Reason Roundup

The Portland Protest Shooter's Death Looks More and More Like Excessive Force—but Trump Keeps Bragging About It

Plus: A tale of two townhalls, Matt Welch interviews Jo Jorgensen, Bill Gates talks antitrust, Ajit Pai moves on Section 230 study, and more...

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Execution squad? The more that comes out about the federal task force killing of Portland murder suspect Michael Forest Reinoehl, the worse his death looks.

The president isn't helping. "We sent in the U.S. Marshals. Took 15 minutes, it was over. Fifteen minutes, it was over—we got him," Donald Trump told a crowd in North Carolina on Thursday. "They knew who he was. They didn't want to arrest him, and 15 minutes—that ended."

A benefit-of-the-doubt reading here would be that Trump's "they" who "didn't want to arrest" was a reference to the Portland police—who hadn't yet arrested Reinoehl by the time the task force intervened—and not an admission that agents didn't want to take Reinoehl in alive (as some have been reading it).

But either way, the end of the mission is nothing to be bragging about. By many accounts, the officers didn't even attempt to arrest Reinoehl peacefully.

Investigators said this week that Reinoehl—pursued for fatally shooting Aaron "Jay" Danielson during a confrontation at an August 29 protest in Portland—had a loaded handgun when local law enforcement serving on the U.S. Marshals Pacific Northwest Violent Offender Task Force killed him on September 3. But the gun was still in Reinoehl's front pants pocket as police fired more than 30 bullets at him.

"The new information follows initial reports from investigators [that] the federal fugitive task force involved in shooting Reinoehl gave conflicting statements," reports ABC News.

One member of the task force claimed that Reinoehl pointed a gun at them. Another said that didn't happen, but Reinoehl was reaching for a gun when they shot him. A U.S. Marshal's Office press release claimed Reinoehl "produced a firearm, threatening the lives of law enforcement officers."

This week, Thurston County Sheriff's Lt. Ray Brady said that Reinoehl's hand may have been on a gun or may have been merely "near" the gun.

At a Tuesday press conference, investigators said they still do not know if the gun in Reinoehl's pocket on the night of his death was the same gun used to kill Danielson a few nights prior.

Almost two dozen witnesses to Reinoehl's subsequent death say task force members never identified themselves or warned Reinoehl before opening fire on him, though Sheriff Brady disputed this on Tuesday.

Nathaniel Dingess, who lived nearby, told The Oregonian in September that he "saw Reinoehl walk toward his car holding a cellphone in his hand when two unmarked law enforcement vehicles converged outside the complex [and] began firing at Reinoehl." After initially shooting, they told Reinoehl to halt and then resumed shooting, Dingess said, adding that he never saw Reinoehl reach for a gun.

The New York Times talked with 22 people who had been nearby when Reinoehl was killed, and only one recalled the task force members saying anything before they starting shooting:

Mr. Louis…some 140 feet from Mr. Reinoehl, also said the police opened fire immediately, without giving any warnings—as did Mr. Smith and Mr. Cutler.

"There was no, 'Get out of the car!' There was no, 'Stop!' There was no nothing. They just got out of the car and started shooting," Mr. Louis said.

Mr. Smith described it similarly: "There was no yelling. There was no screaming. There was no altercation. It was just straight to gunshots."

Of the five eyewitnesses, none saw Reinoehl holding or reaching for a gun.

Despite the questions surrounding the officers conduct, Trump has repeatedly bragged about this operation—and even described it as "retribution."


ELECTION 2020

Presidential candidates Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and Jo Jorgensen fielded voter questions on Thursday night. On a night originally slated for a debate between Trump and Biden, the Republican and Democratic nominees instead squared off in dueling TV interviews.

During Biden's time taking questions in Philadelphia from ABC host George Stephanopoulos, Biden said police should shoot people in the leg as a deescalation tactic (this is a bad idea); asked if he supports court packing, he said he was "open to considering what happens" after the Amy Coney Barrett confirmation process.

On NBC, Trump spread major misinformation about masks, claiming erroneously that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said "that 85 percent of the people wearing masks catch" COVID-19. He also evaded questions about his taxes, whether he took a coronavirus test before the first debate, and more. And he claimed (once again) that he has "done more for the African-American community than any president with the exception of Abraham Lincoln."

Meanwhile, libertarian presidential nominee Jo Jorgensen talked with Reason's Matt Welch. Watch that here.


FREE MINDS

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chair Ajit Pai announced yesterday that he will accept the Trump administration's request to "interpret" Section 230. While Pai's announcement isn't necessarily bad news, it's not a good sign that he announced the effort in a statement misrepresenting the law as a special protection for tech companies—a popular bit of ant-230 propaganda that simply is not true.

Prominent Republicans pushed several misconceptions about Section 230 yesterday, as hysteria about it reaches a fever pitch among extremely online conservatives. The most prominent of these is the idea "publisher" and "platform" are legal categories which websites must stay on one side or the other of.

(For good primers on Section 230 myths, see this Reason TV video and this Techdirt post.)


FREE MARKETS

Bill Gates questions antitrust investigation. Microsoft founder Bill Gates spoke out against the congressional strategy of tackling tech companies' potential antitrust violations as a group, rather than on a company-by-company basis. "I think it's kind of unfortunate that they're grouping the companies together, because there are so many different issues," Gates said at the GeekWire Summit. Antitrust enforcers famously targeted Microsoft in the 1990s.

"If they want to get serious, they're going to have to focus in, enumerate the issues and them debate them. So I'd say we're kind of at the beginning," he continued. Gates thinks we should be having more conversation about how tech practices affect consumers and "a little less about demonizing the specific people involved."

Gates also commended today's tech CEOs for their ability to play nice with politicians and regulators:

I think the main mistake I made, which was not realizing how important it would be to develop relationships in Washington, be engaged there—these companies are not making the same mistake that I made. They have lots of people. Jeff even has a nice house in Washington, DC. They may even be making some other mistakes. But everybody saw what I did and knows better now.

If their recent treatment is what it looks like when they suck up to D.C. power, I shudder to think what things would look like otherwise.


FOLLOWUP

Twitter is revising its hacked materials policy after the company used it as grounds to remove a New York Post story about Joe Biden and his son Hunter.


QUICK HITS

• In which Trump does not appear to realize that The Babylon Bee is a satire site:

• After a woman used a racial slur outside a grocery store in Pennsylvania, "the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office determined that the woman's alleged conduct supports the 'charging of several violations.'" But Gisele Barreto Fetterman, the target of the slur and the wife of Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, told police she didn't want to press charges.

• "The government can pursue people for disclosing classified information, but it can't stop them from publishing books just because they might make the president's family look bad," writes national security lawyer Mark S. Zaid at The Washington Post.

• A tiny bit of good news on the free speech and free markets fronts: "A judge in San Francisco said Thursday she's not likely to lift a temporary block on the US government's attempts to ban WeChat," reports The Verge. "Beeler did not issue a ruling Thursday but said the government had not presented new evidence to persuade her that there were significant national security concerns with allowing WeChat to remain active in the US."

What happens if Roe v. Wade is overturned?

• Rick and Morty is extremist material in Russia: