Saturday, March 4, 2017

Trump Advisers Call For A 'Purge' Of Obama Appointees

Zero Hedge ^ | 3-3-2017 | Tyler Durden 

Earlier this week, in an appearance on Fox News, Trump confirmed his beliefs that Obama is behind the litany of leaks that have plagued his administration over the past couple of months.
"No, I think he [Obama] is behind it, because his people are certainly behind it. I also think it is politics, that's the way it is."
And while the source of the leaks may be easy to deduce, the appropriate response is not so easy to implement. That said, there is a growing chorus of advisers to the President who are urging him to purge the government of former Obama political appointees and quickly install more people who are loyal to him.
Newt Gingrich is among those calling for such a purge...per Politico:
"His playbook should be to get rid of the Obama appointees immediately," said Newt Gingrich, a top surrogate. "There are an amazing number of decisions that are being made by appointees that are totally opposed to Trump and everything he stands for. Who do you think those people are responding to?"
Gingrich added: "Ninety-five percent of the bureaucrats are against him."
Meanwhile, Gingrinch offered a backhanded compliment to Schumer, saying "I didn't get it early on. This is not about slowing down the Cabinet. This is about keeping working control of the government for Obama. It's actually very shrewd on Schumer's part."
Gingrich said he blamed Sen. Chuck Schumer for slow-walking the nominees, though Schumer's office notes that many of the picks were not properly vetted: At least three have already dropped out. The Office of Government Ethics remains overwhelmed with applications now, "but they are beginning to catch up," one person involved in the nominations said. At many agencies, no top positions are filled, which means the layers of political appointees...

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A Closer Look at Neil Gorsuch, an Excellent Choice for the Supreme Court

The Heritage Foundation ^ | Feb 1st, 2017 | John Malcolm, Elizabeth Slattery, Tiffany Bates 

Key Takeaways

Gorsuch is an eminently qualified and well-respected judge. He would be a fine successor to Scalia.
Gorsuch has written several notable opinions that are likely to be scrutinized during his confirmation hearing.
Democrats have announced their intention to try to filibuster any nominee but it will be hard for them to make a case against Gorsuch.

