Cartoon: The Courts Strike Again

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Wall Street Journal Editor Tells Reporters Who Don’t Like Objective Trump Coverage to Leave the Paper

Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker told his reporters Monday the paper would not abandon objectivity in its coverage of President Donald Trump, and directed them to find work somewhere else if they want to adopt a more oppositional tone.
“It’s a little irritating when I read that we have been soft on Donald Trump,” he told his reporters and editors, a source at the newsroom meeting told The New York Times. Baker held the meeting ostensibly to have a casual conversation on the editorial direction of the paper, but it was held on the heels of reports the newsroom is in turmoil over the Trump coverage.

The Trump coverage is “neutral to the point of being absurd,” one source inside the newsroom recently told Politico. Criticism peaked when Baker sent a memo to staff instructing reporters and editors to tone down the use of “loaded” language in coverage of Trump’s immigration ban.
Baker strongly defended his paper’s coverage as objective in the meeting, going so far as to read from a list of past Wall Street Journal headlines compiled to refute the criticism. He suggested it is other outlets such as The New York Times that have abandoned fair reporting standards and objectivity—not The Wall Street Journal—and that those standards aren’t going anywhere.
Reporters who don’t like that, he said, might want to find work somewhere else.
Some journalists at other outlets have openly criticized the idea of treating Trump and his former Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton equally in the press. In a justification of this kind of bias, New York Times columnist Jim Rutenberg described the thinking behind this new “norm” of objectivity.
“If you view a Trump presidency as something that’s potentially dangerous, then your reporting is going to reflect that,” he wrote. “You would move closer than you’ve ever been to being oppositional. That’s uncomfortable and uncharted territory for every mainstream, nonopinion journalist I’ve ever known, and by normal standards, untenable.”
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These Are the Top 3 Most Likely Replacements for Mike Flynn

President Donald Trump is considering three former high-ranking military officials for the post of national security adviser, after the Monday resignation of Michael Flynn.
Flynn stepped down after reports indicated he misled Vice President Mike Pence on his discussions during the presidential transition with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak.

Trump is considering retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, retired Gen. David Petraeus, and retired Adm. Robert Harward to replace Flynn. Harward is reportedly the favorite to succeed Flynn. He served as a deputy to then-Gen. James Mattis while both were in U.S. Central Command and does not carry the controversy or age of the other picks.
“There are a handful of good options, but it’s clear he’s at the top of the list,” a senior administration official told Politico Tuesday.
Both Kellogg and Petraeus served critical roles in the U.S. war in Iraq. Kellogg served as a major figure in the 2004 Coalition Provisional Authority, which served as the government of Iraq until the nationwide elections in 2005. He is currently serving as the interim national security adviser to Trump, served as one of Flynn’s deputies in the White House, and is currently 72 years old. Kellogg was also one of the early backers of the Trump campaign, and served as a foreign policy adviser early on.
Petraeus’ path to the post is fraught with complications given his current probation for lying to federal authorities about illegally disclosing classified information to his mistress. Trump has, however, previously spoken highly of Petraeus and considered him for the post of secretary of state during the presidential transition.
“Five years ago, I made a serious mistake,” Petraeus told reporters in December after his meeting with Trump. He continued, “I acknowledged it. I apologized for it. I paid a very heavy price for it and I’ve learned form it.”
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Trump Has Fewest Cabinet Secretaries Confirmed Since George Washington

It took nearly a month, but President Donald Trump is finally operating with at least half of his Cabinet in place. Not since George Washington in 1789 has a newly elected president waited so long.
Twenty-five days after Trump took the oath of office, the Senate on Monday night voted to confirm the eighth and ninth members of his Cabinet: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin. The six remaining Cabinet nominees will have to wait a while longer.

