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Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠: William Barr To Step Down As Attorney General Before Christmas : NPR


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Attorney General William Barr leaves after a speech to an International Association of Chiefs of Police symposium in February in Miami.

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Attorney General William Barr leaves after a speech to an International Association of Chiefs of Police symposium in February in Miami.

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Attorney General William Barr, an outspoken proponent of conservative values and an expansive view of presidential power, will leave office before Christmas, President Trump announced in a tweet Monday afternoon.

Trump said he and Barr had a “very nice meeting” at the White House and that their “relationship has been a very good one.”

Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen will become acting attorney general, Trump said.

In a letter to the president, Barr said he is proud to have played a role in Trump’s administration and said he would depart Dec. 23.

Earlier this month, Barr said the Department of Justice found no evidence of widespread election fraud, directly contradicting Trump’s baseless claims that Democrats stole the election. Ahead of the election, Barr had stood by the president, repeating his unsubstantiated claims that mail-in voting was ripe for fraud.

In less than two years on the job, Barr emerged as perhaps the most divisive attorney general in recent memory for a series of controversial actions, including his handling of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation and his repeated false claims about the integrity of mail-in voting.

But his legacy will forever be stamped by his role leading the forceful removal of peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square in Washington, D.C., in the summer of 2020 to clear the way for a presidential photo-op in front of a nearby church.

Barr joined the administration halfway through the president’s term and quickly emerged as one of Trump’s most loyal and effective defenders. But he came under intense criticism from Democrats and many in the legal community — including even current federal prosecutors — for actions that raised questions about the department’s independence.

Barr was nominated in late 2018 to replace Jeff Sessions, a former senator from Alabama whose time as attorney general was in large part defined by relentless attacks from Trump — in private and in public — because Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation.

Trump considered that unforgivable and sought, but ultimately failed, to get Sessions to quash the investigation.

House Dems Say They're Looking Into Political Influence At Justice Department

That was one reason why members of Congress viewed Barr — a prominent establishment Republican who had been attorney general once before under President George H.W. Bush — as a reassuring choice.

Republicans and Democrats alike had hopes that Barr could bring leadership and a steady hand to the department, which had found itself in the middle of Washington’s brutal partisan battles since the 2016 election.

By and large, Barr leaves a department still enjoying strong support from Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina repeatedly made clear their strong support for him.

Barr’s reputation on the other side of the aisle, however, is in tatters.

The rollout

Democrats, after their initial cautious optimism, quickly soured on Barr.

That began with his handling of the rollout of Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.

The report documented numerous contacts between Trump associates and Russians but said the facts gathered did not establish there was a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. And Mueller’s team did not draw a conclusion on whether the president obstructed justice.

Barr Has Considered Resigning Over Trump's Remarks

Barr, however, did: He said there was no evidence of obstruction, effectively clearing the president of any wrongdoing at a time before the report was published.

Democrats accused Barr of baking in the “no collusion, no obstruction” narrative before anyone else had a chance to see Mueller’s report.

Democrats were not alone in their criticism.

In March, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton called Barr’s handling of the Mueller report “distorted” and “misleading.” Walton, a George W. Bush appointee who was presiding over a lawsuit seeking redacted portions of the Mueller report, said Barr’s actions raised questions about the attorney general’s credibility.

The Mueller report was just the beginning for Barr’s critics.

Democrats bristled over Barr’s statement that he believed the Trump campaign was “spied on” during the 2016 race, and his decision to appoint a veteran prosecutor, John Durham, to investigate the origins of the Russia probe.

All of that happened within the first few months of Barr’s tenure, dissolving any benefit of the doubt Democrats — and many observers in the legal community — had given him.

President Trump greets Barr before signing an executive order creating a commission to study law enforcement and justice in October 2019.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP


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President Trump greets Barr before signing an executive order creating a commission to study law enforcement and justice in October 2019.

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Attorney for the president?

Barr drew fire for other decisions.

He didn’t show up for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee during a nadir in tensions with Democrats. The Justice Department initially didn’t give Congress the whistleblower complaint that detailed many of Trump’s actions in the Ukraine affair.

And Barr overruled career prosecutors in Washington, D.C., in the case of Trump adviser Roger Stone; Barr instructed them to ask for a lighter sentence.

