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U.S. Supreme Court Allows For Federal Executions To Resume After Seventeen Years

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for President Donald Trump’s administration to carry out the first federal executions since 2003, turning away an appeal by four inmates challenging the lethal injection protocols due to be used.

The justices left in place a lower court ruling that had let the executions proceed. The condemned men, convicted in federal courts of murder, had appealed after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on April 7 threw out a judge’s injunction that had blocked the executions.

The inmates – Daniel Lee, Wesley Purkey, Alfred Bourgeois and Dustin Honken – are scheduled for execution in July and August at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The brief court order noted that two of the four liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, favored hearing the appeal.

Lee, a white supremacist, is due to be the first executed, on July 13. He was convicted in Arkansas in the suffocation deaths carried out with an accomplice of a gun dealer, the man’s wife and her 8-year-old daughter in 1996.

While some individual states have continued to carry out executions of inmates convicted in their courts, the U.S. government has not conducted an execution since 2003 during the administration of President George W. Bush amid protracted litigation over the practice.

But Attorney General William Barr last year announced that Trump’s administration would resume executions, citing the need to uphold “the rule of law” and saying that “we owe it to the victims and their families to carry forward the sentence imposed by our justice system.”

At issue in the legal battle is whether a U.S. law called the Federal Death Penalty Act requires the federal government to follow all execution protocols in the state where the sentence was imposed as opposed to where the execution will take place.

The law requires that the execution be implemented “in the manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence is imposed,” which the federal government has interpreted loosely as the general method of execution, which in all four cases would be lethal injection.

But lawyers for the inmates have argued that under this law the government must follow the detailed execution protocols in the states where the inmates were convicted.

Lee was convicted in Arkansas, Purkey in Missouri, Bourgeois in Texas and Honken in Iowa. Iowa is among the states that does not have the death penalty, but Honken was sentenced to death, as federal law allows, subject to Indiana’s method of execution.

Read the US Supreme Court’s order here or below.

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Biden Expected To Repeal Military Trans Ban Tomorrow

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The Biden administration is expected to repeal the ban on transgender Americans from serving in the military, multiple people informed of the decision told CBS News. The announcement is expected as soon as Monday, one senior Defense official and four outside advocates of repealing the ban told CBS News.

The senior Defense official told CBS News the repeal will be through executive order signed by President Joe Biden. The announcement is expected to take place at a ceremony with newly-confirmed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who will order the Pentagon to go back to the policy enacted in 2016 by former Defense Secretary Ash Carter that allowed transgender Americans to serve openly.

The White House did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The new order will direct the branches of the military to outline an implementation plan. 

The ban was announced by former President Trump via a tweet in July 2017. The ban took effect in April 2019 and barred transgender Americans from enlisting in the military.

In 2014, it was estimated there were around 15,500 transgender military members serving, according to a study by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.

Biden frequently repeated on the campaign trail his promise to repeal the ban.

Austin said at his Senate confirmation hearing last week that he planned to repeal the ban.

“I support the president’s plan or plan to overturn the ban,” Austin said on Tuesday when asked by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, “I truly believe, Senator, that as I said in my opening statement, that if you’re fit and you’re qualified to serve and you can maintain the standards, you should be allowed to serve. And, you can expect that I will support that throughout.”

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Trump Pardons Steve Bannon In One of His Final Acts As 45th President

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(CNN)— President Donald Trump has decided to pardon his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, in a last-minute decision made only hours before he is scheduled to depart the White House for a final time.

Officials cautioned CNN that Trump’s decision was not final until he signed the paperwork. Trump told people that after much deliberation, he had decided to pardon Bannon as one of his final acts in office.

Bannon’s pardon would follow a frantic scramble during the President’s final hours in office as attorneys and top aides debated his inclusion on Trump’s outgoing clemency list. Despite their falling out in recent years, Trump was eager to pardon his former aide after recently reconnecting with him as he helped fan Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election.

It was a far cry from when Trump exiled Bannon from his inner circle after he was quoted in a book trashing the President’s children, claiming that Donald Trump Jr. had been “treasonous” by meeting with a Russian attorney and labeling Ivanka Trump “dumb as a brick.” Those statements from Bannon drove Trump to issue a lengthy statement saying he had “lost his mind.”

“Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency,” Trump said at the time.Things shifted in recent months as Bannon attempted to breach Trump’s inner circle once again by offering advice before the election and pushing his false theories after Trump had lost.

Since Trump’s election defeat, the President has leaned further into his expansive pardon powers — granting pardons to his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, longtime ally Roger Stone and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, among others.

Among Trump’s pardons earlier in his term were those for former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza and financier Michael Milken.

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California Governor Formally Appoints Alex Padilla To Fill US Senate Seat Vacated By Kamala Harris

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(CNN) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom formally submitted the appointment of Alex Padilla to the US Senate today, according to a press release from the governor’s office. 

Padilla formally resigned as Secretary of State this morning and Gov. Newsom also submitted his nomination letter for Assembly member Shirley Weber to replace him. The Deputy Secretary of State, James Schwab, will be the Acting Secretary of State.

“It is fitting that on the same day we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a civil rights icon who fought for justice and representation — we also move forward the appointment of California’s first Latino U.S. Senator Alex Padilla and the nomination of Dr. Shirley Weber who will serve as the first-ever African American Secretary of State. Both will be strong defenders of our democracy during this fragile moment in our nation’s history,” said Gov. Newsom.

“I am humbled and honored by your trust in me to represent California in the United States Senate. I look forward to continuing to serve the great State of California as a United States Senator and to ensuring that the rights and democratic principles we cherish are protected and preserved for all people,” Padilla wrote in a letter to Gov. Newsom.

Some context: Earlier today, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris formally resigned her seat as one of California’s US Senators. She’ll be inaugurated as vice president on Wednesday, Jan. 20. In a farewell addressed posted to Twitter, Harris said, “Of course, I’m not saying goodbye. In many ways, I’m now saying hello as your vice president.”

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