Nebraska Democrat fired for saying he was ‘glad’ Rep. Scalise was shot

Washington (CNN)A member of the Nebraska Democratic Party was fired Thursday morning after an audio recording of him surfaced on YouTube saying he was “glad” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was shot at a congressional baseball game practice and wished the Louisiana Republican was dead.

In the expletive-laced recording, Phil Montag, then the volunteer co-chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party’s technology committee, blamed Scalise for seeking to take away people’s health care coverage through the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
“This motherf***er, like, his whole job is like to get people [to] convince Republicans to f***ing kick people off f***ing health care,” Montag can be heard saying in the recording in reference to Scalise.
    When he made the remarks, Montag was speaking to Chelsey Gentry-Tipton, the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party’s Black Caucus, and her friend, Destin Madison, according to the Omaha World-Herald and Nebraska Democratic Party Chair Jane Kleeb.
    It’s unclear how the conversation began, but the recording on YouTube starts with Madison asking, “So what is it you want to do?”
    Gentry-Tipton responds to Montag’s complaints by saying, “We know all of this.” Madison later is audible telling Montag that he has been recording him and plans to release the audio of their conversation.
    “I hate this motherf***er. I’m f***ing glad he got shot. I’m glad he got shot,” Montag says on the tape.
    “So then say something. So then say something,” Gentry-Tipton responds.
    “I’m not going to f***ing say that in public,” Montag replies.
    “You don’t have to say that in public. Then say something, say something,” Gentry-Tipton says again as Madison asks, “Well then, what are you saying it to us for? What are you telling us for?”
    “I wish he was f***ing dead,” Montag then says of Scalise.
    “Why are you telling us, but not telling anyone else?” Madison asks.
    “I’m trying to f***ing — because I’m trying to f***ing figure out (inaudible)” Montag says.
    “It’s ok, because I’ve been recording this conversation since you’ve come in, so I will publicly release it myself,” Madison says before the recording abruptly ends.
    Gentry-Tipton has come under fire for remarking on Facebook earlier this month that she thought it was “so funny” to watch congressmen “crying on live tv” about the trauma they experienced in the shootings at the Republican congressional baseball practice, according to the World-Herald. In the same chain, the World-Herald reported she wrote, “The very people that push pro NRA legislation in efforts to pad their pockets with complete disregard for human life. Yeah, having a hard time feeling bad for them.”
    The comments prompted the state Democratic Party leadership to call for Gentry-Tipton’s resignation as Black Caucus chairwoman, but she refused to do so, saying in a statement on Facebook that her posts were taken out of context by party officials and that she would not resign “at this point,” the World-Herald reported.
    Kleeb, the state Democratic chair, told CNN she made the decision to fire Montag when she saw the video.
    “He made disgusting comments about a member of Congress, and we relieved him of his volunteer position of the party on Thursday morning as soon as we saw the video,” Kleeb said. “It’s a disturbing time in politics. I’ve worked in politics for over 10 years, and I’ve never seen such hateful rhetoric from both the right and left.”
    Montag could not be reached for comment Saturday. He told the World-Herald that the recording was edited to take his words out of context, adding that he was “horrified” by the shooting of Scalise and “absolutely” did not wish he was dead.
    “I did not call for the congressman’s death,” Montag said.
    Montag also told the World Herald that the recording posted on the internet Wednesday night was a small part of a conversation that lasted 30 minutes to an hour.
    Gentry-Tipton and Madison did not return immediate requests from CNN for comment on the recording or Montag’s allegation that it had been edited to take his words out of context.
    Nebraska is a one-party consent state, which means it is legal for an individual to record others without their knowledge as long as the person recording is a party to the conversation.
    Scalise, a member of the Republican baseball team, was hospitalized after a gunman opened fire while Republican members of Congress were practicing earlier this month in Alexandria, Virginia, ahead of the annual charity baseball game.
    The congressman went through multiple surgeries after the shooting and is still hospitalized, although he was released from intensive care Thursday.
    The shooter, 66-year-old James Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois, died from gunshot wounds he sustained in a shootout with police at the practice field, federal law enforcement officials said.
    The incident marks the first time a sitting member of Congress was shot since Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords was targeted by a gunman in 2011.

    Read more:

    Mom shares the crushing cost of her son’s medical care before the Senate votes on healthcare bill

    Before the Senate votes on its bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, many people are sharing stories of how the bill would affect them.

    One story struck a chord with thousands of Twitter users this weekend. The mom of 3-year-old Ethan Vikash shared a photo of a medical bill for her son’s open heart surgery. The 24-line item bill came to $231,115 for 10 hours in surgery, one week in the hospital’s cardiac intensive care unit, and one week on the hospital’s cardiac floor.

    With insurance, Ethan’s family only had to pay $500 out-of-pocket. But if Congress passes a healthcare bill that imposes lifetime caps on what insurance companies will cover, families that deal with childhood illnesses or heart conditions like Ethan’s would be well beyond priced out of life-saving care.

