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Muslims inside FBI describe culture of suspicion and fear: ‘It is cancer’

Said Sam Barodi was fired after he refused to cooperate with customs agents who he believed were targeting him because of his ethnicity and religion. His and other accounts paint a stark picture of the bureau in the era of Trump

Muslim special agents and intelligence analysts at the FBI are reporting a climate of fear inside the agency coinciding with the political ascendance of Donald Trump, the Guardian has learned.

FBI officials from Muslim-majority countries, a minority in a predominantly white bureau, say they are subject to an organizational culture of suspicion and hostility that leadership has done little to reform. At least one decorated intelligence analyst has been fired this year after a long ordeal which began with a routine foreign visit to see his family.

His case and others in which Muslim agents have reported a workplace culture that includes open-ended investigations predicated on their backgrounds were brought to the personal attention of the FBIs director, James Comey, throughout 2016.

Muslim FBI officials are alarmed that their religion and national origin is sufficient for the bureaus security division to treat them as a counterintelligence risk, a career-damaging obstacle that their native-born white FBI colleagues do not encounter.

They do not dispute a need to vet potential insider threats, but they bristle at what they consider selective enforcement and an inability for those caught in a process based on their heritage to escape suspicion.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/22/fbi-muslim-employees-discrimination-religion-middle-east-travel


China gives initial approval of Trump trademarks for hotels and escort services

Ethics lawyers raise alarm over constitutional violation if president given special treatment in quickly securing 38 new trademarks to develop potential businesses

China has granted preliminary approval for 38 new Trump trademarks, paving the way for Donald Trump and his family to potentially develop a host of branded businesses from hotels to insurance to bodyguard and escort services, public documents show.

Trumps lawyers in China applied for the marks in April 2016, as Trump railed against China at campaign rallies, accusing it of currency manipulation and stealing US jobs. Critics maintain that Trumps swelling portfolio of China trademarks raises serious conflict of interest questions.

Chinas Trademark Office published the provisional approvals on 27 February and Monday.

If no one objects, they will be formally registered after 90 days. All but three are in the presidents own name. China already registered one trademark to the president, for Trump-branded construction services on 14 February, the result of a 10-year legal battle that turned in Trumps favor after he declared his candidacy.

Ethics lawyers across the political spectrum say that if Trump receives any special treatment in securing trademark rights, it would violate the US constitution, which bans public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign governments unless approved by Congress. Concerns about potential conflicts of interest are particularly sharp in China, where the courts and bureaucracy are designed to reflect the will of the ruling Communist party.

Dan Plane, a director at Simone IP Services, a Hong Kong intellectual property consultancy, said he had never seen so many applications approved so expeditiously.

For all these marks to sail through so quickly and cleanly, with no similar marks, no identical marks, no issues with specifications boy, its weird, he said.

Given the impact Trumps presidency could have on China, Plane said he would be very, very surprised if officials from the ruling Communist party were not monitoring Trumps intellectual property interests.

This is just way over your average trademark examiners pay grade, he said.

The trademarks cover businesses including branded spas, massage parlors, golf clubs, hotels, insurance, finance and real estate companies, retail shops, restaurants, bars, and bodyguard and escort services though its unclear whether any such businesses will actually materialize in China.

Trump has pledged to refrain from new foreign deals while in office, and many companies register trademarks in China only to prevent others from using their name inappropriately.

Spring Chang, a founding partner at Chang Tsi & Partners, a Beijing law firm that has represented the Trump Organization, declined to comment specifically on Trumps trademarks. But she did say that she advises clients to take out marks defensively, even in categories or subcategories of goods and services they may not aim to develop.

I dont see any special treatment to the cases of my clients so far, she added. I think theyre very fair and the examination standard is very equal for every applicant.

She said government relations are an important part of trademark strategy in China and said she has worked with officials from both the US and Canadian embassies to help her clients. The key, she said, is you should communicate closely with the government to push your case.

Governmental discretion is exactly what US ethics lawyers fear could turn a trademark into an opportunity to exercise leverage over the US president.

Every American should be profoundly concerned by this enormous expansion of President Trumps entanglements with China, said Norman Eisen, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer for President Obama. If the president is receiving these flows of benefits from China, how can he be trusted to staunch the flow of jobs from the United States to that country?

Richard Painter, who served as chief ethics lawyer for President George W Bush, said the volume of new approvals raised red flags.

A routine trademark, patent or copyright from a foreign government is likely not an unconstitutional emolument, but with so many trademarks being granted over such a short time period, the question arises as to whether there is an accommodation in at least some of them, he said.

Eisen and Painter are involved in a lawsuit alleging that Trumps foreign business ties violate the US constitution. Trump has dismissed the lawsuit as totally without merit.

Chinas State Administration for Industry and Commerce, which oversees the Trademark Office, and Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.

Three of the new China trademarks are for Scion, a hotel brand Trumps sons are looking to expand in the US. Unlike almost all of Trumps China trademarks, they are registered in the name of a Delaware company called DTTM Operations LLC, rather than Donald J Trump himself. The Trump Organization has transferred ownership of dozens of trademarks from the president to DTTM Operations LLC since its incorporation in January 2016.

In an earlier email to the Associated Press, Garten said: The decision to assign the portfolio to DTTM is also consistent with the Presidents pledge to separate himself fully from the Trump Organization and hand over complete control to his children and senior executives in order to avoid potential conflicts of interest even though none of these steps were required by law.

Trump has said he assigned all his business interests to a trust overseen by one of his sons, Donald Trump Jr, and a longtime Trump Organization executive, Allen Weisselberg. However, Trump retains the ability to revoke the trust at any time and as the sole beneficiary stands to benefit financially from it. As of May 2016, Donald Trump owned 100% of DTTM Operations LLC, according to his Federal Election Commission disclosure. Its current ownership structure is unclear.

Delaware public records do not disclose the management of DTTM Operations LLC, though they do show that Trumps sons and Weisselberg served as directors of a related company.

Democratic senators have protested Trumps acceptance of a valuable trademark from the Chinese government without congressional approval. Some also questioned the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, about potential political influence, including any involvement of the US embassy, in Trumps China trademarks in a February letter.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/08/china-approves-trump-trademarks-businesses


Trump’s supreme court picks: from Tea Party senator to anti-abortion crusader

Among 10 new names, one is an originalist, one a judicial traditionalist and one said firing a hygienist for tempting a dentist was not unlawful discrimination

On Friday morning, the Trump campaign announced its latest round of potential supreme court nominees, raising to 21 the billionaires list of publicly named potential nominees to succeed Antonin Scalia, who died in February.

Trump may have had a specific reason for adding to the list of 11 potential nominees he released in May. Last week, the Huffington Post reported that the billionaire PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel the moneyman who funded the Hulk Hogan lawsuit that bankrupted Gawker Media had been assured the nomination, a story both Thiel and the Trump campaign denied. Thiel, who has a law degree but only practiced for seven months, was not seen as a particularly conservative choice.

The latest list, probably designed to further assuage the concerns of conservatives over Trumps judicial philosophy both whether he has one and what it is is not exactly a whos-who of judicial superstars.

The legal analyst and political science professor Scott Lemieux said Trumps nominees were continuing his tradition of going with generic Federalist Society hacks, which is in fact the kind of judge hed nominate.

The Federalist Society is a conservative legal group that advocates for constitutional originalism, a philosophy which says questions of law should be decided solely on the basis of the words of the constitution and the intention of those who wrote it. Decisions that legalized abortion, consensual sex between same-sex couples, interracial marriage and, arguably, even the desegregation of schools are not in keeping with this philosophy.

There are, however, some notable reasons that each Trump pick would be thrilling to conservatives and horrifying to liberals.

Utah senator Mike Lee

The only name on the list widely known outside legal circles, the conservative senator Mike Lee has made well-known his dislike of the partys presidential nominee. That might not be a problem, though: Texas supreme court justice Don Willett, who made the first list, wasnt exactly a card-carrying Trump supporter.

