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Stephon Clark killing becomes test in Sacramento DA election

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For activists like Bond, whose agendas typically align with Democratic policies, the Sacramento district attorney race is an ideal venue to press their agenda. Hillary Clinton won 57 percent of the county’s vote in 2016, and registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by more than 100,000. They see untapped potential in the many voters in highly policed neighborhoods who haven’t cast ballots in prior elections. Criminal justice reform is already underway in the city of Sacramento, the county seat and state capital,driven by a 2016 police killing of a man armed with a pocket knife.

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“The culture shift that people in the community want to see comes down to voting,” said Gabby Trejo, executive director of Sacramento ACT, a faith-based community-organizing group that tries to improve the relationship between the public and law enforcement. But, she said, “many people don’t even know they get to elect their local DA.”

Sacramento ACT is partnering with the American Civil Liberties Union to change that through voter-education efforts, including public forums and door-to-door canvassing. The two groups do not endorse candidates, but encourage voters to support those who align with a reform agenda.

“In the case of Mr. Clark, people are ready to see a fair and just investigation and charges pressed,” Trejo said. “That’s something that has to happen.”

That sentiment stems from lingering anger over the 2016 case, in which Schubert declined to prosecute two officers who shot to death Joseph Mann, 50.

 Sacramento County prosecutor Noah Phillips makes his closing statement as Orville Fleming sits in Sacramento Superior Court on June 22, 2015 in Sacramento, California. Hector Amezcua / The Sacramento Bee via ZUMA

Phillips said he would reopen the Mann case if elected, part of his pledge to “hold law enforcement transparent, which my opponent does not believe in.” He was less clear about the Clark case, saying he would visit Clark’s family, give the public “an opportunity to be heard,” and hold officers accountable for any “criminal wrongdoing.”

Schubert, in an interview, defended her decision on Mann, which she explained in a January 2017 public report. “The review process was completed in a fair and independent manner,” she said.

She declined to comment on the Clark case beyond calling it a “tremendous tragedy” and promising to “conduct a full, fair and independent review” when police investigators hand the case to her. She also said she welcomed a move by the state attorney general this week to oversee the investigation.

Schubert said she has worked to improve her office’s relationship with the public, through youth law enforcement academies and literacy programs. She also said she enjoys support of the county’s top Democrats and Republicans.

Critics, including Phillips, Bond and their backers, note that Schubert campaigned for a state ballot question in 2016 that sped up the capital appeals process so that people sentenced to death actually get executed. She is also a leading voice in favor of a proposed state ballot question that would roll back laws aimed at reducing the state’s prison population. The proposal includes an expanded list of violent crimes for which offenders cannot be released early from prison and lower thresholds for the amount of stolen goods counted under the crime of serial theft.

An ACLU of California website aimed at helping people find out more about their local district attorney notes that Schubert was out of step with a majority of Sacramento voters on ballot initiatives aimed at reducing prison populations.

Schubert said the characterization of her as resisting reform was false.

“This is a very measured approach, not designed to put more people in prison,” she said.

She said she has prosecuted officers for other serious offenses, including rape. And she said she supports changing state law so that people who participate in a crime that leads to someone getting killed would not face as much prison time as those who did the killing.

She called Phillips “an opportunist” who has wrongly tried to link her to President Donald Trump; Schubert said she did not vote for the president.

On Thursday, as the Sacramento chapter of Black Lives Matter planned a third consecutive day of protests outside her office — with signs that implored her to “do your job” and “don’t be an accomplice” — Schubert said she recognized that Sacramento is going through “difficult times.”

But she said she was confident in the process, and her role in it.

“We want the community to trust whatever outcome there is,” she said.

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N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Covid book deal worth more than $5.1 million

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is being paid more than $5.1 million for his book on leadership during the coronavirus crisis, his office said Monday.

The Democratic governor and his office had for months refused to disclose how much he was paid for the book “American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic.”

State Attorney General Letitia James’ office has been investigating whether the governor misused state resources to write and promote the book.

The governor’s office released the book deal information Monday, when Cuomo released his taxes and filed his state financial disclosure form.

“The notable change from year to year is income from ‘American Crisis,'” Cuomo’s director of communications, Rich Azzopardi, said in a statement.

He said Cuomo was paid $3.12 million last year, and will be paid another $2 million over the next two years.

‎”Net income from the $3,120,000 million payment less expenses and taxes is $1,537,508,” Azzopardi said.

Of the remaining $1.5 million, Cuomo “donated a third to the United Way of New York State for state-wide COVID relief and vaccination effort, and is giving the remainder in a trust for his three daughters equally who worked with the Governor during this pandemic and did what he calls ‘tireless and effective work for all New Yorkers’ and gave him ‘the strength and love to make it through the crisis every day,’” Azzopardi said.

The sum Cuomo is getting from Crown publishing far exceeds the $225,000-a-year salary he makes as governor.

