Brennan Center: Trump May ‘Chill’ Sentencing Reform

In a critique of the Trump administration’s first 100 days in office, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University complains that the president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions talk about a “nonexistent crime wave.”

In a critique of criminal justice policies and statements from the Trump administration during its first 100 days in office, the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University predicts that the President and his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, will issue “continued warnings about a nonexistent crime wave.” The center complains that Trump and Sessions “have spoken about the imminent danger posed by rising crime in nearly every major speech” on the subject.

The center believes that “this steady drumbeat of fear could chill bipartisan attempts to reduce unnecessary incarceration at the federal, state, and local levels.” The center says several Trump’s executive orders on crime are vague and do not implement any immediate change, “but these orders entrust the attorney general with charting a new course of criminal justice.” The Brennan Center foresees “recommendations for more punitive immigration, drug, and policing actions.” It notes that a crime task force established by Sessions is scheduled to deliver its first report by July 27. The center believes the group may calls for “a rescission of Obama-era memos on prosecutorial discretion, which helped decrease the federal prison population, and diverted low-level drug offenders away from incarceration.”



FBI Got Court Order to Monitor Trump Campaign Adviser

Carter Page, an adviser to the Trump campaign, says he is being made a political scapegoat in the probe of possible ties between Trump associates and Russia.

Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to President Trump’s campaign says a report the FBI obtained a secret court order to monitor his communications last summer are “very encouraging,” because it shows he is being made a political scapegoat in the investigations into potential ties between Trump associates and the Russian government, reports Politico. Page said “further confirmation is now being revealed” about how he has been the subject of a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA, warrant. Targets of them are not notified. The Washington Post reported that the FBI had compiled a lengthy file and obtained a FISA warrant against Page in July because there was probable cause to believe the energy consultant was acting as an agent of a foreign power.

Page told Politico he was being investigated, at least in part, for remarks he has made – including during a speech in Russia last year – that were highly critical of U.S. energy policy. The FISA court was created after a series of embarrassing disclosures about how the U.S. government improperly spied on dissenters. Despite claims by Page and others that FISA warrants have been used to gather intelligence for political reasons, the application process has layers of oversight to prevent that from happening.



Can Secret Service Keep Up With Trump Family?

The agency needs tens of millions in supplemental funding to protect President Trump and his family. There are 40 percent more people under protection than in other non-campaign years.

The Secret Service is grappling with how to constrain the rising costs and unexpected strain that have come with protecting a new first family as large, mobile and high-profile as any in modern history, the New York Times reports. Dozens of agents from New York and field offices across the country are being temporarily pulled off criminal investigations to serve two-week stints protecting Trump family members, including the first lady and the youngest son in Manhattan’s Trump Tower. Others assigned to the highly selective presidential protective division had hoped for relief after a grueling election year. That hope evaporated as they work more overtime hours and spend long stretches away from home because of the Trump family’s far-flung travel.

Agency leaders are negotiating for tens of millions of dollars in supplemental funding to help offset the sky-high costs of securing Trump Tower and other high-profile family assets like Mar-a-Lago in Florida. It is a figure that will only continue to rise. “They are flat-out worn out,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  The agency must contend with what amounts to an increase of 40 percent more people under its protection compared to a noncampaign year. There are growing concerns among current and former officials in the Homeland Security Department and on Capitol Hill not only about how the Secret Service will keep up, but also what it might mean for its recovery from the high attrition, low morale and spending caps that have plagued it in recent years.


Trump Acuses Obama of Wiretapping His NYC Office

In tweets, Trump says Obama headed a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to wiretap his Trump Tower headquarters last fall. Experts doubt that it happened. “You can’t just go around a tap buildings,” one tells the Washington Post.

President Trump angrily accused former president Obama of orchestrating a “Nixon/Watergate” plot to tap the phones at his Trump Tower headquarters last fall, the Washington Post reports. Citing no evidence to support the explosive allegation, Trump said in five tweets that Obama was “wire tapping” his New York offices before the election in a move he compared to McCarthyism. “Bad (or sick) guy!” he said of his predecessor, adding that the surveillance resulted in “nothing found.” A Breitbart report Friday suggested that Obama used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team.

Trump has been feuding with the intelligence community since before he took office, convinced that career officers as well as holdovers from the Obama administration have been trying to sabotage his presidency.  “It’s highly unlikely there was a wiretap,” said one former senior intelligence official familiar with surveillance law. “It seems unthinkable. If that were the case by some chance, that means that a federal judge would have found that there was either probable cause that he had committed a crime or was an agent of a foreign power. A wiretap cannot be directed at a U.S. facility without finding probable cause that the phone lines or Internet addresses were being used by agents of a foreign power or by someone spying for or acting on behalf of a foreign government. “You can’t just go around and tap buildings,” the official said.


Trump Private Security Had Free Rein On Use of Force

Retired New York City detective Keith Schiller, who threw reporter out of press conference, now is Trump’s director of “Oval Office operations.”

Donald Trump’s private security lacked basic procedures and policies, including for the use of force, giving guards free rein during the campaign and transition to confront physically protesters and journalists they found objectionable, Politico reports. During a 2015 protest at Trump Tower, a Trump security guard forcibly escorted a protester away from the building’s entrance because he believed incorrectly that the adjacent sidewalk was Trump’s property, according to his testimony in a civil lawsuit. Trump security director Keith Schiller, a retired New York City detective who joined Trump’s White House staff this month, said he decided to place his hands on Univision’s Jorge Ramos while ejecting him from a 2015 press conference because Ramos was “not listening or not being cordial or respectful to Mr. Trump or his colleagues, because he spoke out of term (sic).”

The sworn testimony was ordered in connection with a lawsuit  against the guards, the Trump Organization, the Trump campaign and Trump himself by participants in the September 2015 Trump Tower protest. The protesters claim they “were violently attacked” by Trump’s security “for the express purpose of interfering with their political speech.” The depositions paint a picture of a security operation guided more by instinct than procedures, where employees were not subject to background checks or regular evaluations, and where lines were blurred between Trump’s campaign, his corporation and the Secret Service. Schiller now is Trump’s director of Oval Office operations.



Secret Service Acting on Agent Who Wouldn’t Protect Trump

Agent Kerry O’Grady in Denver had said on Facebook that she supported Hillary Clinton and would rather “take jail time over a bullet” for a candidate she despised, a reference to Donald Trump. The post seemingly violated the federal Hatch Act.

The Secret Service says it is taking “appropriate action” in response to an agent who suggested on social media that she would not protect President Donald Trump from a bullet, McClatchy Newspapers reports. The Washington Examiner had reported that Kerry O’Grady, an agent in Denver, posted on Facebook before the election about her support for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and that she would rather “take jail time over a bullet” for a candidate she despised. The Hatch Act bars Federal employees from commenting publicly on their political positions. In a now-deleted post from October, O’Grady suggested that she had to speak out, “Hatch Act be damned.”

“As a public servant for nearly 23 years, I struggle not to violate the Hatch Act. So I keep quiet and skirt the median,” she wrote. “To do otherwise can be a criminal offense for those in my position. Despite the fact that I am expected to take a bullet for both sides.” The Secret Service said it was “aware of the postings and the agency is taking quick and appropriate action.” O’Grady, who deleted her posts after a few days, told the Examiner her comments were prompted by the leak of an “Access Hollywood” tape that showed the president making lewd comments about sexually assaulting women.


Trump Vows to End ‘Carnage,’ ‘Anti-Police Atmosphere’

In his White House website, newly sworn-in Donald Trump promises to “keep our streets free of crime and violence” and says his administration will end “the dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America.”

President Donald Trump promises on the new White House website that he “will empower our law enforcement officers to do their jobs and keep our streets free of crime and violence. The Trump Administration will be a law and order administration.”

The President goes on to declare, “The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump Administration will end it.” The website was revised soon after Trump took office; law enforcement was listed as one of his six priorities. In his inaugural address, Trump vowed to end the “American carnage.”

The website says homicides rise 17 percent in 2015 in the 50 largest cities, the largest increase in 25 years. It says that in Washington, D.C., “killings have risen by 50 percent. There were thousands of shootings in Chicago last year alone.” It concludes that the U.S. “needs more law enforcement, more community engagement, and more effective policing,” and adds that, “our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, or the violent disrupter.” It supports Second Amendment rights and repeats Trump’s pledge to build “a border wall to stop illegal immigration, to stop the gangs and the violence, and to stop the drugs from pouring into our communities.”


