Thursday, March 31, 2016
Let the people go: Obama commutes 61 drug, firearm sentences and will spring a dozen more from Gitmo
President Barack Obama commuted the prison sentences of 61 drug offenders on Wednesday including more than a third serving life sentences, working to give new energy to calls for overhauling the U.S. criminal justice system.All of the inmates are serving time for drug possession, intent to sell or related crimes. Most are nonviolent offenders, although a few were also charged with firearms violations. Obama's commutation shortens their sentences, with most of the inmates set to be released on July 28.[...]Most are nonviolent offenders, although a few also faced firearms charges. Nabar Criam of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced to 15 years for possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute, but received an additional charge for having a gun on hand during a drug trafficking crime.The latest tranche of commutations brings to 248 the total number of inmates whose sentences Obama has commuted — more than the past six presidents combined, the White House said.Obama treated some people whose sentences he's commuted to lunch Wednesday:https://twitter.com/nowthisnews/status/715281167541346304How many people will Obama pardon on his last day in office? The ceremony will probably be huge and go down in U.S. history as the only one that's ever been catered.But lest we think Obama's opening of prison doors is merely a domestic push, his administration is also going to spring more Gitmo detainees:
The Pentagon reportedly told Congress Wednesday that it is planning to release a dozen Guantanamo detainees to at least two countries.A U.S. official told Reuters the first transfers are expected in the next few days with others to occur in the coming weeks.Pentagon spokesman Commander Gary Ross told Fox News he could not comment on when detainees would be transferred.“The Administration is committed to reducing the detainee population and to closing the detention facility responsibly,” he said in a statement to Fox News.And if any of them return to the fight John Kerry will remind them that they're not supposed to be doing that.**Written by Doug PowersTwitter @ThePowersThatBe
Obama Displays Chip on His Shoulder Yet Again, Says Nobody Cared About Drug Abuse When It Was Minorities
RUSH: Man, oh, man, there's some stuff happening out there above and beyond the campaign that I would be remiss, I would go home today feeling profound guilt if I did not address some of these things.
In no particular order. I don't know how many of you saw it, but President Obama went to Atlanta to join this National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit. It was yesterday afternoon. They discussed drug addiction, the importance of treating it as a disease instead of a character flaw, but also as a treatment challenge rather than as a crime. But as usual, Obama could not talk about this in an unattached way. He couldn't just deal with the problem as it is; he had to attach his own biases and prejudices to it, which transferred bitterness to the discussion.
And his basic point was (paraphrasing), "Yeah, hey, you know what? It's all good, it's all wonderful that we're down here talking about prescription drug abuse and the heroin problem, but isn't it interesting that nobody cared when it was only African-Americans and Hispanics and minorities that had the problem?" And I looked at this, and I said, "Can you drop your resentment?" And he can't.
He is incapable of dropping his resentment. He is incapable of walking around without that giant chip on his shoulder about this country. I don't care, I remain more convinced than ever that this guy has a giant problem with this country, that is institutional that dates all the way back to the founding. It is rooted in what he thinks is something that was institutionally incorporated in the founding, and that is racism and discrimination and bigotry and white supremacy and all of this.
He's running around, and his wife, too, constantly embittered, unable to get past it no matter what progress has been made, no matter what punishments have been meted out to people that he thinks are guilty over the course of our nation's history. No matter what changes have been made for the better, it's as though they never happened. And it's as though the changes, even though they've happened, were made despite people wanting them to happen.
Now, the prescription drug abuse problem and the heroin problem is what it is. It's been around for a while. It's been debated as either a demand-side problem or a supply problem. But there's nothing new about it. The focus now is on how do you deal with it, but I mean the size of the problem, it fluctuates and different drugs. One year, two-year period it's cocaine, crack cocaine, go back to heroin, other than opiates, but it's there. There's maybe an increasing percentage. But of all things, for the president of the United States (paraphrasing), "Yeah, the drug problem was ignored when it was hurting the minority community." It was not. The drug problem has been on the minds of public servants and in people's heads and hearts for years.
My whole life I'm aware of all kinds of efforts to deal with the drug problem, to properly define it, to come up with ways to treat it. I mean, Nancy Reagan was mocked. She had a slogan back in the 1980s, "Just say no." And everybody mocked it and made fun of it just like the same people mocked and made fun of the idea of abstinence as a way of avoiding teen pregnancy and abortion as contraception. Anybody that came up and said, "Hey, be bigger than it and say no to it."
"It's easy for you to say." It was rejected. But the point is all kinds of people have cared about it for a long time, and here's the president with this mocking, resentful tone (paraphrasing), "The drug problem was ignored when it was hurting minority communities." The thing to learn from this is that he's still walking around with this giant chip on his shoulder and it's why he goes to places like Cuba and Argentina and everywhere else in the world, and when leaders of those countries start complaining about the United States, why, he agrees with them. And it's why he further says we've got no moral authority over anybody. We can't tell anybody the right or wrong way. We can't impose whatever it is we do on people, cause our past is nothing to write home about, either.
And the dangerous part about this is that all the people, the Democrats and the leftists in this country that support the guy, applaud this kind of thing. And it feeds this really unhealthy notion that there's nothing special about the United States, when there clearly is. It feeds, it grows this belief on the part of millions of people in this country that there's no such thing as American exceptionalism. This is not leadership; it's not inspirational; this is carrying grudges around. And presidents are supposed to be bigger than that.
By Jessie Hellmann - 03-30-16 17:40 PM EDT
GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump outraged groups on both sides of the abortion debate Wednesday when he said women who undergo illegal abortions should be punished.
Trump told MSNBC's Christ Matthews that there should be "some form of punishment" for women who got abortions if they were banned.