He also intervened in the case against another former Trump insider, Michael Flynn. The former national security adviser pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador.

The Justice Department, with Barr’s approval, moved to drop its prosecution of Flynn, although the presiding judge in the case balked. Ultimately, Trump pardoned Flynn the day before Thanksgiving.

The Stone and Flynn decisions prompted an outcry from legal experts and former federal prosecutors, and raised concerns about the politicization of the department under Barr’s leadership.

Graham and other supporters said criticism over Barr’s actions was unmerited and politically driven. Backers say he has not done anything outside the realm of what any other attorney general would do.

And ultimately it was not partisan battles with Democrats that ushered Barr out the door but instead his fraying relationship with the president.

For much of Barr’s tenure, Trump singled him out for praise, calling Barr a “credible guy, tough guy” and a great attorney general.

But behind the scenes, Barr grew frustrated by the president’s tweets and public statements about the department’s ongoing cases, people close to Barr say. The attorney general was sensitive about the perception that he wasn’t an independent officer but a political factotum of the president.

The public got its first glimpse of that in the uproar over Stone’s sentencing recommendation.

Barr said he decided on his own to intervene after lower-level prosecutors submitted their sentencing recommendations in Stone’s case. But at nearly the same time, Trump also complained about the case on Twitter — feeding suspicions that Barr was acting at the president’s behest.

Attorney General Barr Issues New Rules For Politically Sensitive Investigations

In an interview with ABC News a few days later, Barr said the president’s tweets were making it “impossible” for him to his job. He urged the president to stop publicly discussing the department’s work.

The president did not heed Barr’s advice. In the days that followed, NPR learned that Barr told people around him he was considering quitting.

The two worked together through the tumultuous summer months, but the relationship unraveled after Trump’s election loss to Joe Biden.

The president refused to acknowledge his defeat, and he and his campaign pushed baseless claims the vote had been stolen.

Nearly a month after the election, Barr told The Associated Press the Justice Department had found no evidence so far of any widespread fraud that would change the outcome of the election.

The remarks outraged Trump, who fired back that Barr “hasn’t done anything” and “hasn’t looked” for voter fraud. Asked whether he still had confidence in his attorney general, the president replied: “Ask me that in a number of weeks from now.”

Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠

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mikenov on Twitter: William Barr To Step Down As Attorney General Before Christmas npr.org/2020/12/14/811…

William Barr To Step Down As Attorney General Before Christmas npr.org/2020/12/14/811…


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mikenov on Twitter: RT @MailOnline: WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyseus is accused of aiding genocide in Ethiopia trib.al/47nxg8C

WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyseus is accused of aiding genocide in Ethiopia trib.al/47nxg8C


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mikenov on Twitter: Audio Posts – 4:17 PM 12/14/2020: Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks – The News And Times – Quick Thoughts on the Russia Hack – Lawfare thenewsandtimes.blogspot.com/2020/12/audio-… pic.twitter.com/qcROJ6Hdh5

Audio Posts – 4:17 PM 12/14/2020: Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks – The News And Times – Quick Thoughts on the Russia Hack – Lawfare thenewsandtimes.blogspot.com/2020/12/audio-… pic.twitter.com/qcROJ6Hdh5



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Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠: Quick Thoughts on the Russia Hack – Lawfare


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David Sanger, building on a Reuters story, reports in the New York Times that some country, probably Russia, “broke into a range of key government networks, including in the Treasury and Commerce Departments, and had free access to their email systems.” The breach appears to be much broader. “[N]ational security-related agencies were also targeted, though it was not clear whether the systems contained highly classified material.” The Department of Homeland Security appears to be one of those agencies. Sanger says that the “intrusions have been underway for months,” and that “the hackers have had free rein for much of the year.” The original Reuters story on Dec. 13 noted that people familiar with the hacks “feared the hacks uncovered so far may be the tip of the iceberg.” On the evening of Dec. 13, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued an Emergency Directive to all federal civilian agencies to review their networks for indicators of compromise.

This attack is the latest in a long string of other serious breaches of government networks by insiders and outsiders in the last decade—for example, the Office of Personnel Management in 2014-15, the White House, State Department, and Joint Chiefs email breach during those same years, the 2016 theft of CIA hacking tools, the Shadow Brokers theft of NSA tools in 2017, and Edward Snowden’s mammoth disclosures in 2013 and beyond. These events constitute a stunning display of the U.S. government’s porous defenses of sensitive government networks and databases.

