Wednesday, July 6, 2022
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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Milwaukee Press Club 'Excellence in Wisconsin Journalism' 2020 & 2021 Award Winners

DA Mike Graveley: Why is Kenosha’s Top Prosecutor MIA on Kyle Rittenhouse?

It’s time to put DA Mike Graveley’s picture on a milk carton.

You’d think an elected district attorney would personally handle one of, if not THE, largest and most significant criminal cases in his county’s history. But, no, Kenosha County DA Mike Graveley has been completely MIA on the Kyle Rittenhouse case.

He pawned the case off to his unfortunate assistant district attorney, Thomas Binger, who was left to spin gold out of a pile of self-defense straw. It was clear from the start, and it’s still clear today, that the prosecution has NO COHERENT argument to counter the Rittenhouse defense team’s self-defense claims. None whatsoever.

We wrote Graveley and asked him why he didn’t prosecute the case himself. He didn’t respond.

We think the answer is clear: The case had loser written all over it from the start, so Graveley let his underling take the fall. The charges were NEVER justified by the facts of the investigation; they were a bone tossed to the mob that had just burned down parts of Kenosha, and the media, which had already constructed a false narrative of Rittenhouse as a white supremacist card-carrying militia member (there is no evidence of that). It was appeasement, not justice.

In fact, it’s not even clear what the prosecution’s theory is, other than to throw so much at the jury that maybe, just maybe, they will think, we better convict Rittenhouse of something. But that’s not the law.

Don’t give all the blame to the hapless Binger, who has been trotting out witness after witness who end up only making the case for the defense (two cases in point: Gaige Grosskreutz, who admitted pointing a gun at Rittenhouse and advancing toward him when he was shot, and Richie McGinniss, who testified that he saw Joseph Rosenbaum chasing Rittenhouse and then lunging for his gun when Rittenhouse shot him.)

No, don’t blame Binger for that. Binger is just the DA’s fall guy. He can’t change the facts. They are what they are. This is a weird case in which self-defense is being claimed in three sequential shootings, two of which resulted in deaths. But the facts were always clear. It WAS self-defense, and clearly so. Heck, it’s on VIDEO. You could have gone on YouTube months ago and figured out it was self-defense.

The blame belongs squarely with DA Mike Graveley. As the woeful prosecution case has unraveled day by day, witness by witness and video by video, into an embarrassing heap, it’s become clear: It should never have been charged in the first place.

That’s a decision that rested with DA Mike Graveley, the elected DA, Binger’s boss, and the guy who has been conspicuously absent from the whole thing. There are no press conferences on the steps. No media interviews. No appearances in court. It’s like a trap door opened and the DA fell down it.

Except he managed to go to Wisconsin Dells to get a “District Attorney of the Year” award on Thursday, as McGinniss’s testimony torpedoed the state’s case back at home.

Here’s the thing. DA Mike Graveley did an excellent job handling the investigation into Kenosha Police Officer Rusten Sheskey, whom he declined to charge for the shooting of Jacob Blake. His presentation explaining that decision was incredibly thorough, painstaking and presented well. And he did the right thing there against the forces of political pressure. Still, there are those who felt he should have charged Blake.

But on Rittenhouse he failed, and he needs to own it. Will the prosecution still eke out a conviction? Maybe on the illegal gun charge, but that’s just a misdemeanor (and he didn’t charge Gaige Grosskreutz for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.) The only way the prosecution convicts Rittenhouse on more is if the jury ignores the facts, disregards the law, and rules on fear and emotion. That doesn’t excuse the fact that this prosecution was unconscionable.

Kenosha County Eye previously reported on the strange story that DA Mike Graveley was texting with Whitney Cabal, a BLM activist known as Billy Violent. The texts lasted almost six weeks, sometimes after 10 p.m., and involved the DOJ investigation into the Blake shooting and the Kenosha riots.

