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Politics

‘Stay-at-Home Moms’ and the Government

(Pixabay)

Robert VerBruggen makes a strong case against Biden’s child-care proposal, and I agree with all of it except for one aside. While the proposal stacks the deck against families with “stay-at-home” parents (who are mostly mothers), he writes that other existing policies are unfair in the opposite direction: “In some ways the status quo is quite favorable to stay-at-home parents, who, for example, get an especially good deal from Social Security and Medicare.”

Policies that transfer money to these one-earner married couples are dwarfed in size, though, by policies that strongly tend to transfer money away from them, making them subsidizers rather than subsidized on net. And there are also policies that, while not transfering resources among households, have a bigger negative economic effect on large households (e.g., modern child-safety seat requirements).

Social Security and Medicare are the main issue with respect to transfers. They partly socialize the return to making the financial sacrifices entailed by raising children. (See here, here, and here for more developed versions of this argument.) They are large, though hidden, wealth transfers from adults with children to those without, and from families with several children to families with few.

Households with stay-at-home mothers raise more children, on average, than households with two full-time earners. So a transfer from larger families to smaller ones works, in practice, as a transfer from households with stay-at-home mothers to other types of household. The stay-at-home mom with one child is an exception to the rule: That kind of household will tend to come out ahead from both the features of the entitlements that VerBruggen has in mind and from the implicit subsidy I’m talking about. The two-earner couple with four children is another exception: It will tend to lose both ways.

But the general pattern of transfers from larger families with stay-at-home parents to smaller families without them should be kept in mind. It suggests, first, that the features of the programs that benefit stay-at-homers are not as unfair as they may seem: In many cases, they merely offset part of a transfer that’s going in the other direction.

The pattern also puts in perspective other existing and proposed government policies. Economists sometimes argue, for example, that tax breaks for commercial day care are a way of being neutral among different familial arrangements rather than the departure from neutrality they appear to be to the untrained eye. In the absence of such tax breaks, they say, taxes on labor income would bias parents’ choices away from paid work and in favor of staying at home to care for one’s own children. Whatever merit this argument has in isolation, it too overlooks the severe bias against large families — which, again, often have stay-at-home mothers — that is embedded in the structure of our entitlement programs.

The federal government’s thumb is already on the scale in favor of a familial arrangement including a small number of children and the use of commercial child care. There’s no good reason to put more weight there.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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Politics

More than 2 Million Coloradans Now Vaccinated

According to a press release from the office of Governor Jared Polis, more than 2 million Coloradans have now been fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus:

Currently, 2,674,623 people have received one dose, and 2,037,137 Coloradans are fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated means 15 days after receiving the second Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or 15 days after receiving the “one and done” Jansen/Johnson and Johnson vaccine. There are currently 4.7 million Coloradans, those 16 and older, who are eligible to receive the vaccine.

“I want to congratulate every Coloradan who has received their vaccine. Not only are you protecting yourself, but you’re powering the Colorado comeback and energizing our economy,” said Governor Jared Polis. “And for everyone who is still unvaccinated, I want you to know that getting the vaccine is free, quick and easy. Make a plan today, and take the first step toward ending this pandemic and protecting your family. Vaccinated Coloradans are experiencing the joy of safely seeing their grandparents again, or finally getting together with friends for dinner without the fear or guilt of endangering their lives. There are even brighter days ahead Colorado, and this lifesaving vaccine is going to get us there.”

Coloradans can receive a COVID-19 vaccine — without an appointment — at one of six community vaccination sites:

♦  Adams County: Dick’s Sporting Goods Park

♦  Denver County: Ball Arena

♦  El Paso County: Broadmoor World Arena

♦  Larimer County: The Ranch

♦  Mesa County: Grand Junction Convention Center

♦  Pueblo County: Colorado State Fairgrounds

For information on mobile vaccination clinics, go to www.mobilevax.us. To find a vaccine provider in your county, go to covid19.colorado.gov/vaccine.

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Politics

Emails Show Famed Prosecutor Linda Fairstein Intervening In Criminal Cases For NYC’s Elite

In 2015, when Harvey Weinstein had his first close shave with law enforcement, his legal team enlisted Linda Fairstein, the former New York City sex crimes prosecutor, to vouch for them with her old colleagues. 

It looks like they weren’t alone.

Emails released to HuffPost this week through a public records request show that Fairstein, who quit as head of the sex crimes unit in 2002, and her successor, Martha Bashford, maintained a close friendship that opened the door for Fairstein to weigh in on ongoing cases. Fairstein denies her involvement was ultimately meaningful. 

The emails, released by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, are heavily redacted. But they offer a rare glimpse of how well-connected New Yorkers try to minimize their exposure to the law, and the role adopted by Fairstein, one of New York law enforcement’s most famous alums.

In one episode, Fairstein tried to help a prestigious Mount Sinai doctor, Dr. Adam W. Levinson, avoid losing his medical license after he was arrested for filming up women’s skirts on the subway. In a recent interview, she said she was there to “get a fair resolution on both sides” and “present a picture of what was at stake for this young man” — his medical license, “which is what this guy cared about, really.” Bashford recalls she asked for “leniency.”

Fairstein got involved because Levinson’s godfather was a friend of “one of my vineyard best friends,” she told Bashford in a 2012 email.

“An fyi,” Fairstein wrote to Bashford on December 11, 2012. “I don’t know if [BLANK] used my name today, about [BLANK]. Got a call last weekend from one of my vineyard best friends [BLANK] … At whose home I have apparently met [BLANK’S] very lovely godfather. I promised nothing except that I would talk to [BLANK].”

Fairstein at the time was a New York City celebrity, a fixture of elite social circles who sat on the boards of charities and was a vaunted champion of women’s rights. Her prosecutorial work had served as the inspiration for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”; the show’s star, Mariska Hargitay, has called Fairstein her “fairy godmother.” Fairstein and Bashford were and are extremely good friends. The emails released to HuffPost form a picture of longtime confidants who constantly have each other’s ear.

The Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements, though, have prompted a reckoning with how the New York City district attorney’s office has perpetuated the worst inequalities of the criminal justice system.

Fairstein has become infamous for her role in overseeing the prosecution of the Central Park Five, five Black and Latino men who were falsely convicted of the 1989 rape of a white jogger in Central Park. In Ava DuVernay’s 2019 Netflix drama about the case, “When They See Us,” Fairstein is one of the central villains. (She denies playing a hands-on role in the original investigation and is suing DuVernay and Netflix for defamation.)

Got a call last weekend from one of my vineyard best friends [BLANK] … I promised nothing except that I would talk to [BLANK].”
Linda Fairstein, in an email to Martha Bashford

Bashford was the prosecutor who decided not to charge Weinstein over his alleged groping of the Filipina-Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. Fairstein had been the one to introduce Bashford to Weinstein’s attorney, promising he was a person of great integrity. The main piece of evidence in that case — NYPD audio of Weinstein admitting that he groped Gutierrez — later served as the smoking gun in Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein exposé in The New Yorker. In the midst of Weinstein’s 2020 criminal rape trial, Bashford resigned, although she and the DA’s office denied the timing had anything to do with the case. 

Bashford’s boss, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., is still the district attorney but is not seeking reelection this November. Several candidates running for his seat have strafed Vance’s handling of high-profile sex assault cases, vowing to clean house in the sex crimes unit and criticizing Vance’s failure to pursue well-connected suspects. 

“The names are familiar to most Manhattanites and New Yorkers — Harvey Weinstein, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Jeffrey Epstein — individual failures by the office,” Dan Quart, a Manhattan assemblyman who is vying for the office, said recently.

The newly released documents raise questions about how many others — whose names the public doesn’t know — tried to leverage their connections with the district attorney’s office for more lenient treatment.

For her part, Fairstein does not think she played a meaningful role in the defense of the doctor, whom she met because she was mutual friends with his godfather on Martha’s Vineyard.

The case was an instant chew toy for the tabloids. They got a lot of mileage out of Levinson’s medical profession — urology — and the spectacle of a highly credentialed, privileged Manhattanite caught “upskirting” by a construction worker from the Bronx. And Levinson was privileged: His godfather was a “very well-known, well respected” political writer whom Fairstein had met at one of her friend’s “lovely dinner parties,” she told HuffPost. She referred to the godfather as “Mr. C.”

“[Mr. C] told me about a sad situation involving his godson, a medical doctor with a stunningly promising career,” Fairstein told HuffPost. “Because of the arrest, the medical board moves right away to retract the license, which is what this guy cared about, really.”

Fairstein explains her Levinson connection to Bashford.



Fairstein explains her Levinson connection to Bashford.

Fairstein declined to be Levinson’s lawyer, believing the accusations against him were fair and the evidence solid. But she accompanied his lawyer to a meeting with Bashford, the chief of the trial division, and another assistant district attorney. Fairstein asked for “leniency,” Bashford recalls.

“It’s a long time ago, I’m trying to think what my role was,” Fairstein said. “I guess to try to help negotiate a result, not me as a lawyer, but as a human, to help present a picture of what was at stake for this young man.” At the time, Levinson was in his 40s. “I was trying to talk through both sides, get a fair resolution on both sides.”

Fairstein roundly rejected the idea that she offers friends and acquaintances special access to her old unit. “I would never, never ask in the middle of an investigation, where was it going and what was happening,” she said.  

Levinson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in 2014. Fairstein noted that the law under which he pleaded guilty — unlawful surveillance — was one she personally fought to have passed. 

Levinson spoke very little at his sentencing, but his lawyer argued that he had reformed. So did the prosecutor; he vouched for Levinson’s “contrition and remorse.” The judge allowed Levinson to avoid serving jail time or registering as a sex offender. In a later proceeding, the New York state medical board allowed Levinson to keep his license after all, pending several years of suspension and probation. HuffPost tried to reach Levinson by phone and sent Levinson a request for comment through an attorney who represented him before the licensing board, but did not receive a response.

“I never heard from [BLANK] again after the day we saw you — and he called to thank me — and I told him never again to tell anyone that he could swear that the guy would never do it again. And [BLANK] was not a great test for recidivism on the subway,” Fairstein wrote to Bashford in 2013. Bashford’s reply is redacted, but they appear to be discussing some new twist in the case. Fairstein wrote back, “Takes my breath away … guess the ‘entirely my fault’ thing was a complete act!”

An email exchange between Bashford and Fairstein about the case of Dr. Levinson.



An email exchange between Bashford and Fairstein about the case of Dr. Levinson.

I made a public records request for emails between Fairstein and Bashford after The New York Times revealed that Fairstein had assisted Harvey Weinstein’s defense team in early 2015. Her role was to convey to Bashford that Weinstein’s attorney, Elkan Abramowitz, was a person of high moral character. “Calling Ms. Bashford to tell her who Elkan was and to ask her to consider meeting with him is the kind of thing I do four to six times every year,” she told the Times.

In 2015, Bashford’s office had an explosive recording of Weinstein admitting to Ambra Battilana Gutierrez that he had forcibly groped Gutierrez’s breasts. It was the first bona fide criminal case authorities had built against Weinstein —Gutierrez had made the recording with police help — and the closest he ever came to facing prosecution until the Times and The New Yorker unleashed a tidal wave of accusations. 

Weinstein assembled a top-of-the-line team of defense attorneys to hit back, and the team enlisted Fairstein, an acquaintance of Weinstein’s and longtime friend of Abramowitz, to introduce them to Bashford, which she did. (She told the Times in 2017 she did not think Gutierrez’s complaint was founded. In her interview with HuffPost, she refused to revisit the Gutierrez case on the record.) Over three subsequent meetings, Weinstein’s legal team convinced Bashford that Gutierrez was not credible, and Bashford dropped the case. 

