September 2, 2017 by
Tom Rentschler, an attorney and former high school teacher, has lived in Berks County for most of his life. He remembers as a young adult going to the grocery store and bumping into his local congressman. But Rentschler, 53, says over time he and other voters in Berks County have lost their voice. "I just don't think we have anyone speaking for our county," he says. Berks County once made up a large portion of the 6th U.S. Congressional District. But the last time districts were redrawn in 2011, Berks' more than 400,000 residents were sliced and diced into four separate congressional districts.  A view of Reading, Pennsylvania from Museum Road. The city is carved out of the 6th U.S. Congressional District and included with Lancaster and Chester Counties. Rentschler says his family's economic well-being and future depends on the success of the region as a whole. And having separate representatives in congress undermines those prospects. "To me that just weakens the county and the city's chances for federal funding. It could be for law enforcement, it could be for poverty programs, it could be for health programs, social programs. It just weakens the Reading and Berks County community, and to me that's the biggest impact," he says. Rentschler lives just outside of the city of Reading in Exeter Township, which remains in the 6th District. So does most of Reading's suburbs. But Reading, the largest city in Berks, was carved out of the 6th District entirely, separated from its neighboring suburbs, and grouped into the largely rural 16th District, which encompasses much of Lancaster County. For Rentschler, a Democrat, the district boundaries go beyond political winners and losers. "I think that if it were a natural district, similar to the one that I had, I'd feel okay with a Republican representative, but gerrymandering makes it feel forced upon me," he says. In June, Rentschler became one of 18 plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania in state Commonwealth Court challenging the 2011 congressional map and claiming Pennsylvania lawmakers violated the state constitution when they created it. The court will decide whether to hear the case or delay proceedings until after the U.S. Supreme Court decides a federal challenge out of Wisconsin. Creating the map Every 10 years, states go through a redistricting process after the U.S. Census.  In Pennsylvania, the state General Assembly controls this process, and in 2011, Republicans held the House, Senate, and Governorship. There are no specific rules for drawing congressional district boundaries in Pennsylvania, other than those outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Federal law requires each district to have nearly the same amount of people.  The lawsuit claims the map Pennsylvania lawmakers created is a partisan gerrymander that violates the equal protection clause of the state's constitution. Republicans are accused of intentionally drawing district boundaries that pack as many Democrats in as few districts as possible and then disperse the remainder over as many districts as possible. The effect, ultimately, diluting Democrats' votes. In the last three elections for U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans won 13 of Pennsylvania's 18 seats, even though registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than 800,000 voters statewide. National models for identifying gerrymandering have found Pennsylvania to be among the worst offenders in the United States.  "From our perspective, whether it was the Republicans in control and gerrymandering or if it were the Democrats in control and gerrymandering, either way it's bad. In effect, this is a bipartisan issue for anyone who cares about democracy," says Mimi McKenzie, legal director at the Public Interest Law Center. "Either way it's done, it results in politicians picking their voters rather than voters electing their leaders and that's not the way it's supposed to work in a democracy." In addition to equal protection concerns, McKenzie's 18 plaintiffs — all Democrats — and the League of Women Voters claim the map violates their right to free speech under the state constitution. To stay or not to stay?  In response to the lawsuit, leaders in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, still controlled by Republicans, have asked the court to stay all proceedings until the U.S. Supreme Court issues a decision in Gill v. Whitford, a similar case out of Wisconsin.  Commonwealth Court is scheduled to consider Pennsylvania Republicans’ request for stay Oct. 4 — one day after oral arguments for the Gill case begin before the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling would have national ramifications — but isn’t expected until June 2018. The last time the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case on political gerrymandering was in 2004. In Vieth v. Jubelirer, the court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the case was non justiciable — meaning the court refused to intervene. In the opinion announcement, Justice Antonin Scalia said the court could not come up with a clear standard of when redistricting could be considered an unconstitutional gerrymander. The nation's highest court will revisit this issue when it decides whether a federal court violated its ruling in Vieth by striking down Wisconsin's state assembly map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. "The most important part of the Pennsylvania case is it's so similar to the case of the Wisconsin case that is currently before the United States Supreme Court," says Drew Crompton, council to Pennsylvania Senate Republicans. "We just think you hit the pause button for a bit on the Pennsylvania case. We see what the Supreme Court does on the Wisconsin case." But the plaintiffs think the case should go forward regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court timeline because it claims violations of the state — not federal — constitution.  McKenzie says there are no legal or factual grounds for delaying the case. "The state legislatures' lawyers are simply trying to insulate an unconstitutional map for potentially another 11 months," she said in a written statement this week. McKenzie hopes to move the case along as quickly as possible and wants a decision by 2018, in time to affect the congressional races. But Crompton believes it's a more prudent and cost effective to wait. "I understand that they have all these reasons to want to do this in a hurry, but June of 2018 is really not that far away. If we all were arguing that maybe someday the U.S. Supreme Court is going to take this up again that's a different argument. We know with certainty that it's locked and loaded for the fall of 2017 to be decided in the spring of 2018," he says. Bruce Ledewitz, a law professor at Duquesne University, said the stakes are high as to whether the Pennsylvania case is heard on its merits or shelved until after a Supreme Court ruling. "Our courts hear cases that the federal courts don't hear. That doesn't mean the plaintiffs win. But it does mean that the case gets heard," says Ledewitz. If the case is stayed, Ledewitz says, it's likely a loss for the League of Women Voters and plaintiffs like Tom Rentschler. But if the case proceeds, the state legislature and the 2011 redistricting process will be put under a microscope. "Everything they do in districting is going to be examined in a courtroom and they are going to have to be careful about what they do and that will be a very powerful restraint," says Ledewitz. Compare Pennsylvania’s 16th U.S. congressional district (which includes the city of Reading) and the 6th U.S. Congressional District. (Map Source) source

August 31, 2017 by
Donald Trump’s ability to issue presidential pardons has been the ultimate weapon looming over Robert Mueller’s investigation. Trump could potentially pardon himself of any crimes. More important, he could dangle a pardon to his former staffers to encourage them not to supply Mueller with any incriminating information on Trump. Mueller is apparently handling his investigating like the prosecution of a mob boss, pressuring underlings to flip on the boss. Trump’s advantage is that, unlike a mob boss, he can give out an unlimited number of get-out-of-jail-free cards. Trump has reportedly mused in public about using the pardon — and his pardon of Joe Arpaio flaunted his willingness to use it on behalf of a political ally, even in outrageous fashion. Special counsel Robert Mueller. But it turns out that there is a flaw in Trump’s strategy. The presidential pardon only applies to federal crimes. As NBC reported last night, it is possible for state governments to press charges in some of the alleged crimes committed by Trump’s cronies. “You would have to find that one of those [election] crimes occurred in New York,” Jennifer Rodgers, a former federal prosecutor, told NBC. Of course, some of the alleged crimes almost certainly did take place in New York. And sure enough, Josh Dawsey reports, Mueller is teaming up with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. “One of the people familiar with progress on the case said both Mueller’s and Schneiderman’s teams have collected evidence on financial crimes, including potential money laundering,” he notes. Trump can pardon anybody facing charges from Mueller, but not from Schneiderman. It is probably significant that Mueller is letting this fact be known to Trump’s inner circle. Trump’s biggest source of leverage over Mueller just disappeared. source Read More: Mueller teams up with New York attorney general in Manafort probe Exclusive: Top Trump aide's email draws new scrutiny in Russia inquiry Trump Jr. delivers ‘smoking gun’ to Mueller Can Trump use the presidential pardon to thwart the Russia investigations? Trump lawyers asking about presidential pardon powers: report Could Trump Pardon Himself? Probably Not Trump Raises an Army

August 31, 2017 by
I know that Harvey is heavy on America’s heart. It is certainly heavy on mine. My oldest brother lives in the hard-hit suburban Houston town of Humble, just outside of George Bush Intercontinental Airport and on the shores of the Spring Creek and the west fork of the San Jacinto River. And now the storm is barreling toward my hometown in North Louisiana where my mother and two of my brothers live. I’m anxious. I wish that I could take a reprieve from politics and simply focus on the human suffering and human altruism on display in the affected areas. But, alas, I cannot. Politics keep creeping in. Politics keep occurring concurrently. President Trump promoting tax cuts in Springfield, Mo., on Wednesday. Set aside for a moment that Donald Trump is the person who pulled America out of the Paris climate accords, even though models suggest that climate change makes severe weather more severe, and as Politico reports, “Harvey is the third 500-year flood to hit the Houston area in the past three years.” Forget for a moment that, according to Slate, just 10 days before Harvey made landfall Trump signed an executive order that included “eliminating an Obama-era rule called the federal flood risk management standard that asked agencies to account for climate change projections when they approved projects.” The final assessment on how this administration handles the storm can’t be made while it still rages, but what Trump says and does now is open to analysis. In that vein, a line from Trump’s joint press conference with the president of Finland stood out. When asked about pardoning former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio as Harvey was making landfall, Trump responded: “Actually, in the middle of a hurricane, even though it was a Friday evening, I assumed the ratings would be far higher than they would be normally.” Consider what this man is saying: He used the horror and anxious anticipation of a monster storm menacing millions of Americans — particularly in Houston whose population is 44 percent Hispanic — in a political calculation to get more ratings and more eyeballs on the fact that he was using the power of the presidency to forgive, and thereby condone, Arpaio’s racism. Why does Trump continue to do things that are so divisive and alienating to the majority of Americans? Why does he keep fueling the white-hot fire of his base to the exclusion of the other segments of the country? I have a theory: Trump and the people who either shield or support him are locked in a relationship of reciprocation, like a ball of snakes. Everyone is using everyone else. The oligarchs see Trump as a pathway to slashing regulations and cutting taxes for the rich. According to a July analysis by the Tax Policy Center, “Nearly 40 percent of the tax cut would flow to households in the top 1 percent of the income distribution, giving those earners an average annual tax cut of around $270,000.” Establishment Republicans see him as a path to reversing the New Deal. Steve Bannon-ists see him as a path to the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” All Republicans, but particularly the religious right, see him as a securer of conservative Supreme Court justices. The blue-collar Trump voters view him as a last chance to breathe life into the dying dream that waning industries and government-supported white cultural assurances can be revived. And the white nationalists, white supremacists, racists and Nazis — to the degree that they can be separated from the others — see him as a tool of vengeance and as an instrument of their defense. Trump sees all these people who want to use him, and he’s using them right back. Trump made an industry out of selling conspicuous consumption. He sold the ideas that greed was good, luxury was aspirational and indulgence was innocent. Trump’s supporters see him as vector; he sees them as market. Marketing is how he has made his money and attained his infamy. That is why he is so obsessed with the media and crowds and polls (at least when he was doing well in them): He sees people, in his die-hard base at least, who have thoroughly bought into the product of Trumpism and he is doing everything to please them and make them repeat customers. But in addition, and perhaps more sinisterly, I think that Trump is raising an army, whether or not he would describe it as such, and whether or not those being involved recognize their own conscription. This is not a traditional army, but it is an army no less. And, when I say army, I’m not speaking solely of armed militia, although there is a staggering number of guns continuously being put into circulation. As the N.R.A.’s Institute for Legislative Action wrote in June: “Each month of Trump’s presidency has seen over two million firearm-related background checks. Only in 2016, when Americans faced losing their Second Amendment rights forever, did the F.B.I. run more checks during a January to April period.” I’m also talking about the unarmed, but unwavering: the army of zombie zealots. How do you raise an army? You do that by dividing America into tribes and, as “president,” aligning yourself with the most extreme tribe, all the while promoting militarization among people who support you. You do it by worshiping military figures and talking in militaristic terms. You reverse Barack Obama’s executive order on gun control. As PolitiFact put it: “Obama’s order made it mandatory for the Social Security Administration to release information about mentally ill recipients of Social Security benefits. This information would then be included in background checks, essentially prohibiting people with mental illnesses to buy guns.” You cozy up to police unions and encourage police brutality. You do this by rescinding Obama-era limits on the militarization of police departments; a move that, according to The New York Times, allows these departments “access to military surplus equipment typically used in warfare, including grenade launchers, armored vehicles and bayonets.” You do this by defending armed white nationalists and Nazis in Charlottesville. You do this by defending monuments of Confederates who fought to preserve the noxious institution of slavery, and you do it by tweeting the coded language of white supremacists: “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.” You do this by pardoning Arpaio, a man who joked about an Arizona jail being a “concentration camp,” signaling to people that racist brutality is permissible. You also do this by attempting to reduce or marginalize populations of people opposed to you: Build a wall, return to failed drug policies that helped fuel mass incarceration, ban Muslims, curb even legal immigration, increase immigration arrests. And why raise this army? Again, I have a theory. Should something emerge from the Robert Mueller investigation — an investigation that is continuing unabated even as Harvey rages — that should implicate Trump and pose a threat to the continuation of his tenure, Trump wants to position any attempt to remove him as a political coup. His efforts to delegitimize the press are all part of this because one day the press may have to deliver ruinous news. In that scenario, Trump knows that the oligarchs and establishment Republicans would be quick to abandon him. Their support isn’t intrinsic; it’s transactional. But the base — the market — the ones with guns as well as those who are simply excited, the die-hards, the ones he keeps appealing to and applauding, will not forsake him. They see attacks on Trump as attacks on themselves. Trump is playing an endgame. In the best-case scenario, these die-hards are future customers; in the worst, they are future confederates. If these people should come to believe — as Trump would have them believe — that establishment systems have unfairly and conspiratorially acted to remove from office their last and only champion — another thing Trump would have them believe — what will they do? What would Trump’s army do if he were compelled to leave but refused to graciously comply? source Read More: Trump is sending a message by pardoning Sheriff Arpaio Why Donald Trump Pardoned Joe Arpaio Trump Reverses Restrictions on Military Hardware for Police WATCH: Trump Encourages Police to Be More Aggressive With Arrestees Warning signs of mass violence – in the US? Donald Trump has every reason to keep white people thinking about race State Dept. science envoy resigns with letter that spells out 'Impeach' Cities join call for impeachment Alex Jones is frequently indicating his willingness to personally kill people in a bloody second civil war.

