Video: ‘Pathetically Weak’: Father Of Student Slain In Florida Denounces Marco Rubio!

 

Dear Commons Community,

Last night during a town hall meeting hosted by CNN, Fred Guttenberg, the father of a student killed last week in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, slammed Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). Guttenberg told Rubio that:

“Your comments this week and those of our president have been pathetically weak… You and I are now eye to eye. Because I want to like you, look at me and tell me that guns were the factor in the hunting of our kids in this school this week. And look at me and tell me you accept it and you will work with us to do something about guns.”

After Guttenberg’s question, Rubio didn’t immediately answer and instead sought to clarify his statements over the past week in which he’s reaffirmed his support for gun rights while remaining open to incremental measures that would prevent some people from obtaining weapons. “Here’s what I said: The problems that we’re facing here today cannot be solved by gun laws alone.”

Guttenberg interjected, demanding the senator say if guns were responsible for his daughters death.

“Absolutely, of course they were,” Rubio replied. “I absolutely believe that in this country if you are 18 years of age you should not be able to buy a rifle. I will support the banning of bump stocks. I will support changing our background system.”

Rubio was repeatedly booed during his response, and the jeers continued throughout the night. The arena, packed with more than 7,000 people, erupted in frustration when the senator effectively said he’d continue to accept campaign donations from the National Rifle Association.

As Guttenberg continued to question Rubio, the Republican once again voiced his opposition to legislation that would ban the class of assault-style weapons, including the AR-15, used in last week’s massacre, saying such a ban wouldn’t prevent such shootings from happening. The stance echoed a speech he gave in Congress last Thursday, when he declared that “if someone has decided ‘I’m going to commit this crime,’ they will find a way to get the gun to do it.”

“Sen. Rubio, my daughter, running down the hallway at Marjory Douglas, was shot with an assault weapon, the weapon of choice,” Guttenberg said after Rubio voiced his opposition to such legislation. “It is too easy to get. It is a weapon of war. The fact that you can stand here and can’t say that, I’m sorry.”

The Huffington Post in an article on last night’s CNN event reported that Rubio has received more than $3.3 million from the NRA over the course of his political career.

Our hearts go out to Mr. Guttenberg and the entire community in Parkland, Florida but it is clear that the NRA and pro-gun lobbyists will do everything possible through elected officials like Senator Rubio to stop any major change to gun laws in this country.

Tony

NY Times Editorial Asks: Will America Choose Its Children Over Guns?

Dear Commons Community,

In light of student activism this past week following the killings in Parkland, Florida, The New York Times editorial (see below) this morning asks:  “Will America Choose Its Children Over Guns?”    As commented in the editorial, moments arrive when citizens say they’ve had enough, when they rise up against political leaders who do not speak for them and whose moral fecklessness imperils lives. We may be witness to such a moment now with the protests by American teenagers sickened — and terrified — by the latest mass murder at the hands of someone with easy access to a weapon fit for a battlefield, not a school.  These kids have had enough. 

It appears that more of our elected representatives are listening now than in the past. Also it is not easy for those who support gun rights such as the NRA to push back too strongly against a children’s movement.  Trump cannot affix a “crooked’ or “fake news” moniker on the children who appear genuinely committed to hold their representatives accountable.  We wish them well and hope they can stay the course.

Tony

==================================

Will America Choose Its Children Over Guns?

By the Editorial Board

Feb. 20, 2018

As surely as there are camels’ backs and straws to break them, moments arrive when citizens say they’ve had enough, when they rise up against political leaders who do not speak for them and whose moral fecklessness imperils lives. We may be witness to such a moment now with the protests by American teenagers sickened — and terrified — by the latest mass murder at the hands of someone with easy access to a weapon fit for a battlefield, not a school.

These kids have had enough. They’ve had enough of empty expressions of sympathy in the wake of the sort of atrocities they’ve grown up with, like last week’s mass shooting that took 17 lives at a high school in Parkland, Fla. Enough of the ritualistic mouthing of thoughts and prayers for the victims. Enough of living in fear that they could be next in the cross hairs of a well-armed deranged killer, even with all the active shooter drills and lockdowns they’ve gone through. Enough of craven politicians who kneel before the National Rifle Association and its cynically fundamentalist approach to the Second Amendment.

