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DOJ Asks Congress to Pass Law That Could Indefinitely Detain People Without Trial

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  • In a series of requests for proposed legislation to address the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Justice is asking Congress to enact a law that would allow some judges to indefinitely detain a person without the right to trial.
  • The DOJ is also asking for Congress to suspend the statute of limitations for arrests and pass a law explicitly saying that migrants cannot apply for asylum if they have COVID-19.
  • The requests were met with intense criticism by both Republicans and Democrats, though the DOJ has defended them, saying it worked with Congress and federal courts to develop the measures.

DOJ Requests Emergency Powers

The Department of Justice has asked Congress to grant it certain new emergency powers, including the ability for Attorney General William Barr to ask the chief judge of any district court to pause court proceedings, which could indefinitely detain people without trial.

The details of the requests were originally published by Politico on Saturday and they come as a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Specifically, the DOJ is asking Congress to allow it the power to ask district courts to indefinitely pause court proceedings “whenever the district court is fully or partially closed by virtue of any natural disaster, civil disobedience, or other emergency situation.”

Further, that proposal would apply to “any statutes or rules of procedure otherwise affecting pre-arrest, post-arrest, pre-trial, trial, and post-trial procedures in criminal and juvenile proceedings and all civil process and proceedings.”

That request could have serious implications, most notably the suspension of habeas corpus, which is a person’s right to appear in front of a judge after being arrested. 

For its part, the DOJ is justifying this request by saying that, currently, judges can already pause judicial proceedings in an emergency; however, this new legislation would allow them to handle emergencies “in a consistent manner.” 

Nonetheless, in an interview with Politico, executive director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Norman L. Reimer expressed concern.

“Not only would it be a violation of [habeas corpus],” Reimer said, “but it says ‘affecting pre-arrest. So that means you could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency or the civil disobedience is over. I find it absolutely terrifying. Especially in a time of emergency, we should be very careful about granting new powers to the government.”

According to Politico, Reimer also called the possibility indefinite suspensions of court rules “deeply disturbing.” 

DOJ Makes Several Other Requests

In its draft for proposed legislation, the DOJ also made several additional requests. 

Among those, it asks Congress to suspend the statute of limitations for criminal investigations and civil proceedings during a national emergency and “for one year following the end of the national emergency.”

It’s also asking to change the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure in some cases to expand the use of video conference hearings. Under current law, if a person consents to it, they can appear at their hearing over a video conference call and have their charges read that way. 

Now, the DOJ is asking Congress to let some of those hearings happen without defendants’ consent.

“If it were with the consent of the accused person it would be fine,” Reimer told Politico. “But if it’s not with the consent of the accused person, it’s a terrible road to go down. We have a right to public trials. People have a right to be present in court.”

Another big request is that the DOJ is asking Congress to pass a law that would explicitly bar asylum seekers from claiming asylum if they have tested positive for COVID-19.

That request comes as the Trump Administration has already announced it will start barring entry to migrants at the southern border. Notably, that already includes asylum seekers there.

DOJ Requests Met with Intense Criticism

While the requests would be unlikely to pass a Democratic-led House of Representatives, the highly controversial draft legislation has largely been met with opposition both by Democrats and Republicans. 

Among notable reactions, Republican Utah Senator Mike Lee—who is currently one of five U.S. Senators self-quarantining—said of the requests, “OVER MY DEAD BODY.”

“@realDonaldTrump, please refute and disavow this immediately,” he said. 

In an interview on CNN with Jake Tapper Sunday morning, Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the requests “abhorrent.

“This is not a time,” she said, “and you know, there is a long history in this country and in other countries of using emergencies as times to really start to encroach upon people’s civil rights. And, in fact, this is the time when we need them the absolute most. We have to keep an eye out for these kind of authoritarian and frankly this expansion, or rather suspension, of rule of law.” 

Former RNC Chair and former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland Michael Steele also blasted the requests, saying on Saturday, “NO!! This is NOT a slope we want to get on. Suspending Constitutional Rights!? With this crew?!  OH HELL NO!”

Richard Painter, the former White House Chief Ethics Lawyer for George W. Bush, called on Barr to resign on Monday. 

DOJ Defends Request

At the same time, the DOJ has defended its requests. Sunday night on Twitter, spokesperson Kerri Kupec tried to clarify the situation by outlining the DOJ’s reasoning.

“There has been some confusion re: reports about DOJ asking Congress for certain “emergency powers,” she said. “This was triggered by Congress asking DOJ for suggested proposals necessary to ensure that federal courts would be able to administer fair and impartial justice during [a] pandemic.”

Kupec then said the draft proposal was “developed in consultation w/ Congress and federal judiciary to help federal judges more consistently manage cases w/in their districts & protect interests of justice during this national emergency.”

“Because of pandemic-related measures, courts are closing and grand juries are not meeting,” she added. That means prosecutors may not be able to indict criminals before a statute of limitations expires, or dangerous criminals who have been arrested may be released because of time limits.”

Kupec said that authority would end once the national emergency was over if a chief justice found that emergency conditions were no longer affecting the federal courts. 

“Bottom line: The proposed legislative text confers powers upon judges.  It does not confer new powers upon the executive branch. These provisions are designed to empower the courts to ensure the fair and effective administration of justice.”

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (CNN) (Rolling Stone)

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Kathy Griffin, Ethan Klein, More Suspended From Twitter Over Elon Musk Impersonations

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Many have pretended to be Musk in an attempt to highlight the potential issues paid-for verifications could cause on the platform.


Musk Takes on Impersonations

Comedian Kathy Griffin and internet personality Ethan Klein are among the many Twitter users that have been permanently suspended for impersonating the platform’s new CEO, Elon Musk.

Impersonation has long been against Twitter’s rules, but on Sunday, the billionaire took the policy a step further by announcing that “any Twitter handles engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying ‘parody’ will be permanently suspended.”

“Previously, we issued a warning before suspension, but now that we are rolling out widespread verification, there will be no warning,” Musk explained. “This will be clearly identified as a condition for signing up to Twitter Blue.”

Musk also said that any user who changes their name will temporarily lose their verification check mark. 

The announcement came as many verified users began mocking Musk by changing their name and photo to match his, then tweeting jokes that were either absurd or out of character for the business mogul. Many did this to protest Musk’s plan to charge an $8 monthly subscription fee that would allow any Twitter user to become verified. 

Klein was one of many who changed his name to “Elon Musk” and made a photo of the CEO his profile image. The podcast host sent out several jokes, including one referencing the increased use of the N-word on the platform since Musk’s takeover, and another referencing Jeffrey Epstein.

“Even though Jeffrey Epstein committed horrible crimes, I do still miss him on nights like this for his warmth and camaraderie. Rest In Peace old Friend,” he wrote. 

His account was quickly banned, but Klein defended himself on TikTok, arguing that both his cover photo and bio labeled his account as “parody” and therefore should be acceptable under Musk’s guidelines. 

“What more do you want from me?” he asked. “Comedy is dead. And Elon Musk dug the grave.” 

Protests of Musk’s Twitter Control

For her part, Griffin likewise tweeted while masquerading as Musk, writing that after “spirited discussion with the females in my life, I’ve decided that voting blue for their choice is only right.”

Musk joked that she was actually “suspended for impersonating a comedian” and added that she can have her account back if she pays for the $8 subscription. Griffin, however, found another way around the ban.

The comedian logged into her late mother’s Twitter account and began using the hashtag #FreeKathy while calling out Musk. 

“Mad Men” actor Rich Sommer and podcaster Griffin Newman have also had their accounts suspended for tweeting as Musk. Other celebrities, including TV producer Shonda Rhimes, musician Sara Bareilles, and model Gigi Hadid have protested Musk’s Twitter reign by leaving the platform altogether.

“For a long time, but especially with its new leadership, it’s becoming more and more of a cesspool of hate & bigotry, and it’s not a place I want to be a part of,” Hadid wrote on Instagram over the weekend. 

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Variety) (The Verge)

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AOC Says Twitter Notifications “Conveniently” Disabled After Criticizing Musk

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“What’s good? Doesn’t seem very free speechy to me,” she tweeted at the new CEO.


AOC Vs. Elon Musk

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said several of her Twitter features are “conveniently not working” after feuding with the platform’s new owner, billionaire Elon Musk.

Ocasio-Cortez has never been shy about her views on Musk. After he officially took charge of Twitter last week, the congresswoman began criticizing his new proposals for the social networking site, specifically his plan to charge an $8 subscription fee for verification. 

“Lmao at a billionaire earnestly trying to sell people on the idea that ‘free speech’ is actually a $8/mo subscription plan,” she wrote on Tuesday.

“Your feedback is appreciated, now pay $8,” Musk replied the following day.

Around an hour later, the business mogul sent another tweet appearing to call Ocasio-Cortez out for selling $58 sweatshirts. 

“Proud of this and always will be,” she shot back. “My workers are union, make a living wage, have full healthcare, and aren’t subject to racist treatment in their workplaces. Items are made in USA. Team AOC honors and respects working people. You should try it sometime instead of union-busting.”

In a follow-up tweet, she noted that proceeds go to community organizing programs, including one that tutors students who are falling behind because of COVID-19.

AOC’s Mentions Not Working

On Wednesday evening, just hours after her back-and-forth with Musk, Ocasio-Cortez told her followers that her “Twitter mentions/notifications conveniently aren’t working tonight.”

“I was informed via text that I seem to have gotten under a certain billionaire’s skin,” she added. “Just a reminder that money will never [buy] your way out of insecurity, folks.” 

The issue seemingly continued into Thursday morning when the Democrat tweeted a screenshot of her notifications page, which loaded no results. 

Why should people pay $8 just for their app to get bricked when they say something you don’t like?” she tweeted at Musk. “This is what my app has looked like ever since my tweet upset you yesterday. What’s good? Doesn’t seem very free speechy to me.”

Musk has repeatedly claimed that one of his primary motives to buy Twitter was to protect free speech. Once taking the reigns as CEO, though, he did say he would start a content moderation council and make decisions jointly with them.

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (Insider)

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South Carolina County Votes Against Moving LGBTQ+ Friendly Books Away from Children’s Section

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Efforts to limit LGBTQ+ content in libraries first began over the summer.


Attempts to Restrict LGBTQ+ Displays

The county council in Greenville County, South Carolina this week voted against discussing a resolution that would move all books “promoting sexuality” to the adult section.

This resolution is the culmination of months of turmoil in Greenville County. In June, libraries in the county removed Pride displays at the direction of library officials. Then in September, the county’s Republican Party executive board passed a resolution to call on the County Council to restrict access to books with LGBTQ+ themes and characters. 

The resolution was proposed by Joe Dill, an outgoing council member, as well as a member of the county’s Republican Party executive board. It proposed the council “officially order that no books or content, including digital copies or online accessible materials, promoting sexuality be allowed in the Children’s Sections of our public libraries.” 

Resolution Rejected

However, the resolution required the council to suspend its regular rules in order to discuss it as it was not submitted to the council via committee. The final vote was 9 to 3 against the suspension of the rules and effectively killed the resolution. 

Those that voted against it viewed the resolution as an overreach.

“We just do not believe that’s our job to get involved in the library’s business,” Council member Ennis Fett said to a local news outlet. “We appoint a board. We can not set a precedent of micromanaging the library board, because if we do that, then, we will be micromanaging all boards and commissions that we appoint.” 

Although the council decided not to get involved, the library still has the final decision to make regarding these books. Their meeting to discuss the matter is scheduled for December 5. 

See what others are saying: (Greenville News) (The Post and Courier) (7 News)

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