100 Days of Hell: Beauregard Sessions

It’s exhausting to stay outraged about everything that has happened in Trump’s first 100 days, but at least Attorney General Jeff Sessions keeps going out of his way to remind us how horrible he is.

Sessions has made it clear that fear mongering should replace facts when it comes to creating policy. Forget the antics of the rest of the administration; keeping up with Sessions’s decisions alone is almost a full time job. Here are some of the shitty things that shitty Jeff Sessions has done (and I won’t even talk about how I watched him dig around his nose and stare at his boogers when I was at his confirmation hearing): 

Tribal Sovereignty 

When Sessions was sworn in, President Trump signed a handful of executive actions that were right in line with Sessions’s beliefs. One was the Executive Order on Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers. In this order, the President called for “multi-jurisdiction prosecution efforts” to deal with violence against police officers.

Never mind that violence against police is down. Never mind that there is no epidemic of unsolved crimes against cops. Facts clearly aren’t important to the Trump administration.

If facts mattered, the Violence Against Women Act wouldn’t have met so much resistance from Jeff Sessions back in 2013.  Until 2015, tribal officers could not prosecute non-Natives who committed crimes on tribal land — resulting in Native American women being sexually assaulted more than four times the national average, primarily by men who were not Native American. This was a problem the 2013 renewal of the Violence Against Women Act specifically addressed by allowing some tribal courts to sometimes prosecute non-Indians for domestic violence.

Sessions voted against VAWA, claiming that this tribal court provision was a “big concern” for him. But now, when he wants to convince the country that police are the ones we need to protect from violence, forcing multi-jurisdiction prosecution efforts is fine. Cool. 

DACA

Created by Obama in 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program is a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were born after 6/15/81 and who came to America before they were 16. Applicants have to be enrolled in school and pass a background check. The idea behind DACA was to help young people who were working to become valuable members of society by streamlining the citizenship process, especially since so many of the people eligible were primarily raised in the US.

Back in January, Donald Trump said that DACA recipients “shouldn’t be very worried.” By February, Juan Manuel Montes became the first DACA recipient to be deported. Now it’s April, and I’m still not convinced Donald Trump knows what DACA is — but I’m damn sure Sessions knows and hates DACA.

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Fellow racist Steve King never disappoints. Also, learn how to use your camera, Steve.

“I believe everyone that enters the country unlawfully is subject to being deported…we’re going to focus first, as the president has directed us, on the criminal element,” Sessions announced on ABC’s This Week (emphasis mine).

Their first focus might be the criminal element, but Sessions has a pretty messed up perception of constitutes criminal activity.  Over 1.5 million undocumented people have told the federal government that they are here and applied for DACA. Now these same people have to place their trust in Sessions, who seems to have a burning desire to end the program.

Black Lives Matter

After high profile police killings, the DOJ will come into a city and investigate the police force. They will spend a year or two interviewing citizens and cops, doing ride alongs, holding meetings, and combing through documents to understand if there are problems within the structure of the department. After they create a report on their findings, they work with the city to make a consent decree — a legally binding contract that details how the city will address the issues the DOJ has found. Baltimore is, of course, one of the cities to be a recipient of such an investigation — and it has the unique position of having the process of creating and signing the consent decree spread between the Obama and Trump administrations.

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Right before Baltimore held a public hearing on their consent decree, the DOJ asked for a delay in the implementation of the consent decree, and a review of all active decrees. The judge denied the Baltimore motion, and the public hearing went on as scheduled. Despite having the motion denied, the DOJ decided to again bring up the possibility of delaying the process.

“Reasonable minds may disagree if this decree is the perfect way forward,” stated John Gore, the DOJ’s Deputy Assistant Attorney General, describing the very  document his department created and signed. Gore added that the current administration has “grave concerns” over the decree, and reiterated the need for the already-denied motion for a delay.

The city responded that, not only was a delay was not necessary, but community input was the most important part of reform, and that both parties went to great lengths to involve the community in the creation of the consent decree. To delay it would shake the confidence the community has in the reform — of course, since Attorney General Jeff Sessions believes consent decrees “undermine respect for our police officers,” I assume that protecting the community is no longer a function of the DOJ.

Under any other circumstances, watching the DOJ argue against justice would have been unusual. In a way, Sessions’s DOJ helped bring residents and the police together: of the 49 residents who spoke at this hearing, the vast majority sided with the stance of the Baltimore Police Department.

