First up, the damning opinion issued on Tuesday by a U.S. District Court judge in Manhattan finding Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross repeatedly violated the law --- and lied about his reasons for doing so --- in adding a controversial question on citizenship to the 2020 U.S. Census. Stern joins the federal judge in calling out Ross' lies about adding the question supposedly at the request of the the Dept. of Justice to help enforce the Voting Rights Act (rather than as a blatant attempt to rig the Census in hopes of boosting GOP political power during the next round of redistricting).
"By my count, Judge Furman held that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated the law by adding the citizenship question in at least six different ways," Stern observes. "When you add them all together, it is a sort of symphony of lawlessness that cannot be ignored by the courts."
"Ross just lied. He lied to Congress. He lied in court filings about why he added this citizenship question. It is very clear, black letter law, that when a federal agency like the Commerce Department wants to take some kind of formal action, it has to give the real and truthful grounds for its decision, it has to justify it truthfully. Ross just didn't do that here." He goes on to explain, however, that, despite the encouraging ruling yesterday, the Republicans' stolen Supreme Court will ultimately enjoy the final say on the matter. He also shares his thoughts on whether Ross should be and/or will be criminally prosecuted for lying to Congress and the courts about the issue, as made clear by the federal court ruling.
Then, Stern offers some surprisingly good news from SCOTUS today regarding a unanimous(!) opinion from the Court supporting the right of some workers to bypass costly arbitration clauses and file class action lawsuits against employers when they are ripped off by them --- though only in certain circumstances. Still, given the unanimous opinion in this case, authored by Neil Gorsuch of all Justices, we'll take it!
Next, we review Tuesday's confirmation hearing in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for Donald Trump's Attorney General nominee William Barr. Stern warns that his troubling record alone --- "Barr takes a wildly expansive view of executive power and authority" --- might have been enough to derail his nomination in any other time, but for the fact that so many Democrats and Republicans alike are now desperate to replace Trump's wildly unqualified (and, arguably, unlawfully appointed) Acting AG Matthew Whitaker.
Barr, who served briefly as AG in 1991 during the George H.W. Bush Administration (where he successfully pushed for Presidential pardons for a number of top officials involved in the Iran-Contra scandal), promised independence from the White House and that he would allow Special Counsel Robert Mueller to complete his probe into Team Trump's alleged involvement with Russia and obstruction meant to cover it up. However, Barr equivocated on a number of points related to the probe, such as whether he'd recuse himself from overseeing it if DoJ ethics officials advised him to do so, and whether he would release Mueller's report at all to the public.
Stern shares insight and response to a number of other troubling moments from Tuesday's hearings, such as when Barr responded to a question from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) about whether a sitting President could be indicted and when he was asked directly by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) about whether the Justice Department, under his command, would "jail reporters for doing their jobs". Barr's response on the former was questionable, at best, and downright chilling on the latter, from the man tapped to be the nation's top law enforcement official. "There's just a right and wrong answer here," Stern quips, "and he gave the wrong one."
Finally today, the State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress previously scheduled for later this month may now be cancelled amid the ongoing historic federal government shutdown, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rescinded her invitation to Trump today. And, in Syria today, four Americans --- two U.S. troops and two civilians --- were killed and three others wounded after a bombing claimed by ISIS in a crowded area. The attack in the northern city of Manbij comes on the heels of Trump's claim to have ordered the withdraw of all U.S. troops in country, based on his assertion that "we have defeated ISIS in Syria." The President's claim --- which helped lead to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis before Christmas --- was, remarkably, repeated by Vice President Mike Pence today during an address at the State Department several hours after the news of the deadly attack on Americans and others in the war torn nation had become public...
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