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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "The Blog"

Trump: “If you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID”

Westlake Legal Group dt-1 Trump: “If you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID” Voter ID Trump The Blog Fraud elections cereal

People on social media are laughing at him for saying this, but I forgot my driver’s license at home before a trip to the grocery store last week and they confiscated my Lucky Charms on the way out.

You think they’re going to let you walk out of there with yellow moons, green clovers, and purple horseshoes without knowing that you’re you?

In fairness to the man, having had a rich real-estate developer dad, odds are fair that he’s never personally shopped for groceries. Ever.

“The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes,” Trump complained. “When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It’s really a disgrace what’s going on.”

If you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID,” Trump continued. “They try to shame everybody by calling them racist, or calling them something, anything they can think of, when you say you want voter ID. But voter ID is a very important thing.”

I’m going to give him a pass on the cereal thing, mainly because I don’t want to have to deal mentally with how the world’s most powerful person arrived at the belief that ID is necessary to buy breakfast grains. What I can’t let go is his grasp of how voting works. Because Trump does vote, pretty regularly. He should know by now that you have to sign the registration book and whatnot. And in most states, unlike the process for buying Lucky Charms, you have to present ID. How does he imagine successfully bypassing all that by putting on a different hat or shirt?

Does he think voter fraud is usually committed by people in Groucho glasses?

I know, I know. Take him seriously, not literally. I try, but sometimes it’s hard. Case in point, here’s WaPo describing how his decision not to visit Aisne-Marne cemetery in France last weekend went down:

Trump was told that morning by Deputy White House Chief of Staff Zachary D. Fuentes that the Secret Service had concerns about flying Marine One through the rain and fog from Paris to the cemetery 50 miles away, and that a motorcade could be lengthy and snarl traffic in the area, according to one senior White House official…

But Trump quickly grew infuriated by a torrent of tweets and media coverage suggesting that the president was afraid of the rain and did not respect veterans…

Trump told aides he thought he looked “terrible” and blamed his chief of staff’s office, and Fuentes in particular, for not counseling him that skipping the cemetery visit would be a public-relations nightmare.

Someone sufficiently in tune with American priorities to get himself elected president shouldn’t need advisors to tell him that skipping a planned visit to a war cemetery is a bad idea, particularly when other world leaders are attending and dealing with the same weather you are. “You need ID to buy cereal” is actually a more plausible belief than “Maybe people won’t mind if I avoid the inconvenience of honoring fallen soldiers.” What was he thinking?

And what was he thinking two days later when he skipped a trip to Arlington on Veterans Day, which would have required a 10-minute car ride? You can blame Kelly for the Paris snafu if you insist but the Arlington absence later is inexplicable.

Anyway. My best theory for his “cereal” comment is that someone may have made a joke on “Fox & Friends” about getting carded while trying to buy groceries and he misunderstood. Exit question via Reason: Does Trump think most people are paying for their groceries by check, maybe? He’d be way wrong in believing so but you would at least need ID in that case.

The post Trump: “If you buy a box of cereal — you have a voter ID” appeared first on Hot Air.

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Jeff Flake: I won’t vote to advance any of the 53 judicial nominees who are pending until we vote on a bill to protect Mueller

Westlake Legal Group ff-1 Jeff Flake: I won’t vote to advance any of the 53 judicial nominees who are pending until we vote on a bill to protect Mueller The Blog Supreme Court SCOTUS republican mueller Mitch McConnell Jeff Flake coons bill

He’s a member of the Judiciary Committee, remember, which is currently split 11/10 between Republicans and Democrats. If Flake votes no, nominees pending in the Committee will come to the floor without the Committee’s recommendation.

And if he votes no on the floor then McConnell starts with just 50 votes, the bare minimum. Would Susan Collins vote no with him? Last week she said she was “concerned” about Matt Whitaker’s skepticism towards Mueller’s probe in 2017 and echoed Flake’s call for a bill that would protect the special counsel from being fired by Trump. If Collins joins forces with Flake here then McConnell’s in a hole and needs a Democrat to vote yes to get anyone confirmed. If Murkowski also joins Collins and Flake then McConnell needs two Dems. Maybe Bob Corker, who’ll be an ex-senator in January, will join them as well. Then McConnell needs three. Chuck Grassley has also seemed interested in the bill. That’s four.

Or, I guess, McConnell could just content himself with knowing that the Senate will have a few more Republican members two months from now and wait until then to confirm the 53 nominees. That’s the flaw in Flake’s stunt here. He’ll be gone soon, Cocaine Mitch won’t. Time is on the latter’s side — unless Collins and Murky decide to pick up next year where Flake off and find two other Republicans willing to blockade Trump’s judges and until the Mueller bill gets a vote. Would Ben Sasse go for that? Is there a single other Republican among the (likely) 50 remaining members of the caucus who’d join them? If in fact next year’s Senate ends up 53/47, as it appears, the pro-Mueller contingent will need four.

Flake said Monday evening that he hoped McConnell would change his mind after Sessions was forced out. “He’s said nobody’s been fired and the special counsel is not in danger. That is not the case now,” said Flake…

The Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act would require that the special counsel could only be fired for good cause, and would allow for the courts to overturn the firing if good cause could not be proved.

If the bill ever got to a Senate vote it would have a good chance of passing given that it is supported unanimously by Democrats and by several Republicans. But it has always faced very long odds of becoming law, given that it would require Trump signing on to a measure that limits his own powers.

Flake and his co-sponsor of the legislation, Chris Coons, sought unanimous consent to advance it today. McConnell himself objected to deny them that, inspiring Flake’s new threat. If this isn’t resolved soon, Schumer may force the issue:

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer suggested Wednesday that Democrats may try to tack on the special counsel legislation to the spending bill that Congress must pass during the lame-duck session to prevent a government shutdown.

“If Mr. Whitaker does not recuse himself, we Democrats are going to attempt to add legislation to the must-pass spending bill in the lame duck session that will prevent acting Attorney General Whitaker from interfering with the Mueller investigation in any way,” Schumer said.

That’s different from Flake’s bill, which would add protections for Mueller rather than focusing on Whitaker, but Trump won’t like Schumer’s version either.

I wonder if McConnell would be as resistant to a floor vote on Flake’s bill as he is if the House were set to remain in Republican hands next year. With a GOP House that’s strongly loyal to Trump, McConnell might have allowed the Senate to pass it, trusting that Ryan’s caucus would kill it before it ended up on Trump’s desk and tempted him to issue an embarrassing, controversial veto. As it is, it’s highly likely that Pelosi’s caucus will pass a bill like Flake’s early next year; if the Senate passes its own version now, that’ll create extra pressure on them to pass the Democrats’ similar bill in 2019. No bueno for Trump and relations between the White House and McConnell’s caucus. So Cocaine Mitch is trying to bottle this up, as much as he can.

It’s not that tough a vote for Republican fencesitters, though. Conservatives like Mike Lee have already made the case that any such bill would violate separation of powers by infringing on the executive’s prerogatives. Any GOP senator anxious about alienating Trump could vote no and cite that principled objection as their reason rather than mere toadying to the president.

As for Flake, is he saying that he’ll vote against Trump’s judges or that he’ll merely vote present? If he and Collins vote present and all remaining Republicans vote yes, McConnell could still advance the nominees on a 49/49 vote with Pence casting the tiebreakers. If he and Collins vote against the nominees, that won’t work. Exit question: Might Senator Mitt Romney provide the fourth vote with Collins, Murkowski, and Sasse next year to blockade Trump judges unless this bill passes? I’m guessing … no, probably not.

The post Jeff Flake: I won’t vote to advance any of the 53 judicial nominees who are pending until we vote on a bill to protect Mueller appeared first on Hot Air.

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NY Times: First caravan migrants to reach the border are ‘considering their options’ for entering the U.S.

Westlake Legal Group caravan-border NY Times: First caravan migrants to reach the border are ‘considering their options’ for entering the U.S. Tijuana The Blog migrant caravan caravan border

It’s only the first wave but some of the caravan migrants have arrived in Tijuana, just across the border from San Diego. The NY Times reports those who have arrived are now weighing their options:

Their arrival in Tijuana marked the end of one struggle — making it safely to the United States border. But it signaled the start of another to get across that border, something that President Trump has promised to impede, even for those seeking asylum. Mr. Trump has labeled the caravan an invasion, deployed American soldiers to the border and made changes to asylum rules in efforts to confront it.

A few of the migrants who have made it to Tijuana were already trying to figure out how to get appointments with American border officials to present their cases for sanctuary, migrants’ advocates said. Most, however, appear to be biding their time and considering their options, including seeking sanctuary in the United States, trying to cross illegally or remaining in Mexico.

About 800 migrants associated with the caravan have made it to Tijuana so far, according to local officials and advocates, with thousands more still crossing Mexico and expected to arrive in the next several days.

That report at least has the value of being honest about the migrant’s intentions. Video circulated today of some of the first arrivals climbing a border fence along the beach. And yes, some of them jumped over and were captured by the border patrol on the U.S. side:

Wasn’t it just a week ago that CNN’s Jim Acosta lectured the president saying this sort of thing would not happen? Why, yes, it was:

The remaining caravan is still hundreds of miles away but they appear to be making good time hitch-hiking. Several thousand more migrants will arrive over the weekend or by early next week.