Tuesday night, President Donald Trump announced his nomination for the Supreme Court vacancy left by the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February.
Trump nominated Judge Neil M. Gorsuch of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. With this nomination, Trump held to the promise he made on the campaign trail to select a nominee from a list of 21 individuals .
Gorsuch is an eminently qualified and well-respected judge with a record that demonstrates he cares about religious liberty, the separation of powers, and the original public meaning of the Constitution and the laws he interprets. He would be a fine successor to Scalia.
Now, the confirmation process begins for Gorsuch. It can be a harrowing process for a nominee and his family as senators, the media, and others dig into his past—particularly looking for scandals and juicy details that might derail the nomination.
Let’s take a closer look at Gorsuch.
Born in 1967, Gorsuch sits on the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. He received his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University, his law degree from Harvard University, and his doctorate of philosophy from Oxford University.
But Gorsuch is not the only credentialed member of his family. His mother, Anne Gorsuch Burford, served as the first female head of the Environmental Protection Agency, under President Ronald Reagan.
After serving as a law clerk to Judge David Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and Justices Byron White and Anthony Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court, Gorsuch joined a prominent D.C. law firm, where he practiced for 10 years.
He then served as principal deputy to the associate attorney general and as acting associate attorney general (the third-highest position) at the U.S. Department of Justice.
In May 2006, President George W. Bush nominated and the Senate confirmed Gorsuch to the 10th Circuit by a voice vote just two months later. His former boss, Kennedy, administered the oath of office.
Before joining the bench, Gorsuch authored “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia” (2006), a book that, as Princeton University Press described it, “builds a nuanced, novel, and powerful moral and legal argument against legalization [of assisted suicide and euthanasia], one based on a principle that, surprisingly, has largely been overlooked in the debate—the idea that human life is intrinsically valuable and that intentional killing is always wrong.”
After joining the bench, he co-authored “The Law of Judicial Precedent” (2016) with the highly-respected legal writer Bryan Garner (who co-authored several books with Scalia) and 11 other federal appellate judges.
Gorsuch has also critiqued the left’s increasing preference to resort to the courts instead of the political process to advance its policy goals. In a 2005 op-ed, he wrote :
American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education. This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary … As a society, we lose the benefit of the give-and-take of the political process and the flexibility of social experimentation that only the elected branches can provide.
Gorsuch has criticized the judicial confirmation process and decried treating would-be judges as “little more than politicians with robes.”
Approach to Judging
During the campaign, Trump pledged to nominate an individual who was “very much in the mold of” Scalia.
One recent study singled out Gorsuch as one of the top judges whose approach to interpreting the law was closest to that of Scalia’s approach. Gorsuch ranked second out of 15 judges in “Scalia-ness,” surpassed only by Utah Supreme Court Justice Thomas Lee.
When it comes to interpreting statutes and the Constitution, a Supreme Court justice must keep uppermost in mind that he did not write the text and should not attempt to rewrite that text through creative “interpretation” to mean something quite different from what was intended by its drafters, but which the justice personally considers more fair, wise, or just.
In other words, a justice should interpret the text and structure of a statute, or the Constitution, based on the original public meaning of that text at the time it was adopted, and should not, under the guise of statutory or constitutional interpretation, impose on the rest of society his own policy preferences based on his perceptions of contemporary values.
Gorsuch gives every indication that he will be just such a justice if he is confirmed by the Senate. He has demonstrated that he understands the proper, limited scope of the judicial power.
During his 10th Circuit confirmation hearing he stated, “The independence of the judiciary depends upon people in both parties being willing to serve, good people being willing to serve who are capable and willing to put aside their personal politics and preferences to decide cases and to follow the law and not try and make it.”
He has since written ,
… donning a robe doesn’t make me any smarter. But the robe does mean something … It serves as a reminder of what’s expected of us—what [Edmund] Burke called the ‘cold neutrality of an impartial judge.’ It serves, too, as a reminder of the relatively modest station we’re meant to occupy in a democratic society. In other places, judges wear scarlet and ermine. Here, we’re told to buy our own plain black robes.
