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Was Firing of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Done to Cover Up Probes of Trump & Fox News?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking for the resignations of 46 U.S. attorneys Friday, angering the prosecutors, who say they weren't warned in advance. Although the dismissal of U.S. attorneys is common during presidential transitions, those affected say the Trump administration bungled the layoffs, with many U.S. attorneys learning only through the media they had to clear out their desks by the end of the day.
One of the most high-profile prosecutors asked to resign, U.S. attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara, refused to step down Friday and was fired the next day. Bharara's termination came as a surprise since President Trump met personally with Bharara at Trump Tower last November, after he was elected, and assured him he could remain at his post. The unusual circumstances of Bharara's dismissal prompted Democrats to suggest it was politically motivated. Preet Bharara's dismissal came as his office was probing Fox News, after it allegedly failed to inform shareholders about numerous settlements in sexual harassment and assault cases. The dismissal came less than a week after government watchdog groups sent a letter to the Manhattan prosecutor's office asking for an investigation into whether President Trump violated a clause of the Constitution, the Emoluments Clause, barring federal employees from receiving benefits from foreign governments. In 2013, Preet Bharara was one of 18 U.S. officials barred from entering Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin was reportedly angered by Bharara's prosecution of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
On Sunday, Bharara tweeted about his firing, writing, quote, "By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like," end-quote. That's a reference to an anti-corruption commission set up by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2013, which the governor then disbanded the next year. The tweet fueled speculation Bharara was fired because of his investigations into Trump's businesses and the White House.
Well, for more, we're joined by Harry Siegel, an editor at The Daily Beast and columnist at the New York Daily News. His most recent piece for The Daily Beast is headlined "Trump to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara: You're Fired."
Harry Siegel, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about what happened here and what this means, what Preet Bharara was looking at?
HARRY SIEGEL: So, I'm never sure with Donald Trump what he's bungling and what he's purposefully doing. With the publicly appointedwith the politically ambassadors, right away, he said, "Get out. Get out today." So, getting rid of the U.S. attorneys, again, these are all pretty conventional things a new administration does, but they seem to be proceeding with purposeful contempt: "Hey, great job! We don't have your replacements lined up, but please leave your office, return your emails and be done with all your business today." It's strange. It's sort of insulting. And I'm not sure it's accidental. As to what Bharara was investigating, the Southern District in New Yorkit's called the sovereign district a lot, because it has so much on its plate.
AMY GOODMAN: The sovereign district.
HARRY SIEGEL: Mm-hmm. And so, Bharara, who showed real independence, was pursuing, which I think Trump liked, two Democrats, in Bill de Blasio, who he's been investigating in various corruption things
AMY GOODMAN: The mayor of New York.
HARRY SIEGEL: and the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. He has two of Cuomo's closest allies about to go on trial. And it wasn't clear if he was done with the governor himself. At the same time, you know, Trump Tower is in Preet's orbit. He's had severalseveral cases, investigations and prosecutions that touch onthat touch on Russia and friends of Putin, that actually touch on Turkey and the Iran sanctions.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, that's interesting, because we now know that, well, the former national security adviser, he was a paid lobbyist for Turkey
AMY GOODMAN: while he was advising Trump, right up into the election, General Flynn.
HARRY SIEGEL: Right. And Bharara was going after a very well-connected guy close to theclose to the political powers that be in Turkey, who had actually been dodging the Iran sanctions, and had been doing this, interestingly enough, over some quiet objections from the Obama administration as they were trying to negotiate their Iran deal. But there was so much that's interesting on his plate.