August 26, 2017 by
New York voters will soon decide whether to authorize a constitutional convention to confront issues long mired in political gridlock, such as additional guarantees for abortion, repeal of the 2013 gun control law, measures to combat the influence of big-money campaign donors, improvements to mass transit in New York City and on Long Island, and anti-corruption measures. If voters call for a reboot of the highest law of New York, a constitutional convention also could take on popular structural proposals that usually don’t raise a peep in Albany. Those options include legislative term limits, eliminating the Senate or Assembly to reduce cost and partisan standoffs; curbs on the extensive power of governors in crafting state budgets; and banning outside jobs by lawmakers. The 1777 convention, which wrote the first state constitution, rejected an attempt to end slavery. Member's of New York's first constitutional convention assemble in front of the courthouse in Kingston on April 20 of that year to listen to the convention secretary as he read the new constitution to the public. “Politicians in office cannot or will not sufficiently regulate themselves,” said Gerald Benjamin, distinguished professor of political science at SUNY New Paltz. “Maybe we can find a better way at a constitutional convention.” Voters will make the decision Nov. 7 in a yes or no vote. If approved, months later three delegates will be elected from each of 63 State Senate districts statewide. Another 15 “at large” delegates will be elected from anywhere in the state for a total for 204. The delegates would draw a salary for months of public work that would begin in 2018. Their recommendations would then be subject to a referendum on an election day, probably in 2019, after a series of public hearings, speeches and advertising blitzes from all sides. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has said he supports a convention but only if delegates aren’t dominated by elected officials who could protect the status quo. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) opposed a constitutional convention. Supporters of a constitutional convention argue it is the only way to reform Albany’s ethical behavior and to reduce the influence of wealthy corporations and individuals on policymaking. Many opponents, however, fear that politicians and incumbents, who could become delegates, would hijack the citizens’ convention to unravel current protections in the constitution, such as the guarantee of pensions for teachers and other public workers and environmental protections. Another camp opposed to a convention fears that incumbent legislators would take control of it, costing taxpayers millions and making sure no substantive work to curb corruption is passed. The stakes are high. A constitutional convention in 1846 placed caps on borrowing as well as punished the bribery of public officials for the first time. In 1866, one created free public schools and gave African-American men who owned property the right to vote. In 1894, a convention established “forever wild” areas of the Adirondacks and Catskills and founded the State University of New York. The 1938 convention required the state to care for those who couldn’t care for themselves under “articles on care of the needy,” and banned discrimination based on “race, color or creed.” However, opponents also note that other conventions made far less progressive decisions. The 1777 convention, which wrote the first state constitution, rejected an attempt to end slavery. The 1801 convention weakened the governor’s power over appointments and spending and created a spoils system for the legislature that led to rampant corruption. The 1894 convention denied the vote to women. “We need bold, systemic change now that will take direct aim at the culture of corruption, dysfunction and cronyism that has brought shame to our state for decades,” said Bill Samuels, a veteran of New York political campaigns and founder of the New York People’s Convention group. Samuels’ People’s Convention group also supports non-ethics measures including full civil rights protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender New Yorkers, more funding for underperforming poor urban and rural schools, and the legalization of marijuana. Proponents see hope in the anger of voters who feel ignored by politics as usual that helped elect Donald Trump president, just as the Progressive Era fueled the 1915 convention and the Great Depression forced the 1938 convention. “To me, the most important thing of all is we have to have public financing of elections and we are not going to get it legislatively,” said Richard Ravitch, the former Democratic lieutenant governor who has played major historical roles in New York’s mass transit system, New York City’s fiscal crisis, and in health care reform. Other supporters also have policy goals. For example, the state Bar Association calls for restructuring the “byzantine” court system to make it easier for lawyers and clients to navigate as well as consolidating trial courts. The Committee for a Constitutional Convention, which includes good-government groups such as New York City-based Citizens Union, wants public financing of campaigns and restoring some power of self-governance to New York City, much of which was lost to Albany when the state bailed the city out of financial crisis in the 1970s. Ravitch said he understands the fears of opponents — for example, the concern of losing guaranteed pensions for public workers — but he doesn’t believe such elements of the current constitution are in serious danger. He and other supporters of a convention, such as Samuels, insist the risks are worth changing how Albany operates. Hal Peterson is one of the New Yorkers who has caught the constitutional convention fever. “Many of our elected officials are unlikely to rain on their own parade,” said Peterson, of Rockville Centre, a former corporate executive turned good-government advocate in retirement. He is trying to get legislators to commit to positions on reform issues and has developed a website (reformalbanynowregistry.com). His seven proposals include a hard limit on state borrowing; eliminating the “LLC loophole” that allows corporations to use limited liability companies to contribute to candidates and parties far above the corporate limit of $5,000; and term limits and “initiative and referendum,” which many other states have, to allow citizens to initiate referenda on issues not taken up by the legislature. “Can we afford to be indifferent? No!” Peterson said. Yet opponents warn that big special interests can play an outsized role in a constitutional convention. That concern led even staunch good-government advocates and reform politicians to oppose a vote on whether to hold a convention in 1997, which led to its defeat. The good-government advocates then feared their attempts to rein in corruption would not only be defeated by delegates dominated by state legislators, but more loopholes would be created along with less independent oversight. Today, however, the groups say the need to clean up Albany overwhelms their fear that ethics legislation could be further eroded. Opponents of the November referendum on whether to hold a convention say they fear political bosses, public worker unions and big-money donors to campaigns will seize the upper hand in selecting delegates and the agenda. That agenda could decimate unions, eliminate or devalue the state pension guarantee for public workers, or undo the “forever wild” designations in the Adirondacks and Catskills that prohibit development. The concern over drastic change has joined opponents on both sides of some issues. For example, the New Yorkers Against Corruption coalition fighting the convention includes Planned Parenthood and Right-to-Life groups, the state Conservative Party and the liberal Working Families Party and the progressive Humanists