The Supreme Court Is Not Supposed to Have This Much Power

And Congress should claw it back.

Only after Republicans lost control of Congress in 1875 was the Court able to enforce its contrary interpretations of the Constitution—to devastating effect. In the Civil Rights Cases of 1883 and related cases, the Court refused to enforce federal civil-rights laws on the theory that the newly enacted Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments gave Congress no power against private racial violence or discrimination in public accommodations. For the next half century—as part of what the historian W. E. B. Du Bois called the “counter-revolution of property”—the Court condemned the Reconstruction Congress as a group of unprincipled fanatics. And it invented new doctrines that authorized the Court to invalidate federal legislation that it thought went too far toward interfering with white business interests. It was during this period that judicial supremacy took hold as a dominant ideology in the United States.


This bears repeating: Judicial supremacy is an institutional arrangement brought to cultural ascendancy by white people who wanted to undo Reconstruction and the rise of organized labor that had followed. And that makes sense, as judicial supremacy can harness the power of an entrenched minority and use that power to undermine the more democratic legislative branch. Decades after the Court in Marbury v. Madison first anticipated that it might disagree with Congress about a federal law’s constitutionality, the justices finally convinced skeptics of the need for this authority by disempowering Congress and unraveling its legislative efforts to establish political equality.


Paul Finkelman: America’s ‘Great Chief Justice’ was an unrepentant slaveholder In the nearly 150 years since Reconstruction, the thrust of judicial supremacy has continued to be revanchist. Through the 21st century, the justices overwhelmingly have exercised their claim of supremacy over Congress to insulate the wealthy and powerful from federal labor laws, federal voting laws, federal civil-rights laws, federal campaign-finance laws, and federal health-care laws. Decisions such as Citizens United and Shelby County are typical examples of how the Court has overruled Congress to make it harder for ordinary people to participate in American democracy on equal terms. But their damage goes beyond even that: Because the limits of our constitutional imagination can extend no further than the opinions of those who happen to sit on the Court, judicial supremacy has also impoverished what we think is possible through democratic politics—and through organizing for political change at the national level.


In the nearly 150 years since Reconstruction, the thrust of judicial supremacy has continued to be revanchist. Through the 21st century, the justices overwhelmingly have exercised their claim of supremacy over Congress to insulate the wealthy and powerful from federal labor laws, federal voting laws, federal civil-rights laws, federal campaign-finance laws, and federal health-care laws. Decisions such as Citizens United and Shelby County are typical examples of how the Court has overruled Congress to make it harder for ordinary people to participate in American democracy on equal terms. But their damage goes beyond even that: Because the limits of our constitutional imagination can extend no further than the opinions of those who happen to sit on the Court, judicial supremacy has also impoverished what we think is possible through democratic politics—and through organizing for political change at the national level.

Rather than look to the Court to glimpse some fundamental truth from scant constitutional text, Americans ought to demand that their elected representatives engage in the hard work of national lawmaking. Congress must act, even if it means overriding the interpretations of the Court and reshaping its jurisdiction. Encouragingly, members of the House have recently passed bills to enforce their understanding of what federal laws our nation demands and our Constitution permits—including reproductive freedom and voting rights. But the bills have all stalled in the Senate for two reasons that remain within its control. One, the filibuster, will be abolished as soon as 50 senators recognize that a permanently incapacitated Senate is far more destructive than an active Senate that But the other obstacle may be more pernicious: a fear among legislators that there is no point to legislating if the Court will simply invalidate anything Congress achieves.might one day be controlled by an opposing party.

