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Westlake Legal Group > Law and Legislation

Boris Johnson Has a Trust Problem in Parliament

Westlake Legal Group 19brexit-trust-facebookJumbo Boris Johnson Has a Trust Problem in Parliament Referendums Politics and Government Letwin, Oliver (1956- ) Law and Legislation Johnson, Boris House of Commons (Great Britain) Great Britain European Union Conservative Party (Great Britain)

LONDON — For the ever-wary lawmakers who sit behind Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Britain’s House of Commons, one insurance policy on his rollicking leadership was not enough. So on Saturday, they took out another.

So distrustful have lawmakers become of their famously brazen prime minister — and of one another — that they voted on Saturday not to vote at all on Mr. Johnson’s much-heralded Brexit plan.

They had already passed a law to prevent the prime minister from abruptly pulling Britain out of the European Union without a deal managing future relations. But on Saturday they went further, saying that even the deal that Mr. Johnson had struck with the European Union was not a strong enough guarantee that Britain would not leave without one.

So they bought themselves a second layer of protection against such an outcome, forcing the government to ask for an extension and putting off the fateful decision on his deal until a no-deal departure was a more remote possibility.

In an era of fractious disagreements and high-stakes political gridlock in Britain, the decision to add extra insurance was more evidence of the hollowing out of confidence among lawmakers that their colleagues would abide by the courtly traditions and effete codes of conduct that once dominated the chamber.

“The arteries of Parliament are built on this sort of trust,” said Alan Wager, a research associate at The U.K. in a Changing Europe, a research institute.

“It’s founded on the good-chap theory of government, the idea that people will abide by norms and culture, and that’s where the breakdown is,” he said. “The fury and frustration in the House of Commons is because of the magnitude of the decisions and the tightness of the votes.”

Lawmakers said they had good reason to distrust Mr. Johnson.

In an effort to quash dissenting voices in Parliament and push his Brexit plan through, Mr. Johnson had already asked Queen Elizabeth II to suspend Parliament, a move the Supreme Court deemed unlawful. And in striking a deal this past week with the European Union on the terms of Britain’s departure, he broke a major promise of his about how he would treat trade in Northern Ireland.

As a result of their misgivings, lawmakers have repeatedly tied the government’s hands, going so far as to pre-write a letter to the European Union for the prime minister because they did not trust him to follow the chamber’s edicts. A pregnant Labour lawmaker even delayed giving birth to appear for a pivotal vote in a wheelchair, suspicious that her pro-Brexit adversaries would not honor the usual system of taking medical absences into account.

The delay to Saturday’s vote on Mr. Johnson’s new Brexit agreement came in the form of an amendment put forward by Oliver Letwin, a former Conservative lawmaker exiled from the party by Mr. Johnson. Mr. Letwin supported the deal, as did some other lawmakers who voted to force a postponement.

But Mr. Letwin and other lawmakers said they worried that it was a prelude to parliamentary chicanery by Mr. Johnson or his hard-line Conservative allies that would result in a catastrophic no-deal Brexit within weeks. His amendment delays final approval of the agreement until after Parliament passes the detailed legislation to enact it.

That guarded against British lawmakers’ approving Mr. Johnson’s deal in principle on Saturday, but then holding up the detailed legislation that would follow.

Despite the earlier law seeking to avert a no-deal departure, that sequence of events would have left Parliament powerless to stop a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31.

Among the most important backers of delaying a decision were a group of lawmakers furious at Mr. Johnson over the deal. In order to avoid imposing a border on the island of Ireland, his agreement creates a regulatory and customs border of sorts between Britain and Northern Ireland.

That angered unionist lawmakers for whom close ties between those two regions are sacrosanct — all the more so because Mr. Johnson had earlier promised not to put any distance between the two.

Philip Hammond, a Conservative ex-chancellor, on Saturday compared Mr. Johnson’s deal to getting on a bus without knowing where it was going.

“Before I decide whether to jump on the prime minister’s bus,” he said, “I’d like to be just a little clearer about the destination.”

For a prime minister who thought he was on the verge of a breakthrough, the voting on Saturday amounted to a remarkable comedown. But some of the anger at the prime minister was fueled by the very tactics that his allies credit for getting him a new deal.

In the delicate last stage of trying to win approval, though, Mr. Johnson is finding that those fights have depleted a precious reserve of good will among his colleagues, analysts said.

“It rebounds on him,” Mr. Wager said. “He got the agreement because he was willing to break the rules. And now people’s knowledge of the rules is coming back to haunt him.”

He added, “The attempts to second-guess the intentions of the government and safeguard against specific actions of the government — this is a new element, and it’s because of a lack of trust.”

Not all the lawmakers who voted to disrupt Mr. Johnson’s Brexit plan on Saturday did it because of worries about procedural trickery. Some opposition lawmakers simply want to delay and ultimately reverse Brexit, and depriving Mr. Johnson of a fast, up-or-down vote helped their cause.

But even lawmakers who were considering supporting Mr. Johnson’s agreement said they worried they were being “duped,” as Mr. Hammond put it, into voting for a no-deal Brexit in disguise. They fear that after clinching approval, Mr. Johnson will run down the clock on a transition period and fail to secure a free-trade agreement with the European Union, allowing Britain to effectively leave the bloc without a deal protecting trading ties and other arrangements in December 2020.

John Baron, a Brexiteer in the hard-line European Research Group, said as much in a televised interview. He described how senior government ministers had given him “clear assurance” that Britain would effectively leave the European Union on no-deal terms at the end of 2020 if trade talks failed.

Rob Ford, a professor of politics at the University of Manchester, said, “The European Research Group keep saying the silent bit out loud.”

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As White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone Builds Case for Defiance on Impeachment

WASHINGTON — As a lawyer in private practice, Pat A. Cipollone, now President Trump’s White House counsel, told colleagues that there were two approaches to legal fights.

One, he said, was like the Department of State, when the two sides would try to work out a deal to avoid painful and expensive litigation. The other, when the first failed, was the Department of War.

As of this week, Mr. Cipollone has put himself squarely in the war camp when it comes to Mr. Trump’s defense against the House impeachment inquiry. After earlier advocating that the president adopt a policy of transparency by releasing the document at the heart of the impeachment debate — the reconstructed transcript of Mr. Trump’s call with his Ukrainian counterpart — Mr. Cipollone has shifted course and is now leading a no-cooperation strategy that holds substantial political risks but also seems to suit his combative client in the Oval Office.

It is a role that has pushed Mr. Cipollone, 53, to the center of a battle that could determine the course of Mr. Trump’s presidency and potentially lead to a constitutional battle with far-reaching ramifications. In building an argument that Mr. Trump has no obligation to respond to demands for information from Congress, Mr. Cipollone, in a letter sent Tuesday to House Democratic leaders, laid out an extraordinarily broad view of executive authority that, if maintained, seems likely to be viewed skeptically by the courts.

“Pat’s taking a leading role in this proceeding because of the institutional interests that are at stake,” said Jay Sekulow, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer. “He’s the right man for the task. He has the right temperament and disposition.”

Rudolph W. Giuliani, another of Mr. Trump’s lawyers and a key player in the Ukraine affair, heaped praise on Mr. Cipollone. “From a lawyer’s point of view, the letter is close to brilliant,” he said.

But to critics of Mr. Trump, Mr. Cipollone is seeking to twist the law and stonewall an entirely legitimate inquiry from a coequal branch of government and undercut the ability of Congress to pursue its constitutionally mandated remedy of impeachment.

“I cannot fathom how any self-respecting member of the bar could affix his name to this letter,” George Conway, a constitutional lawyer and the husband of Kellyanne Conway, a top aide to Mr. Trump, said on Twitter. “It’s pure hackery, and it disgraces the profession.”

Mr. Cipollone’s defiant posture toward Congress, Democrats said, was more about political positioning than a serious effort to articulate a legal and constitutional defense for Mr. Trump.

“They’re taking a position that seems to me to be quite frivolous: that Congress doesn’t have any power to investigate most of what they’re investigating,” said Neil Eggleston, who was the White House counsel in the Clinton and Obama administrations. “It’s sort of a last refuge.”

A well-known figure in Washington’s community of Catholic conservatives and anti-abortion activists, Mr. Cipollone came to the White House late last year after earlier having helped prepare Mr. Trump for the presidential debates in 2016 and advised his legal team during the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the campaign.

But Mr. Cipollone generally keeps such a low public profile that even those who have known him for years differ on how to pronounce his last name (it is sip-uh-LOAN-ee). He drives a pickup truck and a Honda Pilot, into which he loaded a beloved desk chair for the move to the White House after his appointment last December.

He has contributed substantially to Catholic charities and causes, but his political work has been largely behind the scenes, including his former law firm’s defense of former Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin in a campaign finance case.