of Long Island; as well as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Network and conservative church groups. “There is no question a constitutional convention could do tremendous damage to the state of New York,” said state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) and a founding member of the Independent Democratic Conference. None of us can feel safe about a constitutional convention.” A key concern of labor unions and their advocates, such as Savino, is that the possible elimination of the state constitution’s guarantee — since the 1938 constitutional convention referendum — that public workers get a lucrative, tax-free pension that can’t be “diminished or impaired” for a worker who is vested. Local government leaders, however, blame some of the nation’s highest property taxes on this pension obligation. Construction unions also fear the constitution could strike down legislation that requires union-level wages and protections in all publicly funded construction sites, which has been a boon for unionized companies in landing big contracts. “We don’t need to rip up the NYS constitution and put everything workers care about at risk to amend the constitution,” states the Facebook posting by the New York State AFL-CIO labor organization. The group says “Albany insiders” will try to take away workers’ rights such as costly pension benefits and legally required union-level wages that must be paid on most publicly funded projects, which drives up costs for taxpayers. Opposition also comes from the other side of the political spectrum. “It’s a bad idea,” said state Conservative Party chairman Mike Long, who watched the 1967 convention closely and was unimpressed. “The establishment controls the whole convention.” He said, for example, late-term abortion without restrictions could be made the law of the land. “I believe the constitution has served us well.” Supporters say they need Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to use his bully pulpit. As a candidate in 2010, Cuomo said it was critical to create a “constitutional commission” through a governor’s executive order or the legislature to identify who could be delegates and the issues they would weigh. Neither Cuomo nor the legislature has done so. In June, Cuomo emphasized the drawbacks of a convention. “I said a convention is a good idea,” Cuomo told reporters. “I think the devil is in the details. Who are the delegates? What are the issues? . . . You have to elect delegates who are not currently elected officials.” Cuomo noted that legislators already have the political apparatus and know-how to collect nominating petitions in each congressional district to become delegates. That expertise and staffing could shut out the political novices and private citizens the constitutional convention is intended to attract. He said New Yorkers should vote for a constitutional convention in November, but only with “the proviso” that elected officials can’t be delegates. But Peter Galie, professor emeritus of political science at Canisius College, said he doesn’t believe a constitutional commission could legally bar any group of people, such as lawmakers, from running to become delegates. “Cuomo’s argument is a counsel of despair or an ostensible but not real reason for his opposition,” Galie told Newsday. Heastie said, “We should be very, very careful in exposing the constitution to the whims of someone from outside the state who could decide to spend millions of dollars to put forth a position.” Supporters estimate the cost of a convention at $60 million. Opponents estimate as much as $500 million. Flanagan noted the legislature can already propose individual constitutional amendments. “I’m comfortable with the way that works,” Flanagan said. Voters have approved more than 225 amendments proposed by the legislature since 1895, according to the League of Women Voters. “The legislature is opposed,” said Evan Davis, who supports a convention and had been counsel to former Gov. Mario Cuomo, “and it’s not hard to figure out why.” Voters, however, seem to like the idea. A poll in May found New York voters 62-22 percent supported a constitutional convention, said Steven Greenberg of the Siena College Research Institute poll. The support included two-thirds of Democrats, 55 percent of Republicans and 59 percent of independents. But support has already eroded in the face of media campaigns against a convention. In July, a Siena poll found 47 percent of voters supported a convention, although 67 percent of voters said they still haven’t heard enough about the issue. source Read More: New Yorkers to vote on constitutional convention in 2017 Can ballot placement prevent a constitutional convention? How the Rich Can Rip Away Our Rights  

August 26, 2017 by
The former Maricopa County sheriff represents in miniature what the President would like to be more maximally—a successful authoritarian. President Trump had little to offer that was specific or coherent in the rambling, hate-filled speech that he delivered in Phoenix this week—the one that he later assessed in a self-congratulatory tweet as “enthusiastic, dynamic, and fun.” The speech lurched between schoolyard bragging (“I live in a bigger, more beautiful apartment” than the “élite” and “I live in the White House, too, which is really great”), the usual whining about reporters (“sick,” “bad,” “dishonest” people), and insults to Arizona’s two Republican senators, one of whom is currently battling brain cancer. The rhetorical flourishes borrowed from Fascist tropes, with their distinctive mix of vague language and unmistakable menace: the virtuous “we” and the unspecified “they,” who are trying to take away “our” customs and culture; the “thugs,” who protest the leader’s vision of America. Joe Arpaio, the former Maricopa County sheriff, represents in miniature what President Trump would like to be more maximally—a successful American authoritarian. But there were a few moments when Trump got very particular, and one of them was when he chose to express his keen admiration for Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County. In July, Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt of court, for defying an earlier court order to stop detaining people solely on suspicion of their immigration status. In Phoenix, Trump hinted that he would pardon Arpaio. He said that he wasn’t going to cause controversy by issuing a pardon then and there, but Sheriff Joe “can feel good,” he pledged, and was “going to be just fine.” Trump is likely a fan of Arpaio’s because Arapio is a fan of his—an early supporter who also went all in for birtherism, at one point sending members of a so-called Cold Case Posse to Hawaii to dig up something incriminating about Barack Obama’s birth certificate. But Trump probably also likes Arpaio because the former sheriff represents in miniature what the President would like to be more maximally—a successful American authoritarian. Earlier this month, in a conversation with Fox News, Trump called Arpaio “an outstanding sheriff” and “a great American patriot.” It’s worth considering what it takes, in Trump’s view, to deserve such tributes. Arpaio, who served as the sheriff of Maricopa County, which encompasses Phoenix, from 1993 until he was voted out of office, in 2016, has a long-standing reputation for flouting civil rights, particularly those of Latinos. In 2011, an investigation by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division found that Arpaio’s sheriff’s department engaged in egregious racial profiling in its traffic stops and discrimination in its jailing practices. In Maricopa County, Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely to be stopped than “similarly situated non-Latino drivers,” and about a fifth of traffic stops, most of which involved Latino drivers, violated Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable seizures. Sheriff’s department officers punished