Issue XCVI

21 OCT 2016

Local

05/28/2014

Nasty Senate race digs deeper in the mud

Biloxi, Mississippi (CNN) -- A conservative blogger is in jail -- arrested for allegedly breaking into a Mississippi nursing home to photograph U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran's ailing wife, who is suffering from dementia.

"It's the worst," says the narrator of a new Cochran campaign ad airing in the final stretch before the June 3 primary, not so subtly pointing the finger at his GOP Senate challenger, Chris McDaniel, trying to stir up voter disgust.

This race, one of the nastiest so far this election year, has gotten even deeper in the Mississippi mud than that.

Attack ads, scandals rock GOP primary

Cochran supporters argue the reason the blogger and tea party activist took Mrs. Cochran's picture was to feed questions about the senator and his longtime aide, Kay Webber.

Cochran: Quiet pragmatist faces re-election challenge

Scandal hits Mississippi primary
Picture of wife shakes up political fight

Conservative outlets that back McDaniel have been all over the fact Cochran rents a basement apartment in Webber's D.C. home, and that Webber has traveled extensively with Cochran on the taxpayer's dime.

McDaniel's campaign often forwards these reports to its media email list, while the Cochran campaign calls her trips with the senator part of her job and suggestions of anything untoward are sexist.

This Republican primary was supposed to be about the big struggle of ideas within the GOP: a 36-year Senate veteran being challenged by a young tea party-backed opponent who calls the senator a big-spending, out-of-touch Republican too entrenched in Washington.

Now McDaniel is fending off questions about whether his campaign was involved in trying to photograph Cochran's sick wife.

"Our campaign had absolutely no connection to that whatsoever, and the evidence has shown that. What we're doing right now -- we're talking about the issues," McDaniel told CNN in an interview.

But what gave ammunition to Cochran allies is that McDaniel's story about when he found out about the break-in has been inconsistent.

When we asked for clarification, McDaniel wouldn't go there, replying, "Look, we're going to focus on his record."

Three more arrested in Mississippi Senate primary scandal

If McDaniel has his way, he would be the next Ted Cruz, going to the Senate to shake things up -- stick to conservative principles, compromise be damned.

"We don't have six more years of the status quo," he...


CNN, CLARION-LEDGER: THAD COCHRAN HIDES, DOES 'BAIT-AND-SWITCH' ON NATIONAL REPORTERS

Loc2

SOUTHAVEN, Mississippi -- Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) pulled the old “bait-and-switch” to avoid a televised CNN interview, reporter Dana Bash says.

Bash tried to interview Cochran for CNN at a Memorial Day event in Vicksburg, MS, but Cochran dodged the interview. His staff was “going to head-scratching extremes to avoid talking,” Bash reported in a piece posted late Tuesday.

"We tried to catch Cochran after this event," Bash said, while video of Cochran standing on stage for the event played. "But when an aide came out and saw us, they did a bait-and-switch.”

"The car they told us Cochran was getting in, screeched away without him, while he snuck out another door to a different car, leaving reporters like us in the dust, unable to talk to the senator,” Bash added.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger, which picked up the story right after CNN on Tuesday evening, noted that Cochran’s actions “make him look equally as suspicious” as how his primary challenger state Sen. Chris McDaniel has handled the response to blogger Clayton Kelly’s allegedly illicit photographing of Cochran’s wife Rose.

The Clarion-Ledger’s Sam Hall wrote that Cochran also refused to sit down with the newspaper’s editorial board for an interview. 

“Cochran's staff has repeatedly refused to set a date for an editorial board meeting,” Hall wrote. “‘We're still working on a date,’ is the gist of any answer they give us. Such dodging makes us — and voters — wonder what he has to hide. Is he afraid of tough questions? Or is his staff handling him too much because they are afraid of what he might say? My guess: both!”

Cochran has similarly avoided interviews with Breitbart News — his campaign staff ignored requests — and most other media outlets, and refused to debate McDaniel ahead of the primary.

CNN’s Bash interviewed McDaniel, but he wouldn’t answer a question about the blogger story.

"You personally, when did you find out about the break-in?" Bash asked McDaniel.

“Look, we're going to focus on his record right now,” McDaniel replied after a long pause.

“So, with a week to go before the primary election, we've got one candidate dodging a question he should be able to answer and shrug off, and we have another candidate — the incumbent, no less — dodging...



05/22/2014

Tsarnaev brothers made bombs of Christmas lights and model cars – prosecutors

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Federal prosecutors discussed the bomb-making techniques used by suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev. They claim that the "Boston Marathon bomber" used "relatively sophisticated" bombs with fuses made from Christmas lights and remote-control detonators made from model car parts. Defense lawyers claim that there were no lawyers at all when FBI agents question Tsarnaev last year after his arrest and that such conclusions could not be done by prosecutors.

"The Marathon bombs were constructed using improvised fuses made from Christmas lights and improvised, remote-control detonators fashioned from model car parts," federal prosecutors said in a motion filed Wednesday. "These relatively sophisticated devices would have been difficult for the Tsarnaevs to fabricate successfully without training or assistance from others."