As with Levinson, Fairstein also had a Martha’s Vineyard connection to this case: It is where she had first met Weinstein, “on a perfectly manicured lawn”; for years afterwards, she dreamed that Weinstein would launch her screenwriting career.

Fairstein’s reputation at the time was unimpeachable inside the sex crimes unit. Among the documents released to HuffPost was an invitation to the entire unit to attend a Q&A with Fairstein in the role of celebrity alum on April 2, 2015. (Eight days later, Bashford decided not to charge Weinstein.) The meet-and-greet has not been previously reported. At a similar event in 2017, Fairstein took questions and raffled off autographed novels from her successful second career as a mystery novelist.

Fairstein, though, does not think much of her role in the Weinstein case. She says she didn’t make any difference to the outcome and she introduced Bashford to Abramowitz with Vance’s approval. Abramowitz is also Vance’s former law partner. “I wanted to speak to the character and credibility of Elkan,” she said. “You can’t manipulate Martha Bashford.”

Actress Mariska Hargitay hugs Fairstein at the Bon Appetit Supper Club and Cafe on October 26, 2008, in New York City at the



Actress Mariska Hargitay hugs Fairstein at the Bon Appetit Supper Club and Cafe on October 26, 2008, in New York City at the annual Joyful Heart Foundation Dinner. Fairstein served on the board of Joyful Heart, which Hargitay founded.

While some public officials, like lawmakers in their relationships with lobbyists, are subject to formal rules about conflicts of interest, prosecutors typically aren’t. Many criminal defendants choose a defense team they believe has a friendly working relationship with the prosecutor’s office in the hopes of reduced charges or a favorable reading of the evidence. The American Bar Association charges prosecutors to avoid personal bias but leaves it up to individuals how they do so. And some do choose to avoid old friends.

When she was pursuing the Sackler family for their role in the opioid epidemic, Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general, declined to meet face-to-face with certain members of their legal team “because some of them are people I have personal relationships with,” she told journalist Patrick Radden Keefe. 

But there are no strict prohibitions. “I don’t think it’s the communication or having those conversations that is as worrisome as, what’s the result of those conversations?” said Jane Anderson, an attorney advisor with AEquitas, a group that trains prosecutors in how to effectively pursue sex crimes.

Fairstein told HuffPost that she has called lots of old colleagues — not just Bashford — for all kinds of different reasons, including to connect crime victims directly with prosecutors. One email released to HuffPost shows just that: Fairstein emailing Bashford with the names of four acquaintances who had witnessed the aftermath of a crime and were willing to help the prosecution.

I guess to try to help negotiate a result, not me as a lawyer, but as a human, to help present a picture of what was at stake for this young man.
Fairstein, on her involvement in the Levinson case

She did not represent Weinstein nor Levinson, and in neither case did her involvement make any difference, she claimed. In the case of Levinson, she said, “I didn’t add any dignity to that [situation] and I couldn’t open my mouth about minimizing what this guy had done.”

Bashford, likewise, said Fairstein’s request for leniency for Levinson “fell on deaf ears.” “Your characterization that she had an open door for input on cases is inaccurate,” Bashford wrote in an email to HuffPost.

Emily Tuttle, a spokeswoman for Vance’s office, said, “Our prosecutors’ investigations and charging decisions are based on the facts and the law alone.”

The district attorney’s office ignored my public records request for three-plus years until April, when the general counsel for BuzzFeed, which now owns HuffPost, threatened to sue.

This week, the district attorney’s office released 147 pages of heavily redacted emails. One of the explanations it gave for all the redactions is the same reason someone like Weinstein would seek Fairstein’s help in the first place: some of the cases being discussed ended with Bashford’s unit bringing no criminal charges.

For every page of emails that the DA released to HuffPost, it withheld nearly twice as many: 224 pages that were “of a strictly personal nature, discussing events such as vacation, dinner plans, or discussions about family and mutual acquaintances,” the district attorney’s office said. 

Not all of their emails discuss live cases. Over the years, Bashford and Fairstein swapped gossip about other prosecutors, jogged each other’s memories about old case files, and complained about the NYPD. (“File under stupid cops,” Bashford wrote in one email.) They exchange confidences, and Fairstein offers to place nice press coverage for Vance and Bashford. 

The various playgrounds of the East Coast elite are a constant backdrop for their conversations, with Fairstein scheduling around her flights to Martha’s Vineyard and asking Bashford if they could meet up on Martha’s Vineyard to discuss work. 

One email from Fairstein to Bashford begins, “So on our rainy cruise to Montauk … ” 

The entire rest of her message was redacted.

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Politics

NY AG Takes Legal Action Against Trump Conspiracy Theorists For Threatening Black Votes

New York Attorney General Letitia James has taken legal against Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman for trying to disenfranchise black voters with robocalls.

According to a statement from the New York Attorney General’s office:


New York Attorney General Letitia James today filed a request to intervene in a federal proceeding against two notorious conspiracy theorists over their efforts to suppress Black voters ahead of the 2020 election. An investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) found that Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, while hiding behind their sham organization “Project 1599,” violated state and federal laws by orchestrating robocalls to threaten and harass Black communities through disinformation, including claims that mail-in voters would have their personal information disseminated to law enforcement, debt collectors, and the government.

The Wohl and Burkman robocall campaign, which reached approximately 5,500 New Yorkers, sought to undermine and interfere with the then-ongoing efforts by the state of New York to fairly and safely administer its elections during the COVID-19 crisis and protect its citizens from voter intimidation and harassment. Attorney General James’ action today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York seeks to cease further voter intimidation by Wohl, Burkman, and their associates.