Latino inmates who had difficulty understanding orders in English by locking down their pods, putting them in solitary confinement, and refusing to replace their soiled sheets and clothes. The investigation found that sheriff’s department officers addressed Latino inmates as “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” “fucking Mexicans,” and “stupid Mexicans.” Arpaio, throughout his tenure, specialized in meting out theatrical punishments both petty and cruel. He required that detainees wear old-fashioned, black-and-white striped uniforms and pink underwear, presumably for the dollop of extra humiliation such costuming offered. He brought back chain gangs, including for women and juveniles. He housed detainees outdoors, under Army-surplus tents, in Phoenix temperatures that regularly soar well above a hundred degrees. “I put them up next to the dump, the dog pound, the waste-disposal plant,” Arpaio told my colleague William Finnegan, who wrote a Profile of Arpaio, in 2009. The sheriff called detainees “criminals” when they had not been convicted and once referred to his jail as “a concentration camp.” Finnegan described a federal investigation that found that deputies had used stun guns on prisoners already strapped into a “restraint chair.” The family of one man who died after being forced into the restraint chair was awarded more than six million dollars as the result of a suit filed in federal court. The family of another man killed in the restraint chair got $8.25 million in a pre-trial settlement. (This deal was reached after the discovery of a surveillance video that showed fourteen guards beating, shocking, and suffocating the prisoner, and after the sheriff’s office was accused of discarding evidence, including the crushed larynx of the deceased.) Like Trump, Arpaio regards reporters, activists, and critics of his policies as personal enemies as well as enemies of the people. The Justice Department investigation found that his department had “engaged in a pattern or practice of retaliating against individuals for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech.” It had “arrested individuals without cause, filed meritless complaints against the political adversaries of Sheriff Arpaio, and initiated unfounded civil lawsuits and investigations against individuals critical of MCSO policies and practices.” As Finnegan wrote, when the Phoenix New Times ran an investigation of Arpaio’s real-estate dealings that included his home address, the paper received a “broad subpoena, demanding, among other things, the Internet records of all visitors to its Web site in the previous two and a half years.” Sheriff’s deputies then “staged late-night raids on the homes of Michael Lacey and James Larkin, executives of Village Voice Media, which owns the New Times. The deputies arrested both men for, they said, violating grand-jury secrecy. (The county attorney declined to prosecute, and it turned out that the subpoenas were issued unlawfully.)” Local activists who applauded when someone made critical remarks about Arpaio at a Board of Supervisors meeting were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Arpaio had a private investigator follow the wife of a judge who had ruled against him. And so on. Plenty of Maricopa County’s residents evidently liked Arpaio’s “colorful” reputation as America’s toughest sheriff. Crime rates in the county decreased during some years of his tenure, though crime rates declined across the country, too, so it would be difficult to ascribe the reduction to Arpaio’s policing practices. And his “toughness” came at considerable cost to the taxpayers, who have had to pay for the tens of millions of dollars it has cost the county to respond to lawsuits against the former sheriff. Meanwhile, reporting by the Associated Press and several Arizona media outlets revealed that Arpaio's department, preoccupied with going after illegal immigration, had failed to properly investigate some four hundred sex crimes over a three-year period in the mid-two-thousands. Arpaio was scheduled to be sentenced for the contempt-of-court charge on October 5th, and he could have served up to six months in prison. Choosing to pardon him is a gift to the white nationalists. But it also signals a broad-brush contempt for fundamental rights in this country. As Paul Charlton, a former U.S. Attorney in Arizona, told the Washington Post earlier this week, “If you pardon that kind of conduct, if you forgive that behavior, you are acknowledging that racist conduct in law enforcement is worth the kind of mercy that underlies a pardon—and it’s not. And it’s an abuse of the President’s discretion. It’s an injustice, and speaks volumes about the President’s disregard for civil rights if this pardon takes place.” source Read More: Trump embodies every one of the Seven Deadly Sins Psychiatry group tells members they can ignore ‘Goldwater rule’ and comment on Trump’s mental health Trump’s policies would make America’s poor even poorer — and that’s before healthcare and tax cuts Democratic lawmaker files articles of impeachment against President Trump  

August 26, 2017 by
Members said it was important to formally condemn hate groups, but some privately scoffed that Republicans felt it was even necessary. The Republican National Committee on Friday unanimously approved a resolution condemning Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, a move that comes just two weeks after President Donald Trump was widely criticized for going easy on white supremacist groups involved in the Charlottesville, Virginia, protests. Some GOP officials privately scoffed at the idea that the party felt the need to officially condemn the KKK in 2017. But the move by the GOP’s official political arm — signed off on by the White House ahead of time — underscores the level of concern within the party over Trump’s comments on the protests and the impact they could have on the party heading into the 2018 midterm election.   The resolution, sponsored by RNC member Bill Palatucci of New Jersey, states that “the racist beliefs of Nazis, the KKK, white supremacists and other like-minded groups are completely inconsistent with the Republican Party’s platform,” and that “the view that the color of one’s skin determines or should determine one’s standing, rights, opportunities, or duties to others is not consistent with the philosophy of the Republican Party.” It adds: “The racist beliefs of the Nazis, the KKK, white supremacists and others are repulsive, evil, and have no fruitful place in the United States.” The forceful statement contrasts with the approach taken by Trump, who came under widespread criticism for equating white supremacists in Charlottesville with those protesting them. Much of the fire has come from within the president’s own party, with senior GOP leaders arguing that the president needed to be far more forceful in singling out hate groups. To underscore the peril confronting the party, the RNC’s chairwoman, Ronna Romney McDaniel, used a substantial part of her speech during Friday’s closing session to highlight the GOP’s opposition to extremist groups — even as she avoided any criticism of Trump. "Last week, I joined the president in speaking out strongly against any group that uses hate or violence," Romney McDaniel said. Some GOP officials privately scoffed at the idea that the party felt the need to officially condemn the KKK in 2017. Other GOP committee members also defended the need for a formal resolution. "You can’t emphatically denounce the groups enough. You have to do it by name, you have to do it specifically,” said Virginia GOP Chairman John Whitbeck. “If nothing else, you want some leadership coming out of this. We’re the national party.” Whitbeck, who oversees a party in a state with a 2017 governor’s race just months away, said the resolution was intended to be forceful and to call out specific groups that were involved in the Charlottesville