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Monthly Archives: December 2022


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The media mogul and Fox Corp are being sued for allegedly broadcasting ‘lies’ about the voting machine company

Rupert Murdoch, center, stands with sons Lachlan and James Murdoch. Photograph: Dan Steinberg/AP

Chris McGreal

Mon 12 Dec 2022 17.24 EST

Rupert Murdoch rarely has to answer for the alternative realities presented by his hugely profitable US cable network, Fox News.

Its conspiratorial claims of a parade of cover ups from the 2012 Benghazi attack to the climate crisis and Covid-19 have been lapped up by Fox viewers and scorned by much of the rest of America, and then the world moved on. But on Tuesday, the 91-year-old billionaire media mogul will be obliged to answer difficult questions under oath about the inner workings of Fox.

Dominion Voting Systems is suing the cable news station and its Murdoch-owned parent company, Fox Corp, for $1.6bn (£1.3bn) over repeated claims that it rigged its voting machines as part of a conspiracy to steal the 2020 presidential election from Donald Trump.

The suit shines a spotlight on Fox News’ part in promoting Trump’s “stop the steal” campaign and its hand in driving the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. But legal experts say that Dominion, which supplied voting machines to 28 states, appears to be building a wider case that Fox News has a long history of misinformation and steamrolling facts that do not fit its editorial line.

Over the past few months, Dominion’s lawyers have been working their way up the tree of Fox News producers, executives and presenters with interrogations under oath about the network’s work culture and its weeks of conspiratorial, and at times outlandish, claims about Trump’s defeat. On Monday, lawyers deposed Murdoch’s eldest son, presumed successor and Fox Corp CEO, Lachlan.

Now, Dominion has reached the top of the tree. Months of accumulated testimony are expected to put Murdoch, the chair of Fox Corp, in the difficult position of either having to deny he has control over what happens at his most influential US news operation or defend its campaign to promote the biggest lie in US electoral history.

Murdoch is already grappling with the costly legacy of phone hacking by British newspapers the News of the World and the Sun. His UK company has paid more than £1bn ($1.2bn) over the past decade to keep the gruesome details from being heard in open court with no end in sight after a high court judge earlier this year refused to prevent the filing of new claims.

When Murdoch was called to give evidence to a UK parliamentary hearing in 2011 about News of the World hacking the phones of a murdered schoolgirl as well as hundreds of politicians, celebrities and other public figures, he said that it was the most humble day of his life. He also claimed to have known nothing about the wrongdoing and said that he had been misled.

“I feel that people I trusted … I’m not saying who … let me down and I think they behaved disgracefully,” he told parliament. “And it’s time for them to pay.”

But he can make no such claim about Fox News, where its misrepresentations were on full display. So far, the only people to pay at the network are the ones who got it right.

The trouble started on election night after Fox called the key swing state of Arizona for Joe Biden. The call drew Trump’s ire and unleashed a backlash against the network from his supporters.

At that point, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott warned against bowing to pressure to embrace an alternate reality and reverse the Arizona call.

“We can’t give the crazies an inch,” she said, according to court records.

As it turned out, “the crazies” took a mile, as Fox News put a parade of Trump lawyers, advisers and apologists front and centre over the following weeks to promote a myriad of conspiracy theories about how the election was stolen from Trump, including by rigging the voting machines.

Alongside them, some of Fox’s biggest names took up the cry of fraud. NPR revealed that during the discovery process, Dominion acquired an email written by a Fox News producer begging colleagues not to allow one of those presenters, Jeanine Pirro, on the air because she was spreading conspiracy theories about the vote. Pirro, a former district attorney and judge who is close to Trump, continued broadcasting.

Lawyers have also obtained rafts of internal messages that are “evidence that Fox knew the lies it was broadcasting about Dominion were false” and part of a culture of politically loaded reporting and broadcasts far from the network’s claim to be “fair and balanced”.

Dominion claims that without Fox, “these fictions” about electoral fraud would never have gained the same traction among large number of Americans.