DA Mike Graveley

He is a Democrat who was a deputy DA before being elected DA in 2016. He was a long-time prosecutor who handled 200 jury trials, according to the Kenosha News.

Trials are searches for the truth, but it’s not justice to charge a person with homicide when the facts don’t fit. If DA Mike Graveley felt there needed to be a public airing of the facts, he could have held a public inquest (like Milwaukee County DA E. Michael McCann used to do years ago in every police shooting). Then, if the inquest jury didn’t recommend charges, he could have hung his hat on that when the protect class came calling for his head.

Have the political courage to do what is right. Every day, it becomes clearer what that was, and the buck stops with Graveley.

Table of Contents

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U.S. Supreme Court Overturns Ban Preventing Religious Schools From Receiving State Funding

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned Maine’s ban on state tuition assistance to students attending religious schools in an education case that could have big implications for schools around the country.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in Carson v. Makin.

The dispute began when the state of Maine created a tuition assistance program for rural areas without public schools. The program, though, explicitly said that state funds could not be used at religious private schools, only secular schools.

A family sued the state of Maine saying they should be able to use the state funding at a religious school if they desired. They argued the program discriminates against religious schools and violates the Free Exercise Clause of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court sided with the challengers to Maine’s law Tuesday.

“Maine’s program cannot survive strict scrutiny,” the court’s ruling says. “A neutral benefit program in which public funds flow to religious organizations through the independent choices of private benefit recipients does not offend the Establishment Clause. Maine’s decision to continue excluding religious schools from its tuition assistance program after Zelman thus promotes stricter separation of church and state than the Federal Constitution requires. But a State’s antiestablishment interest does not justify enactments that exclude some members of the community from an otherwise generally available public benefit because of their religious exercise.”

The high court pointed to Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia v. Comer, a 2016 ruling where the court sided with a religious school that was denied state grant funding assistance for a playground improvement because it was religious.

“The Department’s policy violated the rights of Trinity Lutheran under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment by denying the Church an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status,” the court ruled in that case. “This Court has repeatedly confirmed that denying a generally available benefit solely on account of religious identity imposes a penalty on the free exercise of religion.”

As The Center Square previously reported, critics of Maine’s anti-religious school provision also pointed to Espinoza v. Montana Dept. of Revenue, a Supreme Court case in 2020 in which the high court ruled in favor of a similar Montana program, saying students could receive state funds for education at a religious school.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the majority opinion, and Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the dissent. In the dissent, Breyer said the majority gave too little credence to the establishment clause and too much to the free exercise clause.

“The Court today pays almost no attention to the words in the first Clause while giving almost exclusive attention to the words in the second. The majority also fails to recognize the ‘play in the joints’ between the two Clauses," Breyer wrote.

Religious liberty advocates celebrated the ruling.

“We are thrilled that the Court affirmed once again that religious discrimination will not be tolerated in this country,” said Kelly Shackelford, Liberty Counsel’s president and chief Counsel. “Parents in Maine, and all over the country, can now choose the best education for their kids without fearing retribution from the government. This is a great day for religious liberty in America.”

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Several Republican senators are demanding a hearing saying they received documents from a Department of Homeland Security whistleblower about the agency’s new disinformation governance board that allegedly show DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas misled a Senate committee when he testified about the board last month.

The lawmakers sent a letter this week to Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee asking for a hearing on the issue where Mayorkas could come back for questioning.

“We write to request you convene a hearing with Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas as soon as possible to answer critical questions about apparently misleading testimony before the Committee on May 4 on the Department of Homeland Security Disinformation Governance Board (the Board),” the letter said. “We are deeply concerned that documents recently obtained by Senators Josh Hawley and Chuck Grassley contradict the Secretary’s testimony and public statements about the Board.”

This kerfuffle is the latest in a string of disputes around the board, not the least of which included Nina Jankowicz’ resignation from leading the board after controversial social media videos surfaced.

