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Peter King Skips Town Hall for Closed Door Meeting, Activists Release Transcript

Peter King Skips Town Hall for Closed Door Meeting, Activists Release Transcript

Massapequa Park, NY – Members of new group, New York’s 2nd District Democrats (NY02 Dems) have been requesting meetings with Rep. Pete King. He has refused to schedule constituent meetings or hold a Town Hall. He has also been deleting dissenting comments from his Facebook page, and blocking constituents. On Friday, February 3, the group joined a half dozen local organizations and faith groups in organizing a rally to protest Rep. King’s support of President Trump’s Executive Order, banning refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Liuba Grechen Shirley, the founder and district organizer, of NY02 Dems called to request a meeting before the rally began, and was told that staff would try to meet with her and a few members that afternoon. When they arrived, the office was locked. Grechen Shirley called the district office, and was transferred to the Washington, D.C. office, who told her that the police insisted the NY office lock its doors. Hundreds marched, and Rep. King agreed to meet with Grechen Shirley and three other members on February 21.

Read Full Transcript of their Meeting HERE

After the meeting, King told WCBS 880 he personally met with leaders of “protest groups.” Grechen Shirley called King’s office to explain that she was in fact a “taxpaying constituent,” not a “leader of a protest group.”

During their meeting they discussed topics including: 

Town Hall

Rep. King told Grechen Shirley that his constituents know his positions, because he is regularly on television, and he refused to host a Town Hall adding that, “No one wants to have a confrontation.”

“The purpose of a Town Hall is not for constituents to hear our Representative’s positions, but for him to listen to ours. He works for us. He represents us – all of us, even those who didn’t vote him. When my boss calls me into a meeting, I cannot say no. Pete King is refusing to do his job,” said Liuba Grechen Shirley.

Grechen Shirley has been following up with his office regarding the telephone Town Hall, and has been told that, while not confirmed, the tentative date is this Wednesday, March 8. She suggested that one day’s notice is not sufficient for constituents with busy schedules.

“Rep. King’ office is clearly not taking this seriously. His constituents want to speak with him, and he cannot even give one day’s notice for a telephone Town Hall.  People have jobs, children, schedules to juggle. This is his attempt to limit the number of people able to attend,” said Grechen Shirley.

Russia Investigation

When asked if he would support Rep. Jerry Nadler’s Resolution of Inquiry to investigate President Trump’s ties to Russia, Rep. King responded, “There’s no need for it.” He added that, “The public report and the classified report does not give much evidence.”

Rep. King does not support a special prosecutor, independent commission, or even a select committee investigation.

When interviewed by Bill Ritter on Channel 7, Rep. King said there was no evidence of President Trump’s ties to Russia, except three tenuous connections. Liuba Grechen Shirley asked if he thought it was “fair to say that Trump’s former campaign manager, national security advisor and Secretary of State were tenuous connections,” and Rep. King responded that “If you go to Manhattan right is now there is any number of business people who have connections to Russia.”

Rep. King said that, “An investigation is going to prove nothing right now.”

Grechen Shirley asked, “How do you reconcile your assertion that there is no evidence, with the intelligence community’s conclusion that Putin interfered with our election to get Donald Trump elected?”

Rep. King responded, “Putin could have favored Trump.” “That’s not a reflection on Trump. Assume Putin did that.”

Trump’s Lies

Rep. King referred to President Trumps lies as “quirks” and a “stream of consciousness.” He said, “You want me to define a lie? When something is obviously wrong and you say it, is it really a lie? I don’t know.”

When discussing President Trump’s lie about an attack in Sweden, Rep. King said, “I can see how somebody can do that. I mean Hillary Clinton said she was shot at in Bosnia.” When Grechen Shirley said, “When you’re in that position you can’t do that,” he seemed to excuse it by saying, “You cant, but again I can show you any number of things that Bill Clinton said or I’ve said.”

Undermining the Media

Grechen Shirley asked Rep. King, “Donald Trump recently called the media ‘the enemy of the American people.’  Bannon said the press should ‘keep their mouths shut.’  Do you think those comments are crossing a line?”