“Fox took a small flame and turned it into a forest fire,” the company claims in its lawsuit.

In August, lawyers questioned another presenter, Sean Hannity, who has been described as “part of Trump’s campaign apparatus”. He was grilled for more than seven hours including about a broadcast two weeks after the presidential election in which Trump lawyer and conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell was a guest.

Powell claimed that Dominion “ran an algorithm that shaved off votes from Trump and awarded them to Biden”. She said the company “used the machines to inject and add massive quantities of votes for Mr Biden”. Powell has also claimed that Dominion used software developed to help the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez steal elections.

Dominion has said that it warned Fox News that such claims were false but that it continued to air them in an attempt to assuage Trump supporters out of concern they would move to other right-wing broadcasters.

“It’s an orchestrated effort,” Dominion’s lawyer told a court hearing. “It’s not just on the part of each host individually, but it’s across Fox News as a company.”

In a statement to the Guardian a Fox News spokesperson said their position was based on defending freedom of the press. “We are confident we will prevail,” they said.

So far the only Fox employees to pay a price for the debacle are those who got it right. Weeks after the election, the network fired its political editor, Chris Stirewalt, who had infuriated Trump and other Republicans by refusing to back down from calling Arizona for Biden. The Washington managing editor, Bill Sammon, who supported Stirewalt’s decision, took retirement.

Fox argues that Hannity and the other presenters are protected by journalistic privilege but that position has been complicated by the Fox host’s own description of his role.

In defending his overt bias in favour of Trump and Republicans, Hannity has more than once said he is not a journalist but a talk show host, and so does not have to adhere to the profession’s ethical standards. He took the same position earlier this year after the January 6 congressional committee exposed dozens of his messages to Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, offering advice and seeking direction as the White House challenged the presidential election result.

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HEATHER COX RICHARDSON
DEC 15
 
 

Today, survivors of the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colorado, testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Club Q is an LGBTQ club in the city of about 500,000 people. The shooter opened fire there on the night of November 19-20, during a dance party. He used an AR-15 style rifle, murdering five people and wounding 19 more. Six others were hurt in the chaos. 

Pointing to Republican anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that calls LGBTQ individuals “groomers” and abusers,” survivors of the mass shooting said that Republican rhetoric was “the direct cause” of the massacre. Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) drew a wider lens: “The attack on Club Q and the LGBTQI community is not an isolated incident, but part of a broader trend of violence and intimidation across our country.”

James Comer (R-KY), who will likely chair the committee in the upcoming Republican-controlled House, disagreed. Blaming Democratic policies that he claims are soft on crime, he said that “Republicans condemn violence in all forms,” and that the survivors have his “thoughts and prayers.” 

But Comer’s insistence that Republicans do not celebrate guns is not entirely honest. Just last year, four days after a mass shooting at a school in Oxford, Michigan that killed four students and wounded seven other people, Comer’s colleague Thomas Massie (R-KY) posted on Twitter a Christmas photo of him, his wife, and five children holding assault weapons in front of a Christmas tree. The caption read: “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo.” Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO) immediately posted her own family photo with her four sons all posing with firearms.

In 2020, according to the New York Times Editorial Board, “Republican politicians ran more than 100 ads featuring guns and more than a dozen that featured semiautomatic military-style rifles.”

Democrats do not do this. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) shot a hole in a climate bill in 2010 but, according to the New York Times Editorial Board, that was the last time a Democrat used a gun in an ad. 

The national free-for-all in which we have 120 guns for every 100 people—the next closest country is Yemen, with about 52 per one hundred people—is deeply tied to the political ideology of today’s Republican Party. It comes from the rise of Movement Conservatism under Ronald Reagan. 

Movement Conservatism was a political movement that rose to combat the business regulations and social welfare programs that both Democrats and Republicans embraced after World War II. Movement Conservatives embraced the myth of the American cowboy as a white man standing against the “socialism” of the federal government as it sought to level the social and economic playing field between Black Americans and their white neighbors.

