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White House Gangsta in Chief Needs to Leave

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

Donald Trump, Public Domain

The federal government shutdown has now gone into two missing paychecks for workers without any resolution. It started as Trump’s demand that Mexico would pay for the wall. Then it advanced to American taxpayers would need to pay for the wall. Mexico likely laughed at the suggestion of their paying for it. And now it has snowballed into a hostage take over situation of over 800,000 federal government workers plus contract workers being furloughed until presumably American taxpayers pay for the wall. Trump has placed America at risk in food safety, air safety, health safety, economics, intelligence and basic human rights.

While the focus at times has been on federal government workers in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area, federal employees work in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia. Large numbers of workers are located in Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, West Virginian and Iowa –Trump Red states. There are government contractors who are not government employees who will never receive back pay.

There is so much at stake with the government shutdown. The lives and well being of 800,000 employees and their families are at stake. Most families are merely one paycheck away from homelessness. Rents and mortgages due are not being paid by many workers. Food lines and food pantries are now feeding government workers and supplying food for their families. The Department of Agriculture may need to forego food stamps distribution in February and SNAP benefits to 40 million Americans. The SNAP program began in 1964. There has never been a lapse in providing food services since the program began. The Food and Drug Administration is lacking the ability to keep our food supply safe, in terms of inspection.

The FBI cannot effectively work. The FBI Agents Association warned Tuesday that the ongoing government shutdown is not only hurting individual FBI employees and their families, but hampering key operations. This means that gangs such as MS-13 and other criminal enterprises will not receive appropriate investigation, indictments and court documents resulting in a likely increase in crime.

The TSA workers who make on average $30,000 must continue to do their jobs without pay. Many TSA workers have already called in sick causing check points at various airports, including Baltimore Washington airport to close checkpoints. Air traffic controllers are now beginning to call in sick. At some point, our air traffic safety will result in a tragedy of huge proportions.

Presently, there is no end in sight. Donald Trump ran at least four companies into bankruptcy. He appears on track to make America his fifth bankruptcy. If the U.S. were a private company, like Trump is running it, he would have already been removed. Papa John’s Pizza removed its CEO and founder under less severe issues than those being displayed by Trump.

One thing is for sure. Trump has a chokehold on America. A CBS News poll found that 71 percent of Americans do not believe the government should be shutdown over Trump’s demands for a border wall payment. Unless our lawmakers find a way around his insanity, our country will be crippled even further. And Trump and Putin will be laughing all the whole time. It’s time to begin impeachment. We cannot wait much longer—if America is to survive. As Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib stated, “impeach the mother fucker”.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is an attorney and former prosecutor.

The Extreme Hypocrisy of the Republican Party

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Donald Trump, Public Domain

The Republican party was once known as the party of Abraham Lincoln. Now it is known as the party of Donald Trump, a reality star, creator of the birther movement and race baiter in Chief. Time and time again, the Republican party has shown its hypocrisy in the Trump era by failing to speak out against racism and bigotry.

The other day, Congress failed to censure Iowa Representative Steve King for saying “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that become offensive?” To answer King’s statement, white supremacy was offensive to many persons as far back as Abraham Lincoln’s time. The House passed a resolution condemning white supremacy but failed to rebuke King. Every Republican House member should have requested a vote on censuring King, if not seeking his resignation. It is not enough just to fail to appoint him to committees. Steve King should have been asked to resign for his hideously racist comments.

Time and time again, the Republican party fails to address racism and bigotry under the Trump era. Donald Trump following the August, 2017 Charlottesville, Nazi rally where Heather Heyer was killed by a hate filled Nazi supremacist, stated there were good people on both sides—meaning the Nazi’s and their protestors. No Republican lawmaker serving in the House or the U.S. Senate strongly condemned Donald Trump for referring to Nazi’s, Neo-Nazi’s  and white supremacists as “good people.”  It’s as if Trump can do no wrong when it comes to siding with racists.

Donald Trump  sets the tone for white supremacy and bigoted speech. Even before he was elected, he fueled the birther movement alleging that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in this country, without any valid basis for the assertion. It was likely one of Trump’s proudest moments when the first African American president produced his birth certificate—just like slaves once did to show they were free persons.

Once Trump ran for office and won, he became race-baiter-in chief. He gives a platform for all the Steve Kings to stand on. Trump called Colin Kaepernick a “son of a bitch” as well as other NFL African American players who kneel during the playing of the national anthem in protest of police brutality against Blacks. He refers to Mexicans as rapists; He disparages judges of Hispanic descent. He views African countries as “shithole” nations. To point out all of Trump’s racist remarks would take up more space than needed to make the point. Republicans fail to see the big fat elephant in the room named Donald Trump.