Rep. King responded, “No they don’t cross the line.  First of all he’s not doing anything. Nobody went after the press more than Obama did as far as leaks.”

When pressed on this, King said, “That to me is just political.  Listen the stuff that the Press says about Trump I don’t get offended. All of us are big people in this business.  There’s no doubt there’s a bias.” “The First Amendment also guarantees the president freedom of speech. Nothing he’s saying is worse that what the media is saying about him.”

When asked about McCain’s statement, “This is how dictatorships start,” Rep. King said:
“I think John McCain is wrong for saying it overseas.  There is no hint of any dictatorship in this country. Trump is taking no action against the media. He’s not cutting off the media.  I supported John McCain’s presidents in 2000. We are personal friends. But I don’t think an American politician should first of all criticize the president when he’s overseas.”

Donald Trump’s Tax Returns

Regarding President Trump’s tax returns, Rep. King said, “I wouldn’t push. I don’t think that should be legislated. Okay? I think that’s really a political issue in the best sense of the word and it’s up to the American people to decide that.  I don’t believe in forcing people to disclose that.”

Syria

Rep. King said that Obama was “the one that brought Syria back into the Middle East.”“Obama invited Putin in!  Obama’s the one who — Putin was not involved in Syria, Putin had nothing to do with Syria.  Obama invited him in, because he wouldn’t enforce the red line.”

This of course is a false narrative, trying to paint Obama as weak and miscalculating. Assad, and Putin have had a longstanding relationship, and close ties between the two countries stretch back four decades. Syria is Russia’s only key surviving ally in the Middle East. Syria’s coastal city, Tartus, has hosted a Russian naval port since 1971. The port allows the only Russian access to the eastern Mediterranean. Russia has cast vetoes on several UN resolutions against Syria – even before the so-called red line was crossed.

Paris Bataclan Attack

Rep. King said that there were certainly “refugees involved” in the Paris Bataclan attack, even though we know that all but one of the terrorists were identified as European nationals.  The outlier, who died near the Stade de France, could only be identified as Ahmad Al Mohammad —a name used in a falsified Syrian passport.  Authorities belive that he too was likely a EU citizen and was using the fake passport to travel to and from Syria.  Contrary to King’s claims, none of the terrorists were refugees.

European authorities made an error in not identifying the counterfeit passport Ahmad Al Mohammad carried. The extreme 24-month vetting of Syrian refugees under President Obama included biometrics, background checks, ground investigations and interviews. Mohammad’s October 3, 2015 entry to Europe via Greece did not have similar vetting.

Steve Bannon

When asked whether he supported Bannon’s appointment to the National Security Council, Rep. King said that, “Congress cannot interfere with the president as far as who is on the president’s staff.”

Anti-Semitism

When asked about President Trump’s use of the term “America First,” considering its connection to Nazi-friendly Americans in the 1930s, Rep. King said that Trump is “the most non anti-Semitic president we’ve ever had. That I can say. Long before it was fashionable.

ICE Raids

Rep. King: “The numbers I’ve seen roughly 90-95% of those who have been deported in these recent series all got criminal records.”  “Most of them have been aimed at criminals or have expanded it somewhat, people who may not have criminal charges against them, but who local police believe to be involved in gang activity.  From all the numbers I’ve seen, it’s been overwhelmingly people with criminal records.”

Muslim Ban

Rep. King said that the Executive Order was not a Muslim Ban. When Grechen Shirley reminded him that the “order specifically says they’re going to prioritize Christian refugees over Muslim refugees,” Rep. King responded “The logic in that would be, that if you know that a person is a Christian, you can assume they’re not an Islamic terrorist.  If a Jew is coming from Nazi Germany, you can assume they were not Nazis.”

Border Wall

Rep. King supports building the wall at any cost. When asked what programs we would have to cut to fund it, he said we will “Find a way to pay for it — same way you have to pay for anything.  To me, you have to pay for national security — national security has to be paid for.”

“If we have a growing economy, we have to cut where you have to.”

Medicaid

When asked why he says that he supports Medicaid expansion, when he voted for the Ryan budget that turns Medicaid into block grants, Rep. King explained, “That would go into the category of a protest vote.”