In the 1960s, leaders like Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater personified the American cowboy, with his cowboy hat and opposition to government regulation, while television Westerns showed good guys putting down bad guys without the interference of the government. They emphasized individualism, the idea that a man should take care of his own family, defending it with weapons, if need be, and fighting off a dangerous government and those who wanted to use the government for “socialism” or “Marxism.” 

In 1972, the Republicans still embraced the idea that the government had a role to play in making the country safer for everyone, and their platform called for gun control to restrict the sale of “cheap handguns.” But in 1975, as he geared up to challenge President Gerald R. Ford for the 1976 presidential nomination, Movement Conservative hero Ronald Reagan took a stand against gun safety. In 1980 the Republican platform opposed the federal registration of firearms.

In 1980 the National Rifle Association endorsed Reagan. This was the first time it had endorsed a presidential candidate, and showed an abrupt change in what had, until 1977, been a sporting organization that emphasized gun safety and rejected the idea of working with manufacturers of guns and ammunition. 

In the past, NRA officers insisted on the right of citizens to own rifles and handguns but worked hard to distinguish between law-abiding citizens who should have access to guns for hunting and target shooting and protection, and criminals and mentally ill people, who should not. Until the mid-1970s, the NRA backed federal legislation to limit concealed weapons; prevent possession by criminals, the mentally ill and children; to require all dealers to be licensed; and to require background checks.

But in the mid-1970s, a faction in the NRA forced the organization away from sports and toward opposing “gun control.” It formed a political action committee (PAC) in 1975, and two years later it elected an organization president who abandoned sporting culture and focused instead on “gun rights.”

Until 1959, every single legal article on the Second Amendment concluded that it was not intended to guarantee individuals the right to own a gun. But in the 1970s, legal scholars funded by the NRA began to argue that the Second Amendment did exactly that.

After a gunman trying to kill Reagan in 1981 paralyzed his press secretary, James Brady, and wounded Secret Service agent Tim McCarthy and police officer Thomas Delahanty, Congress passed the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, or the Brady Bill, to require background checks before gun purchases. 

The NRA paid for lawsuits in nine states to strike the law down, and in 1997, when the Brady Bill cases came before the Supreme Court as Printz v. United States, the Supreme Court declared parts of the measure unconstitutional.

Now a player in national politics, the NRA PAC was awash in money from gun and ammunition manufacturers, 99% of it going to Republican candidates. By 2000 it was one of the three most powerful lobbies in Washington. It spent more than $40 million on the 2008 election, and in that year, the landmark Supreme Court decision of District of Columbia v. Heller struck down gun regulations and declared for the first time that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.

The unfettered right to own and carry weapons has come to symbolize the Republican Party’s ideology of individual liberty. Lawmakers and activists have not been able to overcome Republican insistence on gun rights despite the mass shootings that have risen since their new emphasis on guns. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shootings as one in which four people are shot, not including the shooter: in 2021 alone, we had 692 of them.

While gun ownership has actually declined since the 1970s, there are far more guns in fewer hands: a study in 2017 showed that about half of US guns are owned by about 3% of the population, and that was before Americans launched a new gun-buying spree after 2020.  

Ten years ago today, a 20-year-old in Newtown, Connecticut, shot and killed 20 children between the ages of six and seven, and six adult staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. In the wake of those horrific murders, Congress tried to pass a bipartisan bill requiring background checks for gun purchases, but even though 90% of Americans—including nearly 74% of NRA members—supported background checks, and even though 55 senators voted for the measure, it died with a filibuster. 

Dave Cullen, who writes about school shootings, argued yesterday in a New York Times op-ed that there is reason to hope we will finally address our gun problem. The Sandy Hook Massacre galvanized Americans into pushing back to reclaim our safety, as Shannon Watts and congressional representative Gabrielle Giffords—herself a survivor of gun violence–—organized the gun safety movement. That movement, in turn, got a dramatic boost from the activism of the survivors of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which a 19-year-old gunman murdered 17 people and injured 17 others.