violence. However, the committee was careful to avoid a fight with the White House. Ahead of Friday’s approval, the committee received direct sign-off from the administration on that resolution and the nearly dozen or so other resolutions that were voted on, according to a party official briefed on the matter. RNC chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel used a substantial part of her speech during Friday’s closing session to highlight the GOP’s opposition to extremist groups — even as she avoided any criticism of President Donald Trump. The vote capped a three-day, largely private gathering of party officials, operatives, and party leaders. Much of the agenda was focused on laying out the party’s plans for the 2018 midterms and for laying the groundwork for the 2020 election. On Thursday, the committee began mapping out how the 2020 nomination process will work. On Friday afternoon, a group of officials were to begin the process of deciding which city will play host to the 2020 Republican National Convention. Among those making the trek to Nashville were several key members of Trump’s political circle, including strategists Brad Parscale and Michael Glassner. On Thursday evening, the president’s son, Eric Trump, delivered a brief dinnertime speech in which he lavished praise on the committee for its fundraising efforts. As the committee’s 168 members walked the hallways of the sprawling Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, however, much of the chatter surrounded the troubles confronting the new president and how it could hurt the party in the months to come. Few RNC members were willing to publicly criticize the president, but in private conversations, many expressed dismay about Trump’s remarks on race, his decision to stoke primaries against his Republican critics, and his attacks on ailing GOP Sen. John McCain. As they shook their heads, some said it had become apparent they were dealing with a president who didn’t seem to understand how politics is conducted. Yet there also was a sense that, for all their complaints, there was little choice but to stand behind the president. Several noted Trump's fundraising prowess: He has raised more than $20 million for the committee over the course of the year, with more to come. “We know that he’s doing the best that he can, that it’s a big job, and that he’s got a lot of people that don’t care for him,” said Jonathan Barnett, an RNC member from Arkansas. “But this committee is very supportive and we’re behind him 100 percent, and we’re going to try to help him accomplish the goals and the value system we believe in.” At a time when the president finds himself in a fight with congressional GOP leaders, many of the president’s staunchest allies on the committee rushed to his defense. During a closed-door lunch on Thursday afternoon, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross pointedly complained about congressional inaction on Trump’s agenda, a message that drew widespread agreement. “If you look at polling, Congress’ approval rating is in the teens,” said David Bossie, a Maryland RNC member who served as Trump’s deputy campaign manager, “and it’s in the teens because people are frustrated they don’t do anything.” source Read More: RNC condemns white supremacy but makes no mention of Trump's remarks Over the groans of some, Republican National Committee votes to condemn white supremacists RNC votes to condemn white supremacists

August 24, 2017 by
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination released an unusually strong warning criticizing “the failure of the highest political level of the United States of America to unequivocally reject” racism. A United Nations panel forcefully chastised President Donald Trump’s response to this month’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, writing that it was “disturbed by the failure at the highest political level of the United States of America to unequivocally reject and condemn the racist violent events and demonstrations.” In an unusual decision released Wednesday but dated Aug. 18, the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination warned of “the example this failure could set for the rest of the world.” Without mentioning Trump by name but assailing “the Government of the United States of America, including the high-level politicians and public officials,” the committee members urged the U.S. “not only to unequivocally and unconditionally reject and condemn racist hate speech and racist crimes in Charlottesville and throughout the country, but also to actively contribute to the promotion of understanding, tolerance, and diversity between ethnic groups, and acknowledge their contribution to the history and diversity of the United States of America.” The committee wrote the strong condemnation under its “early warning and urgent action procedures.” Such a step is relatively rare and has been taken only six other times in the past decade — sometimes in the cases of large-scale ethnic or religious violence.  The last time the panel issued such a decision was last year, when it twice criticized the government of Burundi, East Africa, for not addressing its human rights abuses. Before that was in 2014, in a decision concerning the so-called Islamic State group’s attacks against civilians in Iraq. Trump received widespread condemnation for claiming there was violence “on many sides” in Charlottesville, without explicitly condemning the white supremacist groups that included Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis that precipitated the violence. More than 48 hours later, he finally issued a standard statement from the White House singling out the groups. A day later, however, Trump essentially took back those remarks by defending his original response. In a fiery press conference, he reiterated that “both sides” were to blame and claimed that some of the violent protesters were “very fine people.” At a raucous campaign rally Tuesday night in Arizona, Trump continued to stand by his original remarks, blaming the media for distorting them and condemning reporters in perhaps stronger terms than he used for the white supremacist groups. The U.N. committee also urged U.S. leaders to “identify and take concrete measures to address the root causes of the proliferation of such racist manifestations, and thoroughly investigate the phenomenon of racial discrimination targeting in particular against people of African descent, ethnic or ethno-religious minorities, and migrants.” Read the U.N. committee’s full decision below. source

August 23, 2017 by
Congressional investigators have unearthed an email from a top Trump aide that referenced a previously unreported effort to arrange a meeting last year between Trump campaign officials and Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter. The aide, Rick Dearborn, who is now President Donald Trump's deputy chief of staff, sent a brief email to campaign officials last year relaying information about an individual who was seeking to connect top Trump officials with Putin, the sources said. The person was only identified in the email as being from "WV," which one source said was a reference to West Virginia. It's unclear who the individual is, what he or she was seeking, or whether Dearborn even acted on the request. One source said that the individual was believed to have had political connections in West Virginia, but details about the request and who initiated it remain vague. The same source said Dearborn in the email appeared skeptical of the requested meeting. Sources said the email occurred in June 2016 around the time of the recently revealed Trump Tower meeting where Russians with Kremlin ties met with the president's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner as well as then-campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. While many details around the Dearborn email are unclear, its existence suggests the Russians may have been looking for another entry point into the Trump campaign to see if there were any willing partners as part of their effort to discredit -- and ultimately defeat -- Hillary Clinton. Dearborn's name has not been mentioned much as part of the Russia probe. But he served as then-Sen. Jeff Sessions' chief of staff, as well as a top policy aide on the campaign. And investigators have questions about whether he played a role in potentially arranging two meetings that occurred between the then-Russia ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, and Sessions, who has downplayed the significance of those encounters.   