Why? Unprecedented delays and obstructionism on the part of Democrats have resulted in the most contentious confirmation process in U.S. history, according to a Washington Post analysis. No other president’s nominees have collectively faced similar opposition.
And that’s just the 15 members of Trump’s Cabinet. Other top nominees, such as Rep. Mick Mulvaney to lead the Office of Management and Budget and Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency, continue to wait as well. And then there’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, who could face the biggest battle of anyone.
It’s the consequence of a polarized Washington, where Democrats are in no rush to rubber-stamp Trump’s picks, even though past presidents have been afforded such a courtesy.
>>> Democrats Don’t Have Votes to Defeat Trump Nominees, but They Can Delay Them
“President Trump has the fewest Cabinet secretaries confirmed at this point than any other incoming president since George Washington,” lamented Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week. “The president deserves to have his Cabinet in place. The American people deserve that, too.”

“President Trump has the fewest Cabinet secretaries confirmed at this point than any other incoming president since George Washington,” says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Kentucky Republican, a scholar of Senate history, reviewed the records and discovered that prior to the 1950s, most Cabinet nominees faced no opposition at all. (McConnell’s analysis included first-term elected presidents, not those who assumed office after a vacancy.)
In fact, many presidents had their Cabinet nominees in place on Day One. Such was the case beginning in 1881 with President James Garfield and spanning 52 years until President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Washington, of course, was establishing the office for the first time when he was inaugurated on April 30, 1789. His Cabinet wasn’t confirmed until September 1789.
In recent history, Trump’s predecessors have enjoyed a much faster pace of Cabinet confirmations. At this point in their presidencies, here’s how they compared to Trump:
Barack Obama had 12 of 15 confirmed.
George W. Bush had 14 of 14 confirmed.
Bill Clinton had 13 of 14 confirmed.
George H.W. Bush had 10 of 14 confirmed.
Ronald Reagan had 12 of 13 confirmed.
Jimmy Carter had 11 of 11 confirmed.
Richard Nixon had 12 of 12 confirmed.
John F. Kennedy had 10 of 10 confirmed.
Dwight D. Eisenhower had nine of 10 confirmed.
Monday’s confirmation of Mnuchin and Shulkin gives Trump nine of his 15 Cabinet secretaries. Two of Trump’s nominees—Sonny Perdue for agriculture secretary and Andrew Puzder for labor secretary—haven’t had a committee hearing yet. Puzder’s is scheduled for Thursday, while Perdue, picked Jan. 18, is still awaiting a date.
The confirmation delays have left many agencies without a leader, a situation Democrats know is impeding Trump’s ability to implement his policies.
“This is a president who wants change, and he has got to get his nominees confirmed as soon as possible if he is going to get that change,” Don Devine, director of the Office of Personnel Management under Reagan, told The Daily Signal last month.
>>> Trump’s Cabinet Nominees Await Senate Approval, Leaving Agencies Without a Leader
Under the leadership of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrats have kept their promise to delay Trump’s nominees, even if they lack the votes ultimately to defeat them.
Schumer, D-N.Y., specifically targeted eight of Trump’s picks. Five now have been confirmed: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Mnuchin. The other three targeted are Mulvaney, Pruitt, and Puzder.
Trump has also voiced frustration with the slow progress.

It is a disgrace that my full Cabinet is still not in place, the longest such delay in the history of our country. Obstruction by Democrats!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 8, 2017