Yet as the Reconstruction Congress recognized, everything the Court has the power to do comes from federal statutes passed by Congress—statutes that a majority of Congress always has the power to amend. Conflicts over constitutional interpretation are not really over who has the best understanding of words inscribed in an old document. They are about who—or which actors in our system of national government—can deliver on a particular, and inherently contested, meaning in the context of our current times. It is a question of political leadership, not legalism.
There is nothing unconstitutional about Congress reasserting its authority to define the nation’s highest law. The experience of Reconstruction brings into view this firmly grounded practice. In fact, a surviving remnant of the Reconstruction Congress’s work—today codified in 42 U.S.C. § 1983—has underwritten some of the most famous cases in modern constitutional law. In Section 1983, Congress instructed federal courts to stop state or local officials from depriving anyone of their “rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution.” Section 1983 is what Oliver Brown invoked when he challenged Kansas’s segregation laws in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, what “Jane Roe” invoked to challenge Texas’s abortion law in Roe v. Wade, and what James Obergefell invoked when he challenged Ohio’s same-sex-marriage ban in Obergefell v. Hodges. While these landmark cases invalidated state laws, the justices were following, not undermining, Congress’s orders. The decisions overruling state interpretations of the Constitution don’t represent judicial supremacy, but rather Congress’s ability to make and enforce national constitutional commitments.

It’s June again—that time of year when Americans wake up each morning and wait for the Supreme Court to resolve our deepest political disagreements. To decide what the Constitution says about our bodily autonomy, our power to avert climate change, and our ability to protect children from guns, the nation turns not to members of Congress—elected by us—but to five oracles in robes.
This annual observance of judicial supremacy—the idea that the Supreme Court has the final say about what our Constitution allows—is an odd affliction for a nation that will close the month ready to celebrate our independence from an unelected monarch. From one perspective, our acceptance of this supremacy reflects a sense that our political system is simply too broken to address the most urgent questions that we confront. But it would be a mistake to see judicial supremacy as a mere symptom of our politics and not a cause.


Contrary to what many people have come to believe, judicial supremacy is not in the Constitution, and does not date from the founding era. It took hold of American politics only after the Civil War, when the Court overruled Congress’s judgment that the Constitution demanded civil-rights and voting laws. The Court has spent the 150 years since sapping our national representatives of the power to issue national rules. These judicial decisions have destroyed guardrails that national majorities deemed vital to a functional, multiracial democracy—including protecting the right to vote and curbing the influence of money in politics. Even worse, the Court’s assertion of the power to invalidate federal laws has stripped Americans of the expectation, once widely shared, that the most important interpretations of the Constitution are expressed not by judicial decree but by the participation of “We, the People,” in enacting national legislation.


In the decades before the Civil War, when national parties violently contested the constitutionality of slavery west of the Mississippi, the center of gravity was Congress. As the historian James Oakes recounts, when a border-state senator proposed asking the Supreme Court to decide the issue in 1848, other senators ridiculed his idea as implausible. “The Constitution was interpreted as variously as the Bible,” Senator John P. Hale of New Hampshire responded. White southerners believed “the Constitution carries slavery with it,” while northerners construed the Constitution “to secure freedom.” As Hale and his contemporaries appreciated, resolving such a fundamental national disagreement could never turn on a court’s answer to which interpretation was more correct. Rather, the winning interpretation would depend on whether adherents could build sufficient political majorities to control the national government. The Supreme Court did attempt to decide the question in its infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision—interpreting the Constitution to hold that the federal government lacked the power to abolish slavery anywhere in the United States. But rather than accept this novel assertion of judicial supremacy over Congress, the Republican Party responded with defiance. Indeed, Abraham Lincoln successfully ran for president on a platform of repudiating the Court with national legislation. In his inaugural address, he remarked that “the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court,” then “the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.”

Through the Civil War and the Reconstruction era that followed, the politically dominant Republicans in Congress enacted legislation to build a multiracial democracy in the United States for the first time. Some of these laws boldly overruled the Court, including statutes in 1862 and 1866 that began the abolition of slavery and recognized the citizenship of Black people. Others prevented the Court from retaliating against Congress’s interpretation of the Constitution, such as legislation stripping the Court of jurisdiction over certain matters. Still others enlisted the Court in the project of enforcing Congress’s constitutional judgments. Acts in 1870 and 1871 instructed federal courts to enforce the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments against recalcitrant state officials, while acts in 1870 and 1875 tasked judges with banning voting restrictions, lynch mobs, and racial discrimination.