    The thread covering the cost of Ethan’s healthcare got turned into a Twitter moment.

    The story resonated with thousands of Twitter users who are scared about what will happen if Congress and President Donald Trump gut the Affordable Care Act’s restrictions on lifetime caps.

    Read more:

    Clinton: GOP will become the ‘death party’ if Senate bill passes

    Former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton came out swinging in a tweet Friday, saying if Senate Republicans pass their current healthcare bill, they will become the death party.

    Clintons post referenced an article from the Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan policy institute, which cited Harvard researchers as saying the Senate bill could result in 18,000 to 28,000 deaths in 2026.

    The tweet from Clinton follows an earlier tweet urging her supporters to “speak out against” the bill.

    In a lengthy Facebook post on Thursday, former president Barack Obama offered his take on the bill, saying “if theres a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family this bill will do you harm.”

    Former vice president Joe Biden also tweeted his opinion of the GOP health care bill on Friday evening, labeling the legislation a “wealth transfer.”

    Read more:

    Hillary Clinton: GOP is ‘death party’ if health care bill passes

    Washington (CNN)Hillary Clinton has a new name for the Republican Party if Congress manages to pass the Senate health care bill: “death party.”

    The Democratic presidential nominee’s Twitter account shared a study Friday afternoon from a progressive think tank, the Center for American Progress, predicting that the Senate bill could lead to between 18,000 and 27,000 additional deaths in 2026 if those people have no coverage.
    “Forget death panels. If Republicans pass this bill, they’re the death party,” she tweeted.
      “Death panels” is a reference to a line of attack that that was used by some Republicans amid debate on the Affordable Care Act in 2009, suggesting that Obamacare would have the government determine whether elderly people or people with special needs “deserve” care.
      The discussion surrounded a provision that would have used Medicare funds to pay for doctors to discuss end-of-life options with patients — but that proposal did not end up becoming part of the ACA.
      This is Clinton’s fourth tweet about health care since the Senate bill was released Thursday morning. She encouraged people to call their senators about “Trumpcare,” and she retweeted a former adviser to her campaign who shared a graphic showing possible effects of proposed Medicaid cuts on children.
      Earlier Friday, her Twitter account shared a Facebook post from former President Barack Obama denouncing the bill.
      So far, Republicans in the Senate have expressed some reservations with the bill, and most of them are still reviewng the text, according to CNN’s whip count.
      But several have pointed out that the Republican bill improves on Obamacare, which they say was a large-government approach to health care that does not deliver the benefits it promised for patients.
      Sen. David Perdue of Georgia said: “After reviewing the initial working draft, I believe it includes many substantial fixes to our broken health care system…Obviously, this will not be the final bill, but I’m hopeful that we can resolve the remaining disagreements and deliver a consensus bill that is a vast improvement over Obamacare.”
      Former Vice President Joe Biden also tweeted criticism of the Senate measure.
      “The Senate health bill isn’t about health care at all — it’s a wealth transfer: slashes care to fund tax cuts for the wealthy & corporations.”
      His tweet echoed Obama’s message the day before: “The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill,” Obama’s Facebook post read. “It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America.”

      Read more:

      The Resistance Now: activists say ‘hell no’ to Republican healthcare bill

      Progressives sprung into action with dozens protesting outside the Senate majority leaders office, while Democrats took stock after Ossoffs loss

      So about that healthcare bill…

      Dozens of people were arrested after protesting outside Senate majority leader Mitch McConnells office on Thursday including some in wheelchairs as Republicans unveiled Republicans unveiled Trumpcare 2.0 (or are we on 3.0 now?).

      Activists from disability rights organization Adapt gathered outside McConnells office to demonstrate against the bill, which would dramatically cut Medicaid and strip funding from Planned Parenthood, to name just two measures.

      A protester is led away by police on Thursday. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

      Progressive organizations sprung into action to try to defeat it.

      Our Revolution set up a page on its website urging people to take action to stop AHCA [the Senate bill is called the Better Care Reconciliation Act but many of the principles are the same as the AHCA House bill] and prevent millions from losing their healthcare.

      The organization has provided a number which will connect people to their Senators office, and has also provided some talking points.

      AHCA would leave 23 million Americans without healthcare.

      The bill would allow insurance companies to discriminate against patients and deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

      A majority of voters strongly oppose repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare).

      Americans want to expand healthcare, not gut it. In fact, two-thirds of Americans support Medicare for all.

      Indivisible has its own page too, where people can submit amendments to their senator. This is about applying your constituent power directly to the process, Indivisibles website says. They also have an extensive list of reading material and a script people can use when talking to their representatives.

      Ossoff: doomed from the start?

      Thats what a number of progressives told the Guardian, after the 30-year-old lost to Republican Karen Handel in Tuesdays special election.

      Jon Ossoff ran on a centrist, Clinton-esque platform that focussed on rather beige, uncontroversial issues like government waste. There was no talk of universal healthcare and little of welfare issues. He ran in what has traditionally been a Republican stronghold, and lost by only five points, but Ossoff was basically the opposite of the kind of populist candidate the left believes is the way forward.

