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Biden's campaign for social justice.
October 7, 2022
In an act of mercy and social justice, Joe Biden used his presidential power to pardon thousands of people convicted under federal law for simple possession of marijuana. See WhiteHouse.gov, Statement from President Biden on Marijuana Reform | The White House. The blanket pardon will help thousands to find employment, apply to college, and obtain federal benefits that would otherwise be denied because of conviction of an act now legal in many parts of the US.
Biden’s compassionate use of pardons stands in stark contrast to his predecessor’s use of that power to pardon traitors, coup plotters, fraudsters, thugs, cronies, and family. (E.g., Michael Flynn, Steve Bannon, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Charles Kushner, George Papadopoulos, Dinesh D’Souza, and Fox News personality Jeannine Pirro’s ex-husband, Albert.)
Biden urged governors to follow suit by pardoning those convicted of state possession of marijuana. Some will undoubtedly follow suit, offering a second chance to tens of thousands convicted under state law. Biden also announced his intent to remove marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the classification that includes heroin, LSD, and fentanyl. In doing so, Biden is again stepping in where Congress has failed to act. See HuffPo, Marijuana Reform Is A Political Slam Dunk That Congress Couldn’t Handle.
Biden’s leadership on reform of marijuana criminalization is the latest in efforts that broadly advance social justice and equity by removing unfair burdens imposed on poor people and minorities through disparate treatment in the justice and educational systems, as well as the social safety net. Biden’s other efforts include continuing health care subsidies, expanding drug coverage for seniors, preventing foreclosures and evictions, forgiving student loans, prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people in federal housing, and ensuring access to reproductive liberty in emergency care.
Biden’s focus on social justice exceeds or rivals the record of every president since Lyndon Johnson. Who knew that “an old white guy” who grew up in the “tough on crime” era of the Senate in the 1980s and 1990s would turn out to be a social justice warrior? Biden’s latest move is another surprising but welcome development from a president who has exceeded the expectations of most of those who supported him in 2020.
True, many important promises remained unfulfilled, but those hopes have been dashed by recalcitrant members of the Democratic Party. Where Biden has the authority to act unilaterally, he has delivered on his promises to the American people. That he has done so to promote social justice and equity is a reflection of his decency and empathy. We are lucky to have him at this divisive moment in our nation’s history.
There are a half-dozen legal developments of note, covered briefly below:
The DOJ claims Trump hasn’t returned all of the documents he stole. Per the NYTimes, DOJ lawyers have told Trump’s attorneys that the US believes Trump has not returned all of the documents he stole on his exit from the White House. See NYTimes, Justice Dept. Is Said to Believe Trump Has More Documents. Per the Times, the DOJ’s top counter-intelligence attorney told Trump’s lawyers “he had not returned all the documents he took when he left the White House.” The message from the DOJ split Trump’s legal advisers into two camps—one counseling reconciliation and accommodation, another urging confrontation and denial. The latter camp won the internal debate (of course, it did!) and the two sides are at a stalemate.
The decision by Trump to withhold documents after the Mar-a-Lago search, if true, all but ensures his conviction on espionage and obstruction of justice charges. There can be no ambiguity in Trump’s mind at this point that continued possession of national defense secrets is wrongful and criminal. So, as maddening as Trump’s continued flouting of the law is, it is simply increasing the likelihood of his conviction on an indictment that will be issued—soon!
Expected indictments in Georgia. And as Trump stares down espionage charges, the Fulton County District Attorney in Georgia is said to be nearing the stage of issuing indictments—but is waiting until after the November midterms. See Business Insider, Georgia prosecutor investigating Trump will go quiet this week to avoid the appearance of influencing the election. But indictments can come as early as December, per report. It is welcome news that Georgia prosecutors are nearing the issuance of an indictment. Why the DOJ is not similarly positioned is unclear, but its recent activity on other fronts is encouraging.
Former Oath Keeper testified that Stewart Rhodes was in contact with Secret Service before assault on Capitol. At the trial of Oath Keeper leader Stuart Rhodes for seditious conspiracy, a former member testified that Rhodes claimed to be in contact with members of Trump’s Secret Service detail. See Newsweek, Oath Keepers' Stewart Rhodes Was in Contact With Secret Service: Ex-Member.
The testimony of the former Oath Keeper made only passing reference to a call between Rhodes and a presumed Secret Service agent in September 2020. If true, that information further implicates the Secret Service in the attempted coup. The Secret Service issued a non-denial denial, in which it said that the Oath Keepers were in touch with “the agency,” whereas Rhodes apparently had a relationship with a specific Secret Service agent. Let’s hope the DOJ is all over this issue.
