Politics

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Huffman: Dems 'Snowball of Unity' on Impeachment Led to Historic Announcement

Posted By on Tue, Sep 24, 2019 at 4:33 PM

As one of the first and most vociferous members of Congress to beat the impeachment drum, his frustrations having steadily built in recent weeks, North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman applauded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historic announcement this afternoon that the U.S. House of Representatives will launch a formal impeachment inquiry.

“It’s been a remarkable snowball of unity in our caucus around the Ukraine scandal,” Huffman told the Journal by phone this afternoon. “As someone who thinks this president should be impeached around at least a half-dozen impeachable offenses, I’m happy to see that unity, even if it just gels around this one scandal. I’ll take it.”

Jared Huffman. - CONGRESS
  • Congress
  • Jared Huffman.
The Ukraine scandal, as Huffman dubbed it, has been rapidly gaining traction over the past week and centers on reports — as well as admissions from the president and his advisors — that in July Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on widely debunked allegations that he inappropriately pressed for the ousting of a Ukrainian prosecutor who was investigating a company that employed Biden’s son. The pressing — eight requests for the investigation in a single phone call, according to some reports — reportedly came weeks after Trump ordered his acting chief of staff to withhold $400 million in promised military aid to the country.

Huffman said there was zero dissension in the ranks when Pelosi informed the Democratic caucus today that she intended to announce the launching of an impeachment inquiry this afternoon, despite the fact that many Democrats have taken a cautious approach to the subject, believing that committee investigations could accomplish the larger information gathering goal without the potential political price of an official inquiry.

In announcing the opening of a formal inquiry, Pelosi said Trump has “seriously violated the Constitution” and “must be held accountable.”

To date, the whistleblower complaint that brought the Ukraine scandal to light has not been turned over to Congress, as required by law. But Huffman said acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire is slated to offer “historic testimony” before Congress Thursday, noting that the hearing will be televised.

Huffman, who has repeatedly and loudly called for the start of a formal impeachment inquiry to look into potential violations of the emoluments clause, obstruction of justice and campaign finance violations, said he believes the Ukraine scandal has captured his colleagues’ urgent attention because it is “an unambiguous, impeachable offense and there is no amount of spin or nuance that can get the president out of this box.” The facts as they are known, he said, already support an impeachment vote, noting that Trump has admitted to asking Zelensky to investigate Biden and halting the military aid money as members of his administration have refused to comply with legal requirements to turn the whistleblower’s complaint over to Congress.

“That alone crosses the threshold of impeachment,” Huffman said.

On Twitter, Trump has called the issue a “total witch hunt” and “presidential harassment,” and has pledged to release a transcript of his call with Zelensky tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Huffman says he believes there is “air-tight unity” in the Democratic caucus in the belief that Trump’s own public admissions about the call — coupled with his administration’s handling of the complaint — constitute grounds for impeachment. He says he still wants to see the president held accountable for profiting off the presidency, obstructing justice and violating campaign finance rules by paying off a porn star to keep voters from learning about his extra-marital affair, but all that can wait.

“I’m not backing off any of that but I do think this Ukraine scandal goes to the fast lane and probably stands alone as having that full imprimatur of the speaker and our caucus,” he says.
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Thursday, September 19, 2019

McGuire: Judge's Tax Return Law Ruling 'Perplexing, Premature and Unneccesary'

Posted By on Thu, Sep 19, 2019 at 4:12 PM

A federal judge today granted a temporary injunction to block California’s recently signed legislation that requires presidential and gubernatorial candidates to release their tax returns to appear on the state’s primary ballot.

According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, U.S. District Judge Morrison England Jr. said a final ruling in the case would be coming in the next few days but there would be “irreparable harm without temporary relief.”

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The Presidential Tax Transparency & Accountability Act was challenged within days of its July 30 signing by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who at the time said that “states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence.”

Judicial Watch, a self-described “conservative, non-partisan educational foundation” that “promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law,” was the first to sue. That action was quickly followed by President Donald Trump and his campaign and the Republican state and national parties, which filed two separate lawsuits.