In a concurring opinion in 2016 , Gorsuch wrote that the Constitution “isn’t some inkblot on which litigants may project their hopes and dreams … but a carefully drafted text judges are charged with applying according to its original public meaning.”
Gorsuch leaves his personal views at home. During his confirmation hearing, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., questioned Gorsuch about how his views on assisted suicide and euthanasia would affect his judging.
Each case, Gorsuch said, deserves the “complete attention of the judge without being diverted by personal politics, policy preferences, or what you ate for breakfast.” He later added that he would “follow the law as written and not replace it with [his] own preferences, or anyone else’s.”
In a tribute to Scalia, Gorsuch wrote that “legislators may appeal to their own moral convictions and to claims about social utility to reshape the law as they think it should be in the future,” but that “judges should instead strive (if humanly and so imperfectly) to apply the law as it is, focusing backward, not forward, and looking to text, structure, and history to decide what a reasonable reader at the time of the events in question would have understood the law to be—not to decide cases based on their own moral convictions or the policy consequences they believe might serve society best.”
He quoted Scalia, saying:
If you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach. If you like them all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.
He also wrote that he was “an adherent to the view that outcomes (ends) do not justify methods (means).”
Notable Opinions
Gorsuch has written several notable opinions, some of which are described below, that are likely to be scrutinized during his confirmation hearing.
Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch
Courts will typically defer to an administrative agency’s interpretation of an ambiguous statute if that interpretation is reasonable. Known as “Chevron deference,” this practice is controversial and often criticized by conservatives .
In 2016, Gorsuch authored a separate concurring opinion, explicitly calling Chevron deference into question. He wrote, “ … the fact is Chevron … permit[s] executive bureaucracies to swallow huge amounts of core judicial and legislative power and concentrate federal power in a way that seems more than a little difficult to square with the Constitution of the framers’ design.”
He added, “[m]aybe the time has come to face the behemoth.”
United States v. Ackerman (2016)
When an AOL filter identified what appeared to be child pornography in Walter Ackerman’s email, it forwarded the email to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) (a quasi-governmental body), which then completed an investigation and notified the police.
After being indicted by a federal grand jury for possessing and distributing child pornography, Ackerman filed suit, claiming NCMEC violated the Fourth Amendment when it searched his emails without a warrant.
Writing for the majority, Gorsuch determined that the Fourth Amendment applied to NCMEC since its “law enforcement powers extend well beyond those enjoyed by private citizens” and that NCMEC conducted a “search” within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment. The case was remanded for the district court to determine whether the search was nevertheless reasonable.
United States v. Carloss
In this 2016 case, the 10th Circuit held that police did not violate Ralph Carloss’ Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure when they walked onto his property to knock on the front door, even though there were four plainly visible “No Trespassing” signs.
Gorsuch dissented, writing that the signs revoked the officers’ implied license to walk onto the property and knock on the front door. He emphasized that under the majority’s bold view, “[a] homeowner may post as many No Trespassing signs as she wishes. She might add a wall or a medieval-style moat, too. Maybe razor wire and battlements and mantraps besides. Even that isn’t enough to revoke the state’s right to enter.”
Hobby Lobby v. Burwell
Gorsuch joined the en banc opinion in this 2013 case challenging the regulation issued pursuant to Obamacare that would force employers to pay for contraception and abortifacients as part of their employee health insurance plans—even if they had a religious objection.
The government argued that there were too many steps between the employer paying for coverage and the employee’s decision to use contraception for an employer’s free exercise of religion to be substantially burdened.
The court rejected this argument. Gorsuch concurred in the decision holding that Hobby Lobby was likely to succeed on the merits of its claim. He wrote that “it is not for secular courts to rewrite the religious complaint of a faithful adherent, or to decide whether a religious teaching about complicity imposes ‘too much’ moral disapproval on those only ‘indirectly’ assisting wrongful conduct.”
Gorsuch also joined 11 other judges in dissent when the full 10th Circuit refused to rehear Little Sisters of the Poor v. Burwell, a similar case involving religious nonprofits. The Supreme Court heard the case last term and in an unusual opinion agreed that the government could not force employers , such as the Little Sisters of the Poor, to violate their faith.