The U.S. approach to preventing these breaches appears to involve five elements: (1) tighten insider controls, (2) thicken defenses, (3) indict (but very rarely prosecute) responsible individuals, (4) impose sanctions on the responsible countries and (5) live in adversary networks to monitor and interrupt actions against the United States before they begin—the so-called “Defend Forward” strategy. The United States is probably retaliating for some of these breaches, but there is little information on that in the public record.

On the whole, these elements have failed to stop, prevent or deter high-level breaches. Of course, we do not know what we don’t know, both about unreported or undetected breaches and about successful interruption of attempted breaches. Nor does the public know anything about how the costs of these breaches compare to the huge benefits, on the whole, of the digitalization of government information. But the public record is not a happy one for the U.S. government across the last few administrations.

For me, the Russia breach raises three questions.

First, is “Defend Forward” all it’s built up to be? Cyber Command has been touting its successes in, for example, preventing interference in the 2018 and 2020 elections. But the strategy did not prevent the Russia breach. As Sanger notes, “while the government was worried about Russian intervention in the 2020 election, key agencies working for the administration—and unrelated to the election—were actually the subject of a sophisticated attack that they were unaware of until recent weeks.” I have always wondered how Cyber Command possibly possessed the intelligence resources and cyber tools to monitor, detect and prevent all possible major cyber threats. It will be interesting to see what Commander of Cyber Command Gen. Paul Nakasone, who has not been shy about the value and power of Defend Forward, says about how the strategy worked here, whether and why it failed, and what those answers imply about the value of the Defend Forward overall.

Second, is what the Russians did to U.S. government networks different from what the National Security Agency does on a daily basis? Government-to-government electronic espionage and data theft, including on this scale, is almost certainly commonplace. As then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said after the OPM breach: “You have to kind of salute the Chinese for what they did. If we had the opportunity to do that, I don’t think we’d hesitate for a minute” (emphasis added). It is important to keep this in mind when assessing the Russian operation. The public in the United States receives asymmetric information both about the cyber-exploitations of our adversaries (Americans hear loads more about adversary activity than U.S. government activity abroad) and about breaches (Americans hear loads more about adversary breaches of U.S. systems than U.S. breaches in adversary systems).

Third, knowledge of what the U.S. government is doing in this realm is necessary to assess, among other things, whether the current posture of U.S. activity in foreign networks is optimal. One important question is: does the United States gain more from living in adversary networks than adversaries gain from living in American networks? If not, might the United States pull back on some of its digital activities abroad in exchange for relief from the pain caused by our adversaries’ activities in our digital networks? I have suggested before that cooperation (in the sense of mutual restraint) may be the least bad approach to defending our networks, since the other approaches don’t seem to be working very well. There would be many challenges, of course, including clarity on what counts as cooperation—that is, what precisely will each side not do—and verification. But these do not seem to me insurmountable in theory, and are worth at least exploring. And yet U.S. government officials never publicly discuss restraint as a possible strategy.

Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠

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Michael Novakhov – SharedNewsLinks℠: Today’s Headlines and Commentary – Lawfare


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Today marks the beginning of the U.S.’s mass vaccination campaign against the coronavirus, reports the Wall Street Journal. A critical care nurse in Queens, New York was among the first to receive the shot this morning at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. Because early supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are limited, the first wave of three million doses will be largely reserved for frontline medical workers and residents of long-term care facilities. Pfizer expects to provide 25 million more doses to the U.S. by the month’s end, and the Food and Drug Administration may also approve Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine later in the week.

The U.S. government suspects that Russian hackers broke into the networks of federal agencies including the Treasury and Commerce departments, according to the Los Angeles Times. In a rare statement released yesterday, the Department of Homeland Security described the hacking operation as an “unacceptable risk to the executive branch.” The news comes days after a cybersecurity firm called FireEye disclosed that it had been breached in a potentially Russia-sponsored attack, allowing hackers to access tools for interfering with government clients.

Every four years, state officials certify their electoral college votes in a routine and low-profile fashion. Now that President Trump has refused to concede the November election, small-town electors are facing death threats and online harassment, writes the New York Times. Democratic electors in Michigan, for example, require police escorts from their cars into the state capitol building.