Congressional checks on the Supreme Court are also very different from the calls for “nullification” by slaveholders before the Civil War, their descendants during the civil-rights movement, and Texas legislators today. The Civil War itself resolved that the representatives of states must enforce their constitutional interpretations not by defying the government created by the Constitution but by participating in it. For the past two centuries, Congress has been the branch of the federal government where our democracy’s pursuit of equal justice under law has most often been realized. The question is not whether some commitments—abolition, reproductive freedom, racial equality—are worth making supreme and constitutive of a national American identity. Rather, the question is who gets to decide the content of those commitments for all Americans: the 50 states, a five-justice majority, or our national legislature.


If the Court is today eviscerating those very constitutional commitments through its case law, Congress should enact or amend federal statutes to advance a different understanding of a nation built on democratic justice. It should reshape the Court’s ability to intervene in these disputes, including by restricting the Court’s authority to set aside federal legislation. And it should conscript the Court in enforcing federal commitments when resistant state officials brazenly declare that the national government has no jurisdiction to protect Americans from their parochial rule.
The thing stopping Congress from reversing each wrongheaded decision the Court issues this month therefore isn’t the Constitution. It’s our failure to demand more from our elected representatives.


The promise of a genuinely multiracial democracy will fade if Americans are unwilling to embrace structural reforms that can make our policies and our politics more responsive to majority rule. How Congress allocates the power to interpret the Constitution should be at the heart of those reforms. We simply cannot build a better politics if we don’t reclaim the authority of Congress to resolve our most fundamental disagreements. Rather than allow a handful of us to define the Constitution’s meaning in a mystical ritual each June, the rest of us should define it with the hard, messy work of American politics year-round.

Last Tax Season Was a Mess. Now’s Time to Prepare for This One.

If you didn’t change the tax withholding in your paycheck, you still have time to avoid another unpleasant surprise — or even a fine.

The first tax season under the Republican-sponsored overhaul brought an odd combination of pleasant and unpleasant surprises: lower tax burdens, but also lower refunds — and, for some, an unexpected bill.

Anyone who didn’t take a proactive approach after getting a big tax bill last time around could end up in that situation again, only worse: That filer is more likely to have to pay a penalty.

For 2019, taxpayers who didn’t generally withhold at least 90 percent of their liability from their paychecks may be required to pay a fine. That threshold is back up from 80 percent, where it was set last year as everyone adjusted to the new rules.

If you didn’t change your withholding by filling out a new W-4 form with your employer, there are still steps you can take to try to avoid the extra charge.

If a withholding calculator — like the one on the Internal Revenue Service’s website — shows you’re significantly short, you have options. There may be time to have an extra amount withheld from your final paycheck to get you over the threshold, although that will require filling out a W-4 now and another later to reverse that change. Or you can make what’s called an estimated tax payment directly to the I.R.S.

You’ll also want to think about how to handle the rest of the tax balance.

“You can start planning for that now by setting aside money in savings accounts or planning ahead for an installment agreement with the I.R.S. so you can pay over a period of time,” said Nathan Rigney, lead tax research analyst at H&R Block’s Tax Institute.

Most households did pay a bit less because of the overhaul: Individuals’ total tax liability dropped nearly 5.8 percent, or $70 billion, according to I.R.S. data on tax returns filed through July.

But it didn’t feel that way for some taxpayers. The number of refunds issued hardly budged — they were down 0.3 percent — but refunds for many were smaller. Refunds for those who earned between $100,000 and $250,000, for example, dropped by about 11 percent, according to the I.R.S.

Many people were surprised to learn that they owed the government money even if their situation hadn’t changed.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/06/your-money/taxes/income-tax-2019-tip.html?action=click&module=Editors%20Picks&pgtype=Homepage

Cardi B Could Face Harsher Charges in Strip Club Assault Case

Cardi B‘s legal troubles may have become much more serious.

