Stop the music! Chorus of artists tell Trump to turn it down
LOS ANGELES — From the beloved opening lines of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to the rousing, children’s-choir conclusion of the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies have been filled with classic songs whose authors and their heirs loudly reject him and his politics.
It’s become a sub-cycle in the endless campaign cycle. The Trump campaign can hardly play a song without the artist denouncing its use and sending a cease-and-desist letter. Neil Young, John Fogerty, Phil Collins, Panic! At The Disco and the estates of Leonard Cohen, Tom Petty and Prince are just a few of those who have objected.
Campaigns have been turning popular songs into theme songs for more than a century, and American artists have been objecting at least since 1984, when Bruce Springsteen denied the use of “Born in the U.S.A.” to the Ronald Reagan reelection campaign.
But this year, the issue has reached an unprecedented saturation point, indicative of a wide cultural divide between the president and his supporters, and overwhelmingly left-leaning musicians, who virtually never make the same demands of Democratic candidates.
“I’ve been covering this beat for probably 20 years, and this is probably as stark a division I’ve seen as far as artists not wanting a politician to use their songs,” said Billboard contributor Gil Kaufman, who has been covering the convergence of music and politics for the record trade magazine during the campaign. “The choice is so stark for a lot of voters, and it is for musicians too.”
Few have objected as adamantly as Young. The fiercely opinionated rock Hall-of-Famer is the rare musician who has gone beyond demands and filed a lawsuit over the repeated use of his songs.
“Imagine what it feels like to hear ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ after this President speaks, like it is his theme song,” Young wrote on his website in July. “I did not write it for that.”
That feeling that they’ve been drafted onto Team Trump clearly fuels many artists’ anger.
“Their music is their identity,” Kaufman said. “It’s important to them to not appear as though they are tacitly endorsing Trump.”
Other artists have been more befuddled than angry about the playing of songs whose themes are the exact opposite of the messages Trump is sending.
Fogerty said he was baffled by Trump’s use of “Fortunate Son,” his 1969 hit with Creedence Clearwater Revival, whose condemnation of privileged children of rich men who did not serve in Vietnam sounds like a tailor-made slam of Trump.
“I find it confusing that the president has chosen to use my song for his political rallies, when in fact it seems like he is probably the fortunate son,” Fogerty said in a video on Facebook in September.
He was more fiery after he kept hearing it played.
“He is using my words and my voice to portray a message that I do not endorse,” Fogerty said in an Oct. 16 tweet announcing a cease-and-desist order.
That the president’s rallies are potential spreaders of the coronavirus may be adding intensity to artists’ desire not to have their music contribute.
“It’s not a great look for the artists, if their music is aligned with something seen as unsafe,” Kaufman said.
Many social-media observers pointed out that, given its title, Collins’ “In The Air Tonight” was especially tone-deaf when it was played at Trump’s Oct. 14 rally in Iowa. Collins’ attorneys promptly demanded the campaign stop using the song.
Legally, politicians don’t necessarily need direct permission from artists.
Campaigns can buy broad licensing packages from music rights organizations, including BMI and ASCAP, that give them legal access to millions of songs
BMI said the Rolling Stones had opted out of inclusion in those licenses, and it informed the Trump campaign that if it did not stop playing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” a Trump favorite in regular rotation at his rallies, the campaign would be in breach of its agreement.
But even if their songs can be played contractually, artists can still object. That usually just means a public demand to the campaign.
“A lot of the time it just takes the cease-and-desist to tell them not to use it, that’s already enough for the artist to get their message out that they’re not associated with the campaign and did not approve the use,” said Heidy Vaquerano, a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in entertainment law and intellectual property.
And there are other legal channels, such as states’ right-of-publicity laws, which treat an artists’ identity as their property, or the federal Lanham Act, which protects an artist’s personal trademark and contains a provision barring false endorsement.
“The use of their music, it could dilute the worth of their trademark,” Vaquerano said. “Courts have recognized that that could be an implied endorsement.”