The Daily Wire published a video report by Ami Horowitz titled “The Truth Behind the Caravan” which gives an inside view of who makes up the caravan and who appears to be organizing it. It’s seven minutes long but definitely worth a watch:

The post NY Times: First caravan migrants to reach the border are ‘considering their options’ for entering the U.S. appeared first on Hot Air.

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Politico: Will Florida vote debacle get Bondi a Cabinet appointment?

Westlake Legal Group trump-bondi-sessions Politico: Will Florida vote debacle get Bondi a Cabinet appointment? The Blog recounts Pam Bondi kirstjen nielsen Jeff Sessions Florida donald trump Department of Justice Department of Homeland Security attorney general

Pam Bondi may well have emerged as Donald Trump’s first pick to replace Jeff Sessions anyway, but the mess unfolding in Florida may have given her an edge. Politico’s Marc Caputo and Anni Karni hear that Trump has begun relying on Bondi’s analysis to navigate the developments in the Lack of Sunshine State. That can only help Bondi move up the list of nominees for the next Attorney General — or perhaps another Cabinet position:

For the longtime close friend of Trump’s, the timing of the Florida recount, which the president has seized on to push unsupported theories about widespread voter fraud, offers a new chance to be front and center in his mind while he is also reorganizing his Cabinet and quickly shedding officials he has grown weary of. …

Throughout the early days of the transition and administration, Bondi pointedly refused to talk about her discussions with the administration, although she told some close associates she wasn’t interested in a job that would be a step down from her current role as the elected chief legal officer of the nation’s third most populous state.

But with a major cabinet shuffle underway — Trump is looking for replacements for both his attorney general and his Homeland Security secretary — Bondi’s name is being talked about again.

“He trusts her,” said Roger Stone, a longtime Trump adviser who lives in Florida. “They’ve always had an excellent personal rapport. She’s got a good TV presence; she’s very telegenic and that’s important to the president.”

Biondi’s name has already come up for the empty AG position, although not as prominently as Chris Christie’s. Of all the political picks to replace Sessions, Bondi might be the least troublesome in terms of the Senate confirmation process. Caputo and Karni report that the idea of Bondi as AG has gotten some pushback within the White House, apparently related to demands she made when they reached out for an earlier position in the administration. Another source tells them it wouldn’t matter, though, if Trump really wants her in the position. “If Trump could snap his fingers,” the source says, “she would be Attorney General tomorrow.”

Caputo and Karni raise another possibility, one that opened up this week. Kirstjen Nielsen is apparently on the way out at Homeland Security, according to several media outlets. Bondi might make a good fit there, and would still have the direct access to the president that she demanded in the earlier. That seems more of a stretch, however; Bondi’s experience fits the DoJ better than Homeland Security, although it certainly overlaps into it. She may not be too eager to take over the immigration-enforcement portfolio either, given Trump’s expectations of results and the grim reality of existing law.

From Trump’s perspective, Bondi should be an ideal candidate for the AG position, if Bondi can get through a Senate confirmation hearing. He’d have to consult with Mitch McConnell first to make sure, but it gives him precisely what he wants — a close ally at the DoJ with the resumé that demonstrates undeniable qualifications for the job. If Bondi’s serving as sherpa in the Florida debacle, that’s going to keep the DoJ more in mind than Homeland Security, too.

The post Politico: Will Florida vote debacle get Bondi a Cabinet appointment? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Trump: I’m supporting … bipartisan criminal justice reform?

Westlake Legal Group dt-7 Trump: I’m supporting … bipartisan criminal justice reform? Trump The Blog republicans REFORM prison Mike Lee Justice freedom caucus FIRST STEP Act democrats criminal conservative

The question mark in the headline is mine, not his. I just … can’t believe the following tweet might be accurate. But it might be.

We’re a ways away from him legalizing weed. It’s a longshot. But not a zero shot. Not quite zero.

How does a guy who ran as a strongman, Mr. Law and Order, who nudges cops to be a little rougher with criminal suspects than they need to be, who once called for the death penalty for the Central Park Five and hasn’t retracted to this day even though they’ve been proved innocent, turn around and endorse a broad criminal justice reform bill?

Hey, I’m not complaining. This may end up being one of the best, and most consequential, things he does as president. But it’s confounding. It reminds me, in fact, of a piece James Kirchick wrote last year about Trump in the first few months of his administration. “Trump’s a fascist!” lefties would say. To which Kirchick, remembering an old line about Eisenhower, countered that “Trump’s not a fascist, he’s a golfer.” Meaning, despite his habit of sounding Duterte-ish at times, let us say, he’s not enough of an ideologue to follow authoritarianism to its logical ends. A fascist couldn’t be talked into championing reforms aimed at easing mandatory sentences and reintegrating criminals, of all people, into society. Certainly he couldn’t be talked into it by Jared Kushner. But a golfer could.

The tentative legislative package, called the First Step Act, builds on a prison overhaul bill passed overwhelmingly this year by the House by adding changes that would begin to unwind some of the tough-on-crime federal policies of the 1980s and 1990s — which have incarcerated African-American offenders at much higher rates than white offenders.

The changes include shortening mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug offenses and changing the “three strikes” penalty to 25 years from life in prison. They would give judges greater ability to use so-called safety valves to sidestep mandatory minimums in some cases. And the bill would clarify that the so-called stacking mechanism making it a federal crime to possess a firearm while committing another crime, like a drug offense, should apply only to individuals who have previously been convicted.

It would also extend retroactively a reduction in the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine signed into law in 2010, which could affect thousands of drug offenders serving lengthy sentences for crack-cocaine offenses, which were dealt with far more harshly than the same crimes involving powder cocaine. That disparity hit black Americans hard while letting many white drug dealers off with lighter punishments.

The Fraternal Order of Police supports the bill. Between their backing and Trump’s, it’s a cinch to pass Congress, right? Well, hold on. Vox (yes, I know) has a nice deep dive into the politics of the First Step Act and the unusual coalition of opponents that’s arisen in the Senate. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, lefties who’d normally be all-in on reform, are against this bill because it’s fairly modest in its ambitions. (E.g., only tweaks to sentencing.) They worry that if it passes, many fencesitters in Congress will conclude that the legislature has done enough on this subject and broader reforms aren’t needed. And they also worry, of course, that handing Trump a victory on a liberal priority will only complicate their lives in 2020. Meanwhile, some Republicans like Tom Cotton — maybe eyeing his own platform in 2024 — insist that the bill goes too far, that America needs to be tougher on crime, if anything. Other Republicans like Chuck Grassley actually agree with Harris and Booker that the bill needs to be broader. Whether McConnell can get to 60 with defectors on both sides is unclear. But support from Trump is hugely important potentially in providing cover to Republicans who’d otherwise worry about alienating Trump fans if they voted yes. Now that POTUS is onboard, they can’t be accused of being “soft on crime” without Trump being accused of the same.

Incidentally, there’s reason to think the public is ready for a bill like this. New from Gallup:

Westlake Legal Group g-1 Trump: I’m supporting … bipartisan criminal justice reform? Trump The Blog republicans REFORM prison Mike Lee Justice freedom caucus FIRST STEP Act democrats criminal conservative

On a related question that asked about the seriousness of America’s crime problem, the share who said it was extremely or very serious dropped 10 points from last year to 49 percent, the first time it’s been under 50 since 2005. It’s surreal looking at the data on how stubborn Americans’ fears of crime have been for so many years, remembering the annual reports over the same period of how violent crime in major cities like New York had dropped to amazingly low rates after the highs of the early 90s. It’s also surprising seeing Americans feel better about crime now despite having a president who often plays up the threat, particularly from illegals and their Democratic fan base. It may be that Trump’s strongman persona is helping to reassure some worriers that the threat from crime has eased now that he’s in charge. If so, the criminal justice reform bill is a classic “only Nixon can go to China” moment. Ironically, his strongman image may have helped make otherwise skeptical parts of the population comfortable with the idea that we can afford to go a bit easier on some prisoners.

Here he is today at the White House. In lieu of an exit question, read Mike Lee’s op-ed laying out the conservative case for justice reform.

The post Trump: I’m supporting … bipartisan criminal justice reform? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Michael Avenatti arrested after allegation of felony domestic violence (Update: Avenatti says he’ll be exonerated)

Westlake Legal Group Avenatti-shouting Michael Avenatti arrested after allegation of felony domestic violence (Update: Avenatti says he’ll be exonerated) The Blog Michael Avenatti lapd domestic violence arrest

The man who has styled himself a champion for abused women has been arrested by the LAPD on “suspicion of domestic violence.” That’s according to Buzzfeed which confirmed the arrest after it was first reported by TMZ. Avenatti is reportedly being detained while he gives a statement to the police but hasn’t been booked yet. The Hollywood Reporter says Avenatti was arrested today for a complaint filed yesterday:

Michael Avenatti was arrested on suspicion of felony domestic violence on Wednesday, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

A report for the alleged abuse was filed Tuesday, a Los Angeles police spokesman said.

TMZ initially reported that, according to law enforcement sources, Avenatti’s estranged wife had a “swollen and bruised” face. However, there is now an update at the site which reads: “We were initially told by our sources the alleged victim was Avenatti’s estranged wife. We now know it was not. The incident involved a different woman.” That dovetails with this statement from an attorney for Avenatti’s estranged wife to Buzzfeed denying she was involved:

In any case, TMZ also has an eyewitness who saw Avenatti and the unidentified woman shouting at an LA apartment complex today:

We’re told during Wednesday’s confrontation the woman ran out of the apartment building and was on the sidewalk on her cellphone with sunglasses covering her eyes, screaming on the phone, “I can’t believe you did this to me.”

