Rep. Elijah Cummings Passes at 68

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The veteran Democratic representative chaired the powerful House Oversight Committee investigating President Donald Trump’s impeachment.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) has died, according to a statement from his office.

The Democratic member of Congress, who chaired the House Oversight Committee, which was among the panels investigating the impeachment of President Donald Trump, was 68. 

Cummings died at Gilchrist Hospice Care, an affiliate of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore at approximately 2:30 a.m. Thursday morning “due to complications concerning longstanding health challenges,” his office confirmed in a statement to HuffPost.

Rep. <a href="https://www.huffpost.com/news/topic/elijah-cummings" target="_blank">Elijah Cummings</a> (D-Md.) died Thursday
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) died Thursday at the age of 68.

Cummings, the son of a sharecropper, practiced law for almost two decades and served in the Maryland House of Delegates before winning his congressional seat in 1996, where he was renowned for championing civil rights issues.

His House committee’s probes into the Trump administration drew fierce anger from the president. In July, Trump tweeted racist insults about Cummings and his majority-black district, calling it a “rodent-infested mess.”

Cummings earlier this year said he had “no doubt” that Trump is a racist after the president said four Democratic members of Congress ― all women of color ― should “go back” to other countries.

On the only time in 2017 that Cummings talked one-on-one with Trump about lowering drug prices, the Baltimore Sun reported him as telling the president: “Mr. President. You’re now 70-something, I’m 60-something. Very soon you and I will be dancing with the angels. The thing that you and I need to do is figure out what we can do — what present can we bring to generations unborn?”

The Baltimore archdiocese tweeted this tribute to Cummings:

Others also remembered the lawmaker on Twitter:

Trump in a landslide? This historically accurate model predicts exactly that

 

President Donald Trump has a love/hate relationship with polls, surveys and predictions. He loves the ones that paint him in a positive light, and, of course, he hates all those “fake” ones that don’t.

He’s going to absolutely adore this one.

According to Moody’s Analytics, Trump is headed toward another four years in the White House. And, if the numbers are right, it won’t even be close.

In fact, his Electoral College victory could very well be wider than the 304-227 margin he enjoyed over Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Since 1980, Moody’s has managed to nail the outcome every time but once — like many, it didn’t see Trump coming.

“In our post-mortem of the 2016 presidential election model,” the report said, “we determined that unexpected turnout patterns were one of the factors that contributed to the model’s first incorrect election prediction.” Here’s Moody’s track record, including a 2016 adjustment for the turnout variable:

Will it return to its winning ways? The team takes into account how consumers feel about their finances, the performance of the stock market SPX, +1.00% and their job prospects. Essentially, today, they’re feeling pretty good.

“Under the current Moody’s Analytics baseline economic outlook, which does not forecast any recession, the 2020 election looks like Trump’s to lose,” the authors wrote. “Democrats can still win if they are able to turn out the vote at record levels, but, under normal turnout conditions, the president is projected to win.”

From the MarketWatch archives (August 2016): To professional economists, Trump isn’t even the second best candidate in the 2016 presidential election

Moody’s uses three models to come up with its forecast. In each case, Trump gets at least 289 Electoral College votes.

The “pocketbook” measure, which focus on how people feel about their money situation, is where Trump shines brightest, grabbing a whopping 351 electoral votes. “If voters were to vote primarily on the basis of their pocketbooks, the president would steamroll the competition,” the report said.

The stock-market model gives him the slightest edge of 289-249, as investors continue to navigate a volatile investing landscape. Then there’s the unemployment model, which leans heavily in his favor at 332-206.

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Majority of Americans back impeachment inquiry: Polls

Stephanie Grisham appointed new White House spokeswoman

The White House says the impeachment inquiry into President Trump is “baseless” and “unconstitutional.” Most Americans disagree.

Four new national polls released in the past two days show at least 50 percent of respondents support the House probe, which was triggered by a whistleblower’s complaint against Trump over his repeated requests for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

And all four surveys found more Americans back the impeachment inquiry than do not.

• An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found 55 percent of Americans believe that Trump’s actions “are a serious matter and merit an impeachment inquiry,” compared with 39 percent who do not. (Six percent were not sure.) What’s more, nearly a quarter of those polled (24 percent) say there is already enough evidence for Congress to impeach Trump and remove him from office.

• A Quinnipiac poll found 53 percent of registered voters support the impeachment inquiry, compared with 43 percent who do not. (Four percent were undecided.) The same survey found voters virtually split on Trump’s removal from office, with 45 percent saying he should be impeached and removed and 49 percent opposing the idea — a divide that falls within the poll’s margin of error.

• A Washington Post-Schar School poll found 58 percent of Americans endorse the decision by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to begin a formal impeachment inquiry into Trump, compared with 38 percent who do not. The same survey showed nearly half (49 percent) of the respondents believe the president should be removed from office, while 44 percent do not. The remaining 7 percent say they are undecided about his fate.