This June, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had to acknowledge that support for the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act was “off the charts, overwhelming,” and 15 Republican senators bucked the NRA to vote for basic gun safety legislation.

But, also in June, the Supreme Court handed down the sweeping New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen decision requiring those trying to place restrictions on gun ownership to prove similar restrictions were in place when the Framers wrote the Constitution. Already, a Texas judge has struck down a rule preventing domestic abusers from possessing firearms on the grounds that domestic violence was permissible in the 1700s. 

The decision is being appealed.

Notes:

https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/21/us/club-q-colorado-shooting-victims/index.html

https://www.npr.org/2022/06/19/1106139811/oxford-high-school-students-sue-for-changes-after-deadly-mass-shooting-last-year

https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/02/us/gun-ownership-numbers-us-cec/index.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-05-25/how-many-guns-in-the-us-buying-spree-bolsters-lead-as-most-armed-country

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2022/07/11/remarks-by-president-biden-at-an-event-commemorating-the-passage-of-the-safer-communities-act/

https://theconversation.com/a-judge-in-texas-is-using-a-recent-supreme-court-ruling-to-say-domestic-abusers-can-keep-their-guns-195273

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/no-mass-shootings-are-not-the-price-of-freedom/2017/10/05/d268dc8c-a928-11e7-850e-2bdd1236be5d_story.html

https://www.politifact.com/factchecks/2017/oct/03/chris-abele/do-90-americans-support-background-checks-all-gun-/

https://www.opensecrets.org/news/2016/11/the-nra-placed-big-bets-on-the-2016-election-and-won-almost-all-of-them/

https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/how-nra-rewrote-second-amendment

https://theconversation.com/a-judge-in-texas-is-using-a-recent-supreme-court-ruling-to-say-domestic-abusers-can-keep-their-guns-195273

https://www.texastribune.org/2022/11/14/texas-judge-domestic-abusers-second-amendment/

https://www.cnn.com/2022/06/07/us/2022-shootings-pace-worst-ever/index.html

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HEATHER COX RICHARDSON
DEC 8
 
 

In October, prosecutors told a court they did not believe Trump had turned over all the documents with classified markings in his possession, and they were particularly concerned that he carried documents with him on flights between Mar-a-Lago and his properties in New York and New Jersey. On the advice of his lawyers, Trump hired a team to search for more documents, and they have found at least two more items marked classified and have turned them over to the FBI. 

A spokesperson for Trump said in a statement that Trump and his lawyers “continue to be cooperative and transparent, despite the unprecedented, illegal and unwarranted attack against President Trump and his family by the weaponized Department of Justice.”

Trump’s lawyers are doubling down on the idea that presidential immunity protects the former president from virtually anything he might have done in office, even “seeking to destroy our constitutional system.” Today, Trump lawyer Jesse Binnall argued before the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that the former president cannot be sued by police officers and members of Congress for inciting the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, that he is immune from lawsuits even if he had urged his followers to “burn Congress down.” 

Such an argument is fingernails down a chalkboard to anyone who knows anything at all about how the Framers of our Constitution thought about unchecked power. 

There is, though, ongoing congressional review of the Trump administration. Last night the chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, Ron Wyden (D-OR), and the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), wrote to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, asking for information in their “ongoing investigations into whether former Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner’s financial conflicts of interest may have led him to improperly influence U.S. tax, trade, and national security policies for his own financial gain.” 

The letter outlines the timing of the 2018 financial bailout of the badly leveraged Kushner property at 666 Fifth Avenue (now known as 660 Fifth Avenue) with more than $1 billion paid in advance from Qatar. Qatar had repeatedly refused to invest in the property, but after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates imposed a blockade on Qatar—after Kushner discussed isolating Qatar with them without informing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—Qatar suddenly threw in the necessary cash. Shortly after that, the Saudi and UAE governments lifted the blockade, with Kushner taking credit for brokering the agreement. 

