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1000 and counting

richardson

Having served for seven years as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho and worked for a year for the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, I am acquainted with over 200 former federal prosecutors. It is my observation that federal prosecutors, as a group, are exceptionally deliberate. For the most part, they are – by training and experience – not likely to go out on a limb in reaching prosecutorial decisions or making their views on other prosecutors’ decisions public.

Thus, it is remarkable that, at latest count, no less than 1,000 former federal prosecutors – Democrats, Republicans and political independents – have signed a crystal clear statement asserting: “Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”

The Statement then references “several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming.”

These include:

· The President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort;

· The President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and

· The President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.

The Statement emphasizes that these “are not matters of close professional judgment” and concludes with the reminder that “prosecuting obstruction of justice cases is critical because unchecked obstruction — which allows intentional interference with criminal investigations to go unpunished — puts our whole system of justice at risk.”

Make no mistake. This kind of overwhelming expression of disagreement by former federal prosecutors with an incumbent attorney general is not an everyday occurrence. Indeed, it is unprecedented.

I am proud to have signed the Statement.

Under Department of Justice guidance, when the evidence is sufficiently strong and the federal interest to be vindicated is substantial, prosecution should commence or be recommended even in instances when a prosecutor might doubt that, due to the popularity of an individual, a jury might be unlikely to convict.

While we can question the president’s popularity with the general public, conventional wisdom has it that the U.S. Senate, with its Republican majority, would be unlikely to produce the two-thirds vote needed to convict, should the House vote to impeach.

But there are times when the charging process itself furthers the interests of justice. In my view, this is such a time.

For those claiming that Democrats would pay a political price were they to proceed with impeachment, I would note that 2019 is not 1998 and Donald Trump is not Bill Clinton. Moreover, Mr. Trump's alleged wrongdoing is infinitely more extensive and damaging to our republic and the rule of law than the matters for which Clinton was accused.

It is of course possible that Democrats would pay a political price if they proceed with impeachment, as it would allow Trump to play the victim, a role at which he excels. But I believe we will pay a greater price if we do not have the courage of our convictions, if - in this time of national peril - we pull our punches and fail to act. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in a different but equally compelling context, “It is always the right time to do the right thing.”
 

Shooting from the lip

richardson

Donald J. Trump’s penchant for making shoot-from-the-lip accusations may have given former FBI Director James Comey and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe fodder for a defamation lawsuit against the president.

Last week Trump broadly accused unnamed officials of spying on his campaign and committing treason, a crime punishable by death. When pressed to identify who had committed Treason, Trump got specific, naming Comey and McCabe, and a few others.

Generally speaking, a defamatory statement is one that is: (1) a false statement of fact (2) negligently or intentionally communicated or published to a third party (3) causing injury or damage to the subject of the statement. Libel and slander are different types of defamation. Libel is a written defamatory statement, and slander is an oral defamatory statement.

Different rules of proof apply depending whether the person alleged to be defamed is a public person or private person. If a private person, he or she will typically need to prove only that the person making the statement acted negligently in making the statement, in failing to ascertain its truth or falsity.

However, if the person defamed is a public person, the plaintiff must meet a higher standard of proof. Liability for defamation of a public figure can only be established if the person making the statement actually knew that the statement was false or acted with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity of the statement. Comey and McCabe are public figures so the higher standard applies.

The official White House transcript of a Q and A between NBC News’ Peter Alexander and the president sets out the following exchange:

ALEXANDER: Sir, the Constitution says treason is punishable by death. You’ve accused your adversaries of treason. Who specifically are you accusing of treason?

TRUMP: Well, I think a number of people. And I think what you look is that they have unsuccessfully tried to take down the wrong person.

ALEXANDER: Who are you speaking of?

TRUMP: If you look at Comey; if you look at McCabe; if you look at probably people – people higher than that; if you look at Strzok; if you look at his lover, Lisa Page, his wonderful lover – the two lovers, they talked openly.