• A Politico/Morning Consult poll found 50 percent of registered voters would support removing Trump from office, while 43 percent oppose the idea. Again, 7 percent of voters were undecided. Oddly, the survey found a higher percentage of respondents “strongly” supporting Trump’s removal (40 percent) than “strongly” supporting the inquiry itself (38 percent).

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The latest polls were conducted following a flurry of developments in the impeachment probe. Last week, it was reported that Trump also pressured Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for information in an effort to discredit former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Then, while speaking to reporters on the White House lawn, Trump called on China to investigate the Bidens.

The new surveys come on the heels of a half-dozen others that not only showed growing support for the impeachment inquiry but also support for the president’s removal from office.

Early Tuesday, the State Department blocked Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union and a central player in the Ukraine controversy, from testifying before House committees probing impeachment. Defending the move on Twitter, Trump called the Democrat-led panels a “totally compromised kangaroo court.” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said he would consider it “additional strong evidence of obstruction.”

The White House then sent an eight-page letter to Pelosi calling the impeachment inquiry unconstitutional, setting up a legal showdown between Trump and Congress.

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Does Amber Guyger’s Murder Conviction Signal A Change In Police Accountability?

Image result for Botham Jean’s mother, Allison Jean, and his father, Bertram Jean, raise their hands with their family attorneys Daryl Washington, Benjamin Crump and Lee Merritt after Guyger’s murder conviction was delivered on Oct. 1, 2019.

The former Dallas police officer was the latest in a string of officers convicted in cases that involved the murder of unarmed Black people.

Former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger’s guilty verdict and swift sentencing in the killing of an unarmed Black man was met with surprise from pundits all over the country. Some didn’t expect Guyger to face any repercussions at all.

“I, for one, was not expecting a white police officer to be convicted on the more serious charge for killing a black man, however bizarre the circumstances,” wrote CNN’s Jill Filipovic after Guyger was found guilty of murder on Tuesday.

Guyger was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Hers is actually the latest in a string of high-profile cases in which a white officer who killed a Black person was found guilty. In 2018, former Texas officer Roy D. Oliver II was found guilty of murdering 15-year-old Jordan Edwards; Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke pleaded guilty to killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald in 2014; earlier this year, a Florida jury convicted officer Nouman Raja for killing 31-year-old Corey Jones.

But experts say the peculiarities of Guyger’s case make it difficult to determine whether her conviction for murder is a sign of greater police accountability going forward, or a mere aberration.

With her new Bible in hand, former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger leaves the 204th District Court for jail after receivin
With her new Bible in hand, former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger leaves the 204th District Court for jail after receiving a hug from Botham Jean’s brother Brandt Jean in Dallas on Oct. 2.

Data compiled by FiveThirtyEight shows that allegations of police misconduct rarely result in charges for the officers involved, making the jury’s finding on Tuesday ― in which an officer accused of wrongdoing was not only charged but actually convicted ― seem to some like a welcome departure from the norm. But for several reasons, Guyger’s case was hardly a typical case of officer misconduct.

Firstly, Guyger ― unlike many officers accused of misconduct ― was off-duty when she shot Botham Jean. During the trial, Guyger and her defense team claimed the officer mistakenly entered Jean’s apartment thinking it was her own and shot him out of fear. But those claims were widely panned in the immediate aftermath of the shooting, and legal experts said it was too unbelievable to withstand scrutiny in court.

“Jurors and judges are often sympathetic to officers because they think, ‘Even if they made a mistake, they were just trying to do their job,’” said Paul Butler, a Georgetown Law professor and author of the book “Chokehold: Policing Black Men.”

“But here, since the officer wasn’t on-duty, the jury or judge wouldn’t have that sympathy,” Butler told HuffPost.

Jean also wasn’t suspected of a crime, which earned Guyger a level of derision that other self-proclaimed authority figures who have killed unarmed Black people were able to avoid. To emphasize how minimal a threat Jean posed when he was killed, the prosecution even noted that he had been shot dead while eating ice cream.

“A lot of jurors would be able to put themselves in the place of Mr. Jean in a way that they wouldn’t to a person who is the more typical victim of police violence, which is a suspect in a case,” Butler said.

To that point, another reason Guyger’s trial diverged from standard cases of police misconduct is that her victim exhibited several characteristics that garnered widespread sympathy beyond the Black community. Jean was an avowed Christian, a talented singer and gainfully employed at an accounting firm.

Attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Jean’s family, said Jean’s stellar reputation played a role in the outcome of this case.

“Botham Jean was a near-perfect person of color, so this jury had to make history in America today,” Crump told reporters after Guyger’s guilty verdict was announced. “But it shouldn’t take all that for unarmed Black and brown people to get justice,” he added.

But Butler told HuffPost that there was cause for optimism in the Guyger case, even if the specifics make it impossible to declare the conviction part of some trend of accountability.

