Christmas 2016

On this Christmas Day, thoughts of peace, hope and love naturally come to mind. But it would be wrong to idealize what occurred in the small town of Bethlehem over two thousand years ago through the gauzy mist of history. Yes, if you are Christian, a truly miraculous event occurred on that day. The Son of God was immaculately conceived and born to a young Jewish woman. Even our Muslim brethren believe – according to the Quoran — that Jesus was a truly great Jewish prophet who was immaculately conceived when God breathed life into the Virgin Mary’s womb. Of course, Muslims believe that this great prophet was later eclipsed by the Prophet Mohammad, but that’s another story for another day. After all, this is Christmas.
Over two thousand years later, it is important for us to remember that these dangerous and troubled times we live in are not dissimilar to the world into which Jesus was born. Oppressive local despots dominated much of the Roman Empire, ruling with an iron grip with the consent of the Roman Emperor Augustus, so long as they dutifully paid taxes and tribute to Rome. In Judea, Herod the Great was appointed as King of the Jews by Rome. A census was underway, which is why Joseph and Mary were traveling back to Joseph’s birthplace in Bethlehem so that they could be properly recorded in the census.
Their circumstances were exceedingly precarious. Joseph and Mary were engaged, but not married, and yet Mary was almost nine months pregnant with child. Imagine what Joseph and Mary must have thought, since they knew full well that they had never had carnal relations, and yet here she was pregnant! Very upsetting, to be sure. And this meant that the couple was about to have a child out of wedlock, which no doubt drew criticism from devout Jews all along the arduous route that they were travelling. Long distance travel was hard enough at the time in the best of circumstances, but travelling while pregnant must have made the ordeal almost intolerable. On top of all this, when they finally made it to Bethlehem, no doubt exhausted from trip, they couldn’t even get a room at the inn. The Inn was either fully occupied with other travelers, or the innkeeper didn’t feel it was appropriate to give a room to an unmarried couple, with the woman obviously pregnant.
Sleeping in a manger may sound romantic from a distance, but did you ever try sleeping in a barn filled with farm animals mucking about? Believe me, it is no picnic. Of course, a visit from the Magi and a few shepherds who followed a shining star to Bethlehem provided a welcome break, but giving birth in a barn without the benefit of an anesthetic or even a mid-wife to assist must have been close to torture for Mary. It’s a miracle that the mother and boy both survived the ordeal relatively intact.
But this was just the beginning of their troubles. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Herod ordered the execution of all young male children in the vicinity of Bethlehem, so as to avoid the loss of his throne to a newborn King of the Jews whose birth had been announced to him by the three Wise Men, also known as the Magi.
Herod himself, according to Matthew, had directed the Magi to Bethlehem, and instructed them to report back to him if in fact they found the king they were looking for. However, after they found Jesus and honored him, they were warned by an angel not to alert Herod, and they returned home by another route. When the Magi had gone, another angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, directing him to get up and take the child and his mother to Egypt, which he did.
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old or under, in accordance with the time frame he had learned from the Magi. This has come to be known as the Slaughter of the Innocents. Jesus and his family escaped only because they were in Egypt, where they remained until Herod’s death. And when they returned to Judea, the peaceful and tranquil life of a carpenter didn’t last very long for Jesus. He started preaching the gospel of love and peace, and performed a few miracles, but his temper sometimes got the better of him, like when he threw the money changers out of the Temple. And then the inevitable happened. He was too much a threat to the Jewish and Roman authorities that he had to be silenced, in brutal fashion. Crucifixions have apparently gone out of fashion as a strategy for both punishment and torture, but President-elect Trump has promised that waterboarding “and worse” will continue under his watch, and the Guantanamo Bay facility will continue to be very much open for business, despite the dearth of actionable intelligence that our “enhanced stress” techniques have been produced. But that is not really the point, is it? For thousands of years, torture has primarily been used to humiliate and degrade other human beings to the point where they can be viewed as sub-human. It degrades both the torture victim and the torturer, and yet our so-called “civilization” has not progressed to the point where torture, beheadings and mass killings are a thing of the past. They are very much with us still in the present, and at the rate we are going, we can expect them to be with us for the foreseeable future.
As the French proverb goes, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” Just last week, the world watched in horror and frustrated impotence as hundreds if not thousands of innocents were killed in the siege of East Aleppo in Syria. The Assad Regime, Iran and Russia seemed to have formed a winning coalition, and in an uncertain world, one certainty is that the Syrian conflict will be continue to be as ugly and brutish in 2017 as it has been in 2016. Russia will continue its efforts to rebuild its Empire by absorbing parts of Ukraine and perhaps other neighboring states, and it is doubtful that, with Western Europe in disarray and a President Trump in the White House, any of the traditional “liberal democracies” will have the inclination or political will to stop the steady spread of authoritarianism throughout the world.
The prospects for the coming year are beak, but not totally hopeless. America has seen dark days before and survived – indeed, thrived – through periods of turmoil and depression. We survived a Civil War, a Great Depression, two World Wars, and even a Great Recession, so there is no reason to believe that continuing a permanent war footing against terrorism and a Trump Presidency will do us in. After all, short of a nuclear Armageddon, there is really nothing that a President Trump can do to permanently damage and dismantle our democratic institutions. Unlike his idol, Vladimir Putin, an American President has vast powers, but not total power. We still have a system of checks and balances, and if his real intention, as signaled by his Cabinet appointments, is to dismantle or neuter the EPA, Department of Energy, the Interior and Labor Departments, and other agencies that have served the country well for decades, then he will have a serious fight on his hands, and the Democrats in Congress and even some sensible Republicans have vowed to fight to the death to preserve these essential elements of our modern democracy and social system.
But nothing is pre-ordained. Nothing is for certain, and nothing can be taken for granted. We may wish to think that America is so special that its continued existence is part of some Great Cosmic Plan, but the reality is that history teaches us that empires rise and empires fall, and none to date have lasted forever. We have collectively assumed that America is an exception to this inexorable rule, and only time will tell whether American Exceptionalism is a reality or just a myth. The truth is that America has survived and thrived for over 200 years because each generation of Americans has faced and overcome the challenges that faced this great nation. Preserving our democratic ideals and institutions is hard work, and just when we thought that we were making progress in eradicating the last vestiges of racism, bigotry and prejudice in this country, we have been shocked out of our complacency by a Presidential campaign that seemed to be driven by divisiveness and the worst impulses of our human nature. With the raw divisions exposed in our country, we are poised to move forward or backwards, but will never be the same again. America has gone backwards before, and it could do it again. It is entirely up to us. The Civil War was followed by Reconstruction, where the freed slaves in the South were given civil and voting rights, albeit under the watchful eye of occupying federal forces. When the federal troops were withdrawn in 1877, as part of the Great Compromise that propelled Rutherford B. Hayes into the White House, the Jim Crow laws largely stripped African-Americans of their civil and voting rights, reducing many of them back to virtual peonage and snatching the American Dream from their grasp.
Someone once said that each generations of Americans have gotten the President that was needed, or the one that they deserved. Perhaps a President Trump is what America deserves. It is a country as deeply divided as at any time in our country’s history since the Civil War. There are Blue States on both coasts, and mostly Red States in between, with virtually no one willing or able to talk to or listen to the other side. There is much shouting, posturing and bombast abroad in the land, but not much thoughtful reflection on what path we should take to restore and reinvigorate our democratic institutions and to heal the wounds that so deeply divide us.
Only eight short years ago, America and the world were filled with hope that President Obama would be able to unite Americans and bridge the deep gorges that seemed to divide us. Remember the talk about there not being Red States or Blue States, only the United States? It seems so long ago. The Great Recession was in full swing, with the economy and financial system in a virtual free-fall. A massive stimulus program had to be quickly put in place that gave the American people an ownership share, at least on a temporary basis, of huge chunks of the auto industry and the financial sector. The economy and financial structure survived, and have actually thrived since those dark days. The economy has been expanding at a steady pace, and unemployment is down nationwide. Nevertheless, the pace of economic recovery has varied greatly throughout the country, with the East and West Coasts generally surging and leading the recovery, while the rural and traditional manufacturing centers of the Midwest and South lagging far behind. These Forgotten Americans – largely white and generally not very well educated or skilled – who voted overwhelmingly for Trump. They can be forgotten no more. Whether Trump genuinely was concerned about the plight of these Forgotten Americans or not, only time will tell. All indications seem to be that they will be forgotten once again as the Trump Administration is rapidly filling up with billionaires and plutocrats who don’t care one whit about the average unemployed or underemployed white men and women who turned out in droves for the Trump rallies throughout Middle America and still proudly wear their Make America Great Again hats and tee-shirts. Boy, are they in for a rude shock when Trump and the Republican Establishment repeals the Affordable Care Act, privatizes Social Security and Medicare, and wages war on ordinary working people through their own Labor Department.
Only time will tell. In the meanwhile, let’s do more than just hope for the best. We must redouble our efforts in the coming year to do everything in our power to preserve and protect our democratic principles and institutions, which are proving to be far more fragile than anticipated. When asked what kind of government we have, Benjamin Franklin, emerging from the Continental Congress, said: “A Democracy, if you can keep it.”
American Exceptionalism is over. We are but one of several Western liberal democracies that are under severe stress and susceptible to the siren call of national populist leaders that promise a return to the good old days that either never were or will never be again. Trump’s call to fearful Americans that a ban on Muslim immigration or the building of a Wall will save them from the ravages of a rapidly changing future is as seductive as it is hollow. But we will survive Trump as we have survived numerous other trials over time. The Democratic Resistance Movement is alive and well, and the Democratic Party will finally be forced to renew the faith of the Forgotten Americans who once were an essential part of their coalition. Then America will truly be Greater, not Again, but Greater than it ever was.
Dated: December 25, 2016
Charleston, South Carolina

THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE MUST NOW DO ITS JOB OF PREVENTING A PRESIDENT FROM TAKING OFFICE BASED UPON FOREIGN MEDDLING WITH THE ELECTION

On March 12, 1799, Alexander Hamilton published Federalist Paper No. 68, which explained that the Electoral College was designed to prevent the catastrophe that this Country now faces, namely, the ascendency to the Presidency of a person who is unqualified to hold that high office. With the announcement of the CIA Report the election of Donald Trump may also well be the product of foreign interference and meddling in the electoral system, exactly what our founder tried to avoid by establishing the Electoral College.
Hamilton wrote in Federalist 68 that the electoral college was specifically designed to prevent the election of a President who was the product of a “cabal, intrigue, and corruption,” and to thwart any attempt by “deadly adversaries of republican government … [and] foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”
Hamilton envisioned that an existential crisis might emerge for the new Republic where a foreign power could take control of the United States by “raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union …[by] tamper[ing] with [the election process] beforehand to [cause voters to] prostitute their votes…” for the sole purpose of electing a President secretly chosen by that foreign power.
In such a dark and dangerous situation, where a foreign power has rigged the election, the Electors would then save the day and the Republic. They would do this by exercising their independent judgment and common sense to prevent the election to the Presidency of a person selected primarily by that foreign power, and not by the will of the People of the United States:
Thus without corrupting the body of the people, the immediate agents in the election [i.e. the Electors] will at least enter upon the task free from any sinister bias. Their transient existence, and their detached situation, already taken notice of, afford a satisfactory prospect of their continuing so, to the conclusion of it, [i.e., the selection of a qualified candidate for the Presidency who is not the product of foreign meddling].
Hamilton emphasized the importance of the task delegated to the Electors by the various states and by the entire Union since they are to be “a special body of representatives, deputed by the society for the single purpose of making the important choice.” Hamilton described the mission of the Electors to be one of “moral certainty, [in order to guarantee] that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications and who does not merely possess “talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity.]”
Two hundred and twenty-eight years later after Federalist 68 was written, the Electoral College will have the solemn and awesome responsibility of deciding whether Donald Trump, an unqualified candidate for the Presidency be elected. Donald Trump who is poised to ascend to this high office based on not only his “talents for low intrigue” but, more significantly, as a result of outright cyber warfare. There is no longer any doubt that there was illegal hacking of critical databases and a concerted campaign of disinformation by the intelligence services of the Russian Government. This effort was led by Russian’s autocratic leader, Vladimir Putin. His intention was to not only disrupt the 2016 Presidential election and to undermine confidence in the American electoral process, but to specifically elect a man who has demonstrated time and time again that he is prepared to compromise vital U.S. interests both at home and around the globe. These interest include supporting Russian interest in Crimea, Eastern Ukraine and the Baltic Republics who are members of NATO. Trump is only interested in one thing, serving the long-term tactical and strategic interests of Russia and President Putin.
If the Electoral College does not do its job and prevent Donald J. Trump from taking office, America will be faced with a crisis of unprecedented proportions. Vladimir Putin will have achieved an espionage coup beyond even his wildest dreams: a Manchurian Candidate in the White House!

COMEY, GIULIANI AND THE POLITICALIZATION OF THE FBI

No matter what the outcome of the Presidential election, the FBI is shaping up to be one of the biggest losers of this election season. Over one week’s time, the FBI’s well-deserved reputation for being a professional law enforcement agency operating above the political fray has been virtually flushed down the toilet into the murky cesspool of contemporary American politics.
On Friday, October 28, 2016, FBI Director James Comey gave us his “October Surprise”, darkly hinting through a thin veil of innuendo that Hillary Clinton might be due for another round of email investigations. Shortly after he sent this incendiary letter up to Capitol Hill, it was leaked that the possible renewed FBI interest in Secretary Clinton was a fallout from a probe of former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s laptop computer that he had shared with his estranged wife and top Clinton aide, Huma Abedin. As further details emerged, it was learned that the FBI had not actually seen the emails on Weiner’s computer because no court order had yet been issued or even sought permitting a search of his computer. Nor did the FBI know whether Weiner’s computer contained any emails that were sent to or from HRC, and if so, whether those emails were merely duplicates of emails already reviewed by the FBI.
In other words, Director Comey intentionally interjected the FBI into the Presidential Campaign, and since the clear (albeit erroneous) implication to the public was that the FBI Director would not send a letter to Congress on such an important topic eleven days before a national election if he had not already determined – at least preliminarily – that the new emails contained some “smoking gun” classified documents that would warrant a reopening of the FBI’s investigation of Ms. Clinton.
What we now know one week later is that Director Comey knew or should have known at the time he released the letter to Congress (knowing that it would be made public a few nanoseconds after it reached the Hill) was that an agent or agents in the FBI’s New York field office had already leaked the story about these “new emails” to the Trump Campaign. This is why Rudy Giuliani was already appearing on Fox News, smiling like the Cheshire cat and barely able to keep himself from spilling the news that he knew was about to be publicly released by the FBI. He cryptically announced that the Trump Campaign had “a couple of things up our sleeve” that would be “game changers.” And then, as if on cue, the FBI Director drops the letter bombshell two days later.
One week later, four days before the election, Giuliani confirmed that he knew that something big was happening at the FBI, thus confirming that FBI insiders had leaked information to the Trump Campaign in advance of Comey’s announcement. Giuliani insisted that he had learned about this information from former FBI agents, who had presumably received the information directly from active FBI agents, but whether the leak to Giuliani was a one step or a two-step process makes little difference. The important point is that the FBI has now joined the Russians and WikiLeaks as full-fledged members of the Stop Hillary campaign.
For the past 40 years of the post-Watergate era, the FBI and the Department of Justice have largely steered clear of partisan politics, re-building a generally well-deserved reputation as professional investigative (in the case of the FBI) and prosecutorial organizations. Public release of information regarding criminal investigations came only after indictments were handed down, and if a decision was made not to indict a high-profile subject or target of an investigation, any derogatory information obtained about that individual was not leaked to the press. Such information remained secure in the FBIs confidential files, no matter how frustrating it was to the FBI agents or AUSAs who had worked on the case, only to have it decided by higher-ups in Washington that the investigation would not proceed to an indictment and trial.
One notable exception to this general rule was Rudy Giuliani, who was as an Assistant U.S. Attorney and then U.S. Attorney in New York was so consumed by an overwhelming ambition for publicity and self-promotion, that he regularly leaked information about Grand Jury investigations and other confidential information to the press on “deep background.” He was often at the center of the “anonymous sources” within the Justice Department that reporters were so fond of citing. To be sure, Giuliani had many successful prosecutions of high-level political and organized crime figures during his tenure as a federal prosecutor, but his habit of leaking information to the press in advance of indictments or before a trial did some irreparable damage to the professional reputation of the federal prosecutors office in New York and the federal judicial system here.
The flip side is that Rudy Giuliani also took a “pass” on some cases involving high profile individuals, such as Donald Trump. During the time period that Trump Towers and Trump Plaza were being built in Manhattan, the mob-controlled Teamster Local 282 and its President, John Cody, had a virtual lock on every major construction site in the City. Every truck driver who drove a redi-mix cement truck onto a jobsite was a member of Local 282, and if the real estate developer did not make an illegal side deal with John Cody’s union, the flow of redi-mix cement would be cut off and the entire construction project would grind to a halt. Through the good offices of Roy Cohn, the mentor and godfather to Donald Trump, a deal was made with Local 282 whereby Trump agreed to hire no-show Teamster foremen, whose salaries were then funneled to the organized criminal organizations controlling the Teamster Local. Trump also agreed to modify the construction of Trump Tower to accommodate an apartment for one of Cody’s girlfriends and mob associate, Verona Hixon, who wanted a swimming pool included with her massive Trump Tower apartment, which was second in size only to Trump’s own apartment.
In order to close the deal with organized crime and guarantee that his Manhattan construction projects would not be interrupted by labor strife or work stoppages, Trump and Cohn also made a deal with “Fat” Tony Salerno, another notorious mob figure who owned C&A Concrete, the redi-mix cement company whose trucks delivered the cement to the Trump Towers and Trump Plaza job sites. Trump readily agreed to pay C&A an inflated contract amount, knowing that the excess profits would go into the coffers of organized crime.
During the Justice Department investigation of Teamster Local 282, the FBI and federal prosecutors working on the case were able to get the cooperation of at least one of the developers who made a corrupt deal with the union, but when Donald Trump was questioned about his dealings with the union, he refused to cooperate and adamantly denied that he had any illegal deal with either Local 282 or with C&A Concrete. With some difficulty, the Justice Department was still able to indict and convict John Cody on racketeering charges based upon the testimony of Sigmund Somers, one of the other major real estate developers in the New York area, but the investigation and prosecution would have gone much more swiftly if Trump had cooperated. Moreover, once Cody was indicted, he called a City-wide strike of truck drivers that closed down every major job site in the New York City area, with the notable exception of the Trump Towers and Trump Plaza job sites, which were specifically exempted by the union, based in large measure to the fact that Trump had proved himself to be a “stand up guy” who had refused to cooperate with federal law enforcement.
In fact, since lying to FBI agents and federal prosecutors is itself a federal crime, even if those false statements are not made under oath, there were those within the federal law enforcement community, myself included, who strongly felt that Donald Trump should have been indicted, but we were overruled by those further up the ladder in the Justice Department. At the time, in 1981 and 1982, Rudy Giuliani was the Associate Attorney General, the third highest official in the U. S. Department of Justice. As part of his supervisory responsibilities over all the U.S. Attorney’s Offices around the country, Giuliani would have necessarily had a decisive policy-making role as to whether the major labor racketeering investigation underway at that time, including the investigations of Teamster Local 282 and C&A Concrete, would have focused exclusively on the prosecution of corrupt union leaders and organized crime controlled construction companies, or whether real estate developers like Donald Trump who had entered into unlawful racketeering agreements with organized crime controlled unions and construction companies but who refused to testify truthfully about it should also be prosecuted.
By actively participating in the transformation of the FBI from a professional non-partisan agency into a political arm of the Trump Campaign, Rudy Giuliani is helping cause irreparable damage to the FBI’s integrity and reputation. And if Giuliani were to be named as the next Attorney General of the United States, this country would have the most political and partisan Attorney General since John Mitchell was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury following the Watergate Scandal.