Three Justice Areas Where Trump Could Advocate Reform

Vikrant Reddy of the Charles Koch Institute mentions heroin addiction, overcriminalization and “performance-incentive funding” as three criminal justice topics that the administration of Donald Trump may want to tackle.

Vikrant Reddy of the Charles Koch Institute suggests three justice reforms that may be pursued by the Donald Trump administration. Writing for The Marshall Project, Reddy mentions overcriminalization, performance-incentive funding, and heroin addiction. There are 5,000 obscure federal crimes, such as shipping lobster in plastic rather than cardboard boxes, that are more appropriately treated as administrative or regulatory matters, he says. The mens rea or “state of mind” portions of many criminal statutes (which specify whether the conduct must be purposeful, knowing, reckless, or negligent) often are left out when laws are drafted. Reversing this “overcriminalization” has long been a priority for conservatives and prominent progressive voices.

A widely-admired strategies for improving criminal justice outcomes is performance-incentive funding (PIF). The idea is that governments should fund programs, not merely on the number of people incarcerated. A government that contracts for lower recidivism rates and increased restitution payments to victims is more likely to find that its prisons are encouraging education and job training behind bars, Reddy says. Donald Trump performed unusually well in the election in placess ravaged by heroin abuse. He seemed to understand that he owes it to these voters—his base—to take the issue seriously. His administration will likely pursue a law enforcement solution that attacks the “supply side” of the heroin problem. There is also a “demand side,” and Reddy believes that Trump must treat this side of the problem with equal urgency. This means redirecting scarce resources from incarceration to less costly and more effective diversion programs that treat addiction. Trump’s advisors have surely noticed that attitudes towards drug policy appear to be changing. On election night, four states where Trump prevailed—Arkansas, Florida, Montana, and North Dakota—voted to legalize medical marijuana. A fifth state that Trump carried, Oklahoma, voted to reclassify several drug possession felonies as misdemeanors.


Cybersecurity Adviser Giuliani’s Website Termed a Mess

“You wouldn’t need to be uber-skilled to hack it,” says one expert about, the website of Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s newly named adviser on cybersecurity.

President-elect Donald Trump tapped Rudy Giuliani as his “go to” guy on cybersecurity, but Giuliani’s New York firm could use a little better security of its own, McClatchy Newspapers reports. The website for the former New York mayor’s firm, Giuliani Security, is riddled with vulnerabilities, and tech experts cackled over the irony on social media. “You wouldn’t need to be uber-skilled to hack it,” said Aaron Hill, a web developer at Cornell University.

The Giuliani announcement prompted a few programmers to conduct their own free website analysis of Their verdict? Pathetic. Sad. Some may have tried their hand at a little mischief. “Service temporarily unavailable,” flashed the screen when one visitor sought to browse there Friday.  The site was periodically unavailable much of the day. “A 7-year-old could take that site down,” tweeted Paul Gilzow, a programmer and security analyst from Columbia, Mo.



DOJ Watchdog Reviewing FBI’s Clinton Email Probe

Inspector General Michael Horowitz investigating whether FBI director James Comey violated protocols by discussing investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails publicly. Probe will also explore whether FBI and main Justice Department employees improperly leaked information.

The Justice Department’s internal watchdog is launching a broad review of how the FBI handled its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, reports Politico. The review’s scope includes allegations that FBI Director James Comey violated established procedures when he publicly discussed the bureau’s findings and when he sent Congress updates shortly before the election about new evidence agents had discovered. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said his investigation will also explore whether FBI and main Justice Department employees improperly leaked information prior to the election. Clinton and her campaign aides have blamed Comey’s pre-election revelation that he was reviving the email investigation as a key factor in her narrow loss to Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Comey said he welcomes Horowitz’s probe. “I am grateful to the Department of Justice’s IG for taking on this review. He is professional and independent and the FBI will cooperate fully with him and his office,” Comey said. Comey has said he delivered his July briefing on the FBI’s findings in the Clinton email probe without coordinating his statement with Justice Department leaders. He’s defended his statement as appropriate given the public’s questions about the handling of such a high-profile, politically-charged inquiry. Some Justice Department officials complained that his actions violated the usual practice of saying little about an investigation being closed without charges. Clinton allies also faulted Comey for publicly lambasting Clinton for being “extremely careless” with classified information, even as he said criminal charges were unwarranted.