In light of the foregoing, we must first ask whether the president made a false statement of fact.

Article III Section 3 of the Constitution defines treason in the United States as follows: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court. The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason. . . .”

Congress in fact declared the punishment of treason in 18 United States Code Sec. 2381. It provides that “Whoever . . . . is guilty of treason . . . shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

Clearly, Trump’s statement of fact was false; there are no facts to support his made-of-whole cloth assertion that Comey and McCabe committed treason. We are not at war (the last time we were at war within the meaning of the Constitution and statute was WWII) and Trump’s complaint was not that Comey and McCabe had aided an enemy of our country; rather he claimed they acted to “take down the wrong person,” namely him.

Next, we ask whether the president published his false statement of fact to a third party. Clearly the answer is “yes.” He made his accusation on national television. It had a very wide audience.

The next step is to consider whether the statement caused harm to those the president accused.

A statement is defamatory if it tends to hold the subject of the statement up to scorn, hatred, ridicule, disgrace, or contempt in the mind of any considerable and respectable segment of the community. One need only watch Fox News (briefly) to discern that, subsequent to – and as a consequence of – the president’s statement, Comey and McCabe have been subjected to such scorn, ridicule, and contempt. Moreover, many jurisdictions hold that allegations that an individual has committed a serious, notorious, or immoral crime; has an infectious or terrible disease, or is incompetent in his or her job, trade, or profession constitutes defamation per se. There can be no doubt that Comey and McCabe were harmed by the president’s false statement.

Finally, we must inquire whether the president knew, or should have known, that his accusation of treason was false. In other words, did he act with reckless disregard of the truth?

I have long doubted that Mr. Trump has read the U.S. Constitution. He may not actually have known that his accusation was false. But he should have known. He had every reason to know, every opportunity to know and, it can be fairly said, a duty to know.

When he was inaugurated, Mr. Trump took an oath of office, one prescribed by the Constitution. He raised his right hand, placed his left hand on a Bible, and echoed the words of Chief Justice Roberts who administered the oath: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

One who has pledged to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” can be expected to know its provisions. If Mr. Trump did not know that the targets of his accusation had not committed treason, he should have known.

As long ago as 1861, a piece in the New York Times explained: “Treason has ever been deemed the highest crime which can be committed in civil society; since its aim is an overthrow of the Government and a public resistance by force of its just powers, its tendency is to create universal danger and alarm, and on this account it has often been visited with the deepest public resentment.”

The framers of the Constitution took deliberate steps to ensure that accusations of treason would not be used as weapons against one’s political opponents. Now the president, in his rage and ignorance, has recklessly leveled this utterly specious and damning accusation at specific individuals.

And those individuals just may have a case.
 

It’s time

richardson

We cannot fulfill our roles as citizens if we are unable to evaluate the president’s conduct vis-à-vis Russia and the Special Counsel’s investigation. And we cannot evaluate that conduct unless we can read the full Mueller Report. A four page cherry-picked summary written by an Attorney General who won his job by promising to have the president’s back will not suffice.

When he auditioned for the job, Attorney General William Barr sent to the White House an unsolicited 20 page Memorandum in which he gave an extremely expansive view of presidential power. He suggested that the president has all-encompassing constitutional authority over actions by the executive branch in enforcing the law.

Although Barr’s sweeping view on presidential power has scant support in precedent, the Memorandum had its intended effect. Trump wanted someone who would protect him and Barr was the man for the job. But lest we forget, the Attorney General is not the president’s lawyer. He’s our lawyer; he’s the people’s lawyer.

For two years, the American people patiently waited for Special Counsel Mueller to complete his investigation and make his findings. From all outward appearances, Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors and investigators operated with the utmost professionalism, cutting square corners, working long hours, and, in a city known for leaking like a proverbial sieve, the Mueller investigation was absolutely leak-proof.