THE FBI CONFIRM THAT IT ALREADY HAS AN ONGOING INVESTIGATION OF TRUMP AND HIS RUSSIAN CONNECTIONS

FBI Director James Comey has been applying a double standard when it comes to publicly confirming whether the FBI has active investigations relating to the two major Presidential candidates. He recently sent an intentionally cryptic letter to Congress announcing that the FBI was reviewing some new email that had not yet been reviewed, but which may or may not be relevant to Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server. These new emails may turn out to be something significant to federal law enforcement, or it may turn out to be nothing. Director Comey doesn’t know at this point, and he clearly indicated that it is unlikely that the significance (or not) of these new emails will be clarified prior to election day. The Trump Campaign predictably pounced on Comey’s letter and interpreted it as a message from the FBI that it would be reopening its investigation of Secretary Clinton and certain of her staff members for misuse of classified documents.
On the other hand, Director Comey has absolutely refused to confirm the FBI’s ongoing investigation of Trump and some of his top aides for various unlawful activities, including having actively communicated and colluded with Russian and pro-Russian operatives to illegally influence this year’s Presidential election. Director Comey has even declined to say whether FBI agents had sought to speak with or had interviewed Trump former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, or his deputy, Rick Gates, even though it is widely known throughout the law enforcement and intelligence communities that there is an active FBI investigation of Manafort, Gates and others for money laundering and other illegal activities ever since documents surfaced in Kiev, Ukraine in August 2016 showing that Manafort had received over $12 million in cash from the pro-Russian former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich.
Although not yet specifically asked, it can also be assumed that Director Comey would “no comment” if asked about the active FBI investigation into the money laundering activities of the Trump Organization with regard to the huge influx of cash into that Company from Russian and Eastern European sources, including money provided by known international financial criminals and organized crime racketeers. The Trump Soho project in lower Manhattan was largely financed by illegally-obtained cash from Russia and several former Soviet Republics, and Trump specifically marketed his Sunny Isles, Florida apartment units in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other venues designed to attract Russian organized crime money, such as the French Riviera. So much tainted Russian money poured into Trump’s Sunny Isles project that the entire area is now referred to a “Little Moscow,” complete with Russian shops, restaurants, and even directional signs.

Here are the facts that should be disclosed by the FBI in the interests of fairness: There has been an active FBI investigation of the Trump Campaign and several of its senior officials since at least mid-June 2016, when it became publicly known that the DNC computers were hacked by suspected Russian operatives. This FBI investigation further intensified when Paul Manafort was forced to resign at Trump’s campaign manager on August 19, 2016, after it was disclosed that he had received at least $12.7 million in cash from the former pro-Russian President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, who was forced out of office in February 2014 and fled to Moscow, where he is still under the protection of President Vladimir Putin.
Less widely publicized – but well known to Manafort and the FBI at the time of Manafort’s resignation — was the fact that Manafort, Rick Gates (the Deputy Chair of the Trump Campaign) and Brad Zackson , a former manager in the Trump Organization, had been using various U.S. and offshore bank accounts to launder money for a pro-Russian Ukrainian oligarch by the name of Dimitri Firtash. Mr. Firtash was ultimately indicted by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago), although efforts to extradite Firtash from Vienna, Austria proved to be unsuccessful.
I am very familiar with these investigations since much of the evidence relating to these money laundering activities was obtained by my law firm as part of a civil RICO investigation, and then provided to the FBI. Over the past several months, at least two FBI agents have been assigned to work in Kiev, Ukraine and are coordinating with a Ukrainian anti-corruption task force in their further investigation of, among other things, Manafort, Gates and others affiliated with the Trump Campaign.
Normally, I would refrain from commenting on an ongoing investigation by the FBI that I was aware of, since the public disclosure of such an investigation could lead the target or targets of that investigation to take steps to obscure the trail of suspicious banking transfers, or to move their money to a more secure location beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement. However, in these cases, the targets of the investigations, including Manafort, Gates, Epshtyn and Trump himself are well aware that they are the subject of ongoing FBI investigations, so public disclosure should not impair those investigations. Moreover, the American public is entitled to know as much about the FBI ongoing investigations into Trump and his chief advisors before they go to the polls, even though Director Comey has already damaged the electoral process by only disclosing the details regarding the FBI investigation of one of the Presidential candidates, while refusing to even acknowledge that there are far more serious investigations of the Trump Campaign and its various operatives.

WHY AREN’T WE HEARING ANYTHING FROM THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT?

During the first Presidential primary debate and in the days to follow, we heard much about Alicia Machado, the former Miss Universe pageant winner and whether the recent hacking of the DNC emails was the work of the Russian intelligence services or an anonymous 400- pound hacker lying on this bed. However, not a word was spoken during the debate about the environmental dangers facing not only our country but the planet itself.
Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, suggested during an interview by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that the way we have to deal with global warming and climate change is “that we do have to inhabit other planets. The future of the human race is space exploration.” Well, at least Gary Johnson recognizes that the environment is an issue and is speaking out about it, even if it is in his typically inane way.
To the extent that Donald Trump has said anything about energy and the environment, it has been to reassure the big-coal and big-oil lobby that he will support them 100%, abolish the EPA and all those annoying environmental regulations that are hampering the fossil fuel’s ability to maximize their profits by polluting the atmosphere as much as possible. He has categorically denied the science of climate change and bashed renewable energy, suggesting that the concept of Climate Change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to hurt the U.S. economy.
Of course, all of this climate change denial and run-of-the-mill Republican bashing of environmental regulations is all just a show for purposes of political expediency. In 2009, Trump actually signed a New York Times full-page ad supporting President Obama’s plans to combat climate change, and the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in County Clare, Ireland filed out an application to build a seawall explicitly referencing “global warming and its effects” as the reason for the construction. Trump
As a candidate of the Republican Party, Trump felt that he had to do a 180 degree turn and pledge to support a “no-nothing” platform on the environment which basically says that the fossil fuel industry can do anything it wants to pollute the planet, and that that all environmental regulations are a socialist plot. Trump’s energy advisor, Rep. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, basically believes anything that the fossil fuel industry lobbyists tell him to believe, which means that he is a big fan of fossil fuel extraction, dislikes environmental regulations, and believes that mainstream climate science is based on “fraudulent science.”
It is a fairly safe bet, therefore, that a President Trump would also seek to eviscerate President Obama’s signature climate policy, the Clean Power Plan, which regulates carbon pollution from the power sector through a flexible arrangement with each state. In any event, there is little doubt that a President Trump would make history – not in a good way – as the first climate change-denier of any major country on the planet. Another first!
Hillary Clinton’s environmental policy positions say all the right things from the point of view of an environmentalist. She believes that the economy should be transitioned to a clean energy economy, and has set an aggressive agenda for the creation of enough renewable energy to power every home in America. She has also called for a half billion solar panels to be installed by the end of her first term as President, and the reduction of oil consumption by one-third, as well as sharp reduction in energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals, offices and manufacturing facilities. However, Secretary Clinton has not emphasized her environmental agenda on the campaign trail, perhaps in response to various polls showing that environmental issues are not as important as other issues to American voters.
However, if the Clinton campaign were to get the message out that a Trump Administration would roll back most of the environmental achievements of the Obama Administration, and would jeopardize American leadership on the climate change issue following the Paris agreement on climate change, the narrative could quickly become a compelling one for the American public. Leaving aside the importance of addressing climate change and other pressing environmental issues, the United States would be voluntarily abandoning its world leadership on this issue and ceding it to — in all probability – China, which has already begun to raise private capital for environmental projects through the sale of “green bonds.” In fact, according to former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., these Chinese bonds now account for 40% of the global environmental bond market after only a six-month period. See www.nytimes.com/2016/09/20/opinion/how-to-raise-trillions-for-green-investments. China also plans to spend $1 trillion over the next five years for energy efficient buildings, low-carbon transportation and clean energy for its cities, and it will sharply reduce carbon emissions by creating a nationwide carbon market in 2017.
Both the Clinton and the Trump campaign organizations owe it to the American people to direct more – or at least some — of their attention to the environmental and energy issues that will determine what kind of future and what kind of planet our children and grandchildren will be living on. If a non-democratic country such as China can squarely face the impending crisis regarding climate change and global warming, then a democracy such as ours, which professes to care about the well-being of all of its citizens, should be able to do so as well.

TRUMP AND THE RISE OF THE “ALT-RIGHT”

During their first Presidential Debate on September 26, 2016, Hillary Clinton touched on what is perhaps the essence of Donald Trump when she suggested that he “lives in his own reality.” The debate quickly moved on to other topics, but the observation is central to an understanding not only of Donald Trump, but also the “Alt-Right”, or Alternative Right movement, that has taken over the Trump campaign and, therefore, the Republican Party since Steve Bannon of Breitbart News was named as “CEO” of the Trump campaign.
The mainstream media has largely missed the significance of what Trump and his Alt-Right cohorts have done by literally creating an alternative reality and a parallel universe of made-up “facts” to support their positions. The media has recently focused on the number of “lies” that Trump has spoken at his campaign stops. The New York Times, for example, published a lead article on September 24, 2016 listing 31 major lies by Donald Trump within the space of a few days, as if this would shame Trump into apologizing for his errors and driving away his supporters once they became aware that he was not a “truth teller.” This may have been the likely scenario ten or twenty years ago, when a politician or elected official might lose his or her “credibility” if they were caught in a red-faced lie. But this is 2016, and a new reality has set in.
Simply stated, Trump knows that most of what he is saying about the country and the world is not true. President Obama was not really born in Kenya; the President is not really a secret Muslim; our inner cities are not a “living hell” and our minority communities are not worse off now than they were ten or twenty years ago; our country is not really falling apart, global warming is not a hoax, and the Russians are not really our friends. More importantly, Trump’s most fervent supporters know that much of what he is saying is not true, at least from an objective reality point of view. Why then does Trump persist in repeating known falsehoods time and time again, and why is he still so competitive in the public opinion polls among likely voters?
Part of the answer to this question is that objective facts and objective truths are just not that important to a large percentage of Donald Trump’s supporters. What is important is what they “believe” in, and what they believe in is a witch’s brew of concocted “facts” that all the members of the Alt-Right tribe can agree to and which they continue to hold even after those beliefs are proved to be wrong. In other words, for those that firmly believe that the world is flat, the mere fact that there is overwhelming evidence that the world is round will not shake their belief that the world is flat. The same can be said for the hard-core global warming deniers. All of the overwhelming scientific evidence that global warming is a real and present danger will not shake Donald Trump’s belief, and those of his followers, that the “threat” of global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese and others who would like to bring the US economy and its fossil fuel industry to its knees.
Which brings us to the “birther” issue, which launched Donald Trump’s political career and kept it going for nearly eight years after President Obama took office and nearly six years after the White House posed Obama’s birth certificate on its web site. It had become such an essential part of the Republican Right’s belief system that recent polls indicate that more than a quarter of Republicans still believe that Obama was born outside the United States, and another 25% “aren’t sure.” See US News, Trump’s Alternative -Reality Strategy, September 16, 2016. No wonder Trump was in no hurry to disavow his “birther” theory and acknowledge that the siting President was not an illegal usurper. And then when he finally declared in a much publicized news conference that Barrack Obama was born in this country, he couldn’t resist alleging that it was Hillary Clinton, President Obama’s Secretary of State for six years, who had really started the “birther” controversy, and that Donald Trump should be congratulated for finally forcing the President to disclose his birth certificate and putting the issue to rest.
Far from ending the “birtherism” controversy and exposing himself to embarrassing questions as to why it took him six years after the disclosure of the President’s birth certificate for him to finally stop challenging the legitimacy of the country’s first black president, he diverted the press corps’ and the public’s attention to an entirely new “trumped up” controversy, namely, who actually first started making these unfounded allegations.
As Mo Elleithee, Director of the Georgetown University Institute of Politics and Public Service, was quoted as pointing out in the US News article of September 16, 2016: “We’re living in a very confusing era. Facts are in question all the time. And people have created alternative realities. With the explosion of media that we have seen in recent years, people are getting their news and their info and their facts from like-minded sources.”
In other words, Trump supporters and Alt-Right believers never have to be exposed to MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post or any of the rest of what the Alt Right would consider to be the liberal media establishment. They don’t even have to watch CNN or Fox News, which occasionally take a stab at challenging right-wing orthodoxy and been known to question the veracity of some of Donald Trump’s more outrageous statements. They can just follow Breitbart News or one of the other Alt-Right news outlets, where they will never run the risk of being exposed to investigative news stories that found that Trump had never really donated millions of dollars to charities, as he said he had done, that Trump Foundation funds had been used to settle his private lawsuits, that there are federal and state investigations into Trump University, or that he made a contribution to the re-election campaign of the Florida Attorney General a few days before that Florida state official decided to not pursue a fraud investigation into the Trump University scandal.
During the Republican primary season, the Alt-Right was operating generally under the radar of the mainstream media. Once Trump became the Republican nominee for President, this all changed. On August 25, 2016 Hillary Clinton pointed out how the degree to which the Alt-Right movement was to Donald Trump’s campaign, accusing Trump of “taking a hate movement mainstream.” See CNN coverage on August 25, 2016. “He’s brought it into his campaign,” she alleged.
Much of the Alt-Right movement is comprised of racists, neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, xenophobes and other hate-based individuals and groups. As Andrew Anglin of the Neo-Nazi website The Daily Storm succinctly put it, “The goal is to ethnically cleanse White nations of non-Whites and establish an authoritarian government. Many people also believe the Jews should be exterminated It doesn’t get much clearer than that.”
The Alt-Right movement has gone so far as to create a pseudo-scientific basis for its racism, known as “Evolutionary Biology,” which at its core is a belief that biology has established that white people and black people are biologically and genetically different, that that this has evolved over time. In their Alt-Right journals, American Renaissance and Radix Journal, Jared Taylor and Richard Spencer have argued that the prevailing view in the equality of the races is wrong, and that there are fundamental differences in the races, referred to as “race realism,” and that because of these differences, there should be a separate and distinct “white racial consciousness.” Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart News tech editor, has challenged “the all-consuming cult of equality” between the races, and has argued that the “habits and predilections [of the races] might have diverged along with skin colour.” See “Science and Racism”, www.breitbart.com/london/2014/05/19. For his troubles, Yiannopoulos got himself banned from Twitter and other social media platforms.
The hyper-nationalism and nativism that is an essential element of Trump’s appeal to his supporters, i.e. “the Deplorables,” has an inherently Alt-Right racist tinge to it since, under Alt-Right orthodoxy, not only should America Come First, but America should be be a White America First. As Matt Fourney, one of the online luminaries of the Alt-Right world has explained (http//mattfourney.com/alt-right/): “The single defining characteristic of the alt-right is …about putting your nation first. It means that all people have the right to a land of their own: whites, blacks, Asians, you name it. For decades, globalists have sought to destroy white nations by flooding them with foreigners Alt-righters fight for the continued existence of white nations and white people.”
This is the dark underbelly of Trump’s call to build a Wall and to exclude entire categories of foreigners from entering the country, such as all Muslims, or at least Muslims from countries where terrorist groups are active. Not only will those foreigners supposedly take away the jobs of native Americans, and rape and pillage their way across the country, but the Hispanic, black, Arab and other people of color who are clamoring to enter Fortress America are primarily non-Whites, which is a threat to the Alt-Right vision of a White America.
That is why the deportation of 11 million undocumented Mexicans and other Hispanics is so appealing to the Alt-Right movement, and why Donald Trump and like-minded politicians who are riding high on the Alt-Right wave of populist disillusionment with traditional U.S. immigration policy. As Matt Fourney has explained: “In the United States, illegal immigration from Mexico and Latin America will make whites – the people who founded America – a minority by 2050. These invaders bring crime and corruption with them. In the U.S., Mexican drug cartels have ruined our major cities. Illegal aliens kill and rape American women. Illegal Mexicans deprive Americans of jobs.”
Fourney’s solution of mass deportation of Mexicans and other Latin Americans coincides perfectly with Donald Trump’s plans to deport all undocumented Hispanic Americans. There is a strong element of “racial cleansing” involved in the Alt-Rights anti-immigration policies and those of Donald Trump. Just as the predominantly Christian Serbs sought to drive the predominantly Muslim populations from Serbia and Bosnia by any means necessary, so too does the Alt-Right dream of a return to a white Christian America, free of Muslim infidels. As for what should be done to separate White America from Black and Asian America, the Alt-Right think tanks (to put it generously) are either silent or exceedingly vague.
The Alt-Right is also home to the Neo-Nazis, who are known as “1488ers,” a reference to the “14 words” of neo-Nazism (“We Must Secure the Existence of Our People and a Future for White Children”) and the number 88(for a doubling of the eighth letter of the alphabet, H, to represent “Heil Hitler”). (http//www.nationalreview.com/article/433650/alt-rights-racism-moral-rot).
The magnetic attractiveness of the Alt-Right movement to racists and Neo-Nazis is heavily linked to their penchant and near-worship of “Political Incorrectness,” a favorite term oten used by Trump in his stump speeches. For the Alt-Right, “political incorrectness” means that they can use racists terms and jokes. For example, the website The Right Stuff (http//therightstuff.biz/trs-lexicon/) refers to “Dindu nuffins,” or “Dindu.” This refers to “an obviously guilty black man,” according to The Right Stuff, who is trying to say “He didn’t do nothing.” Other politically incorrect terms, according to The Right Stuff include “electric jew” (television), “helicopter rides “ ( the right was to physically remove “Commies, Reds, University Professors and Journalists”), “merchant” ( a Jew), “ovenworthy” (“anything that would be substantially improved by immediate incineration”), “the plantation” (a “liberal social program [where] whitey still runs the show [and] darkie is still at the bottom”) and “fash” (fascism). It was no coincidence when Donald Trump Jr. publicly suggested on September 15, 2016 that if he or his father lied as much as the Democrats did, the media would be “warming up the gas chamber.” Not only was the comment an inappropriate joke about the Holocaust and the use by the Nazis of gas chambers to incinerate the Jews, but it is likely that Donald Jr. was very familiar with the Alt-Right websites where the use of such politically incorrect references to people as “ovenworthy” is commonplace.
Another key element in the Alt-Right Movement is what is referred to as “The Manosphere.” The Alt-Right sees itself as an opposition force to feminism, creating a men’s rights movement, or “Manosphere,” consisting of a network of forums, websites and social media focused on the concerns of the “heterosexual, masculine men.” It sees cyberspace and the internet as a male domain where, if women do not like the harassment, bullying and “hate trolling” that goes on there, they should “just log off” as Yiannopoulos wrote in Breitbart News (http.//www.breitbart.com/milo/2016/07/05/solution-online-harassment-simple-women log off/). Both Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia are clearly alpha-males who fall squarely in the center of the Manosphere and, therefore, deserved the respect and admiration of the predominantly male Alt-Right.
The focal point and ideological word factory for this Alt-Right movement is the Breitbart News, and when Trump named Steve Bannon of Breitbart News as the “CEO” of his campaign, the Alt-Right effectively took control of not only the Trump campaign, but also the entire Republican Party.
The Alt-Right is not to be confused with Conservative movement, which is, in many ways, the arch-enemy of the Alt-Right. A popular disparaging slur that the Alt-Right has for traditional conservatives is “cuckservatives,” a phrase merging the words “conservative” and “cuckold.” The phrase is particularly popular among the White Supremacists who view traditional white conservatives as traitors to their race, to the extent that they believe in integration and mixed-race marriages.
Given the fact that racism and neo-fascism is at the core of the Alt-Right, and that the Alt-Right, through the persons of Steve Bannon, is now in firm control of the Trump campaign, it is difficult to understand why Hillary Clinton’s reference to half of Trump’s supporters as falling into the “Basket of Deplorables” was considered to be a political gaffe by her. It may have been “politically incorrect,” but it is entirely accurate that, leaving aside the precise percentage, a large portion of Trump’s most ardent supporters, and the philosophical basis for his campaign (to the extent he has one) comes from the Alt-Right and its deplorable (or more accurately described “despicable”) collection of misfits, racists, neo-Nazis, misogynists, xenophobes, climate change deniers, and flat-earthers. Hillary Clinton was being charitable by merely describing them as “Deplorables.” The Republican Party should have ousted this dangerous and un-American group from its ranks long ago. Now it is too late. They now own the party. The party of Lincoln and of Reagan is now the Alt-Right party of skin heads and white supremacists.