The Times also describes how a “resurgent nationalism” in China is dovetailing with the coronavirus pandemic. The Chinese Communist Party promotes the idea that China’s handling of the pandemic has proved the superiority of the authoritarian system over western democracies that have struggled to control the disease. “In this fight against the pandemic, there will be victorious powers and defeated ones,” said Wang Xiangsui, a retired Chinese senior colonel university professor in Beijing. “We’re a victor power, while the United States is still mired and, I think, may well become a defeated power.” Users on Chinese social media often extol the virtues of the Chinese state while attacking the West’s moral and political failings.

For the fifth consecutive day, demonstrators in Albania have taken to the streets to protest police violence, reports the Washington Post. The rally started after police shot and killed Khodim Rasha, a man who was breaking the coronavirus curfew, after he allegedly ignored the police’s orders to go home on Tuesday evening. The Albanian prime minister has apologized for the “inexplicable and completely unreasonable” shooting, and his interior minister resigned Thursday with a statement on Facebook.

The U.S. removed Sudan from the list of states that sponsor terrorism, writes the Associated Press. Following an April 2019 coup that ousted dictator Omar al-Bashir, Sudan has become a fragile democracy that’s jointly run by civilians and the military. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said that today his country “officially” rejoined the worldwide community and as “a peaceful nation supporting global stability.”

Reuters reports that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro is using the legal levers of the state to silence his critics. In August, Maduro requested that the state prosecutor conduct an “exhaustive investigation” into a lawmaker who had blasted his coronavirus response. In this case and more than 40 others, the president arrested people for speaking out against the government on dubious “hate crime” charges.

Over the past few weeks, the Justice Department and bipartisan state coalitions have waged major antitrust lawsuits against Google and Facebook. Politico now reports that another multi-state lawsuit will target Google after the holiday season. States have until Jan. 15 to join the suit, and the trial is not expected to begin until 2022.

The Supreme Court denied Kansas’s petition to require voters to show proof of citizenship before voting, writes the Kansas City Star. The state sought to overturn a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, which held that Kansas’s law—written by former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach—had illegally prevented thousands of citizens from voting in the 2014 midterm elections.

Following a New York Times column that described Pornhub as “infested with rape videos,” Pornhub announced today that it has taken down all videos posted by unverified users. According to TechCrunch, the pornography website calls the move “the most comprehensive safeguards in user-generated platform history.” All content posted by unverified users will be subject to company review in early 2021.

Critics in Brazil are condemning President Jair Bolsonaro’s recently released coronavirus plans as “murderous stupidity” and “lethal incompetence,” reports the South China Morning Post. The president failed to provide a timeline or logistical details about how he plans to vaccine the target of 70 percent of Brazilians.

ICYMI: This Weekend on Lawfare

As part of Lawfare’s Foreign Policy Essay Series, Shelby Grossman and Khadeja Ramali explained why foreign actors like Saudi Arabia are hiring firms to spread disinformation on social media.

Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.

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Mike Nova’s favorite articles on Inoreader: Italians return French Legion awards after el-Sissi gets one – Associated Press

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Italians return French Legion awards after el-Sissi gets one  Associated Press

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Mike Nova’s favorite articles on Inoreader: House Takes Historic Vote to Remove Cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act | Publications and Presentations

On Friday, December 4, 2020, the US House of Representatives took a historic step by passing legislation to remove cannabis (marijuana) from the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The “Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement Act of 2020,” H.R. 3884 (the MORE Act), was approved by a vote of 228 to 164. Libertarian Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan voted in favor, along with five Republicans who crossed party lines to support the bill, including Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), who is a cosponsor. Six Democrats voted against the legislation.

The House vote marked the first time in 50 years that a chamber of Congress has revisited the classification of cannabis as a federally controlled and prohibited substance. Since 1970, federal law has classified cannabis as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances, such as the hallucinogen lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and heroin, are substances that have “a high potential for abuse” with “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States” and that cannot safely be dispensed under a prescription. Schedule I substances may be used only for bona fide, federal government-approved research studies. Described below are the significant provisions of the MORE Act, as passed in the House.

