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Immigrants Charged in Rape of Girl as Rockville Debates Becoming Sanctuary City

Rockville, Md., the city home to the recent immigrant high school rape scandal, is considering declaring itself a sanctuary city to hide illegals.

Although Rockville police have had a long-standing policy neither to question suspected illegals about their immigration status, or to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, the city is now considering the process of formalizing that informal standard by becoming a sanctuary city.

Rockville City Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr introduced an ordinance in early March in response to President Donald Trump’s pledge to beat back illegal immigration.

Carr forwarded the ordinance at a hearing March 6 overflowing with local residents, including those in favor of turning Rockville into an official sanctuary city, and those vehemently against.

But the discussion has now become much more complicated, as recently, two immigrants, Henry E. Sanchez from Guatemala, and Jose O. Montano, from El Salvador, were charged Thursday for allegedly raping a 14-year-old girl at Rockville High School. (Read more from “Immigrants Charged in Rape of Girl as Rockville Debates Becoming Sanctuary City” HERE)

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FBI Director Confirms Investigation of Russia’s Meddling in US Election, Including Any Links to Trump Campaign

For the first time, the director of the FBI publicly revealed Monday that the bureau is conducting a counterintelligence investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election and whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

“I have been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and that includes investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts,” FBI Director James Comey said during testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

“As with any counterintelligence investigation, this will also include an assessment of whether any crimes were committed.”

Comey said the bureau decided to go against convention and publicize the existence of an ongoing FBI investigation because it considers the Russia probe to be an “unusual circumstance” that “is in the public interest.”

Comey and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers, who also testified before the House committee, said they stand by a report the intelligence community issued in January that concluded with “high confidence” that “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S presidential election.”

The report said the Russians had deployed computer hackers to undermine the presidential campaign, with the goal of harming Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton while boosting the candidacy of Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“Putin hated Clinton so much that the flip side is he had a clear preference for the person she was running against,” Comey said at Monday’s hearing.

The House and Senate intelligence committees are conducting separate investigations into Russia’s actions during the presidential campaign.

Comey and Rogers confirmed the Russian effort did not succeed in affecting actual vote tallies.

The White House sought to focus on this detail, although Comey and Rogers acknowledged they could not determine whether Russia’s actions had any influence on voters’ decisions.

“Following this testimony it’s clear that nothing has changed,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said during his daily press briefing Monday. “The president is happy that they are pursuing the facts in this.”

Spicer predicted the FBI probe will “vindicate” the Trump team.

He referred to statements by former acting CIA Director Michael Morell and James Clapper, President Barack Obama’s director of national intelligence, that they have seen no evidence of collusion between Trump associates and Russia.

Comey said the FBI investigation into Russia’s actions, and possible ties between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and Moscow, began in July—months before Election Day.

The FBI director would not say whether investigators are probing the actions of Trump himself.

Nor would Comey say how long the FBI’s investigation may last.

The New York Times and other media organizations have reported that some of Trump’s associates were in repeated contact with Russian officials and others close to Putin during the presidential campaign.

Comey and Rogers also testified that their respective agencies have “no information” and “no evidence” to support Trump’s claims via Twitter that his predecessor, Obama, ordered surveillance of Trump Tower toward the end of the campaign.

“The answer is the same for the DOJ and all its components,” Comey said, emphasizing that “no one individual” in the U.S., including the president, can direct electronic surveillance without approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). “The department has no information that supports those tweets [by Trump].”

Comey declined to say whether any government officials requested an application for surveillance of Trump or any of his associates with the FISA court.

Republican lawmakers at Monday’s hearing mostly focused their questions on their concerns over a proliferation of government leaks of classified material that have distracted and angered the Trump administration.

Last month, Trump said he had directed the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation into leaks, to find their source.

Comey on Monday did not confirm the existence of such an investigation. He and Rogers condemned the practice of leaking, noting that such unauthorized disclosures have been more frequent in recent months.

Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., asked Comey: “Unauthorized dissemination is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison?”

“Yes, as it should be,” Comey said. “It’s a serious, serious crime.”

Gowdy alleged during the hearing that Obama administration officials were behind the leaks, which among other things, included classified intercepts of calls between Michael T. Flynn, Trump’s choice for national security adviser, and Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, weeks before Trump took office. Flynn resigned as national security adviser after the White House determined he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

Comey said he is particularly worried about “an unusually active” stream of recent leaks because, he said, the leakers are revealing incomplete intelligence.

“A lot of it is dead wrong,” Comey said. “Often times, [the leaked information] doesn’t come from people who know the secrets, but people who heard about it. That’s why the information is often wrong.”

