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Trump Requests $100 Million for Ivanka's Project

Donald Trump's 2020 budget includes $100 million for a project created and led by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, named the Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. (I wonder how much they paid for the spiffy website.) It will give $50 million to 50 million women in the developing world.

Do we have a math problem here? How is $1 per woman going to help empower anyone?

What exactly qualifies Ivanka Trump for this position? What does she know about women entrepreneurship in countries where working mothers don't have multiple nannies like she does?

I do not want my tax dollars going to any federally funded position led by a child of Donald Trump. Not a single one of them has been proven to have the experience or skill set to lead anything. It's pure nepotism and like everything Trump, just another branding exercise.

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Manafort Sentencing: 47 Months

Paul Manafort is in the courtroom. He is in a wheelchair. If you are following, let us know what happens. [Added: I returned just as the prosecution was wrapping up its argument. The updates below start with the latest and work backwards.

Update 5:23 p.m: Every prominent sentencing hearing in which the judge grants a downward variance from the advisory sentencing guideline is a good thing in that it will serve as a reminder to every other judge of their ability to do so, and that their job is not to impose a guideline sentence, but one that is sufficient, but not greater than necessary, to comply with the purposes of sentencing]. Chief among these factors is the nature of the offense and "the history and characteristics of the defendant."

Every judge must complete the "Judgment" form after sentencing. Part of that form is called a "Statement of Reasons." It lists a lot of factors and asks the Judge to check off the boxes that apply to their decision to impose a non-guideline sentence (called a variance -- a departure is something different.) When the judge completes and submits the Statement of Reasons, it does so under seal (sometimes available to counsel for the defendant). The form itself is not sealed and available on the U.S. Judiciary website. Here is the page with the non-exhaustive list of reasons a judge might choose to vary from and impose a non-guideline reason.

Update: 5:00 p.m. (MT): Manafort is sentenced to 47 months. Quite a departure from the guidelines, which reportedly were 19 to 24 years (according to the Government and Probation.) As a defense lawyer, I say good for Judge Ellis for so publicly recognizing that the advisory guidelines are just the starting point. Judges may not even presume the guidelines to be reasonable. [More...]

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Tuesday Open Thread

I had jury duty this morning in state court. They want you there by 7:30 a.m. That is really, really early. They don't start sending you to the courtroom till almost 10. There's virtually no parking so I took an Uber. But, I was late, and even though they had just started sending jurors to courtrooms, they said I have to do the whole thing again in two weeks. I don't mind, I just wish it were at 1:00 pm instead of 7:30 a.m.

I've been doing this periodically for decades and I've never been picked. What prosecutor is going to leave a practicing criminal defense lawyer on a jury? But Colorado has no occupational restrictions, so it's mandatory. (With a potential 6 month jail term if you fail to show up.)

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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CO Gov Jared Polis Says He'd Sign Bill to Repeal Death Penalty

Colorado Democrats have re-introduced a bill to repeal the state's death penalty law. If it passes, Colorado will be the 21st state to ban the death penalty.

Our new Governor, former Congressman Jared Polis, says he will sign the bill if it passes. (In a Denver Post article, he said he also might then grant clemency to the three men on Colorado's death row, all of whom were prosecuted in Arapahoe County and all of whom are African-American.)

The bill will get its first hearing Wednesday. If you are a Colorado voter, please email your Representative and Senator (find them here)and urge them to pass this bill. You can read the bill here and follow its progress. And send thanks to Gov. Jared Polis.

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Former CO Gov. Hickenlooper Enters Presidential Race

Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. a moderate Democrat, today announced he will run for President.

“I think it’s probably the worst period of division we’ve had in this country since the Civil War,” he said. “Ultimately I’m running for president because I believe that not only can I beat Donald Trump, but that I am the person that can bring people together on the other side and actually get stuff done. The division is keeping us from addressing big issues like climate change and the soaring costs of health care.”

I think Hickenlooper did a very good job as Governor here. He works hard, listens to both sides, takes risks when he needs to, doesn't bow to pressure and isn't an egomaniac. I'd support him as the candidate if he gets that far. I also like his campaign logo.

In other 2020 news, Eric Holder is not running. That's a good thing because he is very polarizing - the right hates him. Whenever the race turns personal rather than focusing on differences on issues, the voters lose. We can't avoid that with one candidate (the carnival barker with the desk in the oval office) but we can with whoever opposes him. Don't dismiss Hickenlooper, he might be the one if primary voters split between the more well-known candidates and cancel each other out.

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Michael Cohen Under Oath

Michael Cohen is testifying before Congress. Here is a link to stream it live.

His prepared written statement is here.

His wife and daughter are with him. Also accompanying him (on the left) is his new attorney, a long-time friend and colleague, Michael Monico from Chicago. I've known Michael for 25 years and he is not only supremely ethical but highly skilled. Cohen made a great choice.

