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Jonathan Turley

Pro-Life Students Attacked at Ryerson University in Latest Assault on Free Speech

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We have been following the increasing violence seen on college campuses, particularly directed against conservative and pro-life speakers.  The latest incident occurred at Ryerson University in Ontario  where a video captured Ryerson Student Gabriela “Gabby” Skwarko attacking two members of Toronto Against Abortion (TAA). Skwarko works for the school’s Office of Social Innovation. The video below shows a violent and unprovoked attack to stop an act of free speech on campus.

Skwarko, a member of the Ryerson Reproductive Justice Collective, kicked the displays and physically attacked the pro-life activists as well as taking property and throwing it about.

Strangely, Skwardo is temporarily forbidden from contacting fellow student Blaise Alleyne, president and founder of TAA, but there is no indication that she was banned immediately from campus. Indeed, the university did not respond to media inquiries.

We have been discussing the enculturation of anti-free speech values in college students across the country. One recent incident occurred at the California State University where assistant professor of public health professor Greg Thatcher is shown on a videotape wiping out the pro-life statements written in chalk by members of Fresno State Students for Life. The university is now being sued over the incident.
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Hirano’s Hedge: Kavanaugh Not Entitled To Presumption Of Innocence Due To His Ideological Views

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With the addition of a second woman alleging sexual misconduct of Brett Kavanaugh, it is still not clear what factual disputes will have to be addressed before a final confirmation vote occurs in the Senate. Putting aside questions over late timing of the allegations, there is agreement that the Senate will have to consider both the allegations of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the new allegations of Deborah Ramirez. What is far more troubling is the continued disagreement on the standard that Senators should use in considering the allegations. While objecting that their Republican colleagues are not prepared to give the women an “impartial hearing,” various Democratic senators have declared (before any testimony is heard) that they believe Dr. Ford – and thus do not believe Judge Kavanaugh. That is troubling enough, but Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., HI) has introduced a far more troubling element in suggesting that she may decide the factual question on the basis of Kavanaugh’s jurisprudential views.

Hirono has previously declared that she believes Ford even before hearing either in testimony before the Committee. She also told all men everywhere to “shut up” and just stand with Ford. In her latest interview, Hirono was pressed on whether Kavanaugh has “the same presumption of innocence as anyone else in America?” For most people, the question would be an easy one to answer in the affirmative, Hirono demurred and declined to say that she would afford Kavanaugh this core presumption of the rule of law. She said that she would “put his denial in the context of everything that I know about him in terms of how he approaches his cases.” She said that she would consider his “ideological agenda” and her view that “he very much is against women’s reproductive choice.”

Hirono’s mixing of factual with ideological considerations further degrades a process that is already deeply undermined by last minute allegations and partisan bickering. It is also curious to see a senator tie credibility on sexual misconduct to one’s view of Roe v. Wade. Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Al Franken and others were all reportedly pro-choice but also labeled as abusers.
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Justice Delayed Is Justice: Mueller Fights To Delay Russian Collusion Trial

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There is an old joke among criminal defense attorneys that “justice delayed is justice,” a twist of the old adage that “justice delayed is justice denied.”  The joke reflects that fact that the defense almost always benefits from the passage of time and it is the prosecution that often pushes for earlier trial debates to deny the defense enough time to absorb and address evidence. That is not the case with Special Counsel Robert Mueller who has asked federal Judge Dabney L. Friedrich to deny a speedy trial motion and delay any trial of 13 Russians and three Russian companies for efforts to influence the 2016 election. The effort reflects problems in Mueller’s matinee case, including the allegation that he has charged a company that did not exist at the time of the alleged offenses.
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Comey v. Comey: How New Disclosures Could Put Just One Week Between Comey and Perjury

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Former FBI Director James Comey continues to market his book – and himself – as a lesson in “ethical leadership.”  However, the historical record is proving increasingly at odds with Comey’s account and image. After months of spins and swerves by defenders, a consensus is emerging that Comey is indeed a leaker. The most damaging evidence, however, comes not from Comey’s critics but Comey himself.  Indeed, Comey v. Comey could be the most telling conflict in this still unfolding scandal. However, at issue, is not simply whether Comey will be viewed as a leaker or a liar, but a perjurer.