      Hes not in favour of single-payer healthcare, hes not outspoken on campaign finance reform, said Moumita Ahmed, founder of Millennials for Revolution. Why would I as a Republican vote for someone who isnt a Republican, but still has the same values as a Republican?

      Ossoff plus balloons. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

      Winnie Wong, from People for Bernie, said Ossoffs run the election was the most expensive House race in history, by the way was a massive failure of Democratic party leadership.

      He didnt have a core progressive message and that ultimately is why he lost. The Democratic party could spend $100m and he would still lose. Because he didnt stand for anything.

      but there is hope for a Brand New Congress

      Thats the name of a group that selects, trains, supports and promotes progressives who want to run for Congress.

      Brand New Congress (BNC), formed in April 2016, currently has 14 candidates who have announced their 2018 mid-term campaigns, including several who are running against incumbent Democrats.

      We essentially provide full service campaign service, BNCs Corbin Trent told the Guardian this week. Brand New Congress manages press request, helps with events and ballot access, does opposition research on incumbents, and can even help with speechwriting.

      Brand New Congress has organized a weekend canvassing kick off for its candidates (who are from across America) on Sunday. Each of the candidates all of whom are running on progressive platforms are holding events to boost their campaigns.

      Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is running against incumbent Democrat Joseph Crowley in New Yorks 14th congressional district, organized for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016.

      We have the capacity and opportunity to be ambitious in legislation, Ocasio-Cortez told the Guardian. Because the world is changing in ways weve never seen before.

      What were reading

      • Were in the midst of an all-hands-on-deck emergency, writes Rebecca Solnit, in which new groups and coalitions are emerging along with unforeseen capacities in many people who didnt previously think they were activists. Solnit says there are extraordinary things happening in this moment, in an uplifting survey of the activist land.
      • Progressives should try to speak conservative to score victories, historian and LGBTQ strategist Nathaniel Frank writes in the LA Times. He says the successes of the LGBTQ movement came when activists learned to speak the language of those they most needed to enlist rather than those who already agreed with them.

      Ron Swanson reimagined as Berniecrat progressive

      Parks and Recreations Ron Swanson … an eerie doppelganger for a Democratic candidate whos making headlines. Photograph: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

      Randy Bryce, known as @IronStache on Twitter, sprung to fame this week when he announced his challenge to Republican house speaker Paul Ryan. In his favour? An evocative campaign advert, a leftwing message, and the mustache, denim and workboots of an all-American.

      That masculine, blue-collar image prompted one Twitter user to suggest Bryce was genetically engineered from Bruce Springsteen songs, while several people compared the Democrat to the Parks and Recreation character Ron Swanson. Just not a libertarian.

      Randy Bryce is running for Paul Ryans seat in Congress. Photograph: YouTube

      Sign up for weekly news updates about the protests and activism in the US

      Read more:

      Trump Reaches Out To Lawmakers On Healthcare As Another Says ‘No’

      By Jeff Mason and Yasmeen Abutaleb | WASHINGTON

      President Donald Trump made calls to fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate on Friday to mobilize support for their partys healthcare overhaul while acknowledging the legislation is on a very, very narrow path to passage.

      Five Republican senators have announced they will not support the bill, which is designed to repeal and replace Obamacare, in its current form.

      White House officials said on Friday that Trump has been in touch with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and made calls on Thursday and Friday to other lawmakers.

      Trumps role is expected to become more pronounced in coming days as the vote nears. Senate Republican leaders may rely on the deal-making former businessman to lean on conservative senators who are balking at the bill.

      Were pleasantly surprised with a lot of the support thats already come out and I think well continue to work through (it,) in particular the four individuals who have expressed some ideas and concerns, White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters at a White House briefing.

      After Spicer spoke, Republican Senator Dean Heller became the fifth Republican opponent on Friday, saying he would not support the bill in its current form. Stocks in the Dow Jones Industrial Average pared gains after his announcement.

      This bill thats currently in front of the United States Senate is not the answer, Heller said at a news conference.

      That could add Hellers name to Trumps call list. A White House official said the Trump has pushed his team to stay involved and plans to flex his negotiating muscle, the official said.

      The Senates 142-page proposal, worked out in secret by a group led by McConnell, aims to deliver on a central Trump campaign promise to undo former President Barack Obamas signature healthcare law, which has provided coverage to 20 million Americans since it was passed in 2010.

      Republicans view the law, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, as a costly government intrusion and say individual insurance markets created by it are collapsing.

      On Thursday, four of the Senates most conservative members said the new plan failed to rein in the federal governments role.

      Rand Paul, who has rejected the plan along with fellow Republican Senators Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and Ron Johnson, said fundamental problems remained that would leave taxpayers subsidizing health insurance companies.

      Trump, in an interview with Fox News that aired on Friday morning, called the group of conservative lawmakers four very good people.