I'll be listening in the car as I head up to a jail in the mountains. Here'a a place to discuss it. Also, don't miss this story of IRS agent John Frye being charged in San Francisco for leaking Cohen's SARS (suspicious activity reports from banks) to Michael Avenati. (Case No. CR 3-19-70176 LB.) The Complaint is here, and it's got all the details on his deposits and withdrawals regarding Stormy Daniels, his reimbursement and monies flowing to and from other countries.

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Monday Night Open Thread

San Francisco erases 8,000 marijuana convictions, dating to 1975.

Also, San Francisco loses a crusader for justice -- Public Defender Jeff Adachi has died.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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The Host-less Oscars Thread

The Oscars are host-less this year. I think ratings, which haven't been good in recent years, will be even worse tonight.

Have any of you seen any of the movies that are up for awards?

Here's a place to discuss the Oscars if you're watching.

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Can Donald Trump Find Venezuela on a Map?

Donald Trump owns no hotels in Venezuela. Could he even find it on a map? And why is Melania Trump speaking at this event in Miami when the podium says "The President"? Was it a fundraiser? (I honestly don't know since I refuse to listen to either one of them.) Why am I writing about this? Because of the comments on You Tube. They are as cruel (and in some cases as apt)as any I can remember since the November, 2016 election results. Some are pretty funny (others are admittedly sexist and xenophobic).

One thing appears certain: A year and a half after the 2016 election, Donald Trump remains the most mocked and vilified person ever to have a desk in the oval office. His wife is now running second, perhaps contending only with Ivanka, Don, Jr. and Jared for that unglorified spot. [More...]

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Friday night open thread

I am stuck in traffic headed up I 70 with all the Skiers —
only I’m going to the jail not the slopes. I’ll be back writing Tomorrow .

This is an open thread all topics welcome

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Trump Seeks Network Prime Time to Promote Border Wall

Donald Trump has asked the major networks to allow him to address the nation tomorrow night on the importance of the border wall. No answer yet.

I hope they turn him down. Let him hold his talk on his Facebook page where his fans can watch and listen.

He's also going to visit the border. Why, and who cares?

Democrats need to stay firm in their opposition to this needless and wasteful expense Trump is trying to impose on taxpayers.

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Xmas in America: Trump's Government Shutdown

It's official. CBS reports (no link due to auto play video):

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced shortly after 3 p.m. Saturday that there is no deal, and the Senate is adjourned until Thursday, Dec. 27.

We are in a partial government shutdown mode which will last through Christmas, at least. Only "essential" workers(shorter version: some law enforcement, including border agents, and military troops at the border) will get paid, the rest of federal workers do not:

More than 420,000 federal employees would have to go to work without pay. More than 380,000 will be furloughed. Those who work will get paid eventually - and those furloughed likely will - but depending how long the shutdown lasts, they could miss a paycheck.

Trump owns this now. It is his Christmas present to America.

As Trump continues to pander to his shrinking base of under-informed and marginalized voters, Dems need to stay firm and refuse to pay a cent for his imaginary wall. As for his "beautiful" Steel Slat Barrier he tweeted about this morning, I hope he's the first to sit on top of it.

The only acceptable outcome for next year: #TrumpResigns.

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Trump Refusing to Sign Shutdown Bill

Donald Trump wants his wall. He's refusing to sign the bill to avoid a government shutdown without funding for his wall.

Donald Trump is the antithesis of what this country needs in leadership.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king's horses and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.

Hopefully, Trump's fall will come soon.

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Khashoggi: CIA Assessment and Reports of Prior Marriage

Journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have secretly gotten married in the U.S. last June.

The Washington Post reports a CIA assessment of Khashoggi's murder led the agency to conclude the Crown Prince ordered it.

The CIA assessment relies in part on a phone call that was intercepted by Intelligence between the Crown Prince's brother, who is the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., and Khashoggi. Apparently, the Ambassador told Khashoggi it was safe to go pick up the documents for his marriage at the Embassy. [More...]

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Mexican Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Decriminalized Marijuana

The Mexican Supreme Court issued two important rulings today on marijuana:

Mexico’s Supreme Court issued two more rulings Wednesday ordering that complainants in individual cases be allowed to use marijuana for recreational purposes, establishing a precedent that a blanket prohibition on pot is unconstitutional.

The court found that adults have a fundamental right to personal development which lets them decide their recreational activities without interference from the state.

“That right is not absolute, and the consumption of certain substances may be regulated, but the effects provoked by marijuana do not justify an absolute prohibition of its consumption,” the ruling said.

The rulings establish that Mexico's laws prohibiting marijuana use are unconstitutional but it is still up to the Mexican Congress to pass a law legalizing marijuana.

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