’s get it done here in the State of New York.

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“When we talk about a Justice Agenda, we want to fight the systemic racism, inequality and injustice in our society. That is what the protesters are saying and I stand with the protesters in saying that because it’s very true. But in this moment of change, let’s make it real change and let’s get to the root of the issue. You want to talk about injustice and inequality in America. Well then it has to start with our education system. We do not educate all children the same. ‘Opportunity for all.’ No, opportunity for some, opportunity for people who grow up in a rich school district and a rich family with high property taxes and they go to great schools, but not for the children who grow up in poorer communities, who go to inferior schools. That is the reality today. That is the truth. I’m saying that as Governor of New York not as a protester on a street corner. It is a fact. Even in this state, we spent $36,000 per year, per student, in a wealthy school district, $13,000 per year in a poorer school district. How do you rationalize that? You can’t and say this is a system that provides equal opportunity for all.

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“How do you still have children living in poverty? With all this wealth, with all this abundance, how do you tolerate a situation where some children to no fault of their own, you can’t blame them, they were born into one circumstance and they are living in poverty? You can’t justify it. The number of homeless, lack of affordable housing, you have a federal government that just went out of the housing business. I was the former housing secretary, worked in housing all my life. Housing was a federal responsibility, not state, not local. 1949 Housing Act, “for this nation, safe, clean, decent housing for all Americans.” 1949, it’s 2020, what are we doing? There’s no section eight, no section eight project base, no more public housing, and then we wonder why there is an affordable housing shortage.

Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“And yes, criminal justice reform, why do we lock up more people than any industrialized nation on the globe? That is a sign of success? …Why do we have racial disparity in the criminal justice system? How do you rationalize it? Unless it goes back to the other systemic injustices and inequality, if a person grows up in poverty, if a person doesn’t have education, if a person doesn’t have access to opportunity, then you see the result in the criminal justice system. This is how you get at injustice and inequality, and you can’t do it piecemeal, either attack it fully or you will never defeat it. That is the justice agenda. And this has to be done on the federal level and it should be done on the federal level because this is not a New York or California or Florida issue. It is an American issue. And you are in the middle of election season, stand up and say, ‘Here is my election reform agenda. You want my support and my vote? Here is my agenda. You are running for Congress, you’re running for Senate, or whatever you’re running for, you want my support? Here is my agenda.’ That is my opinion,” Cuomo said.

But none of this will happen as long as Trump and the Republicans are in power.

Marching up main street. Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Marching up main street. Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Marching up main street. Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Marching up main street. Black Lives Matter protest comes to suburban communities. This one in Great Neck, Long Island, was organized by high school students and drew well over 500 people. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

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© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Cuomo Proposes Reform Agenda to End Police Brutality, Systemic Racism, Tells Protesters ‘Use Moment Constructively’

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a national agenda to end systemic racism in law enforcement, end police brutality. “Use this moment. Let’s talk about investigation of police abuse. No chokeholds, nation-wide standard for undue force. Let’s talk about funding of education and equal funding in education. Let’s talk about affordable housing. Let’s talk about a child poverty agenda. Let’s use the moment constructively.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed a positive reform agenda to address systemic racism and police brutality amidst the ongoing protests across the state and nation in response to the killing of George Floyd. The reform agenda includes a national ban on excessive force and chokeholds by law enforcement officers; independent investigations of police brutality conducted by independent, outside agencies – not by local prosecutors; and disclosure of disciplinary records of police officers being investigated.

While standing firmly in support of the protests against police brutality, the Governor said that protest for its own sake would only work against the cause, but that there needs to be a clearly defined list of actions that need to be articulated.

“You want to make that moment work,” he declared. “Yes, you express the outrage. But then you say, ‘Here’s my agenda. Here’s what I want.’ That’s what we have to be doing in this moment. And the protesters are making a point. And most of them are making a smart, sensible point. But you have to add the positive reform agenda that every voice calls for so the government, the politicians know what to do. And there is a positive reform agenda here. There should be a national ban on excessive force by police officers. There should be a national ban on chokeholds. Period. There should be independent investigations of police abuse.”

And Cuomo also differentiated between the those who are exercising their Constitutional First Amendment right to protest against those who are taking advantage to loot and vandalize, giving Trump the opportunity to deflect and discount, and shift focus to himself as the “law-and-order” strongman. Indeed, there are reports that White Nationalist group is posing as Antifa on Twitter, calling for violence. Trump is proposing to designate Antifa a terrorist group, and is using them to justify calling out military against protesters – which would be a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.

“There’s no doubt that what the President’s trying to do here is turn the attention to the looters rather than the point of the protest, which is genuine outrage,” Cuomo said in an interview with Nicolle Wallace on MSNBC. “”You look at what happened with Mr. Floyd, you have to be outraged. It’s not just Mr. Floyd in an isolated situation, it’s been years and years of the same situation. You can go back to Rodney King, Amadou Diallo and Eric Garner – it’s a long list.

They want to make this about looting and criminals rather than the killing. That’s what they’re trying to do. In New York, we did have large protests and we do have people who are, I think, exploiting the protest. There’s no doubt that there’s some people who came out and did looting and criminal activity. You have some disrupting organizations that are seizing upon the moment. We want to make sure that order is maintained and we’re putting in place a curfew.”

“Use this moment. You look in history, Nicolle, when did change come? Change came when the people insisted on change. Let’s talk about investigation of police abuse. No chokeholds, nation-wide standard for undue force. Let’s talk about funding of education and equal funding in education. Let’s talk about affordable housing. Let’s talk about a child poverty agenda. Let’s use the moment constructively.”