The legal consequences are just beginning for the Trump supporters who tried to steal the election by intimidating and harassing black voters with lies and misinformation. These sorts of illegal actions seem quaint compared to the overtly racist voter suppression laws that are being passed in red states.

Republicans can’t win elections by appealing to voters so they are attempting to lie, cheat, and steal their way back to power.

For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.

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Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor, who is White House Press Pool, and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.

Awards and  Professional Memberships

Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association

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Politics

How To Read Liz Cheney’s Op-Ed, For The Benefit Of Glenn Greenwald And Other Idiots

We haven’t been updating you on the Liz Cheney/Kevin McCarthy thing every single day because we’re not Politico Playbook (and thank God), but it looks like Rep. Elise Stefanik, a mega-idiot, is going to usurp Cheney’s leadership title in the House Republican Caucus. Probably gonna happen next week.

Also, Cheney has written an op-ed that you should really read, because say what you will about Cheney and what she’s done in the past — Charles Blow had a nice rundown in the New York Times yesterday — but she is standing up right now in a way that, in the context of the current GOP, is really important.

Before we look at the op-ed, though, Glenn Greenwald has a complaint.

Oh dear, what must it be like to live inside that brain?


Are we turning Liz Cheney into a HERO? Have we forgotten everything else about who Liz Cheney is? Absolutely not. In the op-ed Cheney wrote, she says some complete idiot things that show you just how far into the land of batshit the GOP has gone that she’s considered one of the only “sane” voices. In our previous coverage, we’ve said out loud that it makes us feel downright weird that we’re saying anything nice about Cheney.

Of course, we would disagree with Glenn on the notion that which side you’re on in the battle over whether it’s OK to try to overturn American democracy and support a domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol in service of the previous president, an unhinged authoritarian, is a mere “trivial partisan concern.” If that’s “trivial” or “partisan,” then hoo boy, we just don’t know about this Brazilian blogger who beams into the Tucker Carlson White Power Hour for attention at least once a week.

This was literally this week.

So, Cheney’s op-ed, let’s take a look! Along the way we will helpfully note when she says a good thing and when she says a bad thing, because it’s important for adults to be able to tell the difference when they do something as heady as reading the news.

Cheney begins by noting that Donald Trump, this very week, is doubling down on his fascist Big Lie fantasy about how he won an election he actually lost. She notes that he does this with full knowledge that in January, his fascist Big Lie incited a domestic terrorist attack.

Then she starts speaking directly to Republicans, and about Republicans. (In case you have no nose for news or ability to contextualize it, the Liz Cheney story is a story about what is happening with Republicans, therefore it must be viewed in that context of Republicans. It doesn’t mean we are calling her a “hero,” Glenn.)

Long block quote, just to give you an idea of what this here op-ed is like:

The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution. In the immediate wake of the violence of Jan. 6, almost all of us knew the gravity and the cause of what had just happened — we had witnessed it firsthand.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) left no doubt in his public remarks. On the floor of the House on Jan. 13, McCarthy said: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” Now, McCarthy has changed his story.

I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative values is reverence for the rule of law. Each of us swears an oath before God to uphold our Constitution. The electoral college has spoken. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, have rejected the former president’s arguments, and refused to overturn election results. That is the rule of law; that is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud.

The question before us now is whether we will join Trump’s crusade to delegitimize and undo the legal outcome of the 2020 election, with all the consequences that might have. I have worked overseas in nations where changes in leadership come only with violence, where democracy takes hold only until the next violent upheaval. America is exceptional because our constitutional system guards against that. At the heart of our republic is a commitment to the peaceful transfer of power among political rivals in accordance with law. President Ronald Reagan described this as our American “miracle.”

While embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country. Trump has never expressed remorse or regret for the attack of Jan. 6 and now suggests that our elections, and our legal and constitutional system, cannot be trusted to do the will of the people. This is immensely harmful, especially as we now compete on the world stage against Communist China and its claims that democracy is a failed system.

Cheney then lists a couple things she thinks Republicans must do. (Again, this is a story about Republicans. It is not a story about heroes and legends.) She says Republicans need to STFU and support the Justice Department’s investigations into the terror attack of January 6. She says Republicans need to support a real bipartisan review into the causes of that terror attack, without trying to insert any bullshit about antifa or Black Lives Matter protests last summer. Of course, because she is a Republican, and not a hero or a legend, her framing of that second thing is total bullshit.

The Black Lives Matter and antifa violence of last summer was illegal and reprehensible, but it is a different problem with a different solution.

Fuck off, Liz Cheney.

Anyway, you were saying, Liz Cheney? (See, Glenn? Nuance!)

There is much at stake now, including the ridiculous wokeness of our political rivals, the irrational policies at the border and runaway spending that threatens a return to the catastrophic inflation of the 1970s. Reagan formed a broad coalition from across the political spectrum to return America to sanity …

Blah blah blah blah blah “wokeness” blah blah blah blah. What a bad paragraph, Liz Cheney. This bad paragraph is very bad and should feel very bad about itself. You are apparently not the hero we never actually thought you were, Liz Cheney!

She ends with a good paragraph, though:

History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be.

We guess that’s the “trivial partisan concern” Glenn was talking about.

And that’s it. It’s a good op-ed, grading on the extremely steep curve of what constitutes a “good” op-ed from a Republican in the year 2021. But more to that point, it’s a comment on where the GOP in the year 2021 really is, that there’s only a handful of Republicans in Congress willing to pen something like it.

That is why it’s important.

OK, we are done with Glenn Greenwald and Liz Cheney now, goodbye.

[Washington Post]

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Emails Show Famed Prosecutor Linda Fairstein Intervening In Criminal Cases For NYC’s Elite

In 2015, when Harvey Weinstein had his first close shave with law enforcement, his legal team enlisted Linda Fairstein, the former New York City sex crimes prosecutor, to vouch for them with her old colleagues. 