Now that Mueller has finished his work and submitted his Report, it languishes on the Attorney General’s desk. There is no legitimate excuse for this delay. One could be forgiven for thinking that the only reason Barr has not yet provided even a redacted version to Congress is to give the president’s narrative of complete exoneration time to set in the public mind. But finally, it seems, the public is not so easily fooled.

Not so long ago, Mr. Trump said he wanted the full report to be made public. In fact, he declared that millions upon millions of Americans wanted to see the Report. Indeed we do.

But now the president rattles his saber and threatens to direct the Attorney General to hide the entire document. What has changed? Why does Mr. Trump, who was quick to take a premature victory lap, now fear letting the report see the light of day?

Perhaps it is because poll after poll tells us that the American people aren’t buying what Mr. Trump is selling. He claims the Mueller Report gave him total, across the board exoneration. It did nothing of the kind. With regard to obstruction of justice issues, Mueller wrote: "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

Mr. Barr has noted that Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure forbid the production of grand jury testimony and materials. That’s true. What is also true is that the rule of grand jury secrecy is subject to exceptions.

For instance, a government attorney can petition a federal court to authorize release of grand jury materials in special circumstances. But to the best of our knowledge, Barr has done nothing more than sit on his hands and whistle in the wind.

His failure to take this obvious step to seek judicial authorization to release grand jury materials is inconsistent with his testimony at his confirmation hearing when he promised under oath to make public as much of the Report as possible. He appears to be breaking that promise.

And when it comes to obstruction of justice, we need to know why the Attorney General rushed in to decide the issue when Robert Mueller did not. Special Counsel Mueller is no shrinking violet. In his long career, Mueller has made very tough calls in some of the most complex and challenging investigations of some of the most notorious criminal actors.

Did Robert Mueller expect the Attorney General to take it upon himself to draw a conclusion that Mueller refrained from drawing? I don’t think so.
The whole concept of a Special Counsel is to take prosecutorial decision-making out of the hands of political appointees, such as William Barr. I believe Robert Mueller intended that the Report go to Congress and that the responsibility to decide on obstruction of justice rest with Congress.
But we cannot know for sure because we have yet to see the report.

Our founding fathers wisely divided federal power among three branches of government: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. Congress, as the legislative branch, must fulfill its role as a check and balance on the executive branch and that includes oversight, determining whether officials were obeying the law.

Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates recently wrote that the Mueller investigation was “not about some tangential issue. It was about a foreign adversary’s attempt to subvert our election; it cuts to the very core of our democracy.”

With each passing day, Congress is limited in its knowledge of what really happened and hamstrung in its ability to keep our elections free from Russian interference. To this very day, Mr. Trump has ignored the findings of his own intelligence agencies and taken no steps whatsoever to protect future elections. Whether he conspired or not, Mr. Trump benefitted from Russia’s interference in our election, and it appears he wants to benefit again.

It’s time Mr. Barr honor his oath of office; it’s time he keep the promise he made to the U.S. Senate at his confirmation hearing. He must stop acting as the president’s wingman and start acting as the attorney for the American people. It’s time he releases the full Mueller Report to Congress. Indeed, it is past time.
 

Intended consequences

richardson

From the day Donald Trump descended his golden escalator to announce for president, he has been obsessed with the notion that immigrants are a threat to our nation's safety: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. . . . They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

Subsequently, he has expanded his vilification net to include ever more people from south of our border. Late last week, Mr. Trump declared he will cut off all foreign aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and is likely to close our southern border, purportedly to deter migrants lawfully seeking asylum in the United States. Under both U.S. and international law, we must offer individuals a fair opportunity to seek asylum.

Since last week's announcement, pundit after pundit has opined that, if Trump wants to stop migration from Central America, cutting off foreign aid and closing the southern border are the last things he should do. Indeed, the talking heads observe, such actions will almost certainly have a devastating effect on the economies and social structure of these countries, increasing -- not decreasing -- the numbers of people desperately seeking asylum.