As Republicans and Democrats on the Intelligence Committee took different approaches to their questioning, Comey and Rogers stressed the serious implications of Russia’s campaign to undermine Western democracies.

The intelligence leaders said they expect Russia to continue to try to meddle in upcoming European elections—including campaigns in France and Germany—and that Moscow could target the U.S. again.

“They’ll be back,” Comey said. “They’ll be back in 2020, they may be back in 2018 [for the midterm elections]. One of the lessons they may draw from this is that they were successful.” (For more from the author of “FBI Director Confirms Investigation of Russia’s Meddling in US Election, Including Any Links to Trump Campaign” please click HERE)

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Neil Gorsuch Draws Praise From Democrats as Confirmation Hearings Open

Judge Neil Gorsuch’s dedication to upholding the rule of law became the focus of the Supreme Court nominee’s first day of Senate confirmation hearings.

“My decisions have never reflected a judgment about the people before me—only my best judgment about the law and facts at issue in each particular case,” Gorsuch said in his prepared statement Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “For the truth is, a judge who likes every outcome he reaches is probably a pretty bad judge, stretching for the policy results he prefers rather than those the law compels.”

President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch, 49, in January to fill the seat of Justice Antonin Scalia, who died just over 13 months ago. In 2006, the Senate confirmed him by voice vote as a judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Gorsuch appeared to listen intently to the concerns of Democrat and Republican senators alike, even when under attack, smiling during more light-hearted moments. He is scheduled to answer questions beginning Tuesday in hearings expected to last through Thursday.

Those who introduced Gorsuch echoed his commitment to adhering to the rule of law.

“I have no doubt … that Judge Gorsuch has profound respect for an independent judiciary and the vital role it plays as a check on the executive and legislative branches,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat, in introducing his fellow Coloradoan. “I may not always agree with his rulings, but I believe Judge Gorsuch is unquestionably committed to the rule of law.”

Neal Katyal, who also introduced Gorsuch, is a professor of national security law at Georgetown University and former acting solicitor general under President Barack Obama from 2010-2011.

Katyal called Gorsuch a “first-rate” judge who is committed to upholding the rule of law.

“I have seen Judge Gorsuch in action and I have seen him hearing cases and have studied his written opinions,” Katyal said. “This is a first-rate intellect and a fair and decent man. … The judge’s work reflects his dedication to the rule of law.”

Katyal previously had spoken out in support of Gorsuch.

In an op-ed published in The New York Times in January headlined “Why Liberals Should Back Neil Gorsuch,” Katyal wrote that he was confident of Gorsuch’s ability to serve as an unbiased judge:

I was an acting solicitor general for President Barack Obama; Judge Gorsuch has strong conservative bona fides and was appointed to the 10th Circuit by President George W. Bush. But I have seen him up close and in action, both in court and on the Federal Appellate Rules Committee (where both of us serve); he brings a sense of fairness and decency to the job, and a temperament that suits the nation’s highest court.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., who also introduced Gorsuch, called the nominee for the high court a mainstream judge who adheres to the dictates of the law.

“When you look at his record, his writing, his statements, it’s easy to see why Judge Gorsuch has such overwhelming appeal,” Gardner said. “Judge Gorsuch is not an ideologue,” adding:

He is a mainstream jurist who follows the law as written and doesn’t try to supplant it with his own personal policy preferences. As he said, personal policies or policy preferences have no useful role in judging. Regular and healthy doses of self skepticism, and humility about one’s own abilities and conclusions always do. Judge Gorsuch is not an activist judge but rather a faithful adherent to and ardent defender of our Constitution.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, quoted Gorsuch’s own words in citing the judge’s unbiased nature.

“The judge’s job, our nominee says, is to deliver on the promise that ‘all litigants, rich or poor, mighty or meek, will receive equal protection under the law and due process for their grievances’” Grassley said in a prepared statement.

Senate Democrats voiced their disappointment in opening statements about how Republicans chose not to hold a hearing or vote for Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee last year to the Supreme Court following Scalia’s Feb. 13 death.

“The Judiciary Committee once stood against a court-packing scheme that would have eroded judicial independence,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the senior Democrat on the committee. “That was a proud moment. Now, Republicans on this committee are guilty of their own ‘court un-packing scheme’ … The blockade of Chief Judge Merrick Garland was never grounded in principle or precedent.”

Garland is the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., also expressed disappointment about the lack of a hearing and vote for Garland.

“Merrick Garland was widely regarded as a mainstream, moderate nominee,” Feinstein said in her prepared opening statement. “However, President Trump repeatedly promised to appoint someone ‘in the mold of Justice Scalia’ and said that the nomination of Judge Gorsuch illustrates he’s ‘a man of his word.’”

