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May 31 2016 11:07 PM

Oklahoma Volunteer Deputy Sentenced to Four Years for Shooting Unarmed Black Man

A former volunteer deputy sheriff in Tulsa, Oklahoma was sentenced to four years in prison Tuesday for shooting an unarmed suspect after he had been taken into custody. Robert Bates, now 74 years old, said he mistakenly shot and killed Eric Harris in April 2015 during an illegal gun sales sting when he mistakenly drew and fired his handgun, which he thought was his stun gun.

Bates, who is white, was sitting in a parked car several blocks away from the sting operation when Harris, who is black, fled on foot nearby where Bates was parked. Bates got out to assist the officers and shot Harris in the back. The shooting was captured on video and Bates can be heard saying “Oh! I shot him! I'm sorry!" on the recording. Jurors convicted Bates last month and recommended the maximum penalty of four years for the second-degree manslaughter conviction. Here’s more from the Associated Press:

The shooting [-] sparked several investigations. Among other things, the investigations revealed an internal memo questioning Bates' qualifications as a volunteer deputy and showed that Bates, a close friend of the sheriff's, had donated thousands of dollars in cash, vehicles and equipment to the sheriff's office… An outside consultant hired to review the sheriff's office following the shooting determined that the agency suffered from a "system-wide failure of leadership and supervision" and had been in a "perceptible decline" for more than a decade. The reserve deputy program was later suspended. Weeks after Harris was killed, an internal sheriff's office memo from 2009 was released by an attorney for Harris' family that alleged superiors knew Bates didn't have enough training but pressured others to look the other way because of his relationship with the sheriff and the agency.
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The judge in the case said he took into account Bates’ age and health and that the punishment was a "legitimate and moral consequence" of the shooting.

May 31 2016 8:37 PM

Bill Kristol Wants This Conservative Writer to Run Against Trump

If reality show star Donald Trump proved, not at all figuratively, that anyone can run for president these days, conservative multitasker Bill Kristol appears set to test that hypothesis. Over the weekend, Kristol floated the idea that an independent candidate was coming to ballots near you and that this candidate was “an impressive one, with a strong team and a real chance.” On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported that Kristol’s secret candidate was none other than David French.

Wait. Who? You know, conservative magazine staff writer, David French. Tennessee lawyer David French? Still nothing? Well, fear not, you’re not alone. The Bloomberg article gives an inkling of how unknown French is to even Washington media insiders:

French is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to the website of National Review, where French is a staff writer, he is a constitutional lawyer, a recipient of the Bronze Star, and an author of several books who lives in Columbia, Tenn., with his wife Nancy and three children.
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After extensive Googling, the Trump team didn’t seem too worried:

And because this election is this election the high road was instantaneously avoided by team Trump:

David French’s wife, Nancy, has worked as a ghostwriter for Sarah Palin and her daughter Bristol, according to ABC News. So there's that.

May 31 2016 5:23 PM

The Tuesday Slatest Newsletter

Today's biggest stories:

Have a good night out there.

May 31 2016 4:57 PM

Today's Trump Apocalypse Watch: Lizard People and the Troops

The Trump Apocalypse Watch is a subjective daily estimate, using a scale of one to four horsemen, of how likely it is that Donald Trump will be elected president, thus triggering an apocalypse in which we all die.

1. Someone in the Dallas area hacked a highway construction sign so that it said "Donald Trump is a shape-shifting lizard."

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2. Trump held a peevish press conference to complain that the media wasn't being fair to him about his January announcement that he'd raised $6 million, including $1 million of his own money, for veterans' groups. A release accompanying the press conference documented which groups had received money from the fundraiser; according to the AP, "half [of the groups] reported checks from Trump within the past week, typically dated May 24, the day the Washington Post published a story questioning whether he had distributed all of the money." (The AP is actually being generous to Trump here; the Post had first questioned Trump's claims about the donations on May 20.) 

Shape-shifting lizard is about right! It's also an entirely unforced error—Trump should have known from the very second he announced the donations that he would get flak if he didn't document them. Let's lower the danger level.

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Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images, Wikimedia Commons

May 31 2016 4:39 PM

At Highly Publicized Appearance, Trump Declares He Wanted No Credit for Fundraiser He Was Forced to Talk About

Four months ago, and only days before the Iowa caucus, Donald Trump skipped a Fox News-hosted Republican debate and instead offered up his own counter-programming for other cable news networks: a fundraiser for U.S. veterans that doubled as a campaign rally for the celebrity billionaire. “Like running for office as an extremely successful person, this takes guts and it is the kind of mentality our country needs in order to Make America Great Again,” the Trump campaign boasted in a statement announcing his decision to boycott the primetime debate in favor of hosting a fundraiser only a few miles down the road.

