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Guns and Crime

Police shooting: don’t trust David French

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As Ben Shapiro frequently notes, droves of people will agree that they want to cut spending, but when attempting to identify specific programs to reduce or eliminate, they draw a blank. The same can be said for many conservatives’ approach to police shootings.

Ask David French, for instance, senior writer for National Review, whether police shootings pose a significant problem in America. At least in 2016, he would’ve told you that it was all a “media-created fake crisis.” So which hot-button shootings were blown out of proportion by the media and Black Lives Matter? Aside from Michael Brown’s death in 2014 and a lukewarm defense of Officer Betty Shelby in 2017, you’d be hard-pressed to get an answer from French.

In fact, it seems every piece he’s contributed to this discussion has been just the opposite, pointed at decrying the officer in question. According to my research, French has not published a single piece dedicated to exonerating an officer who has fired on a suspect.

Even in tepidly standing by the side of Officer Shelby, he used the opportunity to smear Officer Yanez, who shot and killed Philando Castile, despite the fact that the circumstances surrounding the two shootings were remarkably similar, as I noted in June of last year.

In that article, I wrote, “The war on cops needs to end, especially from the Right. I have far less tolerance for conservatives who sell out justified cops in the name of virtue signaling than I do for those on the Left.”

Well, David French is up to his old tricks, so here I am again.

First, the facts of the case as seen here:

Sacramento police responded to reports that a man had broken a truck window just after 4:00 am. They knocked on the door of a nearby home, asked to search the backyard, did so, and came back to the street empty handed. A police helicopter then spotted a suspect breaking the window of a nearby home and, shortly after, jumping a fence. The officers ran up and down the street looking for the suspect, spotted him in the side area of a home approaching the rear, and shouted that he show them his hands. Instead, the man fled. Police pursued him into the backyard, repeated the command to show his hands, and announced to each other that they had seen a gun. They repeated the command, repeated that they had seen a gun, and opened fire. It appears that the suspect, Stephon Clark, died immediately.

All told, Clark was holding an iPhone, not a gun, and the backyard in which he was shot was his grandmother’s. No, none of this should make any difference, but we’ll get to that later.

Addressing police violence, French wrote in 2016, “This is how the Left sustains a false racial crisis: Step One — Begin with the misleading use of statistics.” Not content to merely know his enemy, French has decided to imitate them.

In his recent article, French questions whether the officers faced any significant risk at all, contending, “According to the City of Sacramento, it’s been almost 20 years since a cop was shot and killed in the line of duty.”

But what about the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, where four officers have been shot dead in the last 12 years, one as recently as August 2017? Coincidentally, the officer murdered in August was surnamed French.

Regardless, to imply that a risk is unrealistic because it hasn’t happened in a while is patently unhinged.

Nevertheless, French persists, “Before you object and tell me that routine encounters can and do escalate, I know that. But what I am questioning are probabilities and perspective.” This is absurd. The likelihood of a police officer being shot on duty is remarkably low anyway. Tragically, it still happens. In all circumstances, regardless of probability, police officers must be vigilant, and French’s suggestion otherwise is dangerous. To be clear, I’m not saying he’s trying to endanger cops; I just think he’s not being level headed.

French “[finds] it deeply disturbing and problematic” that “the encounter … took roughly 17 seconds.” Does he not realize that officers can be (and sometimes are) murdered in far less time than that?

Next, he downplays a likely felony (burglary) to a misdemeanor (vandalism) in order to minimize Clark’s offense (just like Castile, Crutcher, Brown, and Sterling, Clark committed at least one serious crime before being shot). As held in Graham v. Connor, “all claims that law enforcement officials have used excessive force … are properly analyzed under the Fourth Amendment’s ‘objective reasonableness’ standard,” meaning we must judge what an objectively reasonable officer would have thought or inferred from available details.