Cuomo ordered a curfew of 11 pm in New York City, and doubled the number of police, from 4,000 to 8,000. However, that was not enough to stop a spate of acts of looting and vandalism.

The protests come just as New York City was hitting the milestones in the fight against COVID-19, which has taken more lives – and more disproportionately in communities of color – in the city and state than anywhere in the country or world. The  Governor said that if there was any “silver” lining in the timing, the protests are happening when the infection rate has been cut from 20 percent to 2 percent but still raised concerns of reigniting the spread of the pandemic.

Here is a transcript of Governor Cuomo’s remarks:

We’re talking about reopening in one week in New York City. Now we’re seeing these mass gatherings over the past several nights that could, in fact, exacerbate the COVID-19 spread. We spent all this time closed down, locked down, masked, socially distanced and then you turn on the TV and you see there’s mass gatherings that could potentially be infecting hundreds and hundreds of people. After everything that we have done. We have to talk a minute and ask ourselves what are we doing here? What are we trying to accomplish?

We have protests across the state that continued last night, they continued across the nation. Upstate we worked with the cities very closely. The State Police did a great job. We had, basically, a few scattered arrests, upstate New York. But the local governments did a great job, the people did a great job, law enforcement did a great job. The protestors were responsible. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad, either, upstate.

I said from day one, I share the outrage and I stand with the protestors. You look at that video of the killing of an unarmed man, Mr. Floyd, it is horrendous. Horrendous. It’s frightening. It perverts everything you believe about this country. It does and there’s no excuse for it. No right minded American would make an excuse for it. So, protest yes. Be frustrated, yes. Outraged, yes of course. Is there a larger problem? Of course. It’s not just Mr. Floyd, it goes back – there are 50 cases that are just like Mr. Floyd. We’ve them here in New York City. What’s the difference between Mr. Floyd and Amadou Diallo? Or Abner Louima? Or Eric Garner? What is the difference? What have we learned? Nothing?

So, yes, we should be outraged. And yes, there’s a bigger point to make. It is abuse by police. But it’s something worse. It is racism. It is discrimination. It is fundamental inequality and injustice. My father spoke about it in 1984. The speech called “The Tale of Two Cities.” People still talk about it. The point of the tale of two cities is there’s two Americas. Two sets of rules. Two sets of outcomes. Two sets of expectations. It’s true. It was true then, it’s true now. Look at our prisons and tell me there’s not inherit injustice in society. Look at public housing, tell me there’s not inherent injustice.

Look at what happened with this COVID infection rate nationwide. More African Americans infected, more African Americans dead proportionally than white Americans. Of course, there’s chronic institutionalized discrimination. There is no doubt. There is no doubt. And there’s no doubt that it’s been going on for a long time and people are frustrated, and it has to be corrected and it has to be corrected now. And there’s no doubt, that this nation as great as it is has had the continuing sin of discrimination. From before the nation was formed and it started with slavery. And it has had different faces over the decades, but it’s still the same sin. That is true. That is true. So let’s use this moment as a moment of change? Yes.

When does change come? When the stars align and society focuses and the people focus, and they focus to such an extent that the politicians follow the people. That’s when change comes. “Well, the leaders lead!” Baloney. The people lead. And then the politicians see the people moving, and the politicians run to catch up with the people. How did we pass marriage equality in this State, giving a new civil right to the LGBTQ community? Because the people said, “enough is enough. How can you say only heterosexual people can marry, but the LGBTQ people— they can’t marry? How is that constitutional? How is that legal?” You have your own preference— God bless you. But how in the law, do you discriminate between two classes of people. We passed marriage equality.

After the Sandy Hook massacre, after all those years we tried to pass common sense gun safety. Do you really need an assault weapon to kill a deer? But then the Sandy Hook massacre happened, and the people said, “enough. You’re killing children? Young children in schools with an assault weapon? In the Sandy Hook massacre. Enough.”

And in that moment, we passed common sense gun safety in the State of New York. Record income inequality? People said, “enough” and passed a real minimum wage in this State that went all across the nation. There’s a moment for change, and is there a moment here? Yes. If we’re constructive and if we’re smart, and if we know what were asking for! It’s not enough to come out and say, “I’m angry, I’m frustrated.” OK. And what? “Well, I don’t know, but I’m angry and frustrated.”

And you want what done? You need the answer. “Well, I want common sense gun reform.” OK, what does it look like? Here it is— three points. “Well I want to address income inequality.” Well, what do you want? “Here’s what I want. Minimum wage at $15. Free college tuition.” What do you want?

You want to make that moment work. Yes, you express the outrage! But then you say, “here’s my agenda. Here’s what I want.” That’s what we have to be doing in this moment. And the protestors are making a point. And most of them are making a smart, sensible point. But you have to add the positive reform agenda that every voice calls for so the government, the politicians know what to do. And there is a positive reform agenda here. There should be a national ban on excessive force by police officers. There should be a national ban on chokeholds. Period. There should be independent investigations of police abuse. When you have the local District Attorney doing the investigations— I don’t care how good they are— there is the suggestion of a conflict of interest. Why? Because that DA works with that police department every day and now that prosecutor is going to do the investigation of that police department that they work with every day? Conflict of interests can be real or perceived. How can people believe that the local prosecutor who works with that police department is going to be fair in the investigation? It shouldn’t be state by state. Minnesota Governor Walz put the attorney general in charge. Good. In this state, I put attorney general in charge of investigations where police kill an unarmed person. Good. But it shouldn’t be the exception. It should be the rule. There is no self-policing. There’s an allegation, independent investigation. Give people comfort that the investigation is real.