Westlake Legal Group white-house-letter-impeachment-promo-1570570699708-articleLarge As White House Counsel, Pat Cipollone Builds Case for Defiance on Impeachment United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sekulow, Jay Alan Legal Profession Law and Legislation Ingraham, Laura A Cipollone, Pat A Bronx (NYC) Barr, William P

Read the White House Letter in Response to the Impeachment Inquiry

In a letter to House Democratic leaders, the White House counsel called the House’s impeachment inquiry illegitimate.

The son of an Italian-born factory worker and homemaker, Mr. Cipollone spent much of his childhood in the Bronx. After his father was transferred to Kentucky, Mr. Cipollone attended Covington Catholic High School before returning to New York to attend Fordham University.

A debate champion and intramural athlete, he worked days in Fordham’s computer center and summers in construction, factory and clerical jobs. He was the class of 1988’s valedictorian, graduating first in a class of 650 with a degree in economics and political philosophy. Already interested in constitutional law, he wrote a senior thesis on “Substantive Due Process and the 14th Amendment.”

Mr. Cipollone won a full academic scholarship to attend the University of Chicago Law School. There, he sank deep conservative roots, helping lead a student chapter of the Federalist Society.

Mr. Cipollone served a clerkship with Judge Danny Julian Boggs, a Reagan appointee, on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

As part of the interview process, Mr. Cipollone took the judge’s famously difficult “general knowledge” quiz, which he used to gauge knowledge beyond the law. In Mr. Cipollone’s year, potential clerks had to answer 64 questions, including, “What was the Trail of Tears?” “What did the battles of Actius, Lepanto and Salamis have in common?” and “When and what was the Edict of Nantes?” (Judge Boggs said he had looked back in his files and could not find Mr. Cipollone’s score.)

Judge Boggs recently had lunch with Mr. Cipollone in the White House mess. “I complimented him on not seeing his name in the paper,” the judge said, “which means he’s doing a good job.”

Mr. Cipollone went from Judge Boggs’s chambers in Louisville to Washington, and a speechwriting job with William P. Barr, who was attorney general in the George Bush administration and was named attorney general by Mr. Trump a few months after Mr. Cipollone arrived at the White House.

A fellow clerk, Jennifer Hall, recalled sitting in Judge Boggs’s bookshelf-lined chambers between Mr. Cipollone and another clerk, Stephen Vaughn, now a trade lawyer in Washington. “They would yell at each other over me,” she recalled, “listening to Rush Limbaugh.”

Mr. Cipollone and his wife, Rebecca Cipollone, have 10 children. The youngest is a 10-year-old son and the oldest a 26-year-old daughter, who works at Fox News for Laura Ingraham, the conservative commentator, who was introduced to Catholicism by Mr. Cipollone.

Mr. Cipollone is a founder of the National Prayer Breakfast, participates in the anti-abortion March for Life, and events that draw Washington’s Catholic elite, like the Red Mass, celebrated each year at St. Matthew’s Cathedral on the Sunday before the Supreme Court session begins. (Mr. Cipollone was absent when the event was held this past weekend.)

After his stint with Mr. Barr, Mr. Cipollone joined the law firm Kirkland & Ellis in Washington. In the mid-1990s, he moved his family to Connecticut and took a job as general counsel for a Kirkland & Ellis client, the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization and multibillion dollar insurance company. He later rejoined the firm, then left for a partnership at Stein, Mitchell, Cipollone, Beato & Missner, where he worked on Mr. Walker’s case, among others.

Melanie Sloan, a law school classmate who works with the liberal watchdog organization American Oversight, said she called Mr. Cipollone for help in a complicated legal matter after classmates recommended him. “He was kind and happy to help me,” she said. “I don’t feel like too many people in Washington would take a call from somebody they haven’t been in touch with 20 years and be right there to help. And I never got a bill.”

Mr. Cipollone earned nearly $7 million at Stein Mitchell in 2017 and 2018, according to his White House financial disclosure report.

“With every client, with everybody he sat in front of, he used the term ‘off ramps,’” says Jonathan Missner, a partner of Mr. Cipollone’s at the firm. “That’s Pat. He looks for off ramps, and he’s good at it.”

It is also true, he said, that Mr. Cipollone “can be a pit bull — and that’s the Department of War.”

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U.S. Using Trade Deals to Shield Tech Giants From Foreign Regulators

Westlake Legal Group 00DIGITALTRADE-01-facebookJumbo U.S. Using Trade Deals to Shield Tech Giants From Foreign Regulators United States Politics and Government Social Media Search Engines Regulation and Deregulation of Industry Law and Legislation International Trade and World Market Freedom of Speech and Expression E-Commerce Computers and the Internet

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has begun inserting legal protections into recent trade agreements that shield online platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube from lawsuits, a move that could help lock in America’s tech-friendly regulations around the world even as they are being newly questioned at home.

The protections, which stem from a 1990s law, have already been tucked into the administration’s two biggest trade deals — the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and a pact with Japan that President Trump signed on Monday. American negotiators have proposed including the language in other prospective deals, including with the European Union, Britain and members of the World Trade Organization.

The administration’s push is the latest salvo in a global fight over who sets the rules for the internet. While the rules for trading goods have largely been written — often by the United States — the world has far fewer standards for digital products. Countries are rushing into this vacuum, and in most cases writing regulations that are far more restrictive than the tech industry would prefer.

Europe has enacted tough policies to curb the behavior of companies like Facebook and Google and passed laws to deal with privacy, hate speech and disinformation. China has largely cordoned itself off from the rest of the internet, allowing Beijing to censor political content and bolster Chinese tech companies like Alibaba and Tencent. In India, Indonesia, Russia and Vietnam, governments are introducing regulations to ostensibly protect their citizens’ privacy and build domestic internet industries that critics say will stymie the ability of American companies to provide services in those countries.

The United States wants its more permissive rules to form the basis for worldwide regulation. But there is a rising debate about whether its regime of internet regulations has failed to protect consumer privacy, encouraged the spread of disinformation and supported a powerful forum for harassment and bullying.

The American rules, codified in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, shield online platforms from many lawsuits related to user content and protect them from legal challenges stemming from how they moderate content. Those rules are largely credited with fueling Silicon Valley’s rapid growth. The language in the trade deals echoes those provisions but contains some differences.

[Read more about Section 230 and why it is so consequential.]

That freedom has come under intense criticism from lawmakers and advocates. They say the 23-year-old law has allowed companies like Facebook and Google to avoid responsibility for harm associated with content that reaches billions of users. That anger has been compounded by revelations about the role of Silicon Valley’s business practices in the spread of disinformation and treatment of user data.

The leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said in August that it was “inappropriate for the United States to export language mirroring Section 230 while such serious policy discussions are ongoing.” The committee’s Democratic chairman, Representative Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, and its ranking Republican, Representative Greg Walden of Oregon, warned Mr. Trump’s top trade adviser, Robert Lighthizer, that it would be a mistake to include the protections “in any trade deal going forward.”

On Monday, they called on Mr. Lighthizer to testify before the committee on the issue.

Enmity toward Section 230 is bipartisan. Conservatives have raised concerns in light of claims, largely made without evidence, that major online platforms like Facebook are biased against their positions. Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri, has said the liability shield should cover large platforms only if they are certified as politically neutral. The White House is also said to be drafting an executive order that would narrow the law’s protections.

Last year, Congress overwhelmingly approved a bill making it possible to sue online platforms for knowingly facilitating sex trafficking. Lawmakers have raised the prospect of creating additional carve-outs for the online sale of opioids.

Critics of Section 230 say they are alarmed by the inclusion of its provisions in trade deals.

“These trade agreements are only allocating more power to the companies at the expense of the individual,” said Carrie Goldberg, a New York lawyer who is challenging the gay dating app Grindr’s ability to use Section 230 to defend itself from a lawsuit.

American trade negotiators have largely shrugged off those concerns, insisting that new trade deals include language that requires partners to limit legal liability for online platforms. Similar protections first appeared last year in the draft pact with Canada and Mexico that Mr. Trump hopes will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Administration officials say Congress has tasked them with negotiating trade agreements that closely mirror American law. If those laws are a problem, it is up to Congress to change them, they say.

“This is U.S. law,” Mr. Lighthizer said in a congressional hearing in June. “I didn’t write 230. The Congress did — it was signed by the president, number one.

“Number two, we think it’s — that there are — there are nowhere near the problems that you see on issues of public morality and the like,” he added. “We put in specific language to make sure that that was not a problem.”

Trade agreements don’t completely prevent a country from passing legislation that contradicts their terms — including on legal liability — but they make doing so more complicated and risky. If a country violates a trade agreement, other members of the pact can bring trade disputes against them and may be able to impose tariffs or argue for leaving the pact.