Recently, when N.Y. representative Rashida Tlaib stated we should “impeach the mother f’er”, Texas Republican Representative Brian Babin called her words “ill-conceived and inconsistent with our national values.” I don’t ever recall Babin or any GOP legislator calling any of Trump’s comments inconsistent with our national values. The only thing that would have delighted me more would have been if Rep. Tlaib had used Trump’s own language that he called Colin Kaepernick—a SOB.

The latest Republican hypocrisy seems focused on holding the federal government workers hostage while Trump demands a Mexican border wall. As most folks will remember, Mexico was supposed to pay for the wall. Time and time again, Trump chanted that point to his base. Yet, now it appears the wall will be financed on the backs of American taxpayers and on the hostage taking of the federal government workers—the vast majority that live in Red states and towns. No Republican member is calling for Trump to back down from his wall double talk and re-open the government. Mitch McConnell won’t even bring a vote to the floor to open the government and then continue talks about the so-called wall that Mexico would have paid for.

All the talk about the wall is double talk and code talk for race baiting. As the president demands a $5 billion ransom money to open the federal government in exchange for a so-called wall, he continues to ramp up incidents of persons killed by undocumented persons. Some of those victims were killed by guns, yet I fail to see any gun control measures being introduced and passed.

Immigrants contribute significantly in the U.S. from serving in the military, owning businesses, paying taxes, doing menial jobs, inventing and investing in our economy and society. As recently seen in the news, some undocumented immigrants work in Trump’s many businesses with forged papers. When it is to Trump businesses’ advantage, undocumented immigrants are valuable. To his base, he calls them rapists and murderers.

As an African American, I know this country has long been known for its hypocrisy of saying one thing and doing another when it comes to race and race relations. The explicit race baiting language used by Trump and supported implicitly and explicitly by Republican lawmakers without rebuke brings the hypocrisy to an extreme level. If this were a fake reality show, it could be dubbed “Extreme GOP Hypocrisy”. Sadly, this is our new norm under the Trump era.

Washington, D.C. based Debbie Hines is an attorney and former prosecutor.

2018- A Year of Sex, Lies, Guns and Trump

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

Donald Trump, Public Domain

Every new year, we look back towards the past year to see the good, bad and ugly. If 2018 can be boiled down to a theme—it would be sex, lies, guns and Trump. Trump fits into all three categories.

Guns were rampant again this year with no end in sight in terms of gun control. On February 26, 2018, in Parkland, Florida, one of the safest towns in the U.S. , a school gun shooting occurred and 17 persons died including teachers and students. This time may have been different than previous gun shootings in that it galvanized students to hold the March for Our Lives on March 25, 2018. It once again raised the issue of gun control. Like in so many times and years before, no meaningful gun legislation occurred.

 

On June 29, five journalists were shot and killed at the Annapolis Gazette in Annapolis, MD. Throughout the Trump administration, Donald Trump has shouted chants that the media is the enemy of the state. Our constitution’s first amendment is freedom of the press. Yet, the person sitting in the White House holding the office of President continues to attack the press as an enemy. While the shooting and death of 5 journalists is not directly attributable to Trump, the constant attacks on the media with chants of fake news using the term “enemy”, have no place in the U.S. Following the deaths of the journalists, the Trump administration had to be convinced that a lowering of the U.S. flag in mourning was appropriate.

October 28, 11 persons were killed while holding religious services in a Pittsburg synagogue. Following Trump’s 2017 response to the Charlottesville, VA killing of Heather Heyer during a neo-Nazi march, many persons in Pittsburgh had no desire to see Trump visit there. In 2017, Trump all but defended the neo-Nazi’s hatred of Jews  stating there were fault on both sides of the aisle. As a former prosecutor, I understand that violence and hatred have no place in this country. Apparently, Donald Trump doesn’t fully understand the ramifications of spewing hatred with words and acts. Both have consequences.

Sex played an important part in 2018. From Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh, CBS executive Les Moonves, Bill Cosby to Donald Trump, sexual harassment, sex crimes and paybacks continued to play a huge part in 2018. CBS executive Les Moonves lost not only his job but a $120 million severance pay, after an independent investigation revealed a decades long history of sexual harassment against women employees. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh fared better than Moonves. Professor Christine Blasey Ford testified publicly accusing Brett Kavanaugh of attempted rape in high school, with “100%” certainty. Many Republican lawmakers still voted to confirm Kavanaugh to a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court. It just goes to show how little has changed since the Clarence Thomas hearing and Anita Hill’s testimony.