If a police officer is being investigated, how is there disciplinary records not relevant? Once a police officer is being investigated, if they have disciplinary records that show this was a repeat pattern, how is that not relevant? By the way, the disciplinary records can also be used to exonerate. If they have disciplinary records that say he never, she never did anything like this before, fine. That’s relevant too.

We still have two education systems in this country. Everybody knows it. Your education is decided by your zip code. Poorer schools in poorer communities have a different level of funding than richer schools in this state. $36,000 per year we spend in a rich district. $13,000 in a poor district. How do you justify that? If anything, the children in a poorer community need more services in a school, not less. How do you justify that? You can’t. Do something about it. You still have children living in poverty in this nation? Well, when we had to, we found a trillion dollars to handle the COVID virus, but you can’t find funding to help children who live in poverty? No, you can find it, United States. You just don’t want to. It’s political will. When you need to find the money, you can find it. Let’s be honest, the federal government has a printing press in their basement. When they have the political will, they find the money.

The federal government went out of the housing business and never re-entered it. We have a national affordable housing crisis. Of course you do. You don’t fund affordable housing. I’m the former HUD secretary. I know better than anyone what the federal government used to do in terms of affordable housing with Section 8 and building new public housing. And we just stopped, and we left it to the market. Now you have an affordable housing plan. That’s what we should be addressing in this moment. And we should be saying to our federal officials, “There’s an election this year, a few months away. Here’s my agenda. Where do you stand?” Say to the congress, the House and Senate, “Where’s your bill on this?”

I heard some congressional people talking saying well maybe they’ll do a resolution. Yeah, resolutions are nice. Resolutions say in theory I support this. Pass a law, that’s what we want. A law that actually changes the reality, where something actually happens. That’s government’s job is to actually make change. Make change. You’re in a position to make change. Make change. Use this moment to galvanize public support. Use that outrage to actually make the change. And have the intelligence to say what changes you actually want. Otherwise, it’s just screaming into the wind if you don’t know exactly what changes we need to make.

And we have to be smart in this moment. The violence in these protests obscures the righteousness of the message. The people who are exploiting the situation, the looting, that’s not protesting. That’s not righteous indignation. That’s criminality and it plays into the hands of the people and the forces that don’t want to make the changes in the first place because then they get to dismiss the entire effort. I will tell you what they’re going to say. They’re going to say the first thing the President said when this happened. They’re going to say “These are looters.” Remember when the President put out that incendiary tweet? “We start shooting when they start looting or they start looting, we start shooting?” That’s an old ’60s call. The violence, the looting, the criminality plays right into those people who don’t want progressive change. And you mark my words, they’re going to say today, “Oh you see, they’re criminals. They’re looters. Did you see what they did breaking the store windows and going in and stealing?” And they’re going to try to paint this whole protest movement that they’re all criminals, they’re all looters. That’s what they’re going to do. Why? They don’t want to talk about Mr. Floyd’s death. They don’t want people seeing that video. They want people seeing the video of the looting. And when people see the video of the looting they say “Oh yeah, that’s scary. They’re criminals.” No, look at the video of the police officer killing Mr. Floyd. That’s the video we want people watching.

Now, I don’t even believe it’s the protesters. I believe there are people who are using this moment and using the protest for their own purpose. There are people who want to sow the seeds of anarchy, who want to disrupt. By the way, there are people who want to steal. And here’s a moment that you can use this moment to steal. You can use this moment to spread chaos. I hear the same thing from all the local officials. They have people in their communities who are there to quote unquote protest. They’re not from their community. They don’t know where they’re from, extremist groups, some people are going to blame the left, some people will blame the right. It will become politicized. But there is no doubt there are outside groups that come in to disrupt. There is no doubt that there are people who just use this moment to steal. What, it’s a coincidence they broke into a Rolex watch company? That was a coincidence? High end stores, Chanel. That was a coincidence? That was random? That was not random. So, can you have a legitimate protest movement hijacked? Yes, you can. Yes, you can. And there are people and forces who will exploit that moment and I believe that’s happening.

But we still have to be smart. And at the same time, we have a fundamental issue which is we just spent 93 days limiting behavior, closing down, no school, no business, thousands of small businesses destroyed. People will have lost their jobs. People wiped out their savings. And now mass gatherings with thousands of people in close proximity one week before we’re going to reopen New York City? What sense does this make? Control the spread, control the spread, control the spread. We don’t even know the consequence for the COVID virus of those mass gatherings. We don’t even know. We won’t know possibly for weeks. It’s the nature of the virus. How many super-spreaders were in that crowd? “Well, they were mostly young people.” How many young people went home and kissed their mother hello or shook hands with their father or hugged their father or their grandfather or their brother or their mother or their sister and spread a virus?

New York City opens next week. Took us 93 days to get here. Is this smart? New York tough. We went from the worst situation to reopening. From the worst situation to 54 deaths in 50 days. We went from the worst situation to reopening in 93 days. We did that because we were New York tough. New York tough was smart. We were smart. We were smart for 93 days. We were united, we were respectful of each other. We were disciplined. Wearing the mask is just discipline, it’s just discipline. Remember to put it on, remember to pick it up, remembering to put it on when see someone, it’s just discipline.

It was also about love. We did it because we love one another. That’s what a community is. We love one another. And yes, you can be loving even in New York. Even with the New York toughness, even with a New York accent, even with a New York swagger. We’re loving. That’s what we’ve done for 93 days in a way we’ve never done it before. Never in my lifetime. Never in my lifetime has this city and this state come together in the way we have. I don’t think it ever will again, in my lifetime. Now you can say maybe it takes a global pandemic for it to happen. I don’t know if that’s true and I don’t know that the power of what it was like when it came together might not be so beautiful that people want to do it again.