It looks like they weren’t alone.

Emails released to HuffPost this week through a public records request show that Fairstein, who quit as head of the sex crimes unit in 2002, and her successor, Martha Bashford, maintained a close friendship that opened the door for Fairstein to weigh in on ongoing cases. Fairstein denies her involvement was ultimately meaningful. 

The emails, released by the Manhattan district attorney’s office, are heavily redacted. But they offer a rare glimpse of how well-connected New Yorkers try to minimize their exposure to the law, and the role adopted by Fairstein, one of New York law enforcement’s most famous alums.

In one episode, Fairstein tried to help a prestigious Mount Sinai doctor, Dr. Adam W. Levinson, avoid losing his medical license after he was arrested for filming up women’s skirts on the subway. In a recent interview, she said she was there to “get a fair resolution on both sides” and “present a picture of what was at stake for this young man” — his medical license, “which is what this guy cared about, really.” Bashford recalls she asked for “leniency.”

Fairstein got involved because Levinson’s godfather was a friend of “one of my vineyard best friends,” she told Bashford in a 2012 email.

“An fyi,” Fairstein wrote to Bashford on December 11, 2012. “I don’t know if [BLANK] used my name today, about [BLANK]. Got a call last weekend from one of my vineyard best friends [BLANK] … At whose home I have apparently met [BLANK’S] very lovely godfather. I promised nothing except that I would talk to [BLANK].”

Fairstein at the time was a New York City celebrity, a fixture of elite social circles who sat on the boards of charities and was a vaunted champion of women’s rights. Her prosecutorial work had served as the inspiration for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”; the show’s star, Mariska Hargitay, has called Fairstein her “fairy godmother.” Fairstein and Bashford were and are extremely good friends. The emails released to HuffPost form a picture of longtime confidants who constantly have each other’s ear.

The Me Too and Black Lives Matter movements, though, have prompted a reckoning with how the New York City district attorney’s office has perpetuated the worst inequalities of the criminal justice system.

Fairstein has become infamous for her role in overseeing the prosecution of the Central Park Five, five Black and Latino men who were falsely convicted of the 1989 rape of a white jogger in Central Park. In Ava DuVernay’s 2019 Netflix drama about the case, “When They See Us,” Fairstein is one of the central villains. (She denies playing a hands-on role in the original investigation and is suing DuVernay and Netflix for defamation.)

Got a call last weekend from one of my vineyard best friends [BLANK] … I promised nothing except that I would talk to [BLANK].”
Linda Fairstein, in an email to Martha Bashford

Bashford was the prosecutor who decided not to charge Weinstein over his alleged groping of the Filipina-Italian model Ambra Battilana Gutierrez. Fairstein had been the one to introduce Bashford to Weinstein’s attorney, promising he was a person of great integrity. The main piece of evidence in that case — NYPD audio of Weinstein admitting that he groped Gutierrez — later served as the smoking gun in Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein exposé in The New Yorker. In the midst of Weinstein’s 2020 criminal rape trial, Bashford resigned, although she and the DA’s office denied the timing had anything to do with the case. 

Bashford’s boss, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., is still the district attorney but is not seeking reelection this November. Several candidates running for his seat have strafed Vance’s handling of high-profile sex assault cases, vowing to clean house in the sex crimes unit and criticizing Vance’s failure to pursue well-connected suspects. 

“The names are familiar to most Manhattanites and New Yorkers — Harvey Weinstein, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Jeffrey Epstein — individual failures by the office,” Dan Quart, a Manhattan assemblyman who is vying for the office, said recently.

The newly released documents raise questions about how many others — whose names the public doesn’t know — tried to leverage their connections with the district attorney’s office for more lenient treatment.

For her part, Fairstein does not think she played a meaningful role in the defense of the doctor, whom she met because she was mutual friends with his godfather on Martha’s Vineyard.

The case was an instant chew toy for the tabloids. They got a lot of mileage out of Levinson’s medical profession — urology — and the spectacle of a highly credentialed, privileged Manhattanite caught “upskirting” by a construction worker from the Bronx. And Levinson was privileged: His godfather was a “very well-known, well respected” political writer whom Fairstein had met at one of her friend’s “lovely dinner parties,” she told HuffPost. She referred to the godfather as “Mr. C.”

“[Mr. C] told me about a sad situation involving his godson, a medical doctor with a stunningly promising career,” Fairstein told HuffPost. “Because of the arrest, the medical board moves right away to retract the license, which is what this guy cared about, really.”

Fairstein explains her Levinson connection to Bashford.



Fairstein explains her Levinson connection to Bashford.

Fairstein declined to be Levinson’s lawyer, believing the accusations against him were fair and the evidence solid. But she accompanied his lawyer to a meeting with Bashford, the chief of the trial division, and another assistant district attorney. Fairstein asked for “leniency,” Bashford recalls.

“It’s a long time ago, I’m trying to think what my role was,” Fairstein said. “I guess to try to help negotiate a result, not me as a lawyer, but as a human, to help present a picture of what was at stake for this young man.” At the time, Levinson was in his 40s. “I was trying to talk through both sides, get a fair resolution on both sides.”

Fairstein roundly rejected the idea that she offers friends and acquaintances special access to her old unit. “I would never, never ask in the middle of an investigation, where was it going and what was happening,” she said.  

Levinson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in 2014. Fairstein noted that the law under which he pleaded guilty — unlawful surveillance — was one she personally fought to have passed. 

Levinson spoke very little at his sentencing, but his lawyer argued that he had reformed. So did the prosecutor; he vouched for Levinson’s “contrition and remorse.” The judge allowed Levinson to avoid serving jail time or registering as a sex offender. In a later proceeding, the New York state medical board allowed Levinson to keep his license after all, pending several years of suspension and probation. HuffPost tried to reach Levinson by phone and sent Levinson a request for comment through an attorney who represented him before the licensing board, but did not receive a response.