North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire McGuire, who co-authored the legislation with Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, described England’s ruling as “perplexing, premature and not necessary.”

“We’re way out in front of any deadline required under the law and the irreparable harm argument is simply not apparent,” McGuire said in a statement released by his office. “I think the judge got this one wrong and a decision as important as this should not have been rushed or the law prematurely shut down.

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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Huffman Calls Congressional Oath to God "Unconstitutional," "Preposterous"

Posted By on Wed, Sep 4, 2019 at 2:08 PM

North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman is again making waves as Congress’ only proclaimed “humanist.”

During an interview on the Freedom from Religion Foundation’s Freethought Matters program, Huffman, a lawyer by trade, said he believes requiring Congressional witnesses to pledge an oath to God is unconstitutional.

“It’s unconstitutional to require a witness in congressional testimony to affirm an oath to a deity they may not even believe in or to affirm an oath to a singular deity when you might be a polytheistic Hindu, for example,” Huffman said. “It’s just preposterous.”


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Monday, August 19, 2019

Newsom Signs Landmark Police Use-of-Force Bill

Posted By and on Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 12:25 PM

California will soon have a tougher new legal standard for the use of deadly force by police, under legislation Gov. Gavin Newsom signed today that was inspired by last year’s fatal shooting of a young, unarmed man in Sacramento.

Newsom signed the legislation amid unusual fanfare, convening numerous legislators, family members of people who have died in police shootings and advocates including civil-rights leader Dolores Huerta in a courtyard at the Secretary of State’s building used in the past for inaugurations and other formal events.

The governor contends that with Assembly Bill 392 in place, police will turn increasingly to de-escalation techniques including verbal persuasion, weapons other than guns and other crisis intervention methods.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, crowd at signing ceremony for use-of-force bill. - PHOTO BY DAN MORAIN, CALMATTERS
  • Photo by Dan Morain, CalMatters
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom, crowd at signing ceremony for use-of-force bill.

“I would hope that if AB 392 had been law last year, that our family would not have to be mourning Christopher’s first angelversary today,” Barbara Okamoto said in a statement.

Her grandson, Christopher Okamoto, was killed in Bakersfield last Aug. 19, when police responded to a domestic violence call. He had a pellet gun.

The law reflects a compromise between civil-rights advocates who want to limit when police can shoot and law enforcement groups who said earlier versions of the bill would have put officers in danger.

Under the new law, which takes effect January 1, police may use deadly force only when “necessary in defense of human life.”

That’s a steeper standard than prosecutors apply now, which says officers can shoot when doing so is “reasonable.” One of the most significant changes will allow prosecutors to consider officers’ actions leading up to a shooting when deciding whether deadly force is justified.

“This will make a difference not only in California, but we know it will make a difference around the world,” said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, the San Diego Democrat who carried the legislation.

The law doesn’t go as far as civil libertarians originally proposed and will likely leave it to courts to define what a “necessary” use of force is in future cases. The negotiations led a few early supporters, including the group Black Lives Matter, to drop their support and major statewide law-enforcement organizations to drop their opposition. After a year of contentious testimony over how to reduce police shootings, the final version of the bill sailed through the Legislature with bipartisan support.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Rollback of Endangered Species' Protections Raising Fears

Posted By on Tue, Aug 13, 2019 at 2:53 PM

A wild-hatched condor. - COURTESY OF REDWOOD NATIONAL PARK
  • Courtesy of Redwood National Park
  • A wild-hatched condor.
The Trump administration’s move to weaken what many see as key aspects of the Endangered Species Act is garnering outrage and pushback, with critics fearing a greater deterioration of the natural world amid the planet’s growing biodiversity crisis.

Credited with saving the bald eagle — among many iconic species, including several on the North Coast — and giving others —  like the condor — a fighting chance, the ESA was enacted in 1973 by then-President Richard Nixon.