And with Fox, this wasn't just allegations that they covered up their settlements so shareholders couldn't see what they were paying here. It also looks like, from my reporting and Gabe Sherman's and others', that this had to do with other sorts of wiretapping and listening in on people's phone calls and their emails, which is something that Rupert Murdoch, of course, has a long history with.
So what's incredible is that the guy who's rumored to be Trump's pick to replace Preet Bharara, Marc Mukaseyright?among other things, represented Roger Ailes. And it'sand, of course, his father was the attorney general. And he became the attorney general when Preet Bharara, who was Chuck Schumer's chief counsel in the Senate, got Gonzales pushed out for politically booting U.S. attorneys midterm.
AMY GOODMAN: So that was Alberto Gonzales. He boots out U.S. attorneys. He's thrown out.
AMY GOODMAN: And Michael Mukasey
HARRY SIEGEL: Michael Mukasey, right.
AMY GOODMAN: replaces him. And now his son, who has worked for what? Giuliani.
HARRY SIEGEL: For Giuliani, who's a former U.S. attorney of the Southern District, is supposedly going to be the guy who fills that role. So, it's an incredible set of full-circle developments.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain more about Preet Bharara's investigation into Fox, what exactly the allegations are.
HARRY SIEGEL: We don't know. There's reportedly a grand jury impaneled. And what's been reported, by myself and others, is that the SEC and Preet's office, the Southern District, have been and are looking into their covering up payments thateffectively, hiding from shareholders what they were doing to pay off employees who had accused leadership there of sexual harassment and other things, but at the same time that Fox, which is a notoriously paranoid culture, and Ailes being a notoriously paranoid guy, you know, did all sorts of things to listen in on their employeeson their phone calls, on their emails, stuff like that. And reportedly, Bharara's office was also looking into that. And now, of course, he's gone.
The funny thing is, the simplest explanation here is that Trump said a bunch of stuff in November, had no idea what he was talking about. Jeff Sessions was reluctantly on board. He had a pretty rough confirmation time. He had to recuse himself from the Russia stuff, which is interesting because the two U.S. attorneys who he didn't accept the resignations are the deputyare the acting deputy attorney general and Trump's pick to be the permanent deputy attorney general. And those are the people who would be leading the Russia probe because Sessions has recused himself. So those two he called personally and he kept. And he tried to call Bharara the day before firing him, which you could feed into more conspiratorial stuff, but I'm almost certain was Trump trying to be half-decent and say, "Hey, man, I'm sorry I told you this thing, and now you're out."
AMY GOODMAN: And Sessions told him as early as last week that he was staying.
HARRY SIEGEL: Sessions told himmy reportinghe was the first guy. He told himSessions told him this week, I believe on a conference call with other U.S. attorneys, that he was definitely staying around. And then
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think he was trying to deceive him, because if he were preparing in advance for leaving, he has access to a lot of information?
HARRY SIEGEL: Yes, yes. I think that's what's happening there. I think he was trying to deceive Bharara at that point. And I think when Sean Hannity started talking about a purge a day before, that it's a lot more likely somebody said, "Hey, Sean, this thing is coming." Then Trump was watching TV and said, "OK, let me get rid of all the U.S. attorneys."
AMY GOODMAN: Have you ever seen anything like this? I mean, these U.S. attorneys, who have been involved for years in these cases, don't have even a day to clear out their offices. Preet Bharara bought one day, because he refused to step down on Friday, so he stayed until Saturday.
HARRY SIEGEL: It's pretty incredible. Also, this administration has nominated zero of their own U.S. attorneys, for anywhere in the country. So they've got 44 who are leaving. They've got 44 people to nominate and put through. And that means the people they just pushed out, that it's their right hands who are going to be running these offices indefinitely, until that gets sorted out.
Lauren Johnson Wrote:
Quote:Most Trump supporters will soon learn he lied to them and cared nothing about them other than their vote and adulation.