Mike Flynn vs. Karl Rove

Rep. King called Mike Flynn a “hero and a patriot” and said that whoever leaked the tapes should be prosecuted. Twelve years ago he said that Karl Rove deserved a medal and was trying to protect American lives when he exposed CIA agent Valerie Plame. Grechen Shirley asked, “What makes one a criminal and one a whistle-blower?”

Rep. King said, “Karl had nothing to do with Valerie Plame.” He added, “Karl Rove, I give him credit for standing up, but he did not, he didn’t leak it.”

Sexual Assault

When discussing President Trump boasting about sexual assault, Rep. King said, “Listen Bill Clinton is a friend of mine. It’s one thing to talk about, it’s another thing to do it.” Grechen Shirley responded that, “One thing is sex between two adults and the other is boasting about sexual assault!” Rep. King added, “Well were they consenting? It’s a whole different story between having a young girl in the White House. I don’t want to get into it…”

Rand Paul

Rep. King: “I was attacked by Rand Paul, the other day. He called me a big government Republican. Actually he and I hate each other anyway.”

 

Hundreds Will Protest Peter King Friday Over Penning of Controversial Muslim Ban

Hundreds Will Protest Peter King Friday Over Penning of Controversial Muslim Ban

Massapequa Park, NY – Hundreds of Long Island residents and local organizations will come together on Friday, February 3, 2017 for a demonstration outside the office of Congressman Peter King showing unity against President Donald Trump’s Executive Order banning refugees indefinitely from Syria and temporarily from 6 other Muslim majority countries.

Protestors will march in front of Peter King’s district office to protest his reported role in co-authoring the President’s Executive Order. Groups organizing the rally intend to underscore that Donald Trump’s order is unconstitutional, un-American, and illegal while aiming to unite individuals and organizations against Islamaphobia, xenophobia, and racism.

Protestors will march in solidarity with members of the Muslim community unfairly targeted because of their religious beliefs, and in support of refugees fleeing war-torn countries leaving everything they had with little or nothing on their backs risking their lives in search of a better future.

“Families are being separated and there are real consequences to this ban. I know of people who cannot visit their loved ones who are sick and elderly and this hurts us very badly,” said Habeeb Ahmed of Islamic Center of Long Island. “This country was made great by immigrants so let’s continue that.”

“We will march to uphold American values. America is a nation built by immigrants,” said Liuba Grechen Shirley of NY’s 2nd District Democrats in a press release. “We are all immigrants. Long Islanders call on President Trump to reverse his hateful, anti-refugee and anti-immigrant executive order, and District 2 constituents call on Rep. Peter King to denounce this executive order.”

“President Trump showed his true colors and issued radical, sweeping Executive Order that upend our immigration system and strike at the heart of our American values. These orders create a massive federal and state law enforcement deportation force to track down and deport immigrants and will rip apart American families, destabilize our communities and make us less safe” stated Lisa Tyson Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition.

WHO: New York’s 2nd District Democrats (NY02Dems), ATLI, The Long Island Progressive Coalition (LIPC), The Islamic Center of Long Island, Long Island Activists

WHEN: Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, 4-6 p.m.

WHERE: Congressman Peter King’s Office, 1003 Park Boulevard, Massapequa Park, NY 11762 {map link}

PUBLIC TRANSIT: Take the Long Island Rail Road from Penn Station, Jamaica, or points east on the Montauk/Babylon line to the Massapequa Park station.

On Eve of GOP Debate Carolinians Gather for Vigil at Mosque to Counter Xenophobic Rhetoric

On Eve of GOP Debate Carolinians Gather for Vigil at Mosque to Counter Xenophobic Rhetoric

Charleston, SC — Local Carolinians will hold a candlelight prayer vigil at the Central Mosque of Charleston {1082 King St, Charleston, SC} to pray for the GOP Presidential hopefuls on the eve of the debate. The group, comprised of members of South Carolina’s queer, muslim, christian, women’s rights, and latino communities, will gather at 5:45pm to pray for them to “know, experience and share God’s love rather than human hate, greed and hostility.”

