President Trump is a disgrace to men and women in uniform

President Trump has continued to court controversy this week with his treatment of the families of four servicemen killed in an ambush in Niger two weeks ago.

The President was accused by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-FL) of being highly insensitive in his treatment of the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, who was one of four US soldiers killed by ISIS fighters in Niger. Representative Wilson said that the President told Sgt. Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, that “he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway”. Mrs. Johnson confirmed what the President said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC. Myeshia Johnson said the President’s comments made her cry, and that he struggled to remember Sgt. Johnson’s name.

The President’s words have sparked a national outcry, and reignited the conversation about his treatment of veterans in the past. During the 2016 election cycle, Donald Trump engaged in a feud with the parents of Captain Humayun Khan, an American soldier killed in Iraq in 2007. After Capt. Khan’s father said that Trump had sacrificed nothing, Trump made the claim that he has “made a lot of sacrifices”. In fact, Trump had five deferments from the Vietnam draft, including one for alleged bone spurs in his heels.

In yet another example of President Trump’s disdain for military veterans, stating “I like people who weren’t captured”, in reference to Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Senator McCain was held as POW in Vietnam for five years, tortured and beaten brutally. He is permanently disabled as a result.

The only thing left for the President to do is apologize immediately for the grief he caused to a Gold Star widow. It is clear that our President does not respect our military, our veterans, or our prisoners of war.

Trump’s Disregard for the Rule of Law

The controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was convicted of criminal contempt in 2015, has just been pardoned by President Trump.

So, what does this mean for Trump, his base, and the status of the law in our country today?

First, and perhaps most importantly, the President has proven to the American people that he has no regard for the rule of law in our country. Sheriff Arpaio was found guilty by a jury of peers for directly disobeying a court ruling. He regularly engaged in racial profiling and arguably violated the 8th amendment, including not allowing water for inmates kept outside in the Arizona desert. Arpaio should be in prison.

In regards to his base, Trump’s pardoning of the sadistic Arizona sheriff is simply another way to throw red meat to his base. The President understands that by openly supporting, condoning, and even pardoning government officials who vilify immigrants, he only galvanizes his most die-hard supporters.

Besides the potential support the President has gained from his supporters, many top Republicans have openly condemned his decision to pardon Arpaio. “The President has the authority to make this pardon, but doing so at this time undermines his claim for the respect of rule of law as Mr. Arpaio has shown no remorse for his actions,” said John McCain, the senior Republican Senator from Arizona.

The junior Republican from Arizona, Jeff Flake, also criticized the President’s decision. What made the President’s decision even more disgusting, however, was the fact he apparently pardoned Arpaio during Hurricane Harvey in a bid to earn “far higher” ratings. He has shown time, and time, and time again that he is more concerned with ratings than anything else, and it is clear he cares more about his public perception than our laws and courts.

 

Know Your Rights: Police Encounters

Several weeks ago, Jesse Bright, an Uber driver and criminal defense attorney, was pulled over by a Wilmington sheriff’s deputy. Mr Bright was completing a round trip for Uber, which he does occasionally to help pay off his law school loans. Immediately upon being pulled over, Mr Bright began recording his encounter with Sgt. Kenneth Becker. Sgt. Becker told him to turn off the phone. The following dialogue is the Washington Post transcript of Mr Bright’s video:

“Hey, bud, turn that off, okay?” Becker said.
“No, I’ll keep recording, thank you,” Bright responded. “It’s my right.”
“Don’t record me,” the police sergeant said. “You got me?”
“Look,” Bright said, “you’re a police officer on duty. I can record you.”
“Be careful because there is a new law,” Becker said. “Turn it off or I’ll take you to jail.”
“For recording you?” the video shows Bright asking Becker. “What is the law?”
Bright continued to record, saying, “I know my rights.”
“I hope so,” said Becker, the police sergeant. “I know what the law is.”
“I know the law,” Bright said. “I’m an attorney, so I would hope I know what the law is.”

