Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has spent the past few months running to the right ahead of his expected entry into the 2024 Republican presidential primary campaign. From signing into law a six-week abortion ban to fighting with Disney, the governor has focused on satisfying his party’s conservative base.
So far at least, those efforts have not paid off in Republican primary polling, with DeSantis falling further behind the current front-runner, former President Donald Trump.
Things have gotten so bad for DeSantis that a recent Fox News poll shows him at 21% – comparable with the 19% that Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who has pushed debunked conspiracy theories about vaccine safety, is receiving on the Democratic side.
DeSantis was at 28% in Fox’s February poll, 15 points behind Trump. The Florida governor’s support has dropped in the two Fox polls published since, and he now trails the former president by 32 points.
The Fox poll is not alone in showing DeSantis floundering. The latest average of national polls has him dropping from the low 30s into the low 20s.
This may not seem like a big deal, but early polling has long been an indicator of how well presidential candidates do in the primary the following year. Of all primary elections since 1972 without incumbents running, candidates at around 30% in early primary polls (like DeSantis was in February) have gone on to become their parties’ nominees about 40% of the time. Candidates polling the way DeSantis is now have gone on to win about 20% of the time.
I will, of course, point out that 20% is not nothing. DeSantis most certainly still has a chance of winning. The comparison with Kennedy is not a remark on Kennedy’s strength but on DeSantis’ weakness.
There is no historical example of an incumbent in President Joe Biden’s current position (over 60% in the latest Fox poll) losing a primary. At this point in 1995, Bill Clinton was polling roughly where Biden is now, and he had no problem winning the Democratic nomination the following year.
In that same campaign, Jesse Jackson was polling near 20% in a number of early surveys against Clinton. So what we’re seeing from Kennedy now is not, as of yet, a historical anomaly.
Sunday, April 30, 2023
Ron's Gone Wrong, Con't
Sunday Long Read: Crimes Of Collier County
“It is my belief that they were killed because of their color,” said Doug Molloy, who was an assistant US attorney in 2004 and led a multi-agency task force that investigated the disappearances as potential hate crimes.
Sheriff’s investigators surveyed the evidence and determined that Calkins was not telling the truth about his encounter with Terrance Williams. One investigator made a list of nearly two dozen untruthful or inconsistent statements that Calkins made about the day he met Williams. In August 2004, about seven months after Williams disappeared, then-Sheriff Don Hunter fired Calkins. As he later wrote, “I have lost trust in Calkins and his ability to describe incidents in detail and to recall them.”
Meanwhile, investigators got to work. They searched the woods and the waters near where the missing men were last seen. They put a tracking device on Calkins’ car. They did a complete forensic inspection of the car, paying special attention to the trunk. No trace of Santos or Williams turned up.
The FBI delivered a target letter to Calkins and asked him to answer questions from a federal grand jury about the disappearances. Calkins declined. And the investigators’ suspicions did not lead to probable cause. No one could prove these were hate crimes, or even crimes at all. Years passed, and the cases remained open, and both men’s children grew up without their fathers. Calkins repeatedly denied harming the men. He was never criminally charged.
Now 68 years old, Calkins was last known to be living in Iowa. Through his attorney, he declined multiple interview requests from CNN.
Marcia Williams kept a lock of her son’s hair, and a picture of him, wearing a navy blue T-shirt, looking at the camera, which made it seem as if Terrance were looking at her when she walked past. And across the Gulf of Mexico, in the state of Oaxaca, friends and relatives remembered Felipe Santos.
“He didn’t deserve to be disappeared in this way,” his friend Francisca Cortés told CNN. “It isn’t right that he hasn’t been found after so many years and we don’t know what happened to him. As his parents say, ‘If we find his remains, we can give him a Christian burial so we have somewhere to cry and pray for him.’ But in this case there isn’t anywhere. And there isn’t any way to do that. Everything is in limbo and we are never going to know what happened.”In 2019, a CNN reporter began a new inquiry into the disappearances of Felipe Santos and Terrance Williams. Eventually, two more reporters joined the project. Nearly 70 people were interviewed. The reporters filed dozens of open-records requests with government agencies, yielding more than 10,000 pages of documents and many hours of audio recordings.
Using phone records, dispatch logs and interview transcripts, CNN built minute-by-minute timelines of the days each man disappeared. CNN also obtained every available incident and arrest report from Calkins’s career with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, more than 2,000 reports from 1987 to 2004. This story is the result of CNN’s efforts to untangle one of the most disturbing unsolved mysteries in the recent history of American law enforcement.
Saturday, April 29, 2023
Shutdown Countdown, Armageddon Edition, Con't
Folks like Alex Shephard at TNR continue to believe that Kevin McCarthy and the House GOP are trying to run a hostage negotiation and that they are doing it badly, and while that would be true if McCarthy was actually trying to play the standard Washington kabuki script, that's not what is actually going on.
McCarthy has been more or less open about the fact that this is not a real bill. “This bill is to get us to the negotiations,” he said on Tuesday. “It is not the final provisions, and there’s a number of members who will vote for it going forward to say there are some concerns they have with it. But they want to make sure the negotiation goes forward because we are sitting at $31 trillion of debt.”
This bill may get the Republican Party to those negotiations over raising the debt limit, which must be done by early June or the United States will face potentially calamitous economic consequences. It’s hard to assess what the outcome of potential negotiations will be, especially since the White House’s position is “Send a clean debt limit bill, or pound sand.” What is clear, however, is that this bill is a disaster for Republicans.
It is not being treated that way everywhere. The New York Times’ Carl Hulse, who should know better, described it as “a narrow win but a win for Speaker Kevin McCarthy nonetheless.” Politico’s Playbook, meanwhile, declared that this was a coronation of sorts, an occasion in which McCarthy “proved his naysayers wrong.” I suppose if you squint a certain way, you can see it, but these laurels should actually be seen as participation trophies.
