Thursday, June 8, 2023

BREAKING: Last Call For Orange Meltdown, Con't

The Justice Department took the legally and politically momentous step of lodging federal criminal charges against former President Donald J. Trump, multiple people familiar with the matter said on Thursday, following a lengthy investigation of his handling of classified documents that he took with him upon leaving office and then obstructing the government’s efforts to reclaim them.

The indictment, filed in Federal District Court in Miami, is the first time in American history a former president has faced federal charges. It puts the nation in an extraordinary position, given Mr. Trump’s status not only as a onetime chief executive but also as the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination to face President Biden, whose administration will now be seeking to convict his potential rival.

It was not immediately known what specific charges Mr. Trump is facing. One person briefed on the matter said there were seven counts.

Mr. Trump is expected to surrender himself to authorities in Miami on Tuesday, according to a person close to him and his own post on Truth Social.

The indictment, filed by the office of the special counsel Jack Smith, came about two months after local prosecutors in New York filed more than 30 felony charges against Mr. Trump in a case connected to a hush money payment to a porn star in advance of the 2016 election.
The game is now fully afoot. 
Merrick Garland and Jack Smith have come to play to win, it seems. 

Here we go.

A Supreme Surprise Across The Board

As it's June, we're now squarely in Supreme Court Sadness Season to see whether marginalized groups get to keep their rights, and who will have them stripped. But today at least, in two huge decisions, SCOTUS sided with the people.
First, a major ruling on Alabama's congressional redistricting and disenfranchisement of Black folk in the state: in a 5-4 decision, SCOTUS sided with a lower court ruling that Alabama's congressional districts violated the Voting Rights Act.
The court in a 5-4 vote ruled against Alabama, meaning the map of the seven congressional districts, which heavily favors Republicans, will now be redrawn. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, both conservatives, joined the court's three liberals in the majority.

In doing so, the court — which has a 6-3 conservative majority — turned away the state’s effort to make it harder to remedy concerns raised by civil rights advocates that the power of Black voters in states like Alabama is being diluted by dividing voters into districts where white voters dominate.

In Thursday’s ruling, Roberts, writing for the majority, said a lower court had correctly concluded that the congressional map violated the voting rights law.

He wrote that there are genuine fears that the Voting Rights Act “may impermissibly elevate race in the allocation of political power” and that the Alabama ruling “does not diminish or disregard those concerns."

The court instead “simply holds that a faithful application of our precedents and a fair reading of the record before us do not bear them out here,” Roberts added.

The two consolidated cases arose from litigation over the new congressional district map that was drawn by the Republican-controlled Alabama Legislature after the 2020 census. The challengers, including individual voters and the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, said the map violated Section 2 of the 1965 voting rights law by discriminating against Black voters.

The new map created one district out of seven in the state in which Black voters would likely be able to elect a candidate of their choosing. The challengers say that the state, which has a population that is more than a quarter Black, should have two such districts and provided evidence that such a district could be drawn.

A lower court agreed in ruling last January, saying that under Supreme Court precedent, the plaintiffs had shown that Alabama’s Black population was both large enough and sufficiently compact for there to be a second majority-Black district. The court ordered a new map to be drawn, but the state’s Republican attorney general, Steve Marshall, turned to the Supreme Court, which put the litigation on hold and agreed to hear the case.

Four conservative justices, led by Justice Clarence Thomas, dissented in Thursday's ruling.

Thomas wrote that his preferred outcome “would not require the federal judiciary to decide the correct racial apportionment of Alabama’s congressional seats.”

He added that under the approach taken by the lower court, Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act “is nothing more than a racial entitlement to roughly proportional control of elective offices .... wherever different racial groups consistently prefer different candidates.”

Last year, the Supreme Court was divided 5-4 in allowing the Republican-drawn map to be used in November’s election, with Roberts then joining the court’s three liberals in dissent.

Republicans won six of the seven seats in the election, while Democrats won the majority-Black district. With Black voters more likely to vote for Democrats, Democrats might have picked up an additional seat if a new map had been adopted.

The Alabama case was one of several in which the Supreme Court’s decisions may have contributed to Republicans winning their fragile majority in the House of Representatives.
It's a narrow win, but a win nonetheless, in a state that will continue to be dominated by the GOP for decades to come. As to when Alabama Republicans get around to redrawing said congressional districts, well, don't hold your breath on that one. I expect that as with Ohio, the state will drag its feet for years on this, and it'll all become moot in 2032 anyway (it may take that long).
No, don't expect a more fair map for 2024 elections in Alabama, Ohio, or any other red state. No matter what the Supreme Court says, Republicans know at this level, nobody can enforce a ruling like that anyway..but for today, it's a win. A ruling against this would have effectively ended the Voting Rights Act. Chief Justice Roberts has been relentlessly hostile towards to VRA but this time he held back.

Imagine how racist you have to be to get John Roberts to say "This is a clear violation of voting rights for Black folk."

The other major ruling involved the right for Medicaid patients to sue states in order to provide treatment under the law, and the decision was 7-2 in favor of the spouse of a woman who died after a nursing home refused to provide her care.

The Supreme Court upheld a key mechanism for beneficiaries of federal spending programs to sue if states violate their rights Thursday, the conclusion of a case that spawned protests, hearings and bottomless worry from activists and experts terrified that the Court would use it to hobble programs like Medicaid.

The case grew from a garden-variety Medicaid one, where a nursing home inhabitant’s family alleged that he was ill-treated. But the municipal-run nursing home, Health and Hospital Corporation of Marion County, Indiana (HHC), sensing an opportunity, challenged the mechanism to sue writ large.