Namely, he said the diverse jury in Guyger’s case, which reportedly included 10 nonwhite jurors out of the 12, may have played a role in the conviction. In courthouses across the country, the jury selection process has been seen as a method to weed out Black and brown potential jurors whose understanding of race ― and whose interpretation of the law ― may differ greatly from their white counterparts’.

Butler said many jurisdictions, including Dallas County, where Guyger was convicted, have taken steps that effectively diversify the jury pool by including people who have a driver’s license or state ID, rather than merely selecting from the voter registration rolls as is typical.

“When jurisdictions expand the jury pool to actually reflect the community, that results in more diverse juries,” he said.

Broadly speaking, various social justice movements have brought more attention to cases in which police officers have shot unarmed Black people. Accepting as a caveat that Guyger wasn’t on-duty when she killed Jean, her case existed in an environment that has seen social justice advocates pressure the legal system to mete out justice without regard for whether the offender is an officer or not.

In 2014, St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch was widely criticized for failing to convince a grand jury to indict former St. Louis police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed an unarmed teenager named Michael Brown in the city of Ferguson. That scrutiny lingers to this day, Butler said, arguing this pressure may have played a role in charges being brought against Guyger in the first place. 

While prosecutors ― many of whom are elected officials ― may be reluctant to bring charges against officers accused of wrongdoing for political purposes, they are at least aware of a constituency that will hold them accountable if charges aren’t brought.

“In jurisdictions that have large minority populations, prosecutors are starting to understand that their constituents want police officers who commit crimes to be prosecuted like anyone else who’s committed a crime,” Butler said.

Newly Revealed Trump Administration Texts On Ukraine Appear To Show Clear Quid Pro Quos

Image result for trump + pence

Trump’s call with the leader of Ukraine has prompted an impeachment inquiry as Democrats condemn what they call brazen efforts to extract political favors.

Newly released text messages sent by senior Trump administration officials appear to show clear instances of the White House brazenly pressuring Ukraine for political favors in exchange for cooperation from the U.S. government.

The texts were released late Thursday by the chairs of three House committees, who wrote in a letter to colleagues that they had “grave concerns” after speaking with State Department officials as part of the chamber’s unfolding impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s July 25 call with the leader of Ukraine. The three chairs wrote that the shocking texts were “only a subset of the full body of materials” that had been obtained, the entirety of which they planned to release in the coming days.

The text message were largely sent by Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and Kurt Volker, who was until last month the State Department’s special envoy to Ukraine, to Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In one instance that appears to be an overt quid pro quo, Volker texted Yermak just hours before the two presidents were set to speak. In the message, Volker said the White House would work to “nail down the date for [a] visit to Washington” but only on the assumption that “President Z convinces trump he will investigate/‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016.”

Trump’s July 25 call with Zelensky has become the flashpoint for a Democratic impeachment inquiry after a reconstruction of the call showed multiple instances of Trump pressuring his counterpart to investigate a prime political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter.

In the texts, Yermak later wrote that the call  “went well” and that Trump and Zelensky had agreed on a visit to the U.S. Later in August, however, Yermak pressed Volker to nail down the date, saying that once it was locked in, Ukrainian officials would outline their “vision for the reboot of US-Ukraine relationship, including among other things Burisma and election meddling in investigations.”

Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, for five years, ending in early 2019.

Yermak also texted Volker at the end of August expressing concern about a report Trump was withholding military aid to Ukraine. Trump canceled a planned visit to Poland to meet Zelensky a day later.

The text messages also show concern among some Trump administration officials. In multiple instances, Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat to Ukraine, expressed worry that the White House was withholding military aid until any investigations into Biden were launched.

“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Taylor asked Sondland on Sept. 1. Sondland later replied “call me,” and it’s unclear what the pair discussed.

But the issue came up again a week later: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Taylor texted Sondland on Sept. 9, saying diplomacy had moved into his “nightmare scenario.”

Sondland later rejects that characterization, saying Trump had “been crystal clear no quid pro quo’s of any kind.”

The texts were attached to a letter condemning Trump’s effort to minimize his call with Ukraine. It was signed by Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff (Calif.), chair of the House Intelligence Committee; Eliot Engel (N.Y.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; and Elijah Cummings (Md.), who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

The lawmakers expressed worry about the White House effort to delegitimize the impeachment inquiry, saying the Trump administration was “engaging in a campaign of misinformation and misdirection in an attempt to normalize the act of soliciting foreign powers to interfere in our election.”

Trump has vehemently rejected claims that he did anything improper, referring to the inquiry as a “coup.” On Thursday, the president publicly urged China to investigate the Bidens just moments after saying that “if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous power.”

In the letter, the chairmen urged their colleagues to reject such claims, calling them “unethical, unpatriotic and wrong.”

“We hope every Member of the House will join us in condemning in the strongest terms the President’s now open defiance of our core values as American citizens to guard against foreign interference in our democratic process,” they wrote.

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