They are asking in what kind of country are children sent off to school with bulletproof book bags strapped to their backs — capable, one manufacturer, Bullet Blocker, says, of “stopping a .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum, 9mm, .45 caliber hollow point ammunition and more.”

“I was born 13 months after Columbine,” a 12th grader named Faith Ward said on Monday, referring to the school massacre in Littleton, Colo., in 1999, the dawn of the modern wave of school shootings. Ms. Ward spoke to a television reporter at an anti-gun demonstration outside her school in Plantation, Fla. “This is all I have ever known,” she said, “this culture of being gunned down for no reason, and this culture of people saying, ‘Oh, let’s send thoughts and prayers’ for three days, and then moving on. And I’m tired of it.

To be effective, any movement needs a realistic program, not mere emotion. Otherwise, it risks coming and going in a flash with little to show for itself. A tighter federal system of background checks is a start, to better monitor would-be gun buyers with mental illness, for example, or histories of gun violence. Such a program should also include reinstating a nationwide ban on assault weapons — a state measure died in the Florida Legislature Tuesday — and ending an absurd prohibition against using federal public health funds to study gun violence.

Even President Trump, who told an N.R.A. convention last April that “you have a true friend and champion in the White House,” has signaled he might be willing to improve the system. The Washington Post reported that after Mr. Trump saw the coverage of the student protesters, he asked Mar-a-Lago guests whether he should do more about gun control. On Tuesday, he ordered that regulations be written to ban bump stocks, devices that can make an automatic weapon out of a semiautomatic. Beyond that, though, it’s hard to tell if he means business when he says he’s open to more thorough background checks. Steadfastness is not a Trump hallmark.

However, if young people channeling this angry moment remain steadfast, they might not only force his hand but also stiffen the resolve of other elected officials and candidates. Horrific school shootings aside, they are vulnerable every day to gun mayhem at a stomach-churning rate. The journal Pediatrics reported last June that gunfire, each week, kills an average of 25 children ages 17 and under. A 2016 study in The American Journal of Medicine calculated that among two dozen of the world’s wealthiest nations, this country alone accounted for 91 percent of firearms deaths among children 14 and under.

What the young protesters are saying now is: Put down the guns. We’re your children.

How can anyone not heed their pained voices?

 

Democrat Linda Belcher Beats Republican in State House Seat Special Election in Kentucky!

Dear Commons Community,

The Democrats continue to do well in special elections at the state level.  Yesterday, Democrat Linda Belcher, a former public school teacher and state lawmaker, defeated Republican Rebecca Johnson, 68 percent to 32 percent.  Belcher’s win flipped the Republican-held Kentucky state House seat  handing the Democrats its 37th state legislative pickup nationwide since Donald Trump won the presidency. As reported by The Huffington Post:

“Linda Belcher’s “lifelong commitment to bettering her community and her door-to-door campaign showcased her dedication to standing up for Kentuckians,” Jessica Post, executive director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “She will work hard on behalf of working families, students, and the people of Bullitt County.”

Belcher is no stranger to the 49th District, which is in Bullitt County, just south of Louisville. Belcher represented the district from 2009 to 2012 and again from 2014 to January 2017, after being defeated in the 2016 election by a narrow margin.

Belcher’s victory is nonetheless symbolically important since Trump defeated Democratic rival Hillary Clinton among the district’s voters, 72 percent to 23 percent.

The special election was prompted by the December death of then-state Rep. Dan Johnson, a Republican. Johnson took his own life after denying allegations that he had molested a 17-year-old girl at a church where he had served as a pastor.

Rebecca Johnson, the defeated Republican candidate, is Johnson’s widow.

Belcher did not provide details of her policy proposals on her campaign website. But in an Election Day Facebook post, Belcher vowed that a vote for her was a vote for “keeping funding for Bullitt County schools, supporting our working families, and bringing Bullitt County’s share of road and infrastructure funds to the district.”

Belcher first ran for office in 2009 after her husband, then Democratic Rep. Larry Belcher, died in a car crash in October 2008.

During the special election campaign, Johnson implied that Linda Belcher had taken part in a Democratic plot to undermine her husband, according to Louisville’s Courier-Journal.

