America’s mass incarceration problem in 5 charts – or, why Sessions shouldn’t bring back mandatory minimums

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Attorney General Jeff Sessions is pushing for stricter sentencing in criminal cases.
AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Tanya Golash-Boza, University of California, Merced

Today, the United States is a world leader in incarceration, but this has not always been the case.

For most of the 20th century, the U.S. incarcerated about 100 people per 100,000 residents – below the current world average. However, starting in 1972, our incarceration rate began to increase steadily. By 2008, we reached a peak rate of 760 incarcerated persons per 100,000 residents.

The increase in incarceration cannot be explained by a rise in crime, as crime rates fluctuate independently of incarceration rates. Incarceration rates soared because laws changed, making a wider variety of crimes punishable by incarceration and lengthening sentences.

This sharp increase was driven in part by the implementation of mandatory minimums for drug offenses, starting in the 1980s. These laws demand strict penalties for all offenders in federal courts, no matter the extenuating circumstances.

The Obama administration took some measures to roll back these mandatory minimums. In 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder issued a memo asking prosecutors to prosecute crimes with mandatory minimum sentences only for the worst offenders.

Earlier this month, however, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded that memo and issued his own, which requires prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious” offense. The punitive sentiment behind Sessions’ memo is a throwback to our failed experiment in mass incarceration in the 1980s and ‘90’s.

The rise of mass incarceration

According to political scientist Marie Gottschalk, mass incarceration took off in three waves.

First, in the mid-1970s, Congress began to lengthen sentences. This culminated in the 1984 Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which established mandatory minimum sentences and eliminated federal parole.

Then, from 1985 to 1992, city, state and federal legislators began to lengthen drug sentences. This was the heyday of the war on drugs. It included the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which imposed even more mandatory minimum sentences. Most significantly, it set a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for offenses involving 100 grams of heroin, 500 grams of cocaine or 5 grams of crack cocaine.

Two years later, new legislation added a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for simple possession of crack cocaine, with no evidence of intent to sell. Before then, one year of imprisonment had been the maximum federal penalty for possession of any amount of any drug.

The third wave hit in the early 1990s. This involved not only longer sentences, but “three strikes laws” that sentenced any person with two prior convictions to life without parole. “Truth in sentencing” policies also demanded that people serve their full sentences. This culminated in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which included a three strikes provision at the federal level.

Notably, these laws were passed during a time when crime rates had begun a precipitous decline. Today, more than half of U.S. states have a three strikes provision.

By the end of the 20th century, there were an unprecedented over two million inmates in the U.S. That’s more than 10 times the number of U.S. inmates at any time prior to the 1970s, and far more than most other countries.

The beginning of the end

Although the current incarceration rate is still high – about 1 in 37 adults – it is at its lowest since 1998.

Imprisonment has decreased over the past decade for two reasons. First, policymakers have started to realize that punitive laws do not work. Second, states are no longer able to continue financing this massive carceral system.

The Great Recession in 2007 gave elected leaders the political will to make cuts to the prison system. After three decades of prison building, many states found themselves with massive systems they were no longer able to finance, and began to release some prisoners to cut costs. This was the first time in 37 years that the number of prisoners went down. By 2011, one-fourth of states had closed or planned to close a prison.

In 2010, Obama signed the Fair Sentencing Act, repealing the five-year mandatory sentence for first-time offenders and for repeat offenders with less than 28 grams of cocaine.

This change reduced the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine down to 18-to-1. Activists had been demanding this reduction for decades, as the only difference between the two drugs is that crack is made by adding baking soda and heat to powder cocaine. Despite similar rates of crack usage in black and white communities, in 2010 – the last year of the 100-to-1 disparity – 85 percent of the 30,000 people sentenced for crack cocaine offenses were black.

In 2012, after years of steadily increasing prison admission rates, the number of new admissions to federal prisons began to decline. In 2015, just 46,912 people were admitted to federal prison – the lowest number in 15 years.

Crime falls, but public opinion stays the same

When mass incarceration first started ramping up in the 1970s, violent and property crime rates were high. However, even after crime rates began to decline, legislators continued passing punitive laws. In fact,
some of the most draconian laws were passed in the mid-1990s, long after crime rates had gone down.

