Freed Inmate Alice Marie Johnson Calls Kim Kardashian's Advocacy 'a Miracle'

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She said on the "Today" show Thursday that she plans to use the second chance she's been given to advocate for other "first-time, nonviolent offenders who pose no safety risk to their communities"

Hours after she was released from prison on a commuted sentence, Alice Marie Johnson was joyous and thankful for President Donald Trump's clemency and the intervention from reality TV star Kim Kardashian West that brought Johnson's case to his attention.

In an interview on the "Today" show, Johnson called her commuted life sentence a miracle: "I know that only God could have touched Kim Kardashian's heart like that."

Kardashian West had championed Johnson's case after seeing a video about the 63-year-old grandmother by the digital news company Mic. The celebrity went to the White House in May to meet with Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a senior adviser, and the president as well. A week later, Johnson was freed. 

"We have connected," Johnson said of Kardashian West. "She said that she felt something when she saw and heard my story and I'm just so thankful for it. I can't explain it. It's a miracle."

[NATL] Trump Commutes Sentence of Great-Grandmother After Meeting With Kim Kardashian
President Trump commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson Wednesday after meeting with Kim Kardashian in the Oval Office last week. Johnson, a 63-year-old great-grandmother, had served 22 years of a life sentence for a first time non-violent offense after being convicted of drug possession and money laundering. The commutation is different fro... 

Trump tweeted Thursday: "Good luck to Alice Johnson. Have a wonderful life!"

Kardashian West called Johnson's release the "BEST NEWS EVER!!!!" on Wednesday and said in a statement that she hopes to continue working with organizations that push for clemency for deserving prisoners.

"I'm so grateful to President Trump, Jared Kushner and to everyone who has showed compassion and contributed countless hours to this important moment for Ms. Alice Marie Johnson," Kardashian West said. "Her pardon and forthcoming release is inspirational and gives hope to so many others who are also deserving of a second chance.

Johnson was convicted in 1996 on eight criminal counts related to a Memphis-based cocaine trafficking operation involving more than a dozen people. The 1994 indictment describes dozens of deliveries and drug transactions, many involving Johnson.

She was sentenced to life in prison in 1997. Appeals court judges and the Supreme Court rejected her appeals. Court records show she had a motion pending for a reduction in her sentence, but federal prosecutors were opposed, saying in a court filing that the sentence is in accord with federal guidelines, based on the large quantity of drugs involved.

A criminal justice advocacy site, CAN-DO, and one of Johnson's lawyers said a request for clemency was rejected when Barack Obama was president. The reasons are unclear.

The White House said Johnson took responsibility for her behavior and has been a model prisoner.

Video footage showed Johnson run ecstatically toward her family Wednesday night after she was freed from federal prison in Aliceville, Alabama.

"I'm just so thankful, I feel like my life is starting over again. This is a beautiful day," Johnson told reporters at the time, thanking the president and revealing that it was Kardashian West who told her over the phone that she'd be released.

Johnson's conviction will remain on her record after her sentence was commuted.

She said on the "Today" show Thursday that she plans to use the second chance she's been given to advocate for other "first-time, nonviolent offenders who pose no safety risk to their communities."

"I can't just walk away and forget about those who are left behind," Johnson said.

She was seated next to daughter Catina Scales, who said it's still unbelievable she's sitting with her mother.

Johnson said she'll never make the mistake of taking her "family and life for granted" again.

Commuting her sentence was Trump's latest act of clemency in recent weeks. He recently pardoned conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, who was convicted of a campaign finance violation, and granted a posthumous pardon to boxing's first black heavyweight champion, clearing Jack Johnson's name more than 100 years after what many saw as a racially charged conviction.

As with Alice Johnson, the boxer's pardon had a celebrity backer — actor Sylvester Stallone, who Trump said had brought the story to his attention in a phone call.

And more could be coming. A White House official has told NBC News that dozens of pardons have been prepared for Trump and he is considering them, though there was no indication he will move ahead with any or all of them.

This official did not name the people under consideration or what category of offense they would be pardoned for.

Trump has suggested he was considering acting to commute the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is serving 14 years in prison for corruption, and celebrity homemaker Martha Stewart, convicted of insider trading.



Dungey Lauded For Pulling “Roseanne” Show After Barr’s Tweet

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Channing Dungey, the first African American president of ABC Entertainment, canceled “Roseanne” on May 29, and many well-known people congratulated the decision on social media.

