05 Sep

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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World Politics

United States

Dozens of protesters were arrested as Senate Democrats sought to delay a confirmation hearing for Trump’s supreme court nominee

in Washington

Chaotic start to Brett Kavanaugh supreme court hearing as protests break out – video

Democrats and activists staged a dramatic act of defiance against a Senate confirmation hearing for Donald Trump’s nominee for the supreme court on Tuesday, after accusing the White House of withholding key documents on his record.

The unified show of opposition against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh came as he made his first public testimony on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers in the Senate judiciary committee are considering him for a seat on the highest court in America.

More than 30 women were arrested for protesting at the hearing over concerns about Kavanaugh’s stances on issues from abortion to LGBT rights, according to the Women’s March, which claimed credit for the protests.

Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge, was named by Trump in June as the president’s nominee to replace the retiring supreme court justice Anthony Kennedy. If confirmed, Kavanaugh is poised to tip the balance of the court in a decisively conservative direction for decades to come.

At the hearing, Kavanaugh vowed to “keep an open mind in every case” if confirmed.

“A good judge must be an umpire – a neutral and impartial arbiter who favors no litigant or policy,” Kavanaugh said in opening remarks before the Senate judiciary committee, which came at the conclusion of an acrimonious day.

“I don’t decide cases based on personal or policy preferences. I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge,” he added.

“I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.”

Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings are expected to continue through the week.

Democrats have a minority of seats in the Senate and few tools at their disposal to block the nomination. But they used the first day of the confirmation hearings to sound the alarm over what they say is a lack of public accounting over Kavanaugh’s tenure in the Bush White House.

Last week, the Trump White House said it would withhold about 100,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush administration, citing executive privilege.

Democrats further expressed outrage that 42,000 pages were released on Monday night, leaving them with no time to review the documents prior to before the hearing.

The protests began mere moments after Chuck Grassley, the Republican chairman of the judiciary committee, attempted to open the hearing.

“We cannot possibly move forward,” Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, interjected. “We have not been given an opportunity to have a meaningful hearing on this nominee.”

Senator Kamala Harris objected that judiciary committee members had been denied access to key documents about Kavanaugh’s White House experience.

Senator Kamala Harris objected that judiciary committee members had been denied access to key documents about Kavanaugh’s White House experience. Photograph: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Grassley pressed on, speaking over Harris as other Democrats on the committee took turns interrupting to demand the hearing be adjourned.

“What are we trying to hide? Why are we rushing?” Patrick Leahy, a senator from Vermont, asked.

Tensions rose swiftly, as John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, decried Democrats for hijacking the hearing through “mob rule”.

The atmosphere underscored the significance of Trump’s second pick for the supreme court, after Kennedy’s retirement deprived the bench of what had been a critical swing vote…………..Several protesters were escorted out of the room by security for obstructing the proceedings on Tuesday. They included Linda Sarsour, a prominent Palestinian American organizer and co-founder of the Women’s March, and activists from Code Pink, one of whom shouted “My daughter deserves the right to choose!” as she was dragged out by Capitol police.

Outside the hearing room, a group of women dressed in the red robes and white hats from The Handmaid’s Tale. Organizers said more than 30 women had been arrested for protesting the hearing.

According to a source familiar with the strategy, the Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, convened a call over the weekend in which he laid out tactics to Democratic members of the Senate.

Fred Guttenberg tells the Guardian the supreme court nominee made eye contact long enough to recognize him

Lois Beckett

Brett Kavanaugh refuses to shake hand of shooting victim’s father – video

When the father of a school shooting victim held out his hand to Donald Trump’s nominee for the supreme court on Tuesday, Judge Brett Kavanaugh looked at him, then turned without saying a word and walked out.

“I put out my hand and I said: ‘My name is Fred Guttenberg, father of Jaime Guttenberg, who was murdered in Parkland,’ and he walked away,” Guttenberg said in an interview with the Guardian.

The moment was captured in dramatic photographs, as well as on video from several different angles. In a statement after the incident, a White House spokesman said that “an unidentified individual” had approached Kavanaugh as he was preparing to leave for the confirmation hearing’s lunch break and that “before the Judge was able to shake his hand, security had intervened”.

“If you watch the video, you see that’s not the case, ” Guttenberg said. “What the White House said was not true.”

Kavanaugh made eye contact with him “long enough for me to say who I was”, Guttenberg said. “He could have absolutely shook my hand and said: ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ I mean – if nothing else.”

In an email, the White House spokesman Raj Shah wrote: “I stand by my tweet/email on this topic,” when asked about video of the interaction that appears to contradict the White House’s claim that security had intervened “before the Judge was able to shake [Guttenberg’s] hand”.

Kavanaugh, a champion of gun rights, has been backed by the National Rifle Association, which announced in August that it was spending at least $1m on a national advertising campaign to support the judge’s confirmation to the supreme court.

In the video advertisement released by the NRA, an announcer warns, “Four liberal justices oppose your right to self-defense. Four justices support your right to self-defense. President Trump chose Brett Kavanaugh to break the tie. Your right to self-defense depends on this vote.”

An NRA spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on the interaction between Kavanaugh and the father of a school shooting victim.

Guttenberg has become a prominent advocate for gun control, including stricter regulation on military-style “assault weapons”, after his 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was shot to death in her school hallway this February with a legally purchased AR-15-style rifle. He said he had attended the hearing in hopes of making Kavanaugh consider the consequences of his position on the second amendment.