On Tuesday, after weeks of questions about whether Trump had actually raised the $6 million he claimed he did that night and where, exactly, that money went, the candidate finally provided his first detailed accounting, reading off a list of 41 different charities that he says have since received a total of roughly $5.6 million raised as a result of that night.* The reality television star-turned-politician also stood before cameras and declared—not kidding—that he never wanted to get credit for any of it.

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“If we could, I wanted to keep it private because I don't think it's anybody's business if I want to send money to the vets,” Trump said of a fundraiser he’s repeatedly boasted about as proof of his largess and power. “I wanted to make this out of the goodness of my heart—I didn't want to do this where the press is involved,” Trump said of donations he funneled through the charitable foundation that bears his name. “I didn't want the credit for raising all this money for the vets,” Trump said inside a building with his last name emblazoned on the front of it in giant, gold letters.

Trump rarely misses an opportunity to play the role of benevolent billionaire for personal or political gain, and this fundraising stunt was no different. Yes, donating his own money and raising other people’s for charity is, generally speaking, a “good thing,” but this was not a selfless good deed that Trump wants to pretend it was. He used the fundraiser to avoid facing another grilling from Fox News (back before it boarded the Trump Train) and to maintain his stranglehold on the news cycle ahead of the first nominating contest of 2016. For Trump to argue that he didn’t want publicity—that he didn’t actively court it that night in Iowa—is laughable.

In addition to getting yet more attention for himself, the 40-minute presser—carried live, in full by the major cable networks—also gave Trump a platform to go after one of his favorite targets: the media. Specifically he went after the very reporters who pressured him into holding the news conference in the first place, with their incessant questioning about his philanthropic actions and demands that he account for the funds. In between naming his chosen charities, Trump called one TV reporter a “sleaze” and generally lambasted a press corps he claims has been “extremely dishonest,” “unfair,” and “probably libelous” for not taking Trump at his word.

Will it work? Trump’s true believers will almost certainly see things the way their man does: Trump’s just trying to help America’s heroes while the media is unfairly harassing him at every turn. And—assuming his documentation checks out—Trump may have even closed the book on this particular controversy. But in the process, he also gave the rest of the country one more reason to question whether he’s willing to follow through on his promises after the spotlight moves on.

*Correction, May 31, 2016: An earlier version misstated the number of charities Donald Trump listed at the event as "roughly two dozen."

May 31 2016 4:02 PM

Dallas Highway Sign Accuses Donald Trump of Being a Lizard Person

So there you have it.

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As Phillip Bump documented in multiple 2013 Atlantic posts, the idea that our government is controlled by lizard people is actually one with a rich history. Per Time magazine, other alleged lizard figures include Queen Elizabeth, George W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, Bob Hope, and Hillary Clinton. Maybe we do need a third party!

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May 31 2016 1:13 PM

The Supreme Court Just Made the Death Penalty a Little Less Cruel

The Supreme Court tinkered with the machinery of death once again Tuesday, clarifying capital defendants’ constitutional rights and reversing a death sentence out of Arizona. In a brief, unsigned opinion, the court reiterated that “where a capital defendant’s future dangerousness is at issue, and the only sentencing alternative to death available to the jury is life imprisonment without possibility of parole,” the due process clause “entitles the defendant ‘to inform the jury of [his] parole ineligibility.’ ” In other words, if jurors must choose between execution and life imprisonment, the defendant has the right to inform them when his life sentence would include no chance of parole. That way, jurors will understand that both options—death or life—would equally prevent the defendant from committing future crimes.

This constitutional right was firmly established more than two decades ago, and the court has repeatedly reaffirmed the principle since then. But in Tuesday’s case, Lynch v. Arizona, state prosecutors thought they’d found a way around it. Arizona law clearly deprives the defendant, Shawn Patrick Lynch, of the possibility of parole—and, throughout Lynch’s trial, prosecutors argued that he poses a serious risk of future dangerousness. That should have granted Lynch the right to tell the jury that a life sentence would not give him the opportunity to leave prison early on parole. Prosecutors disagreed, however, and persuaded the trial court to gag Lynch. The court found that because Lynch might one day receive executive clemency—a pardon by the governor—he had the functional equivalent of the possibility of parole and could not tell the jury otherwise. Lynch was sentenced to death. On appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the sentence.