Belcher denied the accusation.

“I know the pain of losing a husband,” she told WHAS 11 in December. “I’ve been through that. I don’t wish that on anybody.”

Belcher’s election does not affect the balance of power in Kentucky. Republicans continue to hold considerable majorities in both state legislative chambers. Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is not up for re-election until 2019.

Democrats have been on a roll in state-level special elections. Last Tuesday, the party picked up a Florida House seat in a Sarasota district that Trump had won.

And last month, Democrats flipped a state Senate seat in a rural stretch of Wisconsin that went heavily for Trump. Republican Gov. Scott Walker called the outcome a “wake-up call.”

Democrats still have a long way to go to reverse the losses they have endured in state legislatures since 2009. The party lost about 1,000 state legislative seats from 2009 to 2016.”

Belcher’s and other Democratic candidates’ recent wins in longtime Republican districts bode well for the midterm elections in November.

Tony

Teacher Asked by Students:  “Would you give your life for me?”

Funeral of Teacher Scott Beigel – Killed in Parkland, Florida Shooting!

Dear Commons Community,

As we continue to mourn the victims of the killings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, teachers are reflecting on what their roles and responsibilities are if a gunman came to their schools.  The New York Times has a featured article (see below) this morning that explores this question with a number of teachers from around the country.   Among the responses was one from Bruce Klasner, 61, of Everglades High School.  As reported:

“I teach the Holocaust,” he shouted at the rows of exhausted teachers. “I taught them,” he said of his students, “about a man by the name of Janusz Korczak who walked into the gas chambers with his children because he refused to leave them. And after this happened my kids are sitting outside saying, ‘Mr. K, would you give your life for me?’”

Mr. Klasner said he would — of course. “I said, ‘Did you even have to ask?’”

As we mourn the victims at Parkland, we honor the teachers who gave their lives for their students. 

Tony

=================

School Shootings Put Teachers in New Role as Human Shields

By Julie Turkewitz  Feb. 19, 2018

TAMARAC, Fla. — The shooting was all over, but the emotional reckoning had just begun, and so on Saturday the teachers of Broward County packed their union hall to discuss what it meant to have become the nation’s human shields.

“Last night I told my wife I would take a bullet for the kids,” said Robert Parish, a teacher at an elementary school just miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, where a former student killed 17 people, including three staff members who found themselves in the line of fire.

Since the attack last week, said Mr. Parish, “I think about it all the time.”

Across the country, teachers are grappling with how their roles have expanded, from educator and counselor to bodyguard and protector. They wonder if their classrooms are properly equipped, if they would recognize the signs of a dangerous student, and most of all, if they are prepared to jump in front of a bullet.

In the last few days, teachers wrote to Congress, urging bans on assault weapons, and to state lawmakers, seeking permission to carry firearms to school. They attended local protests and reviewed safety plans with students. And in the evenings, they spoke with friends and family about an excruciating reality — that teachers, who once seemed mostly removed from the life-or-death risks faced by the ranks of police officers and firefighters, might now be vulnerable.

“I visualized what it would look like, and it made me sick,” said Catherine Collett, 28, a sixth-grade teacher in Northern Virginia who has spent recent days running through a thousand violent scenarios. “Could I empty out the cabinet and throw out the shelves and put kids in the cabinets? Is my better chance just barricading the doors? Can I move furniture that fast? Do I ask my kids to help me?”

Many teachers said even contemplating such worries felt far from what they had once imagined their challenges would be. As if the mounting pressures of test scores and email messages to parents and bus duty and hall duty and new certifications and all those meetings wasn’t enough. But the death toll has piled up — staff killed in shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 and now at Stoneman Douglas in Florida — and is forcing a shift in how teachers view their responsibilities.

“When I started teaching, I thought I was just coming in to teach,” said José Luis Vilson, 36, a middle school math teacher in New York City. Now he has come to view himself as a first responder, too, and added that instruction on topics such as conflict resolution and first aid would be useful.

Bo Greene, 56, a calculus and statistics teacher in Bar Harbor, Me., said the planning for dangerous situations had increased and grown more specific in the last year, even in her quiet school district. All of it feels jarring after decades in education, she added.