Remember when we all acted together during coronavirus and we rallied and we knocked coronavirus on its rear end. Remember when we all wore masks and we had to have hand sanitizer? Remember what we did? Wow. When we come together, we can do anything and it’s true. It’s true for the state, it’s true for a nation. When you come together and you have one agenda you can do anything. You want to change society, you want to end the tale of two cities, you want to make it one America? You can do that, just the way you knocked coronavirus on its rear end.

People united can do anything. We showed that, we just showed that the past 93 days. We can end the injustice and the discrimination and the intolerance and the police abuse. We have to be smart. We have to be smart right now. Right now in this state. We have to be smart tonight in this city because this is not advancing a reform agenda. This is not persuading government officials to change. This is not helping end coronavirus. We have to be smart.

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© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

March for Truth Rallies Demand Witnesses, Evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial

Stop the GOP Cover-Up. March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

With chants of “No More Cover-Ups. We Want Witnesses” and “What do we want? Witnesses. If we don’t get it, Shut It Down,” protesters took to the streets in New York City as well as Washington DC and 30 other cities to demand Senators uphold their oath for an impartial examination of the truth before a vote to convict or acquit Donald Trump of his office as President of the United States.

In New York, a couple of hundred protesters organized by the NYC Coalition to Impeach and Remove gathered in Times Square, and then marched down to Herald Square. Here are highlights:

“Trump is Guilty.” March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Demand Truth.” March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Imminent Threat.” March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Trump is Guilty.” March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Marching down Broadway. March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Grow a Spine. March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidences in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
“Stop the GOP Cover-Up” March for Truth, NYC calls for witnesses, evidence in Trump Impeachment Trial © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rallies were also held in:

Dallas, Texas

Phoenix, Arizona

Raleigh, North Carolina

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Maryville, Illinois

Lexington, Kentucky

Portland, Oregon

Hillsborough, Oregon

Brea, California

St. Petersburg, Florida

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Gulfport, Mississippi

Danville, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky

Hudson, Wisconsin

Bangor, Maine

Tucson, Arizona

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Clarksville, Tennessee

Salt Lake City, Utah

Denver, Colorado

Phoenix, Arizona

Chico, California

Anchorage, Alaska

Charlotte, North Carolina

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© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

At WorldPride NYC Parade, NYS Governor Cuomo Signs Law Banning Gay, Trans Panic Legal Defense

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo did not come empty-handed to the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade, perhaps the largest LGBTQIA+ Pride event in history: Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay and trans panic legal defense © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo did not come empty-handed to the WorldPride NYC 2019 parade, perhaps the largest LGBTQIA+ Pride event in history: Cuomo used the occasion to sign into law legislation banning the gay and trans panic legal defense (S3293/A2707), fulfilling his pledge to ensure nobody uses this abhorrent legal defense strategy in the State of New York. The Governor signed the measure, a key component of his 2019 Justice Agenda, on WorldPride and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. The Governor also vowed to double down next legislative session on his campaign to legalize gestational surrogacy, which the Assembly failed to take up this year.

“The gay and trans panic defense is essentially a codification of homophobia and transphobia, and it is repugnant to our values of equality and inclusion,” Governor Cuomo said at a press conference on the street before joining the parade. “This defense strategy isn’t just offensive – it also sends a dangerous message that violence toward LGBTQ people is somehow OK. It’s not, and today we’re sending this noxious legal tool to the dustbin of history where it belongs.”

At a press conference before joining the parade, Governor Cuomo said, “What a great, great day this is. New York is so proud. New York is so, so, so proud to host WorldPride. 

“New Yorkers are just New Yorkers. Look, all New Yorkers should be very proud because New York has always been the home of the LGBTQ equality movement, always. It all started here. It started at Stonewall, it started when we hosted the first Pride Day ever. And we’ve kept that legacy alive. This is the leading State in the United States of America for LGBTQ equality. And we don’t just say it, we do it. We prove it here in New York.

“What was the first state to address AIDS and announce the goal of ending AIDS as an epidemic? New York. What was the first state to end discrimination against transgender people? New York. What was the first big state to pass marriage equality and send a message across the nation? New York. What was the first state to pass GENDA and end discrimination against transgender people? New York. What was the first state to ban conversion therapy? New York.

“And today, we’re going to sign a bill that ends the codification of homophobia. Because we have now as a law in this state, something called the gay and trans panic defense. That a person can argue – they were so emotionally disturbed when they found out a person was gay or trans that that is actually a justification or an excuse for murder. Not in this state. We are going to – not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. Not in this state. And we are going to end the gay and transpanic defense and we are going to do it right now. I will sign this now and end this law. It is now over.

“Congratulations, New York. Let’s lead once again.”

The gay and trans panic defenses allow those accused of violent crimes against LGBTQ people to receive a lesser sentence, and in some cases, avoid conviction, by placing the blame on a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity. The passage of this bill would close a loophole in state law that currently allows individuals to use the gay and trans panic defenses after attacking another person based upon a perception, or discovery of, that victim’s gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Senator Brad Hoylman said,”By banning the so-called gay and trans panic defense, New York is sending a message to prosecutors, defense attorneys, juries and judges that a victim’s LGBTQ identity shouldn’t be weaponized against them. I’m proud to be a member of a legislature that protects the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers and thank Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins and Assemblymember O’Donnell for their leadership on this critical issue. As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Stonewall, I am extremely grateful to Governor Cuomo for signing this critical piece of legislation into law and look forward to continuing to work with him to make New York a more inclusive, equitable home for the LGBTQ community.”