The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The president has turned more recently to slightly friendlier ground, dancing at events to “Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People, whose leader and primary songwriter, Victor Willis, has said he doesn’t feel he’s endorsing Trump when the song plays.
Yet the campaign cannot avoid condemnation even when playing dead artists.
Petty’s widow and daughters, who had been fighting in court over his estate, united in their demand in June that Trump stop using his song, “I Won’t Back Down.”
Cohen’s estate attorneys vehemently objected to the prominent use of “Hallelujah” during the final-night fireworks at the Republican National Convention in August, saying in a statement it was an attempt to “politicize and exploit” a song they had specifically told the RNC not to use.
Cohen attorneys made the rare move of suggesting an alternative, whose title could be taken as a dig at Trump.
“Had the RNC requested another song, ‘You Want it Darker,'” the lawyers said, “we might have considered approval.”
Long prison stint looms for defiant self-help guru
NEW YORK — Keith Raniere, a self-improvement guru whose organization NXIVM attracted millionaires and actresses among its adherents, faces sentencing Tuesday on convictions that he turned some female followers into sex slaves branded with his initials.
U.S. District Judge Nicholas Garaufis will announce an almost-certain lengthy prison term Tuesday for Raniere after hearing victims speak.
The court proceeding in Brooklyn culminates several years of revelations about NXIVM, which charged thousands of dollars for invitation-only self improvement courses at its headquarters near Albany, New York, and had branches in Mexico and Canada.
Guests included Hollywood actors and other affluent or prominent individuals, some of whom were willing to endure humiliation and pledge obedience for Raniere’s vision of how to pursue perfection.
Prosecutors seek life in prison while defense lawyers say he should face 15 years behind bars for his conviction on charges including racketeering, alien smuggling, sex trafficking, extortion and obstruction of justice.
NXIVM has been the subject of two TV documentary series this year, HBO’s “The Vow,” and the Starz series “Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult.”
Prosecutors said Raniere, 60, led what amounted to a criminal enterprise, inducing shame and guilt to influence and control co-conspirators who helped recruit and groom sexual partners for Raniere.
They said that among other crimes, Raniere began a sexual relationship in 2005 with a 15-year-old girl and confined another teenager to a room for nearly two years.
The likelihood of leniency seemed to dissipate with the recent sentencing of Clare Bronfman, 41, an heir to the Seagram’s liquor fortune, for her role in what has been described by some ex-members as a cult. Bronfman was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison. Prosecutors had only sought five years.
Ex-followers told the judge that Bronfman for years had used her wealth to try to silence NXIVM defectors.
Reniere’s followers called him “Vanguard.” To honor him, the group formed a secret sorority comprised of female “slaves” who were branded with his initials and ordered to have sex with him, the prosecutors said. Women were also pressured into giving up embarrassing information about themselves that could be used against them if they left the group.
Along with Bronfman, Raniere’s teachings won him the devotion of Hollywood actors including Allison Mack of TV’s “Smallville.” Mack also has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
In a sentencing submission, lawyers for Reniere said he “continues to assert his complete innocence to these charges.”
They wrote that his jury conviction at an unfair trial resulted from a media campaign involving witnesses who were motivated to testify falsely as part of a “heavy-handed prosecution that threatened potential defense witnesses.”
And they noted that prosecutors have criticized him for not showing remorse as he tried to create a podcast to amplify his claims of innocence.
“He has acted precisely how an innocent man would act, shouting from every rooftop every waking hour that the system has wrongfully convicted him,” the lawyers wrote.
His lawyers said the life prison term prosecutors sought seemed out of line with a case involving no guns, knives or force.
“No one was shot, stabbed, punched, kicked, slapped or even yelled at,” they said. “Despite the sex offenses, there is no evidence that any woman ever told Keith Raniere that she did not want to kiss him, touch him, hold his hand or have sex with him.”
Biden goes on offense in Georgia while Trump targets Midwest
WASHINGTON — One week until Election Day, Joe Biden is going on offense, heading Tuesday to Georgia — which hasn’t backed a Democrat for president since 1992 — and pushing into other territory where President Donald Trump was once expected to easily repeat his wins from four years ago.