That year, fewer than 500 pairs of the United States’ national symbol were left in the wild while today some 10,000 sets of the stealth raptors with a distinctive snowy white head are found just in the lower 48 states alone.

While the ESA has seen many successes over the years, the rollbacks expected to be enacted soon come on the heels of a United Nation’s report released in May that found “the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world.”

According to an Aug. 12 joint announcement from U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the ESA regulatory changes are “designed to increase transparency and effectiveness and bring the administration of the Act into the 21st century.”

“The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal —recovery of our rarest species. The Act’s effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation,” U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, an attorney and former oil industry lobbyist, said in the release. “An effectively administered Act ensures more resources can go where they will do the most good: on-the-ground conservation.”

Meanwhile, conservation organizations like Center Biological Diversity are sounding the alarm bells about what these changes could spell for already at-risk species like the polar bear and are mounting a campaign to reverse the alterations.

“We can stop this disaster, but it's going to require pulling out every stop,” a post on the center’s website states. “Tell your member of Congress to do everything in their power to defend wildlife and uphold the Endangered Species Act in this time of extinction crisis.

Read the USFW and NOAA release below:


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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

UPDATE: Republican Party, Trump Take on Golden State Over Tax Returns

Posted By on Tue, Aug 6, 2019 at 12:14 PM

UPDATE:

Following in the footsteps of Judicial Watch, President Donald Trump and his campaign and the Republican state and national parties filed two separate lawsuits today over the tax return law recently signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Each case alleges California’s move to make releasing a candidate’s tax returns a prerequisite to being placed on the state’s primary ballot was unconstitutional.

"We will not allow California's Democrats to use the state's voters as pawns in their petty political vendettas to trample all over the Constitution," RNC National Committeewoman and Vice President of the Republican National Lawyers Association, Harmeet K. Dhillon said in a release. "This law is a cynical and illegal voter suppression scheme whose sole purpose is to deny California voters their Constitutionally protected right to vote for qualified candidates for president, and to suppress the Republican vote in California not just for president but also for all the down-ticket races, ballot measures and power grabs the Democrats have in store for the 2020 ballot."

State Sen. Mike McGuire, who co-authored Senate Bill 27, shot back at Trump and what his office deemed “a frivolous lawsuit against the state of California.”

“Releasing of tax returns has never been a big deal, up until now. All presidents have done it for 40 years,” McGuire said. “It comes as no surprise that President Trump would freak out at the prospect of presidential transparency and accountability, but he will need to get used to it. Welcome to the rule of law, Mr. President.”

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Judicial Watch, a self-described “conservative, non-partisan educational foundation” that “promotes transparency, accountability and integrity in government, politics and the law,” is suing the state of California over a law that requires presidential and gubernatorial candidates to show their personal taxes returns to get on the primary ballot.

The federal lawsuit comes just as the ink sets on Senate Bill 27, with Judicial Watch arguing the legislation adds requirements “beyond those allowed by the U.S. Constitution and impermissibly burdens a voters’ expressive constitutional and statutory rights.”

Gavin Newsom - WIKIPEDIA
  • Wikipedia
  • Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law July 30, stating that “these are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence.”

Co-penned by North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire McGuire — who  praised Newsom’s signing as a victory for transparency — and Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, presidential hopefuls and gubernatorial candidates must now produce “copies of every income tax return filed with the Internal Revenue Service in the five most recent taxable years with the Secretary of State, at least 98 days prior to the corresponding primary election.”

Mike McGuire
  • Mike McGuire
In a release, Judicial Watch alleges S.B. 27 is political in nature and outside the bounds of California’s “legitimate constitutional role in administering and establishing procedures for conducting federal elections.”

The foundation points to concerns raised by former Gov. Jerry Brown when he vetoed similar legislation back in 2017.

“Today we require tax returns but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?" Brown wrote in his veto message.

Echoing those remarks (and quoting them), Judicial Watch says the precedent being set by the Golden State could have far-reaching repercussions.