      Its not that theyre opposed, he said. Theyd like to get certain changes. And well see if we can take care of that.

      Trump said getting approval would require traveling a very, very narrow path but that But I think were going to get there.

      Trump took an active role as the House of Representatives worked on its own healthcare bill, holding regular meetings with representatives at the White House as it made its way through numerous committees. He celebrated its narrow passage last month in a Rose Garden event with House Republican leaders.

      Trump later criticized the House bill privately as mean and this week called for a health plan with heart. He indicated the Senate plan met that request.

      McConnell said in an interview with Reuters last month that he told Trump early on in the process that he did not need his help but that there may be a role for him later.

      The Senate bill maintains much of the structure of the Houses but differs in key ways. It would phase out Obamacares expansion of the Medicaid program for the poor more gradually, waiting until after the 2020 presidential election, but would enact deeper cuts starting in 2025. It also would provide more generous tax subsidies than the House bill to help low-income people buy private insurance.

      (Reporting by Jeff Mason, Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell, Yasmeen Abutaleb, Caroline Humer, Lewis Krauskopf and Susan Heavey; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Bill Trott)

      Read more:

      Grand Jury’s ‘Myth’ Report On A California Jail Snitch Scandal Draws Criticism

      LOS ANGELES A grand jury in California that investigated an Orange County jailhouse informant program, which a Superior Court judge and a state appeals court have agreed clearly exists, issued an unsettling report last week claiming that it is a myth largely created by the defense in a mass murder case and the media and that there is no widespread cheating by district attorneys and sheriffs officials, even though another ruling Friday in a murder case again indicated it is true.

      At the center of the scandal are allegations that sheriffs deputies have for decades planted informants next to targeted inmates in the countys jails and have directed them to fish for incriminating evidence to help secure convictions. While its legal for law enforcement authorities to use informants to help bolster cases, in many Orange County trials, its alleged that the informants questioned inmates who were represented by lawyers, violating their right to counsel. Prosecutors are accused of presenting damning evidence gathered by the informants in court while withholding other evidence that could have been beneficial to the defense. That would violate a defendants right to due process.

      While the Orange County grand jury conceded that there have been some violations in a small number of cases, its largely due to laxness in supervision at the agencies, which, the grand jury said, have moved to correct course.

      The grand jury also found that ongoing hearings related to the misuse of informants inside county jails, which are being conducted as part of the penalty phase in the case against mass killer Scott Dekraai, are nothing more than a witch hunt that the grand jury suggested should be stopped.

      Dekraai pleaded guilty to murdering eight people in a Seal Beach hair salon in 2011. He is still awaiting sentencing while the courts wrangle over allegations of malfeasance in the use of a jail informant who was allegedly planted in a cell next to Dekraai. At stake is whether the court will impose a death sentence.

      The Orange County Sheriffs Department and Orange County district attorneys office have long denied that their officials have cheated to secure convictions. And the grand jury indicated that they should be believed.

      But the grand jurys findings fly in the face of years of litigation, a mountain of evidence and multiple court rulings.

      Just Friday, an appeals court unanimously affirmed a ruling that the district attorneys office improperly withheld records on a jailhouse informant used in the 2005 double-murder trial of Henry Rodriguez, who was freed in May 2016 after spending 18 years in prison. His attorney told the Los Angeles Times that he was never contacted by the grand jury about Rodriguezs case.

      The grand jurys findings have left many legal experts startled and deeply concerned that there must be an outside, independent probe of the allegations, beyond the investigation by the countys grand jury.

      I was surprised and distressed by the grand jury report, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of law at the University of California, Berkeley, told HuffPost.

      Laura Fernandez, a senior Liman Fellow at Yale Law School who studies prosecutorial misconduct around the nation, said that this situation calls for a genuinely independent inquiry, one that asks real questions in the hopes of getting real answers.

      Heres some of the reasons the report left many feeling that an independent probe is desperately needed now more than ever before.

      Gail Fisher via Getty Images
      The jailhouse informant program in Orange County is believed to have roots that go back decades.

      Grand jury says its just rogue deputies who worked informants improperly, despite court evidence.

      While the grand jury accepts that the Orange County Sheriffs Department may be using jailhouse informants, in its report it advances a narrative that sheriffs supervisors gave at recent Superior Court hearings linked to the jail informant scandal. They testified that it was merely a small group of rogue deputies who were illegally working with informants that violated the rights of numerous defendants and that it was done behind the backs of their supervisors.

      But that narrative disintegrated over the last two weeks of testimony as a deputy and a supervisor indicated that the departments upper management were aware of deputies actions with jail informants and that deputies received supervisor approval to do that work. Theres also a stack of internal memos that have been produced in court that detail the clear understanding of widespread use of jailhouse informants all the way up the chain of command at the sheriffs office for more than a decade.

      One internal memo, dated March 2007 and sent from a sheriffs sergeant on up to a captain, celebrates the intelligence gathering skills of the Special Handling unit at one county jail. It states that the jail unit possesses an excellent expertise in the cultivation and management of informants expertise recognized by the Orange County District Attorneys Office as well as numerous law enforcement agencies throughout Southern California.