The consolidated cases were remanded for the lower courts to reconsider the claims brought by the Little Sisters of the Poor and others that the regulations violate their religious exercise in light of the government’s admission that it could indeed provide contraceptive coverage without the Little Sisters’ collaboration.
Also in the religious liberty context, Gorsuch joined a dissent from denial of rehearing en banc in Summum v. Pleasant Grove City , a case involving whether a city could put up a privately donated Ten Commandments monument in a city park to the exclusion of another proposed monument.

The Supreme Court ultimately reversed the 10th Circuit in an opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, relying in part on the dissent. Gorsuch has also dissented from denial of rehearing en banc in two other cases, criticizing the Supreme Court’s confused Establishment Clause jurisprudence.

Planned Parenthood Association of Utah v. Herbert
After national news broke alleging Planned Parenthood harvested and illegally sold the body parts of aborted babies, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert directed state agencies to stop the flow of federal funds to Planned Parenthood in Utah.
In 2016, the 10th Circuit granted Planned Parenthood’s request for a preliminary injunction and ordered the governor to fund Planned Parenthood.
When the 10th Circuit refused to hear the case en banc, Gorsuch dissented, criticizing the panel for applying the wrong standard of review and for relaxing Planned Parenthood’s burden of proof.
The Coming Fight
Gorsuch has a record that demonstrates his fidelity to the Constitution and a proper understanding of the role of courts.
In his announcement this evening, Trump noted that Gorsuch has “outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline, and he’s earned bipartisan support.” Gorsuch is “a man who our country needs badly to ensure the rule of law.”
While Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and other Senate Democrats have already announced their intention to try to filibuster any nominee, it will be a hard case for them to make given Gorsuch’s impressive record and clear commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law.

