Trump’s Lies Continue To Mount

Yesteday, Donald Trump hit his 1,000th day in office, so the team of fact-checkers at The Washington Post figured it was a good time to take another look at their database of Trump lies and misstatements. In doing so, they found that the President had told 13,435 as of October 9th, his 993rd day in office:

As President Trump approaches his 1,000th day in office Wednesday, he has significantly stepped up his pace of spouting exaggerated numbers, unwarranted boasts and outright falsehoods.

As of Oct. 9, his 993rd day in office, he had made 13,435 false or misleading claims, according to the Fact Checker’s database that analyzes, categorizes and tracks every suspect statement he has uttered. That’s an average of almost 22 claims a day since our last update 65 days ago.

One big reason for the uptick: The uproar over Trump’s phone call with Ukraine’s president on July 25 — in which he urged an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden, a potential 2020 election rival — and the ensuing House impeachment inquiry. We’ve added a new category of claims, Ukraine probe, and in just a few weeks it has topped 250 entries.

In fact, Trump earned his fastest Bottomless Pinocchio ever with his repeated false statement that the whistleblower compliant about the call was inaccurate. The report accurately captured the content of Trump’s call and many other details have been confirmed, yet Trump has repeated this Four-Pinocchio claim 29 times. (It takes 20 repeats of a Three or Four-Pinocchio claim to merit a Bottomless Pinocchio, and there are now 27 entries.)

Another false claim — that Biden forced the resignation of a Ukrainian prosecutor because he was investigating his son Hunter — just barely missed the cutoff for inclusion. (Trump has said it 18 times.) We presume the falsehood will earn a spot on the Bottomless Pinocchio page in the next update.

Trump crossed the 10,000 mark on April 26. From the start of his presidency, he has averaged nearly 14 such claims a day.

It’s easy to understand why the Ukraine scandal, which has sparked an energetic and seemingly relentless impeachment inquiry taking place on Capitol Hill, would be the focus of most of the President’s recent lies. Report after report from Washington journalists with access to reliable White House sources have described the President as increasingly concerned about the impeachment probe and describe him at lashing out at aides for not responding more aggressively. Obviously, the President feels cornered and, along with polling that shows him underperforming against potential Democratic opponents in swing states such as those in the Midwest that gave him the Electoral College win in 2016. He no doubt sees the vultures starting to circle for the first time in his presidency and, having no experience in politics himself, he lashes out with lies, insults, and fabricated conspiracy theories that are too absurd to believe.

In addition to lying about Ukraine and impeachment, Trump not surprisingly lies about the issues central to his campaign. For example:

  • About 20% of Trump’s false claims have been related to immigration, including the claim, which he has made at least 218 times that his border wall is being built. In fact, even with the President declaring a national emergency and diverting funding from military construction projects, there has been no money spent on the “new” border wall. All of the money that has been spent has gone toward maintaining, repairing, or slightly upgrading barriers built during the Bush and Obama Administrations;
  • ” False or misleading claims about trade, the economy and the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign each account for about 10 percent of the total.”;
  • He has claimed 204 times that the U.S. economy today is the best in history. This claim is demonstrably false simply by looking at the available economic statistics from today and from the past. Those statistics show that the economy was much stronger under Presidents such as Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. As I’ve noted repeatedly, the economy under Trump in his first three years is roughly equivalent to what we saw in the final four years of the Obama Presidency, and there are plenty of signs that it’s slowing down;
  • He has made at least 171 false claims about international trade and his trade war. This includes brazen lies claiming that the tariffs he imposes are being paid by the nation from which imported goods originate, or by the foreign company that manufactured them. In reality, they are paid by the American importer and typically passed on to consumers;
  • He has also claimed at least 171 times that he and the Republicans in Congress passed the biggest tax cut in history. In reality, as the article notes, the biggest tax cut in history remains the 1981 tax cut passed by President Reagan and a bipartisan majority in Congress. The tax cut passed by the Republicans in December 2017 ranks,at best, at about the 8th biggest and, depending on the revenue numbers over the next ten years, it may turn out to be much smaller; and,
  • Finally, at least 20 percent of the lies he has told have come from his Twitter habit, something that has seemingly become an obsession in the past several months as the legal and political vultures have begun circling.

As the article goes on to note, most Americans don’t believe the President’s lies on these and other subjects. A poll conducted in December found that roughly only one-third of those surveyed seem to believe the President even when it’s clear that he’s lying. This number is not very far off, of course, from the roughly 40% to 44% that is believed to be the floor of the President’s levels of support at this point. Among diehard Trump supporters, of course, the numbers who believe are not surprisingly much higher.

This is all becoming part of a recurring theme, of course. There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by where, if the President speaks publicly or sends a message out via Twitter, he does not tell a lie, mislead, or simply invent things out of whole cloth. In many cases, of course, these lies are duplicative in the sense that they are things he has lied about before, and which he returns to on a regular basis even when it’s pointed out just how wrong he is.

At times it seems like pointing out that a lie is a lie only causes the President and his supporters to double down and keep repeating the falsehoods time and time again until they become articles of faith on the right no matter how untrue they are. This is especially true with regard to many of the accusations he has made about Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the Russia investigation and it is quickly becoming true regarding the enveloping Ukraine scandal and the underlying impeachment investigation. Every now and then, though, something new enters his repertoire and, if he thinks that it works it gets added to the long and growing list of Presidential lies that, sadly, we all seem to have become all too used to over the past two years.

Based on the Post’s numbers as of October 9th, the President is averaging roughly 13.53 lies per day over the 993 days that the Post based its numbers on. If he maintains this average, he will have told an astounding 19,781 lies for the duration of his first term in office. If he maintains this average over the course of two terms, then he will have told just over 39,562 lies over the course of an eight-year Presidency.  As has been the case each time the Post fact-checkers have updated these numbers, this represents a fairly significant increase over where he stood the last time we looked at these numbers in March, in April when James Joyner did the same as Trump passed 10,000 lies, in June, and again in August when the last set of numbers was released. As I said back then while I’m as cynical as the next person when it comes to the tendency of politicians to lie, this is an extraordinary number of lies coming from one person and it’s arguably consistent with the type of person who either does not believe he’s obligated to tell the truth or that he is simply so used to lying that it comes as easily to him as putting on a pair of shoes.