NYS Governor Andrew Cuomo was joined at the WorldPride 2019 parade by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, Chris Quinn, Randi Weingarten, Adriano Espaillat, Jim Gaughran, Jen Metzger, David Weprin, Amy Paulin. Chad Griffin, Alphonso David, Counsel to the Governor, State Senator Brad Hoylman, who’s been a champion, Kristen Browde, Dolores Nettles, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, as well as Cuomo’s three daughters Cara, Mariah, Michaela. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Delores Nettles said, “In 2013, my daughter Islan was killed in Harlem for being who she was. Her attacker used the discriminatory ‘trans panic’ defense. I am so grateful that New York is banning this legislation so that no mother has to go through this again. We must keep fighting so that all trans people can live free from violence and discrimination. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for advocating tirelessly for this bill and for signing it into law today.”

“Banning the “gay and trans panic” defense in New York is an important and long overdue step toward treating the LGBTQ community equitably,” Ethan Rice, Senior Attorney, Fair Courts Project at Lambda Legal. “LGBTQ people in New York should never have to experience violence. When it happens, LGBTQ people certainly should not be faced with blame for this violence. These “defenses” have no place in our justice system. Lambda Legal commends the Governor for signing this bill today and for his ongoing advocacy on behalf of the LGBTQ community.”

NYC’s Pride Center celebrating at WorldPride NYC 2019. There was much to celebrate: Governor Cuomo had just signed legislation banning the gay and trans panic legal defense © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Glennda Testone, Executive Director of NYC’s LGBT Community Center said, “New York State government has taken another great step in the right direction, legally halting some enduring elements of homophobia and transphobia ingrained in our society. After establishing marriage equality, passing GENDA and ending conversion therapy in our state, Governor Cuomo showed that he is not done fighting for LGBTQ equality, and neither are we. We thank him for taking the gay and trans panic defense out of New York’s court system and for his commitment to equal rights for all people.”  

“Using an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender as a defense for violent behavior is abhorrent and will not stand in the State of New York,” Harlem Pride and The NYC Black and Latino LGBTQ Coalition said. “We applaud Governor Cuomo for his leadership and dedication to protecting the LGBTQ community and closing the legal loophole keeping this archaic practice in place.”

Guillermo Chacon, president of the Latino Commission on AIDS and founder of Hispanic Health Network said,”As we celebrate LGBT Pride and the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall uprising we recognize that outlawing the gay and trans panic defense is long overdue in New York.  We appreciate that this legislation will be signed to ensure this can never happen again and that people impacted by homophobia and transphobia are no longer taking the blame for this antiquated loophole. We thank Governor Cuomo for advancing this important issue and I look forward to him signing this law to increase protections for the LGBTQ community.”

Rod Townsend, Community Leader said, “A person’s gender identity or sexual orientation is never a justifiable reason for violent attack, and Governor Cuomo closes the loophole in state law that allowed for it in cases of first degree murder today.  We look forward to seeing justice for individuals impacted by these crime and will fight to further limit the use of this appalling “blame the victim” strategy in cases of violence against LGBTQ people everywhere.”

Amanda Babine, Director of Policy & Programs at the New York Transgender Advocacy Group said,”Banning the ‘gay and trans panic’ defense was a huge win for the LGBTQI community, especially for our Transgender, Gender-Non-Conforming, & Non-Binary siblings. This year alone, ten Transgender women of color have been found dead, one right here in New York. The New York Transgender Advocacy Group stands with pride next to Governor Cuomo as he continues to be a champion for the LGBTQI community here in New York State.”

Brooke Malloy, Executive Director, Rockland County Pride Center said, “New Yorkers do not tolerate hate. We are a state of love and inclusion, and hold firm to our belief in equality for every person. The fact that there ever was a legal defense for crimes committed against the LGBTQ community, specifically based on their actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation is disgusting. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for his leadership in ending this abhorrent law, and for always speaking up and protecting LGBTQ New Yorkers.”

Kelly Metzgar, Executive Director, Adirondack North Country Gender Alliance said,”New York State prides itself on being an inclusive, progressive state, where every person can feel safe and welcome. With his work to end the gay and trans panic defense, Governor Cuomo continues to ensure that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, receives equal protection under New York State law. I wish to personally thank Governor Cuomo, on behalf of residents in the Adirondack North Country for his relentless work to defend the rights of all who call this beautiful state our home.”

Christopher Goodwin, Supervisor of The MOCHA Center Rochester said, “We at The MOCHA Center and Trillium Health applaud Governor Cuomo for taking swift, progressive action to protect and uphold the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers. Thanks to his efforts, a dangerous loophole rooted in hate has been erased from our criminal justice system. The gay and trans panic defense should never have been allowed. LGBTQ New Yorkers are grateful that we can now feel safer knowing that we are one step closer to having our lives equally valued and represented under the law.”

Jeff Rindler, Executive Director, Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center said, “This revision to our legal system has been long overdue. The human rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers are non-negotiable, and now this hateful excuse will no longer be a permissible defense for homophobic and transphobic hate crimes, which are on the rise. For transgender women of color who experience higher rates of violence, this law is the next step in solidifying protections for our community. I applaud and thankGovernor Cuomo and all the advocates and legislators who worked tirelessly to pass this legislation.”