      A 2009 internal OCSD memo sent to command staff requests permission from an assistant sheriff to place an informant next to an inmate charged with murder so the conversation can be recorded. The assistant sheriff granted permission the same day it was requested.

      Orange County Courts

      A 2008 memo from deputies to members of the departments command staff indicates that nearly a decade ago the OCSD admitted it had already cultivated hundreds of confidential informants.

      Another internal memo from 2007 details a large informant presence in the jails, saying there were in excess of 40 [informants] throughout the facility at the time.

      Theres also an internal memo once posted on a wall in the office of the Special Handling unit, which dealt with jail informants. The memo listed deputies duties, including Cultivate/manage Confidential Informants.

      Orange County Superior Court

      Before their report was published, grand jurors heard the testimony and observed the key documents being discussed in the courtroom. Grand jurors also had access to court briefs on the internal OCSD memos and other evidence. But the report doesnt address that testimony or evidence.

      The sheriffs department, responding to a request for comment, directed HuffPost to its statement last week on the release of the grand jury report that says it validates many past statements made by Sheriff Sandra Hutchens regarding the use of jailhouse informants and confirms a departmentally sanctioned program does not exist.

      Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
      Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens’ past denials of a jailhouse informant program were confirmed by the grand jury report, the sheriff’s department said last week.

      Report doesnt address accusations that the D.A.s office failed to turn over internal informant records.

      The Orange County district attorneys office maintains a database of informant records called the Orange County Informant Index, a set of records on jailhouse informants maintained by the prosecutors office stretching back decades. But Assistant Public Defender Scott Sanders Dekraais defense attorney, who, in a series of bombshell motions, has unearthed evidence of a long-concealed snitch program operating inside county jails argues that the D.A.s office has repeatedly failed to turn over those records in various cases and has struggled with producing these records for at least two decades.

      Sanders obtained a 1999 lettersent to Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas from the California attorney generals office in which David Druliner, who headed the state attorney generals criminal division, describes his serious concern about the unwillingness of prosecutors including the head of Rackauckas homicide unit to turn over informant evidence favorable to a man on death row. Druliner threatened to turn the evidence over himself, which ultimately forced the district attorneys office to comply.

      The grand jury report does address the existence of an informant database and concedes that some prosecutors have used flawed legal reasoning when deciding not to disclose informant information from it, but the report gives little sense of the scope of the problem, it does not address the letter nor what it suggests about Rackauckas apparent ambivalence to determining whether other cases were affected.

      Sanders told HuffPost that he sat down with the grand jurys informant committee and its adviser, former U.S. Attorney Andrea Ordin, and raised the issue of the Rackauckas-Druliner exchange but that they appeared disinterested.

      Omitting from the report any mention of the letter and the cases in which index entries were hidden over the past three decades corroborates that the grand jury was simply never going to call it straight when it came to the D.A.s office, Sanders said.

      Ordin did not respond to HuffPosts requests for comment.

      The D.A.s office misconduct identified by Superior Court Judge Thomas Goethals in the Dekraai penalty phase, which led to the OCDA office being recused from the case, was affirmed last November by the states 4th District Court of Appeal, but that ruling is addressed in the report only as a footnote.

      The D.A.s office was also found to be attempting to steer murder cases away from Goethals, a tactic called blanket papering. In 55 of 58 cases over two years, county prosecutors apparently tried to avoid Goethals. Superior Court Judge Richard King said the tactic had substantially disrupted the orderly administration of criminal justice in the county.

      Remember here the Court of Appeal described the behavior of the OC district attorney as egregious, Chemerinsky said. The D.A.s office abused its power by papering Judge Goethals in retaliation in 55 of 58 cases over a two-year period. The D.A.s own commission made recommendations that have been ignored. None of this is reflected in the grand jury report.

      Rackauckas has long maintained that no one in his office intentionally behaved inappropriately in relation to the jailhouse informant program and that no prosecutors have illegally withheld evidence.

      The district attorneys office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in response to the grand jury findings, it said last week that the report confirms the steadfast position of the district attorneys office and that the grand jury debunked the media witch hunt for agency corruption.

      Mike Blake / Reuters
      Decisions against the Orange County district attorney’s office were not addressed or were merely footnoted in the grand jury report.

      Would an illegally operated informant program have job descriptions and calendaring of events? Grand jury thinks it must.

      The grand jury strongly condemned the claims of what it called a structured jailhouse informant program operating in the Orange County jails and argued that allegations that the district attorneys office and sheriffs department conspired to violate inmates rights through the use of such a program are unfounded.

      That narrative does not stand up to factual validation, the report reads. The grand jury says it found no evidence of a strategic plan or schedule for jail snitches, no formal training, dedicated budget, codified job descriptions or calendaring of events for a jailhouse informant program.

      Legal experts were puzzled by this insistence that a shadow program in county jails wouldnt exist without having a formal organization.