Comey’s crumbling defense was most evident in his interview last week with Anderson Cooper when Cooper challenged his self-serving definition of a leak as only involving classified information.  That is manifestly wrong, as Cooper correctly pointed out, since leaks often involve unclassified but still non-public information.

Agency rules (including most notably the FBI’s rules) ban the release of non-public agency information whether or not it has been classified.  Indeed, many leak investigations (including some under Comey) do not involve classified information, such as leaks about White House meetings or non-public statements.  The FBI, including Director Andrew Wray, confirmed that the Comey memos were not his documents (as he continues to implausibly maintain) but rather FBI material subject to rules of nondisclosure. Nevertheless, Comey gave at least four memos to Columbia University law professor Daniel Richman to leak information to the media.

However, in the ongoing Inspector General’s investigation into his conduct, Comey’s defense could ultimately collide with Comey’s own (prior) interpretation.  In the last two weeks, the divide between Comey and his former deputy (and acting FBI Director) Andrew McCabe widens.  McCabe has claimed that Comey knew about his giving non-public information to the Wall Street Journal. McCabe’s counsel directly challenged Comey and said that the public should not buy Comey’s “white knight” account of his own conduct. Comey responded by publicly stating that McCabe was found to be a liar by the IG and that he was the one who called for an investigation into the “leak.”  That’s the problem.
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Happy Anniversary, James Clapper

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Today is an important anniversary for former intelligence chief James Clapper. No it is not his marriage anniversary or conventional milestone. Clapper can celebrate the running out of the statute of limitations on his alleged perjury before Congress — five years and Clapper is now beyond the reach of the law.

recently wrote a column on the approaching anniversary and how it reaffirms the widely held view that powerful people in Washington are immune from laws used against the rest of society.

Clapper appeared before the Senate to discuss surveillance programs in the midst of a controversy over warrantless surveillance of the American public. He was asked directly, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions, or hundreds of millions of Americans?” There was no ambiguity or confusion and Clapper responded, “No, sir. … Not wittingly.” That was a lie and Clapper knew it when he said it.

Later, Clapper said that his testimony was “the least untruthful” statement he could make. That would still make it a lie of course but Clapper is a made guy. While feigned shock and disgust, most Democratic leaders notably did not call for his prosecution. Soon Clapper was back testifying and former president Obama even put Clapper on a federal panel to review the very programs that he lied about in Congress.
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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Of The Flynn Plea

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Below is my column on the Flynn plea agreement and its potential significance to the Russian investigation.  One development is that President Donald Trump is now denying that he ever told Director James Comey to let Flynn go.  This follows a highly damaging tweet that a Trump lawyer now says was his sloppy mistake. It is another tweet gone awry for the Trump White House.

Here is the column:

The plea agreement of Michael Flynn, the former White House national security adviser, is a case of the the good, the bad and the ugly for the Trump administration. It is an undeniably significant, though not unexpected, development in the Russia investigation. Flynn was always the most exposed of the high-ranking Trump officials and he lacked a clear defense on some of the allegations regarding his work as a foreign agent. In the famous Western “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly,” Clint Eastwood’s character Blondie explained the difference between a man with a defense and no defense: “You see, in this world there’s two kinds of people, my friend, those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig.” Flynn had to dig for a plea but the question is whether he presents a clear and present danger to the Trump inner circle. That is far less clear.

The good

The coverage of the plea was immediately breathless and a bit jubilant. New York defense attorney Gerald Lefcourt announced, “It’s the beginning of the end.” CNN’s legal analyst Susan Hennessey called the charges the “slam dunk” that everyone is looking for. If so, the Russian investigation has experienced a serious downgrading. This investigation began with an allegation of criminal acts of collusion with the Russians to influence the 2016 presidential election. This is a single count of making a false statement not a count of conspiracy or computer hacking or bribery connected to the Russians.
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ABC News Retracts Flynn Bombshell Story

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During the frenzy yesterday over the Flynn plea deal, ABC dropped a bombshell report that Michael Flynn told Special Counsel Bob Mueller that he was prepared to testify that it was Trump who told him to contact the Russians. 
ABC News later not only retracted that statement but corrected it with information supporting Trump’s account and contacts with Russians.
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'It Sure Looked Unethical': Brazile Discloses Deal That Gave Hillary Clinton Control Over DNC Before Primary

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The DNC and Clinton emails released by Wikileaks ultimately exposed a pattern of false statements by Democratic leaders particularly Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Schultz insisted that they were completely neutral in the primary despite every indication to the contrary. It was later revealed that Donna Brazile, who replaced Schultz, had first leaked questions for the debate with Sanders to Clinton and then lied about the incriminating emails later to the media (she suggested that they were fake). 