We’re told security brought her inside the building and Michael showed up 5 minutes later, ran into the building, chasing after her. He screamed repeatedly, “She hit me first.” We’re told he angrily added, “This is bulls***, this is f***ing bulls***.”

One thing everyone agrees on, including the Associated Press, is that Avenatti was arrested. So there appears to be a real allegation against him by someone.

Okay, here’s my one caveat which I feel obliged to give: Avenatti hasn’t been charged yet and even if he is, he’s innocent until proven guilty.

With that out of the way, let’s just say that if this story holds up it will be one of the worst cases of hypocrisy in recent political history. Avenatti has made a name for himself trashing President Trump for his treatment of women. More recently, he jumped into the Kavanaugh confirmation with both feet, offering two unreliable witnesses one of whom claimed Kavanaugh had spiked the punch at parties to facilitate gang rape.

His whole persona has been as a progressive champion of women, not unlike Harvey Weinstein’s public reputation before the stories came out about him. Now the accuser has become the accused. That’s not a great look (again, if this pans out).

Here’s a question to ponder: Assuming this allegation doesn’t go away in the next few hours, does Avenatti’s most famous client drop him like a hot potato? It would be pretty awkward for Stormy Daniels to make her case against Trump with an alleged domestic abuser as her attorney. Does she decide it’s time to move on?

Just as significant to Avenatti’s future will be the reaction at CNN and MSNBC. Will the networks finally drop him now or will he get dozens of additional appearances to tell his side of the story? It’s hard to know which dumping would hurt him worse, CNN or Stormy. Either way, it’s hard to imagine his already flailing campaign for president going anywhere after this. I doubt this is what Democrats had in mind when he said the party needed a fighter.

Update: Avenatti denies any abuse, says he expects to be exonerated.

Update: Another update from TMZ saying there is a protective order requiring Avenatti to stay away from the alleged victim.

Law enforcement sources tell TMZ, the LAPD has already obtained an emergency protective order, prohibiting Avenatti from going near the alleged victim. We’re told they will serve him with the legal docs before he’s released from custody. We’re told he will be released on $50,000 bail.

Hard to believe the victim’s name will remain a secret much longer. I guess we’ll see.

Update: From the LAPD.

Update: Here’s the video of Avenatti’s statement after his release.

He sounds confident but then he always sounds confident even when he’s wrong. He can say he’s an advocate for women all he wants but the bottom line is that he’s saying the woman accusing him is not telling the truth and shouldn’t be believed. That’s a contradiction he should be asked about the next 12 times he’s on CNN.

The post Michael Avenatti arrested after allegation of felony domestic violence (Update: Avenatti says he’ll be exonerated) appeared first on Hot Air.

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Home security cameras are now solving crimes in Baltimore

Westlake Legal Group FaceRecognition Home security cameras are now solving crimes in Baltimore The Blog security cameras baltimore

Well, it’s happening in more places than just Baltimore, but they probably need the help more than most cities. The subject at hand is the trend of police departments solving crimes in greater numbers because of the increasing number of home and business owners who have external security cameras monitoring their property… and the street beyond. As this report from CBS Baltimore indicates, some cases which might otherwise have gone cold wound up being solved in short order.

When police needed a break to solve a high-profile murder in Federal Hill this year, they turned to neighbors who protect their own homes with security cameras.

For the first time ever, enough homeowners in Maryland have security cameras or video doorbell systems that police can tap into to solve crimes before they turn cold.

It’s like having dozens of police officers responding to a crime scene — except in reality it’s only a few officers.

That’s how local police are describing a relatively new crime-fighting tool that uses video from doorbell and security cameras to identify criminals and solve crimes.

That’s what happened in September when 25-year-old Timothy Moriconi was walking home from a relative’s house when someone came up and shot him in the head, apparently as part of a robbery gone bad. A person who lived in the vicinity heard the shot and went out to look, but the shooter was gone. The police were called, but Moriconi was pronounced dead at a local hospital. Nobody saw anything and there were no leads.

But the cops noticed that several of the residents in the area had security cameras installed on their homes and asked for the video. Soon they had a picture of the car used by the person fleeing the scene. Then from another camera, they had the license number. And now the suspect is in jail. Apparently, that’s happening more and more. As the price of these doorbell cameras and external security cams continues to come down, more and more homeowners and businesses are installing them. As long as they’re willing to turn over their recordings to the cops, it will be harder for people to commit crimes on the streets with impunity.

Of course, there’s one question hanging over this subject which I just have to ask. Every time I write anything about red light cameras, license plate readers or facial recognition technology, the libertarians come out of the woodwork screaming about how it’s an invasion of privacy and a plot by the government to monitor everyone’s movements and deprive them of their liberty.