The Trump administration describes the broader tech provisions in the agreements as a “gold standard” for the digital economy, and says it plans to use them in future negotiations, including with the European Union and Britain, if it leaves the bloc. The rules, which also provide for open access to government data and protections for company source codes and algorithms, are also part of the United States proposal for negotiations over e-commerce with dozens of countries at the World Trade Organization.

The tech industry has provided vocal support for the provisions as a way to discourage other countries from making platforms liable for their content. They argue that such legal exposure could clamp down on many kinds of normal business activity — including hosting user reviews and ratings — and could become a tool of governments hoping to crack down on free speech.

“Failing to include these protections — which have been a part of U.S. law for two decades — in trade agreements would negatively impact the countless small businesses and entrepreneurs that use online platforms to export and advertise their businesses,” said Michael Beckerman, the president of the Internet Association, which represents companies including Google, Amazon, Facebook, eBay and Twitter.

The idea has a powerful supporter in Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over trade. Mr. Wyden also has a personal connection to the issue: He co-wrote Section 230 while serving in the House.

In an interview, Mr. Wyden rejected the idea that trade agreements were an end run around Congress.

“I know some people are trying to say, ‘Oh, my goodness, there’s this brand-new thing: Somebody’s talking about trade and 230,’” he said. “Get real.”

Mr. Wyden said strong digital trade agreements should support free speech and “include the principle that online businesses are able to moderate content generated by users without being treated as the speaker.”

Regardless, countries around the world have weighed whether to increase the responsibility that companies have for user content on their platforms — raising the prospect that American trade efforts to enshrine the Communications Decency Act’s protections may run aground.

“I don’t think there’s a chance that major economies like the E.U. are going to accept C.D.A. 230” said Daphne Keller, the director of intermediary liability at Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society. “So I’m not sure what the net effect is.”

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With Beto O’Rourke on the Couldn’t-Care-Less Campaign Trail

KEENE, N.H. — Beto O’Rourke began his rally with a non sequitur.

He told a story of how he was killing time at a park a few hours earlier when he happened upon a woman pounding on a set of drums, with her car parked next to her, and the radio blasting “Any Way You Want It” by Journey.

“And I thought, that is so punk rock!” Mr. O’Rourke effused.

Mr. O’Rourke, the pin-balling presidential candidate from Texas, told the audience that he felt fortunate to have witnessed such “a beautiful, powerful, transcendent moment.” He then got to the point of his story.

Or not: “I don’t even know why I’m telling you this,” he acknowledged. “Except that I had to share this with somebody.”

Mr. O’Rourke’s entire campaign sometimes feels like one giant non sequitur. Where was this story going? Was there a point to it? And did he even care if anyone was taken aback?

The answer that last question would seem to be “no,” and has become especially resonant since Aug. 3, when 22 people were killed in a mass shooting in Mr. O’Rourke’s hometown, El Paso.

In the heightened aftermath of the slaughter, the once-celebrated candidate has found himself restored to, or at least closer to, the place of political prominence he seemed to relinquish from the second he began running for president early this year. “I think I feel differently personally and that can’t help but come through,” Mr. O’Rourke said in an interview, discussing how the shooting had changed the character, if not necessarily the trajectory, of his campaign. “I think El Paso reminded me or brought home for me how urgent this situation is out there in the country right now.”

Mr. O’Rourke has become the most vocal candidate in pushing for tougher gun laws, including bans on the assault weapons used in numerous mass shootings. The issue has provided a kind of emotional centerpiece to a campaign that had seemed to lack one. It has also, in recent days, stirred the most emphatic crowd reactions at Mr. O’Rourke’s events to date, including a standing ovation Saturday at the Polk County Steak Fry in Des Moines, where 17 Democratic presidential candidates appeared.

“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” Mr. O’Rourke said at this month’s Democratic debate in Houston. The refrain — one of the most potent of his campaign thus far — earned him both instant applause inside the hall and near-instant condemnation from gun-rights advocates, some in the form of the threats that he says have become an ominous background companion to his life.

He was also admonished by many Democratic leaders who worried that his vow to take away guns would confirm every caricature of a radicalized left intent on punishing law-abiding gun-owners. “I don’t know of any other Democrat who agrees with Beto O’Rourke,” Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, said in a conference call with reporters.

Beto O’Rourke: Who He Is and What He Stands For
The former Texas congressman is seeking to regain the momentum he enjoyed during his 2018 run for Senate.

Sept. 10, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 10-orourke-candidatepage-threeByTwoSmallAt2X With Beto O’Rourke on the Couldn’t-Care-Less Campaign Trail Presidential Election of 2020 O'Rourke, Beto mass shootings Law and Legislation gun control

Mr. O’Rourke said he took pride in getting attacked by Mr. Schumer and President Trump (who had tweeted at him) on the same day. “It shows me we’re doing something right,” Mr. O’Rourke said Thursday, following a visit to a marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif. He said that provoking Mr. Trump and particularly Mr. Schumer showed he was willing to speak plainly and directly and not as a normal politician would. Later that day, in a session with reporters, Mr. O’Rourke would taunt Mr. Schumer for doing “absolutely nothing” on guns. “Ask Chuck Schumer what he’s been able to get done,” he said.

To observe Mr. O’Rourke in recent weeks is to witness one candidate’s unfiltered attempt at a midcourse transformation. It’s a shift that has taken him far beyond the norms of a typical presidential primary campaign itinerary, with stops in California to tour Skid Row in Los Angeles, San Quentin State Prison in Marin County and Blunts and Moore, the pot dispensary in Oakland, where he unveiled a plan to legalize marijuana.

For his part, Mr. O’Rourke, says he could give a damn about adhering to the niceties of campaigns, and he has been proving as much with his frequent deployment of four-letter words more incendiary than “damn.”

“Over the last five weeks, I’ve just been focused on saying what’s on my mind, being myself,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “And not really in the slightest being interested in polls, or how things poll, or what you’re supposed to say.”

That’s fortunate, or at least handy spin, given that Mr. O’Rourke’s poll numbers have been stuck in the low-single digits for months, with negligible movement since El Paso. The blessing, say Mr. O’Rourke’s campaign advisers and supporters, is that he is once again the unvarnished candidate that captivated them during his near miss Senate campaign in Texas last year against the incumbent Republican Ted Cruz.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_158884341_e961feb8-6022-4e10-ae02-88b3c0b1b527-articleLarge With Beto O’Rourke on the Couldn’t-Care-Less Campaign Trail Presidential Election of 2020 O'Rourke, Beto mass shootings Law and Legislation gun control

Mr. O’Rourke hugged Representative Veronica Escobar during a silent march for the victims of the El Paso mass shooting.CreditIvan Pierre Aguirre for The New York Times

He is still doing some campaigning as it used to exist: talking to people in early-voting states. His audience sizes often number just in the double-digits, which could be viewed as a comedown compared to the thousands that were thronging Mr. O’Rourke during his Senate race last year — including one September rally in Austin featuring Willie Nelson that drew upward of 50,000 people. Did he find this contrast deflating, a reporter asked Mr. O’Rourke after a low-key rally at Keene State College in New Hampshire?

“Oh, I’m really grateful to anyone who would forgo a perfectly fine movie or dinner date to spend some time on a Friday night with a candidate for the presidency,” Mr. O’Rourke replied, offering perhaps the only possible answer a politician could give (what candidate would admit to being “deflated?”).

Mr. O’Rourke still manages to project earnestness with his entire body. He keeps casually dropping in his now-signature profanity because, he explained, being polite and restrained “doesn’t always express the anger or the urgency that I feel.”

His zigzagging trajectory over the last year can be ordered into pronounced phases. Last fall — the peak of his Beto-Mania Phase — ended in a narrow loss to Mr. Cruz. Nevertheless, the hype persisted. “We did not see that coming,” Mr. O’Rourke said of the continued attention, which ushered in a new phase.

Late on election night, a couple of supporters wandered into Mr. O’Rourke’s El Paso home to commiserate. “They were just these drunk dudes in their teens who were bummed out and decided to come to Beto’s house,” Mr. O’Rourke recalled. “They just walked in and were like ‘Hey dude, we’re just so sorry you lost, can I get a selfie with you?’”

“And I was like, ‘Sure, but you can’t just walk into someone’s house like this.’ And they were like ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.’”

Mr. O’Rourke nursed his defeat, set out on a road trip and went to the dentist, live-streaming as he went. He decided to run for president. From the outset, the enterprise seemed to lack definition. He was outshone and overtaken in a crowded field of movement progressives (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren), an established elder (Joe Biden) and new faces (Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris) who seemed brighter than last year’s meteor. He came off shaky and overwhelmed in the first two debates. Beto-mania 2018 seemed far away.