The Republican senators published the DHS documents online purporting to show documented evidence that Mayorkas misrepresented the purpose of the board.

“Responding to a question from a reporter ‘Will American citizens be monitored?’ Secretary Mayorkas responded unequivocally ‘No,’ adding that ‘We at the Department of Homeland Security don’t monitor American citizens,’” the letter said. “He went on to suggest the Board would be concentrating on foreign threats – ’addressing the threat of disinformation from foreign state adversaries [and] from the cartels.’ Yet talking points prepared by Ms. Jankowicz, the Board’s then–Executive Director appear to show that the Department does in fact monitor American citizens and that the Board’s work is concentrated on domestic threats.”

The documents also give evidence that the federal agency has been working on the disinformation board longer than Mayorkas let on in his testimony.

“At the May 4 hearing, Secretary Mayorkas testified that the Board ‘has not yet begun its work,’” the letter said. “Yet the documents indicate the Secretary had stood up the Board on February 24, 2022 – more than two months earlier. The Board’s charter, signed by the Secretary, required the Board meet ‘regularly’ and ‘no less than once per quarter.’ Another document dated only six days before Secretary Mayorkas appeared before the Committee provides preparatory materials for a meeting between Under Secretary for Policy Robert Silvers and Twitter. The document was prepared by Ms. Nina Jankowicz in her capacity as ‘Executive Director DHS Disinformation Governance Board,’ clearly evidencing that the Board had already begun its work.”

After the board was announced, critics quickly raised concerns about its implications for free speech and the Constitution.

“Any regime with an organized disinformation effort directed at its own people is one that is moving away from self-government and toward state control of the most basic aspects of liberty,” said Matthew Spalding, Constitutional expert and Dean of the Van Andel Graduate School of Government for Hillsdale College.

Now, the lawmakers are calling for a hearing, but whether that hearing will actually happen remains to be seen.

“The American public deserves transparency and honest answers to important questions about the true nature and purpose of the Disinformation Governance Board and it is clear that Secretary Mayorkas has not provided them – to the public or this Committee,” the letter said. “Therefore, we request you hold a hearing with Secretary Mayorkas and join us in insisting that all records related to the Board be provided to the Committee prior to the hearing.”

Sen. Peter’s office and the DHS did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

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U.S. Customs and Border Patrol published official data Thursday for apprehensions and encounters May: the highest monthly total in recorded U.S. history of 239,416.

CBP published the data after The Center Square published preliminary numbers received from a Border Patrol agent.

Official numbers include both Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations data of people entering the U.S. illegally at all ports of entry.

Despite President Joe Biden, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and CBP Chief Chris Magnus arguing that the border is closed, that Title 42 is being enforced, and that it is complying with the Remain in Mexico policy, more people entered the U.S. illegally in May 2022 than an any month recorded in U.S. history.

And the numbers are only going up.

In April, CBP reported 235,478 total encounters/apprehensions; in March, 222,239; in February, 165,902; in January, 154,816.

The last two months alone equals roughly the size of the population of Montana.

The southern border sectors that saw the most traffic last month, as in nearly all months, were in Texas in the Rio Grande Valley and Del Rio sectors.

The numbers are broken down by BP sector and categories, including apprehensions, turn backs, non-violations, outstanding, no-arrests, got aways (known/recorded), and deceased. Here are the numbers based on the preliminary data obtained by The Center Square.