Indeed, each time we’ve looked at these numbers Trump’s average number of lies per day has increased, in some cases significantly. Some of the most significant increases took place while he was campaigning for Republicans in the 2018 midterms. Given that, we can assume that the pace will pick up as we get deeper and deeper into the 2020 re-election campaign and the coming impeachment inquiry. So be prepared to see this number increase significantly as time goes on.

Congressman Elijah Cummings Dead At 68

Elijah Cummings, who served as a Congressman from Maryland since 1996 and most recently served as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee and was heavily involved in the investigations that are leading down the road to the impeachment of the President, has died at the age of 68:

Elijah E. Cummings, a Democratic congressman from Maryland who gained national attention for his principled stands on politically charged issues in the House, his calming effect on anti-police riots in Baltimore, and his forceful opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump, died early Thursday morning at Gilchrist Hospice Care, a Johns Hopkins affiliate in Baltimore. He was 68.

After undergoing an unspecified medical procedure, the Democratic leader did not return to his office this week, the Baltimore Sun reported. A statement from his office said that he had passed away due to “complications concerning longstanding health challenges.”

Born to a family of Southern sharecroppers and Baptist preachers, Mr. Cummings grew up in the racially fractured Baltimore of the 1950s and 1960s. At 11, he helped integrate a local swimming pool while being attacked with bottles and rocks. “Perry Mason,” the popular TV series about a fictional defense lawyer, inspired him to enter the legal profession.

“Many young men in my neighborhood were going to reform school,” he told the East Texas Review. “Though I didn’t completely know what reform school was, I knew that Perry Mason won a lot of cases. I also thought that these young men probably needed lawyers.”

In the Maryland House of Delegates, he became the youngest chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus and the first African American to serve as speaker pro tempore, the member who presides in the speaker’s absence.

In 1996, he won the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that Kweisi Mfume (D) vacated to become NAACP president. Mr. Cummings eventually served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and as ranking Democrat and then chairman of what became the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

He drew national attention as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s chief defender during 2015 congressional hearings into her handling of the attack three years earlier on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya. The attack killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

He was “the quintessential speaking-truth-to-power representative,” said Herbert C. Smith, a political science professor at McDaniel College in Westminster, Md. “Cummings has never shied from a very forceful give-and-take.”

Baltimore’s plight informed Mr. Cummings’s life and work on Capitol Hill, a connection exemplified by his response to the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in April 2015 and the explosion of outrage that came after it.

Gray died of injuries suffered while riding, improperly secured, in a police van after he was arrested for carrying a knife, in his pocket, that police said was illegal. His death ignited rioting in Baltimore and elevated tensions nationally over perceived racism and excessive violence in law enforcement.

Speaking at the funeral, Mr. Cummings, who lived near where Gray was arrested, bemoaned the presence of media to chronicle Gray’s death without celebrating his life.

“Did you see him? Did you see him?” Mr. Cummings asked in his booming baritone. The church exploded with applause, and civil rights activist Jesse L. Jackson sat, rapt, behind him. “Did you see him?”

“I’ve often said, our children are the living messages we send to a future we will never see,” he said, his voice rising. “But now our children are sending us to a future they will never see! There’s something wrong with that picture!”

When looting began, hours after the funeral, Mr. Cummings rushed, bullhorn in hand, to a troubled West Baltimore neighborhood, where he worked to restore order and to assure residents that authorities were taking the case seriously. (Six officers would be charged in Gray’s death, although prosecutors failed to secure a conviction against any of them.)

Amid the unrest, he and a dozen other residents marched, arm in arm, through the streets, singing “This Little Light of Mine.”

Most recently, Congressman Cummings became a target of the President but he was able to give as good as he got:

The first two years of the Trump administration were agonizing for Mr. Cummings. While battling ill health, including heart surgery, and as many other democrats advocated a strategy of resistance to the divisive president, he made fruitless efforts to work with the newly elected Republican in the White House and found himself sidelined by his House colleagues in the GOP majority.

In a bipartisan gesture, he attended Trump’s inauguration and, at the luncheon afterward, raised an issue on which he felt they could find common ground, lowering prescription drug prices. In that and in future encounters, he urged the president to pursue policies that could unite the country and burnish his legacy. The congressman said that after a few promising meetings, he never heard from Trump again.

“Perhaps if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have had a lot of hope,” Mr. Cummings later remarked. “He is a man who quite often calls the truth a lie and calls a lie the truth.”

As ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, Mr. Cummings became a leading voice against the Trump administration’s efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, a change that critics contended would discourage participation by documented and undocumented immigrants alike.

He was also a forceful opponent of an immigration policy that separated thousands of children from their parents after they illegally crossed the southern U.S. border. He described the Trump White House as inhumane in its use of “child internment camps.”

After Democrats won control of the House in the November 2018 midterm elections, Mr. Cummings was elevated to chairman of the Oversight Committee, a position that he used to sound further alarms. He spearheaded probes into security clearances issued by the White House over the objections of career officials and payments made during the 2016 campaign to silence women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

Mr. Cummings had a combative streak, but he was adept at calming volatile situations, such as the sharp exchange between Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) during a hearing in February 2019.

The Oversight Committee was taking testimony from Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, and Tlaib accused Meadows of pulling a “racist” stunt by having a black woman, an administration employee, stand behind him. Meadows demanded that her words be stricken from the record.

Mr. Cummings called Meadows “one of my best friends” and prompted Tlaib to say that she was not calling Meadows a racist. By the next day, the conservative Meadows and liberal freshman Tlaib were hugging in public.

More from The Baltimore Sun:

Cummings was born in 1951 and raised in Baltimore, where he continued to live.

He was one of seven children of Robert Cummings Sr. and Ruth Elma Cummings, née Cochran, who were sharecroppers on land where their ancestors were enslaved. The couple moved to Baltimore in the late 1940s.

As a child, Cummings struggled in elementary school and was assigned to special education courses. However, after showing promise in high school at City College, he won Phi Beta Kappa honors at Howard University in Washington. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. He graduated from the University of Maryland School of Law and passed the state bar in 1976.

In 1982, with the support of several established city officials, Cummings ran for state delegate and won. He served in the Maryland General Assembly for 14 years and became the first African American in Maryland history to be named speaker pro tem.