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, reiterated Senate Republicans’ decision last year that an outgoing president should not decide the next Supreme Court nomination.

“Let the American people choose,” Cornyn said, noting also that Gorsuch would become the only Westerner on the high court.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, praised Gorsuch’s record, stating he had personal experience to stand behind his praise.

“In a former life, when I was a practicing attorney, I had the good fortune of appearing before you,” Lee said in a prepared statement. “So, I know from personal experience that you are one of the very best judges in the country. You come to oral argument prepared and you ask probing, fair questions that help you understand the arguments.”

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said he is concerned that Gorsuch won’t be independent from Trump.

“We need to know what you will do when you are called upon to stand up to this president,” Durbin said.

Gorsuch himself suggested he would not be beholden to a particular person, party, or ideology:

When I put on the robe, I am also reminded that under our Constitution, it is for this body, the people’s representatives, to make new laws. For the executive to ensure those laws are faithfully enforced. And for neutral and independent judges to apply the law in the people’s disputes. If judges were just secret legislators, declaring not what the law is but what they would like it to be, the very idea of a government by the people and for the people would be at risk.

(For more from the author of “Neil Gorsuch Draws Praise From Democrats as Confirmation Hearings Open” please click HERE)

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‘Over Our Dead Bodies’: This Ohio Conservative Is Taking on Liberals and Establishment GOP Over Sanctuary Cities

Josh Mandel will stop at nothing to keep the people of Ohio safe from illegal immigrant crime. But that is a little unusual when you consider that immigration issues don’t really fall into his job description.

Mandel is Ohio’s state treasurer and is currently locked in a political fight with liberal politicians over whether or not two of the Buckeye State’s biggest cities should help illegals skirt federal law enforcement. He is coming up against a political machine that is thoroughly bipartisan.

Earlier this year, the mayors of Columbus and Cincinnati announced that they wanted their cities to become sanctuary cities – municipalities that protect illegal immigrants from the repercussions of obfuscating federal immigration law.

Mandel – who is also a candidate for U.S. Senate – wasn’t about to let that happen, knowing the effects that these policies have had on countless families like that of Kate Steinle, who was gunned down in broad daylight by an illegal immigrant in San Francisco. Her killer had been previously shielded from deportation by the city’s sanctuary policy.

A day after Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley announced his sanctuary intentions, Mandel countered he would fight tooth and nail to block the effort (as well as any other such effort in the state).

“You’re seeing the city of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, and the state coming together here, to say over our dead body will Cincinnati become a sanctuary city,” he said at a press conference in late January.

“When a mayor like Mayor Cranley decides to publicly announce that he’s violating federal law, and that he’s going to make a city less safe against radical Islam and the threats we face, we have a responsibility as Americans, as citizens, to oppose this type of act from a mayor, from a politician.”

Josh Mandel, along with a Candice Keller, a Republican state representative from Butler County, introduced a bill that seeks to block sanctuary efforts. Going beyond the typical defund-threat approach, the legislation would impose criminal penalties on mayors of sanctuary cities when their citizens fall victim to criminal alien crime.

Situations like Kate Steinle’s aren’t limited to large cities, either. Last October, CR’s Carly Hoilman spoke with residents of Milford, Mass. – a town of 27,000 people – where multiple families have been torn apart by the after effects of lax immigration policy.

“Illegal immigration is not a victimless crime,” Maureen Maloney, whose son was killed by a criminal alien, told Hoilman. “Our family is permanently separated by his death.”

Mandel says his legislation in Ohio – which would hold culpable officials to a fourth-degree felony charge – is crucial for accountability.

“We want to include as strong a deterrent as possible to ensure that liberal politicians and others in the political establishment are not making their cities sanctuary cities and are not putting their citizens in harm’s way,” he told Conservative Review.

“For me, this issue is first and foremost about safety and security of families throughout the state of Ohio,” he said. “I believe that we have a duty to learn everything we can from horrendous policies like those in San Francisco and make sure that they never come to the heartland.”

Just as much as safety, Mandel says the debate is just as much about “the Constitution and the rule of law.”

“Federal law is pretty clear that local law enforcement has an obligation to report these illegal immigrants to federal immigration authorities,” he said. “And the politicians who think that they’re above the law are putting local cops in a terrible position just to score political points with left-wing activists.”

Right now, allies are sparse for a conservative like Mandel, who says he’s not only squaring off against the usual crowd of liberal, open-borders organizations and activists, and a liberal media, but also a state-level GOP establishment that is hesitant – or even hostile – to rocking that boat, contrary to their campaign promises and rhetoric.

