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Federal probe into former backer of Prop 8 in ‘pay or play’ scheme

Manchester said he was offered the Bahamas post the day after Trump was sworn in

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Doug Manchester with Donald Trump. Photo via Manchester’s personal website

WASHINGTON – A Federal grand jury is issuing subpoenas in a criminal investigation into the nomination of a wealthy San Diego real estate and longtime business developer and the past chairman and publisher of The San Diego Union-Tribune, Douglas Frederick Manchester, as U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas by former President Trump.

Manchester was an early supporter of Trump. The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that the case appears to focus on the Republican National Committee and its two senior leaders, and possibly members of Congress.

Manchester has long had deep financial ties to the Republican Party as a major donor and to GOP elected officials and candidates. He was first nominated to become the U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas in May 2017, just months into the Trump administration.

But the nomination stalled in the U.S. Senate, prompting Trump to re-nominate Manchester to the post early in 2018. That nomination also was held up from Senate approval. Manchester withdrew his nomination in October 2019, saying that he was removing his name from consideration due to threats to his family, the paper reported Saturday.

The Union-Tribune is reporting that focus of the subpoenas is in emailed or other communications involving communications between Manchester, his former wife, the Republican National Committee, (RNC) and RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and Co-Chair Tommy Hicks.

In November of 2019 CBS News chief investigative correspondent Jim Axelrod reported that Manchester, was asked by the RNC to donate half a million dollars as his confirmation in the Senate hung in the balance. A Trump supporter, Manchester donated $1 million to the former president’s inauguration fund. According to Axelrod, Manchester said he was offered the Bahamas post the day after Trump was sworn in.

Trump tweeted his nomination of Manchester after which, according to emails obtained by CBS News, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel hit up Manchester for a donation. It was no small sum. In an email, obtained exclusively by CBS News, she asked Manchester, “Would you consider putting together $500,000 worth of contributions from your family to ensure we hit our ambitious fundraising goal?”

Axelrod reported, “He wrote back to McDaniel’s request for $500,000, “As you know I am not supposed to do any, but my wife is sending a contribution for $100,000. Assuming I get voted out of the [Foreign Relations Committee] on Wednesday to the floor we need you to have the majority leader bring it to a majority vote … Once confirmed, I our [sic] family will respond!””

It was that email the Union-Tribune and CBS both reported that is the heart of the potential “pay or play” scheme. Justice Department officials did not respond to requests for statements outside of confirming that the Federal probe began during the final year of the Trump administration.

Manchester, 78, a native Californian was born in Los Angeles and raised in San Diego and is known for his real estate and business empire. He was responsible for construction and development of some of San Diego’s premier properties including the First National Bank Center, and the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina. In the 1990s, he constructed the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel San Diego.

In 2011, he purchased The San Diego Union-Tribune and a year later in 2012, he bought the North County Times and merged it and its subsidiary, The Californian, into the Union-Tribune. He also bought eight local weeklies in the San Diego region, which continue to be published as separate papers. In 2015, he sold The San Diego Union-Tribune to the Tribune Publishing Company.

During the national debate and politicking over the issue of same-sex marriage Manchester was an opponent. Georgetown Law notes; “Among the advocates for Prop 8 were religious organizations, most notably the Roman Catholic church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”

Manchester, who was appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his 2017 Senate confirmation hearing for his nomination as U.S. Ambassador to the Bahamas, responding to a line of questioning from Senator Bob Menendez, (D-New Jersey), acknowledged that he had donated $125,000 to support Proposition 8, the 2008 ballot measure that prohibited same-sex marriage in California that passed with 52 percent of the vote.

“I was asked by the Catholic bishop of San Diego, and I am Catholic, to contribute and I did. And my family was opposed to it,” Manchester said. “And I want to clarify the issue: that was a huge mistake and I have more than done everything to rectify that mistake.”

Prop 8 was later overturned in the 2013 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry.

He told the Senators that he has had thousands of employees, including those who are gay and lesbian. He then pointed out that he’s contributed a like amount of money to LGBTQ causes, adding he is“ totally 100 percent for human rights all across the board.”

Manchester then told the Committee; “I certainly support gay and lesbian marriage, for the record,” he said.