Sure, if McCarthy had failed to get anything across the line he would have looked completely incompetent, even by the standards of recent Republican House leaders. Nevertheless, a bill filled with devastating cuts and manifestly unpopular positions is arguably worse than getting anything done at all. The GOP passed a messaging bill that provides Democrats with the better message, something that they can use to hurt the GOP in swing districts for the next two years; a bill that shows that Republicans’ ultimate goal is to gut health care and food stamps and education—and even veterans benefits. There is no universe in which a clean bill, raising the debt ceiling and moving on, isn’t more politically advantageous for the GOP.
The whole sorry episode has only shown that Kevin McCarthy just isn’t good at this. It’s never been entirely clear why he wanted to be speaker of the House in the first place. It’s always been clear, however, that he is not up to the task. To gain the gavel, McCarthy had to make a series of humiliating, enfeebling concessions to his far-right flank that more or less disempowered him. Now, put in a position where he needed to get something done, he once again had to cave to the same right flank—indeed, it was Matt Gaetz, who had previously relished holding back McCarthy’s ascendence to the speakership, who forced him to add more draconian Medicaid work requirements to the bill.
McCarthy essentially wakes up every morning conscripted into a race to the bottom by those in his party with the worst political instincts and ideas. This should not be particularly surprising to McCarthy, but his abject supplication is nevertheless notable. This bill does not matter. It will not pass. It is not intended to pass. Republicans had an opportunity to aim a productive salvo at swing voters, the better to convince them that GOP majorities can deliver prosperity, and giving them some sign that the party was tacking back from the heights of extremism that alienated voters in the last midterm elections. Instead, the message being sent is that the party is all about owning the libs and slashing aid for veterans and the poor. The GOP can’t even fake being a party interested in governing anymore. That’s bad news for the man stuck presiding over this clown show.
“However you want to frame it, we’ve got to sit down and talk. And so I think it’s critically important that all the parties sit down, at the White House with the president, and start having these conversations. And they should meet every single day until they get there, together,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), co-chairman of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, told reporters Friday.
But those House Democrats, having lost the majority in last November’s elections, lack the leverage to actually start such talks. Instead, from the relatively moderate Coons to a fiery liberal like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Senate Democrats view even a modest concession, such as a relatively powerless debt commission, as a reward for taking this hostage.
“The problem with that approach is that it signals to the rest of the world that America’s commitment to paying its debts is contingent on some underlying political negotiation over spending that is otherwise too damn contentious to get through on its own,” Warren told reporters Thursday.
But this Democratic approach seems to assure that little will happen until the deadline draws perilously close and then, at that momentous hour, assumes House Republicans will cave out of fear for getting blamed for tanking the economy.
That strategy, so far, is nowhere close to working. House Republicans in swing districts are digging in for a protracted fight and expressing little interest in passing a so-called clean debt hike. They are demanding spending cuts that will begin to rein in the debt.
“It’s certain that if we don’t raise the debt ceiling our economy will crash, but if we don’t do things to limit spending, our economy will also crash,” said Rep. Nick LaLota, one of six New York Republicans on the Democratic target list for next year’s elections. “Reasonable people should adopt that dual-pronged understanding.”
“We have to negotiate. Passing a clean debt ceiling [hike] is not going to happen. He’s going to have to meet us partway,” Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), whose district favored Biden by 6 percentage points in 2020, recently told reporters.
Democrats also seem to be betting that Senate Republicans will step in as more mature political actors and defuse this situation, but even one of the most productive dealmakers is supporting McCarthy’s approach.
“This bill is not the final deal, but it opens the door for a negotiated deal,” Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) said Thursday.
Cassidy noted that in past fiscal showdowns, the perceived victor tended to be the one that made the other party look most reckless.
“Partly the public perception of this is going to be really important,” he said.
Republicans believe they can win the political standoff by making Biden and Democrats look petty by refusing a basic negotiation. Fresh off his narrow win on his debt bill, McCarthy held a valedictory news conference Wednesday evening in Statuary Hall.
“The Democrats need to do their job. The president can no longer ignore [us] by not negotiating,” McCarthy said.
Welcome To Gunmerica, Con't
It's not that America can't do anything about the 400 million guns in the country, it's that we purposely choose not to do anything about it.
Five people are dead after being shot in a Texas home by a suspect armed with AR-15 style rifle in a horrific series of "execution style" shootings, police said.
The incident occurred at 11:31 p.m. local time when officials from the San Jacinto County Sheriff's Office received a call about harassment in the town of Cleveland, about 55 miles north of Houston.
When authorities arrived at the location, they found several victims shot at the property, police said.
The youngest victim in the shooting was 8 years old and two female victims were discovered in the bedroom lying on top of two surviving children, authorities told ABC News.
Police said they believe the massacre occurred after neighbors asked the suspect to stop shooting his gun in the front yard because there was a baby trying to sleep.
"My understanding is that the victims, they came over to the fence and said 'Hey could [you not do your] shooting out in the yard? We have a young baby that's trying to go to sleep," and he had been drinking and he says 'I'll do what I want to in my front yard,'" San Jacinto County Sheriff Greg Capers told KTRK.
He said that authorities believed some of the victims were trying to shield their children -- with bodies found on top of children who were unharmed
"In my opinion, they were actually trying to take care of the babies and keep them babies alive," Capers told KTRK.
A federal judge has temporarily blocked an assault weapons ban in Illinois, ruling that multiple plaintiffs who sued alleging that the law violates their Second Amendment rights have a “reasonable likelihood” to succeed in their argument.
U.S. District Judge Stephen McGlynn issued a preliminary injunction on Friday against the state’s Protect Illinois Communities Act (PICA), which Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed into law in January to ban the sale and distribution of assault-style weapons, high capacity-magazines and switches that convert handguns into assault-style firearms.
The ruling comes after another federal judge rejected a request to block the law earlier this week.