THE CURRENT ASSAULT ON FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND OTHER CORE AMERICAN VALUES

 

One of the most troubling aspects of Donald Trump’s campaign, from a constitutional and legal perspective, is that he is the first presidential candidate in history (or at least in my lifetime) who refuses to accept as a “given” established core values of our constitutional democracy. These core values include Freedom of Speech and of Religion, which are embedded in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

If Donald Trump’s campaign is any indication of what a Trump Administration would be doing, then we can anticipate that the freedom of speech and expression exercised by non-violent protesters at his rallies would continue to be suppressed. Mr. Trump himself has repeatedly urged his supporters at his mass rallies to assault non-violent protesters. He has also made a continuing practice of belittling and berating the press for its coverage of his campaign and has even withheld press credentials from certain news organizations that have had the temerity to report on certain aspects of his campaign in a negative light.

On Monday, September 19, 2016, immediately after a series of bombings in New York and New Jersey, Trump blamed “freedom of expression” as a potential roadblock to the war against terrorism. In an interview on Fox News, Trump blamed freedom of the press for the fact that magazines were being sold that published bomb-making instructions. He did not identify which magazines he was referring to, but presumably, he was referring to Al Qaeda’s English-language propaganda magazine, Inspire, or jihadi websites that publish bomb-making instructions. What Trump failed to note – perhaps because he does not himself know – that these kind of magazines are not sold at any mainstream U.S. bookstores or newsstands.

Trump’s suggestion that First Amendment freedoms should be eliminated, or at least abridged, under the guise of supporting the fight against terrorism is reminiscent of Putin’s heavy-handed attacks on press freedom in Russia by labeling all media opposition there as unpatriotic or treasonous.

Over the past few years, numerous prominent Russian reporters have been found murdered or have “disappeared” after writing articles critical of Putin and his inner Kremlin circle. Similarly, the political opposition in Russia has been mostly crushed with the jailing or exile of several prominent political opposition leaders. As Timothy Snyder pointed out in a recent New York Times article on Russian fascism (09/21/16), Putin has long idolized Ivan Ilyin, the founding father of Russian fascism, who believed that individuality, diversity, and democracy were evil, and that the only thing that was important was a Holy Russia governed by a “national dictator.” Writing in the 1930s and 1940s, Ilyin looked to Mussolini and Hitler as the kind of leaders who could save Europe by destroying democracies and the individual freedoms that went along with them.

Trump’s real concern with the press and American media in general is that it has been largely critical of both him and the policies that he has espoused in his campaign, suggesting, for example, that his proposals to build a multi-billion-dollar Wall on the southern border with Mexico would be ineffective at stemming the flow of Mexican immigrants, a nonsensical waste of money and resources, and an environmental catastrophe. The press has also portrayed him and his campaign as xenophobic, misogynistic and racist, which Trump has considered being “unfair” and “false”, even though mainstream reporting is, for the most part, backed up with a wealth of documentary support. Trump has now ratcheted up his criticism of the press by suggesting that the media coverage of his campaign and press freedom in general is basically harmful to the country as long as we are in the midst of an existential war on terrorism.

What Trump seems to be missing, or at least ignoring, is that America’s longstanding tradition of a free and uncensored press is precisely part of what has made this country an exceptional example of how real democracies are different from autocratic pseudo-democracies such as Russia, Turkey and countless other “republics” in name only around the globe.

A likely reason why Trump has expressed such admiration for President Vladimir Putin of Russia is that, if elected, he would like to emulate Putin’s iron hand when it comes to the press and political dissent. Correspondingly, Putin’s embrace of Trump and aversion to Hillary Clinton springs from his belief that Clinton, as Secretary of State during the Russian parliamentary elections of December 2011 and the presidential elections of March 2012, gave the signal to the Russian opposition to demonstrate in the streets against the rigged elections and stuffed ballot boxes that kept Putin and his ruling party in power. Putin forced all nongovernmental organizations as “foreign agents” and branded all political opponents as enemies of the Russian state. It is not surprising, therefore, that Putin would support Trump and release hacked emails embarrassing the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton, since Trump has reciprocated by expressing agreement with most of Russia’s foreign policy, including the weakening of NATO and the democratic republics of Western Europe and Ukraine. Just as the institutions of democracy have been hollowed out in Russia and reduced to a sham, the undermining of democracy in the U.S. and Western Europe is also part of the grand design of Putin and his former KGB cronies.

Given Trump’s affinity for Putin and the way that he has been able to control the press and to suppress dissidents in Russia, it is likely that President Trump would take similar steps to “discipline” the U.S. mainstream press, but denying White House press credentials to reporters who consistently question Trump’s policies and practices, by having his administration challenge the FCC licenses of offending news organizations, and other measures designed to stifle a free press. Borrowing from Putin’s playbook, opposition political leaders would also be likely subjected to a barrage of investigations and prosecutions by a politicized U.S. Dept. of Justice, with perhaps Chris Christie or some other political hit man being appointed to the position of Attorney General of the United States. And since President Trump would have the pardon power, no doubt Christie’s Bridge Gate problems would also be quickly solved.

The President of the United States has awesome powers. If used without restraint in order to silence critics or to get even with political opponents, the U.S. government can quickly be turned into something more closely resembling the pseudo-democracies of Russia, Turkey or countless other “republics” in name only, which outwardly profess adherence to democratic principles and the electoral process, but in practice are nothing more than autocratic regimes. These regimes rule through raw power and fear, who perpetuate themselves through the brutal suppression of free speech and a free press.

Although we take the Freedom of the Press for granted, this country has gone through some extremely troubling periods when there were severe restrictions placed on the right of free expression and freedom of the press.  It is entirely within the realm of possibility that such rights can be suppressed once again under the administration of a Trump or someone like him. It should be remembered that in 1798, only a few years after the passage of the Bill of Rights and adoption of the Constitution in 1791, the governing Federalist Party attempted to suppress criticism by means of the Alien and Sedition Acts, which made criticism of Congress and of the President a crime. Fortunately, Thomas Jefferson was elected President in the election of 1900, in part due to his opposition to the Sedition Acts, and he pardoned most of those who had been convicted under them.

During the Civil War, four New York newspapers were prosecuted in mid-1961 for “frequently encouraging the rebels by expressions of sympathy and agreement.” These actions all followed various “executive orders” issued by President Lincoln, including his eighth order on August 7, 1861, which made it both illegal and punishable by death to hold “correspondence with” or give “intelligence to the enemy, either directly or indirectly.” This was understood as an explicit direction for actions taken by various state and federal governmental officials to harass or prosecute newspapers and reporters who published any articles deemed to be sympathetic to the Southern cause.

During World War I, the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 imposed restrictions on the press, with offenders subject to fines of $10,000 and up to 20 years imprisonment for the publication of “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language about the form of government of the United States or the Constitution of the United States, or the military or naval forces of the United States ….”