Mr. O’Rourke at the Democratic debate in Houston.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

After the Democratic debate in Houston this month, Mr. O’Rourke said he had struggled in the earlier debates because “I suck at acting.” He felt that he had been too scripted and rehearsed before, so he tried to be less so this time. “The first 30 or 40 minutes is like” — he growled out the sound of an explosion, pantomiming a hand-motion over his head that seemed to signify his brain blowing up. (Debates can be disorienting, is what appeared to be his point.)

At one point, Cory Booker was asked whether Americans should abide by vegan diets, as he does. The New Jersey senator replied: “No,” and added, “actually, I want to translate that into Spanish — ‘No.”

“I wanted to kind of like, high-five him across the stage,” Mr. O’Rourke said, and he later commended Mr. Booker for the line backstage. “And then Joe Biden said something really nice,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “And then he and I talked a little bit and had one of those little moments.”

Mr. O’Rourke can sometimes come off like an excited adolescent talking about a campaign-themed teen tour. He is collecting experiences, searching for something authentic.

A gun-rights advocate protests during Mr. O’Rourke’s rally in Plano.CreditAllison V. Smith for The New York Times

Here is something authentic: fear, of which there is no shortage in the country, especially around guns. The morning after the debate, Mr. O’Rourke pulled out his cellphone and called up a text message he had just received. It was from an unidentified party inviting him — and not in a nice way — to “come take my AK-47.”

“I have been getting these messages from different numbers, emails, you know,” he said, explaining that people have been arrested after making threats on his life.

Mr. O’Rourke has three young children and is fully aware of what’s possible. No security detail is evident around him. People show up with guns at his rallies and many know where he lives. He has become one of the biggest lightning rods in this hottest of national debates. Does he himself get scared?

“For me, this is a great question,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “I think it goes to the heart of why we haven’t made progress.” He was referring to “progress” in stopping gun violence, not progress as a campaign.

Yes, people are scared, he said, intimidated by the threats and perceived political risks and frightened into silence. “People keep begging us to do something,” he said. “It’s really powerful. And that’s the judgment I fear, more than people threatening us with guns.”

Is this a higher purpose or another phase? At the very least, Mr. O’Rourke has burrowed a place for himself in the 2020 free-for-all, wherever he is headed. He has gotten people’s attention again, including from the president, who tweeted that Mr. O’Rourke’s vow to confiscate some assault weapons had “made it much harder to make a deal” on guns. “Dummy Beto,” is how the president addressed him.

Asked about this in San Quentin, Mr. O’Rourke said he “could care less.”

More From the Campaign Trail
2020 Democrats Go All In on Iowa

Sept. 22, 2019

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Warren and Biden Join U.A.W. Picket Lines as Democrats Use Strike to Court Labor

Sept. 22, 2019

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Warren Leads in New Iowa Poll With Biden Second

Sept. 21, 2019

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With Beto O’Rourke on the Couldn’t-Care-Less Campaign Trail

KEENE, N.H. — Beto O’Rourke began his rally with a non sequitur.

He told a story of how he was killing time at a park a few hours earlier when he happened upon a woman pounding on a set of drums, with her car parked next to her, and the radio blasting “Any Way You Want It” by Journey.

“And I thought, that is so punk rock!” Mr. O’Rourke effused.

Mr. O’Rourke, the pin-balling presidential candidate from Texas, told the audience that he felt fortunate to have witnessed such “a beautiful, powerful, transcendent moment.” He then got to the point of his story.

Or not: “I don’t even know why I’m telling you this,” he acknowledged. “Except that I had to share this with somebody.”

Mr. O’Rourke’s entire campaign sometimes feels like one giant non sequitur. Where was this story going? Was there a point to it? And did he even care if anyone was taken aback?

The answer that last question would seem to be “no,” and has become especially resonant since Aug. 3, when 22 people were killed in a mass shooting in Mr. O’Rourke’s hometown, El Paso.

In the heightened aftermath of the slaughter, the once-celebrated candidate has found himself restored to, or at least closer to, the place of political prominence he seemed to relinquish from the second he began running for president early this year. “I think I feel differently personally and that can’t help but come through,” Mr. O’Rourke said in an interview, discussing how the shooting had changed the character, if not necessarily the trajectory, of his campaign. “I think El Paso reminded me or brought home for me how urgent this situation is out there in the country right now.”

Mr. O’Rourke has become the most vocal candidate in pushing for tougher gun laws, including bans on the assault weapons used in numerous mass shootings. The issue has provided a kind of emotional centerpiece to a campaign that had seemed to lack one. It has also, in recent days, stirred the most emphatic crowd reactions at Mr. O’Rourke’s events to date, including a standing ovation Saturday at the Polk County Steak Fry in Des Moines, where 17 Democratic presidential candidates appeared.

“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” Mr. O’Rourke said at this month’s Democratic debate in Houston. The refrain — one of the most potent of his campaign thus far — earned him both instant applause inside the hall and near-instant condemnation from gun-rights advocates, some in the form of the threats that he says have become an ominous background companion to his life.

He was also admonished by many Democratic leaders who worried that his vow to take away guns would confirm every caricature of a radicalized left intent on punishing law-abiding gun-owners. “I don’t know of any other Democrat who agrees with Beto O’Rourke,” Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, said in a conference call with reporters.

Beto O’Rourke: Who He Is and What He Stands For
The former Texas congressman is seeking to regain the momentum he enjoyed during his 2018 run for Senate.

Sept. 10, 2019

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Mr. O’Rourke said he took pride in getting attacked by Mr. Schumer and President Trump (who had tweeted at him) on the same day. “It shows me we’re doing something right,” Mr. O’Rourke said Thursday, following a visit to a marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif. He said that provoking Mr. Trump and particularly Mr. Schumer showed he was willing to speak plainly and directly and not as a normal politician would. Later that day, in a session with reporters, Mr. O’Rourke would taunt Mr. Schumer for doing “absolutely nothing” on guns. “Ask Chuck Schumer what he’s been able to get done,” he said.

To observe Mr. O’Rourke in recent weeks is to witness one candidate’s unfiltered attempt at a midcourse transformation. It’s a shift that has taken him far beyond the norms of a typical presidential primary campaign itinerary, with stops in California to tour Skid Row in Los Angeles, San Quentin State Prison in Marin County and Blunts and Moore, the pot dispensary in Oakland, where he unveiled a plan to legalize marijuana.

For his part, Mr. O’Rourke, says he could give a damn about adhering to the niceties of campaigns, and he has been proving as much with his frequent deployment of four-letter words more incendiary than “damn.”

“Over the last five weeks, I’ve just been focused on saying what’s on my mind, being myself,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “And not really in the slightest being interested in polls, or how things poll, or what you’re supposed to say.”

That’s fortunate, or at least handy spin, given that Mr. O’Rourke’s poll numbers have been stuck in the low-single digits for months, with negligible movement since El Paso. The blessing, say Mr. O’Rourke’s campaign advisers and supporters, is that he is once again the unvarnished candidate that captivated them during his near miss Senate campaign in Texas last year against the incumbent Republican Ted Cruz.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_158884341_e961feb8-6022-4e10-ae02-88b3c0b1b527-articleLarge With Beto O’Rourke on the Couldn’t-Care-Less Campaign Trail Presidential Election of 2020 O'Rourke, Beto mass shootings Law and Legislation gun control

Mr. O’Rourke hugged Representative Veronica Escobar during a silent march for the victims of the El Paso mass shooting.CreditIvan Pierre Aguirre for The New York Times

He is still doing some campaigning as it used to exist: talking to people in early-voting states. His audience sizes often number just in the double-digits, which could be viewed as a comedown compared to the thousands that were thronging Mr. O’Rourke during his Senate race last year — including one September rally in Austin featuring Willie Nelson that drew upward of 50,000 people. Did he find this contrast deflating, a reporter asked Mr. O’Rourke after a low-key rally at Keene State College in New Hampshire?

“Oh, I’m really grateful to anyone who would forgo a perfectly fine movie or dinner date to spend some time on a Friday night with a candidate for the presidency,” Mr. O’Rourke replied, offering perhaps the only possible answer a politician could give (what candidate would admit to being “deflated?”).

Mr. O’Rourke still manages to project earnestness with his entire body. He keeps casually dropping in his now-signature profanity because, he explained, being polite and restrained “doesn’t always express the anger or the urgency that I feel.”

His zigzagging trajectory over the last year can be ordered into pronounced phases. Last fall — the peak of his Beto-Mania Phase — ended in a narrow loss to Mr. Cruz. Nevertheless, the hype persisted. “We did not see that coming,” Mr. O’Rourke said of the continued attention, which ushered in a new phase.