“As usual, a lot of the squishy, moderate Republicans in Ohio are saying one thing to their constituents and doing another thing in Columbus,” Mandel told CR. “When they talk with conservative activists, they say they want to stop sanctuary cities, but when they run into me and other conservative leaders in the halls of the statehouse, they complain that we’re being too conservative.”

The treasurer is, to date, the only state-level official in Ohio to take a public stance on the issue.

But he’s used to leading a lone charge like this, which was the case for his crusade against other initiatives in the state like Medicaid expansion and Common Core — the latter of which he says started with him and two homeschooling moms around a kitchen table.

“We had the political establishment laughing at us and ridiculing us. Then we motivated the grassroots conservatives around the state to start contacting their public officials,” Mandel recalls.

“All of a sudden, the politicians in Columbus changed their tune.”

He hopes this fight will be no different.

“This is a place where I’m very familiar and very comfortable,” he said. “I’m used to taking on people in my own party when it means standing up for conservative principles and standing up for the Constitution.” (For more from the author of “‘Over Our Dead Bodies’: This Ohio Conservative Is Taking on Liberals and Establishment GOP Over Sanctuary Cities” please click HERE)

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YouTube’s Glaring Double Standard

In the last two years, YouTube, which is owned by Google, removed the trailer for a Christian movie about homosexuality, removed a video about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, and removed some Prager University videos about Islam (while restricting access to some of their other videos). Yet when David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, released a virulently anti-Semitic video, YouTube found nothing wrong with it. For good reason, even political leaders are outraged over the double standard.

Before we get to the David Duke video, let’s look at these other examples of YouTube censorship.

The Audacity of Pulling Audacity

In July, 2015, the trailer for a Ray Comfort-produced movie called Audacity was removed from YouTube after quickly receiving 130,000 views. On what basis? “This video has been removed as a violation of YouTube’s policy against spam, scams, and commercially deceptive content.”

In reality, neither the trailer nor the movie contained any spam, scams, or commercially deceptive content — not a hint or trace of any such thing — and the most likely reason it was pulled was because a number of viewers protested the content of the video. Heaven forbid you share a biblical view of homosexuality on YouTube!

For the record, anyone watching the movie — let alone the trailer — would know there was not an ounce of hateful or disparaging or deceptive content in the video, which made this act of censorship all the more bizarre.

Thankfully, after vigorous protests, the video was restored, but it should never have been removed in the first place.

Christian Persecution Video Pulled

In February, 2016, TheBlaze carried a headline which announced, “Christian Filmmakers Ask if YouTube Is Targeting Their Worldview After Their Video Was Pulled and Branded ‘Inappropriate’.”

The video in question “included no nudity, profanity or explicit onscreen violence,” yet it “was removed by YouTube, which called the film ‘inappropriate’ and in violation of YouTube’s Community Guidelines.

“The video presents the scenario of what it might look like were the persecution of Christians in the Middle East and elsewhere to arrive in the U.S., including scenes that hinted of the Islamic State group. The film does, however, include several Bible verses being read.”

Within minutes of the video going public, Josh Troester, the director and producer of the movie Chased, states that “we received notice that our video was ‘flagged for inappropriate content.’ YouTube’s notice stated that ‘after reviewing the content, we’ve determined that the videos violate our Community Guidelines.’”

The article also notes that, “Other video producers working to educate the West about violence and incitement in the Middle East have experienced YouTube removing their videos or shutting down their channels, including the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) and Palestinian Media Watch. Both groups translate the Arabic-language videos of jihadist leaders and others as an educational service.”

Prager U Censored

Despite all this, however, it was still quite a shock when some of the Prager U videos were put on restricted access and others were removed.

Videos on this YouTube channel are professionally done, fairly presented (with some of the lecturers including respected professors and Pulitzer Prize winners), and are viewed by millions. Yet in October, 2016, YouTube removed or restricted access to 16 videos on the site (originally it was 21). On what basis?

In a petition that was launched to protest YouTube’s actions, “PragerU claims that YouTube has entirely removed PragerU’s new video with Kasim Hafeez, a British Muslim who is a pro-Israel activist.” In the video, Hafeez explains how he overcame the anti-Semitic indoctrination that radicalized him from an early age.

“Within hours of the video’s release Monday morning, YouTube flagged it for ‘hate speech’ and took it down.”

This is utterly outrageous, and the petition caught fire for good reason.

It is against this backdrop that YouTube’s latest actions are completely indefensible.

But David Duke’s Anti-Semitic Rage Stays

The David Duke video is titled “Jews admit organizing White Genocide,” yet YouTube claims it does not contain “hate speech,” despite ridiculous and incendiary statements like, “the Zionists have already ethnically cleansed the Palestinians, why not do the same thing to Europeans and Americans?”

Duke refers to the “Zionist racist” state of Israel and claims that “comparing Israel to apartheid is like comparing an atomic bomb to a bee-bee gun,” adding, “Unlike Israel, South Africa never dropped tens of thousands of bombs that have burnt children alive while they slept in their beds.”

No, there’s nothing hateful about this content at all, nothing that violates YouTube’s community guidelines, nothing worthy of removal from their site. Right. Yet the video of a pro-Israel, British Muslims explaining “how he overcame the anti-Semitic indoctrination that radicalized him from an early age” violates YouTube’s standards and must be removed.

What hypocrisy.

Trends like this are deeply disturbing and deserve our attention and our action, and while Google-YouTube can run its company however it pleases, it must be called to account for its double standards.

Please write to me if you feel you were the victim of unfair treatment on YouTube (thus far, my own experience with YouTube has been fair), and let’s redouble our efforts to get the truth out — as long as we have the opportunity.

This is how we keep our freedoms intact. (For more from the author of “YouTube’s Glaring Double Standard” please click HERE)

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For the First Time Ever, the Federal Government Is Referring to Marijuana as Medicine

Editor’s note: this article is posted for the purpose of encouraging dialogue on a controversial issue. Restoring Liberty’s position is that the the federal government has no constitutional right to regulate marijuana within a state; however, the states – under the 10th Amendment – may choose prohibition or legalization.

A profound shift in the federal government’s stance on cannabis was marked by subtle changes made this month to one webpage. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, now has a webpage titled Marijuana as Medicine. Prior to March 2017, it was titled Is Marijuana Medicine?

Apparently, they feel the question has been answered. The timing of NIDA’s update is very curious, as there are signs from the Trump administration that a crackdown may be coming on states’ cannabis legalization progress made over the last few years.

The Department of Justice is now headed by rabid prohibitionist Jeff Sessions, who cites falsehoods and Reefer Madness propaganda when discussing cannabis. Only a few days ago, Sessions said cannabis “is slightly less awful” than heroin – a mind-boggling display of ignorance. Trump chose to keep Chuck Rosenberg as head of the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), who said medical cannabis is “a joke” and oversaw the department’s decision to keep the plant as a Schedule 1 drug with “no medicinal use.”

Perhaps this stunning level of denial – in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence of cannabis’ ability to treat a variety of ailments – prompted NIDA to make their change. Twenty-eight states have legalized medical cannabis in some way, eight more have legalized its recreational use, and more states are set to join the list. They aren’t doing this on a whim; decriminalizing medical use is an acknowledgment of cannabis’ power as medicine.

Some would argue that the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services 2001 patent 6630507 called “Cannabinoids as antioxidants and neuroprotectants” was a tacit acknowledgement of medial cannabis. But still, no government agency admitted the obvious conclusion.

In 2015, the federal government unwittingly admitted cannabis is medicine in 2015 when the National Cancer Institute supported a study finding that cannabis kills cancer cells. Now, with the revised webpage title, NIDA appears to have moved beyond a reasonable doubt.

The term medical marijuana refers to using the whole, unprocessed marijuana plant or its basic extracts to treat symptoms of illness and other conditions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine.

However, scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana, called cannabinoids, has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain cannabinoid chemicals in pill form. Continued research may lead to more medications.

Because the marijuana plant contains chemicals that may help treat a range of illnesses and symptoms, many people argue that it should be legal for medical purposes. In fact, a growing number of states have legalized marijuana for medical use.

The webpage now has an informational box on CBD and Childhood Epilepsy. This is a rather dramatic inclusion, as cannabidiol (CBD) has become a very promising treatment for childhood epilepsy. At the Dec. 2015 meeting of the American Epilepsy Society, the largest study presented there confirmed the astounding benefits of medical cannabis to treat seizures.

There is now a better explanation of cannabinoids, making a distinction between those naturally derived from the plant and those manufactured in a lab. NIDA also acknowledges the “state-approved medicinal use of marijuana,” and says “continued research [on cannabinoids] might lead to more medications.”

Indeed, we are only just beginning to unlock the secrets of the body’s endocannabinoid system, and using cannabis to stimulate this system for relieving inflammation which is thought to be the cause of many diseases.

Interestingly, the NIDA update also removed a link to WhiteHouse.gov regarding state laws, because the Trump administration removed the White House page explaining state cannabis laws. It appears that talk of respecting states’ rights may be just another Trump lie.