And while the Senate slowly confirms his Cabinet, the time it spends to do so prevents lawmakers from addressing the president’s legislative priorities. Last week, for instance, senators had to wait 30 hours between votes because of Democrat delaying tactics. The Senate confirmed three nominees—DeVos, Sessions, and Price—over the span of a week.
Even those who won Senate confirmation faced “record-setting opposition,” according to The New York Times.
Another delaying tactic Democrats have employed is boycotting the nominees’ committee votes to deny a quorum. Three of Trump’s nominees have faced this treatment—unprecedented for a newly elected president. Obama and Bush nominees faced similar boycotts, but not until later in their presidencies.
In 2009, Obama had 10 Cabinet secretaries confirmed after his first week in office. Nine of those nominees won Senate confirmation by voice vote, where an official tally isn’t recorded.
The Obama nominee who faced the greatest GOP opposition—Timothy Geithner for treasury secretary—was approved 60-34 on Jan. 26, 2009, less than a week after Obama took office.
Like Trump, Obama enjoyed a Senate controlled by his own party. Democrats had 57 senators on Jan. 20, 2009, when Obama took office. Today, Republicans have 52 senators.
Photo: Trump’s picks include (from top left) Rex Tillerson (Photo: Ron Sachs/ZUMA Press/Newscom); Steven Mnuchin (Photo: Ron Sachs/ZUMA Press/Newscom); James Mattis (Photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Newscom); Jeff Sessions (Photo: Ron Sachs/ZUMA Press/Newscom); Ryan Zinke (Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters/Newscom); Sonny Perdue (Photo: Albin Lohr-Jones/ZUMA Press/Newscom); Wilbur Ross (Photo: Mike Theiler/UPI/Newscom); Andrew Puzder (Photo: Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom); Tom Price (Photo: Ron Sachs/DPA/Newscom); Ben Carson (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/Newscom); Elaine Chao (Photo: Ron Sachs/ZUMA Press/Newscom); Rick Perry (Photo: Mark Reinstein/ZUMA Press/Newscom); Betsy DeVos (Photo: Ron Sachs/DPA/Newscom); David Shulkin (Photo: Veterans Health Administration/Flickr); and John Kelly (Photo: Ron Sachs/CNP/Newscom).

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Remembering Hal Moore, an American Hero

America lost a role model on Saturday when Hal Moore passed away at the age of 94.
Harold “Hal” Moore was a retired three-star Army general, but he will forever be remembered for his courageous actions as the commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry in the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in November 1965.

Memorialized in the book and subsequent movie “We Were Soldiers Once… And Young,” Moore and his battalion conducted an audacious helicopter assault right into the midst of three North Vietnamese regiments in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam and were immediately faced with an enemy onslaught.
Surrounded, outnumbered, and faced with mounting casualties, Moore, then-lieutenant colonel,  skillfully orchestrated his unit’s harrowing defense, moving units around to fill gaps, calling in artillery and air support, and most importantly leading by example, exposing himself to all the dangers faced by his men.
The battalion sustained casualties that were unheard of at that early stage of the war, with 71 soldiers being killed during the engagement.
There were multiple moments during the terrible three days and two nights where the unit was in danger of being overrun, but in each instance the troopers of the 1/7 under Moore’s leadership rallied and threw the enemy back.
The North Vietnamese lost over 1,000 soldiers in this pitched battle.
“We Were Soldiers Once… And Young” wasn’t published until 1992, but it quickly became a mandatory read for Army officers in the 1990s and remains a key volume on most recommended military reading lists.
My own copy is dog-eared and worn from use. It’s not grand strategy but remains one of the most compelling stories of how determined leadership and heroism made the difference during those three days in November 1965.
Moore, who went on to become a lieutenant general, was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, our nation’s second-highest award for valor, for his actions in the Ia Drang.
He retired from the Army in August of 1977 after 32 years of service, and went on to become the executive director of the Crested Butte ski area in Colorado. He remained humble and self-effacing about his service.
One of Moore’s soldiers, Spc. 4 Pat Selleck, recalled a short ceremony when Moore said goodbye to him after the Ia Drang battle:

Col. Moore shook our hands and said, ‘Thank you and go back home.’ I was the second or third guy he spoke to and he had tears in his eyes. I remember what he said: ‘I see that you are married; you have a wedding ring on. Just go home, pick up the pieces, and start your life again.’ And basically that’s what I did. I came home to a wonderful wife, tried to readjust, did a decent job at it. I did what Col. Moore said. I tried to put the war behind me. … He might be a general, but to me he’s still Col. Moore. If it wasn’t for him and all his knowledge and training, I don’t think any of us would have survived the Ia Drang Valley.

Moore embodied the virtues Americans look for in their heroes: courage under fire, inspiring leadership in peace and war, professional integrity, and personal humility.
America mourns the loss of such a hero, but Moore’s legacy will live on in the generations that study the example he most clearly gave in Ia Drang.

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Trump Terrorism Adviser Says War on ISIS About Ideology

One of the key figures driving President Donald Trump’s national security policy outlined a counterterrorism vision on Monday squarely focused on defeating ISIS beyond the battlefield.
Sebastian Gorka’s view of the ISIS threat melds with many in the White House who believe that the U.S. is engaged in a nontraditional war against radical Islam.