The Democratic Party is facing a demographic crisis ^ 

In 2008, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama outperformed his predecessors John Kerry and Al Gore with virtually every single demographic group, handily defeating his Republican rival John McCain.
This success spread to down-ballot races as well. Democrats expanded control over the House and the Senate, and they controlled most governorships and state legislatures nationwide.
Many progressives came to believe these results were not a fluke. Obama’s coalition seemed to herald an emerging Democratic majority that stood to reshape politics as we know it.
The logic was simple. Most of those who are young, college-educated, women or minorities lean left. Older white men leaned right, but whites were declining as a portion of the electorate due to immigration and interracial unions. Therefore, as the older generation passed away and a younger, more diverse and more educated cohort stepped into the fore, America would become more progressive in an enduring way.
Right now, these predictions are not looking so good. In a virtual inversion of 2008, only worse, Republicans control both chambers of Congress and stand to expand their control of the Senate in 2018. Republicans also dominate state legislatures and governorships nationwide.
It may be tempting to hold onto the faith in an emerging Democratic majority. Some predict Trump will self-destruct and his followers will be consigned to irrelevance, to the “wrong side of history,” as President Obama often phrased it.
On the one hand, as a social psychologist, I understand this impulse toward comforting thoughts. However, given my background in applied social epistemology, I also know it is imperative for progressives to have a clear-eyed view of the situation at hand.
The Democratic Party is in crisis. Demographics will be unlikely to save them. If anything, the trend seems to be going in the other direction. From ballot counting to exit polls
The Democratic coalition rapidly deteriorated after the 2008 election. In the 2010 midterms, the Democrats lost the House in the most sweeping congressional reversal of the preceding 62 years. The hole only got deeper in 2014, as the Senate also came under Republican control.
Between 2008 and 2016, there was a dramatic downward trajectory across presidential races as well.
In 2008, Barack Obama beat John McCain by 192 Electoral College votes and 8.54 million popular votes. In 2012, he beat Mitt Romney by just 126 electoral votes and 3.48 million popular votes. Obama’s margin of victory, while objectively comfortable, represented a 59 percent decline in the size of his popular vote lead.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.87 million votes. Even if she had won the presidency, her performance would have marked another steep decline in Democrats’ margin of victory, down a whopping 66 percent from 2008. It would have been the narrowest popular vote margin of any winning candidate since the 2000 election.
However, Clinton’s popular vote lead came overwhelmingly from densely populated and left-leaning states like California. Relative to Barack Obama, she underperformed in key midwestern states, ultimately losing the Electoral College by 74 votes and costing the Democrats the White House.
To better understand this loss, I turned to exit polls, surveys of voters taken directly after voting. Exit polls are a great resource for understanding why a Democratic majority has failed to emerge over the last 10 years. They are specifically designed to help pundits and analysts make sense of electoral outcomes and produce narrative frames.
New York Times exit poll data from the last three midterm and presidential cycles reveals distinct longitudinal trends across demographic dimensions such as gender, race, age, income, educational attainment and ideological alignment.
As one might imagine given the Democrats’ breathtaking electoral collapse, there is basically nothing but bad news for Democrats across the board. The data showed that the voting patterns of key demographic groups shifted dramatically downward from 2008 through 2016.
A reality check
Despite these trends, many popular narratives about the 2016 election seem to reinforce the concept of an emerging Democratic majority.
For instance, there is a common misconception that Trump was ushered into power by old, white, economically disenfranchised men. However, according to the exit polls, Trump actually did worse than Romney among whites and seniors, but outperformed him among blacks, Asians, Hispanics and young people.
While the Democrats lost a lot of support among low-income Americans, I think it would be a mistake to interpret these as Trump’s base. He won a plurality of every income bracket above US$50,000 as well. He also won more non-Christian and nonreligious voters than any Republican since the 2000 election.
However the biggest surprise of 2016 probably relates to gender. The first major party female candidate for president, running against a notorious misogynist, captured the Democrats’ lowest share of female voters since 2004. And although Trump also got a lower share of female voters than his last three Republican predecessors, he nonetheless won over a majority of white women.
Granted, Trump’s candidacy and campaign were exceptional. However, it would be a mistake to think of these outcomes as aberrations rather than the culmination of a long-running trend. Contrary to the emerging Democratic majority thesis, there does not seem to be any demographic category with which Democrats are progressively improving.
However, there are lots of them on the Republican side.
The perils of identity politics
Democrats may try to assure themselves that things are not so bleak. The party still pulls in nearly 90 percent of the black vote, two-thirds of Hispanic or Asian votes, and majorities among racial and ethnic “others.” They continue to capture a majority of women and young people. While the exit polls show that Republicans have been consistently chipping away at this coalition, the trend does not suggest the GOP will actually win majorities from any of these groups anytime soon.
But here’s the rub: Republicans actually don’t need to outright win – or even come close to winning – any of these demographic categories in order to come out ahead. If minority turnout is low, Republicans win. If Democrats fail to capture 2012 levels of black, Hispanic and Asian votes, they lose. It doesn’t really matter if lost votes go to Republicans or independents – the outcome is the same.
The Democrats’ current coalition presents a very narrow path to victory. Minority groups like LGBTQ, Jewish, Muslim, Asian, black or Hispanic Americans each comprise just a small slice of the electorate. Meanwhile, whites amount to no less than 70 percent. This means Democrats can get 100 percent of the votes from all other groups combined, and still not be anywhere near a majority unless they get at least a third of the remaining white vote. However, Democrats do not have unanimous support from any of these populations.
Minority votes also tend to be concentrated in relatively safe states and voting districts. To win statewide or national races, Democrats would have to capture an even larger share of the white vote than the raw electoral share data would suggest – particularly in rural and suburban areas which tend to have higher turnout despite their lower populations.
Unfortunately, most of the “favorable” demographic shifts for Democrats have occurred in districts that are basically noncompetitive. So long as this trend holds, Democrats stand to benefit little, if at all, in terms of congressional seats or Electoral College votes, regardless of how many more Americans happen to fall into Democratic-leaning categories.
Moreover, ideological affiliations and perceived interests tend to grow more diverse within groups as they expand. Therefore, while Hispanic and Asian voters currently skew heavily toward Democrats, Republicans could actually end up benefiting more in the long run from the projected demographic shifts.
Finally, Democrats rely heavily on irregular voters to win national contests, particularly during years with presidential elections. This group tends to stay home unless they are actively inspired. And even when these voters truly believe in a candidate or cause, they can be easily discouraged from going to the polls.
Adjusting for relative participation rates, internal disagreement and uneven geographic distribution, a winning Democratic coalition would likely require a ratio of at least one non-minority white for each minority constituent. And to the extent that Republicans actually do rally the white vote – again, Trump did not – Democrats’ margin for error more or less vanishes. Yet Democratic support among white voters has plummeted in every election since 2008. This trend is not sustainable if progressives aspire toward any kind of majority coalition in any foreseeable future. Looking forward
Obama’s election was not the first time Democrats prophesied a permanent majority. Similar claims were made prior to the ascendance of Nixon, and then again just before Reagan took the country by storm. This track record alone should inspire deep skepticism about deterministic and epochal political predictions.
Progressives don’t have any kind of “lock” on the future. In the near term, absent radical change, the situation may even grow worse for them.
But Republicans should hardly grow complacent with their apparent advantage either. In U.S. politics, overwhelming majorities tend to be unstable. Nothing is truly inevitable until it actually happens.