Similarly, a Minnesota law that targeted publishers of “malicious” or “scandalous” information was not invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court until 1931, when the decision in Near v. Minnesota struck down this state law as an infringement on the First Amendment’s freedom of the press. In 1938, in Lovell v. City of Griffin, the U.S. Supreme Court extended the reach of the First Amendment’s freedom of the press beyond just newspapers and periodicals, holding that freedom of the press was a fundamental persona right extending to “every sort of publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion. This, of course, now extends to the internet.

In January 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held, in Obsidian Finance Group LLC v Cox, that the protections of the First Amendment’s free speech and free press clauses extend to bloggers on internet, and that they cannot be liable for defamation unless the blogger acted negligently. The Ninth Circuit explained that journalists and bloggers are essentially equal under the First Amendment since those protections do not depend on “whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others’ writings, or tried to get both sides of a story.”

One way that Donald Trump has said that he would consider restricting the freedom of the press is by loosening up the defamation and libel laws, which subject newspapers and other media outlets to possible lawsuits for the publication of information that is alleged to be false and defamatory. As the law now stands, however, there are severe legal restrictions on a person’s ability to successfully pursue a lawsuit for an allegedly defamatory article if that person may be considered to be a “public figure.” The reason for this is that in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, a 1964 case, the Supreme Court sharply restricted such libel cases by holding that when a publication involves a public figure, a plaintiff in a libel suit bears the burden of proving that the publisher acted with “actual malice,” meaning that the publisher had to know of the inaccuracy of the information or statement being published, or acted with “reckless disregard” as to the truth of the statement. In another watershed case, in 1971 the Supreme Court, in New York Times Co. v. United States, upheld the publication of the previously secret Pentagon Papers, which contained some highly critical information regarding America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. I recall this case very clearly since I was a law school intern in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan at the time that the case was argued in federal court.

If Donald Trump has his way, these and other restrictions on the ability of a public figure such as himself to sue the press for its negative reporting of him would be swept aside, and the country would embark on a new era of press restrictions and even criminal prosecutions of newspapers and investigative reporters, no doubt including the teams of reporters now delving into the illegal activities of the Trump Foundation.

THE DONBAS CONFLICT: RUSSIA’S CULPABILITY UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW

During the ongoing armed conflict between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatist insurgents in the Donbas region of Ukraine (the Donetsk and Lugansk Oblasts) that began in April 2014, numerous human rights violations and violations of international law have been noted on the part of the separatists affiliated with the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR). In a report from the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, Ivan Šimonović, UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, wrote about targeted killings, torture, abduction, illegal detention, and intimidation of election officials in the self-proclaimed pro-Russian republics, and called for urgent action to prevent a Balkans-style war. He also warned of a humanitarian crisis due to a failure of social services in the region, and an exodus of people from affected areas. The UN also reported threats against, attacks on, and abductions of journalists and international observers, as well as the beatings and attacks on supporters of Ukrainian unity.

A similar report by Human Rights Watch said: “Anti-Kiev forces in eastern Ukraine are abducting, attacking, and harassing people they suspect of supporting the Ukrainian government or consider undesirable…anti-Kiev insurgents are using beatings and kidnappings to send the message that anyone who doesn’t support them had better shut up or leave”.

The use of abductions as a method to maintain political power and to terrorize the local population into submission appears to have been one of the preferred abusive techniques utilized by the pro-Russian separatist leadership. In early July, 2014, Amnesty International published a report based upon evidence of beatings, torture, and abduction of activists, protesters and journalists by insurgents in the Donbas region. It said that “while most abductions appear to have a ‘political’ motivation’, there is clear evidence that abduction and torture is being used by armed groups to exert fear and control over local populations”. The report also said that some people had been abducted for ransom. The report summarized its finding by stating that “the bulk of the abductions are being perpetrated by armed separatists, with the victims often subjected to stomach-turning beatings and torture.”

A report by the United Nations OHCHR that was released on July 28, 2014 said that insurgent groups continued “to abduct, detain, torture and execute people kept as hostages in order to intimidate and to exercise their power over the population in raw and brutal ways”. The report documents that at least 812 people have been abducted by the insurgents since mid-April, and said that “the majority are ordinary citizens, including teachers, journalists, members of the clergy and students”.

A statement released on August 22, 2014 by the Lithuanian foreign minister said that the Lithuanian honorary consul in Luhansk, Mykola Zelenec, was abducted by pro-Russian insurgents and killed.

A report by Human Rights Watch said that the insurgents had been “running amok…taking, beating and torturing hostages, as well as wantonly threatening and beating people who are pro-Kiev”. It also said that the insurgents had destroyed medical equipment, threatened medical staff, and occupied hospitals. A member of Human Rights Watch witnessed the exhumation of a “mass grave” in Sloviansk that was uncovered after separatists retreated from the city.

Captured Ukrainian soldiers have been subjected to public humiliation and other abuses in violation of international law. Insurgents with bayonet-equipped automatic rifles in the city of Donetsk paraded captured Ukrainian soldiers through the streets on August 24, 2014, the Independence Day of Ukraine. During the parade, Russian nationalistic songs were played from loudspeakers, and members of the crowd jeered at the prisoners with epithets like “fascist”. Street cleaning machines followed the protesters, “cleansing” the ground they were paraded on. Human Rights Watch said that this was in clear violation of the common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The article forbids “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment”. They further said that the parade “may be considered a war crime.” On the following day, the insurgents tied a woman accused of being a spy to a lamppost. They wrapped her in a Ukrainian flag, and had passers-by spit her, slap her, and throw tomatoes at her.

In October 2015, the DPR and LPR banned non-governmental organizations such as Doctors Without Borders and World Food Program from the territory that they control. A report released on March 3, 2016 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said that people that lived in separatist-controlled areas were experiencing “complete absence of rule of law, reports of arbitrary detention, torture and incommunicado detention, and no access to real redress mechanisms”.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “The results of a psychosocial assessment of children in Donetsk Oblast in Eastern Ukraine are deeply troubling … and indicate that about half of all children aged 7-18 have been directly exposed to adverse or threatening events during the current crisis.” OSCE monitors spoke to refugees from Donetsk city in Zaporizhia. They said that men were “often not allowed” to leave the city, but were instead “forcibly enrolled in ‘armed forces’ of the so-called ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ or obliged to dig trenches”.

By June 2015, the conflict had created 1.3 million internally displaced people (IDPs). According to the OHCHR, this number had grown to 1.6 million people by early March 2016.

As the shaky ceasefire implemented by the Minsk Protocol became increasingly untenable in early November 2014, it was reported that the number of people that had fled insurgent-held areas of Donbas had reached one and a half million. Those forced to stay in the region were largely elderly, destitute, or otherwise unable to flee. Schools had been abandoned, and many had been converted into weapons depots or unlawfully used for other military purposes, as roughly half of the pre-war population of school-age children had left Donbas.

A map of human rights violations committed by the separatists called the “Map of Death,” was published by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) in October 2014. The reported violations included detention camps and mass graves. Subsequently, on October 15, 2014, the SBU opened a case on “crimes against humanity” perpetrated by insurgent forces.

Amnesty International reported evidence  of summary killings of Ukrainian soldiers on April 9, 2015. Having reviewed video footage, it determined that at least four Ukrainian soldiers had been shot dead “execution style”. The AI deputy director for Europe and Central Asia said that “the new evidence of these summary killings confirms what we have suspected for a long time”. AI also said that a recording released by Kyiv Post of a man, allegedly separatist leader Arseny Pavlov, claiming to have killed fifteen Ukrainian prisoners of war was a “chilling confession”, and that it highlighted “the urgent need for an independent investigation into this and all other allegations of abuses”.

Russia and its leadership bear substantial responsibility for the War Crimes and human rights abuses committed by the insurgent forces in Donbas, since the insurgents are basically nothing more than proxies for Russia, in its attempt to carve off a large chunk of Ukraine close to its borders. Since Russia aided and abetted the violations of international law committed by the insurgent forces, it may be held legally responsible in U.S. courts and in various international courts for the loss of human life and destruction of property caused by the insurgent forces. Plaintiffs in such a case could be either Ukrainian or other non-U.S. citizens, who could utilize the Alien Tort Statute (28 U.S. 1350), or they could be U.S. citizens or refugees currently within the United States who could seek jurisdiction in the U.S. courts under federal common law, which incorporates customary international law.

Florida’s St. Lucie Estuary Environmental Disaster and the Clean Water Act

A toxic algae bloom in the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River estuaries in Florida has caused an unfolding environmental disaster of enormous proportions. The algae outbreaks are triggered by fertilizer sewage and manure pollution that the State has failed to properly regulate. “It’s like adding miracle grow to the water and it triggers massive algae outbreaks,” Earthjustice spokeswoman Alisa Coe told CNN. The Miami Herald describes the devastated area as being engulfed in blue-green colored water that resembles “guacamole.” NPR reports that the smell of hundreds or thousands of dead animals and fish baking in the sun has created a stench that is unbearable.

A State of Emergency was declared over to July Fourth weekend, emptying the beaches and bringing fishing, boating and swimming to a halt, as the waters covered by green slime were declared too toxic to touch. The tourist industry in the Stuart and Port St. Lucie areas rapidly ground to a complete halt, thus decimating by far the largest industry in the area.  According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, toxic blooms can damage the gastrointestinal system, liver, nervous system and skin. The blue-green algae is called cyanobacteria. It can release toxins that affect the liver and nervous system. No wonder that the tourists and many residents have fled the area.

While Governor Rick Scott has insisted that the problem is primarily a water storage issue, and that the federal government had been negligent in failing to properly fix the aging dike system and to provide for sufficient water storage in Lake Okeechobee during the wet season, there can be little question that the source of the toxic algae bloom is the huge amounts of fertilizer-related nitrogen and phosphorous from the Big Sugar companies and other polluters that has ended up in the Lake and then been released into the St. Lucie and other estuaries.

