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Posts Tagged ‘UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT’

TRUMP: THE NATION’S CHIEF LAWBREAKER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 10, 2019 at 12:15 am

A President plays many roles.  Among these:

  • Chief of State – An inspiring example to the American people.
  • Commander-in-Chief – Of America’s armed services: Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.
  • Chief Diplomat – Decides what will be the foreign policy of the United States.
  • Chief Executive – The highest-ranking employee of the Federal Government and the boss of millions of those who work in the executive branch.
  • Chief Law Enforcement Officer – Ensures that Federal laws are faithfully administered and the orders of Federal judges obeyed.

It’s with his role as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer that Donald J. Trump has jeopardized his continued role as President of the United States. 

Since taking office on January 20, 2017, Trump has fired:

  • Preet Bharara – U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • Sally Yates – Assistant United States Attorney General
  • James Comey – FBI Director
  • Andrew McCabe – FBI Deputy Director 
  • Jeff Sessions – United States Attorney General
  • Randolph “Tex” Alles – Director of the United States Secret Service

Among those law enforcement officials he has forced to resign:

  • Krisjen Nielsen – Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
  • Rob Joyce – Deputy Homeland Security Advisor
  • Elaine Duke – Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security
  • Robert P. Hayes – Under Secretary of Homeland Security (Intelligence and Analysis)
  • Thomas Homan – Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Rachel Brand – Associate United States Attorney General 

In addition, Trump has ruthlessly attacked members of the judiciary who have dared rule against him: 

  • He has repeatedly attacked Seattle U.S. District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first travel ban. 
  • In one tweet, Trump claimed: “Just cannot believe a judge would put our country in such peril. If something happens blame him and court system. People pouring in. Bad!”
  • When Judge John Tigar of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered the administration to accept asylum claims regardless of where migrants entered the country, Trump called the decision “a disgrace” and attacked Tigar as “an Obama judge.” 
  • At Trump’s bidding, White House aide Stephen Miller attacked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals: “We have a judiciary that has taken far too much power and become, in many cases, a supreme branch of government.” 

Donald Trump

And as recently as April 5, Trump once again demonstrated his notorious contempt for rule-by-law—and his desire to replace it with “rule-by-Trump.” 

This occurred during his visit to Calexico, on the border of California and Mexico. He was there to inspect a section of fencing for his still-uncompleted border wall between the United States and Mexico.

He also attended a briefing on immigration and border security hosted by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

As part of this, he read a statement addressed to Central American migrants wanting to enter the United States:

“It’s a colossal surge and it’s overwhelming our immigration system, and we can’t let that happen. So, as I say, and this is our new statement: The system is full. Can’t take you anymore. Whether it’s asylum, whether it’s anything you want, it’s illegal immigration….Our country is full….So turn around. That’s the way it is.” 

Illegal aliens entering the United States

Nor did Trump have any use for those claiming asylum:

“Asylum—you know, I look at some of these asylum people; they’re gang members. They’re not afraid of anything. They have lawyers greeting them.  They read what the lawyer tells them to read. They’re gang members. And they say, ‘I fear for my life.  I…’ They’re the ones that are causing fear for life.  It’s a scam.  Okay?  It’s a scam.”

That was for public consumption. What was not were words Trump spoke in a private meeting with Border Patrol agents.

According to CNN, “the President told border agents to not let migrants in.”

That, in fact, is illegal, especially if they are seeking asylum. And Secretary of Homeland Security Krisjen Nielsen had told Trump so two weeks earlier. 

“Tell them we don’t have the capacity,” said Trump, reported CNN. “If judges give you trouble, say, “‘Sorry, judge, I can’t do it. We don’t have the room.'”

This was clearly an order for Federal law enforcers to break the law.

It also qualifies as “obstruction of justice”—an article of impeachment filed against President Richard Nixon in 1974.

Once the President left the room, read the CNN report, “agents sought further advice from their leaders, who told them they were not giving them that direction and if they did what the President said they would take on personal liability. You have to follow the law, they were told.”

Attending that meeting was Nielsen. Early on, she thanked Trump “always for coming out to the field to listen to the men and women.  We greatly appreciate your support.”  

Kirstjen Nielsen official photo.jpg

Krisjen Nielsen

Two days later, she would be ousted by Trump as Secretary of Homeland Security.

Trump had won election in 2016 partly on promises to build a border wall and crack down on illegal immigrants. For his base, that remains the overriding issue. If Trump can’t make good on his promise, he’s unlikely to be re-elected by that base.

And Trump didn’t believe that Nielsen had been ruthless enough in stemming the tide of legal and illegal immigration from Central American countries. 

JUDGMENT DAY FOR AMERICA’S DEATH-DEALERS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 27, 2019 at 12:13 am

“The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one—no matter where he lives or what he does— can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.”

–Robert F. Kennedy, April 4, 1968

Senator Robert F. Kennedy announcing the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

What should the surviving victims of gun massacres do to seek redress?

And how can the relatives and friends of those who didn’t survive seek justice for those they loved?

As far back as 2012, this writer posed those questions. And offered the following solution.