“I never had any of this,” Ms. Greene said. “We had the basic fire drills.”

Nowhere was the conversation among teachers more intense than in Broward County, where Stoneman Douglas is one of more than 300 schools, and Nikolas Cruz, charged in the shooting, had been among the district’s 270,000 students.

Laurel Holland, who was Mr. Cruz’s 11th-grade English teacher, said teachers in big public schools cannot possibly be expected to look into every student’s background to know if they have long been troubled. The year that she taught Mr. Cruz, she had more than 150 students, she said.

“There’s not enough time,” she said.

In the case of Mr. Cruz, she said, it was clear something was wrong. “He didn’t work and play well with others,” she said. “I was frightened.”

Ms. Holland eventually reported him to the administration, and he was removed from her class after one semester.

Inside the crowded union building on Saturday, educators held hands and shouted “Union strong!” before getting down to business.

How, they asked, were they going to stop the next one?

For hours they spoke of the golf clubs and baseball bats they would like to keep in their classrooms, of the bulletproof vests they wish they had, of the challenges of removing mass killers from their midst.

 “I’m curious to know, out of the people here, how many Nikolases they have at their school?” said Elizabeth Sundin, 48, a teacher’s assistant. “Because I have one at our school.”

Outside, in the balmy Florida night, Mr. Parish, 51, of Broadview Elementary, was wrestling with the question of the class door. When an armed attacker begins to prowl, and a student is left in the hall, “Do I let the kid in, and maybe the gunman behind her?” he said. “Or do I not let them in and save the whole class? That’s a decision I can’t make.”

Inside, under the glare of fluorescent lights, Bruce Klasner, 61, of Everglades High was wondering why the district had not created a text message system that could send instructions in the event of an attack.

“I teach the Holocaust,” he shouted at the rows of exhausted teachers. “I taught them,” he said of his students, “about a man by the name of Janusz Korczak who walked into the gas chambers with his children because he refused to leave them. And after this happened my kids are sitting outside saying, ‘Mr. K, would you give your life for me?’”

Mr. Klasner said he would — of course. “I said, ‘Did you even have to ask?’”

In a corner, Andrea Suarez, 35, of Westpine Middle School was worried about her own students, who have special needs and often make loud noises, meaning it is almost impossible to hide them.

These days, she said her plan for responding to a shooting involves corralling the children into a closet, occupying them with snacks, and positioning herself in front of the closet door with a pair of sharp scissors.

“I’ve been having a lot of difficulty sleeping,” said Ms. Suarez, whose four children have been urging her to leave the profession. “I keep hearing kids screaming and gunshots in my head.”

Here in Tamarac, the union meeting was wrapping up.

Jim Gard, in cargo pants and a union polo, stood outside, amid palm trees. At 58, he has been a teacher for 36 years, he said, and works at Stoneman Douglas. When the shooting broke out, he was in math class, not far from where many were shot. He had taught Mr. Cruz, as well as two of the dead.

“You know, if I go through my college transcripts — master’s degree, doctorate courses, all that — I know for sure there are no courses that say: ‘Shooter on Campus 101,’” he said.

The Broward County school district announced on Monday that staff members would return to Stoneman Douglas at the end of the week. Classes are expected to resume on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

Mr. Gard said many of his colleagues were struggling with the idea of returning.

And yet, he said, “I want to go back. I want to go back to my kids. I want to go back to my classroom. I want to see the kids, I want to teach the kids — and that’s the bottom line.”

 

 

Rick Gates Ready to Flip Against Paul Manafort in Mueller Investigation!

Dear Commons Community,

It appears that another suspect in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Russian meddling and possible collusion in the 2016 election is ready to flip.  The Los Angeles Times and other media are reporting that Rick Gates, a former campaign aide to President Donald Trump, will plead guilty to charges related to fraud and is willing to testify against his longtime business partner, Paul Manafort, who served as Trump’s campaign manager during part of the 2016 presidential race. As reported by The Los Angeles Times :

“Speculation has grown for weeks that Gates would cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing inquiry into Russian meddling in the presidential election. Gates, who served as Trump’s deputy campaign manager, was indicted in October along with Manafort on charges ranging from money laundering to violations of foreign lobbying laws. He pleaded not guilty to all charges at the time, which carry 10 years or more in potential sentences.