      Noting the absence of definitive evidence of a structured jailhouse informant program, the grand jury simply dismissed outright the possibility of something more covert and loosely organized than what it allegedly set out to find, Fernandez, the Yale fellow, told HuffPost. The grand jury, Fernandez argued, never stopped to consider whether evidence of strategic plans, dedicated budgets and calendared events was something one might really hope to find in the context of an (illegal) informant program.

      Moreover, the grand jury does not explain why it has focused on determining whether a formally structured informant program existed instead of analyzing case by case how fair trials may have been affected by jail informant evidence.

      For instance, court records indicate that one section of the jail, called L-20, which was officially designated a mental health ward but has recently come to be understood as an informant tank, appears to have been used for years to obtain evidence in violation of defendants rights. The use of informant tanks is not discussed in the grand jury report.

      They omitted everything that would have decimated their conclusions, Sanders told HuffPost. For instance, before the rogue deputies did their work, supervisors bragged about the cultivation of hundreds of jail informants done by different deputies. Would those deputies qualify as rogue, too, even as their bosses gloated about the informant work they orchestrated? This group … showed not the slightest sign they were concerned about all the evidence kept from indigent defendants.

      Grand jury may have overstepped its authority in suggesting Dekraai hearings should end.

      The grand jurys report implies that Judge Goethals should cease the ongoing evidentiary hearings in the Dekraai case.

      Any further investigation of potential widespread, systemic institutional wrongdoing surrounding discovery or informant issues in Orange County would be far more appropriately addressed by these agencies and not by the trial court for the largest confessed mass murderer in Orange County history, the report reads.

      While a grand jury has broad authority granted by statute to investigate matters of local, city or county concern, it does not have the authority to investigate matters of state concern. Superior Courts are considered state courts.

      So, questioning an ongoing hearing conducted by a Superior Court judge appears to fall outside its mission.

      The grand jury report must be authorized by the Superior Court, but the court does have the right to refuse the filing if the report exceeds established legal limits, according to state statute. The courts are not bound to act upon the grand jury report other than to be informed by it.

      The public information officer for the Orange County Superior Court system, under which the grand jury falls, told HuffPost in a statement that the Superior Court signed off on the grand jury report before it was published and posted but that the presiding judge can reject a report if it exceeds the grand jurys authority. When asked if the court believed the grand jury may have exceeded its authority, the office said it could not provide insight into the judicial decision-making process.

      Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
      The office of District Attorney Tony Rackauckas has been recused from the Seal Beach mass murder case.

      Reports tone breeds skepticism.

      The tone of the report, whichis dismissive of the years-long efforts by multiple lawyers and judges in the county, has also raised questions about its fairness, particularly with information coming to light that the grand jurors met with dozens of prosecutors but few defense attorneys.

      The jail informant program is a myth, the grand jury declared. Current investigations of the sheriffs department and prosecutors are a witch hunt, it said. And even when the grand jury argued that just a few deputies might have illegally used jail informants, the deputies were presented as having somewhat noble intensions, that they had gotten carried away with efforts to be crime-fighters.

      Once I saw them describe the investigation as a witch hunt, I was very skeptical of the report, Chemerinsky said.

      Fernandez said that the grand jury opting to use such incendiary language was disturbing because it flies in the face of contrary, carefully reasoned findings by the two courts who have considered the question the most closely.

      That language, like the reports broader findings, has left everyone familiar with the situation scratching their heads including, unfortunately, some of the victims, Fernandez said.

      Fernandez referred to the reaction of Paul Wilson, whose wife, Christy, was one of the eight people killed by Dekraai. A myth? What a slap in the face to each of these families, Wilson said to the court. We have had to suffer through this, and they call it a myth.

      The Orange County allegations have prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation.

      Read more:

      Trump: ‘Bothersome’ that Mueller is ‘very good friends’ with Comey

      (CNN)President Donald Trump said “we’re going to have to see” when asked about the future of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is reportedly investigating whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice.