“I never heard from [BLANK] again after the day we saw you — and he called to thank me — and I told him never again to tell anyone that he could swear that the guy would never do it again. And [BLANK] was not a great test for recidivism on the subway,” Fairstein wrote to Bashford in 2013. Bashford’s reply is redacted, but they appear to be discussing some new twist in the case. Fairstein wrote back, “Takes my breath away … guess the ‘entirely my fault’ thing was a complete act!”

An email exchange between Bashford and Fairstein about the case of Dr. Levinson.



An email exchange between Bashford and Fairstein about the case of Dr. Levinson.

I made a public records request for emails between Fairstein and Bashford after The New York Times revealed that Fairstein had assisted Harvey Weinstein’s defense team in early 2015. Her role was to convey to Bashford that Weinstein’s attorney, Elkan Abramowitz, was a person of high moral character. “Calling Ms. Bashford to tell her who Elkan was and to ask her to consider meeting with him is the kind of thing I do four to six times every year,” she told the Times.

In 2015, Bashford’s office had an explosive recording of Weinstein admitting to Ambra Battilana Gutierrez that he had forcibly groped Gutierrez’s breasts. It was the first bona fide criminal case authorities had built against Weinstein —Gutierrez had made the recording with police help — and the closest he ever came to facing prosecution until the Times and The New Yorker unleashed a tidal wave of accusations. 

Weinstein assembled a top-of-the-line team of defense attorneys to hit back, and the team enlisted Fairstein, an acquaintance of Weinstein’s and longtime friend of Abramowitz, to introduce them to Bashford, which she did. (She told the Times in 2017 she did not think Gutierrez’s complaint was founded. In her interview with HuffPost, she refused to revisit the Gutierrez case on the record.) Over three subsequent meetings, Weinstein’s legal team convinced Bashford that Gutierrez was not credible, and Bashford dropped the case. 

As with Levinson, Fairstein also had a Martha’s Vineyard connection to this case: It is where she had first met Weinstein, “on a perfectly manicured lawn”; for years afterwards, she dreamed that Weinstein would launch her screenwriting career.

Fairstein’s reputation at the time was unimpeachable inside the sex crimes unit. Among the documents released to HuffPost was an invitation to the entire unit to attend a Q&A with Fairstein in the role of celebrity alum on April 2, 2015. (Eight days later, Bashford decided not to charge Weinstein.) The meet-and-greet has not been previously reported. At a similar event in 2017, Fairstein took questions and raffled off autographed novels from her successful second career as a mystery novelist.

Fairstein, though, does not think much of her role in the Weinstein case. She says she didn’t make any difference to the outcome and she introduced Bashford to Abramowitz with Vance’s approval. Abramowitz is also Vance’s former law partner. “I wanted to speak to the character and credibility of Elkan,” she said. “You can’t manipulate Martha Bashford.”

Actress Mariska Hargitay hugs Fairstein at the Bon Appetit Supper Club and Cafe on October 26, 2008, in New York City at the



Actress Mariska Hargitay hugs Fairstein at the Bon Appetit Supper Club and Cafe on October 26, 2008, in New York City at the annual Joyful Heart Foundation Dinner. Fairstein served on the board of Joyful Heart, which Hargitay founded.

While some public officials, like lawmakers in their relationships with lobbyists, are subject to formal rules about conflicts of interest, prosecutors typically aren’t. Many criminal defendants choose a defense team they believe has a friendly working relationship with the prosecutor’s office in the hopes of reduced charges or a favorable reading of the evidence. The American Bar Association charges prosecutors to avoid personal bias but leaves it up to individuals how they do so. And some do choose to avoid old friends.

When she was pursuing the Sackler family for their role in the opioid epidemic, Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general, declined to meet face-to-face with certain members of their legal team “because some of them are people I have personal relationships with,” she told journalist Patrick Radden Keefe. 

But there are no strict prohibitions. “I don’t think it’s the communication or having those conversations that is as worrisome as, what’s the result of those conversations?” said Jane Anderson, an attorney advisor with AEquitas, a group that trains prosecutors in how to effectively pursue sex crimes.

Fairstein told HuffPost that she has called lots of old colleagues — not just Bashford — for all kinds of different reasons, including to connect crime victims directly with prosecutors. One email released to HuffPost shows just that: Fairstein emailing Bashford with the names of four acquaintances who had witnessed the aftermath of a crime and were willing to help the prosecution.

I guess to try to help negotiate a result, not me as a lawyer, but as a human, to help present a picture of what was at stake for this young man.
Fairstein, on her involvement in the Levinson case

She did not represent Weinstein nor Levinson, and in neither case did her involvement make any difference, she claimed. In the case of Levinson, she said, “I didn’t add any dignity to that [situation] and I couldn’t open my mouth about minimizing what this guy had done.”

Bashford, likewise, said Fairstein’s request for leniency for Levinson “fell on deaf ears.” “Your characterization that she had an open door for input on cases is inaccurate,” Bashford wrote in an email to HuffPost.

Emily Tuttle, a spokeswoman for Vance’s office, said, “Our prosecutors’ investigations and charging decisions are based on the facts and the law alone.”

The district attorney’s office ignored my public records request for three-plus years until April, when the general counsel for BuzzFeed, which now owns HuffPost, threatened to sue.

This week, the district attorney’s office released 147 pages of heavily redacted emails. One of the explanations it gave for all the redactions is the same reason someone like Weinstein would seek Fairstein’s help in the first place: some of the cases being discussed ended with Bashford’s unit bringing no criminal charges.

For every page of emails that the DA released to HuffPost, it withheld nearly twice as many: 224 pages that were “of a strictly personal nature, discussing events such as vacation, dinner plans, or discussions about family and mutual acquaintances,” the district attorney’s office said. 