Now Brazile is making a comeback and has been put back into a position of power at the DNC and ironically on the Rules Committee. She is also shopping a book. In the book, Brazile confirms that Hillary Clinton essentially bought the DNC by assuming responsibility for its crippling debt in exchange for control over the organization before the primary. In other words, as shown by the earlier emails and now by Brazile’s own account, the primary was indeed rigged against Bernie Sanders and anyone running against Clinton.

Brazile says that she discovered an August 2015 agreement between the national committee and Clinton’s campaign that gave Clinton “control (of) the party’s finances, strategy, and all the money raised.” She in return agreed to take care of the massive debt leftover from President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign. Even Brazile (who was fired from CNN for unethical conduct) said that the deal was legal “but it sure looked unethical.” She further states that the deal gave one campaign (Clinton) “control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead.” She now agrees that the Clinton deal “compromised the party’s integrity.”

What is obvious from this latest disclosure is the utter mismanagement of the DNC during the Obama Administration as well as misleading statements from a host of Democratic figures . That failure played into the hands of the Clintons who proceeded to take over control over the DNC to guarantee that no one but Hillary would be nominated. It was not just a dubious arrangement from an ethical standpoint but ultimately rigged the primary for what many view as the worst possible candidate for that election. From the earliest polling, it was widely understood that the election would an anti-establishment election.
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Britain Moves To Criminalize Reading Extremist Material On The Internet

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For years, civil libertarians have warned that Great Britain has been in a free fall from the criminalization of speech to the expansion of the surveillance state. Now the government is pursuing a law that would make the repeated viewing of extremist Internet sites a crime punishable to up to 15 years in prison.  It appears that the government is not satiated by their ever-expanding criminalization of speech.They now want to criminalize even viewing sites on the Internet.  As always, officials are basically telling the public to “trust us, we’re the government.” UK home secretary Amber Rudd is pushing the criminalization of reading as part of her anti-radicalization campaign . . . which turns out to be an anti-civil liberties campaign.


We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Even the Home Secretary has been accused of hate speech for criticizing immigrant workers.

Prime Minister Theresa May has previously called for greater government control of the Internet. Now, the government not only would make reading material on the Internet a crime, but would not necessarily tell you what sites will be deemed the ultimate click bait.  Rudd told a Conservative Party conference that she wants to crackdown on people “who view despicable terrorist content online, including jihadi websites, far-right propaganda and bomb-making instructions.” So sites deemed “far-right propaganda” (but not far-left propaganda) could lead to your arrest — leaving the government with a sweeping and ambiguous mandate.
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Trump Calls On Police To Be Rougher In Handling Suspects In Speech Denounced By Police Organizations

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Controversial statements by President Donald Trump in the past have often been treated by his supporters as hyperbole or not to be taken strictly or even seriously. However, a speech last Friday had some particularly chilling elements for anyone who believes in the rule of the law. Trump was speaking to law enforcement officers and urged them not to be “too nice” to suspected criminals and gang members.

He further seemed to encourage intentional acts of harm and abuse in the handling of prisoners. The comments were irresponsible and should be be corrected by the White House. We 
recently discussed Trump’s praise for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has bragged about extrajudicial killings and encouraged police abuse.  This is obviously not that extreme but it is still highly disturbing in a speech where the President has pledged that “We have your backs 100 percent” while encouraging them to be rough in handling of suspects. His comments have led to police organizations publicly rejecting the comments and assuring the public that they will not engage in such conduct.

In his speech in Brentwood, New York, Trump departed from his prepared comments to encourage police to be tougher in handling suspects:
'When you see these towns, and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough,' he said, referring to the arrest of alleged gang members. 'I said, please don’t be too nice.'

'When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over,' [mimicking an officer protecting the head of a suspect] Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody? Don’t hit their head? 'I said, you can take the hand away, OK?'
He went on to praise his  acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Tom Homan  as “a tough guy”  and his agents as “Rough guys. They’re rough.”
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