Late on election night, a couple of supporters wandered into Mr. O’Rourke’s El Paso home to commiserate. “They were just these drunk dudes in their teens who were bummed out and decided to come to Beto’s house,” Mr. O’Rourke recalled. “They just walked in and were like ‘Hey dude, we’re just so sorry you lost, can I get a selfie with you?’”

“And I was like, ‘Sure, but you can’t just walk into someone’s house like this.’ And they were like ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.’”

Mr. O’Rourke nursed his defeat, set out on a road trip and went to the dentist, live-streaming as he went. He decided to run for president. From the outset, the enterprise seemed to lack definition. He was outshone and overtaken in a crowded field of movement progressives (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren), an established elder (Joe Biden) and new faces (Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris) who seemed brighter than last year’s meteor. He came off shaky and overwhelmed in the first two debates. Beto-mania 2018 seemed far away.

Mr. O’Rourke at the Democratic debate in Houston.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

After the Democratic debate in Houston this month, Mr. O’Rourke said he had struggled in the earlier debates because “I suck at acting.” He felt that he had been too scripted and rehearsed before, so he tried to be less so this time. “The first 30 or 40 minutes is like” — he growled out the sound of an explosion, pantomiming a hand-motion over his head that seemed to signify his brain blowing up. (Debates can be disorienting, is what appeared to be his point.)

At one point, Cory Booker was asked whether Americans should abide by vegan diets, as he does. The New Jersey senator replied: “No,” and added, “actually, I want to translate that into Spanish — ‘No.”

“I wanted to kind of like, high-five him across the stage,” Mr. O’Rourke said, and he later commended Mr. Booker for the line backstage. “And then Joe Biden said something really nice,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “And then he and I talked a little bit and had one of those little moments.”

Mr. O’Rourke can sometimes come off like an excited adolescent talking about a campaign-themed teen tour. He is collecting experiences, searching for something authentic.

A gun-rights advocate protests during Mr. O’Rourke’s rally in Plano.CreditAllison V. Smith for The New York Times

Here is something authentic: fear, of which there is no shortage in the country, especially around guns. The morning after the debate, Mr. O’Rourke pulled out his cellphone and called up a text message he had just received. It was from an unidentified party inviting him — and not in a nice way — to “come take my AK-47.”

“I have been getting these messages from different numbers, emails, you know,” he said, explaining that people have been arrested after making threats on his life.

Mr. O’Rourke has three young children and is fully aware of what’s possible. No security detail is evident around him. People show up with guns at his rallies and many know where he lives. He has become one of the biggest lightning rods in this hottest of national debates. Does he himself get scared?

“For me, this is a great question,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “I think it goes to the heart of why we haven’t made progress.” He was referring to “progress” in stopping gun violence, not progress as a campaign.

Yes, people are scared, he said, intimidated by the threats and perceived political risks and frightened into silence. “People keep begging us to do something,” he said. “It’s really powerful. And that’s the judgment I fear, more than people threatening us with guns.”

Is this a higher purpose or another phase? At the very least, Mr. O’Rourke has burrowed a place for himself in the 2020 free-for-all, wherever he is headed. He has gotten people’s attention again, including from the president, who tweeted that Mr. O’Rourke’s vow to confiscate some assault weapons had “made it much harder to make a deal” on guns. “Dummy Beto,” is how the president addressed him.

Asked about this in San Quentin, Mr. O’Rourke said he “could care less.”

More From the Campaign Trail
2020 Democrats Go All In on Iowa

Sept. 22, 2019

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Warren and Biden Join U.A.W. Picket Lines as Democrats Use Strike to Court Labor

Sept. 22, 2019

Westlake Legal Group merlin_161279346_84bfd166-690c-4b2d-a8be-c05e12d6ece9-threeByTwoSmallAt2X With Beto O’Rourke on the Couldn’t-Care-Less Campaign Trail Presidential Election of 2020 O'Rourke, Beto mass shootings Law and Legislation gun control
Warren Leads in New Iowa Poll With Biden Second

Sept. 21, 2019

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Beto O’Rourke Wants to Talk Guns With Anyone Who Will Listen

KEENE, N.H. — Beto O’Rourke began his rally with a non sequitur.

He told a story of how he was killing time at a park a few hours earlier when he happened upon a woman pounding on a set of drums, with her car parked next to her, and the radio blasting “Any Way You Want It” by Journey.

“And I thought, that is so punk rock!” Mr. O’Rourke effused.

Mr. O’Rourke, the pin-balling presidential candidate from Texas, told the audience that he felt fortunate to have witnessed such “a beautiful, powerful, transcendent moment.” He then got to the point of his story.

Or not: “I don’t even know why I’m telling you this,” he acknowledged. “Except that I had to share this with somebody.”

Mr. O’Rourke’s entire campaign sometimes feels like one giant non sequitur. Where was this story going? Was there a point to it? And did he even care if anyone was taken aback?

The answer that last question would seem to be “no,” and has become especially resonant since Aug. 3, when 22 people were killed in a mass shooting in Mr. O’Rourke’s hometown, El Paso.

In the heightened aftermath of the slaughter, the once-celebrated candidate has found himself restored, or at least closer to, to the place of political prominence he seemed to relinquish from the second he began running for president early this year. “I think I feel differently personally and that can’t help but come through,” Mr. O’Rourke said in an interview, discussing how the shooting had changed the character, if not necessarily the trajectory, of his campaign. “I think El Paso reminded me or brought home for me how urgent this situation is out there in the country right now.”

Mr. O’Rourke has become the most vocal candidate in pushing for tougher gun laws, including bans on the assault weapons used in numerous mass shootings. The issue has provided a kind of emotional centerpiece to a campaign that had seemed to lack one. It has also, in recent days, stirred the most emphatic crowd reactions at Mr. O’Rourke’s events to date, including a standing ovation Saturday at the Polk County Steak Fry in Des Moines, where 17 Democratic presidential candidates appeared.

“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” Mr. O’Rourke said at this month’s Democratic debate in Houston. The refrain — one of the most potent of his campaign thus far — earned him both instant applause inside the hall and near-instant condemnation from gun-rights advocates, some in the form of the threats that he says have become an ominous background companion to his life.

He was also admonished by many Democratic leaders who worried that his vow to take away guns would confirm every caricature of a radicalized left intent on punishing law-abiding gun-owners. “I don’t know of any other Democrat who agrees with Beto O’Rourke,” Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, said in a conference call with reporters.

Mr. O’Rourke said he took pride in getting attacked by Mr. Schumer and President Trump (who had tweeted at him) on the same day. “It shows me we’re doing something right,” Mr. O’Rourke said Thursday, following a visit to a marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif. He said that provoking Mr. Trump and particularly Mr. Schumer showed he was willing to speak plainly and directly and not as a normal politician would. Later that day, in a session with reporters, Mr. O’Rourke would taunt Mr. Schumer for doing “absolutely nothing” on guns. “Ask Chuck Schumer what he’s been able to get done,” he said.

To observe Mr. O’Rourke in recent weeks is to witness one candidate’s unfiltered attempt at a midcourse transformation. It’s a shift that has taken him far beyond the norms of a typical presidential primary campaign itinerary, with stops in California to tour Skid Row in Los Angeles, San Quentin State Prison in Marin County and Blunts and Moore, the pot dispensary in Oakland, where he unveiled a plan to legalize marijuana.

For his part, Mr. O’Rourke, says he could give a damn about adhering to the niceties of campaigns, and he has been proving as much with his frequent deployment of four-letter words more incendiary than “damn.”

“Over the last five weeks, I’ve just been focused on saying what’s on my mind, being myself,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “And not really in the slightest being interested in polls, or how things poll, or what you’re supposed to say.”

That’s fortunate, or at least handy spin, given that Mr. O’Rourke’s poll numbers have been stuck in the low-single digits for months, with negligible movement since El Paso. The blessing, say Mr. O’Rourke’s campaign advisers and supporters, is that he is once again the unvarnished candidate that captivated them during his near miss Senate campaign in Texas last year against the incumbent Republican Ted Cruz.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_158884341_e961feb8-6022-4e10-ae02-88b3c0b1b527-articleLarge Beto O’Rourke Wants to Talk Guns With Anyone Who Will Listen Presidential Election of 2020 O'Rourke, Beto mass shootings Law and Legislation gun control

Mr. O’Rourke hugged Representative Veronica Escobar during a silent march for the victims of the El Paso mass shooting.CreditIvan Pierre Aguirre for The New York Times

He is still doing some campaigning as it used to exist: talking to people in early-voting states. His audience sizes often number just in the double-digits, which could be viewed as a comedown compared to the thousands that were thronging Mr. O’Rourke during his Senate race last year — including one September rally in Austin featuring Willie Nelson that drew upward of 50,000 people. Did he find this contrast deflating, a reporter asked Mr. O’Rourke after a low-key rally at Keene State College in New Hampshire?