Because of this case, and a number of others covered in the letter, the committees have asked the Defense Department to provide any correspondence it had with the Kushners during the Trump administration, or about the various dealings in which business and government appeared to overlap. They have asked for the information by January 13, 2023.

The ideas of the Framers on the nature of government was also in the news today thanks to arguments before the Supreme Court in the case of Moore v. Harper, a crucially important case about whether state legislatures have exclusive control of federal elections in their states, or if state courts can override voting laws they believe violate state laws or the state constitution. Conservative judge J. Michael Luttig, who sat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in October called Moore v. Harper “the most important case for American democracy in the almost two and a half centuries since America’s founding.” 

The case comes from North Carolina, where the state supreme court in February declared that new congressional and state legislature maps so heavily favored Republicans as to be “unconstitutional beyond a reasonable doubt.” The Republican-dominated legislature says that it alone has the power to determine state districts and cannot be checked by state courts or the state constitution.

The legislature claims this power thanks to the “independent state legislature” doctrine, a new legal theory based on the election clause of the U.S. Constitution, which reads that “the Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.” Lawyers for the legislatures today claimed this clause means that the legislature alone can determine election laws in a state.

In October, Luttig published an article in The Atlantic with the unambiguous title: “There Is Absolutely Nothing to Support the ‘Independent State Legislature’ Theory.” The subtitle explained: “Such a doctrine would be antithetical to the Framers’ intent, and to the text, fundamental design, and architecture of the Constitution.”

Politicians, voting rights advocates, state attorneys general, senators, former governors, military officers, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the American Bar Association, and so on, all offered their own briefs to the court sharing Luttig’s position, with historians of the Founding Era agreeing that “[n]othing in the records of the deliberations at Philadelphia or the public debates surrounding ratification” supports the idea that state legislatures have exclusive power to regulate congressional elections. “There is no evidence that anyone at the time expressed [this] view…. [T]he interpretation is also historically implausible in view of the framers’ general fear of unchecked power and their specific distrust of state legislatures. There is no plausible eighteenth-century argument” for the independent state legislature theory, they say. 

The historians also observed that those embracing the theory ignore the ample documentary evidence and instead rely extensively on a document that scholars proved long ago was written ten years after the actual Constitutional Convention. 

Ouch.

The independent state legislature theory would also permit legislators to choose their presidential electors however they wish. Had such a theory been in place in 2020, Trump’s scheme for throwing out Biden’s electors in favor of his own would have worked, and he would now be in the White House. 

The potential for this case to upend our right to have a say in our government has had democratic advocates deeply concerned, but observers watching the court today seemed to think the right-wing justices would not embrace the theory fully. Perhaps this is in part because they know well that their legitimacy is fraying as they are increasingly perceived as partisan politicians, or perhaps the Supreme Court is wary of undermining the idea of judicial review. In any case, both Marc Elias of Democracy Docket and Rick Hasen of Election Law Blog analyzed the justices’ questions today and guessed they would find a middle ground that preserves some measure of state courts’ oversight of legislatures’ election shenanigans. 

Their analysis is only a guess, of course. Elias suggested the court would likely hand down a decision in the case in June. 

Notes:

https://abcnews.go.com/US/trump-hosts-event-featuring-qanon-pizzagate-conspiracy-theorist/story?id=94701765

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-lawyers-attend-court-hearing-as-doj-presses-aides-in-mar-a-lago-probe-11666902371

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-legal-team-finds-two-more-documents-marked-classified-11670447615

https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2022/12/oral-arguments-colorado-wedding-alito-incomprehensible.html

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-12-07/trump-claims-immunity-over-burn-congress-down-hypothetical

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/10/moore-v-harper-independent-legislature-theory-supreme-court/671625/?fbclid=IwAR2ya630ZkNTy9FjtDWn8EWFMn3zhvgGgN8xR_30PuuQaAxjhl2u2tyeVB8

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/12/07/kushner-democrats-congressional-probe-bailout/

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HEATHER COX RICHARDSON

DEC 5
 
 

On Friday, November 25, 2022, just over a week ago, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced, “On the very first day of the new Republican-led Congress, we will “read every single word of the Constitution aloud from the floor of the House—something that hasn’t been done in years.” 