Congressman John Lewis said, “Thank you, ABC Network. You did the right thing. There is not any room in our society for racism or bigotry.”

Joe Scarborough, MSNBC, tweeted, “Hey ABC, Roseanne Barr compared Valerie Jarrett to an ape. There is no apology she can make that justifies ABC turning a blind eye to this bigotry by airing another second of her show. Even in the Age of Trump, there are red lines that can never be crossed. This is one.”

Dungey, 49, made history in 2016 when she became president of a major TV network, ABC Entertainment Group. ABC recently cancelled the top-rated show because Barr tweeted, if the “muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.”

Barr was talking about former Obama White House adviser Valerie Jarrett. And Barr’s sitcom that returned in March after a two-decade absence to enormous ratings on ABC was suddenly history. Barr apologized but it came too late.

Announcing the show’s cancellation, Dungey said in a statement, “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant, and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”

Robert A. Iger, the chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, ABC’s corporate parent, shared Dungey’s statement on his own Twitter account, adding, “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.”

Barr blamed her tweet on the insomnia drug called Ambien. However, the maker of Ambien said, “Racism is not a known side effect.” The drug maker Sanofi also took to social media to say, “While all pharmaceutical treatments have side effects, racism is not a known side effect of any Sanofi medication.”

Barr’s agent also dropped her and several services pulled “Roseanne” reruns, according to news reports.

“Effective immediately, Roseanne Barr is no longer a client.” – ICM Partners, Roseanne Barr’s talent agency, said in a statement.

According to news reports, the actress has never been a nice person. “Everyone walked on eggshells on the “Roseanne” set in the 1990s, where the comedian apparently displayed a disturbing paranoia, one unidentified source said in a May 31 interview with Page Six.

“She was a yeller – she would yell at people especially to people she didn’t recognize and that’s scary when you’re exhibiting this extreme diva behavior to people who didn’t do anything,” said the former exec, who worked with Barr for two years in the ’90s.

The unidentified source added, “I grew to despise Roseanne because of the nasty s– she did to people for no reason – and it was always the people on lower pay, the defenseless and powerless people.”

In a recent tweet, actress Rita Moreno said, “You break my heart – You are a sorry excuse for a human being. How odd that you as a comedienne have forgotten the meaning of a ‘joke’ and a personal comment. Your meanness is staggering and will earn you a ticket to a sad, lonely and sorry life.”

Actress Viola Davis, star of “How to Get Away with Murder,” tweeted, “Thank you Channing Dungey!”

The executive producer of “Roseanne,” Tom Werner said he supported ABC’s decision. “Our goal was to promote constructive discussion about the issues that divide us,” Werner said. “It represented the work of hundreds of talented people. I hope the good work done is not totally eclipsed by those abhorrent and offensive comments, and that Roseanne seeks the help she so clearly needs.”

After the Roseanne show was canceled, the spotlight shifted to Dungey, with her name trending on Twitter and gratitude pouring in from celebrities such as Marlee Matlin and Kerry Washington. “My prayers go out to the cast and crew who will now pay the price. But THANK YOU,” Washington tweeted.

Star Jones, the former co-host of “The View” also congratulated Dungey, writing, “When you have a seat at the table, you have a say in the decisions that are made. When it’s your table you make the decisions.”

Dungey was named president of ABC Entertainment in February 2016, after overseeing drama development for the network, and launched many of ABC’s long-running series, including “Scandal,” “How to Get Away With Murder” and “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD.”

Dungey’s current position includes oversight of all programming for ABC primetime as well as late night. A UCLA graduate, she joined ABC Studios in 2004, after working in feature films at various production companies and at Warner Bros.

“Roseanne” premiered to an unexpectedly large audience, after the 2016 election.

“Roseanne” earned an estimated $45 million in advertising revenue for ABC through its nine episodes that started airing in March, according to Kantar Media. The firm estimates that the 13 episodes that had been ordered for next season would have brought in as much as $60 million, with more through repeat episodes.



Trump Administration Takes New Aim At Obamacare’s Pre-Existing Protections

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The effort probably won’t succeed, but it could put health care back in the political debate.

The Trump administration on Thursday officially threw its support behind a new, seemingly far-fetched legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, arguing that the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions are unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, now before a federal district judge in Texas, comes from officials in 20 conservative states. And its prospects for success look slim. The Supreme Court has already rejected two legal challenges to the law, the second on a 6-3 decision that came with a strongly wordedruling from Chief Justice John Roberts.