They shake their heads and comment that Mr. Trump’s actions will result in “unintended consequences.” To these pundits I reply, “Nonsense! Further chaos and stress at the border are not unintended consequences; rather these are precisely the tensions the president very purposefully wants to exacerbate.” If his national security advisors and the Congress refuse to recognize a national emergency, he’ll see to it there is one. The man is so hell bent on being proven right that he’ll create the emergency himself.

The term “unintended consequences” usually refers to outcomes that are not the ones sought by someone who takes a given action. Here, Trump claims he wants to improve the situation at the border; in fact, he will make things much worse. But the "making it worse" outcome will come as no surprise to the president. Mr. Trump’s cruel actions won’t “backfire,” they will ignite a fire. And that is precisely what he intends to do.
 

How dare he threaten us

richardson

Recently the president said, "I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad."

This is thinly veiled code for, "You Lefties better watch yourselves because I can summon heavily armed people to mow you down." This is incredibly offensive, and the fact that it is absurd makes it no less so.

Since the earliest days of his presidential campaign, the Divider-in-Chief has woven ugly threads of hate and fear into our nation’s fabric.

Now he insults those who serve our country and wear a law enforcement badge by suggesting that they would put loyalty to him above their oaths of office, that "at a certain point" they would turn their weapons on their fellow citizens.

American soldiers and police are not the president's people. They are "our" people. Yes, there are rogue cops and others who dishonor their profession but, far and away, the vast majority of those who swear to serve and protect do exactly that. They are tough in a way that Mr. Trump cannot possibly understand. Moral toughness, selfless “I would lay down my life for others” toughness is something this president utterly lacks. Having no such honor himself he is loath to see it in others.

Those who have committed violent acts in response to the president's vile rhetoric are likely unqualified to serve in our nation's armed forces and could not obtain admission to law enforcement academies. It would seem they are unstable haters upon whose rampant insecurities Trump gleefully preys. By egging them on and talking "tough," Trump has emboldened them. And when he lights the fuse and violence ensues, he – no less than those he incites – has blood on his hands.

All Americans should denounce Trump's empty, odious threats. We must condemn his attempt to exploit our finest in pursuit of his cruel political agenda.
 

A President’s Day protest

richardson

I’m writing this on President’s Day and can think of no better way to celebrate the executive branch of our government than to protest President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on our southern border.

In his first inaugural address, one of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, called upon his countrymen to find the “better angels of our nature,” and in his second inaugural address, Lincoln returned to this uplifting theme urging “malice toward none with charity toward all.”

Sadly, our current president seems hell-bent on flipping those famous words on their head as he calls upon the most craven impulses and shows malice toward all and charity toward none – unless perhaps one is a member of Club Mar-a-Lago.
Indeed, it would be hard to imagine two more different presidents, both Republicans, than Abraham Lincoln and Donald Trump.

Two years ago, Mr. Trump took a sacred oath to “faithfully execute his office and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." By declaring a national emergency with respect to circumstances on our Southern border and announcing his intent to shift billions of dollars to fund his border wall, the president is violating that oath. His policy is unwise, ineffective and inhumane. And his most recent actions to implement that policy are, I believe, unconstitutional.

Our founding fathers wisely divided federal power among three branches of government: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. Among the powers given to Congress is the exclusive power of the purse. Article I, Section 9 states: “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.” Thus, the executive branch cannot spend money unless the legislative branch has passed a law authorizing the spending.

Congress has given the president broad authority in the 1976 National Emergencies Act to declare a state of emergency, but the Act doesn’t define what “emergency” means. Even so, it would seem a monumental stretch to conclude that it means whatever the president says it means. There must be sideboards of reasonableness and reality.