Prosecutors also said the brothers used fine black powder from firecrackers as fuel for the bombs and, since none was found in searches of their homes and cars, investigators worried they had help.

"Interviewing Tsarnaev as soon as possible was therefore essential to protect the public from possible harm," prosecutors wrote, citing a public safety exception to the Miranda rule about informing suspects of their rights before interrogation. 

Prosecutors said Tsarnaev explained his motive in the note he left in the boat. It said the US government was killing innocent civilians. "I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished," the note said in part. "We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all." It ended, "Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop." 

Lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev argued the statements he made after his arrest should be thrown out because he was questioned for 36 hours in a hospital room while suffering from gunshot wounds and without being told his rights.

They said the questioning continued "despite the fact that he quickly allayed concerns about any continuing threat to public safety, repeatedly asked for a lawyer, and begged to rest."

They said his treatment included painkillers that impaired his judgment.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty to several federal charges. Prosecutors allege he and his brother planted two pressure cooker bombs near the marathon's finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. His brother was killed during a gunbattle with police on April 19, 2013, four days...


Prosecutors: Boston Marathon suspects used 'relatively sophisticated' bombs

Loc2

BOSTON —The Boston Marathon bombing suspects used "relatively sophisticated" bombs with fuses made from Christmas lights and remote-control detonators made from model car parts, federal prosecutors said Wednesday in a court filing arguing statements one of them made to FBI agents after being captured shouldn't be thrown out.

With Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev pleading not guilty Wednesday in his first court appearance since being arrested, revisit a timeline of the events in the case so far.

The filing argued against a defense motion to toss suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's statements to the agents because he was questioned without a lawyer.

Prosecutors said the bombs, comments Tsarnaev and his brother made to a carjacking victim that they might explode more bombs in New York, and a note Tsarnaev wrote in a boat where he was captured made it imperative to know if there was a continuing terror threat before informing him of his rights. Prosecutors also said the brothers used fine black powder from firecrackers as fuel for the bombs and, since none was found in searches of their homes and cars, investigators worried they had help.

"Interviewing Tsarnaev as soon as possible was therefore essential to protect the public from possible harm," prosecutors wrote, citing a public safety exception to the Miranda rule about informing suspects of their rights before interrogation if their statements are to be used in court against them.

The prosecutors said Tsarnaev told agents he and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, acted alone and there were no more bombs.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, has pleaded not guilty to several federal charges. Prosecutors allege he and his brother planted two pressure cooker bombs near the marathon's finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. His brother was killed during a gunbattle with police on April 19, 2013, four days after the marathon bombing.

Prosecutors said Tsarnaev explained his motive in the note he left in the boat. It said the U.S. government was killing innocent civilians. "I can't stand to see such evil go unpunished," the note said in part. "We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all." It ended, "Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop."

This month, lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev argued the statements he made after his arrest should be thrown out because he was questioned for 36 hours in a...



05/14/2014

Longtime Michigan Democrat won't appear on primary ballot – but he can still run

Loc1

Longtime Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, will not appear on the state's August 5 primary ballot, a local county clerk said Tuesday.

Conyers, who's held the seat for nearly five decades, did not have enough signatures on his nominating petition for his name to appear on the ballot, though he can still run as write-in candidate.

"Seeing that I do not have the authority to rule on the constitutionality of laws and statutes, that the County Clerks are bound by, it is my determination that in accordance with the current laws and statutes of the State of Michigan, the nominating petitions filed by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. are insufficient to allow his name to appear on the August 5, 2014 Primary Ballot," said Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett in a statement, obtained by CNN affiliate WDIV.

First elected in 1964, Conyers represents Michigan's 13th Congressional District. He is ranking member on the Judiciary Committee and founder of the Congressional Black Caucus.

He's also the second-most senior member of the House behind Rep. John Dingell, also from Michigan, who announced earlier this year he would retire after serving 58 years in the House.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said it’s confident he will be re-elected.

“The DCCC fully supports Representative Conyers in his re-election campaign, and I have every confidence that when this long process is complete, Representative Conyers will continue to serve the people of Michigan in Congress. As the next Dean of the House, the Michigan delegation and pillar of the Democratic Party, Representative Conyers will remain one of the most respected voices in Congress," DCCC Chairman Steve Israel said in a statement.

CNN has reached out to Conyers' campaign about the determination but has yet to hear back.


Wayne County clerk: I won't allow Conyers on August primary ballot

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The fate of U.S. Rep. John Conyers’ re-election campaign now lies with the Secretary of State’s Office after Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett announced Tuesday the longtime congressman won’t appear on the Aug. 5 primary ballot after a majority of signatures turned in to certify him for a 26th term were invalidated.

Conyers plans to file an appeal with the state office, and has three days to do so. The office then will review the work done by Wayne County, said Chris Thomas, director of elections for the state. A decision won’t come until some time next week, he said.

“It’s a verification process, we’ll be looking at registration status and the spreadsheet they provided us. It won’t take all that long,” he said.

Conyers also could be headed down the same path as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, who waged a write-in campaign in last summer’s primary, eventually prevailing over Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon in the general election.