“Using rationales similar to California’s, states might come to demand medical records, mental health records, sealed juvenile records, driving records, results of intelligence, aptitude, or personality tests, college applications, Amazon purchases, Google search histories, browsing histories or Facebook friends," the release states.

Ultimately, the foundation argues, the tax return policy boils down to a direct rebuke to President Donald Trump, who has refused to turn over his tax information in reversal of a tradition that dates back half a century.

“California politicians, in their zeal to attack President Trump, passed a law that also unconstitutionally victimizes California voters,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in the release. “It is an obvious legal issue that a state can’t amend the U.S. Constitution by adding qualifications in order to run for president. The courts can’t stop this abusive law fast enough.”

Read the full Judicial Watch release below:


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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

With Newsom’s Signature, Presidential Hopefuls Now Have to Show Us Their Taxes

Posted By on Tue, Jul 30, 2019 at 1:37 PM

Gavin Newsom - WIKIPEDIA
  • Wikipedia
  • Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom today signed legislation brought forward by North Coast state Sen. Mike McGuire that requires presidential hopefuls to release their tax returns in order to run in the Golden State’s primary election.

“These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence,” Newsom says in a statement. “The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest.”

While candidates for the nation’s highest office have traditionally turned over the financial papers for more than half a century, President Donald Trump is, of course, the notorious exception to the rule in refusing to make his taxes public.

(Side note: The pre-Trump established practice of releasing tax returns is widely touted as dating back to President Richard Nixon, but he didn’t start the ball rolling voluntarily. It was only after his were leaked to the press — showing he wasn’t paying much — that Nixon turned over more on his own accord, setting the stage for future candidate who would do the same. Until 2016.)

McGuire, who was joined in penning Senate Bill 27 by Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, called Newsom’s signature a “huge victor for transparency.”
A previous version was vetoed by former Gov. Jerry Brown, who questioned whether it could withstand a legal challenge and warned of “the political perils of individual states seeking to regulate presidential elections in this manner.”

“Today we require tax returns but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?" Brown wrote in his veto message.

But McGuire followed through on his promise last July — in the wake
Mike McGuire
  • Mike McGuire
 of President Donald Trump’s widely condemned joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland — to try again and reintroduced the legislation in December.

Senate Bill 27 will require a candidate for president or California governor to file “copies of every income tax return filed with the Internal Revenue Service in the five most recent taxable years with the Secretary of State, at least 98 days prior to the corresponding primary election.”

Included as an addendum to Newsom’s statement are comments from three attorneys — described as “Nationally recognized leaders in constitutional law” — who voiced their support and assurances that the bill would withstand a legal challenge.

“SB 27, which requires that presidential candidates disclose tax returns, is constitutional. It does not keep any candidate from being on the ballot so long as he or she complies with a simple requirement that is meant to provide California voters crucial information,” says Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law.

“This is the state acting to make sure that its voters have information that might be very important to them when they cast their ballots as to who they want to be president of the United States.”

But not everyone sees it that way.

A statement from RNC National Committee member and Vice President of the Republican National Lawyers Association Harmeet K. Dhillon calls the bill a “cynical and illegal voter suppression scheme” aimed at suppressing the Republican vote.

“It’s sad that Gov. Newsom decided to ignore the sage and measured approach taken by his predecessor, Gov. Brown, in vetoing similar legislation due to the manifest illegality and policy implications of this effort,” Dhillon’s statement reads. “And yet again, California voters are used as pawns by a Democratic Party substituting cheap gimmicks such as this law, for policy solutions to California’s many ills. This ill-conceived law is doomed to failure."

Read Gov. Newsom’s statement below:

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Monday, April 8, 2019

McCloskey Out of First District Supes Race

Posted By on Mon, Apr 8, 2019 at 2:19 PM

Allen McCloskey - MCCLOSKEY FOR SUPERVISOR, FACEBOOK
  • McCloskey for Supervisor, Facebook
  • Allen McCloskey
Allen McCloskey has withdrawn his candidacy to become Humboldt County’s next First District supervisor in the face of fraud and perjury allegations reported last week by the Lost Coast Outpost.