It would be absurd if a president who was frustrated by Congressional inaction on a funding initiative could – regardless of the facts – simply declare a national emergency to achieve his ends. What Mr. Trump labels a “national emergency” is but a pretext, a manufactured scenario to enable him to get his way. A reasonable person can assess the situation on our nation’s southern border and conclude that it presents serious problems, but no reasonable person could conclude that those problems rise to the level of a national emergency.

An actual emergency would seem to demand urgent action. But the president conceded that he “didn’t need to do this” and acknowledged that, having an eye to the 2020 election, he merely wanted to speed up the process.

An actual emergency would likely be identified by the intelligence community in its comprehensive threat assessment to Congress. But there was not a single mention.

And an actual emergency would be supported by objective data permitting the reasonable inference that an emergency exists. Such data is utterly lacking. Mr. Trump’s assertions regarding the purported “emergency,” were gross exaggerations, half-truths, and outright lies.

But let’s assume for a minute – just for the sake of argument – that the southern border presents a national emergency for purposes of the Act. Where can the president turn to find the money to fund the wall? Under the National Emergencies Act, a presidential declaration of an emergency unlocks other provisions. One provision allows a president to spend already appropriated money for “military construction projects.” Another provision allows him to divert money from already appropriated disaster relief.

Only twice before in our history have presidents relied on emergency powers to spend funds on something other than that for which Congress had appropriated them. The first time was when George Herbert Walker Bush made his Persian Gulf War emergency declaration. The second time was when George W. Bush declared a national emergency after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In both of these instances, however, the transfer of monies funded projects that Congress had considered and rejected. In contrast, Congress has clearly considered and rejected the president’s demand for $5.7 billion in wall funding. Instead, it provided $1.4 billion for steel fencing. Thus, the situation before us is unprecedented.

Can Congress do anything to prevent this executive overreach? It certainly can. This National Emergencies Act allows Congress to reject a president’s emergency declaration by a joint resolution passed by a majority vote in each house.

We can predict that the House of Representatives will comfortably pass such a resolution and, since it is deemed privileged, it will be guaranteed a vote on the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cannot reach into his bag of tricks to stop that vote.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the president can veto the resolution. And, in order to override a presidential veto, the joint resolution must pass both houses with a 2/3 super majority.

In Federalist 47, James Madison wrote: “[t]he accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many…may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” Madison and other founders reasonably expected that each branch would be vigilant in protecting their own rights and responsibilities. The dual and complimentary concepts of separation of powers and checks and balances only work if members of each branch actively protect their branch, if they tack to the Constitution and not the agenda of any party or president.

So, we are compelled to ask: Will Congress step up? And, closer to home, we ask: Will Idaho’s congressional delegation capitulate to Mr. Trump’s power grab or will they defend Congress as a separate and equal branch of government? We must ask them to grow a spine and stand up for the rule of law; we must urge them to protect our founders’ bedrock principles; we must demand that they rise to this singular and critical occasion.

I began this piece by quoting our Sixteenth president, and I will close by again quoting Lincoln. In his famous address at Gettysburg, the Great Emancipator saluted the service of those who gave their full measure of devotion so that “government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.” It seems that throughout our nation’s history, each generation has been called to save our republic, this people-focused government of which Lincoln spoke. We have resisted forces from within and without that would undermine and destroy us, that would cut short our long-standing experiment as a constitutional democracy.

Now it is our turn. It is our turn to stand for the rule of law. It is our turn to resist tyranny. And it is our turn to do what this president seems utterly unwilling to do – to preserve, protect and defend our Constitution.

May we rise to the occasion; may we be equal to the task.

Reflections on the shutdown

richardson

As our nation breaths a collective sigh of relief that the government shutdown has ended, it’s worth reflecting on the factors that forced the president to stop holding federal workers hostage even though his demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall went unmet.

I think the shutdown ended because of the convergence of four factors: (1) Trump’s poll numbers were in free fall; (2) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell finally allowed a vote on two competing bills to re-open the government. Neither passed, but the Democratic proposal received more votes than the Republican bill; (3) The FAA issued a full ground stop at LaGuardia Airport in New York due to massive delays; and (4) Nancy Pelosi made it unmistakably clear that there would be no State of the Union address from the House chamber until the government re-opened. This fourth factor, I suspect, was far and away the most important.