Yesterday, on Saturday, December 3, 2022, former president Donald Trump, the presumptive leader of the Republican Party, mischaracterized a Twitter thread to claim that Joe Biden’s presidential campaign had successfully pressured Twitter to suppress the story of Hunter Biden’s laptop—the thread actually said something else entirely—and called for overthrowing the Constitution. Trump wrote: 

“So, with the revelation of MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION in working closely with Big Tech Companies, the DNC & the Democrat Party, do you throw the Presidential election results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or do you have a NEW ELECTION? A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great “Founders” did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!”

In case anyone didn’t get the point, Trump followed that post up with another: “UNPRECEDENTED FRAUD REQUIRES UNPRECEDENTED CURE!”

On Sunday, December 4, all but one Republican lawmaker who expects to stay in office for the next two years stayed resolutely silent about Trump’s open attack on the U.S. Constitution, this nation’s founding document, the basis for our government. 

That one lawmaker was Representative Michael Turner (R-OH), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, who this morning on CBS’s “Face the Nation” condemned Trump’s attack on the Constitution. But Turner would not say he would not support Trump if he were the party’s nominee in 2024. 

Even at that, Turner’s was a lone voice. When George Stephanopoulos, host of “This Week” on ABC News, asked Representative David Joyce (R-OH) if he would support Trump in 2024 after the former president had called for “suspending the Constitution” (to be clear, Trump had called for “terminating” it), Joyce tried to avoid the question but finally said, “I’ll support whoever the Republican nominee is.” Joyce is the chair of the Republican Governance Group, whose members claim they are the party’s centrists. 

Not all Republicans reacted to Trump’s truly astonishing statement with such easy acceptance. Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), who was removed from party leadership for holding Trump responsible for the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and who has lost her seat in Congress to a Trump supporter, responded to Trump’s statement by saying: “Donald Trump believes we should terminate ‘all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution’ to overturn the 2020 election. That was his view on 1/6 and remains his view today. No honest person can now deny that Trump is an enemy of the Constitution.”

Representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who, like Cheney, took a seat on the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol and will also be leaving Congress, tweeted: “With the former President calling to throw aside the constitution, not a single conservative can legitimately support him, and not a single supporter can be called a conservative. This is insane. Trump hates the constitution.” Kinzinger tagged McCarthy, third-ranking House Republican Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and Jim Jordan (R-OH), who is expected to take over the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over issues involving the Constitution. 

None of them commented. 

Conservative Bill Kristol made his questioning broader: “The Federalist Society claims to defend the Constitution,” he tweeted. “Donald Trump, the ex-president with whom the Society worked so closely, has just attacked the Constitution in an incendiary way. Do the Federalist Society or its members have a word to say in defense of our Constitution?”

Crickets. 

McCarthy’s statement a week ago that the whole Constitution hadn’t been read on the floor of Congress “in years” was technically true, but it was misleading. It sounded as if McCarthy was promising to do something novel to demonstrate the Republicans’ loyalty to the Constitution.

In fact, Republicans demanded a reading of the Constitution in the House for the first time in its history in 2011 to try to demonstrate that the government had gone beyond the Framers’ intent, although they also cut out all the parts the Framers wrote that have been amended since the document was written. (That meant they cut out the infamous three-fifths clause counting enslaved African Americans as three fifths of a white person for purposes of representation, leading to accusations that they were cherry-picking the Framers’ words.) 

Since then, the House has read the Constitution at least twice more, in 2015 and 2017, to promote the idea that Republicans, and Republicans alone, are standing on the U.S. Constitution, while Democrats are abusing it.

The leader of the Republican Party has called for “the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution,” and party leaders are silent. 

Representatives had not taken the time to read the entirety of the U.S. Constitution on the floor of the House before 2011 because they were presumed to know it. What they did have to say aloud was something far more important for each individual to have on record: their oath of office. 