In a different outcome, on September 26, Bill Cosby, once considered America’s TV dad, received a sentence of 3-10 years in prison for sexual assaults committed against Andrea Constand which occurred 14 years earlier. In April, Cosby was convicted of three counts of aggravated sexual assault and classified a “sexually violent predator” requiring lifetime registration.

From accounts from the Mueller investigation, Donald Trump was implicated in ordering and directing the payment of hush money and other ways to silence his sexual escapades with several women, according to alleged testimony by his fixer, attorney Michael Cohen and others. It is suspected that if such behavior had been known, it may have derailed his presidential outcome. We will never know.

According to the Washington Post as reported by Fact Checker’s database, Trump had an unprecedented year of deception averaging 15 false claims a day in 2018. This triples the amount from the year before, according to Fact Checker. This would account for a November Quinnipiac poll which found that 58% of voters saying Trump wasn’t honest. For obvious reasons, there is not enough room to discuss his voluminous false claims in 2018.
Aside from false claims, Trump continues to side with Russian President Putin at every opportunity. In 2018, he sided with Putin saying there was no 2016 Russian interference in our election—going against the report of our U.S. intelligence community. At every turn, Trump has tried to derail the Mueller investigation—changing Attorney Generals. His most dreaded fear of impeachment may occur in 2019.

The latest Trump debacle is the government shutdown. Trump refused to sign legislation on December 22 that would allow the government to remain open and running. Instead he insisted on $5 billion for a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. As of January 1, 2019, the federal government workers and contract workers remain hostage to a wall without pay—that Mexico was supposed to pay for.

2019 brings the hope of some stability in the government with the oversight of the Democrats taking control of the House.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a lawyer and former Baltimore prosecutor.

Gun Shootings Require Action From Lawmakers–Not Just Prayers

Wednesday, November 7th, 2018

Two days after the midterm elections, I woke up to the news that another mass shooting occurred–this time in a supposedly safe suburban community outside of Los Angeles.  A white man opened fire in a college bar and grill restaurant killing 12 persons, including a 29 year police veteran.

On Saturday, November 3, I woke up to the news that a gun shooter killed two persons in a yoga class and wounded several others. My initial thought was we can’t even peacefully pray, meditate or practice yoga or dance in this country without the fear of being gunned down. It was just the previous week that I felt the pain of gun violence at a Pittsburgh synagogue killing seven Jewish persons. And yet, many of our powerful lawmakers act powerless in the face of tragedy.  We need more than just thoughts and prayers in these tragedies from our lawmakers.

Tragedy is what propelled Lucy McBath, a gun control advocate, to run for office. McBath appears headed to Congress from Georgia’s 6th district, once held by Newt Grinch. McBath fueled her grief over the death of her son, Jordan Davis, to running for office to end gun violence. Davis was shot down because the white killer acted out his rage against a car of African American teenagers.

I do believe one person can make a difference. And there must be a counter position to that of Donald Trump. Trump thinks that putting guns and armed individuals inside every building in America will solve the problem. A security guard and police deputy entered the shooting today.  Blaming the victims for not having armed guards in their places of worship, schools, malls and everywhere across the country is not the answer. Having more guns is not the solution to the problem. Guns in the hands of more individuals will only cause more deaths. There is a reason why many police departments across the country have gun turn in days where persons can turn in guns to the authorities without any hassle. Many law enforcement leaders know less guns on the streets equal less lives being taken.

Trump also wants Americans to accept that gun violence is a way of life that we must accept. We can’t do anything about death. We all will die. We must accept death. We can do something about gun violence.

Most people want a cure to cancer, Alzheimer’s and most other illness that often take the lives of our loved ones. We accept that cures for terrible diseases are within our reach. Gun violence is a malignancy that is affecting our way of life. And unlike cancer and other terminal diseases, there are no attempts for gun legislative cures being sought. Other countries have found a solution to the problem. Yet, “Make America Great Again” Donald Trump and most of the Republican party have thrown in the towel on fixing senseless gun violence.