Unlike David French, let’s attempt to put ourselves in the officers’ shoes (remembering, of course, that only police officers can truly understand exactly what they go through): a suspect breaks the windows of a vehicle in the middle of the night, a crime we can reasonably assume might precede some other crime, such as theft. The man then breaks the window of a home, which he more than likely wants to enter — civilian’s are now potentially in danger; this is serious. Hearing police are nearby, the man jumps the fence into another yard — another household threatened. When confronted, he runs — this is a guilty man. He refuses to show his hands, and there’s an object in one hand. It’s dark. This man is a felon. He’s fleeing the cops and resisting arrest. He doesn’t want to go to jail. Now he’s holding something as he finds himself cornered. Might it be a gun? Given what we know, isn’t that at least objectively reasonable? The man doubles down on his belligerence. He doesn’t respond. He doesn’t comply. He stands there with the object in his hand. And just like that, he’s dead. And who’s to blame? His own dumb self.

French dubiously insists, “It’s one thing to be in hot pursuit of an armed robber or a known, violent felon. It’s one thing to approach a situation where you perceive that innocent lives are in imminent danger. It’s another thing entirely to deal with a person who, to that point, had broken windows, and no other civilian was perceived to be at risk.”

To quote Luke Skywalker, “Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong.”

According to objective reason, the police believed Clark was armed. They believed he may have committed theft and burglary. They believed that, in potentially burglarizing at least two homes, Clark posed imminent danger to civilians. French is totally, ludicrously, irresponsibly wrong.

In contrast, French would have us believe that it is more objectively reasonable to expect police officers to be mind readers. They should have known Clark wasn’t holding a gun. They should have known that he was in his grandmother’s yard. They should have known that he meant no harm in breaking the windows of a vehicle and a home just a few feet from his grandma’s house. They should have suspected that he didn’t respond because he had earbuds in, despite the only evidence to such being that his grandma said Clark might have been wearing earbuds (you’d think officers would’ve noticed this as they attempted to revive his body). And finally, they should have assumed that Clark was running because he was a scared, helpless victim in all of this, merely misunderstood and startled.

Gag me.

What bothers me most is that French apparently knows all of this but doesn’t care. He has previously referenced Graham v. Connor, asserting, “How, pray tell, is a police officer supposed to discern whether a shooting victim ‘actually’ poses a threat other than through their ‘objectively reasonable’ beliefs? How can anyone tell?” Whereas he once wrote, “It’s always a bad idea to flee from arrest, resist arrest, or introduce any unexpected behavior into an encounter with police,” he now claims it shouldn’t have made a difference. In paradoxically defending Officer Shelby but not Officer Yanez, French admitted, “The law does not require cops to be omniscient. It requires that they be reasonable. It is reasonable to believe that a person who won’t obey commands, won’t get on the ground, and is walking back toward (and ultimately reaching in) his car is a threat.”

He makes many similar concessions in this article as well, such as, “The officers seemed to genuinely believe they faced an imminent, mortal threat,” and, “We don’t require cops to be omniscient, and the fact that the ‘gun’ turned out to be an iPhone makes the shooting horribly tragic, not criminal.”

But as French makes clear from the beginning, these facts, the law, and all objective reason are irrelevant.

“Focusing on whether the shooting was lawful misses the larger point.”

Never go full SJW.

French continues, “When we speak about police shootings, we often focus too much on the most basic question — was the shooting lawful — rather than the far more complex and ultimately more consequential question. Was the shooting proper? … I say no. I say that the escalation and response we saw in Sacramento is more akin to the kind of immediate escalation and engagement you’d find in a war zone when chasing a suspected terrorist.”

I have it on the authority of someone who served in Afghanistan as more than a military lawyer, like French, that “you don’t chase [fleeing terrorists], you shoot ‘em.” The escalation of force as shown by these Sacramento officers in verbally warning, chasing, repeatedly warning, and ultimately firing upon a known criminal who, by objectively reasonable standards, posed an imminent threat to both officers and civilians was not only lawful, but yes, it was proper.

As articulated by Jason Angel — senior police consultant for The New Guards, Marine Corps Captain, and my brother, “Unfortunately David French has not realized that he possesses the same ignorance toward police work that Black Lives Matter does. His analysis is egregiously flawed. His attempt to use military service as a comparison does not work for a number of reasons, but he also forgot that non-threatening civilians are killed far more frequently in war than by the police. … At no point does he put himself in the officer’s position and at no point does he recognize that his military experience as a JAG does not give him combat experience or translating experience to law enforcement.”

