Left Justified


Top Republicans Divided on Russia Probe Docs

July 6, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in Politics

U.S. Congressman Mark Meadows speaking at the 2018 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Republicans disagree about whether the Justice Department and the FBI are cooperating enough with their requests for sensitive documents that are relevant to the probe of Russian meddling with the 2016 US presidential elections.

Last week the FBI stated that it had sent letters to three key House Republican committee chairmen stating that it had given to Congress thousands of new documents. The documents were handed over in response to questioning about the investigation of contacts between associates of President Trump and people linked to Russia during the campaign.

The FBI’s revelation received a positive reaction from Speaker Paul Ryan. His office said that House committees were “finally getting access” to documents that have been demanded by the committees for quite a while. Though not all the requests have been forthcoming, a spokeswoman for Ryan said that the FBI is asking for more time, which is reasonable.

Other GOP representatives are also approving of the FBI’s move. Aides to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, and Trey Gowdy, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, from South Carolina, also expressed satisfaction, saying that they are in positive negotiations with DOJ to acquire documents, while also stating that they fully expect to get the rest of the documents that they have asked for.

Not all Republicans agree that the investigation is proceeding well. Trump and one of his key House allies, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) overturned the fragile peace. Meadows, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus posted on Twitter, complaining of the intransigence of the DOJ.

“New reports of DOJ/FBI compliance with document requests are NOT accurate,” he wrote. “While they have turned over additional documents, the new documents represent a small percentage of what they owe. The notion that DOJ/FBI have been forthcoming with Congress is false.”

President Trump used the conflict to complain about the DOJ and the FBI as part of his continuing campaign to delegitimize the investigation.

“I have tried to stay uninvolved with the Department of Justice and FBI (although I do not legally have to), because of the now totally discredited and very expensive Witch Hunt currently going on,” he tweeted. “But you do have to ask why the DOJ & FBI aren’t giving over requested documents?”

US Quitting UN Human Rights Council

June 25, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in Politics

After years of talking about withdrawing from the United Nations Human Rights Council, the United States has finally

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks about evidence of Iran’s destabilizing activities in the Middle East and Iran’s effort to cover up continued violations of UN resolutions at a press conference at Joint Base Anacostia-Boling Dec. 14, 2017. DoD photo by EJ Hersom.

taken action. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations announced the decision with Mike Pompeo the US Secretary of State. During the administration of George W. Bush, the US refrained from joining the council, but in subsequent administrations the US took part.

During her explanation of the US withdrawal Haley described the UNHRC in harsh terms:

“For too long the Human Rights Council has been a protector of human rights abusers and a cesspool of political bias,” Haley said.

Critics say this decision is just the latest move towards US isolation and withdrawal from world bodies and agreements such as the Iran nuclear agreement, the Paris climate document, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

The US has long held that the HRC spends an inordinate amount of time and energy denouncing the state of Israel while allowing known human rights abusers membership, such as countries like China and Saudi Arabia.

“The Human Rights Council is a poor defender of human rights,” Pompeo said, adding that the United States “will not be complicit.”

There were critics of the US decision, such as Senator Chris Coons, Democrat from Delaware:

“The U.N. Human Rights Council isn’t perfect but withdrawing the United States from this important body sends a clear message that the Trump administration does not intend to lead the world when it comes to human rights,” Coons said. “It also makes it harder for the United States to prevent the Human Rights Council from taking positions we oppose.”

Rob Berschinski, senior vice president for policy at Human Rights First was also critical of the US withdrawal:

“It’s a simple fact that when the United States sits on the council and applies its considerable influence, more of that body‘s time is spent addressing the world‘s worst human rights crises, with less of the body‘s time spent disproportionately condemning Israel.”

Others supported the US move:

“As long as the body‘s representation includes countries like Cuba, Venezuela, China or other governments that actively work against what the council is supposed to promote and support, and as long as it continues to push an anti-Israel bias and an anti-American agenda, the United States should not legitimize it with our presence,” said Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R-Fla.)

Banks Want Clarity on Marijuana Industry

June 18, 2018 by Gail Nussbaum in Law, Politics

 Jerome H. Powell testifies .

Banks do not feel comfortable doing business with companies in the marijuana industry, even when the state they operate in have legalized recreational of medicinal its use. That is because the Federal government under the leadership of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, still considers marijuana illegal, and banks do not know which legal system they can rely on.

As legalization of marijuana spreads across the country, top banking trade groups are pushing policymakers to loosen the rules for banks to serve businesses in the cannabis industry, especially in huge economies like California and Colorado.

“If we’re not at a turning point, we’re very close to it,” said Cam Fine, the former head of the Independent Community Bankers of America trade association.

Chairman of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell is also calling for something to be done on this issue.

“This is a very difficult area,” Powell said. “It puts federally chartered banks in a very difficult situation. It would be great if that could be clarified.”

Banks would love to lend and serve this newly expanding industry, seeing a huge potential for growth and profits. The conflict between the liberalizing forces at play on the state level and the restrictive rhetoric coming from Jeff Sessions on the Federal level, has scared banks away from accepting clients from the cannabis industry.

Because of Sessions’ continuing opposition to the legalization of marijuana, banks are staying away from cannabis business, forcing those businesses to operate exclusively in cash, making them an easy target for theft and violence.

The American Bankers Association states:

“The time has come for Congress and the regulatory agencies to provide greater legal clarity to banks operating in states where marijuana has been legalized for medical or adult use. Those banks, including institutions that have no interest in directly banking marijuana-related businesses, face rising legal and regulatory risks, and ever-increasing ambiguity and uncertainty, as the marijuana industry grows.”

Last week the Independent Community Bankers went a step further when they endorsed, for the first time, a cannabis banking bill that would prevent federal regulators from punishing banks that offer services to marijuana businesses. The bill was introduced by Democratic Representatives Ed Perlmutter of Colorado and Denny Heck of Washington and has over 90 co-sponsors, including 13 Republicans. The Senate has a sister bill introduced by Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon which has 17 co-sponsors, including 12 Democrats, four Republicans, and one Independent, Senator Bernie Sanders.

It appears that two harsh rivals, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat from Massachusetts, and Republican President Donald Trump, also support the easing of restrictions on banks doing business with the cannabis industry.