Category Archives: Ethics

AZ’s Worst Legislator: Vince Leach, not a Servant of the People in LD 11

State Representative Leach

State Representative Vincent Leach of Legislative District 11 and other reactionary zealots like him sure act like big government promoters when it comes to their reactionary and anti-democratic agenda.

Leach has sponsored ideas such as:

  • Protecting Dark Money contributors.
  • Overruling local election results and ballot initiatives, such as whether local towns can prohibit plastic bags in stores.
  • Opposing a woman’s right to choose.
  • Allowing taxpayer money to help students choose private religious schools.

LD11 spans from Maricopa in the north to the tip of Tucson in the south.

A self-described conservative, Leach has an A rating from both the Oliver North led National Rifle Association and the American Conservative Union, yet poor marks with the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, and the Children’s Action Alliance. A SaddleBrooke resident, Representative Leach has been in the Arizona State House since 2015. He is now the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety, Infrastructure, and Resources and Vice Chairman of the House and Ways Committee.

He is planning to run against Democrat Ralph Atchue for the State Senate Seat in LD 11 being vacated by Steve Smith. The main issues he plans to run on are border security, the Second Amendment, job creation, healthcare, and “life.”

Favoring the privileged
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Resist normalizing criminal behavior in the age of Trump

This is not normal and should not be happening. Period. Full stop.

Today the FBI and intelligence agencies will provide a briefing in an ongoing criminal investigation of the Trump campaign’s “collusion” with Russia to Midnight Run Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who previously had to recuse himself from his own committee’s Russia investigation because he was caught conspiring with the Trump administration to fabricate the conspiracy theories that the Obama administration surveilled Trump Tower and inappropriately unmasked the identities of Trump campaign officials picked up on signal intelligence to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation; and Trey “Benghazi!” Gowdy, who spent years promoting Benghazi conspiracy theories against Hillary Clinton that amounted to nothing according to the findings of his own committee reports. These are two of the least credible partisan members of Congress.

More importantly, this meeting is going to occur without the presence of their Democratic counterparts. This is entirely improper and unacceptable. Moreover, Trey Gowdy does not possess the necessary security clearance for this classified intelligence briefing (he is not a member of the Gang of Eight).

There is no doubt that this meeting is certain to result in Nunes and/or Gowdy selectively leaking cherry-picked classified intelligence (a crime) to FAUX News aka Trump TV as soon as today to support the new conspiracy theory of “Spygate,” a label that Trump and his propaganda machine have concocted in order to undermine the Special Counsel’s investigation. The Special Counsel should be considering charging them as accessories to Trump’s conspiracy to obstruct justice, which is what this briefing constitutes.

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The GOP’s war on the Department of Justice and the rule of law

When President Trump publicly demanded that the Justice Department open an investigation into the F.B.I.’s scrutiny of his campaign contacts with Russia, he crossed over a well-established bright line norm of constraint on executive power: The White House does not make decisions about individual law enforcement investigations. The independence of the Department of Justice is to be respected and preserved.

This is especially true when the president himself is the subject of a criminal investigation, or he would abuse the Department of Justice and use it as a weapon against his political opponents. This is what authoritarian despots do in a dictatorship or a banana republic.

This is precisely where the authoritarian Donald Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress are taking this country. They are engaged in the destruction of our long-cherished democratic institutions and norms, and the rule of law.

Charlie Savage writes at the New York Times, By Demanding an Investigation, Trump Challenged a Constraint on His Power:

“It’s an incredible historical moment,” said Rebecca Roiphe, a professor at New York Law School who helped write a coming scholarly article on the limits of presidential control over the Justice Department. Mr. Trump’s move, she said, “is the culmination of a lot of moments in which he has chipped away at prosecutorial independence, but this is a direct assault.”

Almost since he took office, Mr. Trump has battered the Justice Department’s independence indirectly — lamenting its failure to reopen a criminal investigation of Hillary Clinton that found no wrongdoing, and openly complaining that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia inquiry. But he had also acknowledged that as president, “I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department,” as he told a radio interviewer with frustration last fall.

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Right-wing media outs U.S. intelligence asset in pursuit of bogus Trump conspiracy theory

Just as I predicted on Saturday, it did not take long for the conservative media entertainment complex to out the U.S. intelligence asset who was the “informant” who contacted members of the Trump campaign who were in engaged in suspicious contacts with the Russians.

It is a crime to reveal the identity of a classified intelligence asset. Scooter Libby was convicted for outing Valerie Plame as a CIA NOC.

This intelligence asset, his family, and his entire network of contacts are now in jeopardy, and any other intelligence projects he was working on have now been compromised as a direct result of President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress and the media seeking to out this “informant” in pursuit of their wild conspiracy theory in their efforts to discredit and to undermine the Special Counsel’s Russia investigation.

Axios.com has a good tick-tock of events that led to the outing of this FBI informant (revised):

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Trump’s personal animosity for Jeffrey Bezos results in abuse of power a la Nixon

Included in the Articles of Impeachment for President Richard M. Nixon adopted by the House Judiciary Committee on July 27, 1974 was Article 2 for “abuse of power,” which included ordering the IRS to audit his “political enemies” list.

We are now confronted with a parallel abuse of power by President Donald Trump, albeit by a different federal agency. The Washington Post reports, Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon, other firms:

President Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.

Brennan has so far resisted Trump’s demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a set of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.

The Wall Street Journal  reported last month that White House officials, eager to help the president understand reality, have put together “PowerPoint presentations and briefing papers they believed debunked his concerns.”

Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery. See, Bloomberg, Trump Orders Post Office Review After Attacks on Amazon.

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The Trump crime family cashes in before the Special Counsel closes in

Most of you are already familiar with the three emoluments clause cases filed against Donald Trump for profiting off of foreign governments at his properties as president.

The first case filed by the ethics group CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) was dismissed for lack of standing, but that case is currently on appeal.

In the second case brought by the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia (No. 8:17-cv-01596), U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte of the District of Maryland ruled that D.C., Maryland can proceed with lawsuit alleging Trump violated emoluments clauses. Judge Messitte rejected an argument made by critics of the lawsuit — that, under the Constitution, only Congress may decide whether the president has violated the emoluments clauses. But Messitte’s ruling also narrowed the lawsuit’s scope to the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., saying that the District and Maryland had standing to sue because they could plausibly claim to have been injured by Trump’s receipt of payments from foreign and state governments.

The third case was filed by more than 200 Democratic members of Congress, Blumental et. al v. Trump in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (No. 1:17-cv-01154), and is presently scheduled for a hearing on a motion to dismiss on June 7, 2018.

The Trump Hotel is only the tip of the iceberg according to reporting over the past week.

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