Great Falls, Mont.
A county judge last week sentenced two men who lied about being veterans to jail terms and said they wouldn’t be eligible for parole until they handwrite the names of all 6,756 Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Judge Greg Pinski sentenced Ryan Morris, 28, to seven years in prison for violating probation after a felony burglary, and Troy Nelson, 33, to two years for drug possession. Both men had lied to get their cases moved to a veterans’ court, which Pinski called “abhorrent to the men and women who have actually served this country.” For a shot at parole, they must handwrite the names of the fallen and the obituaries for the 40 Montana soldiers in that group. After release, they must stand outside a monument on Memorial Day and Veterans Day wearing placards that read “I stole valor” and “I have dishonored all veterans.” Their attorneys object to the humiliating signs.
A seat in Congress
The Cherokee Nation announced plans last week to send a delegate to Congress for the first time in the tribe’s history. Newly sworn-in Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. cited the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. Though this treaty provided the dubious legal basis for the Trail of Tears, it also entitled the Cherokee to send a delegate to the House of Representatives. “These treaties are sacred. There’s no expiration date,” said Hoskin, whose tribe, the largest in the U.S., has nearly 400,000 members. “What I’m asking is for the government of the United States to keep its word.” Hoskin chose Kimberly Teehee, a Democrat and former Obama administration adviser, to serve in the role. It’s unclear whether the House will seat Teehee. If it does, she will have the same authority as the House’s six other nonvoting representatives: They can’t vote on the House floor, but can vote in committees, introduce legislation, and participate in debate.
President Trump has ordered aides to find a way to construct hundreds of miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border before the 2020 election, telling them he’ll pardon them if they break laws to get the job done, The Washington Post reported this week. Current and former officials say Trump waved off concerns about invoking eminent domain, saying “Take the land,” and ordered officials to disregard environmental rules, assuring them, “Don’t worry, I’ll pardon you.” A White House official said Trump was joking about the pardons. Citing loud chants of “Finish the wall!” at his rallies, Trump said he must make good on his campaign promise, and that construction of 500 miles of fencing must be done by Election Day. So far, only 60 miles of replacement barriers have been erected. Trump reportedly insists that the new steel barriers be painted black and topped with sharpened tips.
Abortion ban blocked
Kansas City, Mo.
A federal judge blocked Missouri’s ban on abortions after the eighth week of pregnancy this week, one day before it was set to take effect, saying the law is likely unconstitutional. Judge Howard Sachs criticized lawmakers’ “hostility” to Supreme Court precedent, calling the bill passed in May a “protest” against decisions such as Roe v. Wade; he said it would block about half of reported abortions in Missouri, where just one abortion clinic remains. Sachs did allow other components of the law to take effect, including bans on abortions motivated solely by the sex or race of the fetus, or by a diagnosis of Down syndrome. The law would punish medical professionals who break the eight-week rule with up to 15 years in prison; Roe established a 24-week standard. Missouri created exceptions for when a woman faces a “medical emergency,” but not for when a pregnancy results from rape or incest.
Student barred from U.S.
Immigration officers searched an incoming Harvard University freshman’s cellphone for political content last week at Logan International Airport, before revoking his visa. Ismail Ajjawi, a Palestinian student who lives in Tyre, Lebanon, says an immigration official “screamed” at him after finding that he had friends “posting political points of view that oppose the U.S.” on his social media. A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson confirmed Ajjawi was “deemed inadmissible” but declined to elaborate. Ajjawi says he was detained at the airport with a handful of international students but was forced to stay eight hours longer after they were released. He says he was asked about his religious practices and social media activity while officials demanded access to his cellphone and laptop. Before being deported, Ajjawi says he told his interrogator, “I shouldn’t be held responsible for what others post.”
Attorney General William Barr booked the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., for a lavish holiday party that will cost him at least $31,500, The Washington Post reported this week. Barr hosts an annual soiree for family and friends, and his choice of venue for this year’s Dec. 8 event drew criticism from those who say President Trump improperly profits from his businesses, especially the D.C. hotel. Barr plans to invite about 200 people to enjoy a buffet and four-hour open bar; the tab could run north of $45,000, the Post reports. Barr says he consulted Justice Department ethics officials before booking the hotel last month, and did so only after learning that two other hotels are unavailable. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said Barr’s party “normalizes conduct of presidential supporters” who patronize Trump’s businesses “to curry favor with the president.” ■