In late 1995, Cummings decided to run for Maryland’s 7th congressional district in the U.S. House after Rep. Kweisi Mfume announced he would resign to become the head of the NAACP. Cummings served as a congressman since 1996.

Cummings was an active member of New Psalmist Baptist Church and was married to Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who was elected chair of the Maryland Democratic Party in December 2018.

Most recently, of course, Cummings made the national news as one of the latest targets of the President’s unhinged Twitter attacks during which he engaged in a series of racist tropes to attack the Congressman, his district, and the entire city of Baltimore. Cummings, being the person he was, did not sink the President’s level but did stand up for his district, which he returned to every night after working on Capitol Hill, and the City of Baltimore.

Cummings was most assuredly a partisan Democrat, but one could tell that he was also an exceedingly fair and generous person who did his best to work across the aisle when he could. He enjoyed a close friendship with the Ranking Republican on the Oversight Committee Mark Meadows, and earlier this year came to his defense when freshman Congresswoman Rashida Talib called Meadows a racist. At the same time, he could often be a thorn in the side of the GOP, especially when he was the Ranking Member of that same Committee and felt strongly that he and his fellow Democrats were not being treated fairly. All in all, though, he was an excellent representative of his constituents of his constituents and the American people and he will be missed.

The Problem with Trump: A Postscript

“#UNGA” by The White House is in the Public Domain

If one of the driving purposes of my recent multi-part post on the problem that is Trump was to identify specific, discreet issues that might sway some of his supporters, I have to include his letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. If one can read the letter and think that Trump has the capacities needed to be in charge of US foreign policy, then it is quite clear that there is no evidence that that would persuade one otherwise.

Trump once stated “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters” and this letter is the equivalent in many ways of that action and lack of result.

The letter is so bizarre that part of me still thinks it can’t be real, even though I have seen more than one credible report that the White House can confirmed its authenticity.

The text of the letter is as follows:

His Excellency
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
President of the Republic of Turkey
Ankara

Dear Mr. President:

Let’s work out a good deal! You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy — and I will. I’ve already given you a little sample with respect to Pastor Brunson.

I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don’t let the world down. You can make a great deal. General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you, and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past. I am confidentially enclosing a copy of his letter to me, just received.

History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!

I will call you later.

This is bizarre. It makes no sense, although it tracks with the way he talks and tweets. But at least when he makes off the cuff remarks or tweets those are informal settings. This is a formal letter from one head of state to another. Further, it a letter in which one NATO ally is threatening the destruction of another NATO country’s economy. If taken seriously, this is a threat of war.

This is what a not especially bright elementary school-aged student would think that a presidential letter would sound like.

Trump’s Bizarre, Unhinged Letter to Erdogan

Last week, just days after he had agreed in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to move American forces in northern Syria aside so that Turkey could invade the region, President Trump sent what can only be called a bizarre letter to Turkish President Erdogan:

President Donald Trump warned President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey against being “a tough guy” and “a fool” in a bombastic letter last week that was apparently delivered as the Turkish military launched its invasion of northeast Syria.

In the letter, which was authenticated by the White House, Trump urges his foreign counterpart to negotiate an end to Turkey’s assault against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters, which has drawn widespread condemnation by the international community.

The correspondence was made public Wednesday as the president continues to face fierce criticism for granting tacit approval of the incursion earlier this month, and as administration officials have sought to project a hard line against Erdoğan’s government amid sustained political fallout.

“Let’s work out a good deal! You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy — and I will. I’ve already given you a little sample with respect to Pastor Brunson,” Trump wrote in the letter, referring to sanctions the Treasury Department previously imposed on senior Turkish officials for the detention of an American evangelical clergyman.

“I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don’t let the world down. You can make a great deal,” he continued, adding that Kurdish General Mazloum Kobani of the Syrian Democratic Forces “is willing to negotiate with you, and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past.”

“History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen,” the president concluded. “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool! I will call you later.”

Daniel Larison offers this observation:

Trump is anxious to show that he wasn’t simply caving to Turkey, so he threatens to wreck their economy, but at the same time he effectively approved the Turkish invasion that he is now desperate to denounce. His tone somehow manages to be bullying and desperate at the same time. He makes promises that Turkey will gain concessions that he can’t possibly guarantee, and then warns that Erdogan will be seen as “the devil” if he doesn’t comply with Trump’s demands. In what universe would a message like this produce a favorable response? I can imagine Erdogan laughing at this letter, and I can imagine him cursing at it, but I don’t see how he is supposed to take it seriously.

According to the BBC, Erdogan’s response was about what you’d expect:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan put US President Donald Trump’s letter “in the bin”, the BBC has been told.

In the letter dated 9 October, and sent after US troops were pulled out of Syria, Mr Trump told Mr Erdogan: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”

Turkish presidential sources told the BBC that the letter was “thoroughly rejected” by Mr Erdogan.

On the day the letter was received, Turkey launched a cross-border offensive against Kurdish-led forces.

When this letter was first made public on the Twitter account of Fox Business Network reporter Trish Reagan many observers questioned whether it was for real or some kind of bizarre Photoshop job. After all, while we all know that Trump often speaks in language like this in public, one would assume that his official correspondence to foreign leaders, which under normal protocol would have been reviewed by the Chief of Staff and other officials and is typically drafted or edited by staff would not read like it was written based on the taunts of a sixth-grader on a school playground. Soon after it was released, though, the White House confirmed that the letter was genuine.

To call this letter embarressing is an understatement. As I said, it reads more like the taunt of a supposed schoolyard bully than a serious piece of correspondence written by the President of the United States of America to the leader of an ally aimed to trying to avert war in a region that has already seen its fair share of war over the past eight years. If this is an example of the kind of correspondence that Trump is sending to foreign leaders, then things are much, much worse than I thought.

Here’s the letter:

Fourth Democratic Debate Garners 8.3 Million Voters

Tuesday night’s fourth Democratic debate saw a drop in viewers from the numbers set a month ago, perhaps a sign that viewers are growing tired of the “full-stage” debate format that has marked debates to date. Specifically, it’s estimated that 8.3 million people watched the debate:

WESTERVILLE, Ohio — The Democratic debate stage is getting bigger, but television ratings are getting smaller.

The primary debate on Tuesday night in Ohio, co-sponsored by CNN and The New York Times, drew about 8.3 million live television viewers on CNN, Nielsen said on Wednesday. The event featured 12 candidates, up from the 10 who debated last month in Houston at an event seen by about 14 million people on ABC News and Univision.

Interest in the 2020 presidential race is clearly strong. The 8.3 million people who watched on Tuesday roughly equaled the number of viewers for a 2008 matchup between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, days before the so-called Super Tuesday primary night.

But the three-hour Ohio event — which featured a cavalcade of candidates attacking Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — did not perform much better than this year’s lowest-rated primary debate, a CNN forum in late July in Detroit with 8.2 million viewers

By way of comparison, the first night of the first debate back in June saw some 15.3 million viewers tune in to watch a debate that included Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and a field of also-rans. The second night of that debate saw 18.1 million viewers tune in to watch a debate that became best known for the showdown between Senator Kamala Harris and former Vice-President Joe Biden. The numbers for the second debate, though, showed a significant drop, with just 8.7 million viewers for the first night and 10.7 million viewers for the second night. Finally, the third debate saw viewership numbers jump back up, with some 14 million viewers tuning in.

In addition to the fact that viewers may be growing tired of a debate format that includes candidates that essentially have no chance at becoming the nominee, the difference in viewership numbers may be due to the news outlet(s) covering the debate. The first and third debates, for example, were broadcast by NBC and ABC News respectively, In addition to each networks broadcast channel, the debate also showed up on a number of different cable news outlets such as MSNBC and Telemundo for the NBC debate and Univision for the ABC debate. The second and third debates, by contrast, were broadcast only on CNN, which may have limited the audience to some extent. Additionally, as noted, Tuesday night’s debate was the first to compete against first-run episodes of primetime programming nut also the National League Championship Series Game Four which saw the Washington Nationals defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers to punch their ticket to the World Series, the first appearance in that series by a Washington, D.C. team since the 1933 Washingon Senators.

In any case, going forward we are likely to see much smaller debates thanks to the incresingly difficult qualificiation criteria. To make it into the stage this time, candiates will have to show support from 165,000 unique donors regardless of the amount they donate and will either have to reached 3% in at least four national polls pre-approved by the Democratic National Committee or 5% in two polls in one or more of the states voting in February (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina). As of this writing, only seven candidates — Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Tom Steyer, Andrew Yang, and Cory Booker — have met both the donor and polling criteria. An additional four candidates — Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and Tulsi Gabbard — have met the donor criteria but not the polling criteia. The remainder of the candidates have not met either of the critera. This means that there could be as few as seven candidates at the next debate, but that it is at least theoretically possible that this number could increase to 11. Candidates have until November 13th to qualify for the November 20th debate. (Source) Here’s hoping that we have as few candidates as possible on the stage.

Fort Worth Police Shooting Leaves Innocent Woman Dead

A Fort Worth, Texas officer is under investigation after a shooting incident in which an innocent African-American woman was killed by police officers in an incident that is suspicious to say the least:

A white Fort Worth police officer fatally shot a black woman in her home early Saturday, firing through a bedroom window while responding to a call about an open door at the residence, police said.

Officers were dispatched to the house in the city’s Hillside Morningside neighborhood at 2:25 a.m. after receiving an “open structure” call, according to a statement from the Fort Worth Police Department. A neighbor told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he dialed a non-emergency line and requested a welfare check when he noticed that the door was ajar and the lights were on.

While searching the outside of the house, police said, an officer saw someone standing near a window. “Perceiving a threat the officer drew his duty weapon and fired one shot striking the person inside the residence,” police said.

Atatiana Jefferson, 28, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to police, who said the officers provided emergency medical care.

Body-camera footage released by police Saturday shows two officers walking quietly around the side of the house and peering through two screen doors, then moving down a driveway into a backyard.

One officer approaches a closed first-floor window and shines a flashlight inside, then swiftly raises his gun. “Put your hands up! Show me your hands!” he yells. A split-second later, he fires a shot through the window. He does not identify himself as an officer in the footage.

Along with the video, police released images of a firearm officers said they found at the scene, but did not indicate whether Jefferson was holding the weapon or positioned near it when the officer opened fire.

Officials did not release the officer’s name, describing him only as a white male who has been with the department since April 2018. He will be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation, according to the department.

The Dallas Morning News has more:

The fatal shooting of a 28-year-old black woman in her home by a white Fort Worth police officer has drawn swift condemnation, calls for police accountability and mourning for a life cut short.

Atatiana Jefferson became the sixth person since June who has been killed by one of the department’s officers. A seventh person was wounded.

Lt. Brandon O’Neil, a Fort Worth police spokesman, said at a brief news conference Sunday afternoon that two officers had been dispatched to the home in the 1200 block of East Allen Avenue after a neighbor made a call early Saturday to the nonemergency police line. They arrived about 2:30 a.m. and walked into the backyard.

The officer who shot Jefferson did not announce himself as a police officer before firing through a bedroom window, O’Neil said.

That officer will be interviewed Monday and another news conference will be conducted later that day, he said.

“What the officer observed and why he did not announce police will be addressed as the investigation continues,” O’Neil said.

Jefferson’s 8-year-old nephew was “inside the room” at the time of the shooting, O’Neil said.

O’Neil said police had communicated with Jefferson’s family and called her death an “unspeakable loss.”

Police did not take questions at Sunday’s news conference.

Attorney Lee Merritt, who is representing Jefferson’s family, said Jefferson had been playing video games with her nephew.

“Her mom had recently gotten very sick, so she was home taking care of the house and loving her life,” he wrote on Facebook. “There was no reason for her to be murdered. None. We must have justice.”

There are obviously a lot of questions that need to be answered about this incident and the way that the responding police officers handled it. As reported, this was supposedly a “welfare check” prompted by a call from a concerned neighbor. This is not an uncommon thing for the police to do and generally follows a similar script regardless of what jurisdiction you’re in.