Kudos to NIDA for taking a step in the right direction and being the first federal entity to explicitly acknowledge cannabis as medicine. (For more from the author of “For the First Time Ever, the Federal Government Is Referring to Marijuana as Medicine” please click HERE)

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NY Supreme Court Signals Support for Transparency on Cellphone Surveillance

The opposition to “stingray” cellphone surveillance, and the support of transparency are both experiencing growth throughout the United States. Recent bills passed in Arizona and New Hampshire are part of a trend that has been steadily increasing in the United States. The public and the political class are becoming aware of the true level of intrusion possible as a result of arming local, state, and federal police with military grade surveillance equipment, with very little oversight.

In New York a new bill was recently introduced in the New York Assembly which would ban the use of “stingrays,” the brand name of a popular cell phone surveillance tool manufactured by the Harris Corporation. Stingrays are a brand name of an IMSI (International Mobile Subscriber Identity) Catcher targeted and sold to law enforcement. They are also known as cell-site simulators because they work by masquerading as a cellphone tower – to which your mobile phone sends signals to every 7 to 15 seconds whether you are on a call or not – and tricks your phone into connecting to it. As a result, whoever is in possession of the Stingray can figure out who, when, and to where you are calling, the precise location of every device within the range, and with some devices, even capture the content of your conversations.

Now the New York State Supreme Court is poised to make an important judgement on the legality of the devices. On Wednesday, one judge showed support for allowing New Yorkers to be made aware of how the city officials have spent tax dollars on Stingrays. Recent reports indicate that the NYPD has deployed stingrays more than 1,000 times without a warrant.

“Sunshine is the best medicine for our society,” Judge Shlomo Hagler said Wednesday, according to Courthouse News. For the last several years, the New York Civil Liberties Union has attempted to use open records laws to access information regarding the NYPD’s use of stingrays. Now they are attempting to convince the state Supreme Court that the people deserve to know where their money is being spent.

“This is about the council members and the public having very basic information about how much the NYPD has been spending and what tools,” Mariko Hirose, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union, argued Wednesday before the Manhattan County Supreme Court. Hirose is attempting to get the judge to order the release of purchase orders, contracts and agreements related to the technology.

New York City’s Law Department attorney Neil Giovanatti told the court that “nobody knows what devices the NYPD actually has” and that the stingrays they use might not have the capability to monitor people’s information. Courthouse News reported that Judge Hagler was doubtful of this premise, stating that “NYPD has the biggest budget for law enforcement than any city in the world.”

Judge Hagler indicated that he might force city to reveal the cost of the devices, but not necessarily the full contracts and agreements. The City is arguing that the release of the information could put NYPD officer in harm’s way or limit their ability to fight crime and terrorism.

The judge will examine the city’s records in a closed-door hearing on March 22 before meeting with attorneys from both groups and making a final ruling. (For more from the author of “NY Supreme Court Signals Support for Transparency on Cellphone Surveillance” please click HERE)

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How Neil Gorsuch’s Senate Confirmation Process Compares to Recent Ones

On Monday, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin its hearing on the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is confident that the Senate will confirm Gorsuch before the Easter recess, which is set to begin April 10.

As Senate Democrats have scrambled to find reasons to object to Gorsuch, scores of people across the political spectrum have spoken out in support of the nominee. Thus, if Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, and other Democrats want to stop Gorsuch’s nomination, they will face an uphill battle during the hearings.

As the hearing starts, how has this process compared to other Supreme Court confirmations in recent years?

The Bush Years

President George W. Bush’s first chance to make a Supreme Court nomination came in July 2005 when Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her intention to retire. This was the first vacancy on the court in over a decade. Bush nominated D.C. Circuit Judge John Roberts on July 19, 2005. While his nomination was pending, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who had been battling thyroid cancer, died Sept. 3.

With Rehnquist’s death, Bush rethought his strategy for filling two vacancies on the Supreme Court. He decided to withdraw Roberts’ nomination to be an associate justice and announced him Sept. 5 as nominee for chief justice of the United States.

The Senate Judiciary Committee met Sept. 12-15 for Roberts’ confirmation hearing, and one week later, on Sept. 22, the committee voted 13-5, with three Democrats joining the Republicans, to send his nomination to the full Senate. The Senate voted to confirm Roberts on Sept. 29, 2005, just in time for him to join the court before the start of its 2005-2006 term the next week.

After deciding to nominate Roberts to be chief justice, Bush first tapped White House counsel Harriet Miers, a Texas lawyer who served as Bush’s personal lawyer before he became president, as the nominee for associate justice. He made the announcement Oct. 3.

