FBI Seal

FBI To Potentially Open Civil Rights Investigation Over Elijah McClain’s Death

Nearly one year later, Elijah McClain’s story has not only begun circulating social media, but gathered enough attention to get the investigation formerly reopened and reviewed. In fact, the FBI and US Justice Department recently made a statement in which they claimed that they’ve been reviewing the circumstances surrounding McClain’s death since 2019. 

The review so far has mainly focused on determining whether or not a federal civil rights investigation is warranted based on the initial evidence. The statement claimed that the matter was “ongoing” as they’re in the process of gathering additional pieces of information such as testimonials and other evidence that could be useful. According to the FBI, the Aurora Police Department and other parties working within the city have been cooperating through it all. 

Embed from Getty Images

McClain’s family reacted to the news recently with their own statement in which they expressed their shock, but relief, that the investigation will continue to be reviewed. 

“I am both surprised and pleased to hear that a civil rights investigation is being considered. The Aurora Police Department has a long and sordid history of both brutality and racism, and a comprehensive civil rights investigation is long overdue.”

Mari Newman went on to invite the federal agencies to reach out to the family whenever needed, as they will “happily provide information to assist in this critically important investigation.” 

McClain’s death is a story that’s become all too familiar in America, and is the reason we’re currently seeing a nationwide demand for social justice and racial equality for black individuals. McClain was 23-years-old when he was walking home from the store late at night. McClain had anemia, which caused his body to become cold very easily, so he walked home in full sweats and a ski mask to remain warm. Someone noticed McClain and reported a “suspicious looking man” to the police. 

Embed from Getty Images

McClain was then stopped by three white police officers and when he resisted initial contact with one officer, an aggressive struggle was brought on by the police and they put him in a carotid hold; more commonly referred to as a choke-hold. They held him in the choke-hold for 15 minutes while he pleaded that he “couldn’t breathe,” vomited, and briefly lost consciousness. When paramedics arrived at the scene they injected him with a dose of ketamine to sedate him. McClain then suffered a heart attack on the way to the hospital, and was declared brain dead three years later. 

As of right now all three officers involved still have their jobs but have been reassigned to “non-enforcement duties.” The main reasoning for this reassignment was to keep the “officers safety as priority,” sparking massive new waves of anger and protests. More than 2 million people have now signed a petition demanding that justice be served for these men who murdered 23-year-old McClain. 

As the investigation got brought into the mainstream, multiple Aurora officers have been placed on administrative leave after new images surfaced of them near the scene where McClain was murdered. The investigation into all parties involved is still pending according to the Aurora police chief. 

“This investigation will be publicly released in its entirety promptly upon its conclusion. This will include reports, photographic evidence obtained, officer’s names, and my final determination which can rise to the level of termination.”

The FBI and Justice Department said that they’re aware of all media reports surrounding the case and photographs that have already been made public before the investigation could conclude, however, they claim to not have any further comments until that conclusion is actually met.

Football on grass

Arrest Warrant Issued for Browns Wide Receiver

New Orleans police have issued an arrest warrant for Odell Beckham Jr. after investigations into allegations of battery against the NFL wide receiver. This follows the release of a video that seemingly shows Beckham slapping a police officer on the backside in the LSU locker room following their victory in Monday’s national title match.

Beckham Jr. spent three collegiate seasons at LSU and was also seen handing out cash to players as they came off the pitch, reports that have been confirmed by the university.

Now 27, Beckham has spent his career embroiled in controversy both on and off the field and the latest developments would not have pleased his side the Browns, who are coming off an ill-disciplined season themselves.

The 6-10 sacked Freddie Kitchens after just one season, a season in which they were tipped for playoff football but instead saw a steady stream of disappointment throughout the year. They now sit with ex-Viking Kevin Stefanski in the head coach position and released a statement after the Beckham news broke:

“We are aware of the incident and have been in touch with Odell and his representatives on the matter. They are cooperating with the proper authorities to appropriately address the situation.”
A further investigation was instigated earlier this week by LSU after footage was released seemingly showing the wide receiver handing out cash to the LSU players following their victory. It’s been suggested that the money was fake and even that Beckham was intoxicated, but the school have now finished their investigation:

“Information and footage reviewed since shows apparent cash may have also been given to LSU student-athletes,” said university spokesman Michael Bonnette.