The plea will reportedly change in the coming days, and Gates will likely serve about 18 months in prison in exchange for his cooperation, the Times reported.

“Rick Gates is going to change his plea to guilty,″ a source familiar with the case told the outlet.

The Mueller probe has flipped two other high-profile Trump associates in recent months ― former national security adviser Michael Flynn and foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos. Both men have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about their contacts with Russian officials and have been cooperating with the investigation for months. 

Gates’ lawyers have been negotiating with Mueller’s legal team for weeks, CNN reported on Saturday. According to the outlet, the special counsel’s team was finalizing a deal after Gates was allowed to give what’s known as a “Queen for a Day” interview, which typically allows a defendant to speak openly about their knowledge of an investigation without facing additional charges.

Gates could play a pivotal role in a trial against Manafort, who has stood by his own not guilty plea following the October indictment. A source told the Times that Gates’ cooperation would be a “cherry on top” of the case.

A White House official told CNN the Trump administration wasn’t worried about Gates’ cooperation with Mueller, as the president believed the flip was arranged to get more information against Manafort.

The Justice Department announced a sweeping set of charges against 13 Russians and three Russian entities on Friday, detailing a sophisticated campaign to sow discord among U.S. voters in the presidential election and in the process help elect Trump.”

Special Counsel Mueller is getting closer and closer to those around Trump and company.

Tony

LeBron James and Kevin Durant Give Laura Ingraham a Lesson in Democracy:  Everybody Has a Voice!

Dear Commons Community,

Earlier this week, Fox News host Laura Ingraham criticized LeBron James for expressing his political opinions with a “just shut up and dribble” comment. James made it clear yesterday that he has no intention of keeping his mouth shut.  As reported by various news media:

“[Lebron James].. will “talk about what’s really important” when it comes to the state of race relations in America.

 “I will not just shut up and dribble,” James said during a media session. .”.. So, thank you, whatever her name is. … I get to sit up here and talk about what’s really important and how I can help change kids.”

James has used his platform and ability to reach people. He has criticized President Donald Trump and did so again in January when he and Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant sat down with ESPN and both issued strong comments condemning the leadership in the White House.

Ingraham’s comments — they included telling James to “keep the political commentary to yourself” — were in reference to the James/Durant interview.

James initially put a #wewillnotshutupanddribble hashtag on his Instagram account after hearing Ingraham’s remarks.

“It lets me know that everything I’ve been saying is correct for her to have that type of reaction,” James said Saturday of Ingraham. “But we will definitely not shut up and dribble. I will definitely not do that.

“I mean too much to society, I mean too much to the youth, I mean too much to so many kids that feel like they don’t have a way out and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation they’re in.”

Durant echoed James’ comment with some of his own on Saturday.

“I feel like everybody has a voice, especially with our own platforms, we can use our voices for good,” Durant said. “It’s not just me. I feel like everybody in this room has a voice and it’s getting louder and louder every day, so we’ve got to speak what we believe in, we’ve got to speak our truths, and we’ve got to keep it real out here.”

Ingraham needs a lesson in civics and that in a democratic society, everybody has the right to an opinion. She might not understand this given that she is a host on Fox News where she is given a script daily to distort news for her mostly Republican Party viewership.

Tony

President Trump Stop Calling Russia’s Interference “Fake News” and Do Something!

 

Dear Commons Community,

The fallout from yesterday’s announcement that Special Counsel Robert Mueller turned in 13 indictments against Russian nationals meddling in our elections is coming fast and furiously.  The only person appearing to think it is less than what it is, is President Trump.  He feels vindicated because there is no mention of collusion on his part.  However, he ignores the point that our democracy was and will continue to be undermined by the Russian government.

Below is today’s editorial in the New York Times calling on the President to please wake up and act in the country’s not just in his own personal interests.

Tony

————————————————————————

 

Stop Letting the Russians Get Away With It, Mr. Trump

By the Editorial Board

FEB. 16, 2018

Are you sure you still want to call it fake news, Mr. President?

For the past year, Donald Trump has repeatedly denied the existence of a profound national security threat: Russia’s attempt to interfere in the 2016 election on his behalf. He dismissed the Russian subversion effort as a hoax by his opponents and the media despite voluminous evidence to the contrary — including the consensus of the American intelligence community — that it did in fact happen, and is sure to happen again.