Incarceration has had a limited impact on crime rates. First of all, it is just one of many factors that influence crime rates. Changes in the economy, fluctuations in the drug market and community-level responses often have more pronounced effects.

Second, there are diminishing returns from incarceration. Incarcerating repeat violent offenders takes them off the streets and thus reduces crime. But incarcerating nonviolent offenders has a minimal effect on crime rates.

But incarceration continued to rise even as crime fell, in part because of the public’s demand for a punitive response to crime. Although there is less crime today than there has been in the past, most people are not aware of this drop.

Thus, the fear of crime persists. This often translates into punitive public policies – regardless of declining crime rates and the inefficacy of these laws at preventing crime.

The ConversationSince the election of Richard Nixon, politicians on the left and right have learned that fear-mongering around crime is a surefire way to get elected. Today, when crime rates are at a historic low, politicians continue to stoke the flames of fear. These strategies may win elections, but the evidence shows they will not make our communities safer.

Tanya Golash-Boza, Professor, University of California, Merced

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Trump’s Vow to ‘Destroy’ Johnson Amendment Could Wreak Havoc on Charitable World

Lyndon Johnson, who was friends with evangelist Billy Graham, wasn’t targeting religious groups when he pushed his eponymous amendment in 1954. AP Photo
Lyndon Johnson, who was friends with evangelist Billy Graham, wasn’t targeting religious groups when he pushed his eponymous amendment in 1954. AP Photo

Philip Hackney, Louisiana State University and Brian Mittendorf, The Ohio State University

President Donald Trump recently pledged to “destroy” the Johnson Amendment, a 63-year-old law that bans charities from engaging in political activities.

As Trump said this at the National Prayer Breakfast, his focus was on permitting religious groups to play a more vocal role in political campaigns. Our experience in researching nonprofit organizations, however, suggests there would be much wider and likely negative ramifications if he fully follows through on his pledge.

To understand the impact, we need to examine the Johnson Amendment and consider how the president might seek to alter it.

A broad reach

The Johnson Amendment is a provision of the tax code that prohibits nonprofits registered as charities – and thus eligible to receive tax-deductible donations – from intervening in “any political campaign.”

At its simplest, it means that a charity cannot encourage people to vote for or against a particular candidate for public office – though it can discuss political issues generally. So a nonprofit organization must choose between being designated a charity, which affords it the right to receive tax-deductible contributions, or another tax status that provides more leeway in politicking.

It arose from a long history of religious leaders engaging in political speech. While some of that history marks important and admirable roles, like those of the abolitionists, it is also marred by cases like the anti-Catholic rhetoric from some Protestant pulpits attacking Al Smith in the 1928 election.

The amendment takes its name from then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, who proposed it in 1954 to draw a clear line between politics and charity. Some suggest Johnson proposed the amendment because he was angry with a charity that had opposed his candidacy in a primary race for Senate.

Even before its passage, however, the IRS took a dim view of charities engaging in political activities. To the IRS, such activities didn’t further a “charitable purpose,” such as helping the poor, maintenance of public monuments, advancement of religion or the defense of civil rights.

Opponents claim the statute violates their rights under the First Amendment to freedom of speech and religion, while proponents argue it ensures the charitable tax deduction is not inadvertently subsidizing political speech.

Many churches and other religious organizations have led the way in objecting to the amendment’s chilling effect on speech. One effort to fight back, “pulpit freedom Sunday,” has been conducted annually to protest these restrictions. The day is marked by preachers flouting the rule and speaking openly about politics.

But since it applies to all charities, any attempt to “destroy” the amendment would affect the behavior of more than just pastors and priests. Schools, hospitals, addiction centers, food banks and other charities all could then advocate for or against candidates to some extent without losing their charitable status.

Tweaking the Johnson Amendment

Despite his rhetoric, Trump is unlikely to try to entirely eliminate the amendment, in part because his aim seems to be focused on religious speech.

So a bare minimum change could be an executive order that explicitly states that the administration will not enforce the law against religious groups as long as the political activities are conducted as an ancillary part of regular operations.