But only now has a court—the Connecticut Supreme Court—made this remedy possible.

First, don’t count on politicians to support a ban on assault weapons.

Politicians—with rare exceptions—have only two goals:

  1. Get elected to office, and
  2. Stay in office.

And too many of them fear the economic and voting clout of the National Rifle Association (NRA) to risk its wrath.

Consider Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney and then-President Barack Obama.

Both rushed to offer condolences to the surviving victims of the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012.

And both steadfastly refused to even discuss gun control—let alone support a ban on the type of assault weapons used by James Holmes, leaving 12 dead and 58 wounded.

Second, those who survived the massacre—and the relatives and friends of those who didn’t—should file wrongful death, class-action lawsuits against the NRA.

There is sound, legal precedent for this.

  • For decades, the American tobacco industry peddled death and disability to millions and reaped billions of dollars in profits.
  • The industry vigorously claimed there was no evidence that smoking caused cancer, heart disease, emphysema or any other ailment.

  • Tobacco companies spent billions on slick advertising campaigns to win new smokers and attack medical warnings about the dangers of smoking.
  • Tobacco companies spent millions to elect compliant politicians and block anti-smoking legislation.
  • From 1954 to 1994, over 800 private lawsuits were filed against tobacco companies in state courts. But only two plaintiffs prevailed, and both of those decisions were reversed on appeal.
  • In 1994, amidst great pessimism, Mississippi Attorney General Mike Moore filed a lawsuit against the tobacco industry. But other states soon followed, ultimately growing to 46.
  • Their goal: To seek monetary, equitable and injunctive relief under various consumer-protection and anti-trust laws.
  • The theory underlying these lawsuits was: Cigarettes produced by the tobacco industry created health problems among the population, which badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.
  • In 1998, the states settled their Medicaid lawsuits against the tobacco industry for recovery of their tobacco-related, health-care costs. In return, they exempted the companies from private lawsuits for tobacco-related injuries.
  • The companies agreed to curtail or cease certain marketing practices. They also agreed to pay, forever, annual payments to the states to compensate some of the medical costs for patients with smoking-related illnesses.

The parallels with the NRA are obvious:

  • For decades, the NRA has peddled deadly weapons to millions, reaped billions of dollars in profits and refused to admit the carnage those weapons have produced: “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  With guns.

  • The NRA has bitterly fought background checks on gun-buyers, in effect granting even criminals and the mentally ill the right to own arsenals of death-dealing weaponry.
  • The NRA has spent millions on slick advertising campaigns to win new members and frighten them into buying guns.

  • The NRA has spent millions on political contributions to block gun-control legislation.
  • The NRA has spent millions attacking political candidates and elected officials who warned about the dangers of unrestricted access to assault and/or concealed weapons.

  • The NRA has spent millions pushing “Stand Your Ground” laws in more than half the states, which potentially give every citizen a “license to kill.”
  • The NRA receives millions of dollars from online sales of ammunition, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and other accessories through its point-of-sale Round-Up Program—thus directly profiting by selling a product that kills about 30,288 people a year.

  • Firearms made indiscriminately available through NRA lobbying have filled hospitals with casualties, and have thus badly strained the states’ public healthcare systems.

It will take a series of highly expensive and well-publicized lawsuits to significantly weaken the NRA, financially and politically.

The first ones will have to be brought by the surviving victims of gun violence—and by the friends and families of those who did not survive it. Only they will have the courage and motivation to take such a risk.

As with the cases first brought against tobacco companies, there will be losses.  And the NRA will rejoice with each one.

But, in time, state Attorneys General will see the clear parallels between lawsuits filed against those who peddle death by cigarette and those who peddle death by armor-piercing bullet.

And then the NRA—like the tobacco industry—will face an adversary wealthy enough to stand up for the rights of the gun industry’s own victims.

Only then will those politicians supporting reasonable gun controls dare to stand up for the victims of these needless tragedies.

JUDGMENT DAY FOR AMERICA’S DEATH-DEALERS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 26, 2019 at 12:11 am

Weapons manufacturers are the only companies in the United States that cannot be sued for the deaths and injuries their products cause.

This is because The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, immunizes the American firearms industry against lawsuits by victims of mass shootings and gun violence.

Rammed through a Republican-dominated Congress in 2005 by the National Rifle Association (NRA), it was signed into law by President George W. Bush. 

But on March 15, 2019, the Supreme Court of Connecticut ruled that families of schoolchildren gunned down in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre could sue Remington Outdoor Co Inc., over its marketing of military-style Bushmaster weapons to civilians.

The Court ruled that the victims’ families had the right to sue Remington under the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act (CUTPA).

Among the ads that Remington ran to promote its military-style AR-15 Bushmaster rifle: 

  • “Truly the most versatile and adaptive rifle ever conceived, it was born of a collaborative effort between Bushmaster, Magpul and Remington to create the ultimate military combat weapons system.”
  • A photo of a Bushmaster with its barrel facing the reader, with the caption: “CONSIDER YOUR MAN CARD REISSUED.” 
  • A photo of a Bushmaster, alongside the slogan: “Forces of opposition, bow down. You are single-handedly outnumbered.”
  • “ONE RIFLE. MANY MISSIONS. THE REVOLUTIONARY, FULLY MODULAR REMINGTON ACR (ADAPTIVE COMBAT RIFLE).”