Now come the indictments. On Friday, Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating Russia’s role in the 2016 election, filed criminal charges of fraud and identity theft against 13 Russian citizens and three Russian organizations, all alleged to have operated a sophisticated influence campaign intended to “sow discord in the U.S. political system.”

One organization, the Internet Research Agency — which the indictment says is funded by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the “go-to oligarch” of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin — began its efforts as early as 2014, according to the indictment. Its staffers, known as “specialists,” posed as Americans and created false identities to set up social media pages and groups aimed at attracting American audiences. The broad outlines of this interference have been known publicly for a while, but the sheer scope of the deception detailed in Friday’s indictments is breathtaking.

By the spring of 2016, the operation had zeroed in on supporting Mr. Trump and disparaging Hillary Clinton. The Internet Research Agency alone had a staff of 80 and a monthly budget of $1.25 million. On the advice of a real, unnamed grass-roots activist from Texas, it had focused its efforts on swing states like Colorado, Virginia and Florida.

Staffers bought ads with messages like “Hillary is a Satan,” “Ohio Wants Hillary 4 Prison” and “Vote Republican, Vote Trump, and support the Second Amendment!”

They created hundreds of social media accounts on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other sites to confuse and anger people about sensitive issues like immigration, religion and the Black Lives Matter movement — in some cases gaining hundreds of thousands of followers.

They staged rallies while pretending to be American grass-roots organizations. A poster at one “pro-Clinton” rally in July 2016 read “Support Hillary. Save American Muslims,” along with a fabricated quote attributed to Mrs. Clinton: “I think Sharia Law will be a powerful new direction of freedom.”

As the election drew nearer, they tried to suppress minority turnout and promoted false allegations of Democratic voter fraud. The specialist running one of the organization’s Facebook accounts, called “Secured Borders,” was criticized for not publishing enough posts and was told that “it is imperative to intensify criticizing Hillary Clinton.”

After the election, they continued to spread confusion and chaos, staging rallies both for and against Mr. Trump, in one case on the same day and in the same city.

All along, they took steps to cover their tracks by stealing the identities of real Americans, opening accounts on American-based servers and lying about what their money was being used for. Last September, after Facebook turned over information about Russian ad purchases to the special counsel, a specialist named Irina Kaverzina emailed a family member: “We had a slight crisis here at work: the FBI busted our activity (not a joke). So, I got preoccupied with covering tracks together with the colleagues.” Ms. Kaverzina continued, “I created all these pictures and posts, and the Americans believed that it was written by their people.”

Fake news, indeed.

Mr. Trump’s defenders, desperate to exculpate him, seized on a single word — “unwitting” — that the indictment used to describe certain “members, volunteers and supporters of the Trump campaign involved in local community outreach” who had interacted with the Russians.

In other words, as the White House subtly put it in a statement on Friday, “NO COLLUSION.” The president repeated the claim himself in a tweet, grudgingly acknowledging Russia’s “anti-US campaign,” but emphasizing that it had started “long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!”

It’s true that, as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in an announcement, these particular indictments do not allege that any American knew about the influence campaign, nor that the campaign had changed the outcome of the election. But that’s quite different from saying that there was no collusion or impact on the election. As Mr. Rosenstein also said, the special counsel’s investigation is continuing, and there are many strands the public still knows little or nothing about.

Remember, Mr. Mueller has already secured two guilty pleas, one from Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser and another from a former campaign adviser, for lying to federal authorities about their connections to Russian government officials. He has also charged Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his top aide, Rick Gates, with crimes including money laundering. Mr. Gates appears to be nearing a plea deal himself.

Then there were Russian cyberattacks on the elections systems of at least 39 states. And the hacking of emails sent among members of the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign — which Mr. Trump openly encouraged.

This is all going to happen again. Intelligence and law enforcement authorities have made that clear. The question is whether Mr. Trump will at last accept the fact of Russian interference and take aggressive measures to protect American democracy. For starters, he could impose the sanctions on Russia that Congress overwhelmingly passed, and that he signed into law, last summer. Of course, this would require him to overcome his mysterious resistance to acting against Russia and to focus on protecting his own country.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Indicts 13 Russians for Interfering in American Elections!