“The last two months (and more notably the last two weeks) have been incredibly difficult for me as an individual, for my immediate and extended family, for the campaign team, for our friends and for so many people who I love and admire,” McCloskey wrote in a 2,400-word statement posted to his campaign Facebook page yesterday. “This ordeal has been designed to cause an incredible amount of strain. The blog hit piece, the bias and one-sided reporting, endless personal attacks, have caused untold damage to family, friends and political supporters. … As a result, and after much reflection and careful consideration, I cannot in good conscience allow these forces to continue to damage my family, friends and colleagues. … For the time being, we will walk away from this particular campaign with our heads held high and our commitment to our collective vision intact.”

The Outpost’s Ryan Burns penned a lengthy and thorough investigative report last week, much of which focused on perjury and fraud allegations from 16 years ago. When Burns confronted McCloskey with the allegations during an interview, McCloskey responded that he’d been the victim of identity theft.

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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Fisticuffs in First District Supes Race

Posted By on Thu, Apr 4, 2019 at 4:40 PM

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It’s been a bare-knuckle week in the upstart campaign to become Humboldt County’s next First District supervisor.

First, Tuesday afternoon, the Lost Coast Outpost’s Ryan Burns published an impressive piece of investigative journalism detailing allegations of fraud and perjury in challenger Allen McCloskey’s past and the candidate’s seeming inability to offer a clear explanation for them. Anyone who hasn’t read the piece should check it out here. But the Cliff’s Notes version is as follows: In 2004, McCloskey was working as a consultant for Kleen Environmental Technologies, which was seeking a biomedical waste disposal permit from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission. According to transcripts of commission hearings, it appears McCloskey forged a letter in support of Kleen’s application then lied about it. When called on those lies, he either suffered a medical emergency or feigned one, after which he allegedly fled the state. When questioned about all this by Burns, McCloskey said it wasn’t him but a doppleganger ex-boyfriend who stole his identity and committed the fraudulent acts and perjury in an effort to make big money off of Kleen.

McCloskey didn’t return a Journal call seeking comment for this story but told the Times-Standard’s Shomik Mukherjee that his attorneys and campaign committee are crafting a “very stern response” to Burns’ report, that he has no intention of dropping out of the supervisorial race but that he “didn’t specifically deny any of the Outpost’s reported claims.” He also seemingly blamed incumbent Rex Bohn’s campaign for the Outpost story, saying, “This is the kind of campaign Rex always runs.”

It’s unclear if the information from McCloskey’s past surfaced as a result of opposition campaign research. The Journal received copies of the transcripts of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission hearings referenced in the Outpost’s reporting but the source who provided them is not affiliated with either campaign. No matter how they surfaced in Humboldt County, the transcripts are all available through the commission’s website.

Less than 24 hours following the Outpost’s bombshell report, local political organizer and McCloskey supporter Renee Saucedo sent out an open letter to local media calling on Bohn to resign and relaying allegations of a racist remark made at a recent nonprofit fundraiser. Apparently word had been quietly spreading about the comments since the March 9 fundraiser for Ferndale Repertory Theatre at the Carson Mansion but Saucedo chose the morning after the McCloskey report to blast it out to local press.

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Photos from Saturday's March for Our Lives

Posted By on Sun, Mar 24, 2019 at 12:52 PM

Sunny Brae Middle School Student Nova Vaur held a sign asking, "Who's next?" at Saturday's March for Our Lives in Arcata. - PHOTO BY MARK MCKENNA
  • Photo by Mark McKenna
  • Sunny Brae Middle School Student Nova Vaur held a sign asking, "Who's next?" at Saturday's March for Our Lives in Arcata.

Yesterday some 100 marchers gathered at the Arcata Playhouse to hear students and local leaders speak before setting out on the second March for Our Lives. The local iteration of the national student-based protest march against gun violence started last year as part of the grassroots movement launched by survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. See the slideshow below for photographer Mark McKenna's images of the event.

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