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Trial of ‘El Chapo’ Poses Unprecedented Challenges
See the first Wall Street Journal article, below.
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Who Lost The House? John McCain
See the second Wall Street Journal article, below.
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-- "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to Lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be." - VAdm James Stockdale, USN (1923-2005)
FROM THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (without permission)
Trial of ‘El Chapo’ Poses Unprecedented Challenges
From closing down the Brooklyn Bridge to protecting jurors, New York City braces for its most high-risk trial in years
Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán arriving in New York after his extradition from Mexico in January 2017. His trial, which begins Tuesday in Brooklyn, presents logistical and security challenges for authorities. Photo: U.S. DEA/Associated Press
Nicole Hong and
Nov. 12, 2018 5:30 a.m. ET
New York City is no stranger to high-profile criminal trials, but few defendants have presented the challenges posed by Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, one of the most infamous criminals in modern history.
Opening statements in Mr. Guzmán’s trial will begin Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., an undertaking that will require a virtually unprecedented law-enforcement effort to ensure the safety of government witnesses, jurors, other New Yorkers and Mr. Guzmán himself.
A 17-count indictment, which spans nearly three decades of alleged criminal activity, accuses Mr. Guzmán of building a multibillion-dollar international narcotics empire, through murder and violence, as the leader of the Sinaloa cartel. Mr. Guzmán, 61 years old, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Before his extradition last year to New York, Mr. Guzmán escaped twice from maximum-security prisons in Mexico, including in 2015 when he crawled through a tunnel prison workers had dug into the shower of his cell.
Law-enforcement officials say this potentially is the most high-risk trial New York City has handled since the terrorism trials two decades ago of the masterminds of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
A motorcade escorting Mr. Guzmán back to jail in Manhattan after a court appearance last month in Federal District Court in Brooklyn. Photo: timothy a. clary/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
“In some ways, this case is unprecedented,” wrote U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan, who is overseeing Mr. Guzmán’s trial, in a recent ruling. “The amount of public attention has been extraordinary.”
The trial is expected to last three to four months.
Last week, the judge denied Mr. Guzmán’s request to briefly hug his wife, former beauty queen Emma Coronel Aispuro, on the first day of trial. Although the judge said he was sympathetic and noted Mr. Guzmán “has displayed considerable grace under pressure,” he also said Mr. Guzmán’s motivation to escape might be particularly strong right before trial.
Snipers will be stationed on rooftops along the 2-mile route, and New York Police Department helicopters will occasionally follow the escort. During the week, he is expected to stay at an undisclosed location in Brooklyn.
Note: Timing and route could change as new circumstances arise.
Source: Law enforcement officials
A major logistical hurdle concerns transporting Mr. Guzmán to the courthouse. Since his extradition in January 2017, he has been living in solitary confinement at Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan, widely regarded as the most secure pretrial facility in the U.S.
Mr. Guzmán will travel in an armored vehicle flanked by police escorts to his Brooklyn trial on Mondays and return on Fridays, a law-enforcement official said. During the week, he is expected to stay at an undisclosed location in Brooklyn.
Snipers will be stationed on rooftops along the 2-mile route, and New York Police Department helicopters will occasionally follow the escort, officials say. Police have closed the entire Brooklyn Bridge whenever Mr. Guzmán needed to be transported to pretrial hearings in Brooklyn over the past year. Officials said the timing and route could change as new circumstances arise.
Although there are no credible threats against New York City, officials are concerned about the possibility of an assassination attempt against Mr. Guzmán, and the NYPD’s intelligence division has been communicating with confidential cartel sources to monitor any threats, according to a law-enforcement official.
A 12-person jury was selected last week; most of the jurors said they recognized “El Chapo” from news reports or crime television shows. The jury is anonymous, meaning jurors’ names and other personal details won’t be publicly released. Each day, federal marshals will transport them to and from the courthouse.
One prospective juror was dismissed after he tried to get Mr. Guzmán’s autograph, while another was let go because his job as a Michael Jackson impersonator potentially made him too identifiable. Another had a panic attack in the jury room and was taken to the hospital.
Video Released of 'El Chapo' Guzman Raid
The Mexican government released body camera video worn by Marines during the raid that led to the capture and arrest of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The Mexican drug lord was captured after a shootout on Jan. 8, 2016 in Los Mochis, Mexico. Photo: AP (Originally published Jan. 11, 2016)
The judge said one woman, after being picked for the jury, cried to the judge, expressing fears about her identity being revealed. She remains on the jury.
Prosecutors presented credible reasons to believe the jury needs protection, the judge wrote in an order. The government said a group of prisoners in California released a video after Mr. Guzmán’s extradition pledging to be “hitmen who are going to take care of” him.
Mr. Guzmán’s lawyers said there is no evidence Mr. Guzmán has the “actual current ability to harm jurors.”
The indictment alleges Mr. Guzmán employed “sicarios,” or hit men, who carried out murders, kidnappings and other acts of violence to discipline cartel members and silence cooperating witnesses.
Some government witnesses who will testify at trial “live in hiding at locations that the government and the witnesses have taken measures to keep secret from the cartel,” according to court filings.