Let me give our leaders and future leaders some advice. All is not lost. As a country, we can’t give up or give in to gun violence. We are a country of fixing problems. That’s what will make America great—not succumbing to apathy to gun violence and deaths from it.
First, we can take a lead from other countries where gun violence is relatively low. We can also make it difficult to quickly obtain a gun permit; increase the age requirement; and require more lengthy background checks to investigate a person’s mental stability . The assault weapons ban must be renewed outlawing those military style weapons and high capacity magazines whose sole purpose is to shoot multiple persons at a time—not intended for hunting or sports. In 2017, that bill was voted down.

Just as all cancers are not alike and require different cures, not all gun killings are alike. And there must be different legislative cures for the differences in gun violence. Mass shootings often occur with military style guns that can kill and injure many persons at a firing.

We can also vote in those politicians, like McBath, who have a passion to fix the gun violence plague. After all, any one of us might be the next victim of gun violence. The life you save may be your own.

UPDATE:  15 House Republicans with an “A” rating by the NRA lost in the midterm elections. They were replaced by Democrats who received a “F” rating by the NRA.  Lucy McBath will be joined by others in a quest to legislate for gun control to save lives.

Debbie Hines is an attorney, legal commentator and former Baltimore prosecutor.

Why Do Clinton and Trump Hate Following Rules?

Thursday, August 25th, 2016

Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_cropAs many people have already discovered, this election year is like no other in recent history—perhaps ever. Both candidates seemingly hate to follow and play by the rules. I must admit that Donald Trump’s unorthodox rule hating methods make Hillary Clinton’s rule mishaps look like child’s play.

 

As a child growing up, my brother and I played just about every board game imaginable. That’s how I developed a love of games and learning. In Scrapple, we could not make up words and expect to win. This presidential election for the highest office in the U.S. has shown that practically no rules exist anymore  and words don’t matter.

Donald Trump appears to be making everything up as he goes along. Every Republican presidential candidate since Richard Nixon has released their tax returns. Democrats from Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton released their tax returns. Yet, Trump refuses to release his tax returns claiming that he is being audited by the IRS. Whether or not Trump is being audited is disputed. However, there appears no dispute that an IRS audit would not prevent him from releasing his returns.

 

And Trump along with his surrogates and national spokesperson Katrina Pierson can change history at the drop of a hat. Facts have become a thing of the past. Pierson previously said that President Obama brought the country into the Afghanistan war when in fact, it started following the September 11 attacks in 2001. Then there’s Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump’s surrogates who recently stated that there has not been a successful radical Islamic terrorist attack on U.S. soil before President Obama took office. Somehow, Giuliani overlooks that while he was mayor of New York City that 911 occurred in 2001. But since rules no longer matter, lies have become acceptable.

 

Trump prides himself on being the no rules, anti-establishment non-politician.   That’s why he has presumably broken all rules in making outrageous racist, xenophobic and misogynistic comments, having no policies and disputing known historical facts. All the rules are off the table for Trump.

 

And Hillary Clinton has trust issues because many Americans do not believe she plays by the rules over her decades long career. Trump makes Hillary look like an amateur in rule breaking protocol. Now Hillary Clinton does have her share of issues. For starters, unlike other candidates, she hardly ever gives press conferences. In July, I attended the joint National Association of Black Journalists (”NABJ”) and National Association of Hispanic Journalists (“NAHJ”) convention. Hillary Clinton spoke and gave a press conference before the two groups. Trump was invited but declined. At the time of her appearance before the NABJ and NAHJ, Clinton had not given access to the media with a question and answer press conference in 244 days. Unfortunately, one cannot stop Trump from giving press conferences.

And then Hillary Clinton has her every ongoing Email server debacle. The recent mishap is her apparent failure to turn over some 15,000 emails for review. That’s a lot by my count. The fact that Hillary Clinton even thought it was acceptable to have her Secretary of State department emails on a private server at her New York home defies the logic of playing by the rules.

 

The failure to adhere to rules is where the similarities end with Trump and Clinton. Trump is downright dangerous. His lack of knowledge of policies, laws and the U.S. Constitution, narcissistic ways, bullying anyone and everyone, stoking racism, attacking immigrants, while pandering to Russian President Vladimir Putin puts the danger of his lack of rules in a whole other category. While Clinton may be unorthodox with rules that result in trust issues for many individuals, including myself, no one can doubt that she is qualified to be president. Trump is no more qualified to run the country than as my dear mom used to say than a man with a hole in his head.

The choice is not perfect by any means. Both Trump and Clinton dance to their own sense of rules. Clinton’s dance is easier for me to follow to the polls in November.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former Baltimore prosecutor. She has appeared on Al Jazeera, BET, CBS, C-Span, MSNBC, Sky News among others. Her op-eds appear in the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post and Huffington Post.