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Trans woman ‘viciously attacked’ in men’s jail cell lawsuit says

“Hopefully the sheriff’s department takes this incident serious and makes the changes necessary to ensure people in their care are kept safe”

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The San Diego Sheriff’s Department Logo (Photo by Tristan Loper)

SAN DIEGO — Kristina Frost, a trans woman, was “viciously attacked” after being placed in a men’s holding cell by the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, according to court documents. 

Frost was a book-and-release detainee at the San Diego Central Jail in November of 2020. After informing the jail staff that she is a trans woman, she was placed in a holding cell alone. Frost’s DMV records and driver’s license state her gender is female, according to a civil complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California. 

But she was later moved to a “minimally monitored” cell with three men “without any reasonable justification,” according to the lawsuit.

“No reasonable deputy would have put Ms. Frost in a minimally monitored cell with three men,” her lawyers wrote. “She was forced into the cell anyway.”

Frost eventually fell asleep in the cell but awoke to one of the men striking her head with closed fist punches, resulting in a broken jaw that has required two surgeries. 

The lawsuit alleges that deputies observed the assault but didn’t immediately intervene. Frost said one or more deputies paused before they entered the cell and removed the assailant.

Frost then had to wait upwards of 12 hours without medical care before she was released, according to the complaint. 

San Diego Sheriff’s Department Deputy Mason Cassidy, who is named as one of the defendants in the case, is believed to be the one who placed Frost in the men’s cell. The lawsuit states that Cassidy “was deliberately indifferent to Ms. Frost’s safety risks and needs as a pretrial detainee.”

The County of San Diego, San Diego County Sheriff William Gore and other unknown San Diego Sheriff’s Department personnel are also named as defendants in the case. 

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department told the Los Angeles Blade that they “are committed to an inclusive environment within our agency and the communities we serve.”

“The incident occurred in November 2020 in a temporary holding cell during the Intake process, not a housing unit,” the department said. “It was in the Intake area of the facility, where people are waiting to complete the booking process or pending release. Miss Kristina Frost was temporarily placed in a holding cell with other individuals who were also identified as being in protective custody status. The person who allegedly assaulted Miss Frost stated he was assaulted by Miss Frost first and stated he acted in self-defense. Additionally, Miss Frost declined to press charges.”

The Blade attempted to reach the County of San Diego for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publishing this article. 

The complaint also alleges that the incident involving Frost was “foreseeable” as department personnel have shown a pattern of failing to keep people in custody safe. 

“The mortality rate in San Diego County jails is the highest among California’s largest counties,” Frost’s attorneys wrote. “At least 140 people died in County custody from 2009 to 2019.”

Frost’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment, but one of Frost’s lawyers, Brody McBride, told ABC 10 News San Diego that he hopes some good comes out of the case. 

“Hopefully the sheriff’s department takes this incident serious and makes the changes necessary to ensure people in their care are kept safe and treated with dignity,” McBride said. 

According to a 2020 NBC News report, trans people are often housed according to their sex assigned at birth, not their gender identity. Out of 4,890 trans prisoners across the U.S., NBC News could only confirm 15 cases in which a trans prisoner was housed according to their lived gender.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a law this past September requiring prisons in the state to house trans people according to their gender identity.

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San Diego

US Navy Fleet Oiler & supply ship, USNS Harvey Milk launches

“For far too long, sailors like Lt. Milk were forced into the shadows or, worse yet, forced out of our beloved Navy”

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USNS Harvey Milk christening & launch ceremony, photograph courtesy of General Dynamics-National Steel and Shipbuilding Company

SAN DIEGO – The United States Navy christened and launched its latest John Lewis class of fleet replenishment oilers Saturday as the U.S. Naval Ship Harvey Milk slid down the ways at the General Dynamics-National Steel and Shipbuilding Company, NASSCO, shipyards into the waters of San Diego Bay.

The ship is named after slain openly gay LGBTQ+ rights activist and former San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk, who along with LGBTQ+ ally Mayor George Moscone was assassinated by disgruntled former Supervisor Dan White, in their offices in San Francisco City Hall on November 27, 1978.

