Amid gender and racial inequity complaints and the firing of the co-founder, Southern Poverty Law Center President Richard Cohen is stepping down, according to the N.Y. Post.
The SPLC fired co-founder Morris Dees for alleged misconduct last week, and now Cohen is resigning "in order to give the organization the best chance to heal," the Post reported.
"Whatever problems exist at the SPLC happened on my watch, so I take responsibility for them," Cohen's statement read, the L.A. Times reported.
Also, a senior member of the anti-hate group's legal team had stepped down Thursday, per the Times.
The watchdog's board will conduct a board-led search for new leadership, according to the Post.
The SPLC, a nonprofit legal advocacy organization, has requested an audit to be conducted by former White House Director of Public Liaison Tina Tchen so it can "emerge stronger," per the Times.
Source: NewsMax America
Congressional Democrats are plotting strategy as they await the conclusions of Robert Mueller's now-completed Russia investigation, with senior lawmakers demanding full transparency and preparing for next steps if the results are favorable to President Donald Trump.
House Democrats planned meetings by phone on Saturday to share what they know about the probe and to discuss how to move forward. It was unclear how soon they will have more information from Attorney General William Barr, who received the report from Mueller on Friday and has notified Congress that he intends to share its "principal conclusions" soon.
The Justice Department told lawmakers that Barr's summary was not expected Saturday but could still come over the weekend, according to multiple people familiar with the notification. The people requested anonymity to discuss the private message from the Justice Department.
The conclusion of Mueller's probe comes as House Democrats have launched several of their own into Trump and his personal and political dealings. And no matter what Mueller concludes, they say there is much more investigating to do.
"It's the end of the beginning but it's not the beginning of the end," said Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Democratic member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, echoing his party's strategy moving forward.
In a Saturday conference call, Coons also issued a warning for his fellow Democrats, many of whom have pinned astronomical political hopes on Mueller's findings: "Once we get the principal conclusions of the report, I think it's entirely possible that that will be a good day for the president and his core supporters."
As they waited for more information, House Democrats planned conference calls. In a letter to colleagues Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there would be an "emergency caucus conference call" in the afternoon in which committee chairmen would update all Democratic House members on "where we go from here." Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee were expected to convene on a smaller call beforehand.
Without the results of the report, the Democrats were expected to discuss the few details that are currently known and also their own plans to call for more transparency. Pelosi said in the letter that Barr's offer to provide Congress with a summary of conclusions was "insufficient."
Democrats have said they have to see the full report from Mueller, including underlying evidence, before they can assess it. Those demands for information are setting up a potential tug of war between Congress and the Trump administration that federal judges might eventually have to referee.
Six Democratic committee chairmen wrote in a letter to Barr on Friday that if Mueller has any reason to believe that Trump "has engaged in criminal or other serious misconduct," then the Justice Department should not conceal it.
"The president is not above the law and the need for public faith in our democratic institutions and the rule of law must be the priority," the chairmen wrote.
It's unclear what Mueller has found related to the president, or if any of it would be damning. In his investigation of whether Trump's campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the 2016 election, Mueller has already brought charges against 34 people, including six aides and advisers to the president, and three companies.
Lawmakers say they need that underlying evidence — including interviews, documents and material turned over to the grand jury — because the Justice Department has maintained that a president cannot be indicted and also that derogatory information cannot be released about people who have not been charged. So if the investigation did find evidence incriminating Trump, they may not be able to release it, under their own guidelines.
The Democrats say it could be tantamount to a cover-up if the department did not let Congress and the public know what they found.
Barr testified at his confirmation hearings that he wants to release as much information as he can about the inquiry. But the department's regulations require only that the attorney general report to Congress that the investigation has concluded and describe or explain any times when he or Rosenstein decided an action Mueller proposed "was so inappropriate or unwarranted" that it should not be pursued. Barr said Friday there were no such instances where Mueller was thwarted.
But anything less than the full report won't be enough for Democrats.
"If the AG plays any games, we will subpoena the report, ask Mr. Mueller to testify, and take it all to court if necessary," said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y. "The people deserve to know."
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told CNN on Friday that he's willing to subpoena Mueller and Barr, if needed, to push for disclosure.
Though Trump himself has said the report should be made public, it's not clear whether the administration would fight subpoenas for testimony or block the transmission of grand jury material.