In July 2015, I attended a very crowded town hall meeting at Sojourner-Douglass College. The first half of the meeting was a panel discussion, and the second half was community members sharing their stories with representatives from the Department of Justice. Many tears were shed as citizens repeated how grateful they were that the DOJ was finally there, that someone was finally listening to their stories. At the time, had you told me that these representatives would become the sabotaging enemies of reform, I would have laughed at you.

The day after the Baltimore Uprising, people gathered around the riot police set up at Penn and North. There were prayers, debates, and crying — but there was also a feeling of cautious optimism.. People expressed hope that maybe now the government would do for Baltimore what it had done for Ferguson — a full investigation into the workings of the police department. Maybe now people would listen.

I would find it hard to believe that this sentiment is not expressed nationwide, every time a police shooting sparks large protests. So what happens when we take away the only government organization that listens?

When the next Freddie Gray or Philando Castile is killed, when the next city has had enough — will Sessions directly say, “sorry, but we no longer wish to help those who have been victimized by the police”? Did John Gore’s years working for Jones Day prepare him to be the one to tell people the official stance of the federal government is that their lives and struggles don’t matter?

Do you want a riot, Jeff Sessions? Because this is how you get a riot.

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Donald Trump’s Impeachable Offenses: Twitter Fingers Edition

Because we are living in the bizarre hell that is 2017, discussing whether or not the tweets from the President of the United States are impeachable is a real topic of conversation. So, for my liberal snowflake comrades, I have done the dirty work of combing through Trump’s Twitter and pulling out some of his impeachable tweets. I thought this was going to be a lot easier to do, but it turns out it’s exhaustingly time consuming. I certainly thought I’d get through more than two Twitter rants — but I just don’t have enough Xanax. So here is part one of a series of impeachable actions Trump has done, starting with just a handful of his tweets. You’re welcome, and I accept boxes of wine should you wish to express your gratitude.

What is an impeachable offense?

The Constitution says that the President can be impeached for “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors.” But what does that really mean in the context of tweeting? Put very simply, “high crimes and misdemeanors” refers to any action taken by a public official that abuses their power in some capacity. This could include something like, I don’t know, using your name to make money while you’re in office (don’t worry, this is just part one. We’ll cover it all!). This also means that, while “normal” crimes could be impeachable offenses, actions that an average person would be able to do without a problem could be grounds for impeachment. When it was ordinary businessman Donald Trump tweeting crazy thoughts, that’s fine. No one cares. When it is POTUS Donald Trump tweeting crazy thoughts, it’s a problem because as President his tweets have more value. And yes, our founding fathers are spinning in their graves over this.

With that explained, let’s dive straight into hell.

Obamagate

The tweets (there are so many):

WTF was going on:

Thanks to an article published on the ever credible website Breitbart, Trump decided that Obama had his “wires tapped.”

The problem:

Obamagate is easily the most egregious and most talked about example of Trump’s impeachable Twitter crimes. I believe this is the most cut and dry of the Twitter offenses. First, Trump is accusing Obama of illegally wiretapping him while Obama was still in office — something that, if true, would have been impeachable behavior. Second, this isn’t your crazy uncle rampaging on Twitter (because, come on, if Trump is your uncle, there is no way you’re reading this). As Noah Feldman pointed out on Slate’s Trumpcast: Trump has the power to punish people, and threatening to prosecute people without evidence “is certainly an abuse of power.” Keeping this in mind, you can understand how it’s easy to view the Obamagate tweets as threats to the former president (remember that, because it’s going to be a pretty critical point — both for the rest of the article, and presumably for the remainder of Trump’s presidency).

There’s something very unsettling about the current President publicly accusing a prior president of an action that is both illegal and impeachable. Do you know what kind of rulers jail their political opponents? The kind of rulers that don’t really care for democracy.

When was the last time you heard Donald Trump say “lock her up”? A direct call to imprison his opponent while he’s the sitting President would be horrifying. I think that someone in the White House must understand this, and that’s why the issue has been dropped. But just because Trump isn’t directly saying “lock him up,” the fact that he is the POTUS means he could indeed lock him up. I do not expect anyone currently working around Trump to understand nuance, nor do I expect Trump to get it if it’s explained to him.