State attorneys general will step in to defend the law from this new challenge. And they will not have difficulty making their case.

The lawsuit’s key argument is that Congress intended for the pre-existing condition protections to work in tandem with the law’s individual mandate, the provision that people have insurance or pay a penalty. Now that Congress has decided to zero out the penalty, as Republicans did last year as part of the 2017 tax cut, the pre-existing conditions have to go, too.

That would mean insurers would no longer be subject to “guaranteed issue” (a requirement that they sell policies to anybody, regardless of medical status) or “community rating” (a prohibition on charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions).

The problem, many scholars have noted, is that Congress has taken action since it passed the Affordable Care Act leaving pre-existing protection in place even as it reduced the individual mandate penalty to zero. Whether or not that was a smart policy move, it is clearly what Congress intended ― and Congress gets to make those kinds of decisions.

“If Congress had wanted to repeal the guaranteed issue and community rating provisions of the law, it would’ve done so ― but it didn’t,” Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, told HuffPost. 

Even some lawyers who supported previous lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act, such as Ilya Solmin from George Mason University Law School, think this latest lawsuit is weaker. 

“There is a big difference between a court choosing to sever a part of a law, and Congress doing so itself,” Solmin wrote at the Volokh Conspiracy blog. “And in this case, Congress has already effectively neutered the individual mandate, while leaving the rest of the ACA in place.”

All of that suggests there’s a good chance the lawsuit never even gets to the high court.

But the administration’s decision could be significant for two other reasons.

One is that it deviates from the usual Justice Department tradition under which its lawyers defend even laws that the sitting president and his party oppose. It’s part of the president’s duties, under Article II of the Constitution, that “he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

On Thursday, three career attorneys from the Department of Justice asked to remove themselves from the case. That is highly unusual, leaving legal observers like Bagley to speculate that the lawyers may have felt they could not in good conscience sign onto the brief.

The Trump administration’s move is not without precedent. In 2011, President Barack Obama’s Justice Department declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in court. Critics at the time warned that failing to defend an existing law might set a bad precedent, and some of Obama’s own advisers opposed the decision.

Still, DOMA, which prohibited same-sex couples from getting federal benefits, raised important questions about basic human rights and was already constitutionally suspect. The Supreme Court would go on to strike it down just two years later.

“Unlike DOMA, the question here is not a question of major constitutional significance that produced deep divisions,” Yale law professor Abbe Gluck said Thursday evening. “There is no great moral question for [the Justice Department] to engage here.”

The other significance of Thursday’s action is not legal. It’s political.

The Trump administration’s contempt for Obamacare is no secret. And although the president and his supporters have sometimes said they believe in protections for people with pre-existing conditions, they have repeatedly taken action ― like trying to pass repeal legislation or rolling back the Affordable Care Act’s regulations on what plans must cover ― that seek to undermine or obliterate those protections entirely.

Those GOP efforts sparked a tremendous backlash. But the effort to get a repeal bill through Congress ended in the fall. It’s possible that those memories have faded from public consciousness a bit, and that may even help explain Trump’s gradually, if modestly, improving approval numbers in the polls.

The decision to jump into this health care case, on the side of the plaintiffs out to gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions, could put the issue back in the public eye. That could work well for Democrats, who have made clear they believe health care is a winning political issue for them again.

“After years of Republicans trying to repeal the protections stopping insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, now Trump says the protections are unconstitutional. Republicans always had to defend those votes in this election, but now they have to defend his decree too,” said Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist who works with health care advocacy groups.

Spokespersons for the Democrats’ House and Senate campaign committees made clear that Republicans will have to defend this decision and that the GOP “will face serious blowback in the midterms.”

The move could be particularly important in two key Senate races. The original brief in the lawsuit included, as co-counsel, a pair of state attorneys general: Josh Hawley of Missouri and Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia.

Hawley is challenging Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, while Morrisey is challenging Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Missouri and West Virginia are relatively conservative states, difficult for Democrats to hold, and McCaskill, in particular, is thought to be vulnerable.

But polls have shown protections for pre-existing conditions to be exceedingly popular, even among Republican voters. A chance to show voters that Hawley and Morrisey would get rid of those protections could help keep those two seats in Democratic hands.




Family Of Black Florida Man Killed By Sheriff’s Deputy Awarded A Measly 4 Cents

Gregory Hill Jr. was found 99 percent liable for his own death because he was intoxicated.