No matter what he does, he will be adored, just like Obama is still adored by the idiots who voted for him. :Worship:

Yes. Despite all the evidence for both of them. Irrelevant and heresy in the face of the faith of the true believers.

Oregon Man Shouts "Go Back to Your Country, Terrorist!" During Assault

Mar 14, 2017
[Image: 04Oregon-Assault.jpg]
In Salem, Oregon, police arrested a 52-year-old man Saturday after he allegedly entered a Middle Eastern restaurant and shouted racist epithets while beating an employee with a pipe. Jason Kendall told investigators he entered the Al Aqsa restaurant near the state Capitol building and decided to assault a "Saddam Hussein-looking guy," shouting, "Go back to your country, terrorist! Get out of America!"
What could be worse than Trump?

Magda Hassan Wrote:
Lauren Johnson Wrote:
Quote:Most Trump supporters will soon learn he lied to them and cared nothing about them other than their vote and adulation.

No matter what he does, he will be adored, just like Obama is still adored by the idiots who voted for him. :Worship:

Yes. Despite all the evidence for both of them. Irrelevant and heresy in the face of the faith of the true believers.

You too can join the 'American Religion'.....Gee, its almost as interesting as being a Moonie [without the mass weddings]!

David Cay Johnston Speaks Out About Receiving & Revealing 2 Pages of Trump's 2005 Tax Returns