RGV Sector

Apps - 46,527TBs - 4,284Got Aways (known/recorded) - 4,378Unresolved Detection - 133No Arrest - 2,887Deceased - 15Non-violation - 261Outstanding - 18

Del Rio Sector

Apps - 45,662TBs - 193Got Aways (known/recorded) - 15,006Unresolved Detection - 168No Arrest - 3,736Deceased -26Non-violation -176Outstanding -58

Yuma Sector

Apps - 36,568TBs - 204Got Aways (known/recorded) - 3,007Unresolved Detection - 20No Arrest - 62Deceased - 9Non-violation -54Outstanding - 63

El Paso Sector

Apps - 35,650TBs - 3,104Got Aways (known/recorded) - 9,856Unresolved Detection - 31No Arrest - 225Deceased -0Non-violation -104Outstanding -25

Tucson Sector

Apps - 27,554TBs - 995Got Aways (known/recorded) - 18,612Unresolved Detection - 1,655No Arrest - 3,344Deceased - 12Non-violation - 202Outstanding - 399

San Diego Sector

Apps - 17,797TBs - 756Got Aways (known/recorded) -5,437Unresolved Detection - 4No Arrest - 5,301Deceased - 1Non-violation - 7Outstanding - 150

Laredo Sector

Apps - 12,297TBs - 2,601Got Aways (known/recorded) - 3,113Unresolved Detection - 45No Arrest - 1,134Deceased - 11Non-violation - 246Outstanding - 0

El Centro Sector

Apps - 7,264TBs - 407Got Aways (known/recorded) - 679Unresolved Detection - 4No Arrest - 5Deceased - 0Non-violation - 2Outstanding - 5

Big Bend Sector

Apps - 3,309TBs - 54Got Aways (known/recorded) - 1,521Unresolved Detection - 41No Arrest - 184Deceased - 5Non-violation - 22Outstanding - 69

Apprehensions include those in the U.S. illegally who surrender or are caught by BP officers. Turn backs include those who entered illegally but returned to Mexico.

The categories of "no arrests" and "unresolved detection" aren’t part of 6 U.S. Code, which classifies how encounters are to be reported. These categories are used as a way to lower the number of got-aways being reported, the BP officer says.

No arrests mean someone “was detected in a non-border zone and their presence didn’t affect Got-Away statistics,” according to the official internal tracking system definition used by agents to record data. "Unresolved detection" means the same thing, but the officers, for a range of reasons, couldn’t determine citizenship.

Non-violations are “deemed to have committed no infraction and don’t affect Got-Away statistics,” according to the tracking system definition.

The categories of non-violations, no arrests and unresolved detection should actually be categorized as got-aways, the BP officer says, assuming all non-arrests were of non-citizens.

Preliminary data in other sectors show more than 1,600 people were apprehended in May, with Miami apprehending the most.

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(The Center Square) – There are new questions about who is running public schools in Wisconsin following the release of emails between Gov. Tony Evers and the state’s largest teachers’ union.

Empower Wisconsin on Wednesday broke a story showing the Wisconsin Education Association Council, or WEAC, was in regular contact with Gov. Evers’ office about the plan to reopen schools back in the summer of 2020.

“We at WEAC are getting pressure from the Senate Democrats to take a position on these bills from the School Administrators Alliance. We have been told the Senate Dems are working with the Governor’s office on a strategy relating to opening of schools,” wrote WEAC lobbyist Jack O’Meara in an August 21, 2020 email to Evers’ office.

The report doesn’t include Evers’ response, but the governor eventually told local schools to make their own decisions about reopening. WEAC encouraged local schools to stay closed in the fall of 2020.

Republican candidate for governor Rebecca Kleefisch on Wednesday ripped what she characterized as collusion between Evers and WEAC.

“Wisconsin needs a governor who spends time prioritizing kids and listening to parents, unlike Tony Evers who lets union bosses decide when to lock kids out of classrooms,” Kleefisch said in a statement.

Kleefisch, like the other two Republicans running for governor, have made it clear they support parental involvement in public school policies, and strongly support school choice for families across the state.

“Wisconsin parents deserve choices for their kids’ educations. We will no longer accept the backward one-size-fits-all educational monopoly that Evers and his union boss allies support,” Kleefisch added. “As governor, I will enact universal school choice and continue to support parents taking back control of their school boards.”