Image result for Images of Remington AR-15 Bushmaster rifle

Remington AR-15 Bushmaster

“The defendants knowingly marketed, advertised, and promoted the XM15-E2S for civilians to use to carry out offensive, military style combat missions against their perceived enemies,” alleges the Newtown lawsuit.

And the Justices ruled that, “such use of the XM15-E2S, or any weapon for that matter, would be illegal, and Connecticut law does not permit advertisements that promote or encourage violent, criminal behavior.

“We are confident… that, if there were credible allegations that a firearms seller had run explicit advertisements depicting and glorifying school shootings, and promoted its products in video games, such as ‘School Shooting,’ that glorify and reward such unlawful conduct, and if a troubled young man who watched those advertisements and played those games were inspired thereby to commit a terrible crime like the ones involved in the Sandy Hook massacre, then even the most ardent sponsors of PLCAA would not have wanted to bar a consumer protection lawsuit seeking to hold the supplier accountable for the injuries wrought by such unscrupulous marketing practices.”

Image result for Images of Connecticut Supreme Court Building

Connecticut Supreme Court Building

Said David Wheeler, father of a Sandy Hook victim: “There is a reason why this particular consumer product is the one that is used by people who want to inflict the most damage, and we have seen it time and time again since my son and his classmates were killed. That reason very likely potentially resides in the documents that we have been unable to look at until now.”

“The families’ goal has always been to shed light on Remington’s calculated and profit-driven strategy to expand the AR-15 market and court high-risk users, all at the expense of Americans’ safety,” said Josh Koskoff, one of the lawyers for the victims’ families, “Today’s decision is a critical step toward achieving that goal.” 

“This is a landmark and potentially historic ruling,” said Adam Winkler, a UCLA Law School professor who specializes in constitutional law. “While all this decision does is allow a case to go forward, in broader terms it really opens up a new avenue for holding gunmakers responsible.”

More importantly, the ruling could spur similar suits in other states. “This could prompt further such suits not only for cases of mass shootings, but individual ones as well,” Winkler said.

The decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court wasn’t unanimous. Three of its seven justices dissented.

The case now goes back to the lower court for further proceedings and a possible trial.

Opinion remains divided over its chances for success.

According to National Public Radio: “The suit is a high-stakes challenge to gun companies, which have rarely been held liable for crimes committed with their products, and could mark a new front in the battle over gun regulations and corporate accountability.

“An eventual ruling against Remington could establish legal precedent, opening doors for more lawsuits against gun manufacturers, and expose the company’s communications about its marketing plans.” 

Noted The Root: “While federal judges remain split on which laws apply to firearm manufacturers, Connecticut judges have drawn a line in the sand. While U.S. Supreme Court intervention on behalf of Remington is a distinct possibility, Connecticut’s decision could inspire lawmakers and lawyers to take a hard look at PLCAA.”  

“The larger implications of this are that the Connecticut Supreme Court has just blown a giant hole in the PLCAA and in federal immunity for firearms manufacturers,” said Timothy Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University.

Lytton predicted that the United States Supreme Court would be likely to take up the case: “What we’re talking about here is the interpretation of a federal statute and that falls squarely in the jurisdiction of the [United States] Supreme Court.”

A spokeswoman for the National Rifle Association declined to comment. 

JUDGMENT DAY FOR AMERICA’S DEATH-DEALERS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 25, 2019 at 1:38 am

It had happened before—all too often before:

  • Midnight vigils for the victims of yet another spree-killer.
  • Makeshift memorials of flowers, candles and teddy bears.
  • Grief counselors for students at elementary, junior high and high schools.
  • And, of course, the inevitable question: “Why?”

Americans had seen it all before—too many times before: 

  • After the San Ysidro McDonald’s shootings, 1984: 21 dead, 19 wounded.
  • After the 101 California Street shootings in San Francisco, 1993: 9 dead, 6 injured.
  • After the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado, 1999: 15 dead, 21 wounded.
  • After the Virginia Tech shootings, 2007: 32 dead, 23 wounded.
  • After the Tucson shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, 2011: 6 dead, 13 wounded.
  • After the massacre at the Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado, 2012: 12 dead, 58 wounded.

And then, on December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, a mentally unstable, 20-year-old gunman, shot and killed his sleeping mother, Nancy, as she lay in bed at home.

Then he drove his mother’s car to Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut, and slaughtered 20 school children aged six and seven and six adult staff. 

His weapon of choice: A Remington AR-15 Bushmaster rifle, a semi-automatic civilian version of the U.S. military’s M-16.