      “Well, he is very very good friends with (former FBI Director James) Comey, which is very bothersome,” the President said in a Fox News clip that aired Thursday. “We’re going to have to see.”
      Trump fired Comey over dissatisfaction with how the FBI head was handling the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein later appointed Mueller, a former FBI director, as special counsel to oversee the investigation, including potential collusion between Trump’s campaign associates and Russian officials.
        “Look there has been no obstruction. There’s been no collusion. There has been leaking by Comey,” Trump added. “But there’s been no collusion, no obstruction, and virtually everybody agrees to that. So we’ll have to see.”
        Trump accused Mueller of hiring “all Hillary Clinton supporters” to staff the investigation. At least three members of Mueller’s legal team have given political donations almost exclusively to Democrats, CNN reported in an analysis of Federal Election Commission records.
        In other comments in the full interview on Fox, which aired Friday morning, Trump reiterated how ineffective Democrats and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have been at winning elections. His remarks came on the heels of Democrat Jon Ossoff’s loss to Republican Karen Handel in the special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District seat Tuesday — the most expensive House race in US history.
        “I hope she doesn’t step down. It would be a very, very sad day for Republicans if she steps down,” Trump said. “I would be very, very disappointed if she did. I would like to keep her right where she is because our record is extraordinary against her, but we will see what happens.”
        “There has been a lot of talk about her stepping down,” he said. “We will have to see what happens.”
        Several Democratic lawmakers have said Pelosi’s position as a prominent face of the Democratic Party will continue to make winning elections difficult. In special elections for House seats vacated by Republicans who wound up in Trump’s Cabinet, Democrats have gone 0-for-4, losing races in Georgia, Montana, South Carolina and Kansas.
        On health care, Trump said he believes he will win over Republican lawmakers who have pledged to vote against the GOP bill to replace the Affordable Care Act.
        Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah said in a joint statement Thursday that they’re “not ready to vote for this bill.”
        “They are also four good guys and are four friends of mine,” Trump said. “I think they will probably get there. We will have to see. You know, health care is a very difficult situation.”
        “I have been here only five months, people saying, ‘Where is the health care?’ Well, I have done in five months what other people haven’t done in years,” Trump added. “People have worked on health care for many years. It’s a very complicated situation from the standpoint you do something that’s good for one group but bad for another.”

        Read more:

        London fire: Inquest versus inquiry – BBC News

        Image copyright Jason Hawkes
        Image caption At least 79 people are now missing, presumed dead, following the fire in west London

        Following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower there have been calls for both an inquest and a public inquiry.

        The prime minister has announced that there will be a public inquiry, but how will that differ from an inquest?

        More importantly, which will provide the best chance of delivering answers to the critical and haunting questions of what caused the fire, and which organisations or individuals bear responsibility?


        An inquest is an independent inquiry into a violent or unexplained death, so as a matter of course, there will be inquests into those who lost their lives in Grenfell Tower.

        Inquests are held in public and conducted by a coroner.

        The coronial system can be traced back to the 11th century. The inquest is inquisitorial and not adversarial – that is, the process does not seek to determine or apportion responsibility for the death. Its remit is limited: it solely determines who, where and how the deceased died.

        But inquests can be expanded if Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to life – is invoked.

        There is a general duty on the part of the state to protect life, and Article 2 inquests are held where the state or a public body may have played a part in the death of a person, or failed to protect a life when it knew – or ought to have known – of a real and immediate risk to the life of that person.

        Image copyright other
        Image caption The Hillsborough inquests found that all 96 Liverpool fans had been unlawfully killed in 1989

        Such inquests will generally be conducted with a jury, and can be greatly expanded to become wider reaching inquiries into not only by what means the deceased died, but also the circumstances surrounding the death.

        This can cover the involvement of a range of private and public organisations. The recent inquest into the death of 96 football fans at Hillsborough in 1989 was an example of this expanded “Article 2” type of inquest.

        The coroner can make what are known as Regulation 28 recommendations to prevent future deaths. This involves writing to individuals, bodies or organisations and advising what they need to do to prevent future deaths or guard against danger to the public.

        However, these recommendations have no legal force. The person, body or organisation in question may face overwhelming moral pressure to comply, but would not be under a legal duty to do so.

        Sometimes the bodies or organisations concerned will already have reviewed or changed systems or practices in advance of the inquest. If they have not and they do not comply with the recommendations, it is then down to government to legislate to change the law to prevent or guard against further loss of life.

        Image copyright Getty Images
        Image caption Judge Frances Kirkham made clear recommendations after the 2009 Lakanal House fire

        The lack of legal force behind coroners’ recommendations was seen after the inquests in 2013 into the death of three adults and three children who died in a fire at the Lakanal House flats in Camberwell, south-east London.

        The coroner, Judge Frances Kirkham, made clear recommendations, which included updating the building regulations and clarification of the “stay put” policy which advises residents to remain in their flats in the event of a fire. Those recommendations were not followed by ministers.

        What does have legal force is the inquest’s determination as to the cause of death, commonly known as the “verdict”. The verdicts available to a coroner or a jury are prescribed by statute. These include suicide, accident, open verdict and unlawful killing.

        Where there is a jury inquest, the coroner will advise the jury as to what verdicts are available to them.

        The legal consequences of a verdict can be seen for example in unlawful killing. Here there is a presumption – though not an absolute obligation – that the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) will take action against those responsible.

        The CPS is currently considering criminal charges against a range of people and organisations following the finding last year that 96 fans were unlawfully killed at the Hillsborough disaster in 1989.

        Public Inquiry

        Public inquiries are designed to establish what happened, learn from events, prevent any recurrence, and reassure. Unlike inquests they do hold people to account.

        However, public inquiries are set up by the government. It appoints the chair who is normally a senior judge.

        The Grenfell Tower inquiry is likely to be established under the Inquiries Act, which means the chair will have statutory powers to summon witnesses, compel them to give evidence on oath and produce evidence.