This would generally ensure that a preacher would not jeopardize a church’s tax-exempt status by supporting a candidate from the pulpit. A move like this would largely be symbolic since there is little evidence that the IRS has sought to revoke the charity status of a church whose preacher violated the ban, such as on pulpit freedom Sunday. The Treasury Department and the IRS may already believe that enforcement of the amendment in this context is impractical and may even violate laws protecting religious freedom.

Such a limited executive order would mean the IRS would still enforce the law when a church is engaged in more secular activity, such as acquiring a billboard to favor or oppose a particular candidate.

A more aggressive posture would be if Trump issues an order telling the IRS not to enforce the ban on churches under any circumstances. Although the idea of a president choosing to not enforce a law dutifully passed by Congress may seem odd and problematic, presidents have wide prosecutorial discretion.

President Obama, for instance used this power to direct his Justice Department to curtail enforcement of some violations of drug and immigration offenses. Its use can also run into legal challenges, as was the case with Obama’s immigration efforts.

On the legislative side, Congress is already pursuing its own modest efforts, such as the Free Speech Fairness Act. That would allow charitable groups to engage in political speech when it’s a normal part of their activities and the costs of doing so are “de minimis” – so no national candidate ads, for example.

While the impact of this bill remains uncertain, it would likely eliminate none of the challenges of enforcing the current ban and might raise more problems.

More ambitious approaches

A more ambitious legislative approach short of killing the amendment would be to add a carve-out that exempts houses of worship altogether. Such an effort would seem consistent with Trump’s goal of permitting religious groups more leeway in supporting candidates. An unintended consequence would be to increase the need for the IRS to answer the question of what constitutes a church.

We have seen this play out already on a smaller scale with the carve-out that exempts churches from filing annual financial reports. Atheist groups have filed lawsuits alleging unequal treatment, and others have sought to push the boundaries when filing for church status. The First Church of Cannabis and John Oliver’s bitingly satirical but short-lived Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption are two examples of unconventional “churches.”

John Oliver establishes a church.

In other words, this would almost certainly increase the flow of groups seeking church status. Besides forcing the IRS to answer that difficult question – what’s a church – it may also undermine public perceptions of churches more broadly.

If one takes the most literal interpretation of the president’s pledge, his aim would be to permit politicking by all charitable organizations. He might pursue this goal through an executive order, but a permanent change would require a legislative solution.

A full repeal of the amendment would have the potential to upend the entire nonprofit sector. After all, limitations on politicking provide a key line between organizations that can receive tax-deductible charitable contributions and those that cannot (e.g., social welfare organizations and political action committees).

A repeal would also open a new pathway for avoiding laws on the disclosure of campaign contributions, creating another so-called dark money channel.

If this line were removed, we should expect to see many organizations that are ostensibly political in nature seeking charity status so they can raise funds through tax-deductible gifts from undisclosed donors. And many nonprofits that weren’t previously political would likely expand to add such spending to their portfolio of activities.

Many fear that blurring the lines between goals intended to serve the general public and those aimed at special interests would undermine public trust in charities and ultimately even put the charitable deduction at risk. With this in mind, prominent nonprofit groups have objected to efforts to repeal the Johnson Amendment.

The push against repeal by charities should be a good indication of its potentially damaging effects. It’s not often that organizations push to retain limits on themselves.

A tricky business

Even if the prohibition goes away, unlimited political activity and its enforcement would remain a problem. That’s because political activity itself does not further a charitable purpose. And the IRS would still have to police whether charities were engaged in too much of it to justify charitable status.

Additionally, determining whether a particular comment or speech is even political can be quite difficult. For instance, if a minister gives a sermon asking his congregation to compare two candidates for office and determine whom Jesus would pick, has the minister engaged in political speech in his capacity as a representative of the church? The IRS has issued guidance with 21 different situations to explain how it makes such determinations.

At the moment, Congress appears reluctant to completely dismantle the Johnson amendment, perhaps because of the concerns we’ve listed above or others. So the likely change, if any, would be a minor shift that gives some nonprofits additional leeway to engage in political speech.