“I wanted to be there to make sure he understands what he’s being asked to do has real-world consequences,” Guttenberg said. “As he sat there thinking about his beautiful family, I wanted him to know that my family was torn apart by gun violence, preventable gun violence, the kind of gun violence that people can do something about, and he doesn’t believe that.”

Kavanaugh wrote in a 2011 dissent that the District of Columbia’s assault weapon ban was unconstitutional, because the weapons were already “in common use”. He argued that there was no “meaningful or persuasive” distinction between semi-automatic handguns and rifles, and noted, correctly, that handguns were more frequently used in crime than rifles are.

Gun control advocates say that if Kavanaugh is confirmed to the supreme court, which is currently divided between justices who support gun rights and gun control, he may serve as the swing vote to make state and federal assault weapon ban unconstitutional, as well as to tear down local restrictions on carrying guns in public.

Earlier in the day, Guttenberg said, he had been publicly introduced during the hearing by Senator Dianne Feinstein, who had invited him as her guest. He said he thought Kavanaugh would probably have been able to recognize who he was from that introduction, even before he introduced himself again.

Asked if he thought the NRA’s backing of his confirmation might have played any role in Kavanaugh’s choice not to speak to him or shake his hand, Guttenberg said: “You know what? I don’t know. I don’t put myself in other people’s heads.”

After lunch, when the hearing resumed, “security came and took me out of the room and they kept me out for 15 minutes, questioning me”, Guttenberg said. “They took my license and wanted to know why I was there.”

Afterwards, he said, he was allowed to return as the hearing continued.

Gun control advocates, including some student survivors of the Parkland shooting, argued on Tuesday that Kavanaugh’s refusal to greet the father of a gun murder victim showed a lack of character, as well as reflecting his strongly pro-gun legal views.

Andrew Pollack, another, more conservative father of a Parkland gun violence victim, publicly defended the judge on Tuesday. “Judge Kavanaugh was not responsible for the Parkland school shooting that killed my daughter,” he said, placing blame instead on local law enforcement and school officials. “Judge Kavanaugh is a decent man and should be confirmed. Stop weaponizing Parkland to advance a dangerous political agenda!”

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Aufstehen is Europe’s latest bid to halt the flow of working-class votes to the right

Sahra Wagenknecht arriving for a press conference on Tuesday.

Sahra Wagenknecht arriving for a press conference on Tuesday. Photograph: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

Even in these globalised times, most political movements are a reflection of a national political culture, a specific personality, or a voting system, but the launch in Germany of Aufstehen, or Get Up, invites comparisons with Jeremy Corbyn’s Momentum, Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece and La France Insoumise led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

If Aufstehen succeeds in its goal of uniting and reframing the German left, it could mean Europe’s largest economy joins other countries in housing Eurosceptic, nationalistic, anti-establishment parties at both ends of the political spectrum, united in their opposition to liberal elites, globalisation, excessive migration and even Nato.

At the moment, Aufstehen is very much a reflection of its founders, especially the polarising Sahra Wagenknecht. Her insistence that the German left has to listen harder to German working-class anger over migration weakens the parallels with Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Saunders. Some have described her as seeking a “red-brown” coalition, a reference to Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), which is polling as the second largest party in the country.

If anything, her preoccupations take her closer to Blue Labour, the near-defunct movement associated with Lord Glasman, a one-time adviser to Ed Miliband.

Aufstehen’s methods – it has a strong faith in digital campaigning – are similar to the Italian Five Star Movement. The idea of launching a movement, possibly as a precursor to a party, has echoes of Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche, but also of Podemos in Spain.

Its very specific pitch is a universal concern of the European left: reversing the loss of working-class votes to either abstention or the right. Its target is the left behind.

Wagenknecht herself says the inspiration for Aufstehen was La France Insoumise, or France Unbowed, the populist leftist movement founded by Mélenchon, a candidate in France’s last presidential elections.

Mélenchon, a 65-year-old former senator and former junior Socialist minister, is also Russia-friendly and a critic of Nato who wants France to withdraw from EU treaties. He has targeted foreign newcomers, declaring that he’s “never been in favour of freedom of arrival” and disapproves of migrants “stealing the bread” of French workers.

Wagenknecht insists the aim is not to form a new party, but to bring together the divided left, including her own Die Linke, the Green party and the SPD.

But some of her language is apocalyptic, and primarily aimed at former SPD voters who have defected to AfD. She says, for instance: “Germany is changing in a direction that many people do not want.” The climate is becoming rougher and more aggressive, “the cohesion is lost”. If left unchecked, “then this country will be unrecognisable in five or 10 years”.

At the launch of her movement on Tuesday she was reluctant to be specific about migration, saying excessive migration was putting pressure on public services

Her critics claim she tilts at windmills. In a recent interview, for instance, she said that if the core concern of leftist politics was to represent the disadvantaged, then the no-borders position was the opposite of being on the left.

She said: “All successes in restraining and regulating capitalism have been achieved within individual states, and states have borders.”

But she says it is inequality, as much as migration, that has been the breeding ground for resentment. Germany is full of contradictions: “We build internationally popular cars and machines, but we send our children in dilapidated schools where teachers are missing and repeatedly the class fails.” The government saves banks and subsidises corporations, but is not willing to protect old people from poverty.

Her many critics on the left claim that, far from uniting the left, she is on the verge of forming a fourth party. Her rhetoric has the effect of amplifying AfD rhetoric rather than combating it.

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