The book, which went on sale in October, has also landed Cuomo in legal trouble.

Last month, the state comptroller’s office authorized the state A.G. to investigate whether Cuomo used staffers and state resources to assist in writing the book, which is prohibited by state law.

Cuomo has insisted that any work by state employees on the book was voluntary. A spokesman has said any work on the book was “in compliance with state ethics laws and done on their personal time.”

James’s office is also investigating multiple sexual harassment allegations against the third-term governor.

Cuomo has denied touching anyone inappropriately, but acknowledged that he may have acted in ways that made people feel uncomfortable. He initially said that was unintentional and apologized, but has more recently said he’d done nothing wrong. He’s pushed back against calls from the vast majority of New York’s congressional delegation that he resign, saying he won’t bow to “cancel culture.”

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Biden tries to navigate shifting Democratic politics on Israel

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is facing down pressure from progressives to take a heavier hand with Israel amid its latest hostilities with the Palestinians.

While Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday that Israel has “a special responsibility to protect civilians in the course of its self-defense,” U.S. officials have not called on their Israeli counterparts to alter or halt their response to Palestinian rocket fire.

That puts the administration at odds with the growing set of Democratic voters and elected officials who are casting a critical eye — and harsh language — at Israel. Those voices reflect a gradual but noticeable shift in the willingness of Democrats to challenge Israeli policy over the last dozen years.

“There is a desire for a more even-handed approach,” said Logan Bayroff, vice president of communications for J-Street, a progressive group that wants the U.S. government to call for an immediate cease-fire and to place new regulations on the nearly $4 billion in aid the U.S. sends each year to Israel. “The Biden administration, at this point in time, does not seem to have gotten that message.”

Hostilities have killed more than 200 people, most of them Palestinians, over the last week, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis Sunday that they should be ready for an extended military campaign.

Netanyahu is a political flashpoint within the Democratic Party. During the last Democratic administration, Netanyahu repeatedly thumbed his nose at President Barack Obama — going so far as to rail against the Iran nuclear deal from the House floor.

Then, when President Donald Trump took office in 2017, Netanyahu locked arms with his American counterpart. The two men shared an affinity for nationalist policies and rhetoric, and Trump encouraged Netanyahu to extend Israeli settlements into Palestinian-held territory.

Some progressives want Biden to step in and stop Netanyahu now, and to restrict his ability to use American cash and weapons to fight Palestinians.

“The United States should not stand idly by while crimes against humanity are being committed with our backing,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said in a statement to NBC News. “It would be appalling for the Biden administration to go through with $735 million in precision-guided weaponry to Netanyahu without any strings attached in the wake of escalating violence and attacks on civilians.”

That sale, first reported by The Washington Post, was approved by Biden this month.

“If this goes through, this will be seen as a green light for continued escalation and will undercut any attempts at brokering a cease-fire,” Omar said.

Omar, elected in 2018, is among a relatively junior set of frequent Israel critics in Congress. What concerns veteran Israel hawks in the Democratic Party is that more moderate lawmakers are publicly questioning Israel’s actions.

Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and one of Israel’s strongest supporters on Capitol Hill, said in a statement over the weekend that there must be a “full accounting” of strikes that led to civilian deaths.

“I am deeply troubled by reports of Israeli military actions that resulted in the death of innocent civilians in Gaza as well as Israeli targeting of buildings housing international media outlets,” Menendez said.

“In response to thousands of rocket attacks fired by Hamas aimed at civilians, Israel has every right to self-defense from terrorists committed to wipe her off the face of the map,” he added. “But no matter how dangerous and real that threat may be, I have always believed the strength of the U.S.-Israeli relationship flourishes when it is based on the shared values of democracy, freedom, pluralism, and respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

A group of Jewish House Democrats last week released a letter to Biden in which they wrote “the United States cannot simply hope and wait for the situation to improve” with “more lives being lost each day.”

Jeremy Bash, a Democrat who served as chief of staff to the defense secretary during the Obama administration, said his party is still fundamentally pro-Israel. He noted that the basic outlines of the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians have not changed much in recent years, even as the issue has become more politically fraught within Democratic circles.

“It shouldn’t be, and it’s wrong,” Bash said. “I do worry that it has become that.”

But while the Biden administration has stopped the U.N. Security Council from adopting any policy or statement about the conflict, one former Obama administration national security official said the White House’s effort to at least placate fellow Democrats was evident in Blinken’s remark about Israel’s burden of adhering to a higher standard of protecting civilians.

“You don’t have to parse the language,” the former Obama aide said. “It’s the fact that he said it about Israel, period.”

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Irish Taoiseach launches Brexit attack after showdown with Boris: 'Damage can't be undone'

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BREXIT is a “major step backwards” the damage from which “cannot be undone”, Ireland’s Taoiseach has declared in a blunt assessment of Britain’s decision to quit the bloc, after his crunch meeting with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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