As a result of a campaign by conservatives who wanted a nominee with a demonstrated conservative record and judicial experience, Miers withdrew her nomination weeks later and Bush announced his pick of 3rd Circuit Judge Samuel Alito on Oct. 31.

Alito’s hearing was not held until Jan. 9-13. Less than two weeks later, on Jan. 24, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 10-8 to send him to the full Senate. Then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and 23 other senators attempted to lead a filibuster to block Alito’s confirmation, but they were unsuccessful.

The Senate ultimately confirmed Alito by a vote of 58-42 on Jan. 31, 2006, with four Democrats joining the Republicans in confirming Alito.

As president, Obama later expressed regrets about this filibuster attempt when Senate Republicans signaled that they would not confirm a nominee for the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death Feb. 13, 2016, during Obama’s final year in office.

The Obama Years

Obama’s first opportunity to pick a Supreme Court justice came when David Souter announced his retirement in 2009. Obama selected 2nd Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor, and he made the announcement on May 26, 2009. Sotomayor’s hearing was held July 13-16.

Highlights from the hearing included Republican senators grilling Sotomayor about her controversial views, including her claim that appellate courts “make policy” and that she believed “a wise Latina woman” would “reach a better conclusion than a white male” judge. Two weeks later, the Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 to send her to the full Senate.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., joined Democrats in that vote. Nine days later, on Aug. 6, 2009, the Senate voted to confirm Sotomayor by a vote of 68-31, with nine Republicans voting for her.

The following year, Obama had another chance to nominate a Supreme Court justice. He chose his solicitor general, Elena Kagan, to replace Justice John Paul Stevens, announcing the nomination on May 10, 2010.

Obama administration senior adviser David Axelrod recounted the story of Scalia’s approaching him at an event shortly after Souter announced he would retire in 2009. As Axelrod tells it, Scalia said, “I have no illusions that your man will nominate someone who shares my orientation … But I hope he sends us someone smart.”

Scalia continued, according to Axelrod: “Let me put a finer point on it … I hope he sends us Elena Kagan.” Scalia got his wish the second time around.

Kagan’s hearing took place June 28-July 1 (and notably included testimony by Heritage Foundation scholar Robert Alt). Three weeks later, the Judiciary Committee voted 13-6 to send her to the full Senate—with Graham joining the Democrats again. The Senate voted 63-37 to confirm her two weeks after that, on Aug. 5, 2010. Five Republicans and two independents joined the Democrats.

As the Obama administration came to a close, it seemed unlikely that another vacancy would occur on the Supreme Court—notwithstanding a not-so-subtle campaign to encourage Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to step down. Then on Feb. 13, 2016, the nation was stunned by the sudden death of Scalia.

The upcoming presidential election took on a new level of significance as Senate Republicans vowed to keep the seat open so that the next president, and by extension, the American people, could fill it. Nevertheless, Obama nominated Merrick Garland, chief judge of the D.C. Circuit. Senate Republicans, however, refused to allow the nomination to move forward.

Confirmation Process by the Numbers

That brings us to Neil Gorsuch. President Donald Trump announced his nomination on Jan. 31, so if Gorsuch is confirmed before the Easter recess, the process will have taken 10 weeks.

That’s slightly quicker than recent nominees but by no means out of the ordinary. Sotomayor clocked in at 11 weeks, Kagan and Alito both took 14 weeks, and Roberts was confirmed within 11 weeks from his first nomination.

Gorsuch enjoys perhaps the broadest bipartisan support of any nominee in recent history, and he is eminently qualified to join the Supreme Court. Though there has been some talk of Democrats attempting to mount a filibuster, these are rare for Supreme Court confirmations.

Thus, Gorsuch is likely to be confirmed on the timetable McConnell laid out. And Republicans appear prepared to play hardball if necessary—to limit Senate debate by invoking the nuclear option—to ensure Gorsuch is confirmed. (For more from the author of “How Neil Gorsuch’s Senate Confirmation Process Compares to Recent Ones” please click HERE)

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These 3 Conservatives Nearly Stopped RINOcare

With little input by members and virtually no debate, RINOcare passed through the House Committee on the Budget by a narrow 19-17 vote Thursday morning. The three members of the House Freedom Caucus on the committee voted against passage. No other Republicans, despite their public statements about repealing Obamacare, voted against the bill. Had one more GOP member switched their votes, the bill would have been stopped.

The passage of the bill through the committee is a textbook example of ramming legislation through Congress. After perfunctory 10 minute remarks by both the chair and ranking member of the committee., the vote was immediately called with very little input by members of the committee. There was no extended debate on the merits.