AMY GOODMAN: Calls are growing for President Trump to release his full tax returns after part of his 2005 return was made public Tuesday. Two pages from Trump's tax return were obtained by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston of DCReport, who appeared last night on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. Soon after Maddow teased her big scoop, the White House confirmed the authenticity of the documents, but the White House continues to refuse to release any other tax returns from Trump.
The 2005 tax return shows Trump earned $153 millionthat's more than $400,000 a day. Trump paid out $36.6 million in federal income taxes, much of it in the form of what's known as the alternative minimum tax, which Trump now wants to eliminate. The document also shows Trump wrote off more than $100 million in business losses to reduce his federal taxes. But the documents also leave many questions unanswered about Trump's finances and his sources of income. In January, Trump dismissed calls to release his tax returns.
HALLIE JACKSON: Will you release your tax returns to prove what you're saying about no deals in Russia?
PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I'm not releasing tax returns, because, as you know, they're under audit.
HALLIE JACKSON: But every president since the '70s
PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: Oh, gee, I've never heard that. Oh, gee, I've never heard that. I've never heard that. You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters. OK? They're the only ones. But
HALLIE JACKSON: You don't think the American public is concerned about that?
PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: But, no, I don't think so. I won. I mean, I became president. No, I don't think they care at all. I don't think they care at all. I think you care. I think you care.
AMY GOODMAN: This morning, President Trump tweeted, quote, "Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, 'went to his mailbox' and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!" unquote. That's despite the fact that the White House confirmed the authenticity of the documents on Tuesday.
For more, we're joined by that man that Donald Trump is describing, David Cay Johnston, the journalist who obtained the two pages of Donald Trump's 2005 1040 tax forms.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, David. So, well, this morning, Donald Trump is questioning how you got those tax returns.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yeah, I must have gotten under Donald's skin pretty deeply, that he has issued this tweet, whoever heard of me. I don't know. Donald and I have been talking to each other for 30 years. And, clearly, he is at war with his own Press Office. By the way, I'm very pleased, Amy, that you got correctly in your intro facts that both my former newspaper, The New York Times, and The Washington Post got wrong. You had the right amount of tax and some other figures that were wrong in those major newspapers. And I think that says a lot about the quality of the work that you do, and your viewers should know that.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, David, can you talk about how you got these two pages of his 2005 tax return?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: I was in Palm Beach on Monday. And I had my cellphone in hand, and I was shooting pictures across the water of Mar-a-Lago, because I'm working on a new Trump biography, a second oneI have one out now, this one for Simon & Schusterwhen I got a text from one of my eight grown children, said to call right away. And she had opened the mail at our home in Rochester, New York, and here was this envelope with the two pages of tax data. So, I immediately, you know, began to go to work on it, so that we could get the story out right away at
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about what you see in these two pages, what you found, David, most significant.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, the most significant thing, I believe, is that Donald Trump wants to eliminate the alternative minimum tax. Almost all affluent Americans, people who own a home, have more than two children and live in the high-tax states, are onand make more than $75,000 or $80,000 a year, are on the alternative minimum tax. Because of the alternative minimum tax, Donald paid $36.6 million in income tax. But if that was repealedand he wants to repeal ithe would have paid only $5 million of income tax on $153 million of income. That is a tax rate of less than three-and-a-half percent. You know who pays a three-and-a-half percent tax rate in this country? The poorest half of Americans. They pay a little more than three-and-a-half percent. Donald Trump would have paid a lower tax rate than people who make less than $33,000 a year, if his tax plan had been in effect in 2005. So, you know, when Donald Trump says, "I'm the champion here of working people," don't paydon't pay attention to that. When he says, you know, wages are too high, that's one sign. But here's one: his tax plan? Man, you make thirtyyou make $600 a week, you'd be more heavily taxed than he is.
AMY GOODMAN: So how did he end up paying the amount of taxes he did?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, Donald had $103 million of negative income. That may be a hard concept for people to get around, but in tax law you can have a negative income, just like your bank account can be overdrawn, and then you have a negative bank balance. Donald's negative income, I'm pretty confident, comes from a dubious tax shelter that he bought in 1995. That allowed him to get out of a very big tax bill. Donald did not pay back to his bankers $918 million that he borrowed from them. Now, ordinary people, they have to pay taxes on that. If you borrow money from a bank and don't pay it back, that's taxable income, according to the U.S. Congress. Donald bought a tax shelter that turned into tax savings for him.
Now, when the Republicans in Congress learned about this tax shelter, they shut it down right away. I mean, it was just considered odious. It only took them a couple days to shut it down. It was incredible how fast they moved in Congress to do this. But as often is the case, our Congress said, "Oh, those of you who already bought this dubious tax shelter, you can keep your ill-got tax savings." And so, Donald had $918 million that he could write off of negative income against his positive income. And this return, 11 years later, shows that he had $103 million left, although he may have had some additional tax losses in the meantime. But assuming that that represents the residue from the $918 million, it also tells us that Donald's average income from 1995 through 2004 was $81.5 million a year.
AMY GOODMAN: What doesn't thesewhat doesn't the two pages tell us?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, it doesn't tell us a lot of really important things we need to know. It doesn't tell us who are the sources of his income. It's only the kinds of income he gets: capital gains, business profits, wages. We don't know how much money Donald is getting from the Russian oligarchs. We know he gets money from the Russian oligarchs, but we don't know how much. And the Russian oligarchs are essentially a state-sponsored network of international criminals.