What did NOT sway the president was the suffering of 800,000 federal workers and many more federal contractors. Countless stories of people facing eviction, rationing insulin, and lining up at food pantries did not move the president one iota. He did not “feel their pain.” Surely, these whiners were Democrats, part of his imagined “deep state,” no doubt the local grocers would give them credit, the landlords, pharmacies, and utility companies would be “happy to work with them.” Couldn’t they all just get bridge loans or call a rich uncle?

We know that Trump is cruel. We’ve seen it time after time – at his rallies, in his rhetoric, in his utter indifference to the pain and suffering of victims of tragedies from hurricanes to mass shootings. But he knows that others have compassion, and he was counting on that compassion to make others capitulate, to give him what he wanted so the pain and suffering would stop.

And this brings me back to Nancy Pelosi. She and her caucus, compassion intact, did not capitulate to the president’s pig-headed cruelty. In her words, “We cannot have the president, every time he has an objection, to say I’ll shut down the government until you come to my way of thinking … If we hold the employees hostage now, they’re hostage forever.” And Pelosi made clear that – while the government remained shut down – she would not engage in negotiations. She would not allow the president to use the federal workforce as leverage for his wall. Her message was plain. “Open the government, and then we can talk.”

Day after day, the president didn’t budge. But then, seemingly overnight, he not only budged but completely yielded, ending the shutdown and getting nothing to meet his $5.7 billion demand. The logjam broke not long after Pelosi wrote the president a gently worded letter in which she "respectfully suggested" the two of them find "another suitable date" for the president to give his State of the Union speech—once the shutdown had ended.

In response, Trump acted as if he had not been disinvited writing to let her know he was planning to show up anyway, end of discussion. But unlike the president, the Speaker has more than a passing familiarity with U.S. Constitution. In Article II, Section 3, the Constitution mandates that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” It does not state how or when these recommendations should be given.

Mr. Trump could give such information and make such recommendations from the Oval Office, or some other venue, or he could deliver remarks in writing, as other presidents had done. What he could not do; however, was to speak from the House Chamber without a concurrent resolution from Congress extending him an invitation.
Well knowing that nothing but a prime-time, all the bells and whistles speech would satisfy this reality TV president, the Speaker held firm. In unambiguous prose, she replied: “I am writing to inform you that the House of Representatives will not consider a concurrent resolution authorizing the President’s State of the Union address in the House Chamber until government has opened.”

Upon receipt of this letter, one of the president’s fearful minions no doubt explained to the boss that the Speaker could, in fact, disinvite him and had, in fact, done so. His bullying and manipulation hadn’t worked. He was forced to concede. After that, it was just a matter of time before the government would re-open. The pain of the shutdown had become personal to the president.

There are those who say that Pelosi’s stand was “petty,” and “foolish,” that she “stooped to his level.” To those people I ask, “Did you want to end the shutdown or not?” Pelosi’s approach to the bully-in-chief was smart and strategic and effective. Until Mr. Trump felt some personal pain, he wasn’t going to budge. Nancy Pelosi made sure he did.
 

The real crisis

richardson

In his speech from the Oval Office, Trump dwelled on a handful of grisly scenarios, relating in detail violent crimes committed against U.S. citizens by undocumented people.

He did this well-knowing that undocumented individuals commit violent crimes (indeed all crimes) at a per capita rate far lower than that of U.S. citizens. Yet, in his relentless demand for billions of taxpayer dollars to fund his foolish wall the demagogue asked, "How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?"

When he posed this question, I had a brief and fleeting thought -- what if he had issued this call for action not in response to a non-existent crisis on our southern border, but in response to the real, tangible, documented epidemic of gun violence?