Dem Waters: Obama Admin ‘Done Everything’ It Can To Make Sure People See Trump-Russia Connections

Breitbart ^ | 3-3-2017 | Ian Hanchett 

On Friday’s broadcast of MSNBC’s “All In,” Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) stated that she believes “there was a connection between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians” and “I think there is a trail, and I think that the Obama administration has done everything that it can possibly do…to make sure that enough people have seen some of the meetings and some of the connections, so that they have something to go on when the investigations are really underway.”

Waters said, “I’m going to continue to do my work, to do everything that I possibly can, to help connect the dots, to help encourage independent investigation or commission. I’m going to do everything that I can to keep my colleagues interested enough to want to fight to see exactly what happened. Because I believe that there was a connection between Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russians and the Kremlin. And I do believe that those connections are there for a reason. And I think that the work that has already been discovered, that was done, in order to
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The Basic Formula For Every Shocking Russia/Trump Revelation

The Young Turks ^ | 3/2/2017 | Michael Tracey 

The basic formula for every breaking Trump/Russia story is essentially as follows:

1. The New York Times or Washington Post releases an article that at first blush appears extremely damning.
2. Anti-Trump pundits and Democrats react reflexively to the news, express shrieking outrage, and proclaim that this finally proves untoward collusion between Trump and Russia — a smoking gun, at last.
3. Aggrieved former Clinton apparatchiks *connect the dots* in a manner eerily reminiscent of right-wing Glenn Beck-esque prognostication circa 2009.
4. Self-proclaimed legal experts rashly opine as to whether the new revelation entails some kind of criminally actionable offense. (Recall the now-laughable certitude that felled National Security Advisor Mike Flynn violated the 200+ year old Logan Act.) This latest version is the certitude that Jeff Sessions committed perjury, when that at the very least is highly questionable.
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Limbaugh: We’re Watching a Silent Coup Put in Place By Obama and the Democrats ^ | 3 March 2017 | Jeff Poor 

Friday on his nationally syndicated radio show, conservative talker Rush Limbaugh argued there was a “silent coup” underway against President Donald Trump.
Limbaugh accused former President Barack Obama of putting it in place before leaving office and said that it is currently being executed. He pointed to the ginned-up controversy of Attorney General Jeff Sessions associations with the Russian government and U.S. Senate Democrats slow-walking Trump’s cabinet appointees.
“I’m not taking anything away from what I said yesterday,” he said. “I’m adding to it. We’re watching a silent coup that was put in place by Obama and the Democrats during the transition and before and after the election.”
“I think what is happening here is a full-fledged effort here to deny Trump the actual control of governing and the government by leaving so many Obama career people appointed, by going so slowly on confirming Trump’s cabinet appointees and other lesser bureaucratic position that remain open and haven’t been filled,” Limbaugh said later in the segment. “And that’s why it appears the Democrats are still running the show.”
“I’m telling you — if you want to find out who is really working together to sabotage the United States, you find the link between Barack Obama, Vladimir Putin, and the Russian government. That’s the story.”

Schumer and Big Russian Oil

The Taipei Times ^ | Sun, Sep 28, 2003 

Russian-owned Lukoil Oil Co acquired Getty Petroleum and its 1,300 US gasoline stations in November 2000, and the Manhattan station is one of about 150 in the US Northeast that Lukoil will rebrand over the next two years.

Bright red Lukoil flags fluttered and US and Russian security men in dark suits held photographers and reporters at bay as Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, greeted Putin at the curb of the full-service station, then accompanied him inside where bills are paid and beverages and snacks are sold.

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Did the Obama Administration Try Stacking the Deck Against Trump at the Justice Department?

Weekly Standard ^ | March 3 2017 | Mark Hemmingway 

Amid Thursday’s over-hyped brouhaha about Jeff Sessions meeting with the Russian ambassador, a curious detail emerged. In Sessions's recusal memo, it was explained who at the Justice Department would be handling any investigations into the Trump campaign's alleged ties to Russia. "Consistent with the succession order for the Department of Justice, Acting Deputy Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Dana Boente shall act as and perform the functions of the Attorney General with respect to any matters from which I have recused myself to the extent they exist," reads Sessions's official statement on the matter.
Except that if the Obama administration had its way, Dana Boente wasn't supposed be the U.S. attorney to handle these matters in the event that Sessions recused himself. On February 10, USA Today reported the following:
Seven days before he left office, President Obama changed the order of succession without explanation to remove Boente from the list. Obama's order had listed U.S. attorneys in the District of Columbia, the Northern District of Illinois and the Central District of California.
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