        That can strengthen the power of an inquiry over an inquest. Counsel to the inquiry can put detailed questions to witnesses, both on behalf of the inquiry itself and at the request of key interested parties.

        Image copyright Getty Images
        Image caption Relatives of the Bloody Sunday victims react to the Saville Report, which stated that all victims were innocent

        Some take the view that because the government establishes the public inquiry, holds its purse strings and sets its terms of reference, it can lack independence.

        Public inquires have also been criticised for the time they take and the cost to the public purse. The “Bloody Sunday” inquiry into the deaths of 13 people during the troubles in Northern Ireland took 12 years and cost around 200m – though some estimates put the figure far higher.

        However, there are many examples of robust, independent public inquires that have been conducted efficiently.

        The “Mid Staffs” inquiry into the scandal of poor care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust conducted by Robert Francis QC, which was run on a punishing timetable and made a raft of important recommendations taken on board by government, is often held up as an example of how a public inquiry should be run.

        Image copyright Getty Images
        Image caption Robert Francis QC was widely praised for the way he ran the Mid Staffs public inquiry

        However, it should be noted that like a coroner’s recommendations, those of a public inquiry have no legal force.

        The Mid Staffs example also illustrates the critical importance of selecting the right person to chair the inquiry.

        That person sets the tone and needs the right mix of high level interpersonal skills to communicate with the families of victims and win their trust, the intellectual ability to master technical evidence and regulations (this will cover complex construction issues and building regulations in the case of Grenfell Tower), and the personality to drive the inquiry legal teams effectively and efficiently.

        Which works best for victims and their families?

        Both can work well.

        Hillsborough is an example of a long and painstaking inquest that addressed the needs of victims’ families.

        Image copyright Getty Images
        Image caption Robert Francis QC met relatives of patients who were mistreated at Stafford Hospital

        The Mid Staffs public inquiry was an example of a successful inquiry that did the same.

        There are however issues around the representation of victims and their families.

        At inquiries, victims and their families are given the status of “core participants”, and it is up to the chair to ensure that they are given legal advice and representation that puts them on an equal footing with well-funded private and public bodies. The money for that representation comes direct from government and legal aid does not apply.

        At inquests, publicly-funded legal representation is not automatic. However, following a tragedy on the scale of Grenfell Tower, it would in all likelihood be provided. Whether this would ensure “equality of arms” with other bodies involved in inquests, is open to question.

        In the Queen’s speech, the government announced plans to introduce an independent public advocate for all public disasters, who would act on behalf of bereaved families and also support them at public inquests.

        There is no detail on quite how the public advocate will operate, but it would seem that the role is one of supporting families rather than representing them at inquests,

        Inquests, inquiries and criminal proceedings

        Inquests will generally not be held or completed until all criminal investigations and prosecutions have taken place.

        Public inquiries can take place alongside criminal investigations, but must be respectful of them and not prejudice their outcome.

        Image copyright PA
        Image caption Lord Justice Leveson had to conduct his inquiry at the same time as criminal proceedings

        This was seen in the Leveson Inquiry into press standards which had to tread carefully around concurrent criminal prosecutions.

        Some will favour an inquest, others a public inquiry.

        The truth is that both, if well run, well funded and with powerful recommendations that are acted upon by government, can be highly effective ways of progressing justice and ensuring that similar avoidable tragedies never happen again.

        Read more:

        Prime Minister May offer: EU citizens will be able to stay in UK

        (CNN)In a Brexit divorce deal offering, British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday said European Union citizens will be given the opportunity to stay in the United Kingdom after it leaves the EU.

        May and other European officials are meeting in Brussels, Belgium, to begin negotiations for a UK exit from the EU after the country voted last year to leave. Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty outlines the voluntary departure.
        According to May’s office, any EU citizen living in the UK for five years or more by a yet-to-be specified cutoff date will be granted UK “settled status,” which gives them the same rights as British citizens to health care, education, welfare and pensions

            Was the Queen’s hat an anti-Brexit message?

          EU citizens living in the country for less than five years can stay and obtain residency status after reaching the five-year mark.
          “The UK’s position represents a fair and serious offer,” May told EU leaders in Brussels. “One aimed at giving as much certainty as possible to citizens who have settled in the UK, building careers and lives and contributing so much to our society.”
          May’s offer will be put forth before Parliament next week.
          Speaking to journalists on Thursday night, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says May’s EU citizens’ rights proposal is a “good start,” but there will be many other questions to be discussed.
          The June 2016 Brexit vote in the hotly contested referendum exposed deep division across the country.
          Earlier this year, the UK government formally served divorce papers on the EU, marking the beginning of the end of a relationship that has endured for 44 years. May confirmed then that UK had triggered Article 50, beginning the legal process that must end in two years’ time with Britain leaving the EU.
          The UK must work out a number of issues after triggering Article 50 — including trade, migration, education and health care. Even if some terms of divorce are not settled, the UK will fall out of the union on March 29, 2019. They can split earlier if both parties agree.

          Read more: