conflict of interest
July 9, 2020

The forced resignation turned firing of former U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman wasn't the first time Attorney General William Barr tried to push Berman out of his job, he says.

Barr announced last month that Berman had resigned from his job, and, after Berman said he hadn't done so, Barr had Trump fire Berman at his direction. Berman gave written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday telling his side of the story, and it reveals a deeper campaign to get Berman out of office, Politico reports.

Berman got an unexpected message from Barr on June 18, and had a 45-minute meeting with the attorney general the next day, Berman's testimony reads. "The attorney general began the meeting by saying that he wanted to make a change in the Southern District of New York," Berman wrote, and suggested Berman take a job in the Justice Department's Civil Division. Barr wanted to slot Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Jay Clayton into the role, Berman testified.

"I responded that I loved my job and my colleagues at the Southern District," and that "there were important investigations in the Office that I wanted to see through to completion," Berman continued. But Barr's prodding didn't stop, and eventually he said Berman would be fired if he didn't step down, Berman wrote. Berman then left the meeting and prepared to take legal action if he was ousted.

Berman, a Trump appointee, previously led the investigation into hush-money payments made to two women who alleged affairs with Trump, as well as probes into other Trump associates. He was also heading the investigation into financier and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Kathryn Krawczyk

June 25, 2016

The Bay Area branch of Black Lives Matter (BLM) has decided to withdraw from this weekend's Pride Parade in San Francisco in response to a scaled-up police presence planned for the event following the mass shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, a gay bar.

"The Black Lives Matter network is grateful to the people of San Francisco for choosing us, we choose you too,” said BLM member Malkia Cyril in a statement explaining the group's choice, which was shared by at least two other organizations: the TGI Justice Project, a nonprofit which works with imprisoned, transgender women of color, and the St. James Infirmary, a clinic serving sex workers.

"As queer people of color, we are disproportionately targeted by both vigilante and police violence," Cyril continued. "We know first hand that increasing the police presence at Pride does not increase safety for all people. Militarizing these events increases the potential for harm to our communities and we hope in the future SF Pride will consider community-centered approaches to security at pride events.” Bonnie Kristian

May 25, 2016

Civilians awaiting rescue in Raqqa, the Islamic State's de facto capital, might not actually be that thrilled about their impending liberation. That's because, as CNN reports, given the choice between liberation by the predominantly Kurdish (and U.S.-backed) Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and rule under ISIS, Syrians in Raqqa may actually choose to "throw their lot" behind the terrorist group. As one tweet from the activist group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently put it, the "strategy of taking Raqqa by SDF ... [may] push a lot of people to join ISIS."

While the inhabitants of Raqqa may not quite be enjoying life since ISIS seized the city in 2013, ethnic tensions have Raqqa's Arabs leery of their potential liberators:

Backed by the United States, the Syrian Democratic Forces are a coalition of Kurdish, Assyrian, Christian, Arab tribal and other forces. But they are dominated by the Kurdish YPG, the Popular Defense Units. In other words, it's a Kurdish armed force with a multi-ethnic façade, and the Arabs of Raqqa could well be worried about their intentions in a post-ISIS Syria. [CNN]

The conundrum is one deeply rooted in history. The Kurds have long been suspected of trying to create a separate state from Syria and Iraq, CNN notes, which has Raqqa residents wary; when they see a predominantly Kurdish force coming to clear the countryside north of the city, the question arises of whether they're truly coming to rescue them, or just to take their land. Thus far, the SDF has promised its efforts are not aimed at the city itself.

Head over to CNN for the full back story on the current situation in Raqqa. Becca Stanek

January 22, 2016

Five of the 10 former U.S. diplomats who signed Hillary Clinton's letter questioning opponent Bernie Sanders' foreign policy chops have ties to the military contracting establishment, posing a potential conflict of interest. Military contractors have reaped the benefits of increasing violence worldwide and particularly in the Middle East, as increased security threats have boosted defense spending.

A recent report shows that not only has the escalating violence spurred governments to increase defense spending, it's also given defense contractors an opportunity to sell more weapons systems and military equipment. Moreover, The Intercept reports, defense contractors have previously "bragged about pushing candidates toward adopting more militaristic policies."

Of the foreign policy experts who signed Clinton's letter released Tuesday, The Intercept reports that three are employed by Beacon Global Strategies, whose primary clientele is military contractors; one is a senior counselor at the Cohen Group, which "assists aerospace and defense firms on policy, business development, and transactions"; and another is on the board of military contractor BEI Precision Systems & Space and is an advisory board member to the start-up Endgame Systems, which The Intercept reports has been called the "Blackwater of Hacking."

Read more over at The Intercept. Becca Stanek

March 2, 2015

Billionaire investor and CEO Warren Buffett, who is supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016, suggested today that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) should tone down her crusade against Wall Street:

I think that she would do better if she was less angry and demonizing.... I think the whole nature of governing — particularly when you've got a divided government like we have now — is that you end up with bills that each side doesn't like but they like it better than doing nothing. I mean, that's the way that government has to function. And it does not help when you demonize... the people you're talking to. [Business Insider]

Research on media and professional descriptions of women in politics and the business world suggest that women more likely than men to be criticized for confident, ambitious behavior. Bonnie Kristian

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