Lee told Politico in a statement that he was not interested in a slot on the court. Still, the man who rode to the Senate on the Tea Party wave of 2010 has an extremely conservative legal philosophy, to the right of originalism. Lee is what is known as a tenther, adhering to a philosophy that holds that the 10th amendment of the constitution, which reserves for state government any power not allocated to the federal government, essentially makes much government regulation and spending unconstitutional. As ThinkProgress noted, Lee has said he believes federal laws prohibiting child labor, as well as laws establishing Medicare, social security and, of course, the Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare) are unconstitutional.

Neil Gorsuch

Gorsuch was appointed by George W Bush to the 10th circuit court of appeals, in Denver, Colorado, and is a frequent member of Republican-leaning supreme court shortlists.

His only book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, was intended to bolster the case against its legalization its publisher called it his central thesis the idea that human life is intrinsically valuable and that intentional killing is always wrong. In 2012, Michael Fragoso, a longtime pro-life advocate and current counsel to Arizona senator Jeff Flake, called Gorsuch and other young Bush-era judicial appointees as good a college of judicial cardinals as the conservative and pro-life movements have ever seen.

Gorsuch has notably used his time on the federal bench to criticize the existing volume of federal regulation as potentially unconstitutional on a variety of grounds, a point he has made in at least one public speech as well.

Margaret A Ryan

Ryan, a US Marine Corps veteran who was deployed to Saudi Arabia during the first gulf war, is a civilian judge on the US court of appeals for the armed forces, a 15-year appointment made by Bush in 2006. The court on which she serves hears appeals under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is distinct from the laws that govern civilian life.

In that role, she presided over a case brought by, among others, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, in the Chelsea Manning trial, seeking access to court and trial documents to which the media was denied access. She sided with the appeals courts majority, which argued that it did not have jurisdiction to force a military court to make the disclosures requested.

That was not the only time Ryan ruled that the court on which she serves lacked the jurisdiction to overrule military judges. In a 2013 case in which a marine private who attempted suicide pleaded guilty to trying to avoid service after not receiving mental healthcare, she dissented from the majority opinion that the judge had sentenced the marine improperly, arguing that the appeals judges lacked jurisdiction.

Though a military judicial record leaves less of a trail of opinions on hot button conservative issues, Ryan did clerk for the supreme court justice Clarence Thomas, an avowed conservative who is also prone to arguing that the court lacks jurisdiction.

Edward Mansfield

Mansfield is an Iowa supreme court justice appointed by the conservative governor Terry Bradstad in 2011, after three of the justices who legalized same sex marriage in the state in 2009 were voted out of office.

His first brush with national prominence came in 2012, when he authored the courts majority opinion in an employment law case: Melissa Nelson, a dental hygienist, sued her boss, James Knight, for gender discrimination after he fired her supposedly for the sake of his marriage. Knight had suggested that Nelson wear less revealing clothing to the office because of his attraction to her, according to the decision, and at one point suggested her standard for what was too revealing be if she saw his pants bulging. Her firing, he said, was unrelated to gender. Mansfield and the court agreed, stating that this conduct did not amount to unlawful discrimination.

In a May 2016 decision, Mansfield dissented with the majority of the court that held that sentencing underage defendants to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole was unconstitutional. Mansfield wrote that inherent uncertainty regarding future prospects for rehabilitation is simply an insufficient basis for supplanting the judgment of our elected representatives.

Keith Blackwell

Blackwell is a Georgia supreme court justice best known in conservative circles for being the deputy special attorney general representing the state in its ultimately unsuccessful effort to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional. He is also a strong gun rights supporter, telling students in 2013 that the second amendment guaranteeing the right to bear arms was part of the writers intent to limit government because there is only so much the government could do if the people are armed.