Gorka, and others in Trump’s orbit, allege that previous administrations have not properly combatted the ideology they say fuels terrorism, and that the U.S. government has struggled to define the war it is fighting.
“In this current warfare environment, body bags are not a good metric for winning,” said Gorka, a deputy assistant to the president, during an event at The Heritage Foundation. “You can kill a jihadi high-value target. But what happens if the next day, 20 people volunteer to replace that jihadi? The last 16 years we have become preeminent in exquisite whack-a-mole. Oh, and we are good at it.”
“We look at physical battlefield actions as the metric for success,” Gorka continued. “We have to understand 80 percent of this war will be fought in the mind, and 80 percent of our conflict will be fought in the media domain.”
Early Actions
Gorka, a former Breitbart News national security editor who has held positions at various military educational institutions, did not outline specific policies that transfer his ideas into action.
But some early actions by the Trump administration, and others reportedly being considered for roles in it, reflect a different approach to counterterrorism explicitly focused on “radical Islamic terrorism.”
At the Heritage event, Gorka defended Trump’s controversial executive order temporarily halting refugee admissions, and travel from seven countries the Obama administration and Congress had designated as posing risks of terrorism.
Politico reported Monday that Gorka was one of the few White House staffers consulted ahead of Trump’s order, which has been blocked by the courts.
Lawsuits around the country have alleged that Trump’s order violates the Constitution by intentionally punishing Muslims, and many trial courts blocked aspects of the president’s order.
Gorka, and others in the Trump administration, reject charges of religious intent, and say the chosen countries are sources of terrorism.
“One of the reasons the president signed his executive order [is that] those [targeted] nations are where ISIS and al-Qaeda exist, plus Iran,” Gorka said. “We won’t capture or kill all jihadis. What will happen is they will move. They may go to your neck of the woods. We want to make sure that events like Berlin, like Nice, like Paris, don’t happen in America. We have to understand that ISIS’ battlefront begins when you leave your house in the morning.”

“ISIS’ battlefront begins when you leave your house in the morning,” says @SebGorka.

Gorka’s calls for a tougher response against Islamist radicalism are reflected in other moves being considered by the White House.
The Trump administration is reportedly considering re-engineering a Department of Homeland Security domestic counterterrorism program—known as Countering Violent Extremism—to concentrate on Islamic extremism only. Some counterterrorism experts say this singular focus ignores other forms of extremism, and may harm relations between Muslim community groups and the government.
In addition, the Trump administration, according to The New York Times and others, is debating an order to designate the Muslim Brotherhood, an influential Islamist group in the Middle East, as a foreign terrorist organization.
‘Help Muslims Win the War’
Together, these actions and ideas represent an about-face to traditional U.S. strategy embraced by both Republican and Democrat administrations.
Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama defined the terror threat in narrower terms as they tried to avoid making it seem the U.S. was at war with Islam.
They argued that a more direct focus on radical Islam would feed into ISIS’ narrative that Muslims are not welcome in the West, and encourage more extremism.
Gorka on Monday defended himself against others in the national security establishment who’ve criticized his rhetoric as inflammatory.
“We are not at war with Islam,” Gorka said. “Let me be explicit here. It’s very easy for our detractors to paint us as Islamophobes. It is absolutely wrong. This is a war inside Islam—war for the heart of Islam. Which version will be preeminent? We have to help Muslims win the war for the heart of their own religion.”
Whereas Obama tried to not legitimize ISIS by overstating its power, and said he believed they did not constitute an existential threat to America, Gorka argues the U.S. government needs to take the claims of the terrorist group literally.
“ISIS is different because it succeeds where every jihadi group failed, and it has captured transnational, transregional territory, which by itself means it is a tier one threat to all people who believe in freedom of religion, freedom of expression, democracy, and representative government,” Gorka said. “ISIS has not just rehashed al-Qaeda’s message of jihad. They have really executed an ideological and theological coup.”
“Every time it [ISIS] tweets or goes on Telegram [a messaging service] and says, ‘We are the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham [translation of Syria in Arabic],’ they are a sending very powerful message to that man in his mom’s basement, to that Pakistani immigrant on a fiancé visa in San Bernardino,” Gorka added.
‘Deligitimze Ideology’
Gorka, and others in the Trump administration, have so far not outlined specific differences on how to fight ISIS and take back territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.
Late last month, Trump issued a directive ordering his new defense secretary, retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, to submit a strategy within 30 days to defeat ISIS.
But Gorka did signal a pullback from one component of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy: relying on elite special operations forces to conduct raids and kill missions. Obama described this approach as less costly and more efficient than traditional combat operations.
Trump’s first counterterrorism operation using special operations forces, a raid against al-Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate last month, resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL, and civilian casualties.
“In the last eight years, we have tended as a government to look at our special operations capabilities as the easy button,” Gorka said. “That is a wholly fallacious understanding of special operations. The whole point of our bravest of the brave is that they are a tactical level deployment meant to effect strategic results—not a tactical level asset for tactical results. We should go back primarily to do what they were created to do. We should be helping others fight their own fights, not fight their fights for them.”
If Trump follows Gorka’s approach to counterterrorism, he envisions a dramatic result.
“What is victory in this war?” Gorka said. “Sebastian Gorka’s definition of victory is very simple. We will have won when the black flag of jihad, when the black flag of ISIS, is as repugnant across the world as the white peaked hood of the Ku Klux Klan and the black, white, and red swastika of Hitler’s Third Reich.”
“Don’t get me wrong, killing terrorists is great,” Gorka continued. “I am down with killing terrorists. But the ultimate victory will have accrued when we delegitimize the ideology of groups like the Islamic State.”