McGlynn, a Trump appointee, said his ruling is not a final decision on the merits of the case, but he found that the individuals, gun shop, gun range and firearm industry trade association that sued met their burden for an injunction to be issued.
The ruling was issued in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision last year in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, which struck down a New York law requiring that applicants for concealed carry permits show “proper cause.” The majority ruled that gun control measures need to be consistent with the country’s “historical tradition.”
Friday, April 28, 2023
Last Call For Jury-Rigged Gerrymander
When Democrats win state supreme Court races as in Michigan and Wisconsin (or force appointments of liberals as in New York) it opens up a huge realm of possibilities for real progress.
The North Carolina Supreme Court has overturned its own past ruling that said partisan gerrymandering is illegal, clearing the way for Republicans there to redraw the state’s congressional lines in a way that heavily favors the GOP.
The ruling clears the way for North Carolina legislators to aggressively gerrymander the congressional map, which is currently represented by seven Democrats and seven Republicans. Now Republicans in Raleigh could re-create the map they initially passed last cycle which a Democratic-controlled state Supreme Court struck down, netting as many as four seats.
The court issued a 5-2 decision, with the court’s Republican justices voting to overturn the past ruling and the two Democratic justices dissenting. The court flipped from 4-3 Democratic control to 5-2 Republican control during elections last November.
The state court’s ruling issued Friday could also result in the U.S. Supreme Court dropping a closely watched case about the power of state legislatures over federal elections. The justices heard arguments on the issue in December, but signaled last month that they were considering changing course as a result of the effort to get the North Carolina court to reverse its earlier ruling.
In a separate ruling, the court also overturned another one of its past decisions on a voter ID law, on a similar 5-2 split strictly along party lines. That ruling issued Friday will clear the way for a long-litigated photo ID law to go into effect in the state.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who now runs a Democratic redistricting group, denounced the ruling as a nakedly political exercise.
“This shameful, delegitimizing decision to allow the unjust, blatant manipulation of North Carolina’s voting districts was not a function of legal principle, it was a function of political personnel and partisan opportunism,” Holder said in a statement. “Neither the map nor the law have changed since last year’s landmark rulings — only the makeup of the majority of the North Carolina Supreme Court has changed.”
The previous Democratic majority on the state court issued a series of recent decisions in the last year that ruled that partisan gerrymandering was illegal in North Carolina, while also blocking implementation of the state’s photo ID law. The new majority’s decision to rehear arguments on these cases so quickly was an unusual one, and many court observers believed the decision to do so meant that it was a matter of when, not if, the new court would allow for partisan gerrymandering.
In a lengthy decision issued by the court Friday, the conservative justices concluded that they could not adjudicate claims of partisan gerrymandering, saying that is the role of the state legislature.
“There is no judicially manageable standard by which to adjudicate partisan gerrymandering claims. Courts are not intended to meddle in policy matters,” Chief Justice Paul Newby wrote in his 144-page opinion for the court’s majority.
Supremely Corrupt Crooks, Cads, And Creeps
SCOTUS conservatives are corrupt as hell.
A 2018 Senate investigation that found there was “no evidence” to substantiate any of the claims of sexual assault against the US supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh contained serious omissions, according to new information obtained by the Guardian.
The 28-page report was released by the Republican senator Chuck Grassley, the then chairman of the Senate judiciary committee. It prominently included an unfounded and unverified claim that one of Kavanaugh’s accusers – a fellow Yale graduate named Deborah Ramirez – was “likely” mistaken when she alleged that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a dormitory party because another Yale student was allegedly known for such acts.
The suggestion that Kavanaugh was the victim of mistaken identity was sent to the judiciary committee by a Colorado-based attorney named Joseph C Smith Jr, according to a non-redacted copy of a 2018 email obtained by the Guardian. Smith was a friend and former colleague of the judiciary committee’s then lead counsel, Mike Davis.
Smith was also a member of the Federalist Society, which strongly supported Kavanaugh’s supreme court nomination, and appears to have a professional relationship with the Federalist Society’s co-founder, Leonard Leo, whom he thanked in the acknowledgments of his book Under God: George Washington and the Question of Church and State.
Smith wrote to Davis in the 29 September 2018 email that he was in a class behind Kavanaugh and Ramirez (who graduated in the class of 1987) and believed Ramirez was likely mistaken in identifying Kavanaugh.
Instead, Smith said it was a fellow classmate named Jack Maxey, who was a member of Kavanaugh’s fraternity, who allegedly had a “reputation” for exposing himself, and had once done so at a party. To back his claim, Smith also attached a photograph of Maxey exposing himself in his fraternity’s 1988 yearbook picture.
The allegation that Ramirez was likely mistaken was included in the Senate committee’s final report even though Maxey – who was described but not named – was not attending Yale at the time of the alleged incident.
In an interview with the Guardian, Maxey confirmed that he was still a senior in high school at the time of the alleged incident, and said he had never been contacted by any of the Republican staffers who were conducting the investigation.
“I was not at Yale,” he said. “I was a senior in high school at the time. I was not in New Haven.” He added: “These people can say what they want, and there are no consequences, ever.”
The revelation raises new questions about apparent efforts to downplay and discredit accusations of sexual misconduct by Kavanaugh and exclude evidence that supported an alleged victim’s claims.
Ron's Gone Wrong, Con't
Presidential campaigns often are waged on whether or not the country is ready to “turn the page.” President Joe Biden wants his reelection bid to hinge on whether or not there is a page to turn.
The president’s team has made the issue of book banning a surprisingly central element of his campaign’s opening salvos. He referred to GOP efforts to restrict curriculum — Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” was the third most banned title in America last year — in his first two campaign videos. He presents himself in each video as the defender of the country’s core values, a bulwark against an extreme Republican Party rolling back America’s freedoms.