A majority of the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that determination Tuesday, finding that the trial court did, indeed, infringe on Lynch’s due process rights. The court noted that it had, in a previous opinion, already rejected the idea that the mere possibility of future clemency nullified a defendant’s right to inform the jury of his parole ineligibility. Pardons are much rarer than parole, after all, and the odds of receiving a pardon are much too slim to rescind such an important right. Moreover, the justices rejected the Arizona Supreme Court’s holding that Lynch might yet receive parole in the future because the legislature could one day liberalize parole laws. Again, previous opinions already declared that “the potential for future ‘legislative reform’ could not justify refusing a parole-ineligibility instruction. If it were otherwise, a State could always argue that its legislature might pass a law rendering the defendant parole eligible.” Which is to say, by dangling the possibility of future reform, states could work around the due process clause at every capital trial.

May 31 2016 12:55 PM

North Korean State Media Outlet Praises Trump's Position on South Korea

Late last year Russian strongman Vladimir Putin praised Donald Trump as a "very outstanding man," calling the real-estate heir and presidential candidate "unquestionably talented." (Trump later boasted several times that Putin had called him a "genius," which is not true.) Now another geopolitically belligerent regime has followed Putin's lead: a new column in a North Korean state media publication describes Trump as "wise" and suggests that his hostile stance toward South Korea could benefit the North. (Trump has complained that South Korea does not contribute enough to its own defense and says he would potentially withdraw U.S. troops from the peninsula.)

From the Washington, D.C.-based NK News site, quoting North Korea's DPRK Today:

“Trump said ‘he will not get involved in the war between the South and the North,’ isn’t this fortunate from North Koreans’ perspective?”
Referring to the Trump’s speech in March to potentially withdraw the U.S. military forces from Seoul if it does not pay more for its defense costs, the North Korean editorial welcomed the policy with open arms.
“Yes do it, now … Who knew that the slogan ‘Yankee Go Home’ would come true like this? The day when the ‘Yankee Go Home’ slogan becomes real would be the day of Korean Unification.”
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So, the world's most infamously oppressive/insane government is praising the presumptive Republican presidential nominee because it thinks his election would help it overrun one of the United States' key democratic allies in Asia. We live in interesting times.

May 31 2016 11:32 AM

Aww, the Obamas’ Dog Thinks It Is a Person With a Person Job

This weekend the Associated Press posted an important investigative report about the White House dogs, Sunny and Bo, from which I'd like to highlight two pieces of information.

One is that the dogs have an official schedule.

"Everybody wants to see them and take pictures," Michelle Obama said. "I get a memo at the beginning of the month with a request for their schedules, and I have to approve their appearances."
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A schedule. For dogs!

The other thing is that Bo, who is a dog, apparently believes that he has a job. The job: helping National Park Service staffers, including head White House groundskeeper Dale Haney, monitor the local plant situation.

"He leaves every morning and he goes down with Dale ... and he's with all the National Park Service guys. And you'll see him, and he's like walking around with them, and looking at the plants," Mrs. Obama said. "I think he thinks he has a job because he takes it very seriously. So if I go out and see him, he kind of ignores me when he's with his worker crew people."

A dog with a job. Can you even imagine?!?

May 31 2016 9:50 AM

California Gov. Jerry Brown Endorses Clinton, Tells Democrats to Stop Bickering

California governor Jerry Brown—who once himself ran a liberal-insurgency campaign against a Democratic candidate named Clinton—is endorsing Hillary Clinton in her primary campaign against Bernie Sanders, Brown has announced in a press release. "On Tuesday, June 7, I have decided to cast my vote for Hillary Clinton," writes Brown, "because I believe this is the only path forward to win the presidency and stop the dangerous candidacy of Donald Trump."

Brown's release praises the Sanders campaign for having "driven home the message that the top one percent has unfairly captured way too much of America’s wealth," but also notes that Clinton holds an insurmountable delegate lead and has received more primary votes overall. "This is no time for Democrats to keep fighting each other," Brown asserts. He's the 15th Democratic governor to endorse Clinton; none have endorsed Sanders.

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Clinton holds an eight-point lead in RealClearPolitics' California polling average.

And here's a funny video (via Steve Kornacki) of Jerry Brown and Bill Clinton arguing with each other in 1992 about a mini-controversy involving Hillary Clinton's law firm:

"You're not worth being on the same platform as my wife." Hot diggity dog!

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