The time-honored christening ceremony with a bottle of champagne broken over the bow was executed by Paula Neira, the Clinical Program Director for John Hopkins Center for Transgender Health. Also in attendance at the ceremony was Stuart Milk, the late San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk’s nephew, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro and California State Senate President pro Tem, Senator Toni Atkins, whose Senate district includes the area of San Diego where the U.S. Navy’s sprawling naval base is located as well as the NASSCO shipyards.

Dignitaries also included Out San Diego city and county commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez, San Diego’s openly gay Mayor Todd Gloria, Supervisor Milk’s campaign manager and advisor Anne Kronenberg and Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors Nathan Fletcher.

Addressing the audience of attendees, Secretary Del Toro told them; “The secretary of the Navy needed to be here today, not just to amend the wrongs of the past, but to give inspiration to all of our LGBTQ community leaders who served in the Navy, in uniform today and in the civilian workforce as well too, and to tell them that we’re committed to them in the future.”

The Secretary then directly spoke to Milk’s sexual orientation and his being forced from naval service.

“For far too long, sailors like Lt. Milk were forced into the shadows or, worse yet, forced out of our beloved Navy,” he said. “That injustice is part of our Navy history, but so is the perseverance of all who continue to serve in the face of injustice.”

In 2016, then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus decided that six new fleet oilers scheduled to be built would be named after civil and human rights leaders.

Del Toro told Mabus, who attended the christening, that it was a courageous decision.

The Milk is a fleet oiler and will be assigned the tasks of replenishing fuel oil and dry goods to U. S. naval vessels at sea. The Milk is the second ship in the new John Lewis class of fleet oilers. The future USNS John Lewis (T-AO-205) , is named for the former civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman, and is also under construction at NASSCO San Diego.

The first six vessels in the Lewis class of fleet oilers are named after prominent civil rights activists and leaders, in addition to the USNS John Lewis (T-AO-205) are; USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206) – LGBT activist Harvey Milk; USNS Earl Warren (T-AO-207) – Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren; USNS Robert F. Kennedy (T-AO-208) – U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy; USNS Lucy Stone (T-AO-209) – Women’s rights activist Lucy Stone; USNS Sojourner Truth (T-AO-210) – Abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth.

Also addressing those in attendance, Stuart Milk, the co-founder and president of the Harvey Milk Foundation referring to his uncle’s naval service said;

“He has a less-than-honorable discharge. He was forced to resign because he was gay,” Stuart Milk said, adding that “we have to teach our history to prevent ourselves from going backwards and repeating it.”

Milk told the audience that although there is a process for reversing such discharges, he said it was important to not do that for his late uncle in order “to keep the memory of how we did not honor everyone in this very honorable service.”

Milk enlisted in the Navy in 1951 and attended the U.S. Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island. By 1954 he was a lieutenant (junior grade) stationed at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, which during Milk’s tenure of service was the Naval Air Missile Test Center near Oxnard, California. He was serving as a diving instructor.

As the Bay Area Reporter wrote in an article in February 2020, Milk was given an “other than honorable” discharge from the U.S. Navy and forced to resign on February 7, 1955 rather than face a court-martial because of his homosexuality, according to a trove of naval records obtained by the paper. It contradicted an archival document housed in the San Francisco Public Library’s San Francisco History Center that authors of several recent biographies of Milk had used to claim that Milk was honorably discharged from the Navy.

The christening and launch ceremony for the future USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO 206):

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San Diego

Dignitaries tour the 60% completed USNS Harvey Milk

This past week on the eve of what would have been Milk’s 91st birthday Milk’s nephew elected officials and other dignitaries toured the ship

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Military Sealift Command fleet oiler USNS Harvey Milk (U.S. Navy Photo Illustration)

SAN DIEGO – The construction work on the future U.S. Navy fleet oiler named for slain gay San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk is nearly sixty-percent completed according to a spokesperson for the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company division of General Dynamics Corporation commonly referred to as NASSCO.

This past week on the eve of what would have been Milk’s 91st birthday on Saturday, Milk’s nephew Stuart Milk, elected officials and other dignitaries were given two separate tours of the vessel.