The campaign’s first TV ad, a 90-second spot running in seven states over the next two weeks as part of a seven-figure buy, warns Republicans “seek to overturn elections, ban books and eliminate a woman’s right to choose.” Biden followed up with a tweet hitting “MAGA extremists … telling you what books should be in your kids’ schools.” That followed the explicit reference to book bans in Biden’s launch announcement video Tuesday.
The early focus on book banning is part of the campaign’s attempt to reinforce a broader message, said one Democratic adviser involved in the effort: Biden is the only one standing between the American people and a Republican Party determined to roll back rights and limit freedoms.
“People just don’t understand why we should ban books from libraries,” said the adviser, who spoke with candor about the campaign’s strategy on the condition of anonymity. “So it’s a measure of extremism and another thing [Republicans] are trying to take away.”
Biden’s message is based on mounds of research by Democratic pollsters over the last several months, as the president’s advisers and the Democratic National Committee have expanded the constellation of pollsters and data analysts tracking voter attitudes and the effectiveness of certain messages.
The potency of book bans, along with issues like abortion and gun safety, is quite clear, according to multiple people familiar with the campaign’s data.
“Book banning tests off the charts,” said Celinda Lake, one of the Democratic pollsters who tested the issue for Democrats. “People are adamantly opposed to it and, unlike some other issues that are newer, voters already have an adopted schema around book banning. They associate it with really authoritarian regimes, Nazi Germany.”
Thursday, April 27, 2023
Tales Of The Shattered Rainbow
About 1 in 4 high school students identifies as LGBTQ, according to a report the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released on Thursday, using data from 2021.
In 2021, 75.5 percent of high school students identified as heterosexual, the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) found.
Among high school students, 12.2 percent identified as bisexual, 5.2 percent as questioning, 3.9 percent as other, 3.2 percent as gay or lesbian and 1.8 percent said they didn’t understand the question.
The CDC says the number of LGBTQ students went from 11 percent in 2015 to 26 percent in 2021.
The health organization said a potential reason for the increase in LGBTQ students could be from their wording around students who are questioning their sexuality.
“Increases in the percentage of LGBQ+ students in YRBSS 2021 might be a result of changes in question wording to include students identifying as questioning, ‘I am not sure about my sexual identity (questioning),’ or other, ‘I describe my sexual identity in some other way,’” the report reads.
Orange Meltdown, Con't
Former President Donald Trump has lost an emergency attempt to block former Vice President Mike Pence from testifying about their direct conversations, in the latest boost to a federal criminal investigation examining Trump’s and others’ actions after the 2020 election.
The former president has repeatedly tried and failed to close off some answers from witnesses close to him in the special counsel’s investigation. This latest order from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals likely will usher in Pence’s grand jury testimony quickly – an unprecedented development in modern presidential history.
The decision, from Judges Patricia Millett, Robert Wilkins and Greg Katsas on the DC Circuit, came in a sealed case on Wednesday night that CNN previously identified as Trump’s executive privilege challenge to Pence. No dissents were noted on the public docket.
Trump has tried to block Pence from testifying about their direct communications, even after the former vice president wrote about some of those exchanges and a lower-court judge had ruled against him.
Trump asked the DC Circuit for emergency intervention weeks ago. The court refused to put on hold Pence’s subpoena and to override the lower-court ruling, flatly denying Trump’s requests.
Trump could try to appeal again and even press the issue at the Supreme Court. Yet he gave up pushing several past executive privilege challenges to special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation after similar rulings from this court of appeals.
Pence has already said he was not appealing part of a lower court’s decision, and would comply with the subpoena. Judge James Boasberg of the DC District Court has acknowledged Pence could have some congressional protections during the time he served as president of the Senate on January 6, 2021. But that ruling does not appear to prevent him from answering questions before the grand jury about his many conversations with Trump from Election Day on, when Trump and his allies were pressuring Pence to block the congressional certification of the vote.
Wednesday, April 26, 2023
Last Call For The Manchin On The Hill, Con't
The Senate voted Wednesday to rescind a Biden administration emissions regulation for heavy-duty trucks that Republicans decry as too burdensome, warning it will hurt the trucking industry and have negative ripple effects through the economy.
The vote was 50-49, with Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia the only Democrat to vote with Republicans.
Republicans utilized the Congressional Review Act, which allows them to bypass Democrats who control the chamber and force a floor vote to revoke the rule at a majority threshold, not the 60 votes often needed to pass legislation.
The Republican-led House is expected to pass the measure as well, although it’s unlikely either chamber would be able to override an expected veto by President Joe Biden. The Office of Management and Budget issued a veto threat ahead of the vote.
The final rule, which was adopted by the Environmental Protection Agency in December, sets “new emission standards that are significantly more stringent and that cover a wider range of heavy-duty engine operating conditions compared to today’s standards,” according to the EPA, which said the change is needed because emissions from those trucks are “important contributors to concentrations of ozone and particulate matter and their resulting threat to public health.”
Ron's Gone Wrong, Con't
Walt Disney Co. sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, alleging the Republican governor has waged a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power” against the company amid a protracted fight over a controversial classroom bill.
The federal lawsuit alleges that DeSantis “orchestrated at every step” a campaign to punish Disney that now threatens the company’s business.
The move dramatically escalates the drawn-out feud between DeSantis, who is expected to become a top Republican contender for the 2024 presidential race, and Disney, which is among Florida’s largest employers.
The fight began last year, Disney came out against a Florida bill limiting classroom discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity, dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics. Soon after, the governor and his allies targeted the special tax district that has allowed Disney to essentially self-govern its Florida operations since the 1960s.
The lawsuit was filed on the same day that the district’s board of supervisors, which DeSantis had picked to take control over Disney’s Orlando-area parks, moved to undo a development deal that it says Disney struck to thwart its power.
The panel unanimously voted to declare “void and unenforceable” that development deal, which was approved shortly before DeSantis replaced the Disney-approved board with his preferred supervisors.
The lawsuit called that action the “latest strike,” saying the development contracts “laid the foundation for billions of Disney’s investment dollars and thousands of jobs.”