Kelsey Louie, CEO, GMHC said, “The beginning of the Stonewall rebellion was in New York City and it was in reaction to hate-fueled actions. Fifty years have passed since the beginning of our LGBT rights movement and New York has been a model for LGBT equality, setting a national standard that the rest of the country must follow. We thank Governor Cuomo for closing a loophole which permitted the murder of gay and trans New Yorkers due to their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. This ensures that justice will be served for LGBTQ New Yorkers who are the victims of homophobia and transphobia.”

Kristen Prata Browde, Board President, LGBT Bar Association of Greater New York and Co-Chair Board of Directors, National Trans Bar Association said,”This shows the kind of change that good government can and should bring. Banning the trans and gay panic defense is a huge step towards equality for LGBTQ New Yorkers. Governor Cuomo not only recognized the absurdity of giving someone a lesser sentence or even a pass after murdering someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, he fought hard for the ban. As the Governor signs the bill he is once again showing that New York truly is a beacon to the world and to every LGBTQ person.”

The Governor also released a new video for social media featuring Delores Nettles, the mother of Islan Nettles, a transgender woman who was brutally murdered in Harlem in 2013 and whose assailant used the gay and trans panic legal defense in court. Watch the video here.

Hundreds Join #ReleasetheReport Rally in Times Square, NYC during Nationwide ‘Nobody is Above the Law Day of Action’

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Hundreds turned out for a #ReleasetheReport rally and #MarchforTruth in Times Square, New York City, on Thursday, April 4 to demand the release of the full Mueller Report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign colluded and Trump obstructed justice © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Hundreds turned out for a rally in Times Square, New York City, on Thursday, April 4 to demand the release of the full Mueller Report into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign directly or indirectly engaged. It was one of hundreds of protests around the country in a “Nobody is Above the Law Day of Action” to call for full transparency mobilized by the grassroots activist organization, Indivisible, along with coalition partners including MoveOn, Public Citizen, People For the American Way, and others.

“1 week later [after Mueller released his report] and we still don’t have the full Mueller report. But, here’s what we know: Mueller’s investigation has led to 34 indictments, 7 guilty pleas, and a conclusion that the President of the United States cannot be exonerated — and Attorney General Barr’s sanitized summary is not enough to close this case.”

Since then, the New York Times has reported that some Mueller investigators “have told associates that Attorney General William P. Barr failed to adequately portray the findings of their inquiry and that they were more troubling for President Trump than Mr. Barr indicated, according to government officials and others familiar with their simmering frustrations.” (“Some on Mueller’s Team Say Report Was More Damaging Than Barr Revealed”)

Stand Up America demands the release of the full Mueller Report. “If the report weren’t damaging for Trump, his lapdogs in Congress wouldn’t be working so hard to suppress it.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“If the report weren’t damaging for Trump, his lapdogs in Congress wouldn’t be working so hard to suppress,” said the speaker from Stand Up America, a progressive grassroots organization that formed just weeks after the November 2016 election. Citing the numerous instances of collusion between Trump campaign and Russian operatives that were already known: secret real estate deal with the Kremlin during the campaign; seven officials meeting with Russian agents; passing secret internal strategy to Russian agents, he declared, “If this is not collusion, collusion has no meaning.”

Mueller investigators were also looking into obstruction of justice “and boy did he find it: firing FBI Director Comey to stop the Russia investigation.

“Collusion and obstruction is included in the full Mueller report. Even Attorney General Barr said so.

“But instead of answers, gave Trump ammunition to say ‘no collusion, full exoneration’ but we have learned we have been taken for a ride. The report doesn’t let Trump off the hook.

“The Attorney General is nothing but a lying White House waterboy.”

The Senate Republicans have blocked the release of the Mueller Report – despite the House Judiciary committee’s subpoena – for the fifth time.

“If it weren’t incriminating, Trump would tweet it out, line by line.”

Here are highlights from the#ReleasetheReport  rally and march:

Sing Out Louise offers pre-protest show of song parodies to cheer the crowd. “Our Broadway debut!” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Jumanne Williams, New York City’s Public Advocate, at the #ReleasetheReport Mueller rally in Times Square © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Release the Muller Report rally and march, Times Square, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Release the Muller Report rally and march, Times Square, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Release the Muller Report rally and march, Times Square, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Release the Muller Report rally and march, Times Square, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Release the Muller Report rally and march, Times Square, NYC © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

See also: Thousands of New Yorkers Turn Out to Protect Mueller Investigation, Joining 1000 Protests Nationwide

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Malcolm Nance: Installing Trump as President is Part of Putin’s Plot to Destroy Democracy

Malcolm Nance, counterterrorism and intelligence consultant and frequent MSNBC commentator, sheds light on “The Plot to Destroy Democracy” at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Malcolm Nance, the counterterrorism and intelligence expert seen frequently on MSNBC, was watching the early Midterm Election returns on November 6, 2018, and was frantic. “We are ‘x’ number of days from the end of American democracy,” he thought. “If we lose and Republicans keep control, Trump will be like Saddam Hussein” believing he could wield unbridled power.

“We saved democracy – put collective values together and decided not to let government go unchecked. Before, we were rather reserved about how bad things were – seeing our constitutional republic collapsing before our eyes,” he said, in a return visit to Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island, December 7.

“The shock to our belief system came from Russia, but not the Russians alone. It had to include others,” said the author of “The Plot to Destroy Democracy.”

His book documents how Putin needed to make Russia – essentially a third world country with atomic bombs – great again by destroying, degrading the  #1 country at top, the US. Russia, he noted, is a very poor nation, with a Gross National Product equal to Italy. “The US does more trade with Chile than Russia. Russia is a trailer park with atomic bombs – all they sell is weapons, oil, natural gas.”