A federal jury determined that the family of a black man killed in his home in Florida by a sheriff’s deputy after being called for a noise complaint would receive only 1 percent of the $4 awarded in damages. 

The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office was found partly liable in the 2014 shooting of Gregory Hill Jr., the jury determined last week. Ken Mascara, the sheriff, was found to be only 1 percent liable, given that Hill was under the influence of alcohol. Deputy Christopher Newman, who shot Hi

A federal jury determined that the family of a black man killed in his home in Florida by a sheriff’s deputy after being called for a noise complaint would receive only 1 percent of the $4 awarded in damages. 

The St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office was found partly liable in the 2014 shooting of Gregory Hill Jr., the jury determined last week. Ken Mascara, the sheriff, was found to be only 1 percent liable, given that Hill was under the influence of alcohol. Deputy Christopher Newman, who shot Hill, was found not liable. 

The jury decided Thursday to award a grand total of $4 in damages: $1 to his mother to cover funeral expenses and $1 to each of his three children. Because Hill was found to be 99 percent responsible for his own death, the court then reduced the final award to 4 cents.

Newman and another deputy were sent to investigate a complaint about noise coming from Hill’s garage. Hill opened the garage door, then started to close it. Newman shot Hill three times, claiming Hill was holding a gun ― which is still in dispute. An unloaded gun was later found in Hill’s back pocket. His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in 2016. 

Gregory Hill Jr. with fiancée Monique Davis and two of his daughters. A sheriff’s deputy killed him in
Gregory Hill Jr. with fiancée Monique Davis and two of his daughters. A sheriff’s deputy killed him in his garage in 2014, and his family has been awarded 1 percent of $4 in damages.

“That a black child’s pain is only worth a dollar is exactly the problem with the plight of the African-American right now,” John Phillips, the Hill family’s attorney, told CNN. “This says black lives don’t matter.”

“Deputy Newman was placed in a very difficult situation, and like so many fellow law enforcement officers must do every day, he made the best decision he could for the safety of his partner, himself, and the public, given the circumstances he faced,” Mascara said in a statement. “We appreciate the jury’s time and understanding and wish everyone involved in this case the best as they move forward.”

Valerie Jarrett Calls Roseanne Barr’s Racist Tweet A ‘Teaching Moment’

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The former White House aide responded to Barr’s tweet during an MSNBC town hall.

Former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett called actress Roseanne Barr’s racist comments about her a “teaching moment” during MSNBC’s “Everyday Racism in America” town hall on Tuesday. 

Earlier in the day, Barr wrote on Twitter, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj,” in reference to Jarrett, who is black and was born in Iran to American parents. Barr apologized and deleted the tweet on Tuesday. 

At the event, hosted by Joy Reid and Chris Hayes, Jarrett addressed the post. “First of all, I think we have to turn it into a teaching moment. I’m fine. I’m worried about all the people out there who don’t have a circle of friends and followers coming to their defense,” she said, according to a clip released by MSNBC.  

Hours after a backlash against Barr’s comment began, ABC President Channing Dungey called Barr’s tweet “repugnant” and announced that the network was canceling the hit revival of her sitcom. Jarrett said that Bob Iger, the CEO of ABC’s parent corporation, the Walt Disney Co., reached out to let her know about the cancellation of “Roseanne.” 

“He wanted me to know before he made it public that he was canceling the show,” Jarrett said, according to NBC News

She called that decision the right move. Many were surprised by the decision to cancel the “Roseanne” revival, given that Barr has made problematic comments for years without consequence. 

Barr’s co-stars and collaborators publicly denounced her tweet, and talent agency ICM Partners dropped her as a client, a spokesman for the company confirmed for HuffPost on Tuesday.

“We are all greatly distressed by the disgraceful and unacceptable tweet from Roseanne Barr this morning,” ICM Partners wrote in a note to employees. “What she wrote is antithetical to our core values, both as individuals and as an agency. Consequently, we have notified her that we will not represent her. Effective immediately, Roseanne Barr is no longer a client.”

Jarrett also referred to President Donald Trump during the town hall, saying, “Tone does start at the top.”

“We like to look up to our president and feel as though he reflects the values of our country, but I also think every individual citizen has a responsibility to,” she said during the MSNBC event. “And it’s up to all of us to push back.” 

Jarrett’s full comments will be aired during MSNBC’s “Everyday Racism in America” town hall at 9 p.m. Tuesday. 



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