Dear Commons Community,

Special Counsel Robert Mueller III charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian organizations today with illegally trying to disrupt the American political process, including efforts designed to boost the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump and hurt that of his opponent, Hillary Clinton. The indictment represents the first charges by the special counsel for meddling in the 2016 presidential election — the fundamental crime that he was assigned to investigate.  As reported by the New York Times:

“In a 37-page indictment filed in United States District Court, Mr. Mueller said that the 13 individuals have conspired since 2014 to violate laws that prohibit foreigners from spending money to influence federal elections in the United States.

The indictment charges that the foreigners falsely posed as American citizens, stole identities and otherwise engaged in fraud and deceit in an effort to influence the U.S. political process, including the 2016 presidential race.

“The nature of the scheme was the defendants took extraordinary steps to make it appear that they were ordinary American political activists,” Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general overseeing Mr. Mueller’s inquiry, said in a brief news conference on Friday afternoon at the Justice Department.

I don’t know whether Russian activities alone caused an election upset in 2016, but I do know that between Comey’s late-breaking news right…

Though the Russians are unlikely to be immediately arrested, they are now wanted by the United States government, which will make it hard for them to travel or do business internationally. All were charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, three with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud and five with aggravated identity theft.

President Trump emphasized in a tweet and a statement that the indictments accused neither him nor his campaign of wrongdoing and said that the partisan rancor that dominates politics made room for “bad actors, like Russia,” to sow discord.

 “We must unite as Americans to protect the integrity of our democracy and our elections,” he said in the statement.

In the midafternoon tweet, he wrote that Russia began its operation before he even announced his candidacy and that its efforts did not affect the election results. “The Trump campaign did nothing wrong — no collusion!” he wrote.

The indictment lays out a highly sophisticated, well-funded, three-year-long scheme designed in part to put President Trump in The White House.

The Internet Research Agency, operating out of St. Petersburg, was described in the indictment as a hub for a sophisticated operation designed to reach millions of Americans to disrupt the political process in the United States. Its annual budget was millions of dollars; its stated goal was to “spread distrust toward the candidates and the political system in general.”

This is an incredible development that gives credibility to the work of the special counsel.  I have a sense that this is only the beginning.  There will be more indictments against various individuals associated with Donald Trump’s campaign.

Tony

 

17 Killed in Shooting at Florida High School!

Dear Commons Community,

It has become a regular occurrence in this country for a gunman armed with a high-powered weapon decides to kill innocents, all too often it happens at a school.  There have been more than 40 “active shooter” episodes in schools recorded in the United States since 2000, according to the F.B.I.  The shootings have become so common that many schools now conduct drills in which students practice huddling in classrooms behind locked doors.

Yesterday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a heavily armed young man barged into his former high school opening fire on terrified students and teachers and leaving a death toll of 17 that could rise even higher, the authorities said.  As reported by the New York Times:

“Students huddled in horror in their classrooms, with some of them training their cellphones on the carnage, capturing sprawled bodies, screams and gunfire that began with a few shots and then continued with more and more. The dead included students and adults, some of whom were shot outside the school and others inside the sprawling three-story building.

The gunman, armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, was identified as Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old who had been expelled from the school, the authorities said. He began his shooting rampage outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in this suburban neighborhood shortly before dismissal time around 2:40 p.m. He then made his way inside and proceeded down hallways he knew well, firing at students and teachers who were scurrying for cover, the authorities said.

“Oh my God! Oh my God!” one student yelled over and over in one video circulating on social media, as more than 40 gunshots boomed in the background.   

By the end of the rampage, Mr. Cruz had killed 12 people inside the school and three outside it, including someone standing on a street corner, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said. Two more victims died of their injuries in local hospitals. The aftermath at the school was an eerie shrine, with chairs upended, a computer screen shattered with bullet holes and floors stained with blood.

“This is catastrophic,” said Sheriff Israel, who has three children who graduated from the high school. “There really are no words.”

“There really are no words” for this horrific incident which is all so common in a country prone to insane violence at the hands of deranged individuals with easy access to weapons of destruction. 

Tony