A fanatical gun collector, Nancy Lanza had turned the house she shared with her son into a virtual arsenal:

  • Izhmash Saiga 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun
  • Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S .223-caliber semiautomatic rifle
  • Glock 20 10mm semiautomatic handgun
  • Sig Sauer P226 9mm semiautomatic handgun 
  • Savage Mark II bolt-action .22-caliber rifle
  • Enfield Albian bolt-action .323-caliber rifle
  • Volcanic .22-caliber starter pistol. 

Of the firearms listed above, Lanza used the first four (italicized) to carry out the Sandy Hook massacre.  

Stockpiles of ammunition for all of these weapons were later found by police as they searched the house. 

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Adam Lanza

Yet Adam Lanza’s mentally unbalanced condition should have barred him from possessing even a single firearm.

A report issued by the Office of the Child Advocate in November, 2014, noted that Lanza had Asperger’s syndrome. As a teenager he had suffered from anxiety, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The report concluded: “His severe and deteriorating internalized mental health problems…. combined with an atypical preoccupation with violence….(and) access to deadly weapons…. proved a recipe for mass murder.”

On the day of the massacre, Adam Lanza chose his firearms with care. 

He shot his defenseless mother four times in the head with a Savage Mark II .22-caliber rifle, a bolt-action firearm that can accept a 10-round magazine. But for his planned massacre at Sandy Hook, he chose semiautomatic weapons with detachable ammunition magazines. 

Of all the weapons Lanza carried to Sandy Hook, the Bushmaster XM15-E2S proved the most lethal: A semiautomatic rifle that can be equipped with 30-round magazines, which allows the shooter to cut down on the number of times he has to reload.

In the past, countless Americans had responded to the latest gun outrage with “sending thoughts and prayers.” 

But, this time, there would be a different response to this latest slaughter.

In February, 2014, nine families of the victims in the Sandy Hook massacre filed a lawsuit against the gun manufacturer, Remington Outdoor Co Inc., over its marketing of military-style Bushmaster weapons. 

In October, 2016, the Connecticut Superior Court dismissed the case based on a federal law that protects the gun industry from liability.

Rammed through a Republican-dominated Congress by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, or PLCAA, was signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2005. Since then, it has armed the American firearms industry with immunity against lawsuits by victims of mass shootings and gun violence.

But on March 15, 2019, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that families of Sandy Hook victims could sue Remington Outdoor Co Inc.

The families asserted that Remington, along with a gun wholesaler and local retailer, were partially responsible for the carnage because they marketed the weapon based on its militaristic appeal.

For the first time in American history, victims of gun violence have won the legal right to hold gun makers accountable for the devastation caused by their products.

“The perception for the gun industry is: ‘We can’t get sued,’” said Josh Koskoff, a Connecticut attorney representing families of the Newtown massacre. “‘We can be as unethical and as wild and aggressive in the marketing as we want.’”

The families had sued Remington by citing the legal doctrine of negligent entrustment. This has been used in such cases as when someone lends a car to a high-risk driver who then causes an accident.

But the Supreme Court rejected that theory. Instead, it ruled that the families could bring their claims under the consumer protection statute. 

The court said that state unfair-trade-practices law allows anyone who’s suffered a financial loss from such activities to sue “regardless of whether they had a business relationship with the person or entity that engaged in the prohibited practice.”

“Once we accept the premise that Congress did not intend to immunize firearms suppliers who engage in truly unethical and irresponsible marketing practices promoting criminal conduct … it falls to a jury to decide whether the promotional schemes alleged in the present case rise to the level of illegal trade practices and whether fault for the tragedy can be laid at their feet,” the judges said.

TRUMP VS. THE FIRST AMENDMENT: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 19, 2019 at 12:43 am

“Nothing funny about tired Saturday Night Live on Fake news NBC! Question is, how do the Networks get away with these total Republican hit jobs without retribution? Likewise for many other shows? Very unfair and should be looked into. This is the real Collusion!

So tweeted President Donald J. Trump on February 17.

Less than nine hours earlier, “SNL” had once again opened with actor Alec Baldwin mocking the 45th President. In this skit, Baldwin/Trump gave a rambling press conference declaring: “We need wall. We have a tremendous amount of drugs flowing into this country from the southern border—or The Brown Line, as many people have asked me not to call it.”

Right-wingers denounce their critics as “snowflakes”—that is, emotional, easily offended and unable to tolerate opposing views.

Yet here was Donald Trump, who prides himself on his toughness, whining like a child bully who has just been told that other people have rights, too.

The answer is simple: Trump is a tyrant—and a longtime admirer of tyrants.

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Donald Trump

He has lavishly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, such as during his appearance on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”: 

“He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country”—a reference to then-President Barack Obama. 

During a February, 2017 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump defended Putin’s killing of political opponents.  

O’Reilly: “But he’s a killer.” 

Trump: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” 

Asked by a Fox News reporter why he praised murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, he replied: “He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father …If you could do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that.” 

In short: Kim must be doing something right because he’s in power. And it doesn’t matter how he came to power—or the price his country is paying for it.  

Actually, for all their differences in appearance and nationality, Trump shares at least two similarities with Kim.