It reads: “I…do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Notes:

Dr. Joanne Freeman (@jbf1755@mastodon.social) @jbf1755

The “we’re going to say a prayer & the pledge” at the start of Congress flopped–because it’s been happening for centuries. So here’s a new attempt. The entire Constitution was read aloud in Congress as recently as 2015–a nice bipartisan reading. washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/w…

Image

9:41 PM ∙ Nov 25, 2022


813Likes170Retweets

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/01/09/house-members-were-so-excited-to-read-the-constitution-this-morning/

Liz Cheney @Liz_Cheney

Donald Trump believes we should terminate “all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution” to overturn the 2020 election. That was his view on 1/6 and remains his view today. No honest person can now deny that Trump is an enemy of the Constitution.7:14 PM ∙ Dec 4, 202297,913Likes21,821Retweets

Jennifer “Pro-privacy” Rubin @JRubinBlogger

RT @BillKristol: The Federalist Society claims to defend the Constitution. Donald Trump, the ex-president with whom the Society worked so c…1:51 AM ∙ Dec 4, 2022

Josh Marshall @joshtpm

The one thing you can never do as a journalist is deceive your readers. Among all the other nonsense that went on tonight we have a great example of it here. Taibbi portentously announced that the Biden Team had sent an order to Twitter to delete Tweets and it had been “handled.”

Matt Taibbi @mtaibbi

8. By 2020, requests from connected actors to delete tweets were routine. One executive would write to another: “More to review from the Biden team.” The reply would come back: “Handled.” https://t.co/mnv0YZI4af6:19 AM ∙ Dec 3, 20225,217Likes1,177Retweets

https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/jake-tapper-george-stephanopoulos-confront-190858243.html

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/leading-house-republican-trumps-call-suspend-constitution-2024/story?id=94397805

https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/harriet-hageman-trump-backed-candidate-beat-liz-cheney/story?id=88410864

https://history.house.gov/Institution/Origins-Development/Oath-of-Office/

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/top-republicans-stay-silent-trumps-call-terminate-constitution-rcna60019

Adam Kinzinger #fella @AdamKinzinger

With the former President calling to throw aside the constitution, not a single conservative can legitimately support him, and not a single supporter can be called a conservative. This is insane. Trump hates the constitution Right @GOPLeader @EliseStefanik @Jim_Jordan ?

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3:31 PM ∙ Dec 4, 202233,437Likes7,178Retweets

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HEATHER COX RICHARDSON

DEC 4
 
 

Today, one of former president Trump’s messages on the struggling right-wing social media platform Truth Social went viral. 

In the message, Trump again insisted that the 2020 presidential election had been characterized by “MASSIVE & WIDESPREAD FRAUD & DECEPTION,” and suggested the country should “throw the Presidential Election Results of 2020 OUT and declare the RIGHTFUL WINNER, or…have a NEW ELECTION.” 

Then he added: “A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution. Our great ‘Founders’ did not want, and would not condone, False & Fraudulent Elections!” 

In other words, Trump is calling for the overthrow of the Constitution that established this nation. He advocates the establishment of a dictator. 

This outrageous statement seems to reflect desperation from the former president as his political star fades and the many legal suits proceeding against him get closer and closer to their end dates. 

The midterm elections, in which the high-profile candidates he backed lost, prompted some members of his party to suggest it’s time to move on to new candidates. At the same time, lawsuits are heating up. The Department of Justice continues to investigate Trump’s role in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election, an attempt that led to the events of January 6, 2021.

Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the Washington, D.C., District Court recently rejected Trump’s claims of executive privilege and ordered Trump’s White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, and deputy counsel, Patrick Philbin, to provide additional testimony to a federal grand jury. On Friday, they each testified for several hours. On November 29, Trump advisor Stephen Miller, who worked with Trump on his speech at the Ellipse, also testified before the grand jury, 

The Department of Justice is also investigating Trump’s theft of documents when he left the White House. The December 1 decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit declaring that Judge Aileen Cannon had no authority to allow Trump a special master to review the materials the FBI took when they searched Mar-a-Lago on August 8, 2022, had a very clear, concise rundown of what the government has so far recovered from the former president, and the list was damning. 