But wait! Haven’t we learned that there was indeed a FISA warrant in Trump Tower? Isn’t Trump right? Yes and no, in that order. Trump’s tweet accuses Obama himself of wire tapping him — and that would be highly illegal. While the FBI did indeed issue a FISA warrant for Trump adviser Carter Page, only a petulant child who hasn’t even passed eight grade civics would angrily equate this to “Obama wire tapped Trump.” It’s incredibly difficult to obtain a FISA, and it is not taken lightly — meaning that a FISA wouldn’t be signed off on just so Obama could spy on Donald Trump. On the plus side for the rest of us, Trump’s tweet declassified the FISA warrant, and allowed reporters to send FOIA requests on the investigation into the Trump campaign. Good move!

So-Called Judges

The tweets:

WTF was going on:

These tweets were in response to a judge putting a hold on Trump’s Muslim ban EO.

The problem:

Just like Obamagate, this is an example of Trump using his position to threaten another public official. This is a direct threat to a member of the judiciary system in America — and to judicial process. Personally, I find this to be worse than Obamagate. This is POTUS bullying and trying to intimidate a federal judge for disagreeing with him; this is a direct threat to democracy.

Trump wasn’t the only one threatening the “so-called judge” — security had to be beefed up for some of the judges who were involved in the EO disasters. Remember when Trump incited violence at his campaign rallies? Just this month, a judge determined that the protesters who were attacked can proceed with a lawsuit against Trump and his campaign. To impeach someone for actions taken before they became POTUS would be unheard of — but this parallels the not so veiled threats toward judges who don’t allow Trump to do whatever he wants. We should all be closely following what happens in this lawsuit, because it seems like Trump will continue to insult whoever he wants, with no regard for the impact of his power as POTUS to both legally and socially harm someone else.

Next week: More tweets? Russia? Who knows what I’ll choose!

 

Hey, White Women – We DID Vote For Trump!

Like many others, this past weekend I went to the Women’s March on Washington. During the two months of Facebook discussion leading up to the march, I watched as white feminists were introduced to intersectional feminism for the first time. I wasn’t sure how white feminism and intersectionality were going to mesh, but I think that the now viral “White Women Voted for Trump” sign carried around by Angela Peoples was perfect.

In an interview with The Root, Peoples described the response to her sign: “Most [people] were saying ‘Not this white woman,’ or ‘No one I know!'” And it was at that point anger and frustration bubbled up inside me, to the point that I had to take a break from reading for a minute.

“Not this white woman” and “no one I know” are such bullshit things to say. People were bussed in from all over the country to come this event! I live in the blue af DC metro area, and I know dozens of white women that voted for Trump. If no one you know voted for Trump, either people are afraid to be honest with you, or you live in a ridiculously homogenous bubble.

There’s no one weird sect of my white friends that chose Trump; they range from people I went to a small private elementary school with to former University of Maryland classmates. Almost my entire fucking family voted for him! I’m also one of the most vocally pro-BLM white people that I personally know, and I have been flooding my newsfeed with “hands up, don’t shoot” since Ferguson’s unrest, and a countdown to Trump’s reign starting from “Mexicans are rapists.” I’ve written for Cop Block, I write for liberal immigration lawyers, I have ripped apart both criticism of Baltimore’s uprising and praise of O’Malley on local and national platforms. I have lost work contracts and friends over my militantly pro-black, pro-woman opinions. And even with all of this, people still casually tell me they voted for Trump. Not only would it never cross my mind to give a negative response to a sign someone on my side is holding, but come on. If people tell me they voted for Trump, then I know they told other people. “Yup we sure did, and I know a fuck ton of them that I’m trying to work on,” is the most truthful response.

After Freddie Gray died, I gave up a travel heavy contract I had to write a book about the social, racial, and economic history of Baltimore and how these things culminated in the death of Freddie Gray. Because here is the thing: plenty of people who look like me would rather listen to me tell the history of the black experience in Baltimore instead of listening to, you know, black people. I am a white woman, and consequently I still benefit from white privilege.

So white women! Don’t step on people’s toes or put words in their mouth or act like you understand another’s struggle as though you’ve lived, but DO acknowledge that we benefit from the color of our skin. Take time to learn, and then act as a facilitator to help bridge communication between your fellow white feminists and the vast array of other types of feminists that exist. Don’t get distracted or bitter about signs pointing out that white women don’t show up to protest when black women are shot by the police, or by signs that show the actual statistics of who vote for Trump. Those things are accurate, and you don’t get to be salty with someone for delivering an accurate message.