Kim Jong-un at the Workers' Party of Korea main building.png

Kim Jong-Un

Blue House (Republic of Korea) [KOGL (http://www.kogl.or.kr/open/info/license_info/by.do)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

First, both of them got a big boost into wealth and power from their fathers.

  • Trump’s father, Fred Trump, a real estate mogul, reportedly gave Donald $200 million to enter the real estate business. It was this sum that formed the basis for Trump’s eventual rise to wealth and fame—and the Presidency. 
  • Kim’s father was Kim Jong-Il, who ruled North Korea as dictator from 1994 to 2011. When his father died in 2011, Kim Jong-Un immediately succeeded him, having been groomed for years to do so. 

Second, both Trump and Kim have brutally tried to stamp out any voices that contradict their own.

  • Trump has constantly attacked freedom of the press, even labeling it “the enemy of the American people.” He has also slandered his critics on Twitter—which has refused to enforce its “Terms of Service” and revoke his account.
  • Kim has attacked his critics with firing squads and prison camps. Amnesty International estimates that more than 200,000 North Koreans are now suffering in labor camps throughout the country.

Thus, Trump—-elected to lead the “free world”—believes, like all dictators:

  • People are evil everywhere—so who am I to judge who’s better or worse? All that counts is gaining and holding onto power. 
  • And if you can do that, it doesn’t matter how you do so.

Actually, it’s not uncommon for dictators to admire one another—as the case of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler nicely illustrates.

Joseph Stalin

After Hitler launched a blood-purge of his own private Stormtroopers army on June 30, 1934, Stalin exclaimed: “Hitler, what a great man! That is the way to deal with your political opponents!” 

And Hitler was equally admiring of Stalin’s notorious ruthlessness: “After the victory over Russia,” he told his intimates, “it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course. He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”  

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

One characteristic shared by all dictators is intolerance toward those whose opinions differ with their own. Especially those who dare to actually criticize or make fun of them.

All Presidents have thin skins. John F. Kennedy often phoned reporters and called them “sonofbitches” when he didn’t like stories they had written on him.

Richard Nixon went further, waging all-out war against the Washington Post for its stories about his criminality. 

But Donald Trump has taken his hatred of dissidents to an entirely new—and dangerous—level.

On May 10, 2018, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about dying Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

Trump was outraged—not that one of his aides had joked about a man stricken with brain cancer, but that someone in the White House had leaked it.

THE REICHSTAG CARAVAN

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 25, 2018 at 12:15 am

The parallels between the Nazi party and the administration of Donald Trump continue to mount.

On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. Less than one month later, a fire gave him unprecedented control over the country. 

At about 9 p.m. on February 27, a fire erupted within the Reichstag building, home of the German parliament. By 11:30, the Berlin Fire Department had put out the fire—but most of the building had already been gutted. 

Reichstagsbrand.jpg

Reichstag fire

The next day, at Hitler’s request, President Paul von Hindenburg signed the Reichstag Fire Decree into law, citing Article 48 of the Weimar Republic Constitution.

This suspended most civil liberties in Germany, including:

  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of the press
  • The right to free association and public assembly
  • Habeas corpus and
  • Secrecy of the mails and telephone.

Adolf Hitler 

These rights were not restored until Nazi Germany collapsed in May, 1945.

Marinus van der Lubbe, a Duitch council communist, was found near the building and claimed that he, acting alone, had set the fire. He was convicted of setting the fire and sent to the guillotine on January 10, 1934.

The Nazis charged that Van der Lubbe was part of a Communist conspiracy to burn down the Reichstag and seize power. 

Many foreign journalists—such as William L. Shirer (later author of The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich) believed the Nazis had set the fire. This suspicion was given added weight during the Nuremberg war crimes trials. 

General Franz Halder, who had often clashed with Hitler over military strategy, stated in an affidavit that Hermann Goering, Hitler’s right-hand man, had boasted about setting the fire:

“On the occasion of a lunch on the Führer’s birthday [on April 20] in 1943, the people around the Führer turned the conversation to the Reichstag building and its artistic value.

“I heard with my own ears how Goering broke into the conversation and shouted: ‘The only one who really knows about the Reichstag building is I, for I set fire to it.’ And saying this he slapped his thigh.”

Herman Goering

Goering dismissed Halder’s accusation as “utter nonsense.”

Now, fast forward to 2018—and a caravan of 7,000 migrants from Honduras, Guatemala and, El Salvador determinedly heading for the United States border.

Their goal: To illegally enter the United States, claiming they are victims of poverty and violence.

For President Donald Trump, this comes at an ideal time. He has made illegal immigration his Number One hot button issue. And he needs one.

  • He is currently under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for documented ties between his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.
  • His nominee for the United States Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, was confirmed despite being charged as an alleged rapist.
  • He has hurled numerous slanders against women—including the woman, Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of trying to rape her at a party in 1982.
  • On October 2, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was brutally murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Instead of voicing outrage at this butchery, Trump sided with the patently false claims of the Saudi regime.

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Donald Trump

On October 18, Trump appeared at a campaign rally at Missoula, Montana, on behalf of Republican Matt Rosendale against Democratic Senator Jon Tester.