Most of the public and press attention has focused on the Army Corp’s decision to release polluted lake water into the estuaries to the east and west, rather than permitting more of the natural flow of water southward from the Lake through the drainage basin and complex canal system that has been developed there. The area to the south of the Lake includes the Everglades Agricultural Area, comprising former wetlands that were converted into farm use and have become dominated by what has become known as “Big Sugar,” primarily the U.S. Sugar Corporation, Florida Crystals, and the Sugar Cooperative Corporations. The Army Corp, which maintains jurisdiction of the dike system and the regulation of water releases under the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 and the Clean Water Act, has responded by stating that these huge releases of polluted waters were necessary to prevent a breach in the old and outdated Herbert Hoover Dike system surrounding the southern shore of Lake Okeechobee.

Serious allegations have been made that the Army Corp. has failed in its mission to properly regulate and maintain the infrastructure that was designed to keep this complex and delicate ecosystem in balance. There have been many calls for reforms, including the February 2014 letter from the Florida Senate to Congress requesting that it transfer authority over water releases from the Lake from the Army Corps to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Meanwhile, Governor Rick Scott, who was forced to recently declare a State of Emergency in the area due to the dangerous concentrations of toxic algae in the area, has sought to focus on the need to upgrade the septic systems of property owners and businesses in the area.

However, neither the Army Corp nor the homeowners and residents of the area are primarily responsible for the dangerous build up in the levels of nitrogen and phosphorous “nutrients” in the Lake Water. Rather the primary parties responsible for the agricultural “run-off” of these chemicals are the Big Sugar interests controlling thousands of acres of cane sugar south of the Lake in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).   These huge sugar companies are the continuing beneficiaries of the 1981 Farm Bill, repeatedly renewed in Washington, which guarantees sugar prices for the corporations at levels that are sometimes twice the price of the world market.

Under the federal Clean Water Act, polluters such as the Big Sugar companies, are required to clean up waters polluted by fertilizers or pesticides that are part of the agricultural process before such waters are permitted to be released back into navigable water system. Nevertheless, the Big Sugar companies have failed to adequately clean up the huge quantities of water that they use as part of the cane sugar agricultural process, resulting in the release of significant quantities of pollutants back into the Lake and eventually, the St. Lucie River and other estuaries.

The Clean Water Act (“CWA”) was originally enacted in 1948 to address the growing water pollution problems throughout the United States, with its primary enforcement authority given to the states. See Federal Water Pollution Control Act, Pub. L. No. 80-845, current version at 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251-1387. Since that time, Congress has amended the CWA on several occasions, including an amendment in 1972 establishing a system of effluent limitations, water quality standards, discharge permits and other regulatory mechanisms “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters.” 33 U.S.C. § 1251(a).

One important issue addressed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006 was whether wetlands were “navigable waters” covered by the CWA. In Rapanos v. United States, 547 U.S. 715 (2006), the Supreme Court narrowed the EPA’s broad definition of “waters of the United States” to wetlands adjacent to traditional navigable waters, with Justice Kennedy establishing a test, known as the “significant nexus” test, requiring that for wetlands to be covered by the CWA, there must be “a significant nexus between the wetlands in question and navigable waters in the traditional sense.”

One of the best-known provisions of the CWA is Section 402, which regulates discharges of pollutants from “point sources”, and any entity wishing to discharge pollutants into a water of the United States must obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from the EPA or from a state agency authorized to run the program. In Florida, the EPA authorized the FDEP to manage the NPDES permitting program within the state. In addition, Congress left control over “nonpoint” and “agricultural” source pollution to the states to manage as each seed fit, so long as minimum federal water quality standards were met. In Florida, the FDEP developed these water quality standards and implemented them with the aid of the five water management districts. In addition, the Army Corps actually transferred operational control of the Lake Okeechobee watershed system to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), including operational control of the complex network of canals and pump stations that artificially divert agricultural, industrial and residential runoff away from the agricultural lands to the south of Lake Okeechobee, which is where the Big Sugar lands are located, into the Lake itself.

Thus, the fertilizer contaminants in the water runoff from the Big Sugar plantations to the south of the Lake are theoretically regulated by the FDEP and SFWMD under the provisions of the CWA requiring states to create and implement water quality-based standards, including standards for nonpoint source pollution from agricultural properties, and must determine the “total maximum daily load” (TMDL) for each pollutant and allocate the allowable daily amount among all of the water body’s polluters. However, since the FDEP and SFWMD claim that they have a lack of resources to properly enforce these standards themselves, they have largely relied upon Big Sugar and other agricultural polluters to “self-regulate” the degree to which they produce phosphorous and nitrogen laced polluted runoff, which is then pumped by the SFWMD into the Lake. In other words, Florida has basically put the wolves in charge of the henhouse leaving it up to the sugar companies themselves to decide whether or not they are in compliance with the state regulations regarding the release of potentially toxic pollutants into the Lake. Not surprisingly, the instances where Big Sugar has turned themselves into the regulators for failing to comply with these emission standards are rare or non-existent.

Adding further confusion and lack of public protection to this regulatory scheme, while the Florida state entities (FDEP and SFWMD) have responsibility for setting standards regarding pollution-levels from agricultural properties and the adjacent canals being dumped into the Lake, only the Army Corps has the responsibility for releasing polluted Lake waters into the St. Lucie and other estuaries. While the Army Corps and the state agencies are, in theory, supposed to coordinate together so that the pollution levels of the billions of gallons of water being released by the Army Corps are known, in practice, it appears that this coordination is far from perfect and that the Army Corps may have no precise idea how much in the way of harmful phosphorous and other pollutants are being released into the estuaries.

As part of the 1972 amendments to the CWA, private citizens were permitted for the first time, to bring a civil action in federal court against any person or government that violated the requirements of the CWA. FWPCA § 505(a)(1), 33 U.S.C. § 1365(a). However, in order for an individual or group to bring a CWA suit under the citizen suit provisions, 33 U.S.C. § 1365 (a), that individual, business or group must have “standing to sue,” which means that the individual business or group must have suffered an “injury in fact” that is actual or imminent, not just conjectural or hypothetical. Sierra Club v SCM Corp. 580 F. Supp. 862 (1984).  Damage to a plaintiff’s aesthetic or recreational interest is sufficient to confer standing, as long as the plaintiff can show that he or she “use[s] the affected area and [is a] person ‘for whom the aesthetic and recreational values of the area will be lessened’ by the challenged activity.” Friends of the Earth v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 183 (2000). In Laidlaw, the court found sufficient injury for standing in the testimony of the plaintiffs’ members that they had ceased use of the river because of their concern that the defendant’s discharges were polluting the river and causing a depreciation in the value of one of the members’ homes. Laidlaw, 120 S. Ct. at 703.  The loss of recreational and aesthetic benefits, or just the loss of enjoyment caused by the pollution, is sufficient to confer standing. See Mt. Graham Red Squirrel v. Espy, 986 F. 2d 1568 (9th Cir. 1992). Even the probability of future harm, even though none has occurred yet, is sufficient to confer standing. Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Gaston Copper Recycling Corp., 204 F. 3d 149, 160 (4th Cir. 2000).

There must also be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, but a plaintiff need not demonstrate that his or her injuries are caused specifically by the actions of the defendants. SPRIG v. Tenneco Polymers, 602 F. Supp. 1394 (1984). The plaintiff need only how that the defendant caused an unlawful discharge of pollutants; that the pollutants were discharged into a waterway in which plaintiffs have in interest that are or may be adversely affected by the pollutant; and that this pollution caused or contributed to the kinds of injuries alleged by the plaintiffs. See Public Interest Research Group of New Jersey v. Yates Industries Inc., 757 F. Supp. 438, 443 (D. N.J. 1991).

The Clean Water Act requires that a citizen give notice of their claims to any person, including the United States, and/or any other governmental entity sixty (60) days before bringing suit against the alleged violator. See 33 U.S. C. § 1365(a)(1) and (b)(1). This is a mandatory provision and compliance must be pleaded in the complaint. National Environmental Foundation v. ABC Rail Corp., 926 F. 2d 1096 (11th Cir. 1991); Walls v. Waste Resource Corp., 761 F. 2d 311 (6th Cir. 1985). Notice of a violation must be served on the alleged violator or violators. 40 C.F.R. § 135.2(c).

If, after the date that the suit is filed, the defendant continues to violate the CWA, the plaintiff may request both injunctive relief and civil penalties under the Act. See Weiszmann v. District Engineer, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 526 F. 2d 1302, 1304 (5th Cir. 1976); U.S. v. Context-Marks Corp., 729 F. 2d 1294, 1297 (11th Cir. 1984). Injunctive relief may be granted under a common law standard to enjoin a continuing a abatable nuisance or trespass. A court may also award costs of litigation, including reasonable attorneys’ and expert witness fees to the prevailing party. 33 U.S. C. § 1365(d).

In addition to statutory claims under the CWA, plaintiffs also have state common law damages claims for nuisance (interference with use and enjoyment of property), trespass (unauthorized entry on another’s property), negligence (breach of a legal duty to conform to a standard of conduct raised by the law for the protection of others against unreasonable risks of harm, and violations of Florida state statutory law.

It is unlikely that there would be a cause of action for damages to “riparian rights” since, in Midenberger v U.S., No. 2010-5084 (U.S. Ct. of Appeals, Federal Circuit June 30, 2011), in a case brought by plaintiffs in the St. Lucie River area, the court found that the plaintiffs had failed to make a showing that Florida law permitted a cause of action for damages to riparian rights by property owners that was different or separate from the rights of the general public.