Secondly, we don't know who his partners are in the various entities he has. Donald has over 500 partnerships and S corporations and other business entities.
Third, and perhaps most important, we don't know who he is paying money to. We know he's borrowed a lot of money from the Bank of China. That's kind of remarkable to think about having a Republican president of the United States who has borrowed a huge sum from a communist government-owned bank, which, by the way, is also the biggest tenant in Trump Tower.
So, you know, we really need to know, on matters both of criminality and national security, who the president is doing business with, who his partners are, who his sources of income are, who he is paying fees to and who's paying fees to him. And we need his complete tax returns for the last 30 years to do that. Other people running for officeHillary Clinton, for examplehave made public their complete tax returns going back into the 1970s.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that's very interesting about China, considering Donald Trump is very laudatory of Russia. There's a lot been made about his relationship with Russian oligarchs, but you don't hear as much about China.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Right, right. Well, and right now there is a deal in which a sketchy Chinese company is proposing to buy 666 Fifth Avenue in New York. That's a building owned by the family of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. And the offer is apparently for $1 billion more than the Kushners paid for the building a decade ago. The Kushners get all sorts of other special goodies in this. And this certainly raises the specter of whether the Beijing government may have decided that the best way to have decent relations with this White House is to bribe the president's family.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the White House statement yesterday. Today, they're questioning how you got these documents. I mean, clearly, Donald Trump knows exactly who you are, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who worked for years at The New York Times. You wrote a book about Donald Trump. But last night, the White House saidjust before you went to air, they wrote:
"You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago.
"Before being elected President, Mr. Trump was one of the most successful businessmen in the world with a responsibility to his company, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required.
"That being said, Mr. Trump paid $38 million dollars even after taking into account large scale depreciation for construction, on an income of more than $150 million dollars, as well as paying tens of millions of dollars in other taxes such as sales and excise taxes and employment taxes and this illegally published return proves just that.
"Despite this substantial income figure and tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns. The dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda, while the President will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans."
Again, that from the White House last night. These illegally acquired andpublished, rather, tax returns. So, David Cay Johnston, can you respond?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yeah, Amy, there is so much falsehood in that statement, including the amount of tax the president paid. He paid $36.6 million, not $38 million. It just makes my head spin. It is absolutely well-established law in the United States that when a journalist receives a document that they did not solicit, then they can publish it. And there's nothing illegal whatsoever about publishing this. This is part of the effort by Donald Trump to confuse people and that furthers his very authoritarian views. I mean, Donald clearly talks about his office as the president as a dictator. Judges don't agree with him? "Bad judges," etc.
And what happened here is, somebody familiar with my workand I'm very well known for my coverage of taxes, I won a Pulitzer Prize, I've been called the de facto chief tax enforcement officer of the United States because of my exposés of the tax systemdecided to send me, rather than some other journalist, this document. Maybe it was sent to other journalists, and they haven't looked in their mailbox. My report on what's in that is absolutely accurate. The White House confirmed it.
And, you know, Amy, the White House did something actually quite unethical yesterday. I have been dealing with White Houses since Richard Nixon. I've been at this 50 years, and I've been dealing with White Houses since Nixon. I have never before sent the White House a document to allow them to comment on it and have them take my exclusive story and give the information to other reporters. And that's what they did. They never responded to me. They instead went to other reporters and said, "Here's what's going to happen." That is just the most base, unethical conduct by the White House Press Office that I have ever seen. If they don't want to answer the questions, they don't have to answer your questions. But to do this is just indicative of the utter lack of moral character of Donald Trump, who I'm sure approved and roughed out that statement.
AMY GOODMAN: David, are you saying you gave the two pages that you had for verification
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yes, of course. Of course.
AMY GOODMAN: to them, and they gave those two pages out to other press outlets?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: I don't know if they actually gave the two pages. They clearly gave the numbers out. There are some journalists who wrote about this. I have not read their storiesmy wife has simply told me about thembecause I haven't had time to look at them. But it's very clear from various press reports. And when I was on another TV station today, the producer said to me, you know, "Did you know Trump gave out your story just before it went public at" And then I went on The Rachel Maddow Show a minute later. And that really is just not the way you do things. It isit lacks honor. Of course, Donald Trump lacks honor, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Donald Trump doesn't have any idea what honor is.
AMY GOODMAN: David Cay Johnston, when you got this envelope that had the two pages in it, where were you?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: I was using my cellphone to shoot a picture in Palm Beach of Mar-a-Lago from across the water, because it was part of the research I was doing for my next Trump biography. I have a book out now, The Making of Donald Trump. I have a new one that's going to come out at the end of the year. And that's when I got this message. And myone of my eight grown children said, "You won't believe what came in the mail," and then sent to my cellphone a PDF of the document. And I immediately said, "I've got to go to the airport and get back to work."