Well… how about this? Is this okay? Are cameras installed by private citizens on their own property who then turn over video footage to the police something you can finally be comfortable with and give us a better chance of solving crimes? Or was this just unfair to the killer of Timothy Moriconi? Perhaps the cops should have been denied the video and left to sniff around the curb hoping the shooter left a trail of breadcrumbs.

If we get to the point where external home security cameras are so ubiquitous entire cities and towns are almost completely covered, criminals will eventually get the message. It’s certainly a cheaper solution than trying to afford a cop on every street corner in the country.

The post Home security cameras are now solving crimes in Baltimore appeared first on Hot Air.

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May: Cabinet approved Brexit agreement to regain “control of our money, laws and borders”

Westlake Legal Group may-pensive May: Cabinet approved Brexit agreement to regain “control of our money, laws and borders” Theresa May The Blog Parliament Northern Ireland ireland hard border European Union Brexit

It took five hours to accomplish, but Theresa May finally got her cabinet to back a draft agreement on Brexit. The quality of that support appears strained even in May’s own description, describing the decision and the days ahead as “difficult,” while noting that the cabinet’s support was “collective” rather than unanimous. In the end, the prime minister explains in her statement, the Brexit deal negotiated with the EU came down to a Hobson’s choice — this or nothing at all:

The choices before us were difficult, particularly in relation to the Northern Ireland backstop, but the collective decision of cabinet was that the government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration.

This is a decisive step which enables us to move on and finalise the deal in the days ahead.  These decisions were not taken lightly but I believe it is a decision that is firmly in the national interest.

When you strip away the detail the choice before us is clear. This deal, which delivers on the vote of the referendum, which brings us back control of our money, laws and borders, ends free movement, protects jobs, security and our union, or leave with no deal, or no Brexit at all.

I know that there will be difficult days ahead. This is a decision which will come under intense scrutiny, and that is entirely as it should be, and entirely understandable.

But the choice was this deal, which enables us to take back control and build a brighter future for our country, or going back to square one, with more division, more uncertainty, and the failure to deliver on the referendum.

The enthusiasm of the cabinet might best have been expressed by David Mundell, part of May’s cabinet as Scottish Secretary. Mundell told BBC reporter Nick Eardley that he’s not resigning and no one else will, either … at least for tonight:

That’s the good news. The bad news is that some of May’s own MPs might foment a no-confidence vote over the draft agreement. The Guardian does the math:

Rumours were swirling at Westminster on Wednesday night that some discontented pro-Brexit Conservative MPs could seek a vote of no confidence on Thursday by submitting a fresh flurry of letters to Sir Graham Brady, the chair of the backbench 1922 Committee.

If the total number of such letters reaches 48, Brady would have to announce a confidence vote. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chair of the backbench European Research Group (ERG), said he was “not surprised” if colleagues sent letters, but “the ERG does not have a collective view”. …

Several Brexiter ministers were unhappy about the terms of the deal. One senior leaver said it was “worse than expected”, while another said: “Several people are not in a happy place.”

However, May appeared to have secured the support of her cabinet for now, allowing her to press on with putting the agreement to MPs in a “meaningful vote”, likely to be held early next month.

Even without an immediate no-confidence vote, May could well see her government fall. Thanks to a bungled gamble on an early election last year, May depends on the Northern Ireland party DUP for her parliamentary majority. At least one of their MPs says May’s likely to end up in new elections after losing a parliamentary vote on the agreement, which he calls “a punishment beating” by the EU:

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Wilson said: “This is all about a punishment beating for the UK because they dared to vote to leave the EU. And unfortunately the Prime Minister has allowed that punishment beating to be administered.

“That punishment beating in my belief will damage the UK and damage the UK constitution.”

Mr Wilson said his party would not support the agreement.

So where will May find the votes for this new version of Brexit? Probably not in Labour, which is poised to take advantage of a Tory meltdown:

Labour is confident it can convince the majority of potential rebels to vote with their whip against the prime minister’s proposed Brexit deal, with a number of the party’s prominent Eurosceptics suggesting they would vote it down.

Tory sources had briefed that they believed up to 20 would back the government, but a number appeared to be already wavering on Wednesday, putting the deal at significant risk. …

Those 15 included prominent Brexiters such as Kate Hoey and Dennis Skinner, but also MPs who have been vocal about the need to honour the result of the referendum in their leave constituencies, such as Don Valley MP Caroline Flint and Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Gareth Snell.

However, Skinner is understood to have told allies he will not back the prime minister’s deal. Another leftwing Brexiter, Graham Stringer, said he was “almost certain” he too would vote against.

Hoey has confirmed she will not back the prime minister, writing in a blogpost for LabourList that the deal is “pandering” to threats from the Irish government.