French suggests a shift in law enforcement training to better resemble military standards, namely law of armed conflict vs. rules of engagement. He posits, “Cops don’t have a law-of-armed-conflict problem — the constitutional standards and state statutes governing when a cop can be prosecuted are appropriate — they have a rules-of-engagement problem.” In other words, they’re not breaking any laws; just arbitrary rules.

 

He concludes, “It’s time to change the rules.” But what does that mean? Who decides the rules? What will they be? What measures will be taken to ensure these rules are not conflated as law?

What is the proposed punishment for a lawful action that violates French’s beloved rules? Instead of jail time, should we protest and insist upon the firing of an officer who legally shoots a suspect in a manner we don’t like? Will this somehow heal the divide between police and civilians? Will this assuage police officers who are already petrified to do their duty for fear of punishment?

“I say no.”

Thankfully, David French doesn’t speak for National Review generally — here’s an excellent take on this shooting and French’s piece from Jack Dunphy, an actual police officer who knows that French is full of it. And here’s another piece written by another police officer for The New Guards on the proper way to react to a police shooting.

I advise scrutiny in reading anything of this nature — it’s a serious topic. Where possible, talk to actual cops. I’m not nor will I probably ever be a police officer, but that’s why I never write any articles on police work without consulting either my cop brother, my cop father or both; trust them, not me.

And definitely, don’t trust David French.


Richie Angel is the Editor at Large of The New Guards. Follow him and The New Guards on Twitter, and check out The New Guards on Facebook.

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Guns and Crime

The only question that really matters in the Russia investigation

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The only real question that matters in the Russia investigation

From now until special counsel Robert Mueller delivers whatever he’s going to deliver to the government and the American people, everyone will speculate about who did what, who knew what, and when. This is an exercise in reading tea leaves and inserting bias into reports. That’s what both politicians and mainstream media do in an effort to influence people into feeling one way or another about any particular topic.

Despite the cacophony that surrounds Mueller, President Trump, and Russia, this really comes down to a single question that matters: Did the President or his campaign staff collude with Russia to engage in illegal activities in an effort to win the election?

Up front, it’s important to declare my perspective on the issue. I’d suggest all journalists declare their biases up front, but few will. I’m not a fan of President Trump. I don’t care for him as a man and I am against a few of his policies such as banning bump stocks and promoting fair trade over free trade. I am happy that he beat Hillary Clinton but I felt there were much better options for the GOP and for the nation that were ignored because mainstream media pushed Trump to be the nominee in hopes he would lose spectacularly to Clinton. That didn’t work out for the media or the nation.

Even with my bias, I call things the way I see them and right now, I’m not seeing much coming from the investigation I think it’s very unlikely the President colluded with the Russians to influence the election. Let’s be clear what that means. Do I think members of Trump’s campaign worked with Russians? Yes. Do I think Russians tried to influence the election? Of course. But I am fairly certain the Trump campaign did not participate in activities that would be deemed illegal. They didn’t accept foreign funds to fuel the campaign. They didn’t supply the Russians or anyone else with damaging information about Hillary Clinton. They didn’t actively engage in subverting the election system to “steal” votes or otherwise manipulate the outcome. Most importantly, they didn’t collude with Russia or WikiLeaks to release the hacked emails.

They didn’t have to. Russia and WikiLeaks did all that without input from the Trump campaign.

I believe what the Trump campaign did was on par or possibly below what the Clinton campaign did in working with foreign actors to gather and transmit opposition research about Trump. Both campaigns were wrong for doing so but neither campaign broke the law.

Let’s all understand what’s required to prove this conspiracy. First, the Russians must be proven to have unlawfully “hacked” the election. That doesn’t mean finding Russian social media bots. That means finding proof that the Russians committed illegal activities such as hacking the DNC emails or paying political organizations to promote their messages.

Second, the Trump campaign must be shown to have direct knowledge of the illegal activities. The closest thing we have to that is Roger Stone. If he had direct knowledge that Russia hacked the DNC and/or John Podesta’s emails and gave those emails to WikiLeaks so they could be made public, then there’s something worth investigating. Having that knowledge alone is enough to get him in trouble for not reporting it, but it’s unlikely that route will be pursued. What the investigation needs is actual collusion. That could come in the form of coordinating the release date, giving access to certain people in the media, or aiding in corroboration if any became necessary to prove the leaked documents were real.