In the first group of documents Trump returned to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), after significant pressure to do so, included “184 documents marked at varying levels of classification, including twenty-five marked top secret.” After a subpoena, Trump’s lawyers returned another 38 classified documents, seventeen of which were marked top secret. Trump’s team declared that a “diligent search” had turned up only these items, and there were no more left.

But the FBI learned that there were, in fact, more documents still at Mar-a-Lago and obtained a search warrant. On August 8, FBI agents retrieved about “13,000 documents and a number of other items, totaling more than 22,000 pages of material…. [F]ifteen of the thirty-three seized boxes, containers, or groups of papers contained documents with classification markings, including three such documents found in desks” in Trump’s office. Agents found more than 100 documents marked confidential, secret, or top secret.

Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith to oversee these two investigations after Trump announced an early candidacy for president in 2024. Smith got down to work immediately, sending out a letter on Thanksgiving Day itself. It seems likely there is good reason for Trump to be concerned.

Meanwhile, Georgia’s Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of President Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory, and South Carolina’s Supreme Court has ordered Trump’s White House Chief of staff Mark Meadows to testify to that grand jury, another reason for the former president to be concerned.

And the Trump Organization’s trial for tax evasion is reaching a verdict, while the House Ways and Means Committee has finally received six years of Trump’s tax returns after years of attempts by the former president to keep them out of Congress’s hands. At Lawfare, Daniel J. Hemel says that as a matter of law, the committee can make the returns public. He counsels against it for a number of reasons (although he says they should be made public) but notes that the Senate Finance Committee, which will remain in Democratic hands, can now get access to the material easily and will be able to release it. If his attempt to hide his taxes was anything other than principled, there is reason for Trump to be concerned about this as well. 

So, the former president has reason to try to grab headlines with an outrageous statement about overthrowing the Constitution.

But the real story here is not Trump’s panic about his fading relevance and his legal exposure; it’s that Trump remains the presumptive presidential nominee for the Republican Party in 2024. The leader of the Republican Party has just called for the overthrow of our fundamental law and the installation of a dictator. 

White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement: “The American Constitution is a sacrosanct document that for over 200 years has guaranteed that freedom and the rule of law prevail in our great country. The Constitution brings the American people together—regardless of party—and elected leaders swear to uphold it. It’s the ultimate monument to all of the Americans who have given their lives to defeat self-serving despots that abused their power and trampled on fundamental rights. Attacking the Constitution and all it stands for is anathema to the soul of our nation, and should be universally condemned. You cannot only love America when you win.”

But Republicans, so far, are silent on Trump’s profound attack on the Constitution, the basis of our democratic government. 

That is the story, and it is earth shattering.

Notes:

Vaughn Hillyard @VaughnHillyard

Trump is calling for subversion of the Constitution & either declaring him 2020 presidential winner or holding a “new election,” saying there should be “termination of all rules, regulations, & articles, even those found in the Constitution” to undo Biden’s right to presidency.

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2:06 PM ∙ Dec 3, 20222,560Likes820Retweets

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/23317696-document-2-11

https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/01/politics/cipollone-philbin-trump-lawyers-testify/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/29/politics/stephen-miller-testifies-january-6-federal-grand-jury-trump

https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/02/politics/pat-cipollone-district-courthouse/index.html

https://www.reuters.com/world/us/trump-organizations-criminal-tax-fraud-trial-heads-closing-arguments-2022-12-01/

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/11/29/mark-meadows-ordered-to-testify-in-trump-investigation-00071232

https://www.cnn.com/2022/11/30/politics/house-ways-and-means-committee-now-has-donald-trumps-federal-tax-returns/index.html

https://www.axios.com/2022/12/03/trump-election-fraud-constitution

https://www.lawfareblog.com/house-democrats-can-release-trumps-tax-returns-should-they

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