Seems like there are a number of people who don’t buy May’s argument that this was the best deal the UK could get. Frankly, the wonder in this might be that the two sides could produce any agreement at all, although that doesn’t exactly make it good either. The solution to the Irish border issue was, as I speculated yesterday, an agreement that sticks the entire UK in a quasi-customs-union arrangement for the foreseeable future:

The backstop – the insurance policy to avoid a hard Irish border if future EU-UK trade talks fail – will now see the entire UK enter into bare-bones customs union with the European Union, with additional measures on both customs and regulations for Northern Ireland.

Although the backstop’s primary intention was to avoid a hard border and protect the Belfast Agreement, it has now lassoed the UK into a much closer trading relationship, for the medium term at least, than most Brexiters wanted.

With the EU acceding to the UK request to enter into a temporary customs arrangement for Britain as a whole, and not just a Northern Ireland-specific measure, the final iteration of the backstop may protect crucial east-west trade between Ireland and Britain.

Brexit formally takes effect from next March, at which point the UK will enter into a transition phase which will see it remain in the European single market and customs union until the end of 2020.

The provisions of the backstop will then kick in if the EU and UK have not yet concluded a deal on a future trading relationship that will keep the Border open.

Read the European Commission analysis here, but basically it means that the entire UK will remain in the customs union until the two sides agree on a solution to the Irish border issue. That’s not going to sit well with hardline Brexiters in Parliament, nor with those who voted for them. Still, if this goes to a national election, perhaps enough Brexiters will be sufficiently pleased at regaining control of immigration and monetary policy that they’ll be willing to endure the lingering customs-union issues. Given what happened over the previous twenty-seven months, half a loaf might look pretty attractive by now.

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Bob Corker: I haven’t ruled out running for president, you know

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Last night in this time slot we did a little handicapping of the 2020 Democratic primary field.

Is it time to start handicapping the Republican primary field?

Especially since you-know-who seems less than enthused about his job lately.

Meh, that’s an awfully thin reed to rest a “primary challenge” scenario on. This one is a little sturdier:

“I’ve not ruled it out. I’ve not ruled it in. Just, somebody needs to run on the Republican side,” [Jeff] Flake said on Friday in a lengthy conversation with POLITICO and The Hill. Flake said both outgoing Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Nebraska GOP Sen. Ben Sasse could give Trump a credible challenge…

“I hope somebody does [run], just to remind Republicans what it means to be conservative and what it means to be decent. We’ve got to bring that back,” Flake said. “You can whip up the base for a cycle or two but it wears thin. Anger and resentment are not a governing philosophy.”

No on Flake? All right, how about the guy who wrote this:

The Republican Party that so many of us care deeply about continues to be held hostage these days, and what I saw last week in a district I grew up in and know well is that there is a half-life to insults, bullying and an embrace of a post-truth world.

I heard it from young soccer moms and longtime Republican voters alike. They don’t want to condone behavior that is counter to what they’ve taught their children…

Republicans got a wake-up call last week. But will we wake up?

That’s Mark Sanford, who was upset in his primary by Trumpified challenger Katie Arrington and then watched as Arrington was upset by Democrat Joe Cunningham. The last time a Democrat held that seat in South Carolina Ronald Reagan was preparing to be sworn into his first term in office.

Sanford, Flake, Corker, and Kasich all have something in common that Ben Sasse doesn’t share — they’ll all be unemployed in January, with nothing better to do in the near term than stew about Trump. I don’t think Kasich would bother with a primary challenge for the simple reason that he’d run to the center, not to the right, and seems like the kind of guy who might convince himself that he has a real path to the presidency between Trump and a far-left Democratic nominee as an independent. If he runs, he’ll run third-party, I think. As for the others, I wonder if the midterm results plus the prospect of House Democrats hassling Trump over the next two years plus POTUS’s seeming disinterest in his duties over the last few days will lead some Republicans to quietly make plans for a run just in case Trump decides “to hell with it” and chooses not to bother with a second term. (Joe Scarborough has been pushing that theory for months.) If, hypothetically, he did announce next summer that he’d had enough aggravation and was headed back to Manhattan in 2021, satisfied that he’d accomplished more than any president in history including Washington and Lincoln, who’s the frontrunner on the right?

Would it be Pence or Haley? Obviously the party’s not nominating a Trump critic like any of the aforementioned. Trump’s base wouldn’t stand for it. The nominee will have a MAGA pedigree but both Pence and Haley are, well, MAGA-INO, for lack of a better term. Pence’s chief attribute as VP has been unflagging loyalty but no one’s excited about him and Trumpers are well aware that he’s a movement conservative who let himself be drafted into populist-nationalism for reasons of ambition. Conservatives are excited about Haley but Trumpers will remember how she basically went rogue at the UN and ran her own foreign policy, and the whispers that she was somehow behind that mysterious anti-Trump op-ed in the NYT a few months back will follow her around. Pence might see Trump fans rally behind him, though, for no larger reason than that he’s not Haley and can be expected to pander to them more. Steve Bannon knows who the true ideological threat to nationalism is between the two of them. If that means sticking with Pence as the lesser “evil” then that’s what it means.