The committee has 22 Republicans and 14 Democrats. All Republicans save Dave Brat (R-Va.), Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), and Gary Palmer (R-Ala.) voted yes. Those three Freedom Caucus members voted no. On Monday I highlighted the reasons that four other members of the committee should have joined the Freedom Caucus in voting no.

There are four members, out of the 18, who have been extra vocal in calling for the repeal of, or who’ve fought against specific Obamacare provisions this bill keeps. They are Glenn Grothman, R-Wisc. (F, 44%), Bruce Westerman, R-Ark. (F, 50%), and a pair of Freshman representatives Jodey Arrington, R-Texas (F, 0%), and Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. (F,0%). Each of these members has been particularly outspoken on the need to end Obamacare or have voiced concerns about the current RINOcare bill.

When it mattered those four bowed to leadership pressure and voted for a bill that doesn’t repeal Obamacare. Instead, the legislation merely tweaks it around the edges.

Where the bill goes from here is unknown. House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows, R – N.C. has stated that he believes there are 40 “no” votes on the bill in its current form.

The fact remains, however, that leadership was able to advance the bill at will through committee. Still, the three no votes from the GOP should be applauded. (For more from the author of “These 3 Conservatives Nearly Stopped RINOcare” please click HERE)

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This 2nd Amendment-Trashing Judge Is Precisely Why the Courts Were Designed to Be Weak

The notion that any branch of government has a monopoly on constitutional interpretation is dangerous enough. The fact that the unelected judiciary has been accorded ‘sole and final arbiter status’ of the Constitution is downright tyrannical and threatens the underpinnings of our Republic.

As Mark Levin wrote in Men in Black, “Judges are appointed for life because they’re not politicians. And because they’re not politicians, they’re not directly accountable to the people and are not subject to elections.” Which is exactly why the judiciary was supposed to have “neither force nor will” over political and social issues. It’s exactly why they were given the fewest tools to affect change, and no tools to enforce their opinions.

A recent comment from an Ohio federal district judge best exemplifies how this constitutional arrangement has been flipped on its head. Recently, Ohio enacted a new law permitting holders of a concealed-carry license to possess a firearm in their private vehicle parked in a company parking lot or on a school campus. Obviously, state politicians of all walks of life and ideology have weighed in pro or con on the merits of the law. Included among those publicly commenting on it was senior U.S. District Court Judge Walter H. Rice. In an interview with Military.com, he said that federal court houses are exempt from this law:

Federal installations are not bound by the state law except in certain situations which I don’t think are relevant,” Rice said. “My opinion is that it is not applicable to federal facilities unless the federal installation decides to adopt that portion of the law. What I said applies to the parking lot as well.

Now, one could debate the merits of a federal judge publicly issuing an opinion on a controversial law outside of the context of a legitimate case with standing before the courts. But Judge Rice went a step further:

I think open carry (and concealed-carry) laws, with all due deference to the Second Amendment, which I support…are dangerous to any community because of the epidemic of mental health issues throughout this country,” he said. “Putting guns in the hands of mentally incompetent people is a recipe for disaster.”

Putting aside the merits of his random conflation of mental illness and the right-to-carry, this statement is very disturbing coming from a federal judge. Obviously, Judge Rice has a First Amendment right like anyone else to speak his mind. He is allowed to express political opposition to right-to-carry laws, even if his opposition is refuted by the Second Amendment (which absolutely applies to carrying outside the home). But these comments reveal a broader problem with much of the federal bench. They are a bunch of political leftists like any other group of liberals in a legislature, except we erroneously accord them sole and final arbiter status of the Constitution. Yet, they don’t stand for reelection like state legislators do and can codify their feelings into law with no check or balance.

This is exactly what happened this week. Judges in Hawaii and Maryland officially created an affirmative right for all 7.2 billion people in the world to immigrate and get standing in court to overturn the Constitution, the social compact, the social contract, 200 years of case law, numerous statutes, common sense, and Article II presidential power over foreign affairs. Unlike members of any other branch, their personal feelings become the law of the land under this erroneous conception of the judiciary. One district judge, which is an institution created by Congress, can now apparently stand above Congress and issue a nationwide injunction on national sovereignty.

As we’ve explained many times, the concept of judicial review does not support judicial supremacy, the construct of a judiciary as a council of revision. It affirms the Constitution as supreme over all branches and dictates that the other [stronger] branches must certainly adhere to the Constitution when the judiciary does not.

Rather than promoting RINOcare, President Trump must work with conservatives to immediately reform the role of the federal judiciary, beginning with the lower courts. Otherwise, we are facing a tyranny even King George could never have fathomed. (For more from the author of “This 2nd Amendment-Trashing Judge Is Precisely Why the Courts Were Designed to Be Weak” please click HERE)

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