Typically, of course, one would expect that the first thing one would expect the responding officers to do in such a call is to go to the front door to see if they can get the person living there to answer. If not, then it’s typical to check the yard of the property to determine if there’s anything unusual. In this case, there’s no indication that the officers even went to the front door. Instead they walked around the property. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but the fact that they did so at night and without having announced themselves and apparently while carrying flashlight that they shined in the windows of the house probably ended up worrying Jefferson, who was alone with her nephew at the time. Based on the way the rest of the events were described, it sounds like Jefferson may have looked out the window to see what was going on. It was at that point that the unidentified officer opened fire, killing Jefferson without even announcing that he was a police officer.

Why didn’t the officers go to the apparently open front door first since that was apparently the reason the neighbor called the police? Why didn’t they announce themselves as police officers? Why did the officer in question open first without even verifying who or what he saw in the window? These and other questions need to be asked and answered before this matter can be fully resolved.

The Problem with Trump: The Ukraine Call

“#UNGA” by The White House is in the Public Domain

Following on from my previous two posts on this subject, this contribution is about the Ukraine call (which I broke down in detail here: The Quid Pro Quo Debate). Not only did this call lead the House to formally start an impeachment inquiry, but it is a pretty straight-forward example of abuse of power by Trump.

This incident is to be contrasted with the activities that lead to the Mueller report because those are a) a complicated network of actions and actors, b) the collusion allegations predated his time in office, and c) Trump himself was not directly implicated.

With the Ukraine call we have a straight-forward interaction: a phone call between Trump and Zelensky. It happened recently, and the basic content of the call is not in dispute, because the White House released a memo summarizing the call. The call is not hard to understand as a general matter. further, if one actually reads the memo it is quite obvious that Trump is using his office to ask a foreign head of state for help on opposition research about a political rival.

It takes some serious rationalization to ignore the abuse of power. One of the strongest (and I use the word advisedly in this instance) defenses I have heard has been, “well, they all do it.”

It is so obvious that when House Minority Leader had a portion read to him on 60 Minutes, he thought the interviewer had added a word:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

McCathy immediately understands that “I would like you to do us a favor though” is an ask. And anyone who reads the memo can clearly see that Trump is first reminding the Zelensky that the US has been good to Ukraine and Zelensky clearly wants more help and it utterly willing to flatter Trump as needed.

A quick recap.

Trumps says

“I will say that we do a lot for Ukraine”

and

“I wouldn’t say that it’s reciprocal necessarily because things are happening that are not good but the United States has been very very good to Ukraine.”

Zelensky says:

“I would also like to thank you for your great support in the area of defense. We are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps specifically we are almost. ready to buy more Javelins from the United States for defense purposes.”

It is right after Zelenskiy asks about buying Javelins That Trump asks for a favor as quoted above.

That favor is personally for Trump, not for broad political goals of the US government. It is a clear attempt to leverage his office for personal political gain.

He wants help proving a conspiracy theory that would undermine the idea that Russia meddled in 2016 as a way of undermining the Mueller Report as well as any suggestion that Russia helped him get elected. He also wants help investigating Joe Biden’s son.

These are asks that would benefit him personally. Neither is part of a broad public policy goal.

He can claim this is all just about wanting to root out corruption, but such assertions are absurd on their face. He has demonstrated no interest in fighting corruption. Indeed, he has often been more friendly to corrupt regimes than to non-corrupt ones.

Regardless, as McCarthy demonstrated, the words are powerful. If supporters avoid the words, they can better rationalize. However, not only does the phone call undermine Trump’s claims of innocence, the evidence of wrongdoing is mounting.

For example, via Lawfare: The Volker Texts: What Quid Pro Quo Looks Like.

To quote career diplomat Bill Taylor from those texts:

“Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?” Sondland replies: “Call me.”

And:

Taylor texts Sondland, “Counting on you to be right about this interview, Gordon. … As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.”

So, was pretty obvious to Taylor as to what was going one.

There is also, via WaPo: Two business associates of Trump’s personal attorney Giuliani have been arrested on campaign finance charges

The two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who had been helping Giuliani investigate Democratic presidential candidate and former vice president Joe Biden, were arrested Wednesday evening at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, where they had one-way tickets on a flight out of the country, officials said.

These individuals have been linked to attempts to oust the US Ambassador to Ukraine (who Trump fires and who testified this week).

While it is true that as evidence mounts that the story will be easier to muddy, the basic narrative is radically clearer than what is to be found in the Mueller report.

All of this is a lot of words to say:

  1. The basic story here is pretty straightforward: Trump clearly and obviously asked the President of Ukraine for a political favor
  2. The White House itself provided basic confirmation of this fact.
  3. The original memo is The whistleblower report are a few pages (in contrast with the two volume book that was the Mueller Report).
  4. Trump’s public call for China reinforces the basic narrative (as does is monofocus on Hunter Biden—as focusing on a singular person undercuts the notion that this is broadly about corruption).
  5. Evidence continues to mount.
  6. Unlike during the campaign, witnesses to these events will not all be loyalists and cronies.

So, while I expect a lot of rationalization to continue, I think it is going to increasingly become more difficult (and years from now it will all seem obvious, even to a lot of current defenders).

The Problem with Trump: Some Conclusions

“#UNGA” by The White House is in the Public Domain

So, what is my point in this series of posts (which started in my head as two posts and ended up being four)? Overall I am trying to connect long-standing concerns about Donald J. Trump as President of the United States and some salient and current examples.

It is difficult to capture the totality of the problem of Trump and so think that perhaps specific, discrete examples can have more impact.

As the sub-title of the first post noted, I am “Thinking about support for Trump and considering how recent events may influence that support”

To over-share my thought process, I have had two broad topics in my head for some time. The first is recognizing that Trump support, especially in terms of things like voting and public approval, are more complicated than a lot of readers here tend to want to accept. The reality is that it is easier for all of us to rationalize away bad behavior by “our” side than we want to admit and, further, they were real policy reasons (whether one agrees with them or not) to vote Republican rather than Democrat for president.

However there was a second thought: I also believe that Trump’s behavior in office is such that some people who engage in said rationalizations or made/are still making the aforementioned policy choices have the potential to change their minds (note: some).

So, in my purest conception I was going to write a political science oriented explanation of basic partisan voter behavior and, separately, sort of an open letter to Trump supporters of a certain type. I didn’t really do either in full form.