Dearborn was involved in helping to arrange an April 2016 event at the Mayflower Hotel where Trump delivered a major foreign policy address, sources said. Kislyak attended the event and a reception beforehand, but it's unclear whether he interacted with Sessions there. Dearborn did not respond to multiple inquiries seeking comment. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to comment, and would not respond to inquiries about Dearborn's email and whether the campaign carried through with that meeting. "We aren't going to comment on potentially leaked documents," Sanders said. Intelligence experts say the request made by the unidentified West Virginian fits a pattern of Russians trying to gather human intelligence and seek unwilling -- and sometimes unwitting partners -- as part of their covert operations. "The Russians are really experts at this," said Steve Hall, a retired CIA chief of Russia operations. But Hall added that it would be unusual to set up a meeting with Putin himself before meeting with operatives tied to the Kremlin. Emails about potentially meeting Putin The Russian "active measures" campaign to influence the US election was fully underway when Dearborn sent his email. This included cyberattacks against the Democratic National Committee and Clinton's senior staffers, as well as pro-Trump messaging by Kremlin-backed propaganda outlets, according to a report declassified by the US intelligence community in January. And Dearborn wasn't the only person within the Trump campaign emailing about potential Russia meetings. Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos sent an email to top campaign officials in March 2016 about arranging meetings with Russians, sources said. The subject line was "Meeting with Russian Leadership -- Including Putin," according to the source. Sources told CNN that senior campaign officials dismissed that proposal. Papadopoulos has not responded to CNN's previous requests for comment. Despite the fact that his idea was brushed aside, Papadopoulos continued his emails about arranging meetings with Russians to other Trump campaign officials for months, The Washington Post reported "Putin wants to host the Trump team when the time is right," Papadopoulos wrote in an email on April 27 to then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, according to the Post. On that same day, Trump delivered his foreign policy speech at the Mayflower Hotel. The emails from Dearborn and Papadopoulos were included in the batch of 20,000 emails that the Trump campaign handed over to multiple congressional committees earlier this summer. CNN has reported that the FBI saw intelligence last summer suggesting that Russian operatives tried to use Trump advisers to infiltrate the campaign. Sources said this intelligence referenced foreign policy adviser Carter Page. Page denies ever working for Russia or having any improper contact with Russians. Sessions led the campaign's foreign policy team, which included Page and Papadopoulos. Undisclosed meetings with Kislyak Sessions met at least twice during the campaign with Kislyak, and congressional investigators want to question whether Dearborn was involved in arranging those meetings, which took place in July and September 2016, sources said. The Attorney General first acknowledged the meetings in March, despite testifying at his confirmation hearing that he "did not have communications with the Russians" and repeated denials from Trump officials that there were any contacts between the campaign and Russians. The kerfuffle over Sessions' meetings and his lack of disclosure helped trigger his recusal from overseeing the Russia investigation, an action that was widely praised but angered Trump.   CNN reported in May that congressional investigators were examining whether Sessions attended a third private meeting with Kislyak, at the Mayflower event that Dearborn apparently helped plan. Sessions later told the Senate intelligence committee he didn't remember meeting with or talking to Kislyak at the hotel. Kushner also helped organized the event, and he told congressional investigators earlier this summer that he briefly "shook hands" and "exchanged brief pleasantries" with Kislyak at a reception before Trump's speech. During the speech, Trump said that "an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia, from a position of strength, is possible." Kislyak watched from his seat in the front row. Sessions ally lands in the White House Dearborn spent nearly two decades working for Sessions in the Senate, eventually rising to chief of staff, a position he held for 12 years, including throughout the 2016 campaign. Like his boss, who was a top Trump surrogate on the presidential campaign trail, Dearborn played dual roles last year. He ran Sessions' Senate office and also led the Trump campaign's Virginia-based policy shop, handling congressional relations and crafting policy proposals. The Trump campaign paid Dearborn more than $28,000 last year, mostly for "policy consulting" but also to reimburse travel expenses, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Shortly after Trump's victory, Dearborn emerged as executive director of the Trump transition. Dearborn was later appointed Trump's deputy chief of staff for legislative, intergovernmental affairs and implementation, cementing his position in the White House as a senior policy aide. He is among the handful of Sessions aides who landed plum jobs in the administration. source Read More: The Russian whose lawyer met with Donald Trump Jr. bought $24M worth of Manhattan real estate The F.B.I. May Have Caught a Big Break in the Russia Investigation Trump-Russia probe now includes possible cover-up, Congress is told

August 23, 2017 by
The science envoy for the State Department has resigned following President Trump's response to the violent clashes at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. Daniel Kammen announced his resignation in a letter addressed to Trump — in which the first letter of every paragraph spelled out "Impeach." "My decision to resign is in response to your attacks on core values of the United States," Kammen said in the letter. "Your failure to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis has domestic and international ramifications." Kammen said it is particularly troubling to him that Trump's response to Charlottesville is "consistent with a broader pattern of behavior that enables sexism and racism, and disregards the welfare of Americans, the global community and the planet." "Examples of this destructive pattern have consequences on my duties as Science Envoy," he said.  "Your decision to abdicate the leadership opportunities and job creation benefits of the Paris Climate Accord, and to undermine energy and environmental research are not acceptable to me." Trump faced bipartisan backlash for his response to the Charlottesville violence. During a press conference last week, Trump said there is "blame on both sides" for the deadly violence in Virginia, where one person died and more were injured when a car was driven into a group of counterprotesters.  Trump said there were some "very fine people" marching among white supremacists to protest the removal of a Confederate monument. Trump on Tuesday defended his response to the violence in Charlottesville during a rally in Phoenix, blaming the press for the controversy. “It is time to expose the crooked media deception and to challenge the media for their role in fomenting divisions,” Trump said at the campaign-style event. “And yes, by the way, they are trying to take away our history and our heritage.” source Read More: The Most Important Trump Decision No One’s Talking About  