“We come from different faith traditions, but we all recognize love and compassion as key tenants of our respective faiths,” said Pastor Thomas Dixon. “Today, we pray for the candidate’s running for President, that God will protect them and show them the way to encourage love, compassion and community and to reject hate, prejudice, violence and greed.”

WHO: Activists with Lowcountry Peace and members of South Carolina’s Queer, Muslim, Christian, Women’s Rights, and Latino Communities

WHAT: A Candlelight Vigil and Prayer Service

WHEN: Today (Wednesday) 5:45pm-6:15pm

WHERE: Central Mosque of Charleston, 1082 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

Human Rights Watch Report Reveals Investigations & Trials of American Muslims Rife with Abuse

Human Rights Watch Report Reveals Investigations & Trials of American Muslims Rife with Abuse

WASHINGTON, DC — The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.

“Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.”

Many prosecutions have properly targeted individuals engaged in planning or financing terror attacks, the groups found. But many others have targeted people who do not appear to have been involved in terrorist plotting or financing at the time the government began to investigate them. And many of the cases involve due process violations and abusive conditions of confinement that have resulted in excessively long prison sentences.

The report is based on more than 215 interviews with people charged with or convicted of terrorism-related crimes, members of their families and their communities, criminal defense attorneys, judges, current and former federal prosecutors, government officials, academics, and other experts.

In some cases the FBI may have created terrorists out of law-abiding individuals by suggesting the idea of taking terrorist action or encouraging the target to act. Multiple studies have found that nearly 50 percent of the federal counterterrorism convictions since September 11, 2001, resulted from informant-based cases. Almost 30 percent were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.

In the case of the “Newburgh Four,” for example, who were accused of planning to blow up synagogues and attack a US military base, a judge said the government “came up with the crime, provided the means, and removed all relevant obstacles,” and had, in the process, made a terrorist out of a man “whose buffoonery is positively Shakespearean in scope.”

The FBI often targeted particularly vulnerable people, including those with intellectual and mental disabilities and the indigent. The government, often acting through informants, then actively developed the plot, persuading and sometimes pressuring the targets to participate, and provided the resources to carry it out.

“The US government should stop treating American Muslims as terrorists-in-waiting,” Prasow said. “The bar on entrapment in US law is so high that it’s almost impossible for a terrorism suspect to prove. Add that to law enforcement preying on the particularly vulnerable, such as those with mental or intellectual disabilities, and the very poor, and you have a recipe for rampant human rights abuses.”

Rezwan Ferdaus, for example, pled guilty to attempting to blow up a federal building and was sentenced to 17 years in prison. Although an FBI agent even told Ferdaus’ father that his son “obviously” had mental health problems, the FBI targeted him for a sting operation, sending an informant into Ferdaus’ mosque. Together, the FBI informant and Ferdaus devised a plan to attack the Pentagon and US Capitol, with the FBI providing fake weaponry and funding Ferdaus’ travel. Yet Ferdaus was mentally and physically deteriorating as the fake plot unfolded, suffering depression and seizures so bad his father quit his job to care for him.

The US has also made overly broad use of material support charges, punishing behavior that did not demonstrate an intent to support terrorism. The courts have accepted prosecutorial tactics that may violate fair trial rights, such as introducing evidence obtained by coercion, classified evidence that cannot be fairly contested, and inflammatory evidence about terrorism in which defendants played no part – and asserting government secrecy claims to limit challenges to surveillance warrants.

Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is a US citizen who alleged that he was whipped and threatened with amputation while detained without charge in Saudi Arabia – after a roundup following the 2003 bombings of Western compounds in the Saudi capital of Riyadh – until he provided a confession to Saudi interrogators that he says was false. Later, when Ali went to trial in Virginia, the judge rejected Ali’s claims of torture and admitted his confession into evidence. He was convicted of conspiracy, providing material support to terrorists, and conspiracy to assassinate the president. He received a life sentence, which he is serving in solitary confinement at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.