The Democratic presidential nominee planned to travel to Iowa, which Trump took by 10 points in 2016, later in the week. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, is heading to Arizona and Texas, where Republicans haven’t lost any statewide office since 1994 — the nation’s longest political winning streak.
The aggressive schedule is a sign of confidence by the Biden team, which is trying to stretch the electoral map and open up more paths to 270 electoral college votes. But after Democrats flirted with GOP territory in 2016, only to lose those states as well as their traditional Midwestern strongholds, Biden’s campaign is mindful of overreaching.
The former vice president will also visit in the coming days Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida.
Georgia, where Biden will make two stops on Tuesday, has increasingly become a draw for Democrats in recent years, as turnout increases among Black voters and the Atlanta suburbs tilt away from the GOP.
“If this was the Georgia of 2008, 2012, I think there’s no way we would have seen a Biden come this late,” said Nse Ufot, chief executive officer of the New Georgia Project, which aims to increase voter registration, especially among young people and minorities. “It’s a loud signal and acknowledgment of Georgia as a battleground state.”
Trump is staying focused on the so-called “blue wall” states that he flipped in 2016: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where he’ll return on Tuesday to hit West Salem just three days after holding a Janesville rally.
While Biden rarely travels to more than one state per day, the Republican president has maintained a whirlwind schedule, crisscrossing the country and making the argument that he built a booming economy before the coronavirus pandemic upended it.
His latest swing could be a victory lap after the Senate on Monday approved the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett and gave conservatives a commanding 6-3 advantage on the Supreme Court. Trump has sought to use the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month to animate conservative evangelical and Catholic voters to his candidacy, but the high court fight has been overshadowed by concerns over the coronavirus with cases surging.
Biden, meanwhile, is hoping to lift Democrats running for Senate in Georgia and Iowa with this travel plans. He planned to unveil his closing message during a Tuesday speech in Warm Springs, Georgia, where natural hot springs offered President Franklin Delano Roosevelt comfort as he battled polio and governed a nation weathering the Great Depression and World War II.
The former vice president’s campaign says his appearance will bookend his visit earlier this month to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, when Biden used the site of the bloody Civil War battle to issue a call for bipartisanship and putting country ahead of party. On Tuesday, he will try to evoke Roosevelt’s New Deal sensitivities while promising to restore the nation’s character.
“This is our opportunity to leave the dark, angry politics of the past four years behind us,” Biden declares in a 60-second closing ad airing on national cable channels and 16 states his campaign considers battlegrounds.
Both campaigns focused Monday on Pennsylvania, with Trump drawing thousands of largely mask-less supporters to rallies while Biden popped just over the border from his home in Delaware to greet a small group of supporters outside a campaign field office in Chester.
Biden declared, “Bottom line is Donald Trump is the worst possible person to lead us through this pandemic.” Trump countered that his Democratic challenger would impose unnecessary shutdowns.
“It’s a choice between a Trump boom or a Biden lockdown,” the president said at a rally in Allentown.
With more than a third of the expected ballots in the election already cast, it could become increasingly challenging for Trump and Biden to reshape the race. Biden is leading in most national polls and has an advantage, though narrower, in many key battlegrounds.
The campaign’s final week is colliding with deepening concerns about the COVID crisis. Trump is anxious for voters to focus on other issues such as the economy. Biden, meanwhile, has repeatedly hit Trump on the virus while presenting himself as a safer, more stable alternative.
Several close aides to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the virus last weekend, including his chief of staff, Marc Short. Pence, though, has maintained a packed travel schedule. On Tuesday he’ll be in South Carolina, a potential boost for Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is in a potentially tight reelection race.
Biden has accused Trump of “waving the white flag” in his response to the virus, while Trump fired back Monday that the former vice president “waved a white flag on life.”
Anticipating a razor-thin Electoral College margin, Trump has an aggressive schedule including a visit to Omaha, Nebraska, on Tuesday after a Sunday visit to Maine, aiming to lock up one electoral vote in each of the states that award them by congressional district. The president is scheduled hold a dizzying 11 rallies in the final 48 hours before polls close.