The Milk is a fleet oiler and will be assigned the tasks of replenishing fuel oil and dry goods to U. S. naval vessels at sea. The Milk is the second ship in the new John Lewis class of fleet oilers. The future USNS John Lewis (T-AO-205) , is named for the former civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman, and is also under construction at NASSCO San Diego.

The first six vessels in the Lewis class of fleet oilers are named after prominent civil rights activists and leaders, in addition to the USNS John Lewis (T-AO-205) are; USNS Harvey Milk (T-AO-206) – LGBT activist Harvey Milk; USNS Earl Warren (T-AO-207) – Chief Justice of the United States Earl Warren; USNS Robert F. Kennedy (T-AO-208) – U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy; USNS Lucy Stone (T-AO-209) – Women’s rights activist Lucy Stone; USNS Sojourner Truth (T-AO-210) – Abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth.

San Diego City & County Commissioner Nicole Murray Ramirez arranged the private tours led by Dennis DuBard, Manager of Government Relations at General Dynamic NASSCO on behalf of the shipbuilders.

Photos by Anthony Paolino, General Dynamics NASSCO

Among the dignitaries were Stuart Milk- Co-Founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, San Diego’s openly gay Mayor Todd Gloria; State Senate President Toni G. Atkins; City Councilmember Stephen Whitburn; State Assemblymember Christopher Ward; Congressmember Sara Jacobs; State Commissioner Robert Gleason; The Center’s Cara Dessert; and Navy veteran, Chief Petty Officer Morgan M. Hurley, USN Ret. former chair of the LGBTQ Veterans Wall of Honor.

L to R-  masked men, NASSCO personnel, including Dennis DuBard- Manager of Government Relations at NASSCO, 
BACK ROW- Morgan Hurley, Ryan Bedrosian- Hillcrest Business Association, 
MIDDLE ROW- Mike Phillips-San Diego Historic Task Force, City/County Commissioner Nicole Murray-Ramirez, Eddy Rey- Executive Director Equality Business Alliance, Stuart Milk- Co-Founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation 
FRONT ROW- Bevan Dufty- Former San Francisco County Board of Supervisors, Charles Rozanski- International Imperial Court Council 

Also given a tour were Bevan Dufty, former San Francisco Board of Supervisor- District 8, member of the Bay Area Rapid Transit Board of Directors and Executive Director of H.O.P.E. for the City & County of San Francisco; Ryan Bedrosian, business man, owner of Rich’s San Diego and secretary of the Hillcrest Business Association; Charles Rozanski, businessman, president and CEO of Mile High Comics, and member of the International Imperial Court Council; Michael “Bigmike SanDiego” Phillips, philanthropist, and chair of the newly minted San Diego LGBTQ historic Task Force; Eddie Rey, Executive Director of the Equality Business Alliance.

Photos by Anthony Paolino, General Dynamics NASSCO

Eddie Rey, Executive Director of the Equality Business Alliance noted; “The naming of the USNS Harvey Milk is historic for multiple reasons- including that it’s the first military ship named after a service member who was harassed, court martialed and then dishonorably discharged- simply for being gay; but most importantly to me — because it tells the world that our nation now honors and supports LGBTQ individuals. It is my hope that someday the military will reverse and rectify the wrongful “Other Than Honorable Discharge” given to thousands of our LGBTQ brothers, sisters, and siblings. As for Harvey Milk- the message of his less than honorable discharge and naming of a ship is a powerful message- that the family wishes to keep as is.”

Milk was given an ‘other than honorable‘ discharge from the US Navy on February 7, 1955 after being forced by U.S. Navy investigators to describe his sexual relationships in a 152 page document. Some twenty-two years later he was the first openly gay person elected to a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Milk would go on to only serve 11 months in office, until he and then San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, were murdered in their office spaces at City Hall on the morning of November 27, 1978 by disgruntled former supervisor Dan White.

Every year on his birthday, the foundation that bears his name celebrates Harvey Milk Day to remember and teach about his life and his activism work to stop the discrimination against LGBTQ+ people and in California, Harvey Milk Day is recognized by the state’s government as a day of special significance for the Golden State’s public schools. 

The day was permanently established by the California legislature and signed into law by then Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009.

A NASSCO spokesperson said that the Milk is on schedule for a November ‘ship’s christening’ with commissioning to follow at an unspecified date.

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