Is SCOTUS Nominee Merrick Garland the Next Clarence Thomas?

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

supcourt_buildingPresident Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in likely response to the Republican position to deny any nominee a hearing or vote.  Garland is a hard choice for Republicans to deny as he is a moderate choice who may lean conservative  on some  issues. He was confirmed on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals with only 23 Republican senators opposing. Republicans had little to say against Garland’s qualifications.  The votes against him were geared towards whether additional seats were needed on the District of Columbia court of Appeals. President Obama is playing a game of chess with Republicans in much the same way, Republicans did in nominating Clarence Thomas to fill Justice Thurgood Marshall’s seat.

 

President George H. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas in 1992 to fill the seat of retiring Justice Thurgood Marshall.  Marshall, the first African American justice to sit on the Supreme Court was known as the champion of civil rights causes—having won the landmark case of Brown versus Board of Election and ruled favorably on many civil rights cases.   Marshall sat on the court from October, 1967 until October 1991.

 

On Justice Marshall’s retirement, many Democrats and minorities wanted an African American to fill his vacating seat.  Hence President Bush selected an African American named Clarence Thomas.  Thomas’ appointment was a political move based on what was perceived to be the request by many minorities.  Of course, in light of the Anita Hill hearings then and subsequent rulings since then, Clarence Thomas sided with Justice Antonin Scalia and the conservatives on all issues, including civil rights. To say that Thomas is the antitheses to Thurgood Marshall would be an understatement.  It was almost as if the Republicans dared the Democrats to deny an African American male to seat the vacancy of Justice Marshall.

 

And in 2016, President Obama is playing a similar political game in nominating Merrick Garland to replace Justice Scalia.  President Obama, in lieu of making the bold move, to nominate an African American woman, chose instead to nominate someone that the GOP might be proud to confirm, under any other circumstances.  Except this year, the GOP wants to deny President Obama the Constitutional right to nominate and have hearings held on his Supreme Court nominee.  Republicans instead assert that in an election year, the next president should make the nomination. Despite having no legal authority whatsoever for this proposition, they are using it.  And in reverse, President Obama is playing into their game.  Perhaps, without the Republican blockade, Merrick Garland would not have ever been nominated.  Under different circumstances, maybe President Obama would have nominated an African American woman.

 

It is actually the Republicans that are in a win-win situation with Garland as the pick.  If the Republicans lose the election, they will likely change positions and Garland will be confirmed—for fear that the presumed Democratic winner will nominate a worse choice—a progressive. And if Republicans win in November, they can either nominate Garland or someone far worse.

 

But in nominating Garland to appease Republicans, the Supreme Court could be getting a companion for Clarence Thomas.  While the Clarence Thomas nomination did not backfire on the Republicans and was a slap in the face to many women and African Americans, the Garland nomination could backfire against women and African Americans.

 

Merrick Garland is not a conservative but on some issues, he is far from being progressive.  On  issues such as reproductive rights and abortion, no one knows his views. On the issue of criminal law, Garland might likely side with conservatives on some issues, as he has done in the past. As a sitting federal judge, he rarely voted in favor of criminal defendants’ appeals.  Tom Goldstein of the SCOTUS Blog writes that Garland disagreed with his more-liberal colleagues on ten cases and adopted the position that was more favorable to the government or declined to reach a question on which the majority of the court had adopted a position favorable to a defendant.  This is rare for the D.C. Circuit.  Goldman also notes that Garland has not had to decide many civil rights cases, so his views are not known in such another important area, affecting minorities.

 

In the end game, President Obama should have nominated someone without giving any deference to the Republicans.  Instead, he gave the GOP’s position weight and merit. And it neither deserved weight or any merit.  In nominating Garland, if confirmed, we may see the court swing to the right with Garland siding with Thomas and other conservatives on important issues affecting women’s rights, criminal law and civil rights. Progressives, minorities and women should be wary of Merrick Garland.

 

President Obama had the unusual position of being able to nominate three Supreme Court justices in two terms. This last time, he chose to take the path of less resistance.  He caved to the obstructionism of the Republicans. I wish President Obama had taken the bold path and nominated a progressive African American woman to sit on the Supreme Court.  He had plenty of qualified choices from which to choose. He instead decided to nominate a potential Clarence Thomas supporter.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, Supreme Court bar member, legal analyst and former prosecutor.  She is frequently seen on Al Jazeera America, BET, CBS News, MSNBC, PBS, Sky News and TV One among others.