Democrats have been heartened by their lead in the record numbers of early votes that have been cast across a number of battleground states — though they caution that Republicans are more likely to turn out on Election Day.
After high court ruling, DOJ wants census challenges stopped
Now that the Supreme Court has allowed the Trump administration to end the 2020 census count, the courts should not interfere with efforts to meet a year-end deadline for turning in numbers used for divvying up congressional seats by state, Department of Justice attorneys said in court papers ahead of a hearing Tuesday.
All further court challenges to the Trump administration’s numbers-crunching methods for the 2020 census should be suspended as the U.S. Census Bureau works toward turning in apportionment numbers by a congressionally-mandated Dec. 31 deadline, Trump administration attorneys said ahead of a hearing before U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California.
Critics say that is not enough time.
Koh last month issued a preliminary injunction that allowed the head count to continue through Oct. 31 instead of Sept. 30, and the numbers-crunching to proceed through the end of April 2021 instead of Dec. 31. The district judge sided with a coalition of local governments and advocacy groups that had sued the Trump administration, arguing that minorities and others in hard-to-count communities would be missed if the counting ended in September.
An appellate court suspended Koh’s order as it relates to the numbers-crunching deadline at the end of the year, and the Supreme Court two weeks ago halted the entire preliminary injunction, allowing the field operations for the 2020 census to end.
Tuesday’s hearing is the first one on the case since the Supreme Court’s ruling.
“This Court and the parties previously expended extraordinary efforts to litigate and adjudicate Plaintiffs’ challenges at a breakneck pace only to have the Supreme Court rightly undo that hard work,” the Trump administration said in court papers. “There is no need to repeat that fruitless process.”
Attorneys for the coalition of local governments and advocacy groups said ahead of Tuesday’s hearing that the Supreme Court ruling provided no guidance on the case since the justices did not offer an explanation for their decision, which does not conflict with any of the rulings from the lower courts on several issues.
Because of that, the case should move forward toward a trial and final ruling by the district judge, especially since the litigation has raised questions about the thoroughness of the count and whether the Census Bureau can even meet the Dec. 31 deadline, the attorneys for the coalition said.
The census is used to determine how many congressional seats each state gets, in a process known as apportionment, as well as the distribution of $1.5 trillion in federal spending annually.
Judge: U.S. can’t replace Trump in accuser’s defamation suit
NEW YORK — A federal judge on Tuesday denied President Donald Trump’s request that the United States replace him as the defendant in a defamation lawsuit alleging he raped a woman in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan came after the Justice Department argued that the United States — and by extension the American people — should replace Trump as the defendant in a lawsuit filed by the columnist E. Jean Carroll.
The government’s lawyers contended that the United States could step in as the defendant because Trump was forced to respond to her lawsuit to prove he was physically and mentally fit for the job.
A lawyer for Carroll, Roberta Kaplan, called it a clear victory for her client.
“The simple truth is that President Trump defamed our client because she was brave enough to reveal that he had sexually assaulted her, and that brutal, personal attack cannot be attributed to the Office of the President,” Kaplan said in a statement.
Messages were left on Tuesday for lawyers for Trump and the Justice Department seeking comment.
The judge ruled that a law protecting federal employees from being sued individually for things they do within the scope of their employment didn’t apply to a president.
“The President of the United States is not an employee of the Government within the meaning of the relevant statutes,” Kaplan wrote. “Even if he were such an employee, President Trumps allegedly defamatory statements concerning Ms. Carroll would not have been within the scope of his employment. Accordingly, the motion to substitute the United States in place of President Trump is denied.”
Lawyers for Carroll had written that “only in a world gone mad could it somehow be presidential, not personal, for Trump to slander a woman who he sexually assaulted.”
The Justice Department relied solely on written arguments in the dispute after its lawyer was banned from a Manhattan federal courthouse last week because he had not quarantined for two weeks after traveling to New York from a state on a list of those whose coronavirus test rates were high.