I am here to share facts and data to help people begin to grasp the challenges faced by those who are less privileged than they are. I am NOT here to defend my fellow whites to communities already marginalized by white people. So what if someone thinks I might be a Trump voter because I’m white? Boo. Hoo. Hey, I’m gonna guess it fucking sucks more to have cops think you’re an armed threat just because you’re black.

Let’s not make #NotAllWhiteWomen the new #NotAllMen. White women benefit from white supremacy, and we need to acknowledge that. Otherwise we are just like the guys who think that sexism and the patriarchy are real, but THEY aren’t sexist so they aren’t part of the problem.

Martin O’Malley: Rebuilding the American Dream, Like He Rebuilt Baltimore

I feel like I’ve been seeing way too much of Martin O’Malley lately. From being a guest on The Daily Show to playing the guitar on The View, O’Malley seems to not be deterred by his approval ratings. To the average person who only watches the debates and listens to the current soundbites, O’Malley sounds like a good candidate for Clinton’s cabinet (or whatever he’s aiming for at this point). I’ve seen many liberal leaning friends and news sources (especially those who consider police reform a primary issue) express their interest in O’Malley. His criminal justice reform plan even lists “build[ing] trust in law enforcement” as a top priority.

But the thing is, in Maryland we all know the truth about O’Malley.

How can the mayor that ordered mass arrests of innocent people and manipulated crime statistics possibly be the President we trust to understand and implement community policing?

How can the mayor who ruined community and police relations possibly be the President (or whatever position he’s going for) we trust to rebuild faith in the police force?

Back in April, I watched Martin O’Malley stop by West Baltimore for a photo op. Starting at the burned down CVS, he slowly made his way down Penn, shaking hands and smiling with the crowd that had gathered to protest the death of Freddie Gray. I’m sure he thought it was a great idea for him to do before announcing that he was running for President — until an angry protestor on a motorcycle started following him. “YOU DID THIS! YOU KILLED FREDDIE GRAY!” the man yelled. O’Malley quickly picked up his pace and escaped into the black SUV waiting for him at the end of the block.

He wasn’t wrong.

Nothing O’Malley has ever done shows he is capable of facilitating a community oriented policing program, or that he even knows what community policing is.

O’Malley now claims that he wants to make community policing a priority — though Baltimore didn’t get its Community Partnership Division until after O’Malley was long gone from Baltimore. O’Malley’s Baltimore focused on manufactured statistics and graphs, not human compassion or an understanding of how to treat the root causes of crime. Numbers get you noticed by White House, after all.

During the first Democratic debate, O’Malley assured us that in his Baltimore, arrests and crime fell.  He was half right — crime did fall in Baltimore, just like it did nationwide. But I don’t really know why he claimed arrests fell; in 2005 there were over 100,00 arrests in a city of roughly 600,000 people. How could crime possibly be falling if the police saw fit to arrest almost 1/6 of the city’s population? Under O’Malley the blanket policy of the BPD appeared to be “arrest everyone — or else.” People were not arrested for committing crimes, they were arrested and held for up to 54 hours with no charges ever filed. When people were assigned bail, they usually couldn’t pay it and would spend a month or two in jail until their cases would be dismissed. In 2006 the ACLU and NAACP filed a lawsuit against O’Malley for this practice. Spoiler alert: the city settled.

While O’Malley’s BPD were making mass arrests, they certainly didn’t prioritize arresting rapists. In 2010 the Baltimore Sun reported that police would aggressive question rape victims, causing 30% of victims to change their accusation to “unfounded” — which was five times the national average. On paper, the amount of rapes in Baltimore declined 80% versus the national average of 8%; the city didn’t even go for a believable, gradual decrease. 

Not to mention, O’Malley did his best to expedite the school to prison pipeline until political opposition was just too much to handle.

When you see Martin O’Malley talking on TV, please don’t let him blind you with charming jokes about the NRA or the honest good he did here with immigration and gay marriage.

Instead, please remember his first legacy — the city of Baltimore.

Remember Freddie Gray. Tyrone West. George V. King. Officer William Torbit Jr.

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