Trump—never one to tell the truth when a lie seems better—charged:

  • “Democrats are paying members of the caravan to try and get into the United States to harm Republicans in the midterms.”
  • “But a lot of money has been passing to people to come up and try and get to the border by Election Day, because they think that’s a negative for us. Number one, they’re being stopped. And number two, regardless, that’s our issue.” 
  • “The one thing, they stick together, but they wanted that caravan and there are those that say that caravan didn’t just happen. It didn’t just happen. A lot of reasons that caravan, 4,000 people.”

He has offered absolutely no proof to back up any of these slanders.

But there is another possibility to explain the timing of the caravan: That Republican—or at least Right-wing—operatives have funneled money and organizational support to its organizers.

For the moment, there is no proof that the Right is involved.

But there’s also no proof that it isn’t.

And the CIA is notorious for secretly financing a large number of “left-wing” organizations that exist to discredit left-wing interests. Among these: The National Student Association in the United States and many socialist European unions.

Just as it suited Adolf Hitler’s purposes for the Reichstag to catch fire, so, too, does it suit Trump’s to have a caravan of thousands of Central Americans marching toward the United States border:

  • He’s using the caravan to stir up the Republican base in the midterm elections.
  • He’s using the caravan to divert attention from his and his party’s embarrassing actions.
  • He has accused Democrats of somehow organizing the caravan
  • He’s charged that gang members and Middle Eastern terrorists are among its members. 
  • He’s using the caravan to rally support for stricter immigration laws, including funding for his border wall.

Thus, Democrats have nothing to gain by sponsoring hordes of marchers. But the Right has plenty.

AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM: MONEY TRUMPS MORALITY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 18, 2018 at 12:03 am

Once again, the self-righteous cry of “American exceptionalism” is being taken up by members of the United States Congress.

That is: Americans prize morality over money in international relationships.

It’s a myth the historical record won’t support.

The reason for the self-righteous outrage: The disappearance of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.  

He had worked in the Saudi embassies in Washington and London, establishing himself as an unofficial spokesman for the Saudi royal family.

His independent streak and empathy for the Western perspective made him a uniquely important, well-liked contact for foreign journalists and diplomats seeking to understand the royal perspective.

Then, in 2017, Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince, and quickly consolidated power over the kingdom.

Khashoggi’s independent streak made him unwelcome there, so he moved to Virginia and became a columnist for The Washington Post.  He also became the crown prince’s chief critic in the West. 

On October 2, Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to pick up a document.

Khashoggi’s marriage had ended under the strain of his voluntary exile from Saudi Arabia. He had since become engaged to a Turkish woman. He thus needed to obtain a document attesting to his divorce from the Saudi authorities so he could remarry in Turkey. The wedding was scheduled for the following day.  

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 Jamal Khashoggi

[GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Turkish authorities have released video footage of Khashoggi walking into the consulate; they say there is none of him leaving it. The Saudis insist that he left the consulate safely, but have not offered any evidence to support this claim.

Turkish officials speaking anonymously say their government has detailed evidence to prove the following:

  • That 15 Saudi agents flew into Istanbul on two private jets.
  • The airline company has close ties to the crown prince and Saudi Interior Ministry.
  • The agents waited for Khashoggi inside the consulate and murdered him within two hours of his arrival.
  • The assassins used a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi’s corpse. 

These reports have ignited an explosion of “American exceptionalism” among members of Congress—including Republicans.  

“I believe the Trump administration will do something,” Florida United States Senator Marco Rubio said. “The president has said that. But, if he doesn’t, Congress will. That, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty.” 

And Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said: “I think one of the strong things that we can do is not only stop military sales, not only put sanctions on Saudi Arabia, but most importantly, get out of this terrible, terrible war in Yemen led by the Saudis.”

Fueling Republicans’ declared outrage: President Donald Trump’s heated defense of the Saudis—with whom he’s long had a financially profitable relationship. 

“They buy all sorts of my stuff,”‘ Trump said in July 2015. “All kinds of toys from Trump. They pay me millions and hundreds of millions.”

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Donald Trump

Among those “toys”: 

  • In June 2001, he sold the 45th floor of Trump World Tower to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for $4.5 million, according to a publicly filed deed for the transaction.
  • In August 2015, two months after he launched his presidential campaign, Trump registered eight limited-liability companies that appeared tied to possible deals in the country, according to public records. All of the companies contained “Jeddah,” the name of a Saudi Arabian port city, in their title. 
  • In 2015, Trump’s daughter Ivanka told Hotelier Middle East, “Dubai is a top priority city for us. We are looking at multiple opportunities in Abu Dhabi, in Qatar, in Saudi Arabia, so those are the four areas where we are seeing the most interest. We haven’t made a final decision in any of the markets but we have many very compelling deals in each of them.”