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What Trump Can and Can’t Do to Make Changes to Civil Forfeiture

President Donald Trump’s comments on a procedure that allows law enforcement to seize property sparked much debate in the media and on the internet.
But for stakeholders who oppose the practice, called civil asset forfeiture, the president’s statements presented a learning experience for the country’s chief executive.

Trump’s comments came during a roundtable discussion with county sheriffs last week, where Jefferson County, Kentucky, Sheriff John Aubrey asked the president about efforts to curb law enforcement’s use of civil asset forfeiture.
The question sparked a brief discussion about the tool, which allows law enforcement to seize property and cash if they suspect it’s connected to criminal activity.
In the back-and-forth, Trump questioned why anyone would want to limit the police’s ability to take “a huge stash of drugs,” and ultimately told the sheriffs in attendance they were “encouraged” to take property through civil forfeiture.
The comments satisfied the law enforcement community, who believe that civil forfeiture is a critical tool to curb drug trafficking and money laundering.
“For over 30 years, the asset forfeiture program has allowed law enforcement to deprive criminals of both the proceeds and tools of crime,” Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, wrote in a December op-ed in The Daily Caller.
“The resources provided by the Equitable Sharing Program have allowed agencies to participate in joint task forces to thwart and deter serious criminal activity and terrorism, purchase equipment, provide training upgrade technology, engage their communities, and better protect their officers,” he continued. “It has been remarkably successful.”
But for civil forfeiture opponents who have been working with policymakers at the federal and state level, Trump’s comments demonstrated a “profound misunderstanding” of the issue, one that left open the door for some explanation from those who want reforms.
“We think if the president knew about the extent of forfeiture abuse across the country, his remarks would’ve been very different,” Darpana Sheth, a senior attorney at the Institute for Justice, told The Daily Signal.
The Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm, is part of a broad coalition of civil forfeiture opponents who believe the tool allows police to seize cash, cars, and property from people who are unaware of any wrongdoing and were never charged with a crime.
At the heart of the issue is the profit incentive opponents say civil forfeiture creates, since laws in half of the states and the federal government let police keep 100 percent of the proceeds from forfeited property.
And while some in law enforcement believe that efforts to reform civil forfeiture laws in the halls of Congress and in state legislatures are rooted in opposition to law enforcement, Sheth said that’s a misconception.
“Civil forfeiture warps law enforcement’s incentives and puts police officers in this untenable position of having to choose going after money rather than criminals,” she said. “They have to be revenue generators rather than fight crime. Once we have adequate reforms, it would free them to focus on fighting crime.”
Still, Trump’s comments left many unanswered questions, and the White House did not return requests for clarification on the president’s stance on the issue.
If Trump did want to put civil forfeiture “back in business,” as he told sheriffs last week, there are some changes he could make.
Movement in Congress
Each state and the federal government have different laws that dictate how local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies can seize and forfeit property using civil forfeiture.
At the federal level, there’s little Trump can do to change civil forfeiture laws without an act of Congress.
Even if lawmakers decided to move forward with reforms, the momentum is for tightening, not loosening, the statutes governing law enforcement’s ability to seize property, said Jason Snead, a policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation who has written extensively about civil forfeiture.