Russia is led by Putin, an ex-KGB officer, who, when he left Russian intel service, was collapsing. “Putin became the controller, the enforcer of the Russian Mafia in St. Petersburg.

“What happened to Russia after Communism was unbridled, unabashed, crazy Mafia-like capitalism, out of control for 10 years. Russia sold off tanks, airports, took the money and put it into Western real estate – some to New York City – to launder money.

Putin became a billionaire, but something was missing. When Soviet Russia collapsed, what was the philosophy to replace Communism?  Putin realized something fundamental – Russians are extremely conservative – religious – they don’t believe in the family values of the West.

The Russian society had to be built anew and Putin knew to steer it more deeply to the Russian Orthodox Church. As the first director of Russian intel, he rebuilt a church next to KGB headquarters (it had been torture center under Stalin) because he realized if he controlled the Russian Orthodox Church, he could bring the population in line. He started funding rebuilding of Russian orthodox churches. Russians are extremely [socially] conservative, so he introduced policies to cater to homophobes and racists [just as Trump is catering to anti-immigrant fervor].

So in 2010, American Conservatives started saying out loud that Russia was a better example of Christian Conservatism than the West. The National Organization of Families – an extremist group – started holding “Persecution of Christians” conferences in Moscow. “Aggrieved Americans who hated Muslims, would fly to Moscow, meet with people from the Russian Orthodox Church and Russian government, and talk about the persecution of Christians around the world.” By 2015, Franklin Graham, son of Christian evangelist Billy Graham, was flying to Moscow and meeting with Putin.

“Russians understood this was part of America they could work with – they could co-opt. There is a lot of reporting about how Russians and Christian evangelicals in the US have been working together for the last decade.”

Another group, the NRA, was also vulnerable. Enter Maria Butina, who, by all definitions is a spy – a “honeypot,” a trained agent who will have sex to get what they want. She cultivated NRA leaders. In July 2015, she appeared at a FreedomFest  Q&A session in Las Vegas featuring Trump and got to pose the first question, to describe his foreign policy and his views on “damaging” economic sanctions against Russia. “I know Putin and I’ll tell you what, we get along with Putin,” Trump said. “I don’t think you’d need the sanctions.”

“Out of nowhere, she asks the first question. I see an intel operation,” Nance said. “Two years ago, I was first on national TV to say the US was under attack with intel op. From Russians’ perspective, How do we co-opt the US? What resources do we put into place? (See: Maria Butina Loved Guns, Trump and Russia. It Was a Cover, Prosecutors Say.)

[The FBI and Mueller are investigating whether the $30 million the NRA spent to elect Trump actually came from Russia.]

“David Duke has an apartment in Moscow. All the senior Alt-Right leaders, who organized the Charlottesville riot, believe Russia is bastion of Christian conservativism, the pinnacle example of how we should behave [in the US].

“Most important; Russia already co-opted virtually ever conservative group in Europe. Because when the Soviet Union fell and rejected Communism and brought themselves into strongman autocratic leadership, European conservative groups – ex-Fascists – were looking for leadership and money.

“The government of Austria is controlled by a political party organized in 1952 by two Austrian SS officers who later rose up in power. They had no chance of ruling in government until last 10 years. The rise of right wing fascist political parties in Europe is part of this story that will scare you – because these are same political groups [as the Nazis].” A warning that resonated profoundly in this audience in the synagogue.

“In Germany, the AFD – Alternative for Deutschland – is anti immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic. They are unabashed in their open racism, in their belief that liberal democracy should be supplanted by conservative groups in the West who will create an axis of autocracies, and make laws so no one has to vote anymore.

“Remember that Hitler was elected with 37% of vote – before Nazi Germany, it was the Weimar Republic. He was elected in a fair and free election, but once in power, he changed the laws.”

That movie, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” Nance said, was about showing that people need to be held accountable. “When I saw the film later as an adult, I understood what the trial was – of the German Supreme Court justices who validated every law justifying rape, murder, sterilization. They justified execution through lethal injection of every mentally ill patient in the country. Then they authorized the mass murder of 6 million Jews, while Hitler’s wars around Europe killed 50 million more.

“The Supreme Court Justices of Nazi Germany were elected, the government was elected. People chose them. Then they changed laws to make everything they did legal in the Nazi German system.

“’Judgment at Nuremberg’ is about how it was amoral to human decency to do what they did. They needed to be held accountable. Even as a young guy, I understood it was wrong to hurt people using the legal system,” said Nance, who noted that he had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Philadelphia, and had his understanding of the Shoah profoundly changed after visiting Auschwitz.

[One should note at this point that the perversion of law is exactly what the Indian Removal Act, the Dred Scott Decision, and Jim Crow were about. And now, how Republicans in lameduck session, are stripping power from incoming duly-elected Democrats in Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina.]

“What kind of upside down world are we living in? We have to put the lines back in place. If we don’t – and maybe the win in Congress in 2018 is an aberration – if Trump doesn’t get impeached, or if he is impeached but survives and wins 4 more years – we will get a repeat of history.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Putin’s plan is simple: to get rid of democracy you don’t need to have a coup d’etat, you can do it through election that votes democracy out of existence.