Indeed, it strikes me that these posts illustrate some of the limitations of the blogging format insofar as really, these four posts together form a rough draft of a longer essay that would be vastly improved by clearer framing and a more obvious argument (and editing and re-writing). Of course, if it weren’t for the blogging format, I likely would not have taken the time to write out any of this, so there’s that.

(Along those lines, I probably should have picked a different headline—but I committed to that last Sunday, so c’est la vie).

Still, here is what I tried to do:

Part One was intended to provide some rationale for voter behavior and to note that one need not assume the worst of every single person who voted for Trump or who “approve of the job the president is doing.” Now, I recognize that there is a not insubstantial amount of Trump’s supporters who love the worst stuff (and who cleave to his white nationalist rhetoric and policies happily). I also think that a lot of people are in denial (just as they have been in denial about things like the Southern strategy). But a lot of people voted for him and support him because he is a Republican, and that is what a Republican voter does: votes for the Republican on the ticket.

None of this, by the way, removes moral culpability for that support.

Part Two identified an area that that is understandable and immediate: Trump’s decision to get out of Turkey’s way in Syria. It highlights Trump’s fecklessness and his lack of basic understanding of his job. It also shows how long-term damage to US interests can result from having a woefully underprepared president.

Again, I think that the relative simplicity of the event and its obvious and its immediate impact gives this story more power than other bad decisions Trump has made. If you are a supporter, you have to come to terms with this decision (or you have to wax into denial or deep rationalization).

Part Three is about the Ukraine call specifically. Trump can claim that is was “perfect” and “beautiful” but the released summary memo is evidence of abuse of power that is deniable only if one wants to lie to oneself about what is in the document. His repeatedly calls for foreign governments to investigate a main political rival are also hard to deny (and require hefty cognitive dissonance to explain away as proper). Yes, a lot of people will do so, but intellectually honest supporters have got to pause if they allow themselves to truly look at the evidence (which, I expect, most of them have not, but are relying on Trump’s version or whatever the right wing press is spouting).

Fundamentally, these posts seek to explain the basic partisan political behavior that resulted in a Trump victory in the first place and that leaves his approval steady with partisans. But, these two recent events really underscore why so many of us thought him unfit for the office in a fundamental way that was well beyond policy differences.

Beto O’Rourke Would Violate Constitution To Punish ‘Wrong Thinking’ On LGBT Rights

Elizabeth Warren wasn’t the only candidate to raise eyebrows with comments she made at last week’s LGBT rights forum featuring the Democratic candidates for President. Beto O’Rourke, who is trying to turn around a struggling campaign, went even further and put forward an idea that even some of his fellow candidates are criticizing:

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke said Thursday that churches and other religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage should lose their tax-exempt status, taking the Democratic presidential debate into uncharted — and controversial — territory.

The Texas Democrat was asked about the concept by CNN anchor Don Lemon at a 2020 candidates’ forum on LGBTQ issues co-hosted by the network and Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

“Do you think religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities should they lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?” Lemon asked

“Yes,” O’Rourke replied. “There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone, or any institution, any organization in America, that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. And so as president, we are going to make that a priority, and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.”

O’Rourke appeared to go dramatically further than the existing political and legal conversation over LGBTQ rights and religious discrimination, which has largely centered on questions of whether private businesses can decline services to customers or refuse to hire or maintain employees on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender status. Other recent cases have been concerned with the basis on which religious schools can hire or fire staff.

The comments drew applause at the event, but quickly circulated among conservative commentators and drew condemnation from activists that have defended religious institutions in related legal fights.

“Beto O’Rourke’s threat is a direct affront to the constitutional guarantee of religious liberty,” Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute, said in a statement.

In another statement, Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska called O’Rourke’s remarks “bigoted nonsense” that “would target a lot of sincere Christians, Jews, and Muslims.”

“This extreme intolerance is un-American,” Sasse added.

(…)

It’s unlikely that efforts to end tax-exempt status for many religious organizations on the basis of opposition to same-sex marriage would pass legal muster given recent precedent upholding a variety of constitutional protections for churches, clergy and religious rituals.
Writing the Supreme Court majority opinion legalizing gay marriage, Justice Anthony Kennedy emphasized that “religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.”

Marcia McCormick, a professor at St. Louis University School of Law, said there are some legal distinctions between belief and actions and between religiously affiliated institutions like colleges, which courts have ruled cannot discriminate on the basis of race, and churches, which have broader rights.

“There is kind of a continuum,” she said. “Religious beliefs alone about religion are the most protected, secular kinds of actions are least protected.”

Michael Wear, who led faith outreach efforts for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, warned that O’Rourke was risking alienating religious voters across the ideological and denominational spectrum.

“If that isn’t a religious freedom violation, I don’t know what is,” he said. “It’s so facially unconstitutional that it’s hard for people to believe there isn’t ill will involved in even suggesting it.”

Here are the video and transcript:

CNN, DON LEMON: Congressman, I want to ask you a question. This is from your LGBTQ plan, and here’s what you write. This is a quote. Freedom of religion is a fundamental right but it should not be used to discriminate. Do you think religious institutions, like colleges, churches, charities, should they lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?

BETO O’ROURKE: Yes.

(APPLAUSE)

There can be no reward, no benefit, no tax break for anyone or any institution, any organization in America that denies the full human rights and the full civil rights of every single one of us. And so as president, we’re going to make that a priority and we are going to stop those who are infringing upon the human rights of our fellow Americans.

Fellow candidate Pete Buttigieg, who of course is gay and married to man, criticized O’Rourke’s argument:

2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg (D) on Sunday took aim at former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) for saying that religious institutions should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage, arguing the policy would only “deepen the divisions we’re already experiencing.”

“I agree that anti-discrimination law ought to be applied to all institutions. But the idea that you’re going to strip churches of their tax exempt status if they haven’t found their way towards blessing same-sex marriage, I’m not sure [O’Rourke] understood the implications of what he was saying,” Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., said on CNN’s “State of The Union” while discussing comments O’Rourke made during the network’s LGBT town hall.

“That means going to war not only with churches, but I would think with mosques and a lot of organizations that may not have the same view of various religious principles that I do. But also because of the separation of church and state are acknowledged as nonprofits in this country.”