If the administration decides to fight, lawmakers could ask federal courts to step in and enforce a subpoena. A court fight could, in theory, reach the Supreme Court. But few tussles between Congress and the White House get that far. They often are resolved through negotiation.
In both the Clinton and Obama administrations, even when talks failed and courts got involved in assessing claims of executive privilege, the White House decided not to take the fight to the high court and complied with lower court rulings against it.
The Democrats, led by Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, could also formally ask Mueller to send his committee evidence that could be used in possible impeachment proceedings against Trump, as suggested by Benjamin Wittes, a senior Brookings Institution fellow and editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog.
That's the course one of Nadler's predecessors followed during Watergate, although an impeachment inquiry against President Richard Nixon had already started by that point. Grand jury material from special counsel Leon Jaworski, provided through the federal judge who presided over the Watergate trials, became the road map that the House committee used to vote for articles of impeachment. Nixon resigned before the full House acted on his impeachment.
Pelosi said recently that she's not for impeaching Trump, at least for now.
Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris on Saturday called for a significant federal investment in teacher pay, the first policy proposal that she has put forth since officially launching her 2020 campaign.
At a rally in Houston, Harris argued that the U.S. faces a teacher pay crisis that requires a national response. She pledged by the end of her first term to close a pay gap that Harris said currently amounts to teachers making about $13,000 a year less than other college graduates.
"You can judge a society by the way it treats its children, and one of the greatest expressions of love that a society can give to its children is educating those children with resources they need," Harris said.
Harris' campaign is citing a study from the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute that found that what's called the "teacher pay penalty" — the difference in compensation for teachers and comparable public workers — is larger than ever. The Economic Policy Institute study puts the teacher compensation penalty at a record-high 11.1 percent in 2017.
Harris, a U.S. senator from California, plans to release more details of the plan next week, but she said her proposal will amount to the largest federal investment in teacher pay in American history. It was not immediately clear how much money Harris is calling to be diverted to educators' pay or how the plan will be funded, but she told a packed gymnasium at Texas Southern University that the cost shouldn't be the question.
"The question is: What's the return on the investment?" Harris said.
Harris' focus on the pay of educators comes as walkouts by teachers protesting low pay and education funding shortfalls have made headlines across the country. Throngs of teachers have marched in states across the country demanding better funding, including in California.
In February, Harris threw her support behind striking teachers in her hometown of Oakland, where she launched her campaign earlier this year.
The rally in Houston was Harris' first in Texas since announcing that she would seek the Democratic presidential nomination.
Source: NewsMax Politics
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill will have to wait a bit longer to receive from Attorney General William Barr the conclusions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
A senior Justice Department official said Barr will not release to Congress the special counsel’s “principal conclusions” on Saturday, according to multiple reports.
Mueller’s report is the culmination of his inquiry into Russian meddling, which spanned nearly two years and resulted in the indictments of 34 people and three Russian companies.
Among those indicted as part of Mueller’s probe were six people close to President Trump, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and the president’s longtime informal adviser Roger Stone.
Trump’s longtime attorney and fixer Michael Cohen was also swept up in Mueller’s investigation, and he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about discussions regarding a possible Trump Tower in Moscow.
Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein were at the Justice Department on Saturday reviewing Mueller’s report, which was characterized as “comprehensive.”
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh has been tapped by George Mason University to serve as a distinguished visiting professor.
Kavanaugh will co-teach a two-credit course for the Antonin Scalia Law School this summer called “Creation of the Constitution” with his former law clerk and professor Jennifer Mascott, a representative for the university said. The course will be taught in Runnymede, England, and run from July 22 to Aug 29.
The Supreme Court’s term ends in June, and the justices will return for the start of its next term in October.
Many justices teach at universities during the summer break. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who retired last year, often traveled to Austria to teach for the McGeorge School of Law and in 2017, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg taught students from the South Texas College of Law Houston’s study abroad program in Malta.
Along with Kavanaugh, Justice Neil Gorsuch will teach two courses for the Antonin Scalia Law School in Italy this summer with his former clerk and professor Jamil Jaffer.
“It is a rare opportunity for students to learn from a U.S. Supreme Court justice and we believe that contributes to making our law program uniquely valuable for our students,” George Mason University Antonin Scalia of Law said in a statement.
News that Kavanaugh will join the law school’s faculty was first reported by Fourth Estate, George Mason’s student-run newspaper.
Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court in October after a highly contentious confirmation battle that was roiled by allegations of sexual misconduct. The justice taught a course at Harvard University titled “The Supreme Court Since 2005,” but the school said last year he would not be teaching the course for the spring term.
Catherine Claypoole, associate deal and dean for academic and faculty affairs, said at the time that “Kavanaugh indicted that he can no longer commit to teaching his course,” and as a result, it would not be offered.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election is finally complete, and now the country waits with bated breath to learn of Mueller’s findings.
But it could be some time before Americans eager to learn the fruits of the special counsel’s labors are satisfied, as the report is now in the hands of the Justice Department and Attorney General William Barr.
While it’s unclear when the details of the report will be made public, Congress is expected to learn of Mueller’s “principal conclusions” as soon as this weekend.
So what are some of the key players surrounding Mueller’s probe doing as they await word of the special counsel’s conclusions?
Trump left Washington, D.C., on Friday morning for Florida, where he is spending the weekend at his Palm Beach property, Mar-a-Lago. The president hasn’t said anything publicly about the end of Mueller’s probe, which he has called a “witch hunt” run by “angry Democrats.”
Before leaving the White House, Trump repeated his assertion to reporters that there was “no collusion” between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russia.
Since news that Mueller’s probe concluded broke Friday evening, the president has been quiet on Twitter, his primary forum for attacking the special counsel’s investigation.
Trump did, however, arrive at his West Palm Beach golf club just after 9 am. He has no public events on his schedule and is expected to return to the White House on Sunday evening.
Attorney General Bill Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
Barr was spotted by reporters leaving his McLean, Va., home Saturday morning, and he arrived at the Justice Department shortly after. Rosenstein is also at the Department of Justice.
The attorney general is reading Mueller’s report, which has been described as “comprehensive.”
In a letter send to congressional leaders on Friday, Barr said he could release the special counsel’s “principal conclusions” as early as this weekend. It’s unknown, however, when that information will be sent to Capitol Hill.
Barr told lawmakers he plans to consult with Rosenstein and Mueller to “determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law.”
Special counsel Robert Mueller
Mueller’s investigation was surrounded in secrecy, and rumors of its impending conclusion reached a fever pitch late this week.
Those rumors were put to rest Friday, when the special counsel submitted a report on his investigation into Russian meddling to Barr, marking the end of the probe. A senior Justice Department official said Mueller will not recommend any new indictments.
After the report was delivered, Mueller was spotted dining at Salt & Pepper Restaurant in Washington, D.C., on Friday night.
Peter Carr, spokesman for the special counsel’s office, said Mueller “will be concluding his service in the coming days.”
“A small number of staff will remain to assist in closing the operations of the office for a period of time,” Carr said.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are in a holding pattern as they await the release from Barr of Mueller’s principal conclusions.
But Democrats are not taking it easy Saturday. According to reports, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Democrats will have a conference call Saturday afternoon to discuss their strategy surrounding the report and next steps, according to reports.
A number of Democrats, including Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., are urging Barr to make Mueller’s full report available to the public and turn over to Congress its underlying documentation.
Barr, Pelosi and Schumer said, “must not give President Trump, his lawyers or his staff any ‘sneak preview’” of Mueller’s findings or evidence.
Last week, an appeals court reversed a previous ruling and protected a Chicago-based pastor and other religious leaders around the country from having their parsonage allowance taken away, which would have resulted in pastors having to pay nearly $1 billion per year in new taxes. This will hopefully be the last attempt by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group, to sue to have this particular IRS code 107(2) removed. The provision allows churches, mosques, and synagogues to provide faith leaders a tax-free housing allowance to help them live in the communities they serve. FFRF claimed it violated the establishment clause.
In 2016, FFRF first sued, claiming the federal tax provision violated the establishment clause. Pastor Chris Butler of the Chicago Embassy Church and other religious leaders intervened in an effort to salvage their parsonage allowance. However, in 2017, a district court agreed with FFRF, prompting an appeal from Butler. In October 2018, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, acting as attorneys on behalf of Butler, argued 107(2) was perfectly constitutional.
