Also: Andrew Cohen of The Marshall Project on America's shameful epidemic of prison suicides; Plus: The Administration's new rules to restrict legal immigration and gut the landmark Endangered Species Act...
By Brad Friedman on 8/12/2019, 6:46pm PT  

On today's BradCast, it's one of those shows you may have to take a shower after --- or even during. Apologies in advance. [Audio link to full show is posted below.]

We start today with the easy stuff. The Trump Administration announced two new federal rules of note on Monday. Both include major changes to federal law without Congress actually voting to have changed anything and both will result in lawsuits from opponents.

The first is a change to the law that would further restrict legal immigration to the U.S., by barring green card status in the country to whomever the Administration believes is not wealthy enough and may require public assistance. The move, if not blocked by the courts, would put the emphasis on the skills of immigrants seeking permanent status, rather than on family reunification. The new rule would prevent many U.S. citizens from being joined here by parents, siblings or children.

The Administration's other major rule change today is to significantly weaken the landmark Endangered Species Act on behalf of industry profits. The ESA has protected thousands of plants and animals from becoming extinct since President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1973. Trump's changes would end protection for plants and animals newly deemed threatened and allow federal officials, for the first time, to consider the economic costs of protecting a particular species. The change could also allow officials to disregard the impact of climate change when determining which species require federal protection. Both rule changes, according to opponents, are unlawful and will face legal challenges almost immediately.

Next, we turn to the weekend's disturbing news regarding the death of imprisoned financier, sexual predator and former Donald Trump friend, Jeffrey Epstein. The accused pedophile was found dead Saturday morning alone in his federal prison cell in lower Manhattan where he was supposed to have had a cellmate and guards that were supposed to monitor him every 30 minutes. His death came less than 24 hours after thousands of documents from an earlier lawsuit were publicly released, revealing lurid allegations that he'd sexually abused scores of young girls and just two weeks after he'd been removed from "suicide watch" after reportedly trying to kill himself just six days earlier.

There are many questionable circumstances that resulted in Epstein's death, angering elected officials, his many victims and even Trump's Attorney General who claimed to be "appalled". Barr announced over the weekend that he had tasked the Dept. of Justice Inspector General to investigate the matter. But, of course, conspiracy theories began flying almost immediately upon the news of Epstein's death, given his years of contact with high profile celebrities from Presidents to prime ministers to princes to other politicians and titans of industry and the academic world. Those conspiracies are hardly surprising. But the fact that Donald Trump, over the weekend, tweeted out several such conspiracies, attempting to tie Epstein's death to Bill Clinton, suggesting the former President had a hand in murdering the accused sex trafficker and may even have been a "pedophile" himself, seems to be a new low, even for this President.

Of course, while there is no evidence that Clinton was a close friend of Epstein's, Trump is known to have partied with him on several occasions, telling New York magazine in 2002 that he had "known Jeff for fifteen years" by that time, that he was a "terrific guy" and a "lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side." Trump's senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway actually defended Trump's Twitter smears of Bill Clinton, claiming on Fox "News" on Sunday that "the President just wants everything to be investigated".

Okay. If so, does he also want a proper investigation of the detailed 2016 lawsuit filed against him and Epstein --- before many of the allegations against Epstein had even come to public light --- by a woman who claims she was raped and abused by both men when she was 13 years old? Trump vigorously denied the charges at the time, and the case was eventually dropped after the woman says she faced death threats. But, given the many credible allegations of sexual assault by Trump, including from his own ex-wife who claimed at one point she was also raped by Trump, there is certainly more evidence to support that conspiracy than the ones forwarded by the President of the United States over the weekend following Epstein's death by apparent suicide --- in a federal prison overseen by Trump's own Administration.

While we have never discussed those rape allegations against Trump by the anonymous woman on The BradCast before --- yes, we saw them originally when they appeared in 2016, but didn't share them on air, preferring not to traffic in unverified allegations --- it seems that Trump himself has no such reservations. That, even after the death of his sexual predator friend in a federal prison overseen by his own federal Bureau of Prisons. If Trump is happy to spread wildly defamatory unsubstantiated allegations about former Presidents, I guess its now appropriate to publicly share allegations with far more substance since, right? According to Conway, after all, he "just wants everything to be investigated." And, as noted, we just want to take a shower at this point!

Finally, setting aside grotesque conspiracies, ANDREW COHEN, senior editor at The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization which reports on the U.S. criminal justice system, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, took the opportunity of Epstein's death to note that it was "completely predictable". Not due to Epstein's high-profile or even the particular circumstances of his case, but because there is what Cohen describes as an "epidemic" of prison suicides in U.S. prisons.

He explains that the epidemic --- shamefully resulting in an all-time high of hundreds of suicides in both federal and state prisons each year --- is the number one cause of death in such facilities. Cohen says the epidemic crosses all demographics and has been exacerbated --- arguably, even caused --- by a lack of interest or empathy by prison officials and both funding and interest from elected officials. "There's plenty of blame to go around," he tells me. "Yes, it's a long term problem [and] yes, it's gotten worse under the Trump Administration."

If anything good can possibly come of all of these horrific events, perhaps it begins in conversations like the one we have on today's program with Cohen. After your shower, I hope you will tune in for it...

Download MP3 or listen to complete show online below...

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