“The government action was patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional,” Disney alleged in the civil complaint in U.S. District Court in northern Florida.
Cruzin' For A Bruisin', Con't
Sen. Ted Cruz advocated the creation of a congressionally appointed electoral commission ahead of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol to make a credible assessment of unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election, according to a recording made by Abby Grossberg, a former producer at Fox News.
The Jan. 2, 2021, recording, provided to The Washington Post by Grossberg’s attorney, largely mirrors previous reports and public statements made by Cruz about efforts to overturn the election results. But the tape featuring a previously private conversation among Cruz, Grossberg and Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo on the push to deny the certification of Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021, sheds new light on the scope of Cruz’s scheming to assist Donald Trump in overturning Biden’s victory.
Cruz says in the recorded conversation that he successfully organized 11 senators to object to the electoral certification as the mechanism to establish a commission. Cruz was the first senator to object to the electoral college results, joining Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) in challenging Arizona’s electoral certification. The Post has previously reported on Cruz’s proposal of delaying the certification of the electoral college results to spark a 10-day “audit” that could enable GOP state legislatures to overturn the election results.
“You need an adjudicatory body with fact-finding and investigative authority to consider the facts to examine the record and to make determinations — that’s how they did it in 1877,” Cruz told Grossberg and Bartiromo, referencing the commission created to investigate voter fraud in the 1876 Hayes-Tilden election.
Cruz added that he would have rather seen “these facts developed in a court of law” but goes on to cast doubt on the Supreme Court’s ultimate determination to reject the lawsuits filed to challenge the election Trump had lost. “Unfortunately the courts that heard these cases — we did not have a full and thorough consideration,” Cruz said.
Cruz tweeted on Tuesday night in response to the tape, first reported by MSNBC host Ari Melber: “This @msnbc [clown] is breathlessly reporting that I ‘secretly’ said in a phone call … the EXACT same thing I said on national television the next morning! And then said again on the Senate floor four days later.”
In the plan Cruz laid out to the Fox News host and her producer, if a majority of the House and the Senate objected to electoral certification on Jan. 6, 2021, then an electoral commission would be stood up immediately, commencing a 10-day review period to be completed before the inauguration.
If the commission found “credible evidence of fraud that undermines confidence in the electoral results in any given state,” then the state would then call a special session and recertify results, according to Cruz.
“Is there any chance you can overturn this?” Bartiromo asked Cruz.
“I hope so,” he responded.
Tuesday, April 25, 2023
The Road To Gilead Goes Through North Dakota
North Dakota on Monday adopted one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country as Republican Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation banning the procedure throughout pregnancy, with slim exceptions up to six weeks’ gestation.
In those early weeks, abortion would be allowed only in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency, such as ectopic pregnancy.
“This bill clarifies and refines existing state law ... and reaffirms North Dakota as a pro-life state,” Burgum said in a statement.
Last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide has triggered multiple state laws banning or restricting the procedure. Many were met with legal challenges. Currently, bans on abortion at all stages of pregnancy are in place in at least 13 states and on hold in others because of court injunctions. On the other side, Democratic governors in at least 20 states this year launched a network intended to strengthen abortion access in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that eliminated women’s constitutional right to end a pregnancy and shifted regulatory powers over the procedure to state governments.
The North Dakota law is designed to take effect immediately, but last month the state Supreme Court ruled a previous ban is to remain blocked while a lawsuit over its constitutionality proceeds. Last week, lawmakers said they intended to pass the latest bill as a message to the state’s high court signaling that the people of North Dakota want to restrict abortion.
Supporters have said the measure signed Monday protects all human life, while opponents contend it will have dire consequences for women and girls.
North Dakota no longer has any abortion clinics. Last summer, the state’s only facility, the Red River Women’s Clinic, shut its doors in Fargo and moved operations a short distance across the border to Moorhead, Minnesota, where abortion remains legal. The clinic’s owner is still pursuing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of North Dakota’s previous abortion ban.
It’s expected that this new ban will also be the subject of legal challenges.
Orange Meltdown, Con't
In a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday, a jury will begin hearing E. Jean Carroll’s allegation that former President Donald J. Trump raped her more than two decades ago in a department store dressing room, in a proceeding that seeks to apply the accountability of the #MeToo era to a dominating political figure.
The trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan, expected to last one to two weeks, stems from a lawsuit and will take place amid a barrage of legal action aimed at Mr. Trump, who is running to regain the presidency and arguing that the suits and investigations are meant to drag him down.
Ms. Carroll, a former magazine columnist, said nothing publicly about the encounter for decades before publishing a memoir in 2019 that accused Mr. Trump of attacking her.
In the suit, Ms. Carroll, 79, says that one evening in the mid-1990s, she visited the luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman, where she was a regular shopper. There, the suit says, she ran into Mr. Trump. The two had met at least once before, and they traveled in the same New York City circles, the suit says. He said he was shopping for a present for “a girl,” and he asked her to advise him. She says she eventually accompanied him to the lingerie department where, she contends, he maneuvered her into a dressing room and raped her.
Mr. Trump, 76, has denied that he raped Ms. Carroll, has accused her of lying and has attacked her repeatedly in public statements and on social media, both while in office and after leaving. In 2019, after she published her account, he called her allegation “totally false” and said he could not have raped her because she was not his “type.” Last October, he said again, in a post on Truth Social, that she was not telling the truth and that the case was a “complete con job.”
Ms. Carroll’s lawyers will ask the jury to find Mr. Trump liable for battery, and if he is found responsible, to award monetary damages.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Monday said she would announce this summer whether former President Donald Trump and his allies would be charged with crimes related to alleged interference in Georgia’s 2020 election.
Willis revealed the timetable in a letter to local law enforcement in which she asked them to be ready for “heightened security and preparedness” because she predicted her announcement “may provoke a significant public reaction.”