On Friday, the Grammy-winning rapper appeared in Queens Supreme Court for the first day of her misdemeanor assault trial. Cardi is accused of ordering an attack on two bartenders at a Queens strip club back in August 2018. The alleged victims were sisters Baddie Gi and 6ix9ine‘s current girlfriend Jade. Both women claim they received threats from Cardi after she accused Jade of sleeping with her husband, Offset. Jade said she repeatedly denied the affair. Police say Cardi and her crew got into a physical altercation with the sisters while they were working at the Flushing strip club. Chairs, bottles, and hookah pipes were allegedly thrown at the complainants, resulting in slight injuries. Cardi was ultimately arrested on misdemeanor assault and reckless endangerment charges. She rejected a plea deal in mid-April, after her attorneys insisted she did not harm anyone during the incident.

Prosecutors announced Friday the case would be presented to a grand jury, which means Cardi’s charges could potentially be upgraded. State attorneys told TMZ they made the decision “after further investigation,” but did not reveal details of their findings. 

According the Associated Press, the district attorney’s office had originally asked Cardi to return to court on Monday, but they pushed back the date to Aug. 9 after the rapper’s legal team cited scheduling conflicts. 

Social Security impostor scam: It’s growing, and this is how it works

To scammers, your Social Security number is a gold-plated and diamond-encrusted asset, and now they have a new way to try to steal yours and get paid.

Consumer advocates are raising an alert about a twist to an old impostor phone scam. It’s called the “Social Security impostor scam.” A blog at the Federal Trade Commission recently wrote: “In the shady world of government, the SSA scam may be the new IRS scam.”

Here’s how it works:

You get a call with a warning that your Social Security number has been suspended because of suspicious activity or because it’s been used in a crime. You are asked to confirm you number or told you need to withdraw money from the bank and buy gift cards.

The phone call may be a robocaller with a message to “press 1” to speak with a “support representative” from the government to reactivate your Social Security number. The scammers use technology to spoof your Caller ID to make it look like the Social Security Administration is really calling.

More: New scam aims to trick you into giving up your cell phone account information

More: These robocalls don’t want to talk to you, they just want you to call back, FCC says

In the last 12 months, people filed more than 76,000 complaints about Social Security impostors, reporting $19 million in losses. The median reported loss last year was $1,500, the FTC said.

People are asked to give up the personal identification numbers (PINs) on the back of gift cards or use virtual currencies like Bitcoin to pay. (According to the FTC’s consumer alert, people withdrew money and fed cash into Bitcoin automatic teller machines.)

After handing over the gift card numbers to the “Social Security office,” one consumer interviewed by Fraud.org was told he would receive a refund equal to the amount he paid to unfreeze his account from the Federal Reserve. Of course, the refund never came and the man lost nearly $20,000. 

“One scammer will try a new twist on an old scam or try one new wrinkle that gets them more money,” said John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud with the National Consumers League. “Scammers like to keep up with the Joneses when it comes to using the latest techniques to defraud consumers.”

The scammers can be clever. With numerous data breaches that have hit corporate America, fraudsters may already have accurate personal information about you, including your real Social Security number, Breyault said. The information is used to build trust and make the call seem more legitimate, he added.

According to Fraud.org and the FTC, here are some important things to remember:

  • Don’t trust your phone’s caller ID. Scammers can make it look as if the Social Security Administration is calling and even use the agency’s real number.
  • Don’t give your Social Security number, other personal information, to a caller on the phone.
  • Social Security will never suspend your number, according to Fraud.org. If anyone tells you something different, you’re being scammed.
  • Social Security will never call you and demand money. No government agency will demand you pay something using gift cards or Bitcoin either.
  • If you have a question, check with the real Social Security Administration. The administration will never contact you out of the blue. The agency’s number is 1-800-772-1213.
  • Talk about the scam with friends, family and neighbors. Report government impostor scams to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

San Francisco To Pay $13.1 Million To Man Framed By Police For Murder

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve a $13.1 million settlement for a man framed by police for murder.

Jamal Trulove spent more than six years in prison for a 2007 murder before being acquitted in a 2015 retrial. 

