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A List Of Josh Hawley's Lies About Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson In Handy F*ck You Josh Hawley Form
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In the Trump years, factchecking came to feel like an almost Sisyphean task. There was just so much complete bullshit, and so many of the Trump faithful didn't care that it was bullshit, that the task seemed fruitless — but still necessary to make sure reality got on the record. Which brings us to our post-truthiness era, where a majority of Americans voted for reality and an entire political party has convinced itself that living in a world of lies is just plain more satisfying.
That's fully on display this week in the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. Out here on Reality Earth, she's an extremely well-qualified jurist with impeccable credentials and a commitment to justice, even Justice with a capital J. On GOP Planet, she's automatically unqualified because Joe Biden said he'd appoint a Black woman, and that means he automatically excluded more-qualified candidates like Justice Freeze-In-Your-Truck And Justice Rapeybeer.
But just in case the obvious racism weren't enough, Sen. Josh Hawley and s few other Republicans have decided to lie outright about Jackson's record. In mere reality, the sentences Jackson gave as a federal judge were in line with those of her peers. But in GOP moral panic world, Hawley has taken a bunch of cherry-picked examples and misleading quotes, taken out of context, to smear her with the false claim that she's a big fan of people convicted in child pornography cases. It's bullshit, and you can find very good, detailed fact checks of Hawley's lies at Vox , the New York Times, the Washington Post (here, have a paywall-free linky! ), and even at the National Freaking Review.
The chief thing to remember about Hawley is that he's using a load of dishonest claims about Jackson's record. He has already insisted that critics are being super unfair to him, because everything he claimed about her is a "fact." But nah: Without proper context, they're still misleading bullshit. Josh Hawley is a smart but evil man who knows how to twist the truth; that doesn't make him any kind of truth-teller.
As WaPo's Glenn Kessler points out, Hawley posted a 17-part Twitter thread last week in which the senator offered a whole load of lies about KJB's record. Most of the lies he told fell into three basic areas.
1. Out Of Context Quotes
Hawley quoted questions Jackson asked during US Sentencing Commission (USSC) hearings and pretended those questions about child porn defendants reflected Jackson's own views. In each case, Jackson had restated something a witness had said in testimony, then asked for more information or a clarification, because the whole point was to revise sentencing recommendations that federal judges had been complaining about.
For instance, when Jackson asked expert witnesses about "less serious offenders," and about people who might access child porn not because they're pedophiles but as a way of proving their computer skills, she was asking for more information about the experts' research, and how prevalent they thought such behaviors were. She was not, as Hawley claimed, presenting her own "troubling" views. And as Kessler notes, the witness said that people who persist in collecting the stuff over time tend to become more serious offenders.
In reply to a request for comment, Hawley preemptively issued a news release on Twitter and accused WaPo of simply "regurgitating White House talking points," although the column hadn't yet run. Also too, Hawley seemed to deny that context exists, because if Jackson quoted any words, they now are her words:
Judge Jackson’s words are right there in print, and they speak for themselves. [...] When she does quote from or refer to previous testimony, she does so with approval and indicates the witness has changed her mind on child porn offenders.
After all, she must approve, since look at "her" words right there. ( See WaPo for a detailed breakdown, which makes clear, that, NUH-UH.)
2. Pretending Unanimous Recommendations Were Jackson's Weird Radical Ideas
Hawley also pretended on Twitter that Jackson had personally "advocated for drastic change in how the law treats sex offenders" when in fact all the USSC's recommendations were the result of consensus among the seven members of the bipartisan commission, which had three Republican and four Democratic members.
The New York Times points out that the commission
noted in a 2012 report to Congress that existing sentencing guidelines on crimes involving images of child sexual abuse “fail to differentiate among offenders in terms of their culpability” and result in penalty ranges that “are too severe for some offenders and too lenient for other offenders.”
At WaPo, Kessler adds that the report noted that the guidelines also didn't make distinctions as to how dangerous the various types of offenders were. Since there was no mandatory minimum sentence for possessing child porn, but there was a five-year minimum for sending, receiving, or distributing it, Kessler explains, the commission found that
prosecutors and courts were gaming the system, seeking ways to limit sentence exposure by, for instance, charging someone only with possession even if they had committed other related crimes.
Judges didn't care for the inflexible guidelines either:
A 2010 survey showed 71 percent of judges said the mandatory minimums for receipt of images were too high. Moreover, in 2010 only 40 percent of convicted offenders for non-production — people who use existing images but do not make them — received sentences that matched the guidelines.
As a result, the commission suggested changes in minimums for non-production offenses, but not for people who make child pornography. It also recommended equalizing the punishment for possession and for receipt, transportation and distribution.
The members of the commission were divided on whether mandatory minimums were actually necessary for non-production crimes, but agreed unanimously that Congress should equalize the penalties for possession with those for the other charges, and that any minimum sentence be less than five years. Again, that was all the members , not Jackson on her own, and Congress didn't act on the recommended changes. Kessler notes that in 2021, the USSC again called for the changes.
Hawley's very smart answer to the critique was that even if it was the USSC's unanimous recommendation, Jackson nonetheless called for it, so it's on her. Also too, the other commissioners who made the very same recommendations "probably shouldn’t be on the Supreme Court either.” One of the commission's Republicans, Dabney Friedrich, was appointed to a federal judgeship by Donald Trump in 2017, before Hawley was elected. She was confirmed on a 97-3 vote, with all Senate Republicans supporting her.
3. OMG Her Sentences For Child Porn Were What Prosecutors Asked For!
Hawley also listed seven cases in which we're supposed to be horribly outraged that Jackson sentenced convicted child-porn offenders to less time than recommended in the federal sentencing guidelines. As should be clear by now, those guidelines are widely disliked by actual federal judges, who depart from them fairly regularly, as Kessler points out:
The 2021 USSC report noted that in 2019, only 30 percent of non-production child-porn offenders received a sentence within the guideline range. “The non-production child pornography guideline has been subject to longstanding criticism from stakeholders and has one of the lowest rates of within-guideline range sentences each year,” the report said .
After Hawley tweeted his thread of lies, another former member of the Sentencing Commission, NYU Law professor Rachel E. Barkow, tweeted that Hawley's complaints were "silly," explaining that Jackson's sentences for non-production child porn offenderswere in line with "what most of the federal bench does," because "just about [every] federal judge realizes these Guidelines are too severe."
Kessler compared what prosecutors and US Probation officers had recommended in pre-sentencing reports for each of the nine cases, and found that in three of the seven cases, Jackson had imposed a longer sentence than the recommendation (and in one, Hawley had entirely misstated the details, claiming Jackson's sentence was much lower than the guidelines; in reality, it was within them). In two others, she had given the same sentence probation had recommended. Only two of the cases had sentences that were shorter than the prosecutors or probation had recommended.
Further, in US v. Sears, a case that Hawley had cited as a horror story because Jackson gave a shorter sentence (71 months) than the guidelines recommended (97 to 121 months), Kessler notes that Jackson later returned to the case in 2020 when the offender asked for a compassionate medical release. She denied the request, noting in her ruling that
The possession and distribution of child pornography is an extremely serious crime because it involves trading depictions of the actual sexual assault of children, and the abuse that these child victims endure will remain available on the internet forever.
She said the offender's behavior — which included showing clothed photos of a young female relative and a friend's child to an undercover cop — made him a likely danger to children, especially since he hadn't undergone the treatment she'd ordered in his original sentence.
It's difficult to read that order and decide Jackson is a pal to child pornographers. But then, Josh Hawley is all about smears, not about honesty.
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