From there, Mueller’s team would have to connect the dots directly back to the Trump campaign. Then and only then can any measure of collusion in Russia’s influence of the election be proven.

So far, noise but no substance

Much is being made of Michael Flynn’s, Michael Cohen’s, and Paul Manafort’s upcoming sentences. All have admitted to committing crimes. Cohen has gone so far as to publicize some of the things he knows about the Trump campaign. None of those revelations have linked the campaign to Russia in a conspiratorial manner.

Everything the public knows about the crimes these men committed have nothing to do with Russian collusion. It’s ironic that Mueller’s investigation led to so many charges that have nothing to do with the original scope of the investigation. One might argue the greatest damage this investigation will have on the President is that it demonstrates he likes to surround himself with criminals.

There are only two major players who are in real jeopardy: Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. If they were working with Stone or anyone else to coordinate with Russia on illegal activities, we might see something big come from this investigation. It’s highly unlikely at this point, but that’s really the only thing Democrats and mainstream media can hope for right now.

Democrats and mainstream media are up in arms trying to connect distant dots in a way that proves the President or his campaign stole the election with the Russians. A sober examination of everything we know points far away from that conclusion.

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Guns and Crime

US: Trump’s ex-lawyer deserves prison despite cooperation

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US Trumps ex-lawyer deserves prison despite cooperation

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, deserves a substantial prison sentence despite his cooperation in a hush money payment case that implicated the president, federal prosecutors said Friday.

Court filings by prosecutors from both New York and the Trump-Russia special counsel’s office laid out for the first time details of the cooperation of a vital witness who once said he’d “take a bullet” for the president but who in recent months has become a prime antagonist. He is to be sentenced next week.

They filings reveal that Cohen told prosecutors he and Trump discussed a potential meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in 2015, shortly after Trump announced his candidacy for president.

In a footnote, special counsel Robert Mueller’s team writes that Cohen conferred with Trump “about contacting the Russia government before reaching out to gauge Russia’s interest in such a meeting,” though it never took place.

An additional filing was expected later Friday in the case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who prosecutors say lied to them even after agreeing to cooperate.

Prosecutors in Cohen’s case said that even though he cooperated in their investigation into hush money payments made to two women who said they had sex with Trump, he nonetheless deserves to spend time in prison.

“Cohen did provide information to law enforcement, including information that assisted the Special Counsel’s Office,” they said. “But Cohen’s description of those efforts is overstated in some respects and incomplete in others.”

In meetings with Mueller’s team, Cohen “provided information about his own contacts with Russian interests during the campaign and discussions with others in the course of making those contacts,” the court documents said.

Cohen provided prosecutors with a “detailed account” of his involvement, along with the involvement of others, in efforts during the 2016 presidential campaign to complete a deal to build a Trump Tower Moscow, the documents said. He also provided information about attempts by Russian nationals to reach Trump’s campaign, they said.

However, in the crimes to which he pleaded guilty in August, he was motivated “by personal greed and repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends.”

Prosecutors said the court’s Probation Department estimated that federal sentencing guidelines call for Cohen to serve at least four years in prison. They said that “reflects Cohen’s extensive, deliberate and serious criminal conduct.”

Prosecutors say Cohen “already enjoyed a privileged life,” and that “his desire for even greater wealth and influence precipitated an extensive course of criminal conduct.”

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Associated Press writers Larry Neumeister in New York and Michael Balsamo in Washington contributed to this report.

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Guns and Crime

McConnell blocks sentencing bill, upsetting Grassley, GOP

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McConnell blocks sentencing bill upsetting Grassley GOP

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s reluctance to hold a vote on a popular criminal justice bill has angered top Republican senators and created an unusual rift with a longtime GOP ally, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

Grassley has spent years working to build a coalition around the bill and is pushing for a year-end vote. Grassley says more than two-thirds of the Senate supports it. But McConnell is refusing to bring the legislation forward in a standoff that’s dividing the Republican majority and putting President Donald Trump on the spot.

“We’ve done what needs to be done,” Grassley said about the overwhelming support for the bill. “So what’s holding it up?”