Last year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced the Due Process Act, which aimed to make it harder for law enforcement to take property from innocent Americans.
The bill stalled in Congress, but Snead said there’s still broad interest from Republicans and Democrats to pass civil forfeiture reform as part of a broader criminal justice reform package.
While President Barack Obama made criminal justice reform a priority of his administration, Trump’s comments injected uncertainty into the debate.
[embedded content]
“We might see some movement in the upcoming Congress,” Snead told The Daily Signal. “But the question becomes, ‘What is the administration’s position and would they sign anything?’”
Aside from congressional action, the president and his Justice Department, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, do have latitude in the agency’s Equitable Sharing Program.
Under Equitable Sharing, local and state agencies participating in a joint investigation with the federal government can forfeit property under federal forfeiture laws, which are less stringent than those in some states.
The program also allows local and state agencies to keep up to 80 percent of the proceeds from forfeited property.
In 2015, the Justice Department, then led by Attorney General Eric Holder, made a significant change to Equitable Sharing.
The program allowed local and state law enforcement to seize property, which would then be “adopted” by federal agencies. Once the adoption occurred, the property was forfeited under federal law.
But Holder decided to implement a new policy prohibiting the federal government from “adopting” seizures, and today, local and state law enforcement agencies participating in Equitable Sharing have to be working alongside federal agencies to forfeit property under federal law.
That could all change, though, with Sessions in charge at the Justice Department, particularly if he decided to roll back Holder’s changes.
“We would be taking a step back to where we were in 2015,” Snead said.
While a senator from Alabama, Sessions opposed recent attempts to reform federal civil forfeiture laws.
And he said in the past that he was “very unhappy” with criticisms of how civil forfeiture is being used.
But Snead is holding out hope that both Sessions and Trump change their tune on the issue.
“We need to get in front of the president the actual facts on the ground, the extremely limited protections that are in place for property owners, and the fact that there is a financial incentive that can skew the policies and priorities,” he said.
Galvanized
While there is momentum for federal civil forfeiture reform coming from members of Congress, much of the action on the issue is taking place in the states.
Last year, a handful of states—including Florida, California, and Ohio—passed bills to tighten their civil forfeiture laws.
In total, 20 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws reforming civil forfeiture. In more than 12 states, the government must secure a conviction before forfeiting property.
“A lot of the power is in state legislator’s hands,” Snead said. “If they use that power wisely, they can make some dramatic steps.”
Already, state legislators in more than a dozen states like Illinois, Indiana, and Texas are considering legislation to require a criminal conviction before assets can be forfeited.
And Sheth said Trump’s comments likely provided state lawmakers with more motivation to push bills reforming state civil forfeiture laws across the finish line.
“People are galvanized by this,” she said. “These claims that you get that are unrebutted, that these are made up stories, the people who have experienced [civil forfeiture] or know about it know this clearly isn’t true. I think it sparks a kind of outrage.”

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Colombia Is Helping You Spread Love This Valentine’s Day

That time of year has once again arrived when the scent of fresh-cut roses is flooding stores nationwide.
But little known to most Americans, one factor is making their Valentine’s Day purchases even sweeter. Thanks to the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement, Americans don’t have to pay extra taxes on Colombian-grown flowers.