But as we’ve shown, even modest changes to the amendment in this direction are risky and could lead to unintended consequences tantamount to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Given this unclear and treacherous territory on which he has embarked, the president would be wise to tread carefully.

The Conversation

Philip Hackney, James E. & Betty M. Phillips Associate Professor of Law, Louisiana State University and Brian Mittendorf, Fisher College of Business Distinguished Professor of Accounting, The Ohio State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Theresa May meets Donald Trump: talking up a special relationship to hide problems beneath

Just keep smiling! PA/Stefan Rousseau
Just keep smiling! PA/Stefan Rousseau

Scott Lucas, University of Birmingham

British Prime minister Theresa May faces economic shock if London departs the European Union’s single market after Brexit. She needs the salvation – even if it’s distant and illusory – of a US-UK trade deal. She also needs to burnish the urn of the “special relationship”. This had been tarnished when Trump warmly embraced Nigel Farage, who he suggested would make a good ambassador, before he had a fleeting thought about 10 Downing Street.

Trump, after antagonising and insulting a series of leaders and their countries, was happy for a photo opportunity with someone whose name isn’t Vladimir Putin.

This was the backdrop to May’s first visit to meet newly inaugurated President Trump. She will have had the now-ritual “front of the queue” mantra at the forefront of her mind. She has beseeched the Trump administration for a declaration of negotiations, even if they won’t take place for years. In return, Trump got the prime minister’s nod, smile and her discreet silence on the size of his inaugural crowd.

It was telling how high May was willing to leap to escape Europe for the welcoming shores of the US. “Dawn breaks on a new era of American renewal,” she proclaimed during her speech to the Republican Party conference, as “President Trump’s victory – achieved in defiance of all the pundits and the polls” came from “the hopes and aspirations of working men and women across this land”.

In that same speech, Churchill was invoked not once, twice, nor even thrice, but four times. Inevitably, May referred to his 1946 speech in which “Anglo-Saxon powers” defied the Iron Curtain. Now, again, the US and UK will lead, May declared, and all others will follow.

For this illusion, May was even willing to put aside inconveniences such as Trump’s endorsement of torture (“it absolutely works”). While telling British papers she would ensure Britain did not follow the waterboarding, not a word on the matter made it into her speech – nor did she answer a direct question on the subject from the BBC.

As the two leaders stood together after their initial meeting, Trump declared that the special relationship has been “one of the great forces for justice and peace” over the years. But none of this averts the problems down the road.

Indeed, May – despite carefully-placed references to NATO and a firm line against Russia – has probably stoked a bit more suspicion from Europe by cosying up to a man who thinks NATO is obsolete and Putin is a fine role model. She even pledged to keep working to convince her fellow European leaders to spend more on NATO, claiming to have received assurances that Trump is “100% behind” the defence alliance.

The bump of Brexit departure has in no way been softened by this meeting. European leaders are unlikely to be pleased by the implied meaning in Trump’s assertion that “a free and independent Britain is a blessing to the world” – nor by the very clear message in his view that “Brexit is going to be a wonderful thing for your country”.

Trump, for his part, will soon be beset by agencies who don’t like him, senators (both Democrat and Republican) ready to cut him down, and the burden of constructing a policy that is more than 140 characters.

And, of course, there is the grand deception. The US and UK will daily find that they’re not leading the world – as Trump and May strike their poses, other countries will be making their own arrangements.

But why quibble? This meeting was not about the long road. It was short-term politics to keep eyes off the horizon.

The Conversation

Scott Lucas, Professor of International Politics, University of Birmingham

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Trump Snubs Ethical Norms Because We’ve Forgotten Why They Matter

A pile of papers do not a conflict-of-interest plan make. Evan Vucci/AP Photo

A pile of papers do not a conflict-of-interest plan make. Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Elizabeth C. Tippett, University of Oregon

Let’s be honest. Conflicts of interest are boring.

The president-elect knows this. In fact, he’s banking on it.

Instead of addressing his conflicts in a meaningful way at his press conference last week, Trump pointed to a stack of folders behind him. He then turned the press conference over to a lawyer, who talked about Trump’s plans for long enough for viewers to lose interest. It sounded official and complicated, even though it’s an embellished version of his November announcement to turn the business over to his children.