Of course, Trump is now claiming a higher motive for siding with the Saudis. He doesn’t want to scuttle a major defense deal he made with Saudi Arabia in May, 2017:

“I don’t like the concept of stopping an investment of $110 billion into the United States because you know what they’re going to do, they’re going to take that money and spend it in Russia or China,” 

And the next day, Trump said he had spoken with Saudi King Salman: “The king firmly denied any knowledge of it. … It sounded to me like these could have been rogue killers, who knows?” 

This is comparable to Trump’s refusal, during his first debate with Hillary Clinton in September, 2016, to admit Russian hacking of the 2016 Democratic National Committee: “It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

“Here we go again with you know you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that,” said Trump on October 16.

“We just went through that with [Supreme Court nominee] [Brett] Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.”

Factual note: Although confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice, Kavanaugh was not proven innocent.  The FBI was not allowed to interview Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused him of attempted rape 36 years ago. 

DIFFERENT ENEMIES, SAME GOAL: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 3, 2018 at 4:00 pm

During the 1970s and 1980s, Republicans continue to accuse Democrats of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

As late as 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charge that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their “evidence”: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow.

In short: Clinton might have been “programmed” as a real-life “Manchurian candidate” to become, first, Governor of Arkansas—one of America’s poorest states—and then President.

Making this charge even more absurd: The Soviet Union had officially dissolved in December, 1991. 

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, Republicans find that accusing Democrats of being “Commies” doesn’t carry the same weight.

So they turn to “domestic enemies” to rail—and run—against: Liberals, blacks, Hispanics, “uppity” women, war protesters, lesbians, gays, and—after 9/11—Muslims.

From 1945 to 1991, it is unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to pay tribute to a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changes when Donald J. Trump, a “reality TV” host with longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs, runs for President of the United States.

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Donald Trump

Trump lavishly praises Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even invites him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

The reason for the Trump-Putin bromance is simple: Each has something to offer the other.

Putin wants the United States to ditch the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance, which has preserved Western Europe from Russian aggression since World War II. And Trump has often attacked America’s funding of NATO as a drain on the American economy.

And Trump wants to be President. For this, Putin can supply monies, Internet trolls to confuse voters with falsified news, and even the hacking of key voting centers.

These Russian monies are officially classified as “campaign contributions,” not bribes.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks releases 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports trace the leak to Russian hackers. 

“Russia, if you are listening,” Trump says at a press conference in Doral, Florida, “I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

This is treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targets Clinton’s personal office and hits more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts.

Nor is Trump the only Republican receiving “help” from Putin. A network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

According to the Federal Election Commission:

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proves one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Before 2016, he donates to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gives $6.35 million to GOP PACs

Millions of dollars go to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)Specifically, he contributes:

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributes $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.   

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontribute $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.  

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process.  

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issue a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik. This is just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testifies before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election

So, what has changed in the Republican Party?  Essentially nothing.

Its enemies changed—from Russian Communists to American liberals—but its goal remains the same: The quest for absolute power.

When Americans feared Communism, Republicans depicted themselves as the only ones who could be trusted to protect the United States. Big contributions poured in from Right-wing billionaires like H.L. Hunt and Howard Hughes.

But when Republicans found they could enrich themselves and stay in power via Russian “campaign contributions,” they decided: Better Red than un-elected.

DIFFERENT ENEMIES, SAME GOAL: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 2, 2018 at 12:27 am

A CNN headline says it all: “Obama asked question everyone’s been wondering about GOP”

“What happened to the Republican Party?”

That’s the question former President Barack Obama asked at the University of Illinois on September 7.  And he quickly answered it:

“Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism, and now they’re cozying up to the former head of the KGB. Actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections from Russian attack. What happened?” 

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Barack Obama as President

On the surface, it seems the Republican Party has drastically changed. But, in reality, there has been no substantial change at all.

Let’s start at the beginning—in this case, 1932.

Democratic nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt wins election against Republican President Herbert Hoover. So popular is he that he wins an unprecedented four terms—12 years!—in the White House, seeing America through the Great Depression and World War II,

In 1945, Roosevelt suddenly dies in office, leaving Vice President Harry S. Truman in command. He lacks the imperial magnetism and eloquence of FDR, so Republicans assume that 1948 will be a cakewalk for them.

But it isn’t. Instead, Truman wins a second term—and rubs it in by holding up the now-defunct headline, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” for reporters to photograph.

By 1952, Republicans have been locked out of the White House for 20 years. They’re desperate to return—and angry enough to do anything to win.  

They find attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans a highly effective tactic.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rides a wave of paranoia to national prominence—by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagrees with him.

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rises to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Senator Joseph R. McCarthy

Americans are already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin has not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it has occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union develops—and demonstrates—its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China falls to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.  Generalissimo Chaing Kai Shek is driven from mainland China to the tiny island of Taiwan.

Anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerates following McCarthy’s speech. 

Any American can be accused of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan
  • President Harry S. Truman
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

Even “untouchable” Republicans become targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these is President Dwight D. Eisenhower—labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, founder of the John Birch Society in 1958.