For the 85-year-old chairman of the Judiciary Committee, this is not the way Senate is supposed to operate. Grassley was expecting some deference from McConnell after delivering on Trump’s judicial nominees — including two now on the Supreme Court. Trump backs the criminal justice bill, too, but McConnell says it’s divisive. His reluctance to take up Grassley’s priority shows the limits of the Senate’s old-fashioned customs in an era of heightened partisan politics.

“What’s so irritating about this is, first of all, he and I have been hand-in-glove working to get the judiciary vacancies filled,” Grassley told Iowa reporters.

“I think I ought to have some consideration for delivering on tough Supreme Court nominees, and a lot of tough circuit court nominees and maybe even once in a while you get a tough district court nominee,” Grassley went on.

On Friday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., intervened, talking directly to Trump about attaching the criminal justice legislation to the must-pass year-end spending bill, which is already tangled in a separate fight over funds for the border wall with Mexico.

“Just talked with President,” Graham tweeted. “He strongly believes criminal justice reform bill must pass now. He also indicated he supports putting criminal justice reform bill on year-end spending bill which must include MORE wall funding.”

Trump has called senators about the bill and spoke briefly about it Friday at an event on safe neighborhoods in Kansas City.

The bill is a project of Trump’s son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner, and would be the biggest sentencing overhaul in decades. It would reduce mandatory prison terms for certain drug crimes and give judges in some cases more discretion on punishments. It would allow about 2,600 federal prisoners sentenced for crack cocaine offenses before August 2010 the opportunity to petition for a reduced penalty. It also includes provisions to encourage education and workforce training in prisons.

Roughly 90 percent of prison inmates are held in state facilities and would not be affected by the legislation.

While Kushner has been meeting with senators on Capitol Hill, Trump is also hearing from allies who are against the legislation. Chief among them is Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who is warning senators that Republicans will be blamed if criminals are released and commit new crimes.

“Only thing worse than early release from prison of thousands of serious, violent, & repeat felons is to do that in a spending bill with no debate or amendments, forcing senators to either shut down government or let felons out of prison,” Cotton tweeted Friday. The spending bill will need approval by Dec. 21 to avoid a funding lapse days before Christmas.

“If the jailbreak bill gets stuck in the spending bill, everyone bring your stockings to the Senate, because we’ll be there on Christmas!”

Cotton and others, including Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, No. 2 Senate Republican, insist there is not as much support for the bill as Grassley claims. Cotton says senators may tell the chairman they’re in favor of it when actually they’re not.

The bill has support from several conservative and liberal advocacy groups, uniting such disparate partners as the influential Koch network and the American Civil Liberty Union, but it splits law enforcement groups. It is backed by the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Chiefs of Police but opposed by the National Sheriff’s Association.

Amid this divide, McConnell has been choosing caution, saying there’s just not enough time to push the bill forward in the remaining days of the Congress.

“The question is, can you shoe-horn something that’s extremely controversial into the remaining time?” he said Monday in an interview at a Wall Street Journal forum.

Criminal justice reform has traditionally been a Democratic priority, as Republicans prefer a more tough-on-crime approach. And McConnell acknowledges it’s “extremely divisive” among Senate Republicans. Leaders tend to protect senators from taking tough votes that could have political blowback.

“I don’t see from a timing standpoint how we get it done in the short amount of time we have to work with, but everyone is trying to keep their options open and not foreclose the possibility it could happen,” said Sen. John Thune, the third-ranking Senate Republican.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Thursday that bill backers are making a last-push to attach it to the spending measure and picking up new supporters. But he acknowledged the package’s chances are slipping with each passing day. “We’re still lobbying Sen. McConnell — he has all the power to allow it or not allow it,” said Paul.

McConnell and Grassley have worked side by side for decades. When then-President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court in early 2016, Grassley stood by McConnell’s decision to keep the seat open during the election year for the new president to decide. He’s ushered in 84 Trump judicial nominees, including a record number of circuit court judges.

But their split over criminal justice reform is testing not just their partnership but also the longstanding norms of the Senate.

“What’s holding it up is our leader, the majority leader,” Grassley said. “There’s no reason it shouldn’t come up.”

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Associated Press writer David Pitt in Iowa contributed to this report.

Follow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lisamascaro and https://twitter.com/kfreking

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