In short, individuals, businesses and associations who have suffered damages as a result of the toxic pollution of the St. Lucie Estuary have both federal and state law causes of action against the Big Sugar polluters, the relevant Florida state agencies and the Army Corp for the damages that they have sustained as a result of this major environmental disaster.

THE GENOCIDE OF THE CRIMEAN TATARS FROM 1944 TO THE PRESENT

The Crimean Tatars were subjected to an intentional campaign of genocide and ethnic cleansing in 1944, when Stalin and the Soviet leadership ordered the forcible deportation of the Crimean Tatars from Crimea. Soviet propaganda sought to justify this mass deportation as a form of collective punishment for collaborating with the Nazi occupation regime in during 1942–1943. Most scholars and commentators, however, agree that the true aim of the Soviet government was the ethnic cleansing of the Crimean Tatars. This constituted the continuation of a policy practiced earlier in the Caucasus, whereby ethnic groups were selected to be deported and then charges of “treason” were fabricated.

Soviet motivations for the elimination of the Crimean Tatars included the strategic location of Crimea next to the Black Sea and close to Turkey. Another motivation was their close historical and cultural ties with Turkey. Since the Soviet Union had a long-term plan to annex of the Ardahan and Karsprovinces of Turkey, and to demand naval bases at the Turkish Straits, the deportation of the Crimean Tatars took place in preparation for a possible future Soviet-Turkish conflict.

At least 238,500 people were deported, mostly to the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. This included the entire ethnic Crimean Tatar population. A large number of deportees (more than 100,000 according to a 1960s survey by Crimean Tatar activists) died from starvation or disease as a direct result of deportation. This was a clear-cut case of genocide and “ethnic cleansing.”

Prior to the Stalinist repression, the Crimean Tatars had long been recognized as the indigenous people of the Crimean Peninsula, and the Crimean Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic (Crimean ASSR) was established as an integral part of the Soviet Union. Under this administration, Crimean Tatars enjoyed cultural autonomy and the promotion of their culture, and the Crimean Tatar language had co-official language status along with Russian. Crimean Tatar cultural activities flourished, including establishment of cultural institutions, museums, libraries and theaters.

This “golden age” of Crimean Tatar culture and political autonomy ended when Stalin and the other Soviet leaders embarked on a brutal and intentional campaign to wipe out the Tatar people from the Crimean Peninsula. The Soviet leadership ordered the banishment of the Crimean Tatars to the Uzbek SSR. The operation was to be completed before June 1, 1944, and all property left behind would be confiscated by state authorities.

The deportation began on May 18, 1944 in all Crimean-inhabited localities. The forced deportees were given only 30 minutes to gather personal belongings, after which they were loaded onto cattle trains and moved out of Crimea. The deportees were brought to central gathering stations in Simferopol and Bakhchysarai, and after a short waiting period, loaded on trains. At the same time, most of the Crimean Tatar men who were fighting in the ranks of the Red Army were demobilized and sent into forced labor camps in Siberia and in the Ural mountain region.

According to eyewitness accounts, the Russian NKVD officials forgot to deport the Crimean Tatars in the fishing villages of the Arabat Spit. On July 19, 1944, when Soviet authorities learned about these villages, orders were issued that no Crimean Tatar should be left alive within 24 hours. Following this, all inhabitants of these villages were locked up in an old and big boat, which sailed to the deepest part of the Azov Sea and was then sunk. Soviet soldiers waited in a nearby ship with machine guns.

The train journey of the deportees to the destinations was carried out under harsh conditions and resulted in a large number of deaths. According to official Soviet data, 7,889 people, amounting to approximately 5% of the Crimean Tatar population was presumed dead during the deportation, but in all probability, these estimates were grossly understated. The deportation was carried out in sealed box cars, and thousands of deportees died because of thirst. The cars were called “crematoria on wheels” by Crimean Tatars. The doors and windows were tightly bolted to prevent the entry of fresh air, there was no medical care and little food. This led to the deaths of especially elderly people and children, who could not withstand the suffocating conditions and the lack of food. Grigorii Burlitskii, a NKVD officer overseeing the deportation who later defected, reported that “they were packed into wagons like sardines, the wagons were locked and sealed and put under the guard of military detachments”. According to testimonies, the doors of the cars were only opened upon arrival to the Kazakh steppe, where the dead were dumped along the railway track, with the deportees not given the time to bury them.

The deportation was poorly planned and executed. Local authorities in the destination areas were not properly informed about the scale of the matter and did not receive enough resources to accommodate the deportees. The lack of accommodation and food, the failure to provide proper clothing to help the deportees to adapt to new climatic conditions and the rapid spread of diseases further decimated the Crimean Tatar people during the first years of exile.

Upon their arrival in Central Asia, Crimean Tatars were forced to live in special settlement camps, surrounded by barbed wire. Leaving the camps was punished by five years of hard forced labor. Many Crimean Tatars were also made to work in the large-scale projects conducted by the GULAG system. In these forced labor camps, deportees were assigned the heaviest tasks available and awoken before dawn for 12-hour workdays.

In Uzbekistan, Stalin ordered the settlement of Crimean Tatars in kolkhozes (collective farms), sovkhozes (state-owned farms) and settlements around factories for industrial and agricultural production. The deportees partially provided the required workforce for the industrial development of the area. Regardless of their former profession and skills, Crimean Tatars were forced to do heavy labor. Their places of residence consisted of barracks, makeshift shelters, parts of factories and communal housing.

Crimean Tatar activists carried out a census in all the scattered Tatar communities in the middle of the 1960s. The results of this inquiry show that 109,956 (46.2%) Crimean Tatars of the 238,500 deportees died between July 1, 1944 and January 1, 1947 due to starvation and disease.

The Soviet government also efficiently destroyed all remaining traces of Tatar culture.  This included the destruction of Tatar monuments and burning of Tatar manuscripts and books. Tatar mosques were converted into movie theaters and warehouses; gravestones of Tatars were used as building material. Exiled Crimean Tatars were banned from speaking of Crimea, and official Soviet texts, including the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, erased all references to them. When applying for internal passports, “Crimean Tatar” was not accepted as an existing ethnic group and those that designated themselves as “Crimean Tatars” were automatically denied passports.

Soviet authorities also ordered the renaming of all Tatar place names (including mountains and rivers), and a decree of the RSFSR Supreme Soviet Presidium on December 14, 1944 required the renaming of all districts and district centers to Russian-language names. In total, more than 1389 Crimean Tatar towns and villages were renamed.

The Soviet propaganda machine worked hard to hide the true nature of the deportation from the domestic and international media by falsely claiming that it was “voluntary”. The deportations were referred to as “resettlement.” Crimean Tatars were depicted as “bandits” and “thieves,” and were accused of being Nazi agents.

On April 28, 1956, by the decree of the Supreme Soviet Presidium of the USSR, the Crimean Tatars were released from special settlement, accompanied by a restoration of their civil rights. In the same year, the Crimean Tatars started a petition to allow their repatriation to Crimea. They held mass protests in October 1966, but these were violently suppressed by the Soviet military. On June 21, 1967, after a meeting between representatives of the Soviet government and a Crimean Tatar delegation, prompt rehabilitation of Crimean Tatars was promised, but never fulfilled. In August and September 1967, thousands of Crimean Tatars took to the streets to protest in Tashkent.

A decree of the Supreme Soviet Presidium was issued on September 5, 1967 exonerating the Crimean Tatars, but the Soviet government did nothing to facilitate their resettlement back to Crimea, or to make reparations for the loss of lives and confiscated property. In 1968, a token 300 families were allowed to return, but this was only for propaganda purposes. Crimean Tatars, led by the Crimean Tatar National Movement Organization, were not allowed to return to Crimea from exile until the beginning of the Perestroika in the mid-1980s.

The Crimean Tatars began repatriating on a massive scale beginning in the late 1980s and continuing into the early 1990s. The population of Crimean Tatars in Crimea rapidly reached 250,000 and leveled off at about 270,000. There are believed to be between 30,000 and 100,000 remaining in exile in Central Asia.

Finally, in November 1989, after the end of the Cold War, the Soviet government acknowledged responsibility for this clear violation of international law. In November 1989, the Supreme Soviet of the USSR recognized the deportation as a crime against humanity of the highest degree. On April 21, 2014, following the annexation of Crimea by Russia, President Vladimir Putin of Russia signed a decree that “rehabilitated” Crimean Tatars and other ethnicities who suffered from Stalinist repressions in Crimea. However, this decree proved to be hollow, not only because there was no compensation, reparations or restitution offered, but also because Russia instituted a crack-down on Crimean Tatar dissidents who opposed the annexation and favored a continuing relationship with Ukraine. Leaders of the Crimean Tatar opposition have been subjected to prolonged arbitrary detention, which itself is a recognized violation of customary international law, and the general Crimean Tatar community has been subjected to a continuing reign of terror and Crimes Against Humanity, including arbitrary killings, arbitrary confiscation of property, state-sponsored and widespread theft of personal and real property, extortion and harassment of every possible variety.

It can reasonably be argued, therefore, that the genocide of the Crimean Tatars, which started in 1944, continues up until the present.

The mistreatment and persecution by Russia of the Crimean Tatars meets the generally accepted definition of genocide, since it specifically targeted a particular ethnic group for destruction, and implemented calculated policies to achieve that goal.  The Genocide Convention of 1948 specifically recognizes genocide to include: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part.” This is precisely the policy that the Soviet Union formulated and carried out in 1944, and continues today.