Violations of the CSA’s marijuana ban have given rise to large fines and lengthy prison sentences that have been particularly disproportionate for Black Americans, other communities of color and low-income communities. A central aim of the MORE Act is to begin correcting these historical injustices by decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level, reassessing marijuana convictions, and investing in local communities. Thus the “de-scheduling” of marijuana, as well as tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, would apply retroactively to prior and pending convictions at the federal level.

As written, the MORE Act would leave in place the patchwork of state laws governing cannabis, including prohibitions as strict as those currently in place under the CSA, in some ways inverting the current “marijuana policy gap” between state and federal law. While every state once banned marijuana, since 1996, when California became the first state to legalize medical cannabis, states have been liberalizing their policies, creating a challenging policy gap for law enforcement, financial firms, patients, advocates, and entrepreneurs. To date, a total of 47 states have reformed their cannabis laws, with 36 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam now permitting legal access to cannabis for medical purposes; and 15 states, the District of Columbia, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands having adopted laws legalizing cannabis for adult use. Legal cannabis (marijuana) sales are projected to reach $23 billion by 2022.

Key provisions of the MORE Act include the establishment of a process for expunging federal cannabis offense convictions involving non-violent crimes for individuals convicted on or after May 1, 1971 (the effective date of the CSA) and before the date of enactment of the bill, and sealing of cannabis-related records. For individuals currently serving a criminal justice sentence for a federal cannabis offense, federal courts would consider motions for review and reduction of the sentence and potential expungement, and vacating and sealing of records. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that, over the 2021-2030 period, the bill would reduce time served by 73,000 person-years, among existing and future inmates. CBO’s analysis accounts for time served by offenders convicted of cannabis-only crimes and by those convicted of another crime in addition to a cannabis offense.

During consideration in the Rules Committee, prior to the floor vote, tax provisions included in the bill were substantially reworked, replacing a simple five percent ad valorem tax with one that rises to eight percent during the first five years of operation, and then is replaced by a tax by weight or by THC. In addition, the bill establishes occupational taxes for cannabis manufacturers and importers. These changes are similar to provisions originally proposed during the 113th Congress and re-introduced in this Congress by Congressman Blumenauer (D-OR) and Senator Wyden (D-OR) as the Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act (H.R.1120/S. 420). It is also noteworthy that, by removing cannabis from the CSA, the legislation would enable cannabis businesses to use credits and deductions without regard to Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code.

The additional tax provisions also required, in language similar to that found under 26 U.S.C. § 5723, that the cannabis for sale be in such packages and bear such marks as the Treasury Secretary prescribes. This indicates a regulatory approval process under the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau would be necessary for packaging and labeling.

The CBO, relying on the Joint Committee on Taxation, found that, if enacted, the legislation would generate $13.7 billion for the federal Treasury in the next decade, and that the excise taxes in particular, would generate about $5.7 billion during that period. The revenue from the excise taxes would go to an “Opportunity Trust Fund,” which supports three grant programs:

  1. A Community Reinvestment Grant Program, which would provide services to individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, including job training, re-entry services, legal aid, literacy programs, youth recreation, mentoring, and substance use treatment;
  2. A Cannabis Opportunity Grant Program, which would provide funds for loans to assist small businesses in the marijuana industry that are owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals; and
  3. An Equitable Licensing Grant Program, which would provide funds for programs that minimize barriers to marijuana licensing and employment for the individuals most adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.

The congressional drafters concluded these programs were necessary for reasons made clear in the report accompanying the legislation from the House Committee on the Judiciary:

The collateral consequences of even an arrest for marijuana possession can be devastating, especially if a felony conviction results. Those arrested can be saddled with a criminal conviction that can make it difficult or impossible to vote, obtain educational loans, get a job, maintain a professional license, secure housing, secure government assistance, or even adopt a child. These exclusions create an often-permanent second-class status for millions of Americans. Like drug war enforcement itself, these consequences fall disproportionately on people of color.

The MORE Act would also open up Small Business Administration funding for legitimate cannabis-related businesses and service providers, making loan opportunities available to small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, facilitate states’ implementation of equitable cannabis licensing programs, and ensure that Veteran Business Outreach Centers are able to provide services to otherwise eligible small business concerns.