Experts pounded the alarm: “This case is to Medicaid what Dobbs was to abortion,” Sara Rosenbaum, professor of health law and policy at George Washington University’s school of public health, told TPM.

And activists started devising plans of action to compel the HHC board to drop the case before the right-wing majority could get its hands on it. While those efforts were ultimately unsuccessful — the case went forward, with oral arguments in late 2022 — the coalition got the result they fought for by a large margin: Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was joined in her majority opinion by Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Amy Coney Barrett, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Those most invested in the case were shocked by the outcome.

“I think I’m going to cry now,” Bryce Gustafson, an organizer with Indiana’s Citizens Action Coalition and one of the leaders of the push to get the case dropped, told TPM.

At first blush, the decision “looks like a grand slam for rights under Federal spending clause programs,” Tim Jost, professor of law, emeritus, at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, said.

“The Supreme Court upheld the rights of nursing home residents and other Medicaid recipients on all points, reaffirming decades of federal law,” he added. “Only Justice Thomas would have held that programs established under congress’s spending power are not enforceable by individuals.”

HHC, in a statement provided to TPM, insisted that it was just doing its “fiduciary duty” in bringing the case.

“HHC’s goal was to understand from the Supreme Court the status of the governing law on the availability of federal claims regarding its nursing home operations,” a spokesperson said. “With the Court’s definitive answer today that Medicaid-supported nursing home residents have both administrative and federal court remedies for alleged violations, HHC will continue to work to manage those operations safely and effectively and analyze the impact of the decision on those public resources.”

This pathway to sue, known as private rights of action under Section 1983, is critical for holding states accountable to make sure they provide the full services they’re required to within these spending programs. Without it, those who depend on federally-funded, state-administered programs — think Medicaid, SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) or WIC, which helps low-income pregnant women and mothers with young children buy food — are left with little recourse should states stop providing the benefits they’re required to give.

So a reprieve for now, until the next case that threatens rights, and sveral of those are still left undecided heading into the next few weeks. 

The GOP Circus Of The Damned, Con't

For now, GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is holding on, but the revolt against him over the debt ceiling bill is increasing daily, and the MAGA hardliners have all but shut down House business until further notice.
Hard-right Republicans pressed their mutiny against Speaker Kevin McCarthy into a second day on Wednesday, keeping control of the House floor in a raw display of their power that raised questions about whether the speaker could continue to govern his slim and fractious majority.

Mr. McCarthy, who enraged ultraconservative Republicans by striking a compromise with President Biden to suspend the debt limit, has yet to face a bid to depose him, as some hard-right members have threatened. But the rebellion has left him, at least for now, as speaker in name only, deprived of a governing majority.

“House Leadership couldn’t Hold the Line,” Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida and a leader of the rebellion, tweeted on Wednesday. “Now we Hold the Floor.”

After being forced for the second day in a row to cancel votes as they haggled privately with members of the House Freedom Caucus to get them to relent, leaders told Republican lawmakers on Wednesday evening that they were scrapping votes for the remainder of the week. In a remarkable act of intraparty aggression, about a dozen rebels ground the chamber to a halt on Tuesday by siding with Democrats to defeat a procedural measure needed to allow legislation to move forward, and business cannot resume until they back down and vote with their own party.

It underscored the severe consequences Mr. McCarthy is facing for muscling through a debt ceiling agreement with the White House that contained only a fraction of the spending cuts Republicans had demanded. The episode has reignited divisions within Mr. McCarthy’s own leadership team, with the speaker suggesting his No. 2 was in part to blame for the dysfunction. And it was a blunt reminder of the challenge Mr. McCarthy will face in holding together his conference to pass crucial spending bills this year, which will be required to avert a government shutdown this fall and punishing across-the-board spending cuts in early 2025.

The paralysis that has gripped the House this week — an exceedingly rare instance of a faction of the majority holding its own party hostage — recalled Mr. McCarthy’s weeklong, 15-round slog to win his post, which required him to win over many of the same hard-right lawmakers instigating the current drama.

On Wednesday night, Mr. McCarthy conceded that there was “a little chaos going on,” though he insisted that he would get the party agenda back on track.

“We’ve been through this before; you know we’re in a small majority,” Mr. McCarthy told reporters earlier in the day. “I don’t take this job because it’s easy. We’ll work through this, and we’ll even be stronger.”

But he also appeared to blame the impasse at least in part on Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the majority leader, saying that he had caused a misunderstanding that paved the way for the spontaneous hijacking of the House floor on Tuesday.

“The majority leader runs the floor,” Mr. McCarthy said.

The temper tantrum from the right had little immediate impact other than to deprive Republicans of the chance to pass a messaging bill that was all but certain to die in the Senate. The legislation that the rebels blocked is aimed at guarding against government restrictions on gas stoves and other federal regulations.

But ultraconservative Republicans said much more was at stake, arguing that Mr. McCarthy had betrayed promises he made to them during his fight for the speakership and now had to be forced into honoring them.

“There was an agreement in January and it was violated in the debt ceiling bill,” said Representative Ken Buck, Republican of Colorado. He said the conversations with Mr. McCarthy on Wednesday were to discuss “how to restore some of that agreement.”
McCarthy remains in power because nobody else wants his job. Speaker of the House is a governing job, and Republicans don't want to govern, they want to destroy.  But, as I predicted several times since January, the moment McCarthy sealed a deal with Biden, the clock on his job started ticking.

It'll keep ticking right up until he's deposed. It may not be this month, but he's not going to make it until January 2025, and if he somehow does, he'll be a figurehead with no real power.
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