Buttigieg went on to emphasize that anti-discrimination laws must be followed by religious institutions. But he stressed that “going after the tax exemption of churches, islamic centers or other religious facilities in this county” would potentially cause more polarization in the country. 

Here’s the video of Buttigieg’s comments:

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Elizabeth Warren has also criticized O’Rourke’s response:

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she would not punish religious institutions that oppose gay marriage by taxing them, separating herself from fellow Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.

O’Rourke said last week that religious institutions opposed to gay marriage should lose their tax-exempt status and said he would make doing so a priority. O’Rourke’s proposal sparked concern among Democrats that his remarks would mobilize religious Trump voters by fostering fears a Democratic candidate would target churches if elected to the presidency. Now Warren, tied for front-runner with former Vice President Joe Biden in primary polls, is rejecting O’Rourke’s proposal.

Warren campaign spokeswoman Saloni Sharma told the Associated Press in an email the senator “will stand shoulder to shoulder with the LGBTQ+ community” to fight “fear of discrimination and violence” but would not undo the tax-exempt status of religious organizations that oppose gay marriage.

“Religious institutions in America have long been free to determine their own beliefs and practices, and she does not think we should require them to conduct same-sex marriages in order to maintain their tax-exempt status,” said Sharma.

O’Rourke’s comments have drawn criticism from other corners, including from conservatives, and his campaign has suggested that he was misinterpreted. At this time, though, neither his campaign nor the candidate himself have attempted to clarify the remarks in any way. Thus, we are left with his own words, which clearly state that he would attempt to revoke the tax-exempt status of institutions that do not recognize same-sex marriage.

Obviously, this position goes far beyond what Warren said, which can perhaps be dismissed as a joke. Indeed, it appears to be at least implied by the positions he has outlined on his website regarding LGBTQ+ issues, where he has also taken the position that he would end certain exemptions from the law provided to religious organizations if they oppose marriage equality. Essentially what he is saying is that religious organizations that oppose marriage equality would lose their tax-exempt status even if they don’t do anything discriminatory beyond declining to solemnize same-sex marriages within the context of their faith.

The constitutional issues with O’Rourke’s proposal are, as Bonnie Kristian notes at The Week, rather obvious:

The constitutional problem is simple: The federal government cannot mete out benefits or punishments on theological grounds. As Cato Institute legal scholar Walter Olson explains at Overlawyered, “a long line of court opinions has made clear that … ‘tax exemptions can’t be denied based on the viewpoint that a group communicates.’” The law can make distinctions based on group behavior or “for deliberately engaging in speech that falls within one of the few narrow exceptions to the First Amendment, such as true threats of criminal attack, or incitement intended to and likely to cause imminent criminal conduct,” but not for simple belief, even of very offensive tenets.

The Supreme Court has come down hard on federal efforts to manipulate religious institutions’ internal decision-making processes; in 2012, for example, the justices unanimously struck down an Obama administration attempt to interfere in church hiring for ministerial roles. This means that whatever O’Rourke says about making his proposed change “a priority,” he would face a steep uphill legal battle. That legal reality isn’t debatable, and it turns O’Rourke’s position into empty grandstanding. It’s also a safeguard that works both ways: If a President O’Rourke can strip nonprofits of tax exemptions based on their beliefs, so can a President Trump.

The political issues with O’Rourke’s proposal, meanwhile, are similar to those raised by Warren’s little joke, although they are potentially more serious given that this is a policy proposal while Warren’s was not. In addition to those culturally conservative working-class voters that I spoke of in the Warren post there are also other groups that could have problems with an idea like this one. Additionally, as Kristian notes support for same-sex marriage is still a minority position among religious African-Americans, Does this mean that African-American churches, and religiously-affiliated historically black colleges and universities could lose their tax-exemption unless they agree with the majority position on same-sex marriage? What about American Muslims, who also tend to oppose same-sex marriage as an article of faith? And, of course, there are the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Curches that consider it to be a matter of doctrine that marriage in their church is to be only between a man and a woman. Would O’Rourke’s position mean that Catholic hospitals, social service organizations, and schools would lose whatever tax exemptions they’re entitled to because of their faith?

As Kristian points out, this would have a significant impact on their ability to provide the services that millions of people benefit from:

Those Catholic hospitals are just one part of an extensive religious social service infrastructure that serves millions of Americans of all faiths every day. You may think this isn’t how it should be — perhaps you want all social services to be nonsectarian or handled by the state — but that doesn’t change the current reality, nor does it reflect the desires of many other Americans who support and benefit from these organizations. If all the religious nonprofits with doctrinal opposition to gay marriage lose their tax exemptions, vulnerable people will suffer as a result. The effects would not be limited to white, Republican Protestants. In fact, it would almost certainly do tangible harm to some of the very gay Americans whom O’Rourke purports to protect.

As I noted, unlike Warren’s joke which she can perhaps put behind her by addressing it head-on, O’Rourke proposal is a concrete policy idea that would have wide-ranging, and largely negative, impacts if enacted. Additionally, for the reasons noted above it seems to have some real problems under the First Amendment in that it seems like a clear case of viewpoint discrimination, which is clearly unconstitutional. Obviously, O’Rourke put this idea out there to try to revive a flailing campaign that appears to be sinking fast. That, perhaps, is why has all the signs of being the kind of idea that wasn’t sufficiently thought through, and it’s one that other candidates are going to have to be able to respond to if and when they are inevitably asked about it. As Pete Buttigieg did, they’d best be advised to distance themselves from it.

Fort Worth Police Officer Charged With Murder In Death Of Atatiana Jefferson

Aaron Dean, who has been identified as the Fort Worth, Texas police officer who shot through a window during a welfare check over the weekend, killing 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson in her home, has been fired and charged with murder:

The white Fort Worth police officer who fatally shot a 28-year-old black woman in her home over the weekend has been charged with murder, authorities said Monday.

The officer, Aaron Dean, who resigned earlier in the day, was booked into the Tarrant County Jail, according to police. Bond has been set at $200,000, jail records show.

Authorities moved quickly to arrest Dean after he shot Atatiana Jefferson through a closed window in her Fort Worth home while responding to a welfare call in the early hours of Saturday morning. In fatal officer-involved shootings, police seldom face criminal charges, and they are rarely charged with murder.