The legislation extends various protections for individuals convicted of offenses for using or possessing marijuana. Protections include prohibiting the denial of federal public benefits (including housing) and impairment of any benefit or protection under the immigration laws based on marijuana-conviction grounds. It would also require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to collect data on the demographics of the industry to ensure people of color and those who are economically disadvantaged are participating in the industry, and would direct the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study and report to Congress concerning the societal impacts of the legalization of adult-use cannabis by states and concerning the uses of marijuana and its byproducts for purposes relating to the health, including the mental health, of veterans.

The MORE Act does not address other existing federal regulatory regimes applicable to cannabis. For instance, the bill expressly preserves the authority of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived compounds under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and section 351 of the Public Health Service Act, 42 U.S.C. § 262, which give the FDA authority to regulate products that contain cannabis and compounds derived from it, including cannabidiol (CBD).

The FD&C Act applies to all prescription drugs and prohibits the “introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate commerce of any . . . drug . . . that is adulterated or misbranded.” Because CBD is the active ingredient in an FDA-approved prescription drug, FDA has taken the position that cannabis and cannabis-derived compounds, including THC and CBD, require FDA approval before they may be added to foods, sold as dietary supplements, or marketed for therapeutic use. Given the growing market and public demand for cannabis-derived products, however, the MORE Act directs the FDA to hold “no less than one public meeting” within a year of enactment to address regulatory issues raised by these products. Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the House in the 116th Congress to amend the FD&C Act to establish a framework for hemp-derived CBD and other hemp-derived ingredients to be legally marketed as an ingredient in dietary supplements.

The MORE Act also expressly preserves the ability of the federal government to continue testing federal employees for marijuana use as part of routine drug testing.

The bill also does not address the current barriers to research on the health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids. After passage of the MORE Act, House leadership announced a vote on the floor for next week on legislation that would make medical marijuana research easier. The bill, the “Medical Marijuana Research Act,” H.R. 3797, led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Andy Harris (R-MD), received strong support from both sides of the aisle when it was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee last September, and is likely to pass in the House. With a limited number of legislative days remaining in the 116th Congress, it is unlikely that this bill will pass the Senate before Congress adjourns. However, given broad bipartisan support for opening up marijuana research, it is highly possible that marijuana research legislation could pass both chambers in the 117th Congress.

Additional provisions of the bill would ensure that the US Department of Transportation and the Coast Guard may continue to issue regulations and test for the unauthorized presence of or illegal use of marijuana by certain transportation employees in sensitive safety positions.

In order to become law, the legislation would need to be passed by the Senate and signed by the President to become law. Given opposition from Senate Republicans and limited time remaining in the 116th Congress, this is highly unlikely. Indeed, many Republican lawmakers used the vote to take political shots at the House Democrats for, “picking weed over workers,” as Minority Leader McCarthy asserted in a tweet. While political opposition is generally to be expected, it was noticeable that few of the negative comments from lawmakers were substantively about cannabis reform. One of the few Republican lawmakers who voted to support the bill pointed out, following the vote:

If we were measuring the success of the war on drugs, it would be hard to conclude anything other than the fact that drugs have won . . . the American people do not support the policies of incarceration, limited research, limited choice and particularly constraining medical application.

Other Republicans support federal reform, but object to the manner in which the taxes are structured and provisions like the Opportunity Trust Fund. For example, Rep. Dave Joyce (R-OH), who is the co-chair of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, voted no, raising concerns about the tax provisions and potential unfairness of the proposed federal grant programs for existing medical marijuana operators.

Still, the bill enjoys prominent support in the Senate, as Vice President-elect Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the companion bill (S. 2227) and many observers argue that chances for passage of reform measures continue to increase. As the leaders of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus wrote to their colleagues prior to the House vote on the MORE Act:

One of the biggest winners of the 2020 election was cannabis reform. Americans in five very different states voted overwhelmingly to liberalize their cannabis policies and it is clearer than ever that the American people are demanding a change to outdated cannabis laws.

Merging the business interests of the tax and regulatory aspects of the legislation with a social justice narrative should expand support for the legislation in both parties. While this legislation will not be enacted in the 116th Congress, the work done in this bill lays substantial groundwork for the eventual legalization of cannabis.

The MORE Act provides a key starting point for companies participating in or watching the growing cannabis market, and context for understanding the dynamics and nature of the future federal legal framework. We will continue to monitor legislative developments in this area and encourage readers to contact the authors of this Advisory or their usual Arnold & Porter contact for more information.

© Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP 2020 All Rights Reserved. This Advisory is intended to be a general summary of the law and does not constitute legal advice. You should consult with counsel to determine applicable legal requirements in a specific fact situation.

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Mike Nova’s favorite articles on Inoreader: 1. World from Michael_Novakhov (27 sites): FOX News: California police officer delivers pizza after arresting delivery driver

As long as the pizza shows up, it doesn’t matter who brings it.

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Mike Nova’s favorite articles on Inoreader: Trump Investigations from Michael_Novakhov (126 sites): MintPress News: Netanyahu’s Days May Be Numbered, but a Cadre of Far-Right Fanatics Wait in the Wings

Israel is due to hold elections for the fourth time in just two years. The Israeli election commission has yet to announce the precise date, but it seems fairly certain that elections will take place in March of 2021, demonstrating once again that Israel is unstable and likely to become even more dangerous than it already is today.

All eyes are on Benjamin Netanyahu and how he might manage to remain in the Prime Minister’s seat. But all eyes should, in fact, be on two men that are far more dangerous than Netanyahu. They are the two standard-bearers of the Zionist religious right, Naftali Bennett and Bezalel Smotrich. These two men are the most radical, uncompromising, religious-nationalist radicals in Israeli politics today. They are ambitious and politically savvy, and if they get their way, then what the Russian Ambassador in Tel-Aviv said in an interview recently, that Israel is a destabilizing factor in the region, will soon be considered an understatement.

 

Gaining power

The religious Zionist movement has, until recently, been treated as a fringe group, but they have long been on the cutting edge of the Zionist project, and most post-1967 Zionist expansion can be credited to them. Their relentless activism and zealous belief that God is on their side have in many ways shaped the Zionist state. Netanyahu may be the only person capable of keeping them somewhat contained.

Over the past few decades, these religious fanatics managed to become the darlings of the Zionist mainstream. On the one hand, they seem friendly and generous in their desire to see all Jewish people thrive in their “ancestral homeland.” On the other, they are feared and despised. Either way, they have considerable political strength and influence and have reached a point where their agenda is no longer seen as fringe or radical. They are dedicated and effective in all areas where they serve. They perform well in both the military and civil service, and both have the capacity to reach the very top of the political pyramid.

 

Naftali Bennett

A piece in the Israeli daily Haaretz, comparing Netanyahu to Bennett, claims that “They both get their inspiration from the right-wing in the United States and in Israel, the Bible and Ayn Rand, and believe that the strong are right. But as a kippa-wearer and an entrepreneur who made a profitable exit, Bennett beats his rival hands down. Netanyahu might know how to quote the Bible and Ayn Rand, but Bennett fulfills them with his actions and his way of life.”

The piece goes on to say that “Bennett is undoubtedly the most impressive Israeli politician who has emerged over the past decade. Instead of the prime minister’s miserliness and glory-hounding, which has led him to indictment, Bennett is seen as go-getter without affectations who pays his way.”

Netanyahu, right, and Bennett pose for a photos with children in the Arab town of Tamra, Sept. 1, 2016. Sebastian Scheiner | AP

Indeed it seems that today many Israelis hang their hopes on “Hayamin Hahadash” party Chairman Naftali Bennett as their savior. In the opinion polls, where he has soared to 22 Knesset seats, he is seen as a leading candidate in the race to the premiership. This is unprecedented for someone who represents not just the radical right but the religious Zionist right.

While serving as defense minister, Bennett said, “the ICC comes from an antisemitic starting point, such that Israel will always lose because it is the Jewish State and Israel should not try to ingratiate itself to the court.”  Further, he is quoted as saying, “The Hague is the workshop of modern antisemitism.”

 

War criminal

Bennett has served as an officer in some of the IDF’s most murderous terror units and is known to defend IDF soldiers and commanders who commit war crimes. During Israel’s 1996 criminal excursion into southern Lebanon, Bennett commanded a reconnaissance unit and personally ordered an artillery attack on the UN compound in Qana village, where hundreds of Lebanese civilians had taken shelter. The attack caused the death of over 100 civilians who had fled there to take shelter.