In 1953, McCarthy attacks the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convenes an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings backfire, exposing McCarthy as a bullying demagogue. A Senate committee condemns his behavior as acting “contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

Yet even without McCarthy, Republicans ride the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992. “Respectable” anti-Communists—like Richard M. Nixon—depict themselves as the only ones who can be trusted to safeguard America.

Republicans hold the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, then lose it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans turn once more to those who prey upon their fears and hates.

They elect Richard Nixon, who promises to end the Vietnam war and attack “uppity” blacks and antiwar demonstrators—and, above all, “the Communist menace.”

The same strategy re-elects him in 1972.

Jimmy Carter wins the Presidency in 1976 and loses it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan. Republicans hold the White House until 1992.

Reagan doesn’t want to continue the “stalemate” of “containing” Communism. He intends to roll it back. Tensions rise between the United States and the Soviet Union—the highest since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

American proxies fight Soviet proxies in Afghanistan and Central America, but the world escapes nuclear holocaust.

POLYGRAPH BY COPIER

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on October 20, 2016 at 12:30 am

Ever heard of “polygraph by copier”? If you haven’t, here’s how it works:

A detective loads three sheets of paper into a Xerox machine.

“Truth” has been typed onto the first sheet.

“Truth” has been typed onto the seond sheet.

“Lie” has been typed onto the third sheet. Then a criminal suspect is led into the room and told to put his hand against the side of the machine.“What is your name?” asks the detective.

The suspect gives it.

The detective hits the copy button, and a page comes out: “Truth.”

“Where do you live?” asks the detective.

The suspect gives an address, the detective again hits the copy button, and a second page appears: “Truth.”

Then comes the bonus question: “Did you or did you not kill Big Jim Tate on the evening of….?”

The suspect answers.

The detective presses the copy button one last time, and the sheet appears: “Lie.”

“Well, well, well, you lying little bastard,” says the detective.

Convinced that the police have found some mysterious way to peer into the darkest recesses of his criminality, the suspect “gives it up” and makes a full confession.

Yes, contrary to what many believe, police can legally use deceit to obtain a confession.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled, in United States v. Russell “Nor will the mere fact of deceit defeat a prosecution, for there are circumstances when the use of deceit is the only practicable law enforcement technique available.”

In that case, the Court narrowly upheld a conviction for methamphetamine production even though the defendant had argued entrapment.

So what types of interrogative deceit might a police officer use to develop admissible evidence of a suspect’s guilt?

The general rule is that deception can be used so long as it’s not likely to cause an innocent person to commit a crime or confess to a crime that s/he didn’t commit. 

Click here: The Lawful Use of Deception – Article – POLICE Magazine

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Consider the following examples:

  • A detective is interviewing a suspect in a rape case. “Oh, that girl,” he says, thus implying that the victim was a slut and had it coming. The suspect, thinking he’s dealing with a sympathetic listener, starts bragging about his latest conquest–only to learn, too late, that his listener isn’t so simpatico after all.
  • “We found your prints on the gun”–or on any number of other surfaces. Actually, there are few good places on a pistol to leave prints. And those that are left can be smeared. The same goes for other surfaces. But if a suspect can be led to believe the cops have his prints, a confession is often forthcoming.
  • A police officer is interrogating a suspect in a murder case. “He came at you, didn’t he?” asks the cop. The suspect, who murdered the victim in cold blood, thinks he has an escape route. “Yeah, he came at me”–this confirming that, yes, he did kill the deceased.
  • “Your partner just gave you up” is a favorite police tactic when there is more than one suspect involved. If one suspect can be made to “flip–turn–against the other, the case is essentially wrapped up.

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  • Interrogating a bank robbery suspect, a cop might say: “We know you didn’t do the shooting, that you were only the wheelman.” This implies that the penalty for driving the getaway car is far less than that for killing someone during a robbery. In fact, criminal law allows every member of the conspiracy to be charged as a principal.
  • “I don’t give a damn what you did,” says the detective. “Just tell me why you did it.” For some suspects, this offers a cathartic release, a chance to justify their guilt.
  • The “good cop/bad cop” routine is known to everyone who has ever seen a police drama. Yet it continues to yield results so often it continues to be routinely used. “Look, I believe you,” says the “good” cop, “but my partner’s a real asshole. Just tell me what happened so we can clear this up and you can go.”
  • “So,” says the detective, “why do you think the police believe you did it?” “I have no idea,” says the suspect, confident that he isn’t giving up anything that might come back to haunt him. “Well,” says the cop, “I guess you’ll just have to make something up.” Make something up  sounds easy, but is actually a trap. The suspect may end up giving away details that could incriminate him–or lying so brazenly that his lies can be used against him.

So: Is there a best way to deal with police who suspect you of a crime?

Yes, there is: Refuse to say anything and ask for permission to call a lawyer.  

That’s what the Supreme Court laid out in Miranda vs. Arizona (1966): “You have the right to remain silent….” 

That’s the preferred method for Mafia hitmen–and accused police officers. Any cop who finds himself under investigation by his department’s Internal Affairs unit automatically shuts up–and calls his lawyer, supplied by the police union.

Any other response–even if you’re innocent–may well result in a lengthy prison sentence.

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