The prosecution of the officer is likely to serve as a stress test of relations between law enforcement and the black community in the region, which is still reeling from the fallout of an earlier case involving a white officer who shot a black neighbor in his apartment. Local leaders have called for a probe of the department, and Jefferson’s family and their attorney want an independent review of Jefferson’s killing, saying they worry race may have played a role.

A police spokesman, Christopher Daniels, acknowledged those concerns in a brief news conference Monday night. “To the citizens and residents of our city, we feel and understand your anger and your disappointment,” he said. “And we stand by you as we work together to make Fort Worth a better place for us all.”

The family’s attorney, Lee Merritt, said Jefferson’s parents and siblings were relieved Dean had been arrested. “We need to see this through to a vigorous prosecution & appropriate sentencing,” Merritt tweeted. “The City of Fort Worth has much work to do to reform a brutal culture of policing.”

Police said Dean had been with the Fort Worth Police Department since April 2018. Had he not resigned on his own, he would have been fired for violations of the department’s policies on use of force, de-escalation and unprofessional conduct in connection with the shooting, Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus said Monday afternoon.

The department has also asked the FBI to review Dean’s actions for possible civil rights violations, according to the chief.

“None of this information can ease the pain of Atatiana’s family, but I hope it shows the community that we take these incidents seriously,” Kraus said. He apologized to the family on behalf of the department, saying he has “not been able to make sense of why she had to lose her life.”

More from The Dallas Morning News, which reports that Dean has been released on bond:

Aaron Dean, 34, was booked Monday evening into the Tarrant County Jail, where his bail was set at $200,000. He was released on bond at 9:15 p.m., a spokeswoman with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Department said.

Dean had resigned from the Fort Worth Police Department earlier in the day.

Interim Police Chief Ed Kraus said he had intended to fire Dean, who was set to be interviewed Monday morning, but Dean quit first. His record will reflect a dishonorable discharge.

Kraus said Dean resigned before he answered any questions.

Dean, who had been on the force since April 2018, has not been cooperative, the chief said.

“He resigned before his opportunity to be cooperative,” Kraus said.

The chief said the department normally investigates officer-involved shootings with two separate but concurrent processes: an internal affairs investigation and a criminal investigation, with the criminal investigation taking precedence.

Fort Worth police spokesman Sgt. Chris Daniels said at a brief news conference Monday night that the department took Dean into custody about 6 p.m. He said the department is still “working diligently to complete the criminal and administrative investigations” and is in close contact with the Tarrant County district attorney’s office.

Police did not take any questions at the news conference. The chief is expected to provide an update Tuesday.

(…)

Jefferson’s two sisters and brother told The Dallas Morning News in a interview Monday night along with their attorney Lee Merritt that Dean’s arrest was a good first step.

“I remember Lee talking about them not liking to arrest cops, so they did that,” said Jefferson’s brother, Adarius Carr. “That’s a huge step for us.

They are willing to understand this is serious and we mean it. Justice is important to us.”

The family said they want to see Dean indicted but they really aren’t sure what comes next.

“This has been such an unimaginable thing that we are still trying to process,” said Jefferson’s oldest sister, Ashley Carr. The three siblings said late Monday night that they’d been awake since the sun rose.

Merritt, who handles civil cases involving police shootings nationwide. said officers usually aren’t arrested and handcuffed before the case is sent to a grand jury.

He said that has only happened with Guyger and with Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2018 for murdering Jordan Edwards. Oliver fired into a car the 15-year-old was in as it drove away from the officer. Both Guyger and Oliver were convicted in Dallas County.

Merritt and the family called for an independent investigation into the shooting at a news conference earlier Monday.

Jefferson’s two sisters and brother told The Dallas Morning News in a interview Monday night along with their attorney Lee Merritt that Dean’s arrest was a good first step.

“I remember Lee talking about them not liking to arrest cops, so they did that,” said Jefferson’s brother, Adarius Carr. “That’s a huge step for us.

They are willing to understand this is serious and we mean it. Justice is important to us.”

The family said they want to see Dean indicted but they really aren’t sure what comes next.

“This has been such an unimaginable thing that we are still trying to process,” said Jefferson’s oldest sister, Ashley Carr. The three siblings said late Monday night that they’d been awake since the sun rose.

Merritt, who handles civil cases involving police shootings nationwide. said officers usually aren’t arrested and handcuffed before the case is sent to a grand jury.

He said that has only happened with Guyger and with Balch Springs police officer Roy Oliver, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2018 for murdering Jordan Edwards. Oliver fired into a car the 15-year-old was in as it drove away from the officer. Both Guyger and Oliver were convicted in Dallas County.

Merritt and the family called for an independent investigation into the shooting at a news conference earlier Monday.

The fact that Dean was arrested so soon after the incident, and apparently before he was even questioned by police investigators, is a strong sign that prosecutors believe that they have a strong case against him. Based on the facts of the case, that certainly seems to be the case. Dean and his partner were supposed to be conducting a welfare check on the home based on the phone call of a concerned neighbor who noticed that the door to the home was open even though it was late in the evening.

When they arrived, though, neither officer bothered to check the front door, choosing instead to search the property. It was during this search that Dean, seeing someone looking out the window, shined a light in the window. It was at that point that he opened fire without identifying himself as a police officer. There has been some allegation that Jefferson may or may not have had a gun but given the fact that she was alone in the house with her nephew and saw someone outside the window. For all she knew it was someone trying to break into the house. Whatever the case, it’s clear that Drake fired without taking any steps to verify what was going on, a clear violation of applicable protocol and clearly facts that justify a murder charge.

There is, inevitably, much emphasis on the fact that Dean is white while Jefferson was African-American. However, it isn’t at all clear that there was any racial bias or motive involved in this incident. This is largely because it’s not clear that Dean was even aware of the race of the person he was shooting at. Absent that crucial element, it’s unclear whether this can be charged as being race-based under Federal law.

All of this comes just a few weeks after former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was found guilty of the murder of Botham Jean after an off-duty shooting during which she shot Jean in his own apartment. Guyger ended up being sentenced to ten years in prison but could have received as much as 99 years had the jury been so inclined. Obviously, Drake is to be considered innocent until proven guilty just as Guyger was, but the facts do not look to be in his favor.