Steve Bannon, former advisor to the president, is an adherent to the philosophy of Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin, dubbed “Putin’s Rasputin” by Breitbart News when it was run by Steve Bannon. Dugin advocates for neo-EuroAsianism, where the poles of power from Washington to the European capitals to the rest of world, should be eliminated, along with West. (See: The Russian ‘philosopher’ who links Putin, Bannon, Turkey: Alexander Dugin)

If figures in Putin’s efforts to shift Turkey’s alliance from NATO to Russia and to ally with Syria and Iran – moves that Michael Flynn, who was a paid lobbyist for Turkey’s Erdogan, was effecting.

“The election of Trump is the end state of what Russia doing in Europe- every major political party in Europe is owned by the United Russia Party that loaned money. The French candidate, Marine le Pen in France, got 50 million Euro loan from Putin. Her job was to break up NATO and the European Union on one day; she spoke about it openly and publicly.

Far right extremism was pushing across Europe. It was only the common sense of the French people in March 2017 [and reports of Russia hacking of social media, as in the 2016 election in the US] that saved European democracy from collapsing. The European Union would have broken up if France withdrew. It was a very near thing. But they got away with putting Trump into office.”

“It is very bad for the US if all our allies start collapsing one by one… If Britain doesn’t get its act together in next 90 days, they can face economic collapse.

“Brexit – the Leave group – are saying ‘Donald Trump will give us unilateral deal.’ The last time that happened was Lend Lease. The Atlantic was on fire, Europe fell under the Nazis. Who talks like that?

“Like Alexander Dugin, Trump uses ‘globalist’ as if a dirty word. We invented globalism when we started shipping all over world. We saved Britain, invaded France. Trump doesn’t understand any of that.

“How critical it is for you to watch what is happening in Europe – it is run by open fascists who come from ex Nazi party, who are close to Putin and also to Trump. This is why Steve Bannon went to Europe, where he said, ‘When they call you a racist, embrace it. Wear it as a badge of honor.’

“What kind of upside down world are we living in? We have to put the lines back in place. If we don’t – and maybe the win in Congress in 2018 is an aberration – if Trump doesn’t get impeached, or if he is impeached but survives and wins 4 more years – we will get a repeat of history.”

Nance, in response to a question, said that the Americans who were involved in the theft of the 2016 election committed treason.

As to whether Republicans would ever abandon Trump, he said that once the evidence is released, if it is so overwhelming, “this nation will end up in a Benedict Arnold moment. It will be so clear that Trump was to win at all cost, to make money and be master of the universe, and because he would control the government, he would be untouchable and still get the Ivanka Spa in the Trump Moscow Tower. It will be so clear, so overwhelming, this eclipses Benedict Arnold. We have a president under the control of a foreign power.”

But will he be impeached? Indicted? Or pardon himself and his entire family?

One possibility: at the point Republicans are convinced that Trump is damaging their brand, possibly even causing the party to disappear into a miasma of fascism, kleptocracy and bankruptcy, the leaders will come to Trump with an offer he can’t refuse: they will suspend prosecution of Don Jr., Ivanka and Jared Kushner, halt impeachment and promise not to prosecute him for the many felonies (campaign finance violations, tax fraud, money laundering, conspiracy with a foreign adversary) if he resigns. That would save the party for Mike Pence, who is in fact the president they wanted all along.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump Says is Standing with Saudi Arabia as Ally Which Promises to Spend $450 Billion in US: ‘America First!’

Citing Saudi Arabia’s promise to spend $450 billion in the US and its oil production and ability to raise or lower oil prices, Donald Trump says he will stand by his ally and ignore the allegations of culpability of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the savage murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. “Very simply it is called America First!” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Donald Trump issued a statement unequivocally standing with Saudi Arabia, declaring “America First!,” and stressing that Saudi Arabia “agreed” to spend a record $450 billion in the US, while throwing darts at Iran to defend Saudi Arabia’s actions in Yemen that have contributed to the most severe humanitarian crisis on the planet, and all but dismissing any accountability for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. 

“Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an ‘enemy of the state’ and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump declared. 

“The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.” 

Here is his statement, highlighted —Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

 The world is a very dangerous place!

The country of Iran, as an example, is responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen, trying to destabilize Iraq’s fragile attempt at democracy, supporting the terror group Hezbollah in Lebanon, propping up dictator Bashar Assad in Syria (who has killed millions of his own citizens), and much more. Likewise, the Iranians have killed many Americans and other innocent people throughout the Middle East. Iran states openly, and with great force, “Death to America!” and “Death to Israel!” Iran is considered “the world’s leading sponsor of terror.”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave. They would immediately provide desperately needed humanitarian assistance. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has agreed to spend billions of dollars in leading the fight against Radical Islamic Terrorism.

After my heavily negotiated trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Kingdom agreed to spend and invest $450 billion in the United States. This is a record amount of money. It will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, tremendous economic development, and much additional wealth for the United States. Of the $450 billion, $110 billion will be spent on the purchase of military equipment from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and many other great U.S. defense contractors. If we foolishly cancel these contracts, Russia and China would be the enormous beneficiaries – and very happy to acquire all of this newfound business. It would be a wonderful gift to them directly from the United States!

The crime against Jamal Khashoggi was a terrible one, and one that our country does not condone. Indeed, we have taken strong action against those already known to have participated in the murder. After great independent research, we now know many details of this horrible crime. We have already sanctioned 17 Saudis known to have been involved in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the disposal of his body.

Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, but my decision is in no way based on that – this is an unacceptable and horrible crime. King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi. Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!

That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!

I understand there are members of Congress who, for political or other reasons, would like to go in a different direction – and they are free to do so. I will consider whatever ideas are presented to me, but only if they are consistent with the absolute security and safety of America. After the United States, Saudi Arabia is the largest oil producing nation in the world. They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels – so important for the world. As President of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First!