Members of the defense team arriving for the start of jury selection on Nov. 5.Photo: eduardo munoz/Reuters
Following Mr. Guzmán’s recapture in 2016, Mexico agreed to extradite him to New York. His two escapes had tarnished public perceptions of the Mexican government’s law-enforcement capacities. The U.S. promised not to seek the death penalty against him.
Mr. Guzmán’s defense team, led by A. Eduardo Balarezo, is experienced in drug-trafficking and mob cases. One of his attorneys is Jeffrey Lichtman, who secured an acquittal for John A. Gotti, son of the notorious Mafia boss.
One defense strategy may be to prolong the trial, legal experts say, increasing the possibility of jurors becoming confused by the government’s narrative. Prosecutors have said the trial will take months because the defense has refused to agree to the authenticity of certain evidence, such as AK-47 rifles, forcing the government to call extra witnesses.
Mr. Guzmán’s defense team also is expected to challenge the reliability of cooperating witnesses by highlighting their criminal pasts.
Mr. Guzmán has argued repeatedly since extradition that his strict conditions of confinement are causing physical and mental deterioration, preventing him from properly assisting his lawyers with his defense. His legal team has cited frigid cell temperature, lack of clean blankets, isolation from other inmates—and the fact that his only reading materials are trial evidence.
Prosecutors say they have accommodated some of his requests. For instance, after he said the jail’s tap water was irritating his throat, the Bureau of Prisons allowed him to buy bottled water from the commissary.
Mr. Guzmán’s twin daughters and wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, right, walking to the courthouse in Brooklyn last February. Photo: brendan mcdermid/Reuters
Soon after Mr. Guzmán’s extradition, his lawyers complained that he hadn’t been allowed to watch television in the exercise room because the jail was still looking for “suitable programming, such as videos from the National Geographic Channel.”
His twin 7-year-old daughters have visited him under government monitoring. During one visit, the agent interrupted to say Mr. Guzmán couldn’t tell his daughters to give his greetings to their mother, the defense said.
Among the only human physical contact Mr. Guzmán has had since his extradition, his lawyers said, is when jail personnel touch his shackles.
Appeared in the November 13, 2018, print edition as '‘El Chapo’ Drug Trial Puts City on Alert.'
Who Lost The House? John McCain
His July 2017 vote killed ObamaCare repeal and made Democratic lies impossible to refute.
Nov. 11, 2018 3:33 p.m. ET
Sen. John McCain in Washington, D.C., July 27, 2017. Photo: aaron bernstein/Reuters
The Republican Party lost its House majority on July 28, 2017, when Sen. John McCain ended the party’s seven-year quest to repeal ObamaCare. House leadership had done an admirable job herding cats. On the second try, we passed the American Health Care Act in May. Then McCain’s inscrutable vote against the Senate’s “skinny repeal” killed the reform effort.
McCain’s last-minute decision prompted a “green wave” of liberal special-interest money, which was used to propagate false claims that the House plan “gutted coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.” That line was the Democrats’ most potent attack in the midterms.
It was endlessly repeated by overt partisans in the media. An especially egregious column in Minneapolis’s Star Tribune asserted the AHCA would turn back the clock so that “insurers could consider sexual assaults and even pregnancy [to be] pre-existing conditions.” In fact, the bill prohibited sex discrimination and stated: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as permitting insurers to limit access to health coverage for individuals with pre-existing conditions.”
The problem was—and still is—that under ObamaCare all policyholders are charged as if they are sick. If restoring a modicum of traditional underwriting by loosening the Affordable Care Act’s strict age-rating rule discriminated against the old, then ObamaCare was—and is—discriminating against the young. The AHCA would have relieved this problem by allowing states to opt out of ObamaCare’s most onerous mandates and instead cover the most difficult-to-insure with $138 billion worth of high-risk pools. That would have arrested the ObamaCare “death spiral” and, as the Congressional Budget Office admitted, reduced both premiums and the deficit.
Emerging in response to World War II-era wage and price controls, health insurance has been tied to employment. When older workers lose their coverage along with their job, it creates a serious barrier for entering the individual market, as pre-existing conditions are often the result of age. This is primarily due to an unfair tax code that gives employers but not individuals tax breaks for buying insurance.
Again, the AHCA sought to even the playing field by offering a refundable tax credit anyone could use to buy an individual plan. The bill also would have expanded tax-deferred health savings accounts to help cover deductibles, copayments and over-the-counter expenses.
All these provisions were an attempt to alleviate the pre-existing condition problem, not exacerbate it. To be sure, instead of running away from health-care reform after it failed, Republicans should have leaned in on the plan’s most important aspects. But because the AHCA didn’t pass, it was impossible to refute the lies about it.
The late Arizona senator’s grievance with all things Trump was well known, but this obsession on the part of “Never Trump” Republicans has to end. Disapprove of the president’s style if you like, but don’t sacrifice sound policy to pettiness.
Mr. Lewis, a Republican, represents Minnesota’s Second Congressional District. He was defeated for re-election last week.
Appeared in the November 12, 2018, print edition.