Many condemned Trump’s plan to handle his myriad conflicts of interest as president as wholly inadequate, including the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

But most likely, Trump will get away with it – for now – and continue to ignore the warnings of government ethics officials, tasked with preventing things from going terribly wrong.

For decades, they’ve been so successful at preventing a major government ethics scandal, Trump’s conflicts of interest now seem academic and even soporific to the average voter. Unfortunately for Trump, his unwillingness to listen makes a disaster much more likely. On the upside, a scandal would at least remind Americans why ethics-based precautions matter.

Owning is knowing

Trump’s plan consists of handing management of the family business to his sons, Don and Eric, and a current Trump executive. Trump pledges not to discuss business with his sons.

Trump will not be divesting his golf clubs, commercial properties, resorts, hotels or royalty rights. The plan also provides for no “new” foreign deals, though new domestic deals will be permitted subject to a “vetting process.” Existing foreign and domestic deals will presumably continue.

Walter Shaub, who directs the Office of Government Ethics, condemned Trump’s plan as “meaningless.” Turning over management of the business to others – especially his own children – is not a “blind trust” because Trump “knows what he owns.” Trump’s own attorney used this fact as an argument that nothing could be done about the conflict.

Shaub disagreed. If Trump divests his assets and places them in a blind trust – meant to prevent an elected official from making decisions that would benefit his or her own business interests – he won’t know what he owns. The independent trustee would make decision about selling assets and which assets to buy in their place. Under the government’s standard blind trust agreement, the trustee wouldn’t tell the president which assets are in the trust.

Much ado about nothing?

Nevertheless, Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz called Shaub “highly unethical” for publicly criticizing Trump’s plan.

It’s certainly unusual, but, as with all things Trump, we’re in uncharted waters.

For some Trump supporters, all of this ethics criticism feels alarmist and exaggerated. One explained to me that these conflicts of interests are all hypothetical and abstract. Nothing terrible has happened yet. He argued that Trump’s potentially problematic behavior thus far – like his business-related inquiries of the Argentinian president or complaints to Brexit leaders about wind farms near his golf course – is small potatoes compared to other national priorities.

This reaction is understandable. It’s hard to imagine a giant presidential ethics scandal because there hasn’t been one since the Nixon administration. Why worry?

Anyone in the business of prevention understands this challenge. In “The Black Swan,” Wharton scholar Nicholas Nassim Taleb described the most “mistreated heroes” as those “we do not know were heroes, who saved our lives, who helped us [by] avoid[ing] disasters.”

Taleb presents the thought experiment of a hypothetical legislator who passed a law requiring that cockpit doors be locked as of Sept. 10, 2001. Yes, the legislator would have succeeded in preventing a terrorist attack. But he would also erase the proof that his legislation was valuable.

In the business of prevention, the benefits are hypothetical and the costs are real. The diseases prevented by vaccines have become so rare that they have reached the status of a hypothetical threat. Some parents now decline vaccines based on ephemeral fears because the benefits have become even more ephemeral.

William Ruckelshaus, a Republican and the first Environmental Protection Agency administrator, summed up the problem nicely:

“During the late ‘60s, the early ‘70s … [y]ou could see the air pollution on your way to work in the morning. When I first moved to Washington, the air was brown, mostly associated with automobile emissions. We had rivers that caught on fire like the (Cuyahoga) going through Cleveland, Ohio. …today it doesn’t galvanize as much public demand that something be done as was true back in the 1960s. EPA is a victim of its own success. A lot of the changes in the air and the water have been a result of a pretty vigorous agency going after polluters.”

Make ethics great again

Conflicts of ethics rules serve as preventative measures, as Shaub pointed out.

Blind trusts make conflicts of interest impossible because government officials both no longer have control of the assets and don’t know what they are. It is impossible to be influenced by ownership of an unknown asset.

All of the presidents since the Watergate scandal have acted as though the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 applied to them, even though technically it doesn’t.