In the letters, Willis said she will announce possible criminal indictments between July 11 and Sept. 1, sending one of the strongest signals yet that she’s on the verge of trying to obtain an indictment against Trump and his supporters.
“Please accept this correspondence as notice to allow you sufficient time to prepare the Sheriff’s Office and coordinate with local, state and federal agencies to ensure that our law enforcement community is ready to protect the public,” Willis wrote to Fulton Sheriff Patrick Labat.
Similar letters were hand delivered to Darin Schierbaum, Atlanta’s chief of police, and Matthew Kallmyer, director of the Atlanta-Fulton County Emergency Management Agency.
“We have seen in recent years that some may go outside of public expressions of opinion that are protected by the First Amendment to engage in acts of violence that will endanger the safety of those we are sworn to protect,” Willis wrote. “As leaders, it is incumbent upon us to prepare.”
Trump has called for mass demonstrations in response to overreach from prosecutors — triggering concerns about violent unrest not unlike the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection he promoted.
investigation, which Willis launched more than two years ago, said the letters suggest that Willis will seek charges against the former president.
“It obviously seems to imply the case against Trump will be presented to a grand jury,” former Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter said. “I don’t think any of the other targets would raise that level of caution. I think that’s the obvious implication.”
Norm Eisen, a former ethics czar under President Barack Obama who co-authored a Brookings Institute report on the Fulton probe, agreed.
“While she does not have the former president’s name in her letter, the evidence and the applicable law in Georgia point to the substantial likelihood that Donald Trump and his principal co-conspirators will be included when she follows through on the plans she confirms in this letter,” Eisen said.
Monday, April 24, 2023
Last Call For Ron's Gone Wrong, Con't
In the end, the College Board realized that folding to Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis and abandoning the uncomfortable parts of America's Black history was authoritarian white supremacy, and is going to at least try to fix the problem.
The College Board said on Monday that it would revise its Advanced Placement African American studies course, less than three months after releasing it to a barrage of criticism from scholars, who accused the board of omitting key concepts and bending to political pressure from Gov. Ron DeSantis, who had said he would not approve the curriculum for use in Florida.
While written in couched terms, the College Board’s statement appeared to acknowledge that in its quest to offer the course to as many students as possible — including those in conservative states — it watered down key concepts.
“In embarking on this effort, access was our driving principle — both access to a discipline that has not been widely available to high school students, and access for as many of those students as possible,” the College Board wrote on its website. “Regrettably, along the way those dual access goals have come into conflict.”
The board, which did not respond immediately to an interview request, said on its website that a course development committee and experts within the Advanced Placement staff would determine the changes “over the next few months.”
The College Board, a billion-dollar nonprofit that administers the SAT and A.P. courses, ran headlong into a conflict between two sides unlikely to find any room for compromise. Black studies scholars believe that concepts the board de-emphasized — like reparations, Black Lives Matter and intersectionality — are foundational to the college-level discipline of African American studies. Conservatives — politicians, activists and some parents — believe the field is an example of liberal orthodoxy, and they are concerned that schools have focused too much on issues such as racism and systemic oppression.
Some leading scholars in Black studies have signed petitions calling on the College Board to revise the course, and are planning a nationwide day of protest on May 3 around “freedom to teach and to learn.” Civil rights groups and teachers’ union leaders are also set to participate.
The College Board, which relies on state participation to administer its courses and tests, had denied that politics had anything to do with its changes to the curriculum. But over the course of last year, the board repeatedly discussed the content of the class with Florida officials, who objected to specific ideas that were later removed or de-emphasized.
In January, Mr. DeSantis announced that Florida would not allow the course to be offered in its high schools, saying that it was not “historically accurate” and violated state law.
In its written statement, the College Board said an updated course, “shaped by the development committee and subject matter experts from A.P., will ensure that those students who do take this course will get the most holistic possible introduction to African American studies.”
Tucker, Not Everlasting
Tucker Carlson, the top-rated host at Fox News, is leaving the network.
The abrupt departure of the controversial prime time figure comes a week after Fox News reached a $787.5 million settlement with Dominion Voting Systems over the network’s promotion of former President Donald Trump’s false 2020 election claims.
That bombshell settlement — the biggest media payout in history — prompted many to question if Rupert Murdoch would make major changes at the network.
Carlson found himself embroiled in serious controversy throughout his time at Fox News. In recent weeks, a lawsuit from a former booker at the network, Abby Grossberg, accused Carlson’s staff of making anti-Semitic jokes, liberal use of the word “cunt” in the office, and casual misogyny.
Read Fox’s statement below:
NEW YORK — April 24, 2023 — FOX News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways. We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor.Mr. Carlson’s last program was Friday April 21st. Fox News Tonight will air live at 8 PM/ET starting this evening as an interim show helmed by rotating FOX News personalities until a new host is named.FOX News Media operates the FOX News Channel (FNC), FOX Business Network (FBN), FOX News Digital, FOX News Audio, FOX News Books, the direct-to-consumer streaming services FOX Nation and FOX News International and the free ad-supported television service FOX Weather. Currently the number one network in all of cable, FNC has also been the most watched television news channel for more than 21 consecutive years, while FBN ranks among the top business channels on cable. Owned by Fox Corporation, FOX News Media reaches nearly 200 million people each month.
A source familiar with the situation told Axios that the firing was not part of the settlement agreement. A slew of material was uncovered during pre-trial discovery that implicated Carlson. More information could be out there that could be legally damaging for Fox as it stares down more defamation cases.
A former Fox News producer Abby Grossberg, who is suing the network for allegedly trying to manipulate her testimony during pre-trial discovery for the Dominion case, said in a legal filing just before the trial that there were Fox News tapes showing Rudy Giuliani and other Trump allies admitting they had no evidence to support their claims about Dominion election fraud.
In private text messages with other Fox News hosts, Carlson pressed to get a fellow Fox News reporter fired for accurately fact-checking a tweet from Donald Trump that praised Fox News' coverage about the voting machines and referenced Dominion Voting Systems.
