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Ronn Blitzer

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who is challenging President Trump in the Republican primaries, proclaimed Monday that the president committed treason through his controversial phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — adding that the punishment for treason is death.

The statement drew a swift rebuke from the Trump campaign.

“The media’s affliction with Trump Derangement Syndrome has driven them into an actual discussion of the proposed execution of the President of the United States,” communications director Tim Murtaugh told Fox News. “In severe cases of TDS such as this, immediate consultation with a physician is recommended.”

Weld was responding to claims that Trump pressured Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden — the son of former vice president and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden — and threatened to withhold military aid to Ukraine as leverage. Trump has denied wrongdoing.

“Talk about pressuring a foreign country to interfere with and control a U.S. election, it couldn’t be clearer. And that’s not just undermining democratic institutions, that is treason,” Weld said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “It’s treason pure and simple. And the penalty for treason under the U.S. Code is death. That’s the only penalty.”

Weld then referred to impeachment as a possible alternative to a criminal case, stating, “The penalty under the Constitution is removal from office, and that might look like a pretty good alternative to the president if he could work out a plea deal.”

Weld’s mention of the death penalty later ignited a conversation about the “legal framework” of the claim. Weld again said, “The only penalty for treason is death, it’s spelled out in the statute.”

While the U.S. Code does list the death penalty as a punishment for treason, Weld’s claim that it is the only penalty is false. Treason is covered by 18. U.S. Code § 2381, which says that a person guilty of treason “shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.”

When Fox News asked Weld’s campaign about this, they did not immediately respond.

Weld’s comments came during a joint television appearance with the two other longshot Republicans challenging Trump in next year’s primary: former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford and former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh. They have joined together to protest the canceling of GOP presidential primaries in some states in 2020.

Author: Ronn Blitzer

Source: Fox News: Bill Weld suggests Trump could face execution over Ukraine phone call

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., promised that guilty parties will be held accountable after Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz releases his report on the FBI’s alleged abuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in the Russia investigation, and predicted that former bureau leaders James Comey and Andrew McCabe will face criminal charges after what he described as an attempted “coup” to take down President Trump.

The report will address concerns with whether or not the FBI acted improperly in obtaining a FISA warrant to monitor former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in the early stages of their investigation of Russian election interference and possible Trump campaign connections. The Inspector General’s office has already turned over a draft of its findings to Attorney General Bill Barr, and a final report is expected in the near future.

“We came the closest ever to this country having a coup, and now we need accountability,” McCarthy told Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” “I respect this attorney general so greatly, that the way he has handled this, he believes in accountability, but more importantly, he believes in the rule of law.”

When asked if there will really be accountability, McCarthy promised, “Yes.”

James Comey and Andrew McCabe, who were the director and deputy director of the FBI when the Russia probe began, have been the subjects of separate IG investigations, and McCarthy believes they will both face consequences.

“We will see an indictment,” he said of McCabe, who is facing the prospect of federal charges after Horowitz faulted him in a separate inquiry over statements he made during a Hillary Clinton-related investigation. The review found that McCabe “lacked candor” when talking with investigators, but the former FBI official has denied wrongdoing. Washington, D.C., U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu recommended charges against McCabe after the DOJ rejected his appeal.

Comey was chastised in a recent report from Horowitz that discussed how Comey improperly maintained records of his conversations with President Trump, and leaked sensitive information about the investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. While the report found that Comey violated department policy, the DOJ opted not to press charges. McCarthy believes that there will be more to come for Comey.

“In the end, I do not believe that Jim Comey will get off,” McCarthy predicted, adding, “Anyone that has had any association with trying to create this coup should be held accountable.”

After President Trump fired Comey in May 2017, McCabe became acting director of the FBI. McCabe’s tenure at the FBI came to an end in March 2018 when then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired him in the wake of the IG report of his misstatements.

Republicans claim that the FBI, under Comey and McCabe’s leadership, misrepresented key information in applying for the FISA warrant for Page in October 2016 — and three subsequent renewals — and improperly relied on an unverified dossier compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele.

Horowitz’s team has questioned why the FBI considered Steele a credible source, and why the bureau seemed to use news reports to bolster Steele’s credibility.

Fox News’ Alex Pappas, Catherine Herridge, and Jake Gibson contributed to this report.

Author: Ronn Blitzer

Source: Fox News: McCarthy promises accountability as Barr reviews IG’s FISA report: ‘The closest we’ve ever seen to a coup’

Supreme Court says Peace Cross war memorial can stay

The Supreme Court has ruled that a Peace Cross war memorial on public land outside Washington, D.C., can stand; Shannon Bream reports on the 7-2 decision.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Peace Cross war memorial on public land outside Washington, D.C., can stand, determining in a 7-2 decision that it does not violate the Constitution.

Residents of Prince George’s County, Maryland and the American Humanist Association (AHA) had sued to have the cross taken down, and the American Legion, whose symbol is also on the memorial, intervened to defend it. While the residents and AHA claimed that a cross memorial on public land violated the Constitution, the Court determined that factors, including the history of the memorial, support the idea that it is not religious in nature.

“For nearly a century, the Bladensburg Cross has expressed the community’s grief at the loss of the young men who perished, its thanks for their sacrifice, and its dedication to the ideals for which they fought,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the court’s opinion. Alito noted that while this particular cross does not serve a religious purpose, removing it because it is a cross would be a religiously charged action.

“It has become a prominent community landmark, and its removal or radical alteration at this date would be seen by many not as a neutral act but as the manifestation of ‘a hostility toward religion that has no place in our Establishment Clause traditions,’” he wrote, quoting Justice Breyer’s concurrence in the 2005 decision in Van Orden v. Perry.

The court’s decision reverses the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that the cross was unconstitutional.

The 7-2 majority on Thursday cited the structure’s historical nature in its narrowly drawn decision, saying the Latin cross design reflected the nationwide trend at the time it was erected to honor war dead with community monuments. The cross was associated with World War I, and the Court noted that the U.S. used it in military honors, such as the Distinguished Service Cross in 1918 and Navy Cross in 1919.

The Bladensburg Peace Cross, as it is known, sits in a traffic circle in the Washington suburbs to honor 49 local World War I soldiers who died in battle overseas.

Its supporters, including the Trump administration, said it was created solely to honor those heroes and is secular in nature. Opponents called it an impermissible overlap of church and state, since it is controlled and cared for by a Maryland parks commission.

The Court noted that while the cross has its roots in Christianity, it currently appears contexts that are “indisputably secular,” such as trademarks for Blue Cross Blue Shield, Bayer Group, and certain products from Johnson & Johnson.

The Court also made a distinction between keeping established monuments with religious symbols, like the Peace Cross, and erecting new ones, stating, “Familiarity itself can become a reason for preservation,” and, “The passage of time gives rise to a strong presumption of constitutionality.”

Even AHA recognized that cross memorials may be permissible in some cases, like certain World War I Latin crosses in Arlington National Cemetery. While AHA claimed that those crosses are different because they are in a cemetery and are more associated with individual soldiers, the Court said that does not make a difference, as memorials serve the same purpose as gravestones for many grieving families.

Ultimately, the Court determined that despite the religious significance of crosses in general, this particular memorial does not violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, even though public funds are used for its upkeep.

“[T]there is no evidence of discriminatory intent in the selection of the design of the memorial or the decision of a Maryland commission to maintain it,” the Court said. “The Religion Clauses of the Constitution aim to foster a society in which people of all beliefs can live together harmoniously, and the presence of the Bladensburg Cross on the land where it has stood for so many years is fully consistent with that aim.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg took issue with the notion that a cross could be secularized just because it serves as a war memorial.

“Just as a Star of David is not suitable to honor Christians who died serving their country, so a cross is not suitable to honor those of other faiths who died defending their nation,” she wrote in a dissenting opinion, where she was joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. The dissent claimed that by having the Peace Cross on a public highway, the government “elevates Christianity over other faiths, and religion over nonreligion.”

Fox News’ Bill Mears and Shannon Bream contributed to this report.

Author: Ronn Blitzer

Source: Fox News: Supreme Court rules Peace Cross war memorial can stand

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