The US has in terrorism cases used harsh and at times abusive conditions of confinement, which often appear excessive in relation to the security risk posed. This includes prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on communicating in pretrial detention, possibly impeding defendants’ ability to assist in their own defense and contributing to their decisions to plead guilty. Judges have imposed excessively lengthy sentences, and some prisoners suffer draconian conditions post-conviction, including prolonged solitary confinement and severe restrictions on contact with families or others, sometimes without explanation or recourse.

Nine months after his arrest on charges of material support for terrorism and while he was refusing a plea deal, Uzair Paracha was moved to a harsh regime of solitary confinement. Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) – national security restrictions on his contact with others – permitted Paracha to speak only to prison guards.

“You could spend days to weeks without uttering anything significant beyond ‘Please cut my lights,’ ‘Can I get a legal call/toilet paper/a razor,’ etc., or just thanking them for shutting our light,” he wrote to the report’s researchers. After he was convicted, the SAMs were modified to permit him to communicate with other inmates. “I faced the harshest part of the SAMs while I was innocent in the eyes of American law,” he wrote.

These abuses have had an adverse impact on American Muslim communities. The government’s tactics to seek out terrorism suspects, at times before the target has demonstrated any intention to use violence, has undercut parallel efforts to build relationships with American Muslim community leaders and groups that may be critical sources of information to prevent terrorist attacks.

In some communities, these practices have deterred interaction with law enforcement. Some Muslim community members said that fears of government surveillance and informant infiltration have meant they must watch what they say, to whom, and how often they attend services.

“Far from protecting Americans, including American Muslims, from the threat of terrorism, the policies documented in this report have diverted law enforcement from pursuing real threats,” Prasow said. “It is possible to protect people’s rights and also prosecute terrorists, which increases the chances of catching genuine criminals.”

Read “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism ProsecutionsHERE

To arrange an interview with Naureen Shah or Tarek Ismail, contributors to this report, please email or text Andy Stepanian at andy@sparrowmedia.net or 631.291.3010. For more Human Rights Watch reporting on counterterrorism, please visit: https://www.hrw.org/topic/counterterrorism

Monthly ‘No Separate Justice’ Vigil Outside NYC’s Metropolitan Correctional Center will Highlight the Case of Tarek Mehanna

Monthly ‘No Separate Justice’ Vigil Outside NYC’s Metropolitan Correctional Center will Highlight the Case of Tarek Mehanna

[NEW YORK, NY]  Activists will gather for a second candlelight vigil on Monday, March 10 at 6PM outside the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in lower Manhattan [150 Park Row and Pearl St]. These monthly vigils are organized by a critical new campaign titled No Separate Justice (NSJ).  Monday’s vigil focuses on the unjust prosecution and imprisonment of Tarek Mehanna.  Launched on January 7th, 2014 NSJ aims to expose and to work towards ending patterns of human rights and civil liberties abuses created by the Department of Justice under the auspices of the US’s “War on Terror.”

NSJ vigils are held on the first Monday night of every month outside the MCC., a federal penitentiary where people accused of terrorism-related offenses are held for years in solitary confinement, even before they have been tried.These inhumane conditions are not unique to the MCC. In an effort to shine a light on and end the pattern of human rights and civil liberties abuses happening in “War on Terror” cases, the No Separate Justice Campaign brings together community groups, academics, family members and human rights and civil liberties organizations including Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the Council On American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)-New York, and Educators for Civil Liberties.

Each month, NSJ vigils will spotlight an individual case to reveal a pattern of abuses happening by federal courts and prisons in these terrorism cases. The March 10th vigil will focus on the case of Tarek Mehanna, whose “material support” charges (which included the translation of texts from Arabic into English) raised grave concerns from civil liberties groups and academics across the country. After being held for two years in pre-trial solitary confinement, Tarek Mehanna is now serving his 17-and-a-half year sentence in the “Communications Management Unit” in Marion, Illinois.

Please bring a flashlight or candle with you as we will be shining a light together to expose the human rights abuses happening at MCC, the federal government’s domestic torture site in New York City, and across our country in these cases. To learn more about NSJ campaigns visit http://no-separate-justice.org. You can RSVP for Monday’s vigil via Facebook HERE.