Proud Boy pleads guilty to seditious conspiracy. In a significant victory, the DOJ obtained a guilty plea to a charge of seditious conspiracy from a member of the Proud Boys. See ABC News, Proud Boys member pleads guilty to seditious conspiracy for role in Jan. 6. Importantly, the defendant agreed to testify against other Proud Boy members charged with seditious conspiracy, who go on trial in December. The plea is notable because the defendant did not participate in the assault on the Capitol but engaged in planning and coordination—the same set of facts that applies to the head of the Proud Boys, Enrique Tarrio. Good work by the DOJ!
FBI agents leak information about Hunter Biden investigation. In a disappointing and potentially prejudicial development, FBI agents leaked to the Washington Post that they believe there is sufficient evidence to charge Hunter Biden with tax and gun possession charges. Per the Washington Post,
Agents determined months ago they had assembled a viable criminal case against the younger Biden. But it is ultimately up to prosecutors at the Justice Department, not agents, to decide whether to file charges in cases where prosecutors believe the evidence is strong enough to lead to a likely conviction at trial.
FBI agents don’t make the decision to prosecute; the US Attorneys assigned to the case do. So, by talking prematurely to WaPo about their conclusions, the FBI agents have effectively limited the ability of the US Attorney to make a decision that runs contrary to the leak by the FBI agents. The FBI has thus acted as the prosecutor—not its role. (This situation is very similar to James Comey’s rambling press conference about Hillary Clinton that effectively elected Trump as president.)
Without regard to Hunter Biden, the FBI—like the Secret Service—has rogue agents who are advancing a partisan conservative agenda. Let’s hope the DOJ is all over this issue.
Saudi Arabia’s decision to support Russian oil prices may have ended US-Saudi alliance.
In the confrontation between the US and Russia over Ukraine, Saudi Arabia sided with Russia by limiting oil production to prop up the price of Russian oil. That hostile action may spell the end for US-Saudi relations (which should have ended with the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, if not sooner). Senator Dick Durbin spoke for many in the Senate when he said the following:
From unanswered questions about 9/11 & the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, to conspiring with Putin to punish the US with higher oil prices, the royal Saudi family has never been a trustworthy ally of our nation. It’s time for our foreign policy to imagine a world without their alliance.
Saudi Arabia has miscalculated its leverage in US-Saudi relations. Oil is important to the US (although it is effectively oil-independent at the moment), but US military aid is existential to Saudi Arabia. Without US military aid and related training and security guarantees, Saudi Arabia is a weak nation in an unstable region. It would undoubtedly look to Russia to replace the US as its military protector, but that move would be unavailing.
Russia can’t impose its military will on a neighboring country with which it shares a 1,226-mile border. The notion that Russia can project its military prowess to prop up a vast desert kingdom nearly 4,000 miles away is risible. Quick question: How many aircraft carriers does Russia have? Answer: One—the same as Brazil and Thailand, and less than France (2), UK (2), Italy (2), Japan (2), China (2), and the US (11). Moreover, the single Russian aircraft carrier is so unreliable that it is accompanied by a tugboat that brings it back to base when it inevitably breaks down. See Business Insider, Russia's Only Aircraft Carrier Is Outdated and Plagued With Problems. Oh, and the single Russian aircraft carrier was built 30 years ago by—wait for it—Ukraine, which has told Russia it has no interest in upgrading the carrier to modern standards.
It is time for the US to recognize that Saudi Arabia is a corrupt cartel whose only purpose is to prop up a bloated royal family of 15,000 members. Let’s hope that Biden acts decisively, soon, so that we are no longer subject to economic blackmail by a criminal enterprise masquerading as a modern nation.
Every time I participate in a meeting with a grassroots group supported by readers, I am humbled and grateful in equal measure. Today, I spoke with AIRLIFT, which supports grassroots organizations that are doing extraordinary work to organize, register, and motivate voters in underserved communities and battleground states. It is impossible to describe the dedication and determination of the two groups featured in today’s call— Worker Power (in Arizona) and Carolina Federation (North Carolina). They are knocking on tens of thousands of doors in neighborhoods that can be hostile and threatening; they are working at the municipal level to petition city councils to clean up neglected streets as a way of organizing their communities; and they are being arrested for registering voters at a mall.
It is easy to be fearful and anxious if our view of the political landscape is confined to our large-screen television and small-screen smartphone. Those artificial views are subject to cynical manipulation by media interested in sensationalizing the news rather than reporting the truth. To see the real face of America and the people who are working every day to redeem its promise, get involved! Join a group and prepare to be inspired!
Regardless of what happens on Election Day 2022, we will need to be back at work the next week—win or lose. The only way to sustain our efforts over the long run is to surround ourselves with like-minded people working in common cause. If you have been waiting for the right moment to join the battle, this is it! If you are already part of a group, resolve to recruit at least one new member this month. Where to start? Post your offer to help (or recruit help) in the Comments section of today’s newsletter, which is open to all readers! And if you want to jump-start your efforts today, there is no better place than Chop Wood, Carry Water | Jessica Craven.
Talk to you tomorrow!