“And trust me I’m not done with them by a long shot!!” a profile appearing to be Trulove wrote on Twitter. “After what these cowards of the law did to me, I will lit my freedom ring through every platform I get to show what injustice really looks like. Me!”

He sued in January 2016. In April of last year, a jury in Oakland found that two police officers on the case, Maureen D’Amico and Michael Johnson, deliberately fabricated evidence and failed to disclose exculpatory material.

Alex Reisman, one of the lawyers for Trulove, told the Associated Press that Trulove “endured a lot,” spending years in maximum security prisons in Southern California, hundreds of miles away from his family.

Police arrested Trulove for the 2007 murder of his friend Seu Kuka, who was shot in a public housing project in San Francisco. Trulove was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.

But a California appeals court overturned that conviction in 2014 and ordered a new trial. He was acquitted in a retrial in 2015.

Trulove’s attorneys said police manipulated a witness into misidentifying Trulove as the shooter.

The police officers named in the lawsuit have retired, and none were disciplined for their actions in the case, Reisman told the AP.

Trulove was pursuing a career in acting and hip-hop at the time of his arrest. He appeared in the reality TV show I Love New York 2. This year he appears in the movie The Last Black Man in San Francisco, which is scheduled for release in June.

Trulove wrote on Instagram in March that he has been dealing with PTSD from the experience. 

“Theres nothing I could do to make up for that time I missed,” he wrote. “No amount of money could ever reverse the time I missed with my kids and the affect that it’s had on there up bringing and our relationship.”

Legalizing Marijuana, With a Focus on Social Justice, Unites 2020 Democrats

People in Colorado still remember John Hickenlooper’s crack after the state legalized marijuana, a move he opposed: “Don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.”

But Mr. Hickenlooper, the governor at the time of the 2012 initiative allowing recreational use of cannabis, eventually changed his mind. He acknowledged that fears of increased use by children did not materialize, and he boasted of the tax revenues for social programs that regulated sales delivered.

Entering the Democratic presidential race this month, Mr. Hickenlooper joined a field already jammed with pro-legalization candidates, a reflection of swiftly changing public opinion since Colorado became one of the first of 10 states with legal recreational marijuana.

The issue today is a pillar of progressive politics, but not because of graying hippies who like their Rocky Mountain High. Rather, for many Democrats, legalization has become a litmus test for candidates’ commitment to equal treatment for all races in policing and criminal justice as well as fighting economic inequality.

A Democrat who is not on board with legalization or addressing it in terms of repairing harms brought by prohibition for decades is going to have a tough time convincing any voter they’re serious about racial justice,” said Vincent M. Southerland, executive director of the Center on Race, Inequality and the Law at New York University Law School.

Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey last month introduced the pointedly named Marijuana Justice Act, which would remove the drug from the federal list of controlled substances and expunge past convictions. Supporters note that African-Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites, even though rates of use are similar.

“It’s not enough to legalize marijuana at the federal level — we should also help those who have suffered due to its prohibition,” Mr. Booker said in a tweet.

Other 2020 candidates in the Senate quickly signed on as sponsors, including Kirsten Gillibrand, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/17/us/politics/marijuana-legalize-democrats.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

HBO Film Revives Lurid Claims, Imperiling Thriving Michael Jackson Estate

Michael Jackson’s damaged reputation began to recover the day he died.

The lurid accusations of child molestation that had dogged him for years fell to the background as fans around the world celebrated the entertainer who had gone from pop prodigy to global superstar over a four-decade career. Flash mobs from Stockholm to the Philippines re-enacted his video scenes, and his music sales again broke chart records.

Now, nearly 10 years after his death, the dark side of Mr. Jackson’s legend has returned through a documentary that rocked the Sundance Film Festival and is being championed by Oprah Winfrey. In addition to delivering a hit to his mended reputation, the film poses a significant risk to the Jackson estate, which has engineered a thriving posthumous career, including a Broadway-bound jukebox musical.