Several decades later, when another war criminal, Ofer Vinter, a friend and comrade in arms of Bennett, commanded the notoriously murderous “Givati” Brigade that murdered countless civilians in the Gaza Strip, Bennett said Vinter and his soldiers deserve medals. Vinter, too, comes from the radical religious Zionist right and has since been promoted general. As for his own conduct, Bennett admitted publicly on Israeli television that “I killed many Arabs in my life, and I have no problem with that.”

 

Bezalel Smotrich

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz, reported how Smotrich justifies his support for the segregation between Jews and non-Jews in Israeli maternity wards, “My Wife Wouldn’t Want to Give Birth Next to an Arab Woman,” Smotrich says. He continues that he “doesn’t want his wife lying next to a woman whose baby will murder his child in another 20 years.”

David Friedman Bezalel Smotrich

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, right, speaks to Smotrich during a 2017 visit to an Israeli Yeshiva. Photo | US Embassy

Smotrich is one of the founders of the Regavim organization, known for its campaigns to terrorize Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the West Bank. In their well-funded campaigns, they claim Palestinians are “stealing Jewish land and water, taking over lands that are not theirs, and building illegally.” It’s a radical organization of right-wing religious Zionists who promote racism and violence.

Smotrich has been at the forefront of a relentless attack by the religious Zionist right against the Israeli High Court. Along with the rest of Israel’s religious right political block, he has been pushing for resources and support for Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and through his Regavim organization, actively terrorizing Palestinians throughout Palestine.

 

Three choices

“The Land of Israel was desolate and empty,” Smotrich stated, referring to Palestine as “Eretz Yisrael.”

We returned to this land after two thousand years and found sand and Malaria and we brought progress. We are very hospitable people, and the Arabs are welcome to remain here as our guests as long as they accept that this is a Jewish state. Any Arabs who have national aspirations can go somewhere else to other Arab countries.”

In a rare speech delivered in English, he added that “Only when they [the Palestinian people, MP] give up on their national aspirations here in the Land of Israel will there be a chance for peace.”

Smotrich claims that there are no Palestinian people and that the Arabs who reside in Israel have three choices. The first is to remain in the state of Israel as residents with no political rights. They may live here and enjoy the progress the Jews brought here to Israel’s otherwise desolate land, and they can enjoy the fruits of “our” labor. They may vote in local elections and have some control over their local government but not on a national level.

The second choice is to leave and live anywhere else, or as he calls it, “they can pick any Daesh or ISIS country that they want.” “All around you see wars and Arabs killing and eating each other alive, so they can go there if they want.”

The third option is that “we will see them through the sight of a gun.” If the Arabs decide to stay and fight, they will die.” Smotrich also considers this a choice that works.

Smotrich is careful not to discuss the issue of Jerusalem and the building of a so-called “Jewish Temple” to replace the 1,500-year-old Al-Aqsa Mosque, a mainstay of the religious Zionist right. While detailed plans are being made and millions of dollars invested to that end, all he says is that this will be done in accordance with the will of the Almighty.

Smotrich has referred to Arabs as uncivilized and barbaric and referred to himself as a “proud homophobe” and the Gay Pride Parade as a “parade of beasts.” He called the Palestinian Bedouin a demographic ticking time bomb and said something must be done about their fast growth as a community. He has no problem with Jewish people having large families, quite the opposite, that, he says, is a “blessing.”

 

The face of Israel

Tamar Zandberg, a member of Knesset from the left-leaning Zionist Meretz party, said that “the face of the generation is the face of Smotrich.” While speaking in the Knesset, she outlined policy after policy from the Smotrich playbook all of which have been adopted by the Israeli government.

While every democratic society has had to deal with its own right-wing fanatics, Israel has provided them with a platform, funding, and weapons of mass destruction. As the U.S. and Israel point to Iran as a potential nuclear threat, the real threat comes from Israel, where Bennett and Smotrich can get their hands on Israeli nukes.

Smotrich is admittedly one of the most serious, effective, and hard-working politicians in the Israeli Knesset and has managed to create an image of a caring politician, albeit with an extreme anti-Palestinian and anti-left agenda. Together with Bennett, who is more of a political heavyweight, they will either replace Netanyahu or be in positions to wield even more power.

Feature photo | Naftali Bennett, the charismatic new leader of Israel’s Jewish religious right, speaks in Ashdod. Ariel Schalit | AP

Miko Peled is an author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. He is the author of “The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

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