That’d be a fun race, though. Exit question: Would there be room for an outsider with some populist credibility, like Tom Cotton, to jump in? The only way for a lesser-known pol to make his mark on the Trump base quickly would be to out-hawk the top-tier people on immigration. Cotton co-authored the RAISE Act so he has some cred. If he were to land an administration job in the near term he’d instantly become top-tier himself. Maybe even the favorite.

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LA Times: Trump in a “cocoon of bitterness and resentment” over midterm results

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I say this only half-jokingly: How can they tell? Isn’t he always like that?

It’d be like writing of me, “Blogger glib, sullen, mildly intoxicated because of XYZ.” There’s no “because of.” That’s the default mode.

This might explain his no-shows at Aisne-Marne and Arlington over the past few days, though.

With the certainty that the incoming Democratic House majority will go after his tax returns and investigate his actions, and the likelihood of additional indictments by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, Trump has retreated into a cocoon of bitterness and resentment, according to multiple administration sources…

[A]ccording to a source outside the White House who has spoken recently with the president, last week’s Wall Street Journal report confirming Trump’s central role during the 2016 campaign in quietly arranging payoffs for two women alleging affairs with him seemed to put him in an even worse mood…

“Not only did he barely show up [in Paris], he didn’t say anything that would help Americans understand the scale of the loss, or the importance of avoiding another great war,” [former Bush ambassador Nicholas] Burns said. “He seemed physically and emotionally apart. It’s such a striking difference between the enthusiasm he showed during the campaign and then going to Paris and sulking in his hotel room.”

He added, “The country deserves more energy from the president.”

Imagine how good it must feel to a Bush loyalist, after Trump destroyed Jeb two years ago, to throw “low energy” back in his face.

In all seriousness, though, read the Times story for the list of appearances Trump has missed or will miss this week. Skipping the visits to the cemeteries was curious; skipping all of the diplomatic stuff too has me a bit alarmed. The king of Jordan was in Washington today and didn’t get a meeting with POTUS. Mattis is headed to the Mexican border tomorrow to see how the deployment is going but Trump won’t accompany him. The ASEAN and APEC summits in the Far East are later this week but Pence, not Trump, will attend. Which is a big deal, according to one former White House aide who spoke to the LAT. Asian allies judge the president’s commitment to the region in part by his willingness to make the long trip and put in face time. Trump’s decision to skip it may affect diplomatic calculations in countries like Japan and South Korea.

Is the president under the weather, maybe? Or is he really so sulky about the midterms that he’s momentarily lost interest in the job? They did go pretty badly in hindsight, as I noted this evening, and Trump has more to fear than the average president does from a house of Congress flipping to the other party. Democrats are going to air his dirty laundry, and not just the administrative stuff. The personal stuff too. And the Mueller investigation will likely resolve soon, one way or another. Maybe he’s been given an inkling of how things are shaping up and is tending to that behind the scenes. If you believe the Spectator’s sources, Michael Cohen has now spoken to Mueller’s office and other prosecutors for no fewer than 80 hours. The president will certainly know the fallout from that before we all do.

Or maybe he’s worried about the 2020 map:

Here are three factors that should worry Trump and the GOP:

The midterm results were actually a terrible leading indicator for him. Turns out that without Hillary atop the ticket, Midwest states like Wisconsin are tough for Trump, and Southern states with rising Hispanic populations are slowly growing more Democratic. Long term, the GOP should be freaking out about this.

Trump and the GOP face two years of public investigations, coming from three different and dangerous directions: Robert Mueller, the state of New York and Congress. Two years of probing hell await.

The prolonged recovery is on borrowed time, and a recession could well hit at the worst possible time for Trump — in the thick of the presidential race. Live by the markets, die by the markets.

It’s hard to believe the Trumpian ego would ever allow pessimism about a popularity contest. Let me float a more prosaic explanation for his malaise: Maybe he’s just crashing after the weeks-long high of campaigning. Every politician enjoys seeing a friendly crowd but Trump seems to relish it in a way few others do. His off-the-cuff riffs at the mic sometimes sound like a chatty friend shooting the breeze with a buddy he hasn’t talked to in awhile. He spent two months basking in the adulation and now he’s back in his West Wing jail cell, having to police arguments among his staffers and figure out who the hell he’s going to staff the executive branch with after he fires half his deputies. It may be that he’s just bummed about all that, as any of us would be, and, uh … willing to jeopardize American alliances in the Far East while he works through it. Coulda happened to anyone.

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