August 23, 2017 by
The Reverend Al and Rep. Jerry Nadler share their fears about race and anti-Semitism in the age of Trump. America's reality TV president has made America face its reality, on TV. Now, civil rights leaders across the country worry what will come from Donald Trump's equivocation on racism and hatred—and the country’s struggle in the week and a half since Charlottesville to deal with a problem much bigger than a few hundred wannabe Nazis with Tiki torches. Civil rights leaders talk about deep, visceral fear about where this could lead, and not in the usual political “concern” or “objections.” They see a searing landscape of possibilities ahead: Riots. Violence at protests and counterprotests. Deep psychological and emotional damage, especially among children. America's reality TV president has made America face its reality, on TV. Now, civil rights leaders across the country worry what will come from Donald Trump's equivocation on racism and hatred—and the country’s struggle in the week and a half since Charlottesville to deal with a problem much bigger than a few hundred wannabe Nazis with Tiki torches. Civil rights leaders talk about deep, visceral fear about where this could lead, and not in the usual political “concern” or “objections.” They see a searing landscape of possibilities ahead: Riots. Violence at protests and counterprotests. Deep psychological and emotional damage, especially among children. Both men see this as a critical, but not surprising, moment for American history. Sharpton is holding a rally next week, a march from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Aug. 28. It’s an annual event he organizes, but this year it seems to be taking on special significance—and he’s now stepping up both the number of expected participants and the amount of security accordingly. New York Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler (pictured) has authored a resolution to censure President Donald Trump for his comments about neo-Nazis. In 2012, Sharpton accused Trump of peddling racism throughout his birther phase. They met in Trump Tower that November—“to apologize for calling me a racist—very nice, apology accepted!” was the @realDonaldTrump tweet, though the reverend himself said then and says now that he didn’t call Trump himself a racist, and that he didn’t apologize. Sharpton still deliberately isn’t calling Trump a racist, or an anti-Semite. “I don’t want to reduce this to that. His policies are there. That speaks for itself. If we make it personal, he wins,” Sharpton said. “I used to call people names. Don’t give people the easy way out.” But, Sharpton added: “I think he has empowered anti-Semites and racists. I think he has brought them from the shadows into the mainstream and I think he’s emboldened them, and I think that’s a dangerous course for the country.” Nadler thinks Trump should quit (though he points out, he’s not technically calling for that), and he’s authored a resolution to censure the president for his comments about neo-Nazis that he believes his Republican colleagues in Congress have a moral obligation to join. Consequences are about to arrive in the form of other legislation, he warned: The president’s reaction to Charlottesville has hardened Democrats even further against providing votes to pass a budget or raise the debt ceiling, as they did when Republican infighting kept them from getting a majority on their own during the last few rounds. Put in a provision to defund Planned Parenthood, like in the 2013 shutdown, or to fund the border wall, Nadler says, and Democrats will walk away and not look back, even if that means not helping stop a potential economic collapse. “We can’t give in to that kind of blackmail,” Nadler said. “We’re the minority. We have no leverage. When one party has control of both houses of Congress and the president, it’s their responsibility. We will certainly help in any way we can, up to the point of doing terrible things.” As for the Jewish aides to the administration who defend Trump, including his daughter and son-in-law Jared Kushner—who’s repeatedly knocked back charges of anti-Semitism against Trump by invoking his own grandparents’ survival of the Holocaust—Nadler says they need to get real. “I don’t care what Jared Kushner said about the fact that Donald Trump loves, loves him and Ivanka and other people,” Nadler said. “He was willing to traffic in anti-Semitism. He was willing to use anti-Semitic imagery. And then, when caught up in it, refused to repudiate it, and denied that it was what it clearly was.” Despite his long history with Trump, Nadler said he can remember meeting the future president only once, just after the first plans were finalized for that Manhattan development they fought over. Sitting in his office in Trump Tower, Nadler recalled, Trump showed off how many buildings there were, and how the highest one was to be 150 stories. What’s the highest floor people live on in New York? Nadler asked him. Trump said it was right there in Trump Tower, on the 68th floor, where his apartment is. “‘Oh, and I assume you’d live on the 150th floor?’” Nadler remembers asking him. “And he says, ‘Yes.’ And I concluded [that] this was all about his wanting to be the tallest man in the world, or the highest man in the world.” But a story more painful for Nadler to discuss is his own history with anti-Semitism, including being threatened physically, as a college freshman, by a fellow student because he was Jewish. It shocked him, even in 1965, that he was being threatened at Columbia University in New York. “I think when I was growing up we really thought a lot of it was gone,” he said. Sharpton also told a story he rarely shares, about his own first encounter with racism. Like Nadler, he grew up in New York. He was riding with his family to see his grandparents in Alabama for Christmas. He was about 4 years old. In North Carolina, his father—an amateur boxer who claimed to have once sparred with Sugar Ray Robinson—stopped to buy them hamburgers. “He came back with his head down and my sister, and I said, ‘What happened to the hamburgers?’ He said, ‘They won’t serve us here.’ And I never saw anybody humiliate or insult my father until then. I never saw my father the same,” Sharpton said. In 1991, Sharpton was stabbed while leading a protest in Brooklyn in 1991, and he looks at that scar every morning getting dressed—and it reminds him of his father. “What I most remember is my invincible father couldn’t make a guy sell us a hamburger in the middle of the night in North Carolina,” Sharpton said. “So I know and I feel the scars of disempowerment based on race.” Sharpton has his own checkered history full of accusations of anti-Semitism. He bristles when those are brought up, saying that it’s usually willful misinterpretation by others seeking division, though some is reflective of his own learning curve. To him, the imperative now is for people who are offended to stand united against Trump and refuse to play into the violence or debates like the one over the Confederate monuments, because he says that’s what Trump wants. He’s feeling a mix of emotions. “Concerned because you wanted to think we were beyond that. Challenged because you can’t give up because had we given up before, we would have never made the progress we’ve got,” Sharpton said. “You’ve got to remember that that kid that watched his daddy couldn’t buy a hamburger was sitting on the platform watching Barack Obama be sworn in as president. So I’ve seen too much to give up.” source