As a convert to the pro-life movement, Mr. Trump sees the reality of the horror of abortion the destruction of an innocent human life which is legal in our country up until the moment of birth, said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, in a statement.
But let us be clear: punishment is solely for the abortionist who profits off of the destruction of one life and the grave wounding of another.
Anti-abortion activists have long called for the person performing an abortion to be punished, not the woman undergoing the procedure.
March for Life, which holds an annual rally in Washington protesting abortion, also spoke out against Trump s remarks, calling him out of touch with the anti-abortion movement.
Mr. Trump s comment today is completely out of touch with the pro-life movement and even more with women who have chosen such a sad thing as abortion, said Jeanne Mancini, president of the March for Life Education and Defense Fund, in a statement.
No pro-lifer would ever want to punish a woman who has chosen abortion. This is against the very nature of what we are about, Mancini said. We invite a woman who has gone down this route to consider paths to healing, not punishment.
Trump later sought to clarify his initial remarks, saying if Congress were to pass legislation banning abortion, only doctors performing the procedure should be held legally responsible.
But he also received criticism from pro-abortion rights groups.
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund called Trump flat-out dangerous for women.
Women s lives are not disposable. There s nothing else to say, as Donald Trump s remarks today have said it all, said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a statement.
Trump's comments also drew criticism from presidential rivals in both parties. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton called the remarks "horrific and telling," while Bernie Sanders said they were shameful.
Brian Phillips, a top aide to GOP candidate Ted Cruz, said the remarks showed Trump was not truly anti-abortion.
John Kasich added of course women shouldn t be punished for having abortions.
By Jesse Byrnes - 03-31-16 06:00 AM EDT
The presidential primary has been a wrenching experience for the GOP so far and it s about to get even worse.
Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich have all backed away from their pledge to support the party's eventual nominee, foreshadowing a fight at the convention and beyond that could cleave the GOP into warring factions.
"This race is kind of at its boiling point," said GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak. "As ugly as it is now, the two losing candidates at the convention are going to feel even worse."
Instead of helping to unify the GOP behind a candidate, as the primary process typically does, the race has instead created deep wounds between the candidates that are unlikely to heal.
The antagonism has been heightened by a particularly vicious stretch of campaigning involving allegations of adultery and pictures of the candidates wives.
"I believe that we're beyond the point in the campaign where we feel we can unify. There s been too much bad blood that's been created," said GOP strategist David Payne, who said he would like to see Cruz win the nomination before the convention.
Cruz, the closest rival to Trump in the delegate count, acknowledged Wednesday that s Trump's attacks on his wife, Heidi, have made him reconsider his pledge to the Republican National Committee to support the GOP nominee.
I m not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and attacks my family, Cruz said during a CNN town hall Tuesday night. "That is going beyond the line."
Kasich, who also made the pledge, appeared to back away from his promise as well.
"Frankly, all of us shouldn't even have answered that question," Kasich said late Tuesday, referring to when candidates where asked to make the pledge at the first GOP debate in August.
Trump was the most definitive on revoking the pledge. "No, I don't anymore," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday when asked if he continued to support the eventual nominee.
"I have been treated very unfairly," Trump continued. Asked by whom, Trump responded, "basically by the RNC, the Republican Party, the establishment."
The businessman on Wednesday morning reiterated that his support for the Republican nominee is conditional.
"I just want to see who the GOP nominee is," Trump said on ABC's "Good Morning America.
The RNC engineered the loyalty pledge last summer after Trump floated the possibility of running as a third-party candidate in an interview with The Hill.
After facing pressure, the businessman made a show of signing the pledge, holding an impromptu press conference at Trump Tower where he held up the paper for the world to see.
But the businessman insists his pledge was conditional on being treated fairly by the Republican Party something he says hasn t happened, now that there is a movement to deny him the nomination.
Trump's opponents have launched a large-scale effort to prevent him from reaching the 1,237 delegates he needs to win, which would force a contested convention for the nomination in July.
"The pledge was always pretty hollow to begin with," said Rory Cooper, a former House GOP leadership aide who is now advising the new #NeverTrump super-PAC. "I'm happy that it's behind us."
"Nobody expects Donald Trump to be a man of his word in any sense. That would certainly apply to the pledge as well," Cooper said.
The #NeverTrump super-PAC aims to deny Trump delegates with strategic ad buys. The group is now running ads in Wisconsin supporting Cruz, plans to support Cruz in California and may support Kasich in Pennsylvania.
Trump has 736 delegates so far, according to The Associated Press s delegate tracker. Based on current projections, GOP strategist Ford O'Connell said Trump is likely to either barely reach 1,237 or fall just short.
If Trump manages to win the nomination outright, it s likely that a group of Republicans will break away, potentially putting forward a third-party candidate.
But if a contested convention results in Trump losing the nomination despite leading in delegates, it s an open question whether he and his supporters would rally behind the nominee in the general electio
"It's going to be a fight, it's going to be embarrassing for us," Payne added about the possibility of a convention fight that could "play out in prime time."
Many Republicans strategists say they don't think Trump will attempt a third-party bid if he fails to win the nomination, given that it s too late to get on the ballot in most states.
But should Trump opt for a write-in campaign, it could effectively dash any Republican hopes of beating the Democratic candidate.
"Republicans the core Republicans are going to rally around the nominee no matter who it is, O'Connell insisted.
Still, "the enthusiasm is with Trump. How other candidates might pick that up if they're the nominee is an open question," O'Connell added.
Democrats are watching the spectacle unfold with glee.
"Friendly reminder that the GOP candidates don't even want to vote for the GOP candidates," former Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) tweeted late Tuesday.