Carroll, a former longtime advice columnist for Elle magazine, said in her lawsuit that in the fall of 1995 or spring of 1996 she and Trump met in a chance encounter when they recognized each other at the Bergdorf Goodman store.
She said they engaged in a lighthearted chat about trying on a see-through lilac gray bodysuit when they made their way to a dressing room, where she said Trump pushed her against a wall and raped her.
Trump said Carroll was “totally lying” to sell a memoir and that he’d never met her, though a 1987 photo showed them and their then-spouses at a social event. He said the photo captured a moment when he was standing in a line.
Carroll, who wants unspecified damages and a retraction of Trump’s statements, also seeks a DNA sample from Trump to see whether it matches as-yet-unidentified male genetic material found on a dress that she says she was wearing during the alleged attack.
The Associated Press does not identify people who say they have been sexually assaulted unless they come forward publicly, as Carroll has done.
Barrett sworn in at court as issues important to Trump await
WASHINGTON — Amy Coney Barrett was formally sworn in Tuesday as the Supreme Court’s ninth justice, her oath administered in private by Chief Justice John Roberts. Her first votes on the court could include two big topics affecting the man who appointed her.
The court is weighing a plea from President Donald Trump to prevent the Manhattan district attorney from acquiring his tax returns. It is also considering appeals from the Trump campaign and Republicans to shorten the deadline for receiving and counting absentee ballots in the battleground states of North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
Northeastern Pennsylvania’s Luzerne County filed legal papers at the court Tuesday arguing that Barrett should not take part in the Pennsylvania case. It’s not clear if she will vote in the pending cases, but she will make that call.
Barrett was confirmed Monday by the Senate in a 52-48 virtual party line vote. She is expected to begin work as a justice on Tuesday after taking the second of two oaths required of judges by federal law. No justice has assumed office so close to a presidential election or immediately confronted issues so directly tied to the incumbent president’s political and personal fortunes.
Barrett declined to commit to Democratic demands that she step aside from any cases on controversial topics, including a potential post-election dispute over the presidential results.
At 48, she’s the youngest justice since Clarence Thomas joined the court in 1991 at age 43.
Other election-related issues are pending at the high court, which next week also will hear a clash of LGBTQ rights and religious freedoms. The fate of the Affordable Care Act is on the agenda on Nov. 10, and Trump himself last week reiterated his opposition to the Obama-era law. “I hope they end it,” he said in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes.”
On Friday, Barrett, the most open opponent of abortion rights to join the court in decades, also could be called upon to weigh in on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. The state is appealing lower court rulings invalidating the ban. Abortion opponents in Pittsburgh also are challenging a so-called bubble zone that prevents protesters from getting too close to abortion clinics.
The court put off acting on both cases before Barrett joined the court, without offering any explanation in the Mississippi case. It ordered Pittsburgh to file a response to the appeal filed by the protesters, who call themselves sidewalk counselors.
It’s not clear that the public will know how Barrett voted in the two abortion cases because the court typically doesn’t make the vote counts public when it is considering whether to grant full review to cases.
Barrett is joining the court at an unusual moment. The justices are meeting remotely by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic, both for their private conferences and public argument sessions, at least through the end of 2020. The public can listen to the arguments as they take place, a change also resulting from the court’s response to the pandemic.
After her first private conference with her new colleagues on Friday, two weeks of arguments begin on Monday. In an institution that pays strict attention to seniority, Barrett will go last in the private and public sessions.
As she settles into her new office at the court, Barrett will be joined by four law clerks, usually recent law school graduates who have experience working for federal judges.
When the court reopens to the public and the justices return to the courtroom, Barrett is expected to assume several duties reserved for the court’s junior justice. She will be a member of the committee that oversees the court’s public cafeteria, and the person who takes notes and answers the door when someone knocks during the justices’ private conferences.
Al Qaeda Feels Losses in Syria and Afghanistan but Stays Resilient
American drones and U.S. allies killed several Qaeda leaders and operatives in the past week. But the organization has “ingrained itself in local communities and conflicts,” according to the U.N.