Wisconsin’s local-decision school reopening policy allowed some schools to open quickly in the 2020-2021 school year, and allowed others like Milwaukee and Madison schools to remain closed for the entire school year.

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The Federal Reserve announced a 0.75 percentage point rate hike Wednesday to help combat soaring inflation, the largest rate increase since 1994.

The Fed said it raised the rates "to 1‑1/2 to 1-3/4 percent and anticipates that ongoing increases in the target range will be appropriate."

"The committee seeks to achieve maximum employment and inflation at the rate of 2% over the longer run," the Federal Reserve said in a statement. "In addition, the committee will continue reducing its holdings of Treasury securities and agency debt and agency mortgage-backed securities, as described in the Plans for Reducing the Size of the Federal Reserve's Balance Sheet that were issued in May. The committee is strongly committed to returning inflation to its 2% objective."

The decision is expected to curb inflation, but that comes at a cost to the economy. Federal data shows consumer prices have risen at the fastest rate in decades and producer prices spiked 10.8% in the last year.

"Overall economic activity appears to have picked up after edging down in the first quarter," the Federal Reserve said in its announcement. "Job gains have been robust in recent months, and the unemployment rate has remained low. Inflation remains elevated, reflecting supply and demand imbalances related to the pandemic, higher energy prices, and broader price pressures."

The Federal Reserve pointed to COVID-19 and the ongoing war in Ukraine when referencing the nation's economic difficulties. Experts have acknowledged those issues but also point to a major spike in the U.S. money supply and federal debt spending.

"Since early 2020, the Federal Reserve has printed nearly $5 trillion — using much of this to purchase government debt in addition to mortgage backed securities and other assets," said Joel Griffith, an economic expert at the Heritage Foundation, as the Center Square previously reported. "As this cash was injected into the economy, total money supply swelled by more than $75,000 per family of four. The Federal Reserve's complicity in financing Congress' outrageous spending spree of the past two years is largely to blame for the sky-high inflation, the new housing bubble, and rampant speculation [in] the financial markets."

Sex-Based Discrimination

26 Republican Attorney Generals Challenge New Sex-Based Discrimination Federal Guidance

Half of the state attorneys general in the country want the Biden administration to walk back new federal guidance on sex-based discrimination for schools and other organizations that receive federal money for food programs.

The AGs, 26 of the 27 Republicans in those offices across the country, claim in a letter to President Biden the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s guidance means states, local agencies and programs that receive federal food dollars through the Food and Nutrition Act and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program could lose funding if they don’t comply, including in hiring practices.

"Using hungry children as a human shield in a policy dispute violates basic decency," Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. "Aren’t there any parents in the Biden administration that can see past the edges of their ideology?"

In May, the USDA announced it will interpret the prohibition on discrimination based on sex in Title IX to include discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“USDA is committed to administering all its programs with equity and fairness and serving those in need with the highest dignity. A key step in advancing these principles is rooting out discrimination in any form – including discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity,” Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said. “At the same time, we must recognize the vulnerability of the LGBTQI+ communities and provide them with an avenue to grieve any discrimination they face. We hope that by standing firm against these inequities we will help bring about much-needed change.”

The AGs called the interpretation drastically broader than originally defined in Title IX.

The guidance applies to about 100,000 public and nonprofit-private schools and residential child care institutions that participate in the national school breakfast and lunch programs, which provide subsidized free or reduced-price meals daily for nearly 30 million children.

“We have long had a productive relationship with the federal government, managing various food and nutrition programs guided by the principles of cooperative federalism. We would like to continue this cooperative relationship. But the guidance flouts the rule of law, relies on patently incorrect legal analysis that is currently under scrutiny in the federal courts and was issued without giving the states the requisite opportunity to be heard,” the letter reads.

Attorneys general from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming and Virginia each signed the letter. The letter originates from Tennessee AG Herbert Slatery III.

The only Republican AG to not sign was New Hampshire's John Formula.

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