Not all of their emails discuss live cases. Over the years, Bashford and Fairstein swapped gossip about other prosecutors, jogged each other’s memories about old case files, and complained about the NYPD. (“File under stupid cops,” Bashford wrote in one email.) They exchange confidences, and Fairstein offers to place nice press coverage for Vance and Bashford. 

The various playgrounds of the East Coast elite are a constant backdrop for their conversations, with Fairstein scheduling around her flights to Martha’s Vineyard and asking Bashford if they could meet up on Martha’s Vineyard to discuss work. 

One email from Fairstein to Bashford begins, “So on our rainy cruise to Montauk … ” 

The entire rest of her message was redacted.

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Politics

Ron DeSantis And Florida GOP Immediately Sued After Signing Election Rigging Law

A coalition of Florida voting rights groups immediately sued Gov. Ron DeSantis and Florida Republican officials for violating the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

The lawsuit states that Florida is catering to 2020 election lies and trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist:

The Florida law comes from the same template that Republicans in other states like Georgia have used to target likely Democratic voters to keep them from voting. DeSantis made his intentions clear by granting Fox News exclusive access to the bill signing.

Republicans will face a tidal wave of litigation over these laws, but Democrats can’t count on the courts to do the right thing. The Department of Justice needs to get involved in these lawsuits and move to protect voting rights.

Democrats need to pass a voting rights bill in Congress. Republicans think that they have the bill blocked in the Senate because they have Sen. Joe Manchin in their back pocket, but Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, has shown an openness to passing a voting rights bill.

Republicans will keep passing election rigging bills, so Democrats must launch a multifront war to protect voting rights.

For more discussion about this story join our Rachel Maddow and MSNBC group.

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Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor, who is White House Press Pool, and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.

Awards and  Professional Memberships

Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association

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Politics

Firing Squads Are Honest, At Least

1890: Convicted axe murderer William Kemmler becomes the first person to be executed in the electric chair. Following the passage of the Electrical Execution Law the previous year, an electrician at Auburn State Prison in New York was commissioned to design a device to carry out the sentence, which it was thought would be more humane than hanging, then still the most common form of capital punishment. Kemmler was strapped in and two charges were administered, the first having failed to end his life. Reporters described in gory detail the “Horrible Scene at His Execution,” and electricity pioneer George Westinghouse reportedly quipped: “They would have done better with an axe.” But electrocution would soon become a common means of capital punishment in half the states.

The Hill reports:

The South Carolina House voted on Wednesday to add firing squads as an execution method for prisoners.

The bill passed in a 66-43 vote, with one Democrat voting in favor and seven Republicans voting against it, The Associated Press reported.

The South Carolina Senate passed a similar bill in a 32-11 vote in March.

I’ve seen a good deal of outrage about this, but I don’t really understand why — at least, I don’t understand why such outrage would exist separately from outrage about the death penalty per se. If the state is going to kill people who are convicted of terrible crimes — which I don’t think it should — it should be honest about what it is doing. Lethal injection is a sanitized, medicalized process that effectively euphemizes what is being done. Firing squads, by contrast, are violent and make it obvious. If we are happy to kill people, we should be happy to acknowledge fully what we’re doing. If we’re not willing to acknowledge fully what we’re doing, we shouldn’t be killing people.

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Politics

It Takes an American Vaccine to Clean Up a Communist Disease

A nurse draws from a vial of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine in Los Angeles, Calif., March 25, 2021. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

It is in fashion on the left — and in many quarters of the right — to be myopically concentrated on all that is wrong with this country.

It’s an odd time to be down on the old Stars and Stripes, though. Over the last year, the United States has done more than any other nation to bring an end to the coronavirus pandemic. And when it does end, it will in fact be American ingenuity that does it.

The American coronavirus vaccines are not the only ones to have been created and mass-produced in less than a year, but they are by far the most effective products doing by far the most good around the world.

In China, the bumblingly mendacious Communist Party (CCP) lied about the novel coronavirus, allowing this disease to spread outside its borders and kill millions. Since committing its original sin, the CCP has been engaged in a cynical and incompetent campaign of coronavirus diplomacy. Recall that as early as last March, the Chinese were touting their ability to provide coronavirus tests; they turned out to be defective. Spain, which received 640,000 of them, demanded a full refund.

Then, the CCP developed and began distributing a pair of, if not outright defective, then at least notably less safe and less effective vaccines as compared with the American ones that have left the countries depending on them reeling.

In Chile:

This South American nation of 19 million, which secured enough potential coronavirus vaccine doses to inoculate its population twice over, leads the Western Hemisphere in vaccinations per capita. More than 7.5 million Chileans have received at least one dose, and 5 million are now fully vaccinated. Only Israel and Britain have performed better.

At the same time, new cases of COVID-19 are surging. The country has reported more than 7,000 daily cases nine times this month, outstripping its first-wave peak of 6,938 last July, and sounding an alarm for the United States and other countries that have raced out ahead on the vaccination curve.

Why? Because Chile has relied primarily upon the Chinese SinoVac vaccine, which is only 16 percent effective after a first dose and according to the Brazillian government, 50 percent effective after a second. Compare these figures to those for the United States’ Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. The first two, which are two-dose programs, both provide better protection after one dose than SinoVac does after one, and ramp up to over 90 percent effective after a second. Johnson and Johnson, which is designed as a one-and-done solution, is also substantially more protective than SinoVac.

The other Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm, is falling short of the high standards set by the American ones as well. It has been the most-used vaccine in Seychelles, a small African archipelago that also happens to be the most-vaccinated nation in the world. And yet, Seychelles has reinstated social-distancing restrictions as its caseload has skyrocketed in recent days. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization has raised questions about Sinopharm’s safety:

“We have very low confidence in the quality of evidence that the risk of serious adverse events following one or two doses of BBIBP-CorV in older adults (≥60 years) is low,” it [a WHO report on Sinopharm’s safety data] said.