“Oh, I’m really grateful to anyone who would forgo a perfectly fine movie or dinner date to spend some time on a Friday night with a candidate for the presidency,” Mr. O’Rourke replied, offering perhaps the only possible answer a politician could give (what candidate would admit to being “deflated?”).

Mr. O’Rourke still manages to project earnestness with his entire body. He keeps casually dropping in his now-signature profanity because, he explained, being polite and restrained “doesn’t always express the anger or the urgency that I feel.”

His zigzagging trajectory over the last year can be ordered into pronounced phases. Last fall — the peak of his Beto-Mania Phase — ended in a narrow loss to Mr. Cruz. Nevertheless, the hype persisted. “We did not see that coming,” Mr. O’Rourke said of the continued attention, which ushered in a new phase.

Late on election night, a couple of supporters wandered into Mr. O’Rourke’s El Paso home to commiserate. “They were just these drunk dudes in their teens who were bummed out and decided to come to Beto’s house,” Mr. O’Rourke recalled. “They just walked in and were like ‘Hey dude, we’re just so sorry you lost, can I get a selfie with you?’”

“And I was like, ‘Sure, but you can’t just walk into someone’s house like this.’ And they were like ‘Oh, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.’”

Mr. O’Rourke nursed his defeat, set out on a road trip and went to the dentist, live-streaming as he went. He decided to run for president. From the outset, the enterprise seemed to lack definition. He was outshone and overtaken in a crowded field of movement progressives (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren), an established elder (Joe Biden) and new faces (Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris) who seemed brighter than last year’s meteor. He came off shaky and overwhelmed in the first two debates. Beto-mania 2018 seemed far away.

Mr. O’Rourke at the Democratic debate in Houston.CreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

After the Democratic debate in Houston this month, Mr. O’Rourke said he had struggled in the earlier debates because “I suck at acting.” He felt that he had been too scripted and rehearsed before, so he tried to be less so this time. “The first 30 or 40 minutes is like” — he growled out the sound of an explosion, pantomiming a hand-motion over his head that seemed to signify his brain blowing up. (Debates can be disorienting, is what appeared to be his point.)

At one point, Cory Booker was asked whether Americans should abide by vegan diets, as he does. The New Jersey senator replied: “No,” and added, “actually, I want to translate that into Spanish — ‘No.”

“I wanted to kind of like, high-five him across the stage,” Mr. O’Rourke said, and he later commended Mr. Booker for the line backstage. “And then Joe Biden said something really nice,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “And then he and I talked a little bit and had one of those little moments.”

Mr. O’Rourke can sometimes come off like an excited adolescent talking about a campaign-themed teen tour. He is collecting experiences, searching for something authentic.

A gun-rights advocate protests during Mr. O’Rourke’s rally in Plano.CreditAllison V. Smith for The New York Times

Here is something authentic: fear, of which there is no shortage in the country, especially around guns. The morning after the debate, Mr. O’Rourke pulled out his cellphone and called up a text message he had just received. It was from an unidentified party inviting him — and not in a nice way — to “come take my AK-47.”

“I have been getting these messages from different numbers, emails, you know,” he said, explaining that people have been arrested after making threats on his life.

Mr. O’Rourke has three young children and is fully aware of what’s possible. No security detail is evident around him. People show up with guns at his rallies and many know where he lives. He has become one of the biggest lightning rods in this hottest of national debates. Does he himself get scared?

“For me, this is a great question,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “I think it goes to the heart of why we haven’t made progress.” He was referring to “progress” in stopping gun violence, not progress as a campaign.

Yes, people are scared, he said, intimidated by the threats and perceived political risks and frightened into silence. “People keep begging us to do something,” he said. “It’s really powerful. And that’s the judgment I fear, more than people threatening us with guns.”

Is this a higher purpose or another phase? At the very least, Mr. O’Rourke has burrowed a place for himself in the 2020 free-for-all, wherever he is headed. He has gotten people’s attention again, including from the president, who tweeted that Mr. O’Rourke’s vow to confiscate some assault weapons had “made it much harder to make a deal” on guns. “Dummy Beto,” is how the president addressed him.

Asked about this in San Quentin, Mr. O’Rourke said he “could care less.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

As Trump Confirms He Discussed Biden With Ukraine, Pressure to Impeach Builds

WASHINGTON — President Trump acknowledged on Sunday that he accused a leading political rival of corruption during a phone call with Ukraine’s president, as pressure intensified on reluctant Democrats to move quickly toward impeachment over allegations that Mr. Trump engaged in a brazen effort to enlist foreign help to aid his own re-election.

In public and in private, many Democrats suggested that evidence in recent days indicating that Mr. Trump pressed the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., and his administration’s stonewalling of attempts by Congress to learn more, were changing their calculations about whether to seek his removal from office.

The influential chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who has resisted such calls, said the House may now have “crossed the Rubicon” in light of the new disclosures, and the administration’s withholding of a related whistle-blower complaint. A group of moderate freshman lawmakers who had been opposed to an impeachment inquiry said they were considering changing course, while other Democrats who had reluctantly supported one amplified their calls. Progressives, meanwhile, sharpened their criticisms of the party’s leadership for failing to act.

The fast-moving developments prompted Speaker Nancy Pelosi to level a warning of her own to the White House: Turn over the secret whistle-blower complaint by Thursday, or face a serious escalation from Congress.

In a letter to House Democrats, Ms. Pelosi never mentioned the word “impeachment,” but her message appeared to hint at the possibility.

“If the administration persists in blocking this whistle-blower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation,” Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, wrote in the letter.

Read the Letter Nancy Pelosi Sent About the Whistle-Blower Complaint

The House speaker warned of a new phase in the investigation of President Trump if he refuses to hand over the whistle-blower complaint.

Westlake Legal Group thumbnail As Trump Confirms He Discussed Biden With Ukraine, Pressure to Impeach Builds Zelensky, Volodymyr Whistle-Blowers United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Pelosi, Nancy Law and Legislation impeachment Espionage and Intelligence Services Biden, Joseph R Jr   1 page, 0.11 MB

The allegations center on whether Mr. Trump pressured a vulnerable ally to take action to damage Mr. Biden at a critical moment, potentially using United States military aid as leverage. Ukraine has been fighting a war with Russia, and the Trump administration had temporarily been withholding a $250 million package of military funding. There have been no indications to this point, however, that Mr. Trump mentioned the aid money on the call.

Mr. Trump showed no sign of contrition on Sunday, telling aides that Democrats were overplaying their hand on a matter voters would discount. Publicly, he worked to focus attention not on his own actions, but on those of Mr. Biden.

Speaking to reporters, the president defended his July phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine as entirely appropriate, and stopped short of directly confirming news reports about what was discussed. But he acknowledged that he had discussed Mr. Biden during the call and accused the former vice president of corruption tied to his son Hunter’s business activities in the former Soviet republic.

“The conversation I had was largely congratulatory, with largely corruption, all of the corruption taking place and largely the fact that we don’t want our people like Vice President Biden and his son creating to the corruption already in the Ukraine,” Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving for a trip to Texas and Ohio.

It is still far from clear that the latest scandal surrounding Mr. Trump’s conduct will lead Ms. Pelosi or other top Democrats to bless following through with full impeachment proceedings and a vote. The House Judiciary Committee is already investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump over other matters, but Ms. Pelosi has consistently questioned the strength of the case.

Proponents of impeachment have repeatedly pointed to damaging revelations — including several instances of possible obstruction of justice by Mr. Trump detailed by the special counsel investigating Russia’s interference with the 2016 election — that they believe warrant seeking Mr. Trump’s removal. But they have run into resistance or indifference from their colleagues and the general public. And given near-unanimous Republican opposition, any impeachment proceeding would likely be a wholly partisan exercise that would all but certainly result in an acquittal by the Senate.

On Sunday, the pattern appeared to be holding, with the vast majority of Republican lawmakers mum about the latest allegations against Mr. Trump. The exception was a couple of prominent lawmakers who suggested that the White House should release the contents of his call with Mr. Zelensky.

“I’m hoping the president can share, in an appropriate way, information to deal with the drama around the phone call,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “I think it would be good for the country if we could deal with it.”

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, was more critical, deeming it “critical for the facts to come out” and stating, “If the president asked or pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival, either directly or through his personal attorney, it would be troubling in the extreme.”

At the same time, interviews with more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers this weekend made clear that they believed the latest allegations had the potential to be singularly incriminating, with prospects to advance the impeachment drive just as it appeared to be losing steam. Not only do they suggest that Mr. Trump was using the power of his office to extract political gains from a foreign power, they argued, but his administration is actively trying once again to prevent Congress from finding out what happened.