When the agreement went into effect in 2012, tariffs on approximately 80 percent of all U.S. exports to Colombia were eliminated. Most remaining tariffs, and other barriers, on goods and services traded between the U.S. and Colombia will be phased out within 15 years.
After just five years, the agreement is already blossoming. In 2016, U.S. fresh-cut flower imports from Colombia were valued at $659 million, an increase of $97.1 million from 2011.
These flowers travel approximately 1,500 miles from Colombia to Miami International Airport. From there they are shipped all across the country.
Americans are obsessed with Valentine’s Day, making Colombia America’s top fresh-cut flower trading partner. Colombia supplies more than half of all fresh-cut flowers imported into the U.S. each year.
As couples take the opportunity to strengthen their relationship each February, Colombia and the United States are cultivating their own partnership.
Like with any long-lasting relationship, this partnership isn’t one-sided. U.S. exports to Colombia are also increasing as a result of this bilateral trade agreement.
For instance, in 2013, U.S. exports to Colombia surged: processed foods by 129 percent, transportation equipment by 61 percent, and petroleum and coal products by 46 percent.
Once the agreement is fully implemented, the U.S. International Trade Commission estimates that it will boost U.S. gross domestic product by $2.5 billion.
As your Valentine enjoys the sweet aroma of a fresh bouquet of flowers, be sure to thank the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement for keeping your wallet from wilting this year.

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Why Frederick Douglass Was an Exemplary American

This month of each year, we commemorate the great individuals and events in the history of African-Americans.
On Tuesday, marking his 199th birthday, we will commemorate perhaps the greatest of them all, Frederick Douglass—a singular exemplar and apostle of the American spirit.

“He was an American of the Americans,” Douglass once said of Abraham Lincoln, in words that apply no less aptly to himself. “Born and reared among the lowly, a stranger to wealth and luxury, compelled to grapple single-handed with the flintiest hardships of life … he grew strong in the manly and heroic qualities demanded by the great mission to which he was called.”
Douglass loved America. He loved it for its principles and for its promise. Nonetheless, the sentiment of patriotism, which he regarded as “pure, natural, and noble,” did not come naturally or easily to him.
“What country have I?” he asked in an 1847 editorial, and he then answered: None. As he confessed to his early abolitionist mentor William Lloyd Garrison, the sentiment of patriotism “was whipt out of me” by the slave masters under whose dominion he was born.
Given the circumstances of his youth, it is unremarkable that Douglass, after escaping from slavery, would embrace the teaching of Garrison, who in his abolitionist zeal rejected the Constitution as a pro-slavery “covenant with death” and who would call for non-slaveholding states to sever their association with slaveholders by seceding from the federal union.
What is remarkable is that within a few years, by conscientious study and reflection, Douglass set himself on a different course.
Douglass came to reject the Garrisonian position, and he explained why in a Fourth of July oration delivered July 5, 1852, a speech now recognized as the greatest of all abolitionist speeches.
In it, he praised the Constitution as “a glorious liberty document,” and he extolled the Founders for their courage and their wisdom alike: “They were brave men. They were great men too. … They seized upon eternal principles, and set a glorious example in their defense. Mark them!”
In those principles—the principles of the Declaration of Independence—Douglass found the distinctive promise of America.
“The leading object of [our] government,” Lincoln said in a July 4 message of his own, is “to elevate the condition of men—to lift artificial weights from all shoulders—to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all—to afford all an unfettered start, and a fair chance.”
Precisely so, Douglass added in the most popular of his post-Civil War speeches:

America is said, and not without reason, to be preeminently the home and patron of self-made men … [The] principle of measuring and valuing men according to their respective merits and without regard to their antecedents, is better established and more generally enforced here than in any other country.

Frederick Douglass, circa 1874. (Photo: JT Vintage/ZUMA Press/Newscom)

Douglass summarized the nation’s promise a few years after the Union victory. America’s mission, he proclaimed, is to become “the most perfect national illustration of the unity and dignity of the human family that the world has ever seen.”
The converse is still more telling: As Douglass conceived of the virtue of the country in terms of human integration and elevation, he conceived of the main dangers to it as forces of disintegration and degradation, including any and all artificial barriers to the exercise of individual rights and the cultivation of civic unity.
Those forces and barriers were manifold. In the antebellum period, they included not only slavery itself but also Garrison’s disunion proposal, in which Douglass found “no intelligible principle of action.”
Both before and after the Civil War, they included also the ideas of constitutional state sovereignty and of sectionalism whereby portions of the country were licensed to disregard rights proper both to human beings and to American citizens.
“The true doctrine,” Douglass wrote in objecting to the Supreme Court’s Slaughter-House Cases doctrine of differential state and federal citizenship rights, “is one nation, one country, one citizenship and one law for all the people.”
Most powerful of all sources of disintegration, however, was race. Beyond his objections to race-based slavery, needless to belabor here, of particular interest is Douglass’ objection to the cultivation of racial identity even when the aim was racial uplift rather than oppression or exclusion.
A few months before he died, he observed, “We hear, since emancipation, much said … in commendation of race pride, race love, race effort, race superiority, race men, and the like.”
Conceding that what he had to say “may be more useful than palatable,” he nevertheless admonished the friends of racial equality that they:

make a great mistake in saying so much of race and color … It is an effort to cast out Satan by Beelzebub … I would place myself, and I would place you, my young friends, upon grounds vastly higher and broader than any founded upon race or color … Not as Ethiopians; not as Caucasians; not as Mongolians; not as Afro-Americans, or Anglo-Americans, are we addressed, but as men. God and nature speak to our manhood, and to our manhood alone.

Douglass’ story is the story of an American who, like his country, rose from a low beginning to a great height, who gained freedom by his own virtue and against great odds, and who matured into a world-famous apostle of universal liberty.
It is the story, too, of a man divided by race, who with time and work became his country’s most prominent representative of the aspiration toward racial uplift, reconciliation, and integration.
Recounted in three finely crafted autobiographies, Douglass’ story is timely in any season and locale.
In our own, a time when many Americans feel trapped by circumstances, ignored, or disdained by those in positions of public responsibility and confused about the meaning and merits of their country’s identity, it is particularly so.

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India’s Increased Naval Capacities Are Good for Regional Security

A key American partner, India, is set to conduct another missile test that will have a wide range of consequences on regional dynamics for years to come.
India’s new K-4 nuclear-capable, submarine-launched ballistic missile is expected to have a range of 3,500 kilometers, a serious improvement over its current operational missile of the same kind.

When coupled with India’s burgeoning nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine program, India is set to seriously increase its second-strike capability in the coming years.
This trend aligns with India’s ongoing efforts to modernize its military with particular focus on naval power. A heftier military capability will extend India’s national influence and potentially rival China.
India’s current operational submarine-launched ballistic missile, the K-15, has a range of approximately 750 kilometers and was designed to be used by the INS Arihant, India’s first indigenously built nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine.
While the Arihant is primarily a training platform that will be used to train crews for future nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines, it is also capable of conducting deterrence patrols. India currently has plans to build up to five nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines of a similar design in the future.
Based on the Arihant’s design, these will most likely be used in naval bastions, with cover provided by other naval vessels and aircraft in the Bay of Bengal or near the Andaman and Nicobar islands. These submarines lack the necessary speed and stealth capabilities to effectively defend themselves against hostile attack submarines.
That is why the increased range of the K-4 is so significant. It would give India the capability to strike targets in China or Pakistan from the Bay of Bengal in the event of war. India is also expected to increase naval facilities on the Andaman and Nicobar islands for this purpose.
Some have argued that this new capability from India could lead to more destabilization and conflict in the region rather than less, forcing an arms race in anti-submarine weapons or adding a destabilizing element to future crises.
While that may be the case, second-strike capability is a priority for India due to its policy of “no first use” with its nuclear arsenal. In order to maintain deterrence, it has to ensure that its arsenal cannot be neutralized by a preemptive strike.
Nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines have secured this capability for the U.S., Soviet Union/Russia, and China for years, and India seems set to cultivate this technology for its own security.
As the U.S. looks to India to play a more active role in the Asia-Pacific region, this growth in capability will enhance India’s ability to step into that role, further increasing the potential of the U.S.-India strategic partnership.

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