In a sense, the entire Executive Branch has been vaccinated against conflicts of interest for the last 40 years. That is until now, with an incoming president who stated repeatedly during his press conference that conflict of interest rules don’t apply. So maybe we’re due for a scandal?

Sometimes, retrenchment can be helpful to the cause of prevention. In 2015, a measles outbreak at Disneyland led to an increase in vaccination rates. Trump’s unprecedented conflicts of interest could do the same for Washington, spurring a renewed push to bind the president to higher ethical standards.

At it stands, Trump’s failure to address his conflicts means that he remains exposed to the possibility of a full-blown conflicts-of-interest scandal. All it would take is for President Trump to have another conversation with British politicians about those pesky wind farms near his golf course in Scotland, this time from the Oval Office.

Yes, it would be a blow to the office of the presidency. But on the upside, it would – to borrow the president-elect’s favored phrase – make ethics great again.

The Conversation

Elizabeth C. Tippett, Assistant Professor, School of Law, University of Oregon

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Four Key Times Presidential Nominees Failed to Gain Senate Confirmation

Ben Carson, President-elect Donald Drumpf’s nominee to be secretary of housing and urban development, at Drumpf Tower. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Ben Carson, President-elect Donald Drumpf’s nominee to be secretary of housing and urban development, at Drumpf Tower. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Sarah Snyder, American University School of International Service

Republicans are rushing to begin confirmation hearings for Cabinet appointments even before the FBI has finished its background checks. For President-elect Donald Trump’s opponents, this makes uncovering flaws in his nominees all the more challenging.

As a scholar of U.S. history, I have studied the many cases in which presidential nominees, particularly judges, have failed to gain Senate confirmation. However, according to the Senate Historical Office, there were four cases since 1970 in which a Senate controlled by the president’s party did not confirm the president’s nominees.

In each case, the failed nominee had either ethical, financial or legal lapses in their records. Here’s a list of their roadblocks, which might give you an idea of potential obstacles to Trump’s nominees.

Four failed nominations

In 1993, President Bill Clinton nominated Zoe E. Baird to be attorney general. Only five days later she asked Clinton to withdraw her nomination.

Her candidacy stumbled on the disclosure that she had hired undocumented immigrants and had not paid appropriate taxes on their wages. Particularly galling to opponents was the idea of the nation’s chief law enforcement officer having broken the law. As The New York Times put it, there “must be a natural fit between a job and the ethics, background, finances, and talents of a nominee.” Clinton nominated, and the Senate confirmed Janet Reno instead.

In 2001, President George W. Bush’s nomination of Linda Chavez to be secretary of labor was similarly short-lived. She had offered shelter and financial support to an undocumented immigrant.

In 2001, Linda Chavez withdrew as nominee for secretary of labor.
AP Photo/Doug Mills, File

Although she denied employing the immigrant, the revelation raised questions for senators and the public about her candidacy. Her nomination may also have been at risk due to the resistance of organized labor to her record on the minimum wage, affirmative action and sexual harassment. She quickly asked that her nomination be withdrawn under pressure about conflicting statements she made about her knowledge of the immigrant’s legal status. Elaine Chao, whom Trump has nominated to be secretary of transportation, served as Bush’s first secretary of labor instead.

George W. Bush ran into trouble again when he nominated Bernard Kerik to head the Department of Homeland Security in 2004. Unpaid taxes on domestic workers of unclear immigration status precipitated Bush’s decision to withdraw Kerik’s name. The Senate later confirmed Michael Chertoff as secretary of homeland security.

Given how many times employing undocumented immigrants has imperiled Cabinet nominees, the Trump transition team has presumably been attentive to the hiring records of its nominees.

But there are other issues the transition team may have failed to anticipate.

For example, President Barack Obama’s nomination of Senator Tom Daschle to be secretary of health and human services was sunk by unpaid taxes on a limo service as well as consulting income. Particularly troubling was the source of the car and driver – a political supporter, which may have been one reason his nomination failed. Observers also raised questions about Daschle’s close ties to the health care industry that the department hoped to reform. Kathleen Sebelius joined Obama’s Cabinet instead.

Nevertheless, unpaid taxes didn’t stop Timothy Geithner from becoming secretary of treasury in 2009. His confirmation suggests the timing and scale of an ethical lapse could make or break Trump’s nominees.