While police officers often use intimidation tactics in order to get you to comply with their wishes, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from infringement of your constitutional rights. The most important thing you can do is to know just exactly what those rights are; do you really have to give a cop your identification if he asks for it? Can you film cops in public? I’ll do my best to give you a crash-course here.

Can I film police officers?

Mostly. Thirty eight states allow citizens to record police officers under all circumstances. However, twelve states (California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington) require the consent of both parties before recording a conversation. While there is officially a “two party” requirement for recording conversations, a 2015 1st Circuit case affirmed the right of citizens to record police as a fundamental constitutional right protected by the First Amendment. While filming police is almost always legal, be aware that cops may try to confiscate your camera or force you to turn it off. They may also charge you with a vague misdemeanor like obstruction of justice or disorderly conduct. Be calm, be polite, and know the law in your own state.

What do I do if a police officer wants to search me/my car?

While a police officer might try to convince you or intimidate you into consenting to a search, you are under no legal obligation to do so. Police almost always ask “Do you mind if I take a look through your car?”, and they ask that for a reason. While it may seem like your own desires for privacy are trumped by the police, you do not have to consent to a search. However, the Supreme Court has ruled that if a police officer can see or smell contraband from outside the car, there is probable cause and the police can search your car without your consent.

Police officers almost never tell you that you have the right to say no, and that’s why so many people buckle under the stress of a police encounter. If they do not have probable cause or a warrant, do not consent to a search. Civil asset forfeiture is an ongoing issue with the American law enforcement community; if they believe you are carrying cash to purchase drugs, for example, they can take your cash without a trial. It is extremely difficult to retrieve stolen assets when police claim civil asset forfeiture.

Do I have to answer police officer’s questions?

While it would certainly make your day easier to cooperate fully with law enforcement, you have no legal obligation to do so. You legally have the right to remain silent. When an officer begins asking you probing questions, make it clear that you are invoking your right to remain silent and wish to speak to a lawyer.

One issue that many college students face is police cracking down on underage drinking. If you are walking (NOT driving), and are stopped and asked to take a breathalyzer test, you can refuse. However, it is important to note that the police at that point are legally allowed to bring you in, get a warrant, and perform a forced blood test. It is highly unlikely that they will do that for a charge as inconsequential as underage drinking, but it is possible.

 

It is important to remember that not cooperating with the police will most likely make your day a little bit harder. However, it is also important to remember that the primary tactic used by police is intimidation. If you keep that in mind, and know your rights, you and your property will be much safer from intimidating, and occasionally illegal, police tactics.

 

The Hypocrisy of the Right

With the recent immigration Executive Order issued by President Trump, the true nature of many of America’s GOP leaders is coming to light. Despite courting the Evangelical vote for decades, Republican lawmakers are showing callous disregard for the Bible as they defend President Trump’s draconian policies. The Holy Bible is very clear about how Christians are meant to treat foreigners and refugees:

“The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” -Leviticus 19:34

“I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick in prison and you did not visit me.” -Matthew 25:43

There are many more verses in the Bible that are similar to the two verses above. Jesus teaches that the poor and vulnerable in society must be taken care of and welcomed with open arms. Despite claiming to be Christians, the GOP has shown it’s true character in defending the refugee ban currently in place. Only a handful of Republican lawmakers have fought it, including John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The following is from the Washington Post:

“Freedom of religion is a fundamental constitutional principle. It’s a founding principle of this country,” Ryan told reporters following a closed-door morning meeting at the Republican National Committee in December 2015. “This is not conservatism. What was proposed yesterday is not what this party stands for. And more importantly, it’s not what this country stands for.”

Since President Trump has taken office, Paul Ryan has remained deafeningly silent regarding the ban. Luckily, a federal judge has temporarily halted the “Muslim Ban”, as many call it. Alt-right publications, including InfoWars, have suggested that the judge is committing treason by making use of the checks-and-balances system that is so integral to our republican form of government. Trump has gone on to attack the credibility of the judge who halted his EO on Twitter, and in doing so, has attacked the very foundation of American government.