Encapsulated in a bubble

 

 

By Josh Moon

The American president has refused to defend America. That is, as far as I can tell, an unprecedented development in American history. Even when delusional conservatives were railing on and on about President Obama, they usually stopped short of seriously complaining that he had sold out the country in deference to a hostile foreign nation. 

    Because it’s an act so astonishing, so unprecedented that it’s hard to seriously fathom. 

   And yet, on Monday, there was Trump, standing alongside Vladamir Putin — a man whose 12 military officers were indicted by the American Department of Justice just 72 hours ago for hacking an American election — at a press conference. That brings the total number of Russian citizens indicted by Robert Mueller and his team to 25. 

    But that didn’t stop Trump from meeting with Putin. And it didn’t stop the two from presenting a cozy relationship. 

    And it didn’t stop the American president from proclaiming that the relationship with Russia — strained for the past four years, he said — got “a lot better about four hours ago.” And it didn’t stop the American president from saying during a press conference on foreign soil, standing side by side with a foreign adversary, that he had as much faith in the adversary’s words as he does in the American intelligence agencies’ investigation and his own DOJ’s indictment. 

    It was an utterly deplorable scene. 

   And one that Republicans appear too ignorant to understand. 

   Let me be clear: That is not an assessment of Republicans’ intelligence. It is an assessment of Republicans’ sources of information. 

    It has left them ignorant of basic facts and completely lost when it comes to details that should be widely known and accepted facts by now. 

   How badly misled are GOP voters? 

   Consider this: On Monday — again, just 72 hours after the DOJ announced the hacking indictments — a candidate for Alabama Attorney General, Troy King, a former attorney general in the state, invited and advertised that Trump advisor Roger Stone would be in Alabama to endorse King. Because King’s campaign has taken the temperature of the Alabama GOP voters and determined that such an endorsement would aid King. 

    This is the same Roger Stone who exchanged messages with one of the most prominent Russian hackers in an attempt to obtain the hacked information. While he wasn’t named in Friday’s indictment, he was all-but-named in Friday’s indictment, as a person “in regular contact with the Trump campaign.” 

   It is widely believed that charges against Stone are forthcoming. Stone’s finances have already been investigated by Mueller’s team and Stone is on record saying he expects to be indicted. 

   But somehow, Alabama GOP voters see the guy as a trustworthy source of political advice. 

   There’s only one possibility for how that can be: Those voters are ignorant of Stone’s transgressions and of the seriousness of the Russian interference in our elections. 

   Republicans have encapsulated themselves in a bubble. And the only thing that is allowed into that bubble are sources that confirm their already held beliefs. Anything that deviates from those beliefs even slightly — no matter how grounded in reality that information might be — is dismissed as “lib’rul fake news.”

   Except … it’s not. 

   I seriously wonder how conservatives never feel embarrassed by the misguided and things they believe. Like that Obama was behind Benghazi. Or that Hillary Clinton sold uranium to Russia. Or that Obama wasn’t born in America. Or that the IRS was targeting Republicans. Or that unemployment under Obama was fake but is real under Trump. 

   All along, us sane people have tried to convey to you that your continued shunning of legitimate news sources could become detrimental to the country. 

   And now, here we are. 

   An American president is actively “paling around” with dictators, selling out American law enforcement and lifelong patriots and undermining the American government for personal gain repeatedly, and you’re making excuses. You’re parroting the orange buffoon and calling it all one grand witch hunt. 

Birmingham superfund scam extends well beyond federal courtroom

 

 

By Josh Moon

A scam took place in Birmingham. It involved an EPA superfund site. It involved political corruption. It involved poor, mostly black people getting the absolute shaft by the people who swore oaths to protect them.

   No, this scam isn’t part of the ongoing Oliver Robinson federal corruption trial.

It is very specifically not part of that trial.

   Because that’s the scam. That only Robinson and three others are being shamed for their abhorrent actions.

   It’s so absurd, it’s laughable.

I’ve followed along with this case since the beginning — pulling court filings, talking to those involved, talking to people on the fringes, discussing it with lawyers and former prosecutors. I’ve also followed the work of the reporters — mainly al.com’s Kyle Whitmire and John Archibald — who have been reporting this story on a daily basis.

   If you’ve somehow missed what’s happening there, here’s the gist: The EPA discovered massive, people-killing pollution in the ground in north Birmingham, allegedly from decades of pollution from nearby coal plants. The EPA was starting a cleanup project, which it planned to force the coal companies to pay for, and was looking to designate the site a “superfund site.” Doing so would’ve expanded their testing and put coal companies on the hook for millions more in cleanup.

Drummond Coal, one of the biggest coal producers in the country, was particularly annoyed by this. So, working through its lawfirm, Balch & Bingham, Drummond (allegedly) bribed former state Rep. Oliver Robinson to fight the superfund designation both in the Legislature and in the affected neighborhoods.

   At least, that’s the story if you believe what the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Birmingham is pushing.

   In reality, as we know from the court evidence in this case, that’s far, far, far from all that was happening. And Robinson, Balch attorneys Joel Gilbert and Steve McKinney and Drummond vice president David Roberson — the three men alleged to have bribed Robinson — are far from the only people to have dirty hands in this.