Opportunities in the coming weeks

Focusing on nominees whose qualifications do not correspond to the job description is one potential strategy for opponents. For example, Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and author, seems a poor fit for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. But convincing Republicans to override their leader on this basis seems unlikely.

More often, conflicts of interest, past statements or lapses in judgment preclude confirmation. Nominees’ ethical records could be where they are most vulnerable. For example, Sen. Jeff Sessions, nominee to be attorney general, has come under attack from former colleagues and observers in the press for omissions in a questionnaire he submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Ethics has been salient in Trump’s call to “drain the swamp,” and the recent flap over Republican efforts to downgrade the Office of Congressional Ethics. Ethical lapses, therefore, could jeopardize Trump’s nominees in the coming weeks and months. Although the president-elect has faced criticism for past and potentially future conflicts of interest, the voters elected him despite these concerns.

It remains to be seen if the Senate will hold Cabinet nominees, who can’t claim a popular mandate, to a higher standard.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify that the analysis is based on the Senate Historical Office’s list of nominations that were officially filed with the Senate.

The Conversation

Sarah Snyder, Associate Professor, American University School of International Service

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Failed coup in Turkey Matters

Emergency meeting held at White House Saturday
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

“A failed coup in Turkey – a longtime ally of the U.S. and a member of NATO -could have significant and wide-ranging implications for the U.S.”

Why Turkey’s Coup Attempt Matters for U.S.

WASHINGTON (CNN) —The Turkish government appeared to be regaining control of major cities Saturday the morning after a faction of the Turkish military tried to take over the country. A failed coup in Turkey — a longtime ally of the U.S. and member of NATO — could have significant and wide-ranging implications for the U.S.

That’s particularly the case, since Turkey is one of the world’s few Muslim-majority democracies and it sits at a key crossroads between the West and the Middle East, with Turkey playing a critical role in the fight against ISIS in Syria, the handling of Syrian refugees and in serving as a transit point for foreign ISIS fighters.

The impact was felt almost immediately as a key asset in the U.S. anti-ISIS campaign, the Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey just 60 miles from the Syrian border, was forced to halt operations amid the uncertainty.

As of Saturday morning, Turkish military authorities had closed the airspace around Incirlik, making it impossible for U.S. airstrike missions against ISIS from that location, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement.

“U.S. officials are working with the Turks to resume air operations there as soon as possible,” Cook added.

He also said the U.S. military was working to adjust its counter-ISIS operations “to minimize any effects on the campaign.”

A U.S. defense official told CNN that the Pentagon is looking to conduct operations out of other bases in the region because of the Incirlik shutdown, which the military specifically needs to operate drones to fight ISIS, also known as ISIL.

Even once the airspace is reopened, though, the U.S. military may be reluctant to restart operations until it is certain who is in control of the Turkish armed forces.

Additionally, tensions between the U.S. and Turkey could increase as an extradition battle now looms. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Fethullah Gulen, who currently lives in Pennsylvania, of being behind the coup and demanded the U.S. hand him over, though the exiled cleric has denied any involvement.

Here is a look at what else this could mean for the U.S.

Read more:

Source: Why Turkey’s coup attempt matters for US | Politics – KCRA Home

Other related media:

Turkey arrests 100 judges, military officials for alleged coup ties

US-based Turkish cleric denies involvement in coup plot

Attempted Turkey Coup: U.S. Would Consider Extradition Request for Blamed Cleric

Turkey Interrupts U.S. Air Missions Against ISIS at Major Base

Turkey Blames Coup Attempt On Group Led By U.S.-Based Cleric

After Coup Attempt, Turkish President Demands US Extradite Muslim Cleric Fethullah Gulen

Who Is Fethullah Gulen, and What Is His Role?

Turkish PM: Any country that stands by cleric Gulen will be at war with Turkey

A Short History of Modern Turkey’s Military Coups

Sibel Edmonds Explains the CIA’s “Reverse Engineering” of Erdogan

Why Is A Cleric In The Poconos Accused Of Fomenting Turkey’s Coup Attempt?


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