Charles Canady

Charles
Charles Canady speaks in Tallahassee, Florida in 2015. Photograph: Steve Cannon/AP

Canady has served as a Florida supreme court justice since 2008, but his eight years as a conservative Congressman are probably more elucidating in terms of his judicial philosophy. He was one of the sponsors of the first federal partial birth abortion ban, which was vetoed by Bill Clinton but passed in 2003 and upheld as constitutional. (He was also one of the impeachment managers in the House, strongly advocating against the president and defending the impeachment after the fact.)

His other most notable legislative effort involved the Religious Liberty Protection Act, essentially a conscience clause designed to limit state and local statutes that interfere with peoples free exercise of religion. When civil liberties advocates attempted to insert an amendment that would create an exemption for people using religion as a reason to violate anti-discrimination laws, Canady and fellow Republicans rallied to defeat it. Canady told the New York Times he opposed the amendment because it would establish as a matter of congressional policy that religious liberty would have second-class status. He denied it was an effort to allow discrimination against LGBT people in housing and employment.

Timothy Tymkovich

A colleague of Gorsuch on the 10th circuit court of appeals in Denver, Tymkovich is another Bush appointee and the chief justice on the court. Prior to that he served as Colorados solicitor general, where he unsuccessfully attempted to defend the states constitutional amendment, passed by ballot initiative, banning any attempt to legislate against discrimination against LGBT people. The US supreme court ruled against him, stating that the codification of discrimination was not a legitimate government interest.

More recently, Tymkovich found from the bench that the company Hobby Lobby was a person and thus subject to protection from laws forcing it to violate its religious beliefs: his ruling, which carved a huge hole in the contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act, was upheld by the supreme court.

He has also openly questioned the constitutionality of bans on felons owning firearms.

Amul Thapar

Amul
Amul Thapar seen in 2006. Photograph: Ed Reinke/AP

The first South Asian to serve as a federal appeals or district court judge, Thapar serves as a district (trial) court judge in the eastern district of Kentucky, where he once served as the US attorney. He too was appointed by the second President Bush.

Thapar is most famous for sentencing three anti-nuclear activists, including an 84-year-old nun, to three years in prison for breaking into a Tennessee nuclear facility. He should be more famous for an opinion he authored while visiting the 11th circuit appeals court in Florida, in which he threw out the convictions of a group of women charged with fraud for pretending to like men in order to run up their bar tabs. In the opinion, he said that a man gets what he bargains for when he buys a woman a drink: the opportunity to buy a young woman a drink.

Federico Moreno

Moreno is an unusual entrant in this list: George HW Bush appointed him to the district court in southern Florida in 1990 and then chose him for the 11th circuit court of appeals in 1992. Senate Democrats, however, never took up his nomination. He is also, in a sea of former prosecutors, a former federal public defender. In the early 2000s, he sided with a doctors class-action suit against managed care providers, attempting to prove that they had violated federal racketeering statutes. More recently, he sided with plaintiffs against Honda and Takata in a class-action suit over defective airbags subject to recall.

But, like Thapar, as a trial court judge, his job is to preside over cases and not to adjudicate the law itself. His rulings might have no bearing on his legal philosophy.

Robert Young

An African American appointed to the Michigan supreme court in 1999, elected to fill a partial term in 2000, and then elected for eight-year terms in 2002 and 2010, Young is that courts chief justice and a conservative Republican. He identifies as a judicial traditionalist, a theory slightly more centrist than originalism but still opposed to the idea that the constitution is a living document.

In a 2007 decision, he upheld Michigans 1996 voter identification law which does offer voters the ability to sign an affidavit affirming their identity instead of showing photo identification calling it a reasonable, nondiscriminatory restriction and arguing that identification did not, in fact, amount to a poll tax.

Of more interest to some conservatives, he also authored a 2004 decision that overturned the use of eminent domain for economic development in the state. In 2005, the US supreme court ruled in Kelo v City of New London that governments can, in fact, use eminent domain to take land from citizens and give it to private developers if there is a benefit to the community.

Opposition to the Kelo decision was part of the 2016 Republican platform even though Donald Trump, rather infamously, attempted to use economic development eminent domain laws to his own benefit as a real estate developer.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/sep/24/donald-trump-supreme-court-nominations-names


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