   Here’s what we know for certain: The Balch & Bingham law firm was producing documents on behalf of half the elected people in Alabama, and all of those documents were fighting the evil EPA, which had the gall to want to come into Alabama and stop poor black people from dying from pollution cancer.

   I’m not exaggerating this.

   We know these things to be true. We know it because most of our elected officials are idiots, and because Balch was producing so many pre-written letters it made mistakes, so there’s stone cold hard evidence that Balch wrote letters that then-AG Luther Strange sent to the EPA. And wrote a whole resolution that our entire state Legislature PASSED! And wrote more letters that Robinson and other elected officials coerced affected citizens to sign.

   It didn’t stop there, either. Some of Drummond’s business partners and financial partners aided it and other coal companies in the area, contributing millions more to this scam.

But for right now, I want you to think about only the most egregious sellout.

   Seriously. Take a moment and really think about the details of this: There is an area of this state filled with people. That area, over the course of decades, has become polluted to the point that people — elderly people, children, preachers and sinners and Christians and good and decent folks — are dying early and falling sick more often.

   A federal agency runs tests that conclusively prove this pollution is present. It believes the polluters are nearby multi-million dollar companies.

   Instead of paying what would’ve amounted to a fraction of its annual profits to clean up the mess it made, Drummond Coal, one of the alleged polluters, gets its high-powered law firm to fight it. That firm draws up a resolution against the EPA.

   A resolution against those poor, sick people in Birmingham. Against everything that is good and decent and holy.

   And a powerful state senator, Jabo Waggoner, sponsors it. And both houses pass it.    And the governor signs it.

   Now, most of these lawmakers — as usual — had no idea what they were voting on. But that doesn’t matter. Because what they passed sent a message to the poor people of Birmingham. It made it easier to sell them out.

   So, yeah, there was a scam in north Birmingham. But don’t you for a second believe the perpetrators are limited to the people in that federal courtroom.

Brasher not fit to be a federal judge

 

 

By Josh Moon

One of the dumbest legal conversations I ever had with anyone in Alabama state government was with someone who is currently on the verge of landing a lifetime federal judgeship — one of the most coveted and important positions in the U.S. justice system.

    The conversation, like most of my legal conversations, involved gambling. Two gambling proposals had been put forth by the Alabama Legislature, and the Alabama Attorney General’s Office had just issued a statement supporting one over the other. The statement was confusing and incorrect in its assessment of the applicable laws — specifically, the AG’s office had misinterpreted Indian gaming laws.

   So, I called to ask about the statement and the mistakes.

   On the other end of the phone was Alabama’s Solicitor General, Andrew Brasher — the same man the Trump administration has now nominated to serve as a federal judge in Alabama’s Middle District.

   For the better part of 15 minutes, Brasher argued with me about the laws. I won’t get too deep into the weeds of it all, but the confusion on his part involved the requirements of states and tribes entering into Class III gaming compacts.

   Now, my legal expertise would typically fill a medicine cup. But inside that cup would be Alabama and tribal gaming laws. And I know those laws because some of the best legal minds in America have explained them to me during the course of writing numerous stories.

   Brasher was wrong. But instead of admitting it, he challenged me to provide him the relevant statutes. I did. He was still wrong.

But instead of admitting the mistake and retracting the statement the AG’s office released, the response back was: “We believe it’s complicated.”

   Quite the legal ruling.

   To put that another way, the response was: We have a conclusion that we want to reach and we will twist the laws any way we have to in order to get there.

And that, in a nutshell, is why Andrew Brasher shouldn’t be anywhere near a federal bench.

   Whether it’s defending bogus press statements or wasting taxpayer money on disgraced “expert” witnesses or utilizing junk science to push a political position, Brasher’s legal resume is chock full of examples of him choosing politics over law.

   It’s so bad that on Friday the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights wrote to the Senate Judiciary Committee tasked with approving Brasher’s nomination urging it to oppose him. The lengthy letter cited numerous examples of Brasher submitting briefs or making arguments in court that were roundly rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts.

   Among other ludicrous arguments, Brasher has argued that … there was no racial gerrymandering in Alabama redistricting plan (the Supreme Court disagreed), demanding proof of citizenship on a voter registration card was legal (the Supreme Court disagreed), that only straight people should be allowed to adopt (the Supreme Court disagreed) and a fetus should granted an attorney.

There’s also this little nugget: During his confirmation hearing, Brasher refused to say that Brown v. Board of Ed. was correctly decided. Because, you know, who is he to say — a judge or something?

   But probably the best summation of Brasher’s politically-driven career as an ideological prosecutor in Alabama came during a federal trial over Alabama’s restrictive laws on abortion clinics — laws that would have certainly forced most or all of the clinics to close. Unable to locate credible witnesses — medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. — who would speak on the state’s side, Brasher and the AG’s office trotted out the paid stooges.

   Four “experts” were paid more than $300,000 to testify on the state’s behalf. They were so bad that the judge in the case all but openly mocked them, and things became so bad that at one point, while questioning his witnesses, Brasher began to bang his own head on the wooden lectern.

   That’s what happens when you choose politics over law in the courtroom. The system isn’t built to handle it. Things go awry. Justice falters.

   And that’s what you risk by approving Brasher.