AMY GOODMAN: David, you talked about how much Donald Trump has paid in his taxes in 2005. In their response to you, they said, "We have to get back to more serious work of changing the tax system." If he succeeds in changing the tax system, this alternative minimum tax, that required that he pay even the amount he did, he would eliminate?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yes. Donald Trump, in writing, in his campaign documents, has said, "We're going to get rid of the alternative minimum tax." Well, of the $36.6 million in tax that he paid, more than $31 million was because of the alternative minimum tax. And the reason for that is that that $103 million that was disallowed under the alternative minimum taxit's allowed under the regular tax, disallowed under the alternativeeven with it being disallowed, Donald Trump still got a 20 percent tax discount on his taxes. And here's why. At that level of income in 2005, your tax rate is 35 percent of your income. But if you're on the alternative minimum tax, your tax rate is only 28 percent. That's 20 percent less. So he was only paying 80 cents on the dollar to begin with. And this is part of what I've been writing about for years. We really have a tax system in America that very effectively and efficiently taxes your wages, your labor income. But if, like Donald Trump, you're a business owner, and if, like Donald Trump, you're willing to buy aggressive and dubious tax shelters and do sketchy things, you can pay very little tax. And we know that there are at least two years when Donald Trump did not pay any income taxes, even though he had multimillion-dollar income, because he had to put some of that information into the public record.
AMY GOODMAN: Who do you believe sent you this, David?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, it's possible that Donald sent it, although his attacks on me todayhe tweeted about me today, so I clearly got under his skinsuggest not. When Donald has leaked something about himself, he usually doesn't have a complaint. He didn't complain about the really crude pornographic pictures of his wife when she was a porn model or the partial tax returns of his that were released last year, so I suspect those came from him. Most likely, this was somebody who's familiar with my work, who knows that I have written a great deal about this idea of negative income and the alternative minimum tax, and trusted that I would get the maximum possible value out of these two pages.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, if it were Donald Trump, why do you think he would do this? What even led you to think it might be?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, first of all, because Donald has a long, well-documented history of leaking things about himself, of posing as his own PR man and calling himself John Barron or John Miller, planting stories that famous, beautiful women were pounding on his bedroom door, when in fact they had nothing to do with him. In this case, Donald wants to divert people from a couple things. He wants to get us off thinking about his connections to the Russian oligarchs, which raise fundamental questions about whether he is loyal to the United States or disloyal. He wants to get people off what appears to be the fiasco with the Republican healthcare plan, that he has put his name on without clearly understanding what it means and that contradicts his promises, and other matters. And Donald is very big, Amy, on distraction. He's always trying to get journalists, you know, who are not well known for sticking to something for a long timethey're generally not book writersto distract them and get them to go write about something else or put on TV something else. So that may alsoif he were to have done it, that would be part of that strategy.
Chris Hedges: The Enemy Is Not Donald Trump or Steve BannonIt Is Corporate Power (Video)

Posted on Mar 15, 2017 Truthdig

In a recent speech titled "After Trump and Pussy Hats" delivered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges tells the audience that "resistance must also be accompanied by an alternative vision of a socialist, anti-capitalist society."

After a fierce indictment of what he calls the kleptocracy that rules the United States, Hedges urges organizing "with lightning speed" because this is our "last chance" to do so.

"This resistance must also be accompanied by an alternative vision of a socialist, anti-capitalist society. Because the enemy in the end is not Trump or Bannonit is corporate power," Hedges says. "And if we do not stop corporate power, we will never dismantle fascism's seduction of the white working class and unemployed."

"Hope comes from the numerous protests that have been mounted in the streets, in town halls," he continues. "We must engage in these battles on a local and on a national level ... we will have to build new radical movements and most importantly, new parallel institutions that challenge the hegemony of corporate power. It will not be easy; it will take time."

Watch the entire rousing speech below.

Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

...and another shorter interview of Hedges on the same themes....

I agree Pete. Brilliant and very ominous too. Allow me to be boring but everything he says speaks of the Collective Shadow that has become bloated to the point of disaster.

I think his solutions are very sensible. However, as with the days of the Third Reich fear immobilises people. MY fear is that the great bulk of people will simply turn away from messages such as this and watch their entertainment and sports and burrow into these distractions rather than face these realities. That's what's been happening for the past four decades.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Just hours before the Trump administration's new travel ban was set to go into effect, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide halt to the order. And then, this morning, a judge in Maryland also temporarily blocked the travel ban, which would have suspended entry to all refugees and blocked entry to visitors from six majority-Muslim nations: Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. This is now the second time President Trump's executive orders banning refugees and travelers from majority-Muslim countries have been blocked by the courts. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii said evidence exists to show, quote, "the executive order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion."
AMY GOODMAN: In his ruling, Judge Watson also said there was nothing secret about the motive of Trump's executive order, citing comments Trump made, as well as those of White House aide Stephen Miller and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who said Trump originally called it a Muslim ban. Speaking in Memphis Wednesday, Trump criticized the judge's ruling.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This ruling makes us look weak, which, by the way, we no longer are. Believe me. Just look at our borders. We're going to fight this terrible ruling. We're going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Trump speaking in Nashville. Last week, Hawaii became the first state to sue Trump over the travel ban. On Wednesday, Hawaiian Governor David Ige praised the court ruling.
GOV. DAVID IGE: We felt compelled to assure that we will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of national origin or religion, because that truly goes against the very essence of what makes Hawaii a very special place. And so, certainly, we felt compelled to file the lawsuit and are very happy that the court agreed with our position.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we're joined right now by Lee Gelernt, the ACLU attorney who presented the first challenge to Trump's initial travel ban last month. The ACLU brought the case against the revised ban in Maryland.
Lee Gelernt, welcome back to Democracy Now!
LEE GELERNT: Thanks so much for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about these two stays of the ban, first Hawaii and now in Maryland.
LEE GELERNT: Yeah. I mean, we're extremely pleased. But I think we're not surprised, because there is so much evidence out there that the primary purpose of this was religious discrimination. And I think the judges rightly saw that, and they saw that a few tweaks here or there would not eliminateyou know, what they said is, this doesn't eliminate religious discrimination, because, to a reasonable observer, it's clear what the president was trying to do. And the courts have said, "Don't psychoanalyze government officials." Well, there's no need to psychoanalyze here. The president stated, "We want a Muslim ban." And that's what happens when you say we want religious discrimination. The courts push back.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: But how common is it to look at statements made in the past? I mean, the judge saidwe played part of his wordsthat these plainly worded statements betrayed the executive order's stated secular purpose. So, is it unusual for courts to reference statements made in the past to infer in the present that the intent is the same?
LEE GELERNT: It's not unusual. And the Supreme Court has made clear you need to look at full context, and you can't just avoid judicial scrutiny by cleaning up an order. You can look at statements. What I think is unusual is that the president of the United States made these kind of discriminatory statements, that there was so much evidence and so much direct evidence. I mean, normally, most government officials will try and hide it a little.
AMY GOODMAN: Let's go back to Donald Trump last night speaking in Nashville.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A judge has just blocked our executive order on travel and refugees coming into our country from certain countries. The order he blocked was a watered-down version of the first order that was also blocked by another judge and should have never been blocked to start with. ... This is, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach. The law and the Constitution give the president the power to suspend immigration when he deemsor she. Or she. Fortunately, it will not be Hillary "she."
