The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled 2-1 on June 26 that President Donald Trump lacked the constitutional authority to transfer Department of Defense (DoD) funds for use in the construction of a wall along the Mexican border. The court found that the transfer of $2.5 billion circumvented Congress, which had previously denied requests for the funding. The panel affirmed a district court’s judgment, "holding that budgetary transfers of funds for the construction of a wall on the southern border of the United States in California and New Mexico were not authorized under the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2019."
In Episode 54 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the twin threats of a totalitarian order that the United States faces at this history-making moment: Trump-fascism, perhaps to be lubricated by a "Reichstag Fire" scenario ahead of the November election, and a post-pandemic "new normality" of complete surveillance and social control. Eerily predictive of these twin dystopias are two works of "future fiction" from the 20th century—It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis and The Machine Stops by EM Forster. With the Black Lives Matter uprising deepening the ugly backlash from the Trump camp and a COVID-19 "second wave" looming, the US is poised on a razor's edge between long-overdue leaps of social progress and descent into some kind of updated American variant of fascism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.
Black Lives Matter DC and other protesters have filed a lawsuit asserting that their ouster from Lafayette Square near the White House on June 1 violated both their First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly and their Fourth Amendment right of freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. The complaint states that the US Secret Service, US Park Police, DC National Guard and US Military Police unleashed tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and flash bombs on peaceful protesters, without provocation, in order to clear a path for President Donald Trump to walk to a photo opportunity at a nearby church. In addition, plaintiffs argue that this action was intentional as evidenced by Trump's statements about protesters, referring to them as "THUGS" in his tweets. Further, in his phone call with governors, Trump stated they must take harsher actions to "dominate" protesters, and his Secretary of Defense Mark Esper stated that governors need to "dominate the battlespace."
In Episode 53 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the pathological propaganda game in which Donald Trump exploits the pro-democracy uprising in Hong Kong and Xi Jinping exploits the uprising that has exploded across the US since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. With Trump scolding China over the Hong Kong repression even as he threatens to unleash military troops on protesters in the US, the contradictions could not be more evident. Weinberg urges the Hong Kong protesters to put down their American flags, and stateside protesters not to be fooled by Chinese Foreign Ministry statements in support of the uprising in the United States. Protesters in Hong Kong and the US are natural allies of each other—not of each other's respective oppressors. Listen on SoundCloud.
President Donald Trump on April 22 signed an executive order suspending the admission of new permanent residents into the United States for the next 60 days, with an option for renewal, citing "a potentially protracted economic recovery with persistently high unemployment if labor supply outpaces labor demand." The order bars the entry of several categories of immigrants who are currently outside of the US and do not already have a valid immigrant visa to enter the country. This includes those seeking green cards for work, with certain exceptions, as well as the spouses and children of legal permanent residents or green-card holders, and the siblings, parents and adult children of US citizens.
The chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe announced March 27 that the US Secretary of the Interior has issued an order disestablishing its reservation on Massachusetts' Cape Cod and taking its land out of federal trust. Chairman Cedric Cromwell Qaqeemasq said in a statement: "[T]oday—on the very day that the United States has reached a record 100,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and our Tribe is desperately struggling with responding to this devastating pandemic—the Bureau of Indian Affairs informed me that the Secretary of the Interior has ordered that our reservation be disestablished and that our land be taken out of trust. Not since the termination era of the mid-twentieth century has a Secretary taken action to disestablish a reservation."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on March 24 filed a lawsuit against US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) calling for the immediate release of at-risk immigrant detainees in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. The suit was brought on behalf of 13 immigrants that are currently held in California detention centers. The suit calls for the immediate release of these immigrants due to their "advanced age and underlying medical conditions" that make them "especially vulnerable to the potentially fatal COVID-19 infection while they are confined in crowded and unsanitary conditions where social distancing is not possible." The plaintiffs suffer from conditions such as diabetes, severe asthma, high blood pressure, gout, hypothyroidism, severe anemia and more.
The Department of Justice has called on Congress to grant the US Attorney General emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Politico report March 21. The proposal would allow federal judges to pause court proceedings, giving them the ability to detain people indefinitely without trial. Critics such as Norman L. Reimer, director of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, are raising concerns over violation of habeas corpus rights. Reimer said the proposal "means you could be arrested and never brought before a judge until they decide that the emergency...is over. I find it absolutely terrifying."