Embed from Getty Images

“We were in contact with the NCAA and the SEC immediately upon hearing of this situation in which some of our student-athletes may have been placed in a compromising position.”

Whether or not the cash was fake, Odell Beckham Jr. was performing this stunt to mock the amateurism rules of the NCAA. These rules prevent any player taking cash or any other benefits, else risk the removal of their eligibility to play.

This has been dubbed hypocritical by many in recent times as universities and staff can reap the financial rewards that the college game produces, while the players themselves aren’t able to profit at all, even from their commercial likeness.

The incident has been praised by some, but it leaves LSU at risk of sanction by the NCAA. The organisation will investigate whether any LSU staff were involved, or if they could have done something to prevent Beckham’s actions.

Beckham broke onto the scene in 2011 during his freshman year at LSU and after making an impact as both wide receiver and kick returner, and was named a freshman ALL-SEC selection. His second year at LSU opened with a 70-yard punt return, his first of two that season, and ended with the Louisiana-born star forming a formidable partnership with fellow wide receiver Jarvis Landry.

Beckham’s next season was a record-breaking one that saw him finish with over 1100 yards and eight touchdowns, not including his 109-yard return after a failed field goal attempt. This success meant the wide-out chose to forego his senior year at LSU and declare for the draft.

Embed from Getty Images

2014 saw Beckham picked up in the first round by the New York Giants, going 12th overall. Despite missing the first four games, he racked up over 1300 yards in the air and scored 12 touchdowns in a season that saw him break multiple rookie records and go to the pro bowl.

The next season also saw him named to the pro bowl as he caught 13 touchdowns and recorded a career-high 1450 receiving yards. Despite remaining injury-free, Beckham only completed 15 games due to a suspension upheld by the NFL after a game against the Carolina Panthers featured multiple aggressive confrontations with Josh Norman.

Beckham made the pro bowl for the third consecutive season in 2016 but it was another year shrouded with controversy. The wide receiver was able to play the full 16 games and help guide the Giants to the playoffs with an 11-5 record. However, the joy was cut short as the Giants fell to the Packers in the wildcard round, after which Beckham punched a hole in the wall of his locker room.

Plagued with injuries, Beckham only managed 16 games overall over the course of the next two seasons with the Giants and at the end of the 2018 season, traded to the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns had seemingly built a roster full of talent such as Beckham and looked set for a good season, but perhaps the personalities in the changing room were too much for young head coach Freddie Kitchens, who failed to control and garner the respect of his players.

The new regime at Cleveland has got off to an unpleasant but predictable start, and Browns fans will be hoping this sort of news can be eradicated and that Odell Beckham Jr. and his fellow stars can stay out of the headlines and get back to playing great football.

Lawyer Meeting

Lawyer Analyzes Republicans’ Impeachment Defenses

Among the American electorate, some of the most common reactions to the ongoing impeachment saga currently taking place in Congress are confusion and frustration with the political system. A widely-shared New York Times article quotes a nurse, who despite not being able to see herself voting for Trump in 2020, said, “There’s so much information that sometimes it’s hard to decide which is the truth and which is just rumors, so I just don’t pay attention to it.” According to various polls, roughly half of Americans think Trump should be impeached and removed from office, but the president’s approval rating has remained shockingly steady even after overwhelming evidence of Trump’s attempt to coerce Ukraine into supporting his reelection campaign came to light. 

Given the contradictory and complex narratives of events being promulgated by Democrats, Republicans, and the media, it’s not hard to understand why so many Americans are confused and disinterested in politics. As such, during a time when disinformation is propagated by foreign adversaries in order to harm the American public’s ability to discern truth, it is useful to listen to the arguments made by legal experts and other nonpartisan professionals who have a strong understanding of legal and political matters. For people who don’t know what to make of Democrats’ accusations and Republicans’ defenses, lawyer Devin J. Stone posted a lengthy Youtube video analyzing the Republican arguments against impeachment from a legal perspective.

Stone begins his video by observing that in the mainstream media, many have claimed that the Republican arguments have fallen apart completely after the conclusion of public impeachment hearings. In response, he says he will try to “steelman” the Republican arguments, which is to say that in order to ensure fairness, he wants to present the most convincing possible interpretation of their arguments. The Republican narrative surrounding impeachment-related issues is multifaceted and disorganized, so Stone takes his time in breaking down each argument to determine whether they are logically sound. The first argument he tackles is the claim that there was no quid pro quo, which has been the preferred defense of President Trump. Stone points out that Ambassador Gordon Sondland, a Trump appointee who donated a million dollars to Trump’s inauguration, explicitly testified that there was, in fact, a quid pro quo, that it was directed by the president, and that “everybody was in the loop.” Sondland’s testimony is corroborated by the other witnesses as well as documentary evidence such as text messages and the memorandum of the July call released by the White House.

Embed from Getty Images

While Republicans have correctly pointed out that none of the fact witnesses called before congress used the word “bribery” in their testimonies, Stone argues that it is not the role of fact witnesses to make judgments about whether Trump’s conduct amounted to the legal definition of “bribery” as the House of Representatives holds this responsibility when they draft articles of impeachment. Many Republicans’ arguments have since shifted to the claim that although there was a quid pro quo, it was not improper, as quid pro quos happen “all the time” in foreign policy; while this is true, the quid-pro-quo in question differed from standard foreign policy tactics as it was used in service of assisting the President’s reelection campaign.

Another argument voiced by Representative Kevin McCarthy claims that because the quid pro quo was ultimately unsuccessful, as Ukraine did not announce an investigation into the Bidens and the withheld military aid to Ukraine was eventually released, there was no wrongdoing. It is true that the scheme ultimately failed; however, Stone points out that attempted crimes are still crimes even if they are unsuccessful, and recent reporting suggests that Trump released the aid to Ukraine because he learned about the whistleblower complaint, and that the president of Ukraine would have announced an investigation into the Bidens if it weren’t for the impeachment inquiry. 

While Republicans have complained that all of the evidence so far is “hearsay,” Stone points out that hearsay evidence can be very powerful in court, and that direct evidence unearthed by the inquiry supports the hearsay evidence. Additionally, the reason that little direct evidence has been uncovered is that Trump has blocked witnesses with firsthand knowledge of events from testifying, which in itself suggests obstruction of justice, another impeachable offense. Furthermore, the administration has not provided a justification for the aid being withheld in the first place other than that the president ordered it, an act that was likely illegal as the aid in question was approved by Congress and signed into law by Trump himself. Under the Constitution, Congress has the “power of the purse,” and the president does not have the authority to subvert Congress’ spending decisions.

As citizens of a democratic republic, we share an obligation to understand political matters in order to preserve the American tradition of democratic governance.

Some have correctly pointed out that President Zelensky of Ukraine has said that he did not feel any pressure to open an investigation into the Bidens. However, Zelensky’s claim is dubious given reporting about how Ukraine reacted to Trump’s phone call, and Stone points out that in a legal context, it doesn’t even matter whether or not Zelensky understood that he was being pressured to investigate Biden, as the relevant legal question is whether Trump intended to pressure the foreign country for his personal political benefit. Representative Jim Jordan has essentially taken a “no harm, no foul” position, saying that because the aid was released and Ukraine did not open an investigation, no wrongdoing occurred; however, this argument ignores the fact that Ukrainians died in connection with the United States’ withholding of assistance, and the existence of this alleged bribery scheme itself has a harmful effect on democratic institutions, namely on the integrity of elections.

Embed from Getty Images

One of the Republican arguments is literally that Trump could not have committed the crime in question because he is too incompetent to do so, and as such there is no “mens rea,” or criminal intent. Stone calls this the “too dumb to crime” defense, which is undermined by the fact that the call memorandum clearly shows intent, as does Trump’s decision to release the aid after getting caught, and while some of the evidence is circumstantial, it is powerful nonetheless. Republicans have also argued that the president controls foreign policy, and as such cannot be impeached over foreign policy decisions; again, while it’s true that Trump has the right to control foreign policy, this does not mean he can exercise this right to do things that are illegal or impeachable. Additionally, some Republicans have presented a theory that the State Department went rogue, acting on its own instead of on behalf of the president, but this is directly contradicted by the call memorandum and witness testimony. Republicans have said that the president was simply trying to root out corruption in Ukraine; Stone points out that this very well may have been one of the president’s motivations, but adds that people can have multiple motivations for doing things, and the evidence strongly suggests that at least one of Trump’s motivations was to help his own campaign. Furthermore, the President has his own, superior powers to investigate corruption in Ukraine, such as the FBI and the Justice Department, and as such could have directed these agencies to investigate Ukrainian corruption rather than asking Ukraine to do so.

The final Republican argument, which few if any Republicans have publicly made as of yet but likely will soon, is that Trump’s actions were wrong but not impeachable. Ultimately, this is the decision that Congress is tasked with making, but the American people will have a chance to weigh in on the matter in the next election, and as such should know that one of the reasons that impeachment was included in the Constitution was that the Founders were worried that a president might use the powers of his office to harm American democracy.

While this article is lengthy, it does not cover all of the current political discourse surrounding impeachment, as Republicans are proliferating a counter-narrative implicating Joe Biden and his son in corruption. There’s no doubt that the facts surrounding the impeachment inquiry have become extremely complex, and Americans shouldn’t be blamed for prioritizing issues in their personal lives over paying attention to politics. However, as citizens of a democratic republic, we share an obligation to understand political matters in order to preserve the American tradition of democratic governance. As Republican senators are likely to vote to acquit Trump on impeachment charges, the upcoming election in 2020 functions not only as a referendum on Donald Trump, but on the concept of American democracy as a whole, as Trump has been actively subverting democratic norms and standards since taking office, most notably by his active attempts to cheat in the next election by abusing the powers of his office to coerce foreign powers into interfering, as Democrats allege. As such, it is incumbent upon each of us to spend some of our time and energy on understanding the present political crisis, as the future of American democracy potentially hinges on the outcome of the 2020 election. 

Montauk Lighthouse

Newsday Finds Widespread Racial Discrimination Among Long Island Realtors

A major three-year investigation by Newsday has revealed a widespread, systemic practice of racial discrimination against Hispanic, Asian, and Black Long Island homebuyers. Newsday characterized the investigation, which involved 240 hours of secret recordings, 25 trained undercover testers, and tests of 93 real estate agents, as one of the most extensive investigations they’ve ever conducted. According to the report, black buyers face disadvantages roughly half the time they enlist brokers, and other minorities also faced disadvantages but a lower rates. In order to ensure widespread access to the information, Newsday opted to remove their website’s paywall for this article, which the newspaper described as “essential and groundbreaking.”

According to the detailed and lengthy report, “house hunting in one of the nation’s most segregated suburbs poses substantial risks of discrimination.” For this project, the newspaper used a paired-testing approach in which they sent undercover testers with hidden cameras to 93 agents on Long Island to determine whether their experiences differed on the basis of race, with testers of different races claiming similar financial situations and housing requests. On Long Island, which is home to 2.8 million people, divisions exist along lines of race, class, and politics, and Newsday’s investigation highlights how a discriminatory real estate industry perpetuates this separation, disadvantaging people of color.

Embed from Getty Images

The investigation featured tests conducted on all parts of Long Island, in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties, and found that Black homebuyers received different treatment 49% of the time, Hispanic homebuyers 39% of the time, and Asian homebuyers 19% of the time. Additionally, the report claims that real-estate brokerages steered white prospective homebuyers towards majority-white neighborhoods and encouraged minorities to seek housing in neighborhoods with high minority populations. One real estate agent, for instance, told a black customer that Brentwood has “the nicest people,” but the same agent advised a white customer to “do some research on the gang-related events in that area for safety.”

While the results of the investigation are not comprehensive enough to prove legal wrongdoing, they form a body of evidence that provides a general understanding of the extent of racial discrimination in Long Island housing, opening the door to potential future legal action against the offending parties. 

The investigators also found that real estate agents engage in other forms of discrimination. For example, agents commonly refused to provide home tours or house listings to minority testers unless they met financial requirements that weren’t imposed on white testers. Real estate agents had a tendency to choose places like Merrick, which has an 80% white population, for white customers. Additionally, the real estate agents demonstrated a pattern of sharing information about racial, ethnic, or religious demographics of different communities with white customers but not with minority customers. In these cases, the agents in question violated fair housing standards, which prohibit agents from discussing the racial makeup of communities when selling houses if doing so is meant to “steer” prospective homebuyers towards communities with similar racial characteristics. One agent, for instance, warned a white tester about Huntington, saying “You don’t want to go there. It’s a mixed neighborhood.”

Embed from Getty Images

The investigation was comprehensive, covering areas where 83 percent of Long Island’s population live, from poor areas to wealthy ones like the Hamptons. Although real estate agents and brokers are bound by law to follow fair housing practices, many of the individuals who were subjects in the investigation clearly failed to do so in Newsday’s account. The newspaper also sent reporters to classes where fair housing standards were taught to real estate professionals, and described these classes as “shockingly thin in content.” Upon learning about being treated differently on the basis of race, one tester described the news as “pretty outrageous and, of course, offensive.” Overall, the investigation focused on twelve of the most popular real estate brands on the island, and find that only two of the firms showed no evidence of disparity in treatment along racial lines. Before publishing the report, Newsday informed the firms in question that they had been subjects of an investigation and shared their results, offering them a chance to review the evidence, respond, and take appropriate action. While the results of the investigation are not comprehensive enough to prove legal wrongdoing, they form a body of evidence that provides a general understanding of the extent of racial discrimination in Long Island housing, opening the door to potential future legal action against the offending parties. 

White House

White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney Confirms Quid Pro Quo

Ever since explosive allegations of misconduct which the House of Representatives have deemed worthy of opening an impeachment investigation were released to the press, the White House’s defense has been that the President’s request for Ukraine to open up an investigation into Joe Biden’s son was not improper because there was no quid pro quo, or an exchange of something of value. However, text messages released by Congress in addition to a reconstructed transcript released by the White House itself strongly suggest the presence of a quid pro quo in the form of withholding military aid in exchange for an investigation intended to damage the President’s chief political rival. 

The White House has responded to the impeachment investigation by illegally refusing to cooperate with Congress, on the grounds that they view the investigation as illegitimate, while simultaneously asserting that there was no wrongdoing. Yesterday, however, the White House’s defense became even more tenuous, as White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney all but admitted the presence of a quid pro quo relationship between the President and Ukraine.

Embed from Getty Images

Mulvaney, who confirmed that aid was withheld from Ukraine in exchange for political favors at a White House press conference which was televised live, stunned reporters with the admission. Various members of the press even gave Mulvaney an opportunity at the time to walk back these comments, asking multiple times for clarification, leading Mulvaney to double down on the shocking admission of guilt. He then told reporters to “get over it,” adding that “there’s going to be political influence in foreign policy.” 

Though Mulvaney asserted at the time that there was nothing improper about this exchange, the White House legal counsel wasted no time in distancing themselves from Mulvaney, saying “the president’s legal counsel was not involved in acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney’s press briefing.” Later that day, Mulvaney attempted to reverse his claim, accusing the press of “misconstruing” his comments and saying “let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo,” directly contradicting his statement earlier that day.

Embed from Getty Images

This latest development is yet another blow to a White House reeling from the consequences of the ongoing impeachment investigation. At the same time as Mulvaney’s press conference, Gordan Sondland, the US Ambassador to the European Union, testified behind closed doors that he had agreed to allow Trump to run Ukraine policy through his personal lawyer, Rudy Guiliani, instead of through ordinary diplomatic channels. 

Additionally, Sondland confirmed that he had told another diplomat that there “was no quid pro quo” at the direction of the President, which Democrats argue indicates the presence of a consciousness of guilt as members of the Trump administration attempted to cover their tracks. Also, energy secretary Rick Perry, who is implicated in the wide-reaching political scandal, announced his resignation, becoming the latest in a series of departures in a White House with a historically high rate of turnover.

USA China Trade War 2

Amidst Ongoing Trade War, China Ignores Trump’s Investigation Request

Ever since President Trump began his controversial trade war with China, Chinese-run state media has been openly critical of the American president, as the economies of both countries are harmed by the ongoing dispute. However, after the president’s recent and highly contentious public request that China open an investigation into the business affairs of his political opponent and his family in that country, their media has been mostly quiet, signalling a lack of willingness to cooperate with the White House in election interference. On Thursday, while standing on the White House’s front lawn before boarding Air Force One, Trump told reporters that China should “start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.” The president’s efforts to solicit foreign aid in discrediting his political opponents in the next presidential election is the subject of an ongoing impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives.

Embed from Getty Images

Although China is a country with heavily enforced restrictions on speech, news of the president’s request has seeped onto their version of the internet. However, official media in the country has had nothing to say about the request, and mentions of Trump’s solicitation on Chinese social media are few and far between, suggesting the country’s highly sophisticated censorship apparatus is at work preventing the population from engaging in conversation on the subject. According to several experts interviewed by the New York Times, China’s lack of response is indicative of the country’s struggles in navigating its awkward relationship with the United States. The country is attempting to stand tough in its relationship with the U.S., but also wants to avoid worsening tensions with an unpredictable and chaotic president. Relations are particularly sensitive in advance of the election, where the country is likely to be a primary subject of discussion.

According to Susan Shirk, a deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for China during the Clinton administration, the country’s silence on the subject is itself a political message to the U.S. indicating both a lack of willingness to cooperate with the president and an effort not to provoke the president, whose erratic behavior is feared to worsen the global economy. Additionally, China is still in the midst of its National Day holiday, during which state media are usually slow to respond to international affairs. After Sunday, the country’s top trade negotiator, Liu He, is expected to travel to Washington to discuss trade, and it’s unclear as of yet how the president’s request will shape these talks. 

However, China has already declared a position of being unwilling to meddle in other countries’ internal affairs, and as such, if the country expresses a willingness to work with the administration to discredit Biden, this change in policy position would be difficult to explain. But the United States is a uniquely powerful country on the world stage, and as such the country may find benefit in making an exception to this rule. That being said, Professor Zhang, of Peking University, suggested that even if China opens up an investigation into Hunter Biden, they’d likely keep the findings of that investigation to themselves, as they are a notoriously secretive country.

Embed from Getty Images

On the Chinese internet, Trump has been given the nickname “Te-mei-pu,” a pun which roughly translates to “totally unpredictable.” The president’s trade war, which he started by imposing tariffs on imports of Chinese goods and which China retaliated to by imposing similar tariffs on American imports, has been unpopular in both countries, as it’s widely viewed as unnecessary and has led to an increase in prices paid for by consumers. The country has widely reported on Trump’s request of Ukraine to investigate the Bidens just a few days prior, making their silence on this issue all the more jarring. The closest the country has come to commenting on the matter is a statement from China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who said “China will not interfere in the internal affairs of the US, and we trust that the American people will be able to sort out their own problems.” China is widely unpopular in the US, and Democratic presidential candidates, including frontrunners Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, have criticized both Trump’s trade war and the country’s policies.