AMY GOODMAN: That was Donald Trump speaking last night in Nashville, Tennessee. Lee Gelernt, your response?
LEE GELERNT: Well, you know, what he said was this is a "watered-down version." I mean, he's admitting, again, we're trying to do the same thing. And so, I think, you know, that's telling: He's not backing off the fact that they are trying to have a Muslim ban. And I think the courts are recognizing that.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, what is the difference between the first and the second travel ban?
LEE GELERNT: Right, so the second ban does a few things. It eliminates Iraq from the countries that are banned. It also takes out a preference for minority religions, which the courts said that's so overtly discriminatory between religions. It takes out lawful permanent residents and some visa holders. So it cures certain problems. But, I mean, we're pleased that the president retreated to that extent. I mean, that's a victory unto itself. But what it doesn't do is eliminate the religious discrimination. It doesn't eliminate the primary purpose being to ban Muslims.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: But what about what Trump said, though, at the end of his statement, namely, that the president does have the authority to issue an executive order
NERMEEN SHAIKH: to suspend immigration?
LEE GELERNT: And so, I want to be as clear as possible that the president has enormous authority in the area of immigration and does get deference, but what he cannot do is discriminate on the basis of religion. So, if there's a genuine national security threat raised by particular individuals, of course they can investigate. What they can'tthey need to investigate particular threats to particular individuals. What they can't do is base it on groups or religion, assume a particular religion is a threat.
AMY GOODMAN: In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson cited an appearance by White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller on Fox News talking about the new revised ban.
STEPHEN MILLER: Fundamentally, you're still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country, but you're going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by the court, and those will be addressed. But in terms of protecting the country, thosethose basic policies are still going to be in effect.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response, Lee?
LEE GELERNT: Well, right. So, he's saying the basic policies are going to still be in effect, and the courts are rightly calling him on it. He's saying, "We're going to try and do the same thing, but we're going to weave around to see if we can get around what the courts have thought was Muslim discrimination." But the courts called him on it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what's the difference between the Maryland and the Hawaii stays?
LEE GELERNT: Right, so that's a good question. So, what the Maryland judge said is, "I don't think there's enough evidence in the record to ban the refugeeto block the refugee part," but the six-country ban, which is the critical part, he did block. The Hawaii went further and said, "I'm going to block even the refugee part." But I think the critical thing about Maryland that's different than Hawaii is, it's a longer injunction. It's what's called a preliminary injunction. It will last through trial. The Hawaii judge only issued a short injunction that will expire in a few weeks.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, the Trump administration may still get its way here, right? Because an appeals court may decide that the Honolulu judge made a mistake in its assessment, or the Supreme Court could intervene. What do you see is the prospects?
LEE GELERNT: Right, but we're not under any illusions that the litigation is over. I think that the government has made it clear that they intend to appeal. We are anticipating a long, hard legal battle, but we're hopefully going to prevail at the end.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let's talk about what happens when this is appealed, what
AMY GOODMAN: Hawaii is Ninth Circuit, that same Ninth Circuit that reviewed the first
AMY GOODMAN: Washington state stay on the ban. This could go to the Supreme Court.
LEE GELERNT: Absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: And this could go to a Supreme Court that has a confirmed Judge Gorsuch as the ninth member.
LEE GELERNT: Right. It will depend on the timing, but absolutely. You know, it's hard to predict where it will end up, when it will end up in the Supreme Court, if it will, or what the court will do. We're hopeful that we will prevail if it does go to the Supreme Court, but we're a long way from there, because we will have appeals courts rulings, not just by the Ninth Circuit, but it'spotentially have a Fourth Circuit ruling, as well, out of the Maryland case. That's the circuit that covers Maryland.
AMY GOODMAN: We're also joined by Congressman Luis Gutiérrez from Chicago. He's in Washington, D.C., right now. I hope that you no longer have handcuffs on, but we'll talk about that in a minute, Congressman Gutiérrez. ICE handcuffed you the other day for yourfor staying in their office But we want to ask you about the travel ban, your thoughts on these two stays out of Hawaii and Maryland.
REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Well, it's a victory for people. It's a victory for democracy. I guess if you run a campaign and you, on repeated occasions, say you're going to discriminate against a population of people, you're going to have a Muslim ban, and then you initiate executive orders, people are going to remember. Apparently, judges read the papers, listen to the news and remember. And that's all they really had to do yesterday, because even Stephen Miller reiterated, after the first lawsuit, these are just some small technical differences that we're going to make. Then we have, of course, our all-star Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, who said, "Don't worry. I advised him how to get a Muslim ban without it seeming like a Muslim ban or being able to pass on judicial muster." Look, they are human beings, too. They receive the news. They get the information. And apparently, the judges remember.
AMY GOODMAN: Lee Gelernt, thanks so much for being with us the lawyer with the ACLU, who was the lawyer who brought the original lawsuit against the original ban in a Brooklyn court.