What if "Congress" doing "its job" meant enacting reasonable and constitutionally sound gun safety legislation supported by the vast majority of Americans, legislation requiring universal background checks, allowing the CDC to conduct research on gun violence, and re-instating the assault weapons ban?
What if "American blood shed" referred to the more than one hundred thousand Americans who are shot each year in murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, or by police intervention?

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has the chilling numbers: almost 90,000 Americans are injured and 35,000 Americans die each year from gun violence.

Border security is an important topic and it needs to be responsibly addressed, but there is no border crisis. I want to hear a prime time speech about a real crisis, the need to end the bloodshed resulting from the NRA's toxic policies and the inaction of morally bankrupt politicians in its thrall.

So now I ask: "When it comes to gun violence, how much more American blood must be shed before Congress -- and the president -- do their jobs?"
 

From red to purple to blue

richardson

On election night 2018, the dour countenance of Democratic strategist James Carville filled our TV screens. In a tone of resignation, Carville opined, "There was some hope the Democrats would have a wave election. It's not going to be a wave election." Across the country, crestfallen Democrats took his prediction as gospel.

But Carville was wrong.

Like many other Democratic operatives, he couldn’t see beyond the beltway and the rust belt. He couldn’t imagine that the Southwest and parts of the Rocky Mountain West might more than make up for a few disappointing results east of the Mississippi, that even iconic Orange County, the birthplace of Reagan conservatism and longtime GOP stronghold, would turn completely blue.

Yes, the blue wave rolled in slowly. And, yes, there were some heartbreaking losses, made all the more painful and infuriating by extremely close margins, the result of minority vote suppression. Stacey Abrams’ race for Georgia governor is Exhibit A.

But as the wave slow-rolled across the country, Democrats picked up seven state governorships, hundreds of legislative seats, and a robust majority in the House. In a year when the Senate map overwhelmingly favored Republicans, Democrats lost some seasoned incumbents but picked up long-held GOP seats in Arizona and Nevada. Not since the election of 1974 – right after Watergate – had Democrats fared as well.

In the days leading up to the election, Trump shelved his golf game to campaign non-stop for Republicans. Repeatedly, he bellowed from the podium, “I am on the ticket, because this is also a referendum about me.” His number one target was Montana Senator Jon Tester, who had the audacity to raise questions that led to the embarrassing withdrawal of Dr. Ronny Jackson, Trump's personal physician, as the nominee for secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Trump held rally after rally in Montana, barnstorming the state four times, hell-bent on seeing Tester defeated. Trump Jr. also campaigned there and, like a chip off the old block, called Tester “a piece of garbage.” But incredibly, by the narrowest of margins, Tester won re-election in this state Trump carried by 20 points. After the election, Trump, who excels at evading responsibility, saw no rebuke, weakly whining, “But my name wasn’t on the ballot.”

Exit polls tell us the Democratic wave was largely fueled by women – college-educated women, women of color, women from the suburbs, independent women, and Republican women who, at long last, had had enough of a trash-tweeting president and his inhumane policies.

And the wave was also fueled by those most likely to sit-out midterm elections – young people. In record numbers, younger voters laid claim to their futures as citizens and inhabitants of an endangered planet. Even white working-class men, Trump’s base, began to peel ever-so-slowly away, likely noticing that more manufacturing jobs were heading overseas and ill-considered trade wars don’t sell soybeans.

Maybe it’s just as well the blue wave didn’t crest on election night. The gradual and growing realization that the nation had rejected Trumpism dominated headlines for weeks. But, going forward, pundits like Carville would do well to remember that, in 2018, Montana re-elected Jon Tester and Orange County turned blue, that Ben McAdams won a congressional seat in Utah and Krysten Sinema beat Trump sycophant Martha McSally in Arizona. They would do well to remember that the Rocky Mountain West and the Southwest are also part of the American electorate – a part that is palpably turning from red to purple to blue.