Last week, the Seventh Circuit ruled that the parsonage allowance is consistent with the nation’s “lengthy tradition of tax exemptions for religion, particularly for church-owned properties.” In a statement, Luke Goodrich, Vice President and Senior Counsel at Becket said, “The tax code treats ministers the same as hundreds of thousands of nonreligious workers who receive tax-exempt housing for their jobs — that’s not special treatment, it’s equal treatment. The court rightly recognized that striking down the parsonage allowance would devastate small, low-income houses of worship in our neediest neighborhoods and would cause needless conflict between church and state.”
This is good news for religious liberty advocates and lovers of the establishment clause. Not only did the judges rule that the case passes both the infamous “Lemon” test and the “historical significance” test, it’s good for practical reasons too.
If you’re trying to figure out what all that means, check out this nifty video:
Pastors like Butler do a lot of public good. He leads a predominantly African-American congregation at his church and mentors at-risk youth, helps decrease crime, and aids Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods. Many houses of worship in poor neighborhoods can’t grant their pastors robust salaries, so in turn, they offer a housing allowance. This is common nationwide among “ministers of the faith.”
This ruling also quashes, at least temporarily, the efforts of groups like FFRF who are not a bastion for religious freedom but are instead a thorn in the side of faith-based people, organizations, and whole communities who are trying to help others. It’s not so much that they hate the beloved establishment clause, but they don’t understand the beauty of it, and thus they believe everything related to the government and faith entities must be somehow operating in violation of it.
It’s either willful ignorance or blatant disregard for the Constitution. But either way, their efforts are tiresome, boorish, and this time, ineffective.
Nicole Russell (@russell_nm) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner‘s Beltway Confidential blog. She is a journalist who previously worked in Republican politics in Minnesota.
A Texas flight attendant who was enrolled in the government's program for "Dreamers" flew to Mexico for work and was stopped by immigration authorities who forced her to spend more than a month in detention, her attorney said.
Selene Saavedra Roman, 28, who immigrated illegally to the U.S. as a child, was released Friday from a detention center in Conroe, Texas, according to a statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
"Being released is an indescribable feeling," she said through a spokesman. "I cried and hugged my husband and never wanted to let go. I am thankful and grateful for the amazing people that came to fight for me, and it fills my heart. Thank you to everyone that has supported. I am just so happy to have my freedom back."
Originally from Peru and married to an American citizen, she raised concerns with Mesa Airlines about her immigration status after being assigned to an international flight, attorney Belinda Arroyo said.
The airline assured her she would be fine, but she was stopped by U.S. authorities on Feb. 12, when she returned to Houston, and was sent to detention, where she remained for more than five weeks, Arroyo said.
Soon after her lawyer, her husband, the airline and a flight attendants' group publicly demanded her release, Saavedra Roman called to tell her husband she was getting out.
"She was crying and she said, 'Please come get me,'" her husband, David Watkins, told reporters.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency was looking into her status. Earlier, the agency said Saavedra Roman did not have a valid document to enter the country and was being detained while going through immigration court proceedings.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services — the agency that oversees the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA — declined to discuss the case. But the agency says on its website that participants who travel outside the country without a special document allowing them to do so are no longer covered by the program.
The agency no longer issues the document to the program's enrollees, according to the website.
People enrolled in the program are commonly referred to as "Dreamers," based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act.
The Trump administration sought to end the Obama-era program but was blocked by litigation. New applications have been halted, but renewals continue for hundreds of thousands of immigrants already enrolled.
In a joint statement with the Association of Flight Attendants, Mesa Airlines chief executive Jonathan Ornstein apologized to Saavedra Roman and asked U.S. authorities to release her, arguing that it was unfair to continually detain someone "over something that is nothing more than an administrative error and a misunderstanding."
"She should have never been advised that she could travel," Arroyo said. "It was a big mistake."
Saavedra Roman — who is scheduled to appear before an immigration judge in April — attended Texas A&M University, where she met her husband.
Watkins said he was not initially worried about her assignment because they already obtained approval from Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for her green card as the wife of an American citizen. She has no criminal record and has long paid her taxes, he said, and she checked with her employer before the trip.
Then she was detained. He could visit her only once a week and could only see her through thick glass. She sounded hopeless, he said.
"I told her, 'Even if you get deported to Peru, I'll just go with you,'" he said to reporters. "Regardless of whatever happens in the future, I am not giving up. I am going to keep fighting."
In a statement, the union representing Saavedra Roman and her colleagues said the event "highlights the urgency of commonsense immigration reform and resolution for America's children who are part of DACA."
Source: NewsMax America