Garrett released a statement late Tuesday afternoon, saying her decision on Conyers’ certification for his 13th District seat was made by state election law.

“It is a very unfortunate circumstance that an issue with a circulator of a petition would disqualify the signature of valid registered voter,” Garrett said in the statement. “Although I am not the final arbiter, I eagerly await the courts’ review of the constitutionality of the laws and statutes pertaining to petition circulators.”

Questions arose late last month on a challenge from the Rev. Horace Sheffield, who also filed for the 13th District seat, about the validity of signatures Conyers’ campaign turned in to qualify for the ballot. More than 1,400 of the 2,000 signatures are now considered invalid.

Conyers, who late last week tapped state Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, to run his campaign, has until June 6 to get on the ballot.

Johnson said Tuesday that the campaign planned to fight the ruling on several fronts, including an appeal to the Secretary of State and filing a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the requirement that petition circulators be registered voters. Community activist and current Highland Park school board member Robert Davis, as well as the ACLU, have filed lawsuits in federal court on the constitutionality of disallowing signatures collected by people not registered to vote. An expedited hearing on...



05/07/2014

FEDERAL JUDGE SHUTS DOWN WISCONSIN WITCH HUNT

Local1

OPINION

Wisconsin’s hoary old Democrat establishment still has enough power to make life rough on political dissidents… or at least they did, until a federal judge pulled the plug on the astonishing witch hunt they’ve been conducting against conservatives.  Watchdog.org calls it “a monumental victory for targeted conservatives in the secret Wisconsin investigation”:

Judge Rudolph Randa on Tuesday granted a preliminary injunction to stop the politically charged probe, ruling in favor of conservative activist Eric O’Keefe, his Wisconsin Club for growth and “others.” The probe had been looking into possible illegal coordination between conservative groups and Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election campaign, but came under fire for the opaque way it was conducted.

O’Keefe and the club in February filed a civil rights lawsuit against Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, two of his assistant DAs, John Doe Special Prosecutor Francis Schmitz, and a shadowy investigator contracted by the Government Accountability Board.

“The Defendants must cease all activities related to the investigation, return all property seized in the investigation from any individual or organization, and permanently destroy all copies of information and other materials obtained through the investigation,” wrote Randa, federal judge for the U.S. DistrictCourt Eastern District of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Randa  further ordered that the plaintiffs in the civil rights case “and others” are “hereby relieved of any and every duty under Wisconsin law to cooperate further with Defendants‘ investigation.”

“Any attempt to obtain compliance by any Defendant or John Doe Judge Gregory Peterson is grounds for a contempt finding by this Court,” he ordered in the 26-page ruling.

Why? Because, according to the judge, the targets of a nearly 3-year-old probe claiming illegal coordination did nothing wrong, and prosecutors have either disregarded the law or interpreted it incorrectly to fit their investigation.

Judge Randa actually said the investigation “cannot square with the First Amendment and what it was meant to protect,” according the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, because “prosecutors essentially shut down Wisconsin Club for Growth’s right to free speech during an election year.”...


Judge Randa Dares the Supreme Court to Take His John Doe Case

Local2

OPINION

Does Gov. Scott Walker have nine lives or what? 

Yesterday, his ally, ultraconservative Federalist Society member and U.S. District Court Judge Rudolph Randa totally halted the John Doe investigation into alleged coordination between Walker’s campaign committee and sympathetic right-wing groups. 

Randa quickly did so after prosecutors on Monday asked the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to prevent Randa from shutting it down, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. 

So Randa did it anyway. 

No wonder why folks call him “Rocket Ride Rudy.” 

I’m not an attorney but reading his decision halting the case I got the sense that we’re in uncharted territory here. 

Randa leans heavily on recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have chipped away at campaign finance laws meant to prevent corruption, or at least the appearance of it. Thesedivisive, unpopular Roberts court has dialed back the meaning of corruption so that it only refers to explicit quid pro quo corruption. 

Embedding an allegedly independent group within one’s campaign—as Walker seemed to do with longtime advisor R.J. Johnson, who was the Club for Growth’s spokesman—doesn’t rise to that level, Randa said. 

So he shut down the investigation, saying to Walker and these groups, basically, go for it. If you’ve got the same political aims, then it's free speech. 

(I wonder how Randa would have ruled if, for example, Milwaukee Mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Tom Barrett had embedded a United Wisconsin chieftain in his campaign. I doubt that Randa would have seen that as mere political free speech.) 

I’ll let the legal experts weigh in on the merits of his ruling. Randa’s been on shaky ground before, most prominently in the Georgia Thompson case, which the appeals court overturned based on “beyond thin” evidence presented by, don’t you know it, Walker’s personal attorney, Steven Biskupic, then a federal prosecutor. Thompson was freed from prison immediately. Randa’s still on the bench. 

Randa seems to be daring prosecutors to appeal yesterday’s decision, right up to the U.S. Supreme Court. If the high court gets this case, it’s hard to imagine that given its recent rulings it would have a problem with Walker’s (alleged) setup with the Wisconsin Club for Growth. 

Which leads us...



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