“We have very low confidence in the quality of evidence that the risk of serious adverse events in individuals with comorbidities or health states that increase risk for severe COVID-19 following one or two doses of BBIBP-CorV is low,” it added.

Not great.

The day-to-day melodrama of partisan politics keeps us from enjoying too many ra-ra, “U-S-A!” patriotic moments these days, but we would be remiss not to take note of America’s singularly important role in ending a crisis caused by our chief geopolitical rival.

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Politics

How To Read Liz Cheney’s Op-Ed, For The Benefit Of Glenn Greenwald And Other Idiots

We haven’t been updating you on the Liz Cheney/Kevin McCarthy thing every single day because we’re not Politico Playbook (and thank God), but it looks like Rep. Elise Stefanik, a mega-idiot, is going to usurp Cheney’s leadership title in the House Republican Caucus. Probably gonna happen next week.

Also, Cheney has written an op-ed that you should really read, because say what you will about Cheney and what she’s done in the past — Charles Blow had a nice rundown in the New York Times yesterday — but she is standing up right now in a way that, in the context of the current GOP, is really important.

Before we look at the op-ed, though, Glenn Greenwald has a complaint.

Oh dear, what must it be like to live inside that brain?


Are we turning Liz Cheney into a HERO? Have we forgotten everything else about who Liz Cheney is? Absolutely not. In the op-ed Cheney wrote, she says some complete idiot things that show you just how far into the land of batshit the GOP has gone that she’s considered one of the only “sane” voices. In our previous coverage, we’ve said out loud that it makes us feel downright weird that we’re saying anything nice about Cheney.

Of course, we would disagree with Glenn on the notion that which side you’re on in the battle over whether it’s OK to try to overturn American democracy and support a domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol in service of the previous president, an unhinged authoritarian, is a mere “trivial partisan concern.” If that’s “trivial” or “partisan,” then hoo boy, we just don’t know about this Brazilian blogger who beams into the Tucker Carlson White Power Hour for attention at least once a week.

This was literally this week.

So, Cheney’s op-ed, let’s take a look! Along the way we will helpfully note when she says a good thing and when she says a bad thing, because it’s important for adults to be able to tell the difference when they do something as heady as reading the news.

Cheney begins by noting that Donald Trump, this very week, is doubling down on his fascist Big Lie fantasy about how he won an election he actually lost. She notes that he does this with full knowledge that in January, his fascist Big Lie incited a domestic terrorist attack.

Then she starts speaking directly to Republicans, and about Republicans. (In case you have no nose for news or ability to contextualize it, the Liz Cheney story is a story about what is happening with Republicans, therefore it must be viewed in that context of Republicans. It doesn’t mean we are calling her a “hero,” Glenn.)

Long block quote, just to give you an idea of what this here op-ed is like:

The Republican Party is at a turning point, and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution. In the immediate wake of the violence of Jan. 6, almost all of us knew the gravity and the cause of what had just happened — we had witnessed it firsthand.

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) left no doubt in his public remarks. On the floor of the House on Jan. 13, McCarthy said: “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.” Now, McCarthy has changed his story.

I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative values is reverence for the rule of law. Each of us swears an oath before God to uphold our Constitution. The electoral college has spoken. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, have rejected the former president’s arguments, and refused to overturn election results. That is the rule of law; that is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud.

The question before us now is whether we will join Trump’s crusade to delegitimize and undo the legal outcome of the 2020 election, with all the consequences that might have. I have worked overseas in nations where changes in leadership come only with violence, where democracy takes hold only until the next violent upheaval. America is exceptional because our constitutional system guards against that. At the heart of our republic is a commitment to the peaceful transfer of power among political rivals in accordance with law. President Ronald Reagan described this as our American “miracle.”

While embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country. Trump has never expressed remorse or regret for the attack of Jan. 6 and now suggests that our elections, and our legal and constitutional system, cannot be trusted to do the will of the people. This is immensely harmful, especially as we now compete on the world stage against Communist China and its claims that democracy is a failed system.

Cheney then lists a couple things she thinks Republicans must do. (Again, this is a story about Republicans. It is not a story about heroes and legends.) She says Republicans need to STFU and support the Justice Department’s investigations into the terror attack of January 6. She says Republicans need to support a real bipartisan review into the causes of that terror attack, without trying to insert any bullshit about antifa or Black Lives Matter protests last summer. Of course, because she is a Republican, and not a hero or a legend, her framing of that second thing is total bullshit.

The Black Lives Matter and antifa violence of last summer was illegal and reprehensible, but it is a different problem with a different solution.

Fuck off, Liz Cheney.

Anyway, you were saying, Liz Cheney? (See, Glenn? Nuance!)

There is much at stake now, including the ridiculous wokeness of our political rivals, the irrational policies at the border and runaway spending that threatens a return to the catastrophic inflation of the 1970s. Reagan formed a broad coalition from across the political spectrum to return America to sanity …

Blah blah blah blah blah “wokeness” blah blah blah blah. What a bad paragraph, Liz Cheney. This bad paragraph is very bad and should feel very bad about itself. You are apparently not the hero we never actually thought you were, Liz Cheney!

She ends with a good paragraph, though:

History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be.

We guess that’s the “trivial partisan concern” Glenn was talking about.

And that’s it. It’s a good op-ed, grading on the extremely steep curve of what constitutes a “good” op-ed from a Republican in the year 2021. But more to that point, it’s a comment on where the GOP in the year 2021 really is, that there’s only a handful of Republicans in Congress willing to pen something like it.

That is why it’s important.

OK, we are done with Glenn Greenwald and Liz Cheney now, goodbye.

[Washington Post]

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