The four-hour documentary, “Leaving Neverland,” to be broadcast on HBO in two parts on Sunday and Monday, focuses on the wrenching testimony of two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, who say Mr. Jackson abused them for years, starting when they were young boys. While the accusations are not new, their revival in the #MeToo era, with its momentum of accountability for figures like R. Kelly, Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby, gives them new meaning.

“There has always been this shadow or cloud about Michael,” said Charles Koppelman, a longtime music executive who once served as a financial adviser to Mr. Jackson. “With this documentary about to be shown to millions and millions of people, and all the notoriety that it’s now getting, I think it will have a detrimental effect to the legacy and the estate.”

The estate has already begun its war on “Leaving Neverland.” It issued a series of fiery statements around the time of the film’s Sundance debut in January and has filed a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court for arbitration, seeking $100 million in damages from HBO. In making its case, the estate — whose beneficiaries are Mr. Jackson’s mother and three children, as well as children’s charities — portrays Mr. Robson and Mr. Safechuck as “serial perjurers” for whom HBO has become “just another tool in their litigation playbook.”

The debate over the film is likely to be intense in black communities, where figures like Mr. Jackson and Mr. Kelly have their strongest defenders, said Yaba Blay, a professor at North Carolina Central University whose specialty is black racial and cultural identities.

“If you think R. Kelly tore black America apart, this is going to destroy us,” Dr. Blay said.

On Monday night, after the conclusion of “Leaving Neverland,” HBO and the Oprah Winfrey Network plan to broadcast Ms. Winfrey’s interview with Mr. Robson, Mr. Safechuck and the film’s director, Dan Reed.

In “Leaving Neverland,” Mr. Robson, 36, and Mr. Safechuck, 41, tell parallel stories of being drawn into Mr. Jackson’s inner circle as boys. Mr. Robson met Mr. Jackson on tour in Australia at age 5 and moved to the United States two years later to be near his idol. Mr. Safechuck was 8 when he was cast in a Pepsi commercial and met Mr. Jackson.

Both men say Mr. Jackson abused them while charming their families at his 2,600-acre Neverland compound in Los Olivos, Calif. He also warned them to keep their sexual relationship secret, the men say. READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/03/business/media/leaving-neverland-michael-jackson-estate.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Farts&action=click&contentCollection=arts&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront

Jussie Smollett charged with a felony for allegedly filing a false police report

Actor Jussie Smollett has been charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report. (Theo Wargo / Getty Images)

“Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has been charged with disorderly conduct for allegedly filing a false police report.

Chicago police announced late Wednesday that felony criminal charges against Smollett have been approved by the Cook County state’s attorney’s office. He faces up to three years in prison if convicted.

“Detectives will make contact with [Smollett’s] legal team to negotiate a reasonable surrender for his arrest,” said Chicago police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi Wednesday evening on Twitter.

Smollett’s attorneys stated that they plan to “mount an aggressive defense.”

“Like any other citizen, Mr. Smollett enjoys the presumption of innocence, particularly when there has been an investigation like this one where information, both true and false, has been repeatedly leaked,” said Smollet’s attorneys Todd Pugh and Victor Henderson in a statement to The Times. “Given these circumstances, we intend to conduct a thorough investigation and to mount an aggressive defense.”

The charges follow an earlier announcement that Smollett was “officially classified as a suspect in a criminal investigation … for filing a false police report” and that detectives were presenting evidence to a Cook County grand jury.

Police initially had been investigating the Jan. 29 attack as a possible hate crime. The incident allegedly involved two people approaching the 36-year-old actor and musician while yelling racist and homophobic slurs. Smollett is gay and plays gay musician Jamal Lyon on “Empire.”

But on Saturday, Guglielmi said the trajectory of the investigation had “shifted” due to information received from two brothers who were arrested and released without charges last week. He did not elaborate on what that meant.

The brothers were identified as persons of interest in the investigation after being seen in surveillance footage around the area where the alleged attack took place.

One of the brothers was revealed to be a personal trainer Smollett had hired to ready him for a music video. The pair reportedly claimed that Smollett had hired them to carry out the attack. Smollett’s attorneys have previously disputed that claim and said the actor is “angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with.”

On Tuesday, Cook County state’s attorney Kim Foxx recused herself from the case “out of an abundance of caution” in order to “address potential questions of impartiality based upon familiarity with potential witnesses in the case.”

According to reports, Foxx had spoken to one of Smollett’s relatives after the alleged attack was reported and “acted as a go-between with Chicago police.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Fox issued a statement of support confirming Smollett would remain a part of “Empire” despite reports that the actor’s scenes in upcoming episodes were being slashed due to the uncertainties surrounding the case, including claims that the attack was a hoax.

The great Equifax mystery: 17 months later, the stolen data has never been found, and experts are starting to suspect a spy scheme

  • Equifax’s data breach on Sept. 7, 2017, stunned markets and American consumers, but where the data of those 143 million people disappeared to has remained a mystery.
  • CNBC talked to experts, intelligence officials, dark web data “hunters” and Equifax to discover where they expect the data has gone, and what it is being used for.
  • The prevailing theory today is that the data was stolen by a nation-state for spying purposes, not by criminals looking to cash in on stolen identities.

On Sept. 7, 2017, the world heard an alarming announcement from credit ratings giant Equifax: In a brazen cyberattack, somebody had stolen sensitive personal information from more than 140 million people, nearly half the population of the U.S.

It was the consumer data security scandal of the decade. The information included Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, information from credit disputes and other personal details. CEO Richard Smith stepped down under fire. Lawmakers changed credit freeze laws and instilled new regulatory oversight of credit ratings agencies.

Then, something unusual happened. The data disappeared. Completely. CNBC talked to eight experts, including data “hunters” who scour the dark web for stolen information, senior cybersecurity managers, top executives at financial institutions, senior intelligence officials who played a part in the investigation and consultants who helped support it. All of them agreed that a breach happened, and personal information from 143 million people was stolen.

But none of them knows where the data is now. It’s never appeared on any hundreds of underground websites selling stolen information. Security experts haven’t seen the data used in any of the ways they’d expect in a theft like this — not for impersonating victims, not for accessing other websites, nothing.

But as the investigations continue, a consensus is starting to emerge to explain why the data has disappeared from sight. Most experts familiar with the case now believe that the thieves were working for a foreign government and are using the information not for financial gain, but to try to identify and recruit spies.

One data hunter dives in

The missing Equifax data has been a 17-month-long obsession for Jeffrey, a cybersecurity analyst at one of the world’s largest banks. To him, it represents a sort of professional Lost City of Atlantis or Holy Grail.

Jeffrey is not the analyst’s real name. He asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak to the media. He also asked that his bank remain anonymous, because he’s one of such a narrow pool of a specific type of employee that even the name of his bank could be used to identify him.

Jeffrey is a “hunter” on the bank’s “hunt team,” and his job is searching for data on the dark web or darknet — a set of web sites that can only be accessed with special software that protects the user’s anonymity. The dark web can be used for many purposes, but most prominently serves as the internet’s underground black market, where criminals buy, sell and trade credit card data, personal information and criminal services.

Jeffrey trolls the dark web for stolen personal data that looks like it might be brand new, especially if it looks like it might belong to customers of the bank or its rivals. He is often one of the first to know that another company has been breached, and his team is often among the first to inform the victims that their systems have been breached.

So Jeffrey was surprised when he learned about the Equifax breach at the same time as everybody else, when the company announced it to the world.

Stolen consumer information usually goes up for sale immediately after a company is hacked, he explains. Criminals aim for speed so they can sell the data before a company’s tripwires ever detect it was stolen. The longer they wait, the more likely the victims and the institutions will make changes to render the data useless. This is especially true with credit card numbers, which can quickly be canceled once fraudulent charges start cropping up on them. Or when Social Security numbers — like those stolen in the Equifax breach — start getting flagged for fraud.

READ MORE: https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/13/equifax-mystery-where-is-the-data.html