“I don’t want to do any more to contribute to the divisiveness in the country, but my biggest responsibility as an elected official is to protect our national security and Constitution,” said Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan, adding that it is “becoming more and more difficult” for Democrats to avoid an all-out impeachment inquiry.

Several first-term lawmakers who had opposed impeachment conferred privately over the weekend to discuss announcing support for an inquiry, potentially jointly, after a hearing scheduled for Thursday with the acting national intelligence director, according to Democratic officials familiar with the conversations. A handful of them declined to speak on the record over the weekend, with some still reluctant to go public and others looking for cues from Ms. Pelosi and their freshman colleagues.

Representative Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey freshman who has supported an inquiry, said the fresh revelations made it clear that Congress must move more decisively.

“There are lines being crossed right now that I fear will be erased if the House does not take strong action to assert them, to defend them,” he said in an interview. “If all we do is leave it up to the American people to get rid of him, we have not upheld the rule of law, we have not set a precedent that this behavior is utterly out of bounds.”

The Intelligence Committee chairman, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, said Sunday morning that the accumulating evidence of wrongdoing, and of a presidential cover-up unfolding in real time, left the House with few other options. Mr. Schiff spoke with Ms. Pelosi before making his remarks to coordinate their statements, two people familiar with their conversation said, a sign that the speaker may be more comfortable moving toward a direct discussion of impeachment.

“I have been very reluctant to go down the path of impeachment,” Mr. Schiff said on CNN. “But if the president is essentially withholding military aid at the same time he is trying to browbeat a foreign leader into doing something illicit, providing dirt on his opponent during a presidential campaign, then that may be the only remedy that is coequal to the evil that that conduct represents.”

Mr. Schiff first brought the existence of the whistle-blower complaint to light a little more than a week ago, and has been the party’s lead negotiator with the acting director of national intelligence, who has refused to turn it over to Congress.

Progressives in Congress have watched the stonewalling with seething frustration, and in recent days, they have begun to openly second-guess Ms. Pelosi’s go-slow approach.

“At this point, the bigger national scandal isn’t the president’s lawbreaking behavior — it is the Democratic Party’s refusal to impeach him for it,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York, who commands considerable influence among progressives, wrote on Twitter late Saturday night.

Representative Pramila Jayapal, Democrat of Washington and the co-chairwoman of the Progressive Caucus, said in an interview that she was now ready to vote outright to impeach Mr. Trump, rather than simply continuing the investigation, and that she planned to make her case in public.

“There is no congressional authority anymore that we are being allowed to exercise, except the one that we have not exercised yet,” Ms. Jayapal said.

But the more crucial issue is whether Democrats from the districts Mr. Trump won or nearly lost can stomach a push to expel him.

Representative Dina Titus of Nevada said once a transcript is made public of Mr. Trump pressuring Mr. Zelensky, she doubted that Democrats from competitive seats could continue to resist impeachment.

“Once that comes out,” said Ms. Titus, an impeachment proponent, “I don’t see how they can fight it any longer.”

Jefrey Pollock, a Democratic pollster, said it was imperative that Democrats build a case of the president’s wrongdoing, in part by obtaining unambiguous evidence.

“Every foreign-based scandal so far has completely rolled off the backs of the voters,” Mr. Pollock said. “For this to really seep into the mind-set of the public, the salacious factor needs to increase significantly, because right now, there’s still no evidence that the public is paying any attention to these things.”

Strikingly, though, even some traditionally cautious veteran Democrats said the party might have no choice but to move toward impeachment. They believe that Senate Republicans, who are clinging to their majority of 53 seats, would pay a political price for protecting Mr. Trump if they voted to exonerate him in the face of damning evidence of malfeasance and a House vote to impeach.

“They’ve got to take a second look” at impeachment, Terry McAuliffe, the former Virginia governor and national party chairman, who is an ally of Ms. Pelosi, said of fellow Democrats. He predicted that the latest revelations would “push some of our folks over.”

James Carville, the longtime Democratic strategist, said he had opposed impeachment, but now thinks the House should move “quick and clean” after obtaining a transcript of Mr. Trump’s phone call. “Let the Senate Republicans stew,” he said.

Nicholas Fandos and Jonathan Martin reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York. Peter Baker contributed reporting from Washington.

Ukraine and Whistle-Blower Issues Emerge as Major Flashpoints in Presidential Race

Sept. 21, 2019

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Trump Pressed Ukraine’s Leader on Inquiry Into Biden’s Son

Sept. 20, 2019

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Is It an Impeachment Inquiry or Not? Democrats Can’t Seem to Agree

Sept. 11, 2019

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Pelosi Warns of ‘New Stage’ of Inquiry if Trump Blocks Whistle-Blower Complaint

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday called on the Trump administration to promptly turn over a secret whistle-blower complaint said to relate to President Trump’s attempts to press Ukraine to investigate his leading Democratic presidential rival, warning that a refusal to do so could force the House to open a new phase in its investigation of him.

In a letter to fellow House Democrats, Ms. Pelosi never mentioned the word “impeachment,” but her remarks appeared to hint at the possibility that the newest revelations about Mr. Trump’s conduct — and the administration’s refusal to share the complaint with Congress — might be enough to prompt her and other leading Democrats to drop their resistance to moving forward with official charges against the president.

“If the administration persists in blocking this whistle-blower from disclosing to Congress a serious possible breach of constitutional duties by the president, they will be entering a grave new chapter of lawlessness which will take us into a whole new stage of investigation,” Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, wrote in the letter.

The letter reflected a new level of urgency gripping Democrats amid news reports that Mr. Trump used a July phone call with the Ukrainian president to pressure the government there to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son. The request is part of a secret whistle-blower complaint that the administration has ordered be withheld from Congress.

Still, the wording of the missive points to the deep dilemma Democrats face on impeachment: As they encounter mounting evidence that many of them consider grounds for Mr. Trump’s removal, a political landscape has so far led many of them to conclude the endeavor would fail and potentially be disastrous. The reference to Mr. Trump’s duties under the Constitution and to “lawlessness” were nods to the severity of the situation, but Ms. Pelosi’s avoidance of the word “impeachment” strongly suggested that she was still resisting that course of action.

Ms. Pelosi urged Joseph Maguire, the acting director of national intelligence who has stood in the way of the complaint getting to Congress, to relent by Thursday, when he is scheduled to appear before the House Intelligence Committee in an open hearing. Mr. Maguire, in consultation with White House lawyers, has argued that he is not legally required to hand over the complaint.

The escalation was a significant one, and it came as progressives cranked up pressure on party leaders to take a more aggressive stance on impeachment and as even more moderate Democrats close to the speaker appeared to be warming to the possibility of that outcome. The House Judiciary Committee is already investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment against Mr. Trump over other matters, but Ms. Pelosi has consistently questioned the strength of their case.

On Sunday, she asked Republicans to join Democrats in demanding that the whistle-blower complaint be sent to Congress and that the as-yet-to-be-identified individual be allowed to speak with lawmakers. The inspector general, Michael Atkinson, has deemed the complaint a matter of “urgent concern and credible,” a designation that Democrats argue mandates that the administration share its contents with lawmakers.

“The administration is endangering our national security and having a chilling effect on any future whistle-blower who sees wrongdoing,” Ms. Pelosi wrote.

Mr. Trump, for his part, has insisted there was nothing inappropriate about his conversation with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky. Instead, he has accused Democrats and the news media of cooking up what he calls another witch hunt intended to hurt his presidency.

Ukraine and Whistle-Blower Issues Emerge as Major Flashpoints in Presidential Race

Sept. 21, 2019

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Trump Pressed Ukraine’s Leader on Inquiry Into Biden’s Son

Sept. 20, 2019

Westlake Legal Group 20dc-whistleblower-sub-threeByTwoSmallAt2X-v3 Pelosi Warns of ‘New Stage’ of Inquiry if Trump Blocks Whistle-Blower Complaint Zelensky, Volodymyr Whistle-Blowers United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Pelosi, Nancy Law and Legislation impeachment Espionage and Intelligence Services Biden, Joseph R Jr
Is It an Impeachment Inquiry or Not? Democrats Can’t Seem to Agree

Sept. 11, 2019

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Intelligence Whistle-Blower Law, Explained

WASHINGTON — Congress is in a sharply escalating standoff with the Trump administration over its refusal to share a whistle-blower complaint with lawmakers that is said to be at least in part about President Trump’s communications with Ukraine.

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California, has accused the acting director of national intelligence, Joseph Maguire, of violating the law by refusing to turn over the information to his panel, which conducts oversight of the intelligence community. But the Justice Department has said Mr. Maguire can lawfully keep it secret, according to his lawyer.

Details about the complaint have nevertheless started trickling out, suggesting that it may center on efforts by Mr. Trump to use his official powers, like the ability to delay military aid, to coerce Ukraine into opening a criminal investigation into former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the front-runner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.

Some of Mr. Trump’s pressuring of Ukraine has taken place in plain sight, but the identity of the whistle-blower and details of the allegations remained hidden. Mr. Trump attacked the whistle-blower on Friday as partisan while defending his conversations with foreign leaders as appropriate.

This intensifying furor is putting pressure on the legal rules for whistle-blower complaints filed by members of the intelligence community. This is how those rules are supposed to work.

A whistle-blower is someone inside an organization who sees a problem that is going uncorrected — like waste, fraud, abuse, criminal behavior or something that threatens public safety and security — and tries to bring it to light.

In ordinary parlance, a whistle-blower can be someone who speaks out publicly or provides information to journalists. But the government tries to maintain control of information by defining a whistle-blower, for legal purposes, as someone who follows certain procedures that channel a complaint to its internal oversight mechanisms — chiefly, inspectors general and congressional oversight committees.

As an incentive for raising concerns in the way the government prefers, the law provides safeguards to whistle-blowers who obey the rules, like shielding them from losing their security clearances or otherwise being punished in retaliation, like being passed over for promotion, transferred, demoted or fired.

Whistle-blowing within the intelligence community presents a special set of tensions, both because the government wants to keep classified information secret and because presidents of both parties have tried to maintain control over decisions about disclosing internal information to lawmakers.

Congress, however, generally disagrees with the executive branch’s expansive theory of presidential control over information. The two branches worked out a compromise that Congress passed as the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act in 1998 and amended in 2010 and 2014.

That law sets up a special process that allows intelligence employees or contractors to provide information to Congress in exchange for protecting them from retaliation or the threat of reprisal. Under that procedure, they submit the complaint for lawmakers to the intelligence community’s inspector general.

Under the law, the inspector general must decide within 14 days whether the information is credible. The inspector general must also determine whether the allegations amount to an “urgent concern,” meaning they relate to a “serious or flagrant problem, abuse, violation of the law or executive order, or deficiency relating to the funding, administration, or operation of an intelligence activity within the responsibility and authority of the director of national intelligence involving classified information.”

If the complaint meets that standard, the inspector general is supposed to forward it to the director of national intelligence. The law says that within seven days of receiving the complaint, the director in turn shall forward the material to the House and Senate intelligence oversight committees.

No. While the inspector general for the intelligence community, Michael K. Atkinson, told Congress that he had determined that the complaint was credible and qualified as an “urgent concern,” Mr. Maguire has refused to transmit it to Congress.

The Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act says that if the inspector general rejects a complaint as not credible or not presenting an urgent concern, the official who filed it may still then provide the information to Congress. But in order to continue to be legally protected from reprisal, he or she must obey directions from the director of national intelligence on how to approach lawmakers in a way that secures classified information.

That raises another loophole: The whistle-blower first must obtain specific directions from the director of national intelligence before he or she can obey them. Here, Mr. Maguire is apparently refusing to provide any, according to a House Intelligence Committee official.

Mr. Maguire’s top lawyer, Jason Klitenic, has maintained that it is lawful for Mr. Maguire to withhold the complaint from Congress. Mr. Klitenic, who said he consulted the Justice Department, has made arguments in letters to Mr. Schiff both about how he interprets the statute and about constitutional law.

[Read letters from Mr. Atkinson, Mr. Schiff and Mr. Klitenic.]

He disputed Mr. Atkinson’s determination that the complaint meets the legal standard of an “urgent concern,” stressing that it involves the activities of someone — apparently Mr. Trump — who is outside Mr. Maguire’s authority. But Mr. Atkinson has said that what matters is that the activity “relates to one of the most significant and important” of Mr. Maguire’s “responsibilities to the American people,” so it does fall within the legal standard.

Mr. Atkinson has also raised a broader concern with the Justice Department’s notion that the director of national intelligence can proclaim that a complaint, filed in the “urgent concern” process, falls outside its scope: It suggests that the current whistle-blower has no legal protections from reprisal, and could deter future whistle-blower complaints, as well.

Mr. Klitenic also suggested that Trump administration lawyers think the Constitution gives the president a legal right to order Mr. Maguire to defy a congressional subpoena for the whistle-blower complaint. The complaint pertained to “confidential and potentially privileged matters relating to the interests of other stakeholders within the executive branch,” Mr. Klitenic wrote.

In support of that notion, Mr. Klitenic pointed to claims by two Democratic presidents, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, when they signed the present system into law in 1998 and 2010. They asserted a constitutional right for presidents to control the disclosure of information to Congress related to their constitutional duties.

Lawyers for Congress and lawyers for the executive branch have long disagreed over where to draw the line between lawmakers’ power to obtain information and the president’s power to keep information secret.

There is little Supreme Court precedent because the two branches have generally resolved prior disputes through negotiation and accommodation. But Mr. Trump vowed to fight “all” congressional oversight subpoenas after Democrats took over the House this year, leading to a series of lawsuits. This issue may be fated to become another.

Whistle-Blower Complaint Is Said to Involve Trump and Ukraine

Sept. 19, 2019

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Schumer and Pelosi, Talking to Trump on Guns, Try to Sweeten the Deal

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WASHINGTON — The top two Democrats in Congress, seeking to ramp up pressure on Republicans to pass legislation extending background checks to all gun buyers, told President Trump on Sunday that they would join him at the White House for a “historic signing ceremony at the Rose Garden” if he agreed to the measure.

The offer, made by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, during an 11-minute phone conversation with Mr. Trump, comes as the president is considering a package of measures to respond to the mass shootings that have terrorized the nation in recent months. The three spoke only about gun legislation, according to aides.

Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement that the conversation was cordial but that Mr. Trump “made no commitments” on a House-passed background checks bill that Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer are urging him to support.

Mr. Trump “instead indicated his interest in working to find a bipartisan legislative solution on appropriate responses to the issue of mass gun violence,” Mr. Deere said.

Ms. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer want Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, to take up the bill, but the senator has refused to do so without knowing whether the president would sign it.

The Democratic leaders’ offer to the president was a bit of public posturing; they know that it is unlikely that Mr. Trump will embrace the House bill, which is strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association, the nation’s largest gun lobbying group and a major backer of the president. Polls show that roughly 90 percent of Americans favor extending background checks, and Democrats believe gun safety is a winning issue for them with voters, but Mr. Trump has gone back and forth on the issue.

“This morning, we made it clear to the president that any proposal he endorses that does not include the House-passed universal background checks legislation will not get the job done, as dangerous loopholes will still exist and people who shouldn’t have guns will still have access,” their statement said, adding, “We know that to save as many lives as possible, the Senate must pass this bill and the president must sign it.”

Their pressure continued a campaign on an issue that has dominated the political debate in Washington and on the Democratic presidential campaign trail since a string of mass shootings over the summer.

At last week’s Democratic presidential debate, former Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas, who has proposed a mandatory buyback program for assault weapons, declared, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”

The comment quickly went viral, playing into the hands of Republicans who fight gun bills by warning that Democrats will violate Americans’ Second Amendment rights. It also turned into a headache for Democrats on Capitol Hill, who are trying to propose what they often describe as “reasonable” gun legislation and are single-mindedly focused on forcing Republicans to take up the background checks bill, having decided to drop a push for an assault weapons ban.

“We know background checks work,” Representative David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island and a member of leadership, said Sunday on “Fox News Sunday,” adding: “The American people are demanding that we do something. It is no longer safe to be in synagogues and churches and shopping malls and schools.”

After back-to-back mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Tex., in early August, the White House initiated bipartisan talks with senators to determine what, if any, gun bills they might work on together. Aides to Mr. Trump presented the president with his options last week, but the White House has not said precisely what Mr. Trump is considering.

The talks have included discussion of the so-called Manchin-Toomey bill, a bipartisan Senate measure named for its chief sponsors, Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania. That bill is not as far-reaching as the House measure; it would extend background checks only for commercial sales, not for private sales, and includes some exemptions for friends and family members.

A White House official, speaking anonymously to discuss internal deliberations, said on Sunday that the president had instructed his advisers to continue to work to find a range of policies that would go after illegal gun sales while protecting the Second Amendment, and expand the role of mental health professionals.

Senators participating in the talks say they also have included consideration of “red flag” legislation, which would make it easier for law enforcement to take guns from people deemed dangerous by a judge. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, is working on such a bill in the Senate.

In arguing for the background checks bill, Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi said people subject to such orders might still be able to purchase firearms if the background checks system is not expanded. They vowed in their statement to “accelerate a relentless drumbeat of action to force Senator McConnell to pass our background checks bills.”

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