Carlson did not immediately respond to an Axios request for comment.
He's gone, he didn't even get his goodbye show.
Ridin' With Biden, Con't
President Biden is expected to announce his official reelection campaign tomorrow, naming the granddaughter of Cesar Chavez, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, as his campaign manager.
President Biden is set to name Julie Chavez Rodriguez, a senior West Wing official and longtime Democratic Party activist, to manage his reelection campaign, three people familiar with the ongoing deliberations tell CBS News.
Chavez Rodriguez currently serves as a senior adviser and assistant to the president — among the highest staff positions in the West Wing — and director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, which makes her responsible for outreach to mayors, county executives and governors, especially regarding implementation of the Biden administration's agenda and in response to natural or other large-scale disasters.
Those familiar with the ongoing deliberations about the reelection campaign said Sunday that several key staffing and operational decisions remain to be made and that while the campaign is expected to launch with a video message on Tuesday, the date could slide if these key appointments are not yet made.
The president has been spending the weekend at Camp David with First Lady Jill Biden and other senior aides sorting out the finishing touches of the campaign.
The White House and Democratic National Committee did not respond to requests for comment. Chavez Rodriguez did not respond to requests for comment.
If the president announces his re-election campaign on Tuesday as expected, it will surprise many DNC officials and other party activists who had begun to anticipate an announcement over the summer. These leaders and activists had been led to believe the president was in no rush because of the ongoing squabbling among GOP presidential contenders and the lack of a serious Democratic primary challenger.
Instead, there has been a mad rush to prepare for a Tuesday launch. The campaign launch video was still being edited as of late last week, according to one person familiar with the planning.
Once tapped for the role by Mr. Biden, Chavez Rodriguez is poised to run day-to-day operations from campaign headquarters, which will be either in the president's hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, or nearby Philadelphia, where he based his 2020 campaign, according to the people familiar with the coordination.
But the big-picture, strategic decisions and coordination of the president's official and campaign schedules are still expected to be crafted mostly by a group of senior aides who are likely to split their time between the White House and campaign duties. That group includes others who officially serve as senior advisers and assistants to the president — Mike Donilon, Anita Dunn, Bruce Reed and Steve Ricchetti — plus Chief of Staff Jeffrey D. Zients, and deputy Chief of Staff Jennifer O'Malley Dillon, who managed the 2020 campaign.
Sunday, April 23, 2023
Sunday Long Read: Little Fires Everywhere
More and more local governments are falling to MAGA extremist terrorists, happening in blue states as well as in red. Our pair of Sunday Long Reads focus on two such counties, first, Ottawa County, Michigan in this piece by WaPo's Greg Jaffe and Patrick Marley:
The eight new members of the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners had run for office promising to “thwart tyranny” in their lakeside Michigan community of 300,000 people.
In this case the oppressive force they aimed to thwart was the county government they now ran. It was early January, their first day in charge. An American flag held down a spot at the front of the board’s windowless meeting room. Sea-foam green carpet covered the floor.
The new commissioners, all Republicans, swore their oaths of office on family Bibles. And then the firings began. Gone was the lawyer who had represented Ottawa County for 40 years. Gone was the county administrator who oversaw a staff of 1,800. To run the health department, they voted to install a service manager from a local HVAC company who had gained prominence as a critic of mask mandates.
As the session entered its fourth hour, Sylvia Rhodea, the board’s new vice chair, put forward a motion to change the motto that sat atop the county’s website and graced its official stationery. “Whereas the vision statement of ‘Where You Belong’ has been used to promote the divisive Marxist ideology of the race, equity movement,” Rhodea said.
And so began a new era for Ottawa County. Across America, county governments provided services so essential that they were often an afterthought. Their employees paved roads, built parks, collected taxes and maintained property records. In an era when Americans had never seemed more divided and distrustful, county governments, at their best, helped define what remains of the common good.
Ottawa County stood out for a different reason. It was becoming a case study in what happens when one of the building blocks of American democracy is consumed by ideological battles over race, religion and American history.
Rhodea’s resolution continued on for 20 “whereases,” connecting the current motto to a broader effort that she said aimed to “divide people by race,” reduce their “personal agency,” and teach them to “hate America and doubt the goodness of her people.”
Her proposed alternative, she said, sought to unite county residents around America’s “true history” as a “land of systemic opportunity built on the Constitution, Christianity and capitalism.’”
She flipped to her resolution’s final page and leaned closer to the mic. “Now, therefore, let it be resolved that the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners establishes a new county vision statement and motto of ‘Where Freedom Rings.’”
The commission’s lone Democrat gazed out in disbelief. A few seats away, the commission’s new chair savored the moment. “There’s just some really beautiful language in this,” he said, before calling for a vote on the resolution. It passed easily.
A cheer went up in the room, which on this morning was about three-fourths full, but in the coming weeks it would be packed with so many angry people calling each other “fascists,” “communists,” “Christian nationalists” and “racists” that the county would have to open an overflow room down the hall.
In a seemingly long gone era – before the Trump presidency, and Covid, and the 2020 election – Doni Chamberlain would get the occasional call from a displeased reader who had taken issue with one of her columns. They would sometimes call her stupid and use profanities.
Today, when people don’t like her pieces, Chamberlain said, they tell her she’s a communist who doesn’t deserve to live. One local conservative radio host said she should be hanged.
Chamberlain, 66, has worked as a journalist in Shasta county, California, for nearly 30 years.
Never before in this far northern California outpost has she witnessed such open hostility towards the press.
She has learned to take precautions. No meeting sources in public. She livestreams rowdy events where the crowd is less than friendly and doesn’t walk to her car without scanning the street. Sometimes, restraining orders can be necessary tools.
These practices have become crucial in the last three years, she said, as she’s documented the county’s shift to the far right and the rise of an ultraconservative coalition into the area’s highest office. Shasta, Chamberlain said, is in the midst of a “perfect storm” as different hard-right factions have joined together to form a powerful political force with outside funding and publicity from fringe figures.
The new majority, backed by militia members, anti-vaxxers, election deniers and residents who have long felt forgotten by governments in Sacramento and Washington, has fired the county health officer and done away with the region’s voting system. Politically moderate public officials have faced bullying, intimidation and threats of violence. County meetings have turned into hours-long shouting matches.
Chamberlain and her team at A News Cafe, the news site she runs, have covered it all. Her writing has made her a public enemy of the conservative crowd intent on remaking the county. Far-right leaders have confronted her at rallies and public meetings, mocking and berating her. At a militia-organized protest in 2021, the crowd screamed insults.
The response of parts of her community has left her shocked: “This isn’t how it’s supposed to be to be a journalist. I shouldn’t go to my car afraid one of these guys is gonna bash me in the head with a baseball bat,” she said on a beautiful spring day in Redding late last month.
But it has left her with a sense of urgency, a determination to warn readers about a movement that shows no signs of slowing down and could have national repercussions as extremists try to create a framework that could be replicated elsewhere. “I can’t imagine how bad things can get here,” she said.
Saturday, April 22, 2023
The Road To Gilead Goes Through Ohio, Con't
Proponents of abortion rights in Ohio have drawn up a proposed constitutional amendment patterned on the one approved in Michigan. They are in the process of gathering enough signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot. An Ohio bill banning abortions after six weeks has been blocked in the courts.
If they succeed, they will need the support of 50 percent of voters plus one to make it part of the state constitution. Ohio has recently moved toward the Republicans, but the majority of public opinion appears to favor abortion rights, as is the case nationwide. Still, it is doubtful the abortion ballot measure could achieve a three-fifths majority.
Shortly after last November, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose and state Rep. Brian Stewart, both Republicans, called for raising the threshold for passage of proposed amendments to the constitution to 60 percent. LaRose did not talk about the issue during his reelection campaign. Nonetheless, he and other proponents recommended the state legislature move swiftly to enact the change during a lame-duck session.
LaRose said the proposal was designed “to help protect the Ohio Constitution from continued abuse by special interests and out-of-state activists.” Later, Stewart said explicitly in a letter to fellow Republicans in the state House that the reason for the new proposal was because the left was trying to do “an end run around us” to put abortion rights into the state constitution and to give “unelected liberals” and allies on the state Supreme Court power to draw legislative districts.
That lame-duck session effort failed. But it has come back during the current legislative session in an even more restrictive fashion. Not only would the measure raise the threshold for passage to a three-fifths majority, it also would put a much heavier burden on the process of gathering signatures to qualify citizen amendments for the ballot.
The current rule is to gather signatures from at least 5 percent of registered voters in 44 counties. The new measure would extend that to all 88 counties in Ohio and would eliminate the curing period, or the time given to correct for faulty signatures. LaRose opposed these signature-related changes, saying they could disadvantage “truly citizen groups” using largely volunteer labor and give an advantage to corporate or other special interests who could afford paid signature gatherers. (The signature gathering changes would not take effect until next year so would not apply to the proposed reproductive rights amendment.)
There is one other wrinkle in all this. Ohio recently did away with its August elections (except in a few cases) on the grounds that they were costly and generally resulted in low turnout. Having failed to enact the rules change measure in the lame-duck session late last year, the first opportunity to take this to the voters would be next November, in which case it would not apply to the reproductive rights amendment.
So now, proponents of raising the threshold for passage of constitutional amendments also want to authorize an August election. State Senate President Matt Huffman (R) said recently that spending $20 million on an August election is worth the money “if we save 30,000 lives as a result.” The Ohio Health Department reported that there were less than 21,820 abortions performed in the state in 2021.
The Big Lie, Con't
In mid-January 2021, two men hired by former President Donald Trump’s legal team discussed over text message what to do with data obtained from a breached voting machine in a rural county in Georgia, including whether to use it as part of an attempt to decertify the state’s pending Senate runoff results.
The texts, sent two weeks after operatives breached a voting machine in Coffee County, Georgia, reveal for the first time that Trump allies considered using voting data not only to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, but also in an effort to keep a Republican hold on the US Senate.
“Here’s the plan. Let’s keep this close hold,” Jim Penrose, a former NSA official working with Trump lawyer Sidney Powell to access voting machines in Georgia, wrote in a January 19 text to Doug Logan, CEO of Cyber Ninjas, a firm that purports to run audits of voting systems.
In the text, which was obtained by CNN and has not been previously reported, Penrose references the upcoming certification of Democrat Jon Ossoff’s win over Republican David Perdue.
“We only have until Saturday to decide if we are going to use this report to try to decertify the Senate run-off election or if we hold it for a bigger moment,” Penrose wrote, referring to a potential lawsuit.
The plot to breach voting systems in Coffee County, coordinated by members of Trump’s legal team including Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, is part of a broader criminal investigation into 2020 election interference led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
Willis’ office is weighing a potential racketeering case against multiple defendants and is actively deciding who to bring charges against, sources tell CNN. Willis has subpoenaed a number of individuals involved in the Coffee County breach, including the two men who carried it out who were in touch with Penrose and Logan.
Willis has also subpoenaed Giuliani and Powell as part of her probe. Giuliani has been told he’s a target in the Fulton County probe, CNN previously reported. The special grand jury convened for the case recommended issuing multiple indictments in its final report completed in February, according to the jury foreperson.
A source familiar with Willis’ investigation tells CNN that Willis and her team have in their possession evidence that Trump allies planned to use the breached voting data from Georgia to try to decertify the state’s senate runoff election. Emails obtained by CNN show Penrose and Powell arranged upfront payment